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.





Flustered and desperate III

13 03 2019

The junta seems to be admitting that its devil party Palang Pracharath is not going to do well at all its election, despite massive rigging and enormous state spending on projects linked to its electoral campaigning. Of course, this junta may be so desperate that it engages in old-fashioned vote fraud at the time of the election.

The latest to let this electoral cat out of the cardboard voting booth is Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

Brushing aside questions about his junta’s chances in the lower house, via Palang Pracharath, Gen Prawit said “he did not think it would be difficult to form the next government.” He explained why: “it would not be difficult to form the new government after the general election as the appointed senate would be ‘controllable’.”

The appointed senate

Gen Prawit is in charge of selecting the senators, so when he says they will be “controllable” it means he’s selecting relatives and friends.

In being forced to admit that his devil party is probably not going to do as well as they had been rigging for, Gen Prawit relies on the most anti-democratic elements of the “new” political system. If he, The Dictator-prime ministerial candidate and the rest of the junta have to do that, the period following the election is likely to be unstable and dangerous.





Updated: Secretly selecting the senate

10 03 2019

One of the biggest scams changes made to election rules was to return to the oldest military trick in the book, rigging the Senate by stuffing it full of junta puppets. In the past, the trick has been to fill the Senate with retired and serving military thugs senators.

The Nation reports that the secretive selection process continues, with 400 names shortlisted for the unnamed committee headed by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the Deputy Dictator, about to choose, with an anonymous “Army source saying a significant number of them are military officers.”

Of the 400, the anonymous committee will choose 194, with six seats reserved for serving military or police commanders. Another 50 are selected from lists approved by the junta in a process that was riddled with claims of corruption and rigging.

Just in case you’d forgotten, this “selection of senators is proceeding in line with the [junta’s] Constitution…”. As we said, its a rigged system.

Update: Thai PBS also reports that the “194 senators to be handpicked by the Thailand’s military junta … are expected to be dominated by active and retired generals with close links to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda.” It went on to report that:

Well-informed sources have told Thai PBS that, of the 400 shortlisted candidates, about 50 are close to General Prawit and were either his classmates at the armed forces preparatory school or used to work with him at the Defence Ministry or at the foundation to protect forests.

The report even names names, indicating not just picking trusted allies but nepotism likely at work.





Unfree, unfair election date set (probably)

8 12 2018

With major parties boycotting its meeting at the Army Club, the military junta talked at representatives some 75 political parties, of which the Bangkok Post observed “almost none of them with even a remote chance of winning a seat…”.

The meeting saw the junta pronouncing that:

it will lift the ban on political activities on Tuesday when the Act on the election of MPs takes effect. Parties may then resume the work necessary to prepare for the general election as the Feb 24 poll date has been officially confirmed.

Well, sort of. The Election Commission still has to officially announce the date, but we shouldn’t expect anything out of the ordinary from that puppet agency. It has been ordered to make the announcement on 4 January.

On boycotting the junta’s lecture, Chaturon Chaisang of the Thai Raksa Chart Party, said his party:

shunned the meeting with the NCPO [the junta] and the EC because the regime has no business discussing the rules and preparations for the election as the matter should be left to the EC and political parties to discuss.

Of course, Chaturon is absolutely correct. But the junta cares little for rules, ethics or law.

The military junta also announced its timetable:

Election decree issued: 2 January

Official EC announcement of election date: 4 January

Candidacy applications and party lists of possible prime minister: 14-18 January

EC announcement of candidates: 25 January

Overseas voting: 4-16 February

Voting for those living outside their constituencies: 17 February

Election date: 24 February

Last day for election results announcement: 25 April

Last day for junta to finalize appointed senators: 28 April

Parliament convenes: 9 May

Junta deputy premier Wissanu Krea-ngam said that on 28 December, “the junta will stop proposing legislation to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA).” The NLA will only cease enacting legislation on 15 February, meaning just 9 days prior to the election.

The timetable is interesting in that it is exceptionally tight, disadvantaging small and new parties and challenging the bigger parties as well. At the same time, it is unlikely that overseas voters can expect ballot papers just 9 days after the announcement of candidates.

We might also worry that the two months from election day to the official announcement can be misused by the junta. The junta selection of senators, also two months after the election, will be completed after the results of the election are know, allowing the junta even more opportunity to manipulate the selection.

And, the junta stays in place throughout this period, manipulating and scheming.