Updated: Mud on the road to nowhere

8 01 2017

The junta’s “election,” if ever permitted, is going to be a non-democratic public relations stunt. Thailand’s military junta will allow an “election” only when it knows it will get the result it wants. That means no Thaksin Shinawatra party can get close to power, not now, not ever.

Various members of the junta and its puppet organizations talk about “election” in contradictory ways. Yes, last year. No, this year. Well, perhaps next year. And, yes, after the military coup in 2014, there was babble from The Dictator about 12 months to an election.

(We can only wonder at the fad for the term “fake news.” After all, the junta and its authoritarian predecessors are masters of the lie that manipulates opinion. The palace propagandists and its flunkies and acolytes just make stuff up and have done so for decades.)

We are not the only ones to consider that Thailand is led by power-grubbing, authoritarian liars.

What is clear is that The Dictator has prepared the Army for an “election,” should there be one and for continuing anti-Thaksin political actions. As this Bangkok Post report by Wassana Nanuam states, reflecting the military perspective, “if” (let’s say “when”) General Prayuth Chan-ocha “needs to serve the nation longer, worries about the military should not be of much concern…”. At least not for the royalist elite and anti-democrats. The implication is that The Dictator will be around for a considerable time, “election” or not.

But there have been lots of conflicting reports of late on “election” timing. The latest effort to make things “clear” has been by Wissanu Krea-ngam, a hireling who is usually sent out when “legal” issues are “discussed” or need to be “clarified.”

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu is deemed to have “clarified the government’s roadmap leading to the general amid confusion over whether an election will actually happen this year.” He says “the government [he means the junta] has agreed that it will follow the roadmap which spells out the time frames and sequence of related events specified by the new constitution.”

What’s the time frame?

When the new constitution is promulgated, the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) has 240 days to complete the 10 organic laws, which will be tabled to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) for consideration — a process that will take two months.

As we remember it, the king had 90 days from 9 November to endorse the constitution. That would be 8 February would be the last day for “endorsement.” Assuming the CDC uses the full time, as it has said it will, then we would be about the end of the first week of October. Then there’s the two months for the CDC, meaning an election in the first week of December 2017.

But this is as clear as a bucket of mud. For a start, the last king died in October 2016 and the new king did not accede until 1 December. Oddly, his reign is claimed to have begun from the death of his father, even though Vajiralongkorn declined to accede for some six weeks. So when does the 90 days begin? 9 November? or 1 December?

Then, we imagine that some of the period of fiddling with the law and constitution by the CDC and NLA could overlap.

But the organic laws also go to the king for “endorsement.” We assume he has another 90 days to sign off. And assuming the king does as he’s told and those drafts become laws “an election will be held within 150 days…”.

road-to-nowhere

Just to be “clear” like mud, Wissanu says: “But with the passing of King Rama IX, things have to be postponed…”.

So when Wissanu says the “roadmap is still on course,” we can only guess at what this means. It may be the road to nowhere or it could be a mapping of some future year. We can be sure that it is a military map.

Update: The Nation has produced an infographic that seeks to explain the date of an “election.” It suggests that the junta’s “road map” means that the earliest date for an “election” will be January 2018 while the timetable allows an election as late as September 2018.





“Uneducate” them young

22 12 2016

This post is a companion piece to our recent post about education.

A Prachatai story states that the Royal Thai Army is training kindergarten students in nationalism, monarchy and military. All dictatorships believe that its important to get at the children and shape their thoughts and ideas as early as possible.

The most recent “training” was on 21 December 2016 in Kanchanaburi Province, where 180 kindergarten children and their teachers were unlucky enough to “participate in a program called ‘Land Defender Battalion’…”. The tiny kids were dressed in the uniform of Thailand’s murderous military and “instructed” in things like “military operations” – a photo with the article suggests they were taught how to throw grenades. The military may think this might come in handy when the tykes become fully-fledged anti-democrats and need to stir up a little “unrest” so the military can intervene again, and again and again.

They were also “taught” the so-called patriotic values that The Dictator thought up, which is a kindergarten-like mantra of “nation, religion and monarchy.” Needles to say, other fairy tales and bogus stories such as “sufficiency economy” were also crammed into the kids, filling them up with propaganda.

We guess these kinds of programs are what the military junta thinks amounts to “education.” It wants ultra-nationalists and ultra-royalists (who know their place in society).





Military on monarchy

10 12 2016

Thailand’s military dictatorship is reportedly arranging “special events” for the new king. This is a part of the military-palace propaganda exercise meant to hoist the new king into a position where he is “revered” (to use the international media’s favorite term for the dead king).

Deputy Prime Minister, junta leader and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan states: “We are in the process of arranging the events,…”. He added:

All of the military personnel are delighted with His Majesty. And they would like to see Thailand have the monarchy institution forever. We need the monarchy to remain as the country’s major institution. The monarchy has always taken good care of Thailand….

You get the picture. This propaganda exercise will require plenty of investment of public funds, whitewashing a poor past, the increased use of lese majeste and other means of repression.





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.





The way of the military

24 09 2016

Prachatai reports that on 22 September 2016, Naritsarawan Keawnopparat was indicted under the Computer Crimes Act “for disseminating information deemed defamatory to the Royal Thai Army…”.

Her alleged crime is making information available on her uncle, Wichian Puaksom, then aged 26, who was a conscript “tortured to death by other soldiers in 2011.”

Naritsarawan “is accused of defaming the Thai military and violating the Computer Crime Act by posting information in February 2016 about the torture of her late uncle.

While Wichian’s family sued “the Ministry of Defense, the Royal Thai Army and the Prime Minister’s Office for malfeasance,” and received “7 million baht in compensation for their loss,” none of the 10 soldiers involved has been prosecuted.

As previous PPT posts and media reports have made clear, the torture of recruits to ensure their blind obedience and acceptance of social and military hierarchy is essentially normalized in the Army.

The Army has acknowledged this and defended it. Naritsarawan’s “crime” is in challenging this murderous and hierarchical organization.

The details of Wichian’s torture are horrific:

An investigation by the 4th Army Region found that Wichian was severely tortured by other soldiers and his superiors after he was accused of running away from military training. The Army report said that on 1 June 2011, a number of soldiers, on the orders of Sub Lt Om Malaihom, stripped Wichian down to his underwear and dragged him over a rough cement surface before repeatedly kicking him with military boots and beating him for several hours.

The report added that the soldiers applied salt to the wounds of the torture victim to increase the pain and wrapped his entire body in a white sheet, tying his hands together as for a corpse and reading the funeral rites, before engaging in another round of beating.

Rather than abide by the law and reform, the corrupt Army chooses to protect criminals and maintain its traditional feudal practices and attack a whistle blower.





The return of Corruption Park

21 09 2016

As much as the Army and the military dictatorship wants the story to go away, Corruption Park continues to haunt it (as other corruption issues also come to the fore).

Khaosod reports that journalism investigative non-profit ThaiPublica is “is still waiting for responses from the military and national graft agency after it sued for details about the cost of royal monuments built by the army last year.”

Months of “investigations have all predictably concluded that there was no corruption at Rajabhakti Park, which is “believed to have cost 1 billion baht…”.

ThaiPublica wants “the army to disclose more information about its spending process,” using the 1997 Official Information Act to pry information from the tight-lipped and evasive Army, taking it to the Administrative Court.

The non-profit wants “the original cost estimates before the project to erect seven king statues went to bid.”

These estimates have been used in some of the “investigations,” yet “the army flatly refused to provide the information six months later [after first requested].” ThaiPublica appealed and a “government body responsible for public information requests ruled last month the army must reveal the information to the public.”

As its to be expected from this corrupt military populated by inveterate liars, it now says the estimates “didn’t exist.” This despite the fact that the National Anti-Corruption Commission stated that it had “received many of the same documents from the army.”

ThaiPublica’s purpose, its says, is simple: “We just want the truth to come out…”.





Promoting political allies II

15 09 2016

A few days ago, PPT posted on the rise of the new Army boss General Chalermchai Sittisart.

It seems the Bangkok Post’s military correspondent essentially agrees with us. Wassana Nanuam reckons that The Dictator’s promotion of Chalermchai was a “bold move [that] has surprised many.”

As we said, there should be no surprise as The Dictator is selecting a man “well-suited with what he called ‘the current situation’.” She means well-suited to managing the military junta’s continued control of politics, “election” or not.

Chalermchai is not from the Burapha Phayak clique, having never “served in the 21st Infantry Regiment (Queen’s Guard) nor the 2nd Infantry Division where Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha] and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon grew into their military careers.”

But Chalermchai is well “qualified” for repressing the junta’s opponents. The new boss “is from the ‘red beret’ Special Warfare Command (SWC) where he had served in intelligence and secret services throughout his career.” He served on the Thailand-Cambodia border during the Khmer Rouge era meaning he probably made a reasonable amount of money.

He also served under another red beret, General Surayud Chulanont, now a privy councilor. The report says he “formed a close bond with Gen Surayud.” That bond and links to the queen have been critical for Chalermchai’s rise.

Gen Chalermchai’s is not due for retirement until September 2018 meaning Gen Prayuth can expect “stability within the army…”. The report states that “[s]uch stability is important for Gen Prayut if he becomes a non-elected prime minister of an elected government.”

Chalermchai’s appointment is also a sign that Prayuth “wants to maintain close ties with Gen Surayud and strengthen relations with the Si Sao Thewes clique of Privy Council president [General] Prem Tinsulanonda.”