Snouts in search of the senate trough

26 09 2016

In our last post, PPT indicated how observers think the future of “big” parties is limited. Indeed, we happen to think that the future of all political parties – except, perhaps, a military party – is limited. This is because the military junta has “arranged” a political and electoral systems in a manner that diminishes the role of political parties by reducing popular sovereignty.

The main “electoral” game will revolve around the unelected senate, to be appointed by the junta. The Bangkok Post reports on this. It states:

The 250 seats to be offered in the Senate under the new constitution have sparked a frenzy of lobbying as hopefuls jockey for position long before any of the posts are ready to be decided. The organic law that is needed to complete the promulgation of the Senate laws is also far from complete.Snouts

The 250 members of the Upper House, appointed by the junta, will play a key role along with the House of Representatives in the selection of a prime minister during the country’s post-election five-year transition to democracy.

In effect, elections are now replaced by intra-elite lobbying.

The military junta will appoint 194 senate members and select 50 more from another pool of candidates who will represent 20 professional groups. Another six seats are “reserved for the chiefs of the three armed forces and the Supreme Command, the defence permanent secretary and the police chief.”

The Post reports that “there are several thousand hopefuls eyeing the Senate seats and they are gearing up to lobby the military regime for a favourable nod.” This includes those who have already served the military dictatorship as selected members of the junta’s National Legislative Assembly and the National Reform Steering Assembly. They want another five years of unelected power and influence.

Nepotism and favoritism are likely to be important, along with a need for unquestioned loyalty to The Dictator, the monarchy and the military junta.

We have power, you lose again and again

3 04 2016

The junta can do anything it wants. It is lawless.

It can suddenly decide on a “second” referendum question. Not satisfied with the draft charter and the power it allocates to the military, the junta has decided that it won’t ask just, Do you support our charter, Yes/No, but will add this one: Should senators jointly vote with MPs in choosing a prime minister, Yes/No.

One of the junta’s paid servants claimed this would allow “Senators can help screen out not-so-good or not-so-intelligent persons. At the same time, they can help support a good prime minister who in the past was usually not elected or toppled by street protests so he can steer reform and national strategy without the need to take to the streets, which may eventually lead to a coup…”.

What he means, translated out of juntaspeak is: “Senators selected by the military and other members of the elite are more intelligent than anybody who might have the people’s support. On this basis, the senate can reject the people’s voice and select an unelected premier, probably from the military brass or even the junta, who can run the country so that elections don’t matter and are just a performance so the rest of the world can be fooled by a fascist regime.”

The junta can do anything it wants. It is lawless.

It can ban all discussion of the charter so that no one can hear about it. Book Re:public, a Chiang Mai bookstore and cafe organized a seminar, “Reading Constitution as Literature and Art.” The 33rd Military Circle promptly banned it. They did this in between collecting thousands of red bowls.

The junta can do anything it wants. It is lawless.

It can exempt coal-fired power stations from public scrutiny and from environmental laws. All 29 coal-fired power plants are now free of city planning laws so they can pollute at will and, more importantly for the generals’ wallets, plants in Songkhla and Krabi provinces can go ahead despite considerable local opposition.

Sunai Phasuk , senior Thai researcher at Human Rights Watch, has joined with us in declaring the military regime rogue. Well, they are our words, not his. He said the military junta has passed the point where its promised Aug 7 referendum on the draft charter can be considered free and fair. He is quoted: “There’s no element to ensure a democratic and open space for a meaningful referendum. Every action of the junta indicates that the military wants this to be a one-sided [plebiscite] to encourage an approval [of the draft charter].

The charter is a military invention. It is a device to embed authoritarianism and plutocracy. The referendum for the junta’s charter is illegitimate. Thailand’s military state is a rogue state.

Military control entrenched

24 03 2016

What the junta wants the junta gets. As expected, Prachatai reports that the Constitution Drafting Committee has guaranteed seats for serving military and police leaders in a completely non-elected senate.

The CDC has announced it “has agreed with some of the recommendations from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) on the 2016 draft constitution.”

Translating that, the junta-appointed and directed CDC has agreed with the junta that the senate shall not be sullied by elected politicians and that the senate will be able to block any decisions made by an elected lower house.

How military and police leaders will have the time to sit in parliament is not explained, but if they really do have that much spare time, it is clear that neither force is serious or professional.

The CDC’s claim that it met “the junta’s suggestions halfway” is justified by the fact that it has reserved 50 senate seats to “be hand picked by the [a] committee [of 8-10 individuals] from 20 professional groups.” That is, as the junta wanted, not a single senator will be elected.

This committee of 8-10 individuals remains largely unexplored but it can be expected that it will be a bunch of royalists, probably aged, and perhaps including the current junta.

As details become clear on the make-up of the senate, we’d expect more military and civil bureaucrats and “retirees” to be appointed, making the senate the official’s house. Their duties will be clear: stop politicians from acting as elected representatives and effectively denying any people’s mandate. It will also “protect” the constitution, meaning that if the junta’s draft is approved, it will never be changed (unless the elite decides it should be).

Censorship, threats

18 03 2016

After a few weeks in the shadow of General Prawit Wongsuwan, The Dictator seems to have his oats again and he is back to his deranged and authoritarian best/worst.

Over the past couple of days he’s been demanding Prawit’s idea for a future constitutional government (yes, these guys are jokers) about a huge and unelected senate be filled with the junta’s members and military brass.

As usual, he’s ticked off with the media and has decided to threaten, “advise,” rant and threaten some more.

The Bangkok Post reports that the self-appointed Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has “slammed Thai PBS, the country’s sole public TV station for its ‘one-sided’ reporting despite it being financed by the state budget.”

Prayuth means that the station is not keeping the junta happy.  He’s essentially threatening before censoring. The Nation reports that The Dictator’s claims of “biased reporting” have caused him to threaten the broadcaster: “The station is funded by the state’s taxes, but it chooses to present only one side of people’s problems…. Should it be granted budgets any further?”

ThaiPBS is hardly “oppositional” and is certainly not “radical” in any way, but dictators like to totally control all things and this is just another example of Prayuth’s paranoia. At the same time it is clear that the idea of public broadcasting is lost on a man who is used to propaganda.

What seems to have set Prayuth off on his threats is that “the channel only focuses on people suffering from the drought and other problems and not on what the government has done to solve these problems.” Prayuth believes that “showing only drought areas and negative issues which allow people to scold the government…”. Because no criticism is allowed, even factual reporting an issue like drought is threatening for the junta and this leads to junta threats to the media.

The demented general wants Thais to focus on propaganda and patriotism.

Prayuth also seems ticked off that all the propaganda channels – National Broadcasting Services of Thailand, Channel 11 and the Royal Thai Army Radio and Television’s Channel 5 – have the lowest ratings of all the major television broadcasters.

Clearly, the Thai people recognize where the media rubbish is.

Abhisit remains an anti-democrat

18 03 2016

We were staggered to read that the failed leader of the so-called Democrat Party Abhisit Vejjajiva has made a call on “democracy.” Abhisit is reported to have “voiced strong opposition to the regime’s proposal to allow military top brass to sit in the Upper House during the country’s democratic transition.”

We are not convinced that anything the junta is currently arranging is going to be “democratic.” The whole point of the junta’s constitution is to ensure that representation is actually for a minority. Nor are we sure that anyone cares much about Abhisit’s jaundiced view of “democracy.”

So when Abhisit describes the junta’s “proposal as undemocratic,” what does he mean?Abhisit 3

The alleged “debate” between the junta and the Constitution Drafting Committee is whether to have the junta’s undemocratic and self-interested senate or the CDC’s functional constituencies. The latter allocates the seats to so far undefined “occupational” groups. Neither proposal is democratic.

If there is a compromise between junta and CDC, we can expect the military and bureaucratic “constituencies” to have plenty of seats. When combined with the business, education and medical constituencies – the royalist anti-democrats – to have enough seats to easily control parliament and frustrate any elected lower house that dares challenge the status quo.

It is this latter version that the anti-democratic leader of the Democrat Party is supporting. When Abhisit calls on the CDC “to stand by what is good for the public and help the draft charter pass a referendum” he means the undemocratic version favored by the CDC, not a charter that is democratic.

Elections won’t matter

17 03 2016

As The Dictator bizarrely interrupted a railway event by having reporters and other assembled ninnies do some calisthenics (shown on THaiPBS), he also managed to derail a model train. Wags will quickly recognize that this is what he has done for democratic politics.

From the Bangkok Post

From the Bangkok Post

Part of the derailment of democratic politics involves an expanded and appointed senate that “would include military top brass to ensure order and prevent votes in the next general election from being abused for personal gain…”.

There’s that ridiculous implication that the corrupt bastards who have always been corrupt are “good people,” so their vast corruption can be ignored. General Prayuth Chan-ocha is unusually wealthy by any measure. We could go through a list of corrupt military brass, including now Privy Councilor General Surayud Chulanont, with his Patek Philippe watch collection, several expensive European sports cars and a holiday house in the hills (which was later demolished for lack of appropriate documentation).

Deputy Prime Minister and military bootlicker Wissanu Krea-ngam said the junta and its flunkies “wanted the new Senate to have the substantial number of 250 appointed members and remain in office for five years.”

The claim is now for the “Army top brass [to]… sit in the Senate to ensure order and pave the way for national reconciliation. The Senate would not only play a legislative role but also protect the constitution and prevent undesirable situations…”.

Yes, the junta is demanding that the upper house actually become the most powerful house. In effect, any election will have no meaning at all.

Yes, this proposal goes far further than the arrangement under the administration of General Prem Tinsulanonda, when the military effectively controlled the senate. But that senate was a blocker and provided support for Prem’s unelected premiership, not was not the ruling house.

Wissanu said that the junta hoped the “constitution draft would pass the referendum on Aug 7. Otherwise, another constitution must be drafted.”

He’s warning that the military junta could stay around for years to come if the Constitution Drafting Committee doesn’t agree to this or if the electorate rejects the draft constitution in a referendum.

Wissanu also hinted that a junta member and an appointed senator (probably from the military) could be  the next prime minister. The next prime minister could be the same prime minister the country has now.

Democratic politics is derailed and quite deranged.

Still helping miners while helping themselves

16 03 2016

Readers may recall that the now head of the Thailand Football Association, Police General Somyos Pumpanmuang has long business relationships with mining companies, at least one having Australian connections. Back at the time of his retirement as Thailand’s top cop, and one of its wealthiest policemen (never investigated for his “unusual wealth”), we had a link to a long-running dispute between gold miners and villagers in three northern provinces.

Somyos was known to have ordered police to support companies he had previously worked with. This usually involved threats to local villagers and to mining opponents. It seems that little has changed following Somyos having moved from police to football – both arenas offer substantial rewards for leaders.

A recent report at Prachatai refers to community groups still in conflict with miners in the three provinces. The reports states that “[b]lood examination results of villagers residing in an area with a prolonged mining conflict show that hundreds of people have been contaminated with excessive heavy metallic substances.” The company involved is Akara Resources, associated with the Australian miner, Kingsgate.

The item in the report that caught PPT’s attention was the role of the police and military:

Earlier this month, 20 military, police, and other officers visited Tanyarat Sintathammatat, a key leader of an anti-mine activist group in Phichit.

The officers arrived at the house in Khao Ched Luk Subdistrict in Tap Khlo District of Phichit at night without presenting any documents or warrants.

The activist said then that the officers told her not to travel to Bangkok to submit a petition to Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, against the mining operations of Akara Company.

So much stays the same under a military dictatorship that offers “protection” to business elites for a price. If the current military junta has its way, an appointed senate, stuffed with past and serving military bosses and with a bureaucracy in charge of, well, all things, expect more of this income sharing.