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.”





Updated: Promoting political allies I

10 09 2016

Military watchers in several media outlets seem to think that the selection of the next Army boss was “out of the box” because the choice was not from the dominant faction.

The Bangkok Post reported General Chalermchai Sitthisart’s appointment as causing friction between General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his elder, General Prawit Wongsuwan. Prawit is said to have wanted another officer.

The Post reckons The Dictator “went for an army chief from outside of the ‘Tiger of the East’ ranks to quash the growing assumption of a leadership monopoly which could sow seeds of distrust and stoke conflict within the army.”

The argument was that “unity in the force has never been more important at a time when the country is transitioning back to democratic rule…”.

That’s where we got lost. No such transition is likely. What drives The Dictator and his junta is making sure that they control Thailand’s faux democracy after an “election.”

Unity means loyalty and a deep determination to defeat the Thaksin Shinawatra “regime.”

This is why the other key appointment is Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong as commander of the 1st Region Army. Apirat has shown a merciless hatred of the red shirts. He will shoot to kill if required.

That kind of loyalty is critical to the junta’s political ambitions into the future.

Another report at Reuters was a little odd. It states:

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Friday endorsed a new army chief in an annual reshuffle, an appointment from outside the faction that has dominated the army for several years, surprising some experts.

We don’t think the king could do anything like this while hooked up to myriad life support systems. How are such “endorsements” occurring? Who is signing? No regent has been appointed so the assumption is that the king is able and understands what’s happening. That seems unlikely.

Update: The Bangkok Post has more on General Chalermchai’s appointment. It identifies him as a member of the “red beret” special army combat unit. It states that he is “known to enjoy the support of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda and privy councillor and former prime minister Gen Surayud Chulanont, who is also a red beret.”





Further updated: Bombs and politics

13 08 2016

As usual, when there have been significant bombings in Thailand, the authorities immediately discount international terror and southern separatists.

This denial is almost a Pavlovian response by the elite and rulers to maintain the environment they feel encourages foreign investment and tourism, which have been the lifeblood of their wealth for decades.

Now, some time after the bombings and fires, more information on the military dictatorship’s response is available. Much of the early journalism, including by “academics,” was speculative.

To date, no group has claimed responsibility for the incidents. CNN and BBC are on a loop, referring to the explanations of Thai officials focusing on local politics.

At the Bangkok Post, it is made clear that, as with the Erawan bombing a year ago, the first likely culprits on the junta’s list are political opponents:

Authorities are giving weight to the theory that anti-regime elements were behind the deadly coordinated bombings and arson attacks that rocked the South and the resort city of Hua Hin from Thursday to Friday.

Apparently a meeting of security officials chaired by Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, guessed that “political issues topped the possible cause of the attacks.” As the post reports an anonymous source,

This could be the work of opponents of the regime or those who wanted to discredit the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which seems to have gained more popularity based on last Sunday’s referendum on the military-backed draft charter, in which most people voted in favour of the constitution….

As others have also claimed, national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda said that domestic politics was the source of the attacks because “the attacks took place in the provinces where the majority voted in favour of the draft charter and … those attacks were aimed at damaging the government’s handling of politics, tourism and the economy.”

He claimed that “the investigation” suggested to him that “the incidents were linked to people who have different political views and may be connected to the violence in the deep South due to the similar use of improvised explosive devices…”.

There’s been little evidence of such links in the past.

General Prawit “ruled out a spread of violence from the far South as a cause of the attacks…”. He confidently stated: “This motive can be discarded. I confirm this is not the case.”

It is this kind of declaration without investigation that suggests that the military itself may be involved. (Our view is that the junta’s loyal forces are probably wasn’t involved, based on its previous actions. However, disgruntled groups in the military, with extensive links in the south cannot be ruled out.)

Some in the junta’s administration apparently thought that if its not local political opponents then international terrorism is “the second possible cause, … noting there are reports of Islamic State (IS) activities in Malaysia…”. Indeed, the Post states that a “source at the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry said the SIM cards in the mobile phones used to detonate the bombs were from Malaysia.”

General Prawit was aggressive, declaring that he would “bring those responsible for the attacks to justice. He then lied: “I will have the perpetrators arrested. We succeeded in making arrests every time, and will also do so [this time].”

Of course, if it is “local politics,” the military has seldom arrested anyone at all.

The Post says Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha “refused to pinpoint the motive behind the attack, saying the investigation is still under way.” That sounds good, except that it is not true, as the Post makes clear:

I want you to think what happened before and after the referendum. Why did the incidents take place when the country is getting better and moving towards improving its economy and tourism. I must ask, who are the ones who do not want these things to happen? Who are they? Find them for me….

In the same statement, officially released, Prayuth pointed a finger at domestic political opponents.

Junta pimp , Panitan Wattanayagorn “said both domestic and foreign intelligence warned of possible violence before the referendum…. Thai authorities deployed officials to keep tabs on suspects and nothing bad had happened, except some violence in the far South.”

Is he saying there was a failure of security officials?

Meanwhile, the Post reports a cause for wider concerns:

A source in the 4th Region army said the attacks were the work of political groups connected to a political base in the South. An order was made to carry out attacks in the popular tourist destinations as well as key business zones in the South and in Bangkok.

As usual, it sounds like the “official” response is confused, confusing and potentially scary.

Update 1: The Guardian has an interesting editorial on the bombs in Thailand and domestic politics.

Update 2: New Mandala has a useful post on bombs and the south. Well worth reading. It also has an earlier post speculating on who might be involved.





The gang’s dirty work

29 07 2016

We have long referred to Thailand’s military as a thuggish gang. One recent story we simply didn’t get to was of Naritsarawan Kaewnopparat, who was arrested for “defaming the army through her Facebook writings. She accused the military of protecting ‘certain peoples’ in the army who were responsible for the violent murder of her uncle, Wichian Puaksom, who died in the army camp in June 2011.”

The torture and violence used against its own mark the military out as a Mafia gang, enforcing loyalty, hierarchy and paternalism.

Fortunately, at The Diplomat, Pavin Chachavalpongpun has written about Naritsarawan’s case and the way the military uses outdated laws and a compliant judiciary to repress negative commentary.

Read the article and weep for a Thailand that is in the hands of a ferocious and rapacious gang of thugs.