Military authorities can still arbitrarily detain civilians

13 07 2019

The following is produced in full from the Asian Human Rights Commission website:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-FST-003-2019
July 12, 2019

A Statement from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

THAILAND: Military authorities can still arbitrarily detain civilians

Analysis of the Head of the NCPO Order no. 9/2562 that repealed some Announcements/Orders that are no longer necessary

On 9 July 2019, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha in his capacity as the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued the Head of NCPO Order no. 9/2562 to repeal 70 NCPO An­ nouncements/Orders and Head of NCPO Orders. Since staging a coup on 22 May 2014, the NCPO has issued a total of 557 decrees: 214 NCPO Orders, 132 NCPO Announcements, and 211 Head of NCPO Orders. Head of NCPO Order no. 9/2562 repeals only some of the decrees, while most of the Orders, Announcements and Head of NCPO Orders remains in effect.

Below is the analysis by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) regarding the implications of Head of NCPO Order no. 9/2562.

1. Military authorities retain the power to detain civilians without judicial oversight

Military authorities will retain the power to summon individuals to report themselves, to appre­ hend individuals who commits flagrant offenses, and detain them for up to seven days, to search, forfeit and freeze assets invoking the Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2558 and no. 13/2559.1

On 1 April 2015, the NCPO issued the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2558, which authorized military authorities to detain individuals, most of whom had their liberties deprived of in military barracks.

The exercise of such power has been euphemistically defined by the authorities as “attitude adjustment.” Throughout the past five years, at least 929 members of the public have been summoned by the NCPO and detained in military barracks for “attitude adjustment” (for more
detail, please see 6 years under NCPO, enough is enough? Recommendations to rid the coup’s remnants).

TLHR finds the exercise of such power should be restricted to emergency situations when an imminent harm against the nation is impending and should be confined to certain areas – which has not been the case over the past five years.

The retention of the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2558 and no. 13/2559 to continue authorizing military authorities to detain an individual up to seven days in an undisclosed place without access to family or lawyer and without judicial review, increases the risk of arbitrary detentions in breach of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and may result in other forms of human rights violations, such torture and enforced disappearance.

In its Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Thailand, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that Thailand amend Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2558 to ensure that it complies with all the provisions of the ICCPR, including with the guarantees against incommunicado detention.

2. Disobeying and showing defiance to NCPO summons are still criminalized

Despite the NCPO’s repeal of the ban against political gathering of five or more persons, disobeying and showing defiance to NCPO summons are still criminalized under NCPO Announcement no. 41/25572. To date, the NCPO has summoned 2 at least 472 individuals to report themselves, and at least 14 of them who have defied such summons have been issued with arrest warrants that remain effective.

Once individuals report themselves to the NCPO, they are often held in incommunicado detention in military barracks. Their fate and whereabouts are unknown to people outside. This makes them vulnerable to torture. Without judicial review and given that they would have to later stand trial in military courts, many individuals who were summoned decided to leave the country. As a result, since the May 2014 coup, 86 individuals have become political exiles (for more detail, please see Collapsed Rule of Law: The Consequences of Four Years under the National Council for Peace and Order for Human Rights and Thai Society, Part 3)

TLHR recommends that NCPO Announcement no. 41/2557, which criminalizes individuals’ defiance or disobedience to the summons to report themselves, be immediately repealed and that all prosecutions pursuant to this decree be stopped.

3. Transferring cases against civilians from military to civilian courts

The Head of NCPO Order no. 9/2562 has led to the repeal of NCPO Announcements no. 37/2557, no. 38/2557, no. 43/2557, and no. 50/2557, and Head of NCPO Order no. 55/2559. As a result, cases against civilians that are being tried in military courts will be transferred to the Court of Justice. It would effectively make the previous proceeding in military courts part of the further proceedings of the Court of Justice, which would continue to hear the cases.

Over the past five years, at least 2,408 civilians have been tried in military courts nationwide (for more detail, please see 6 years under NCPO, enough is enough? Recommendations to rid the coup’s remnants). TLHR is offering legal assistance to defendants in 59 cases prosecuted in military courts, 21 of which involve 41 defendants.

TLHR remains concerned about the following ongoing negative impacts of prosecutions of civilians conducted by military courts under the NCPO.

3.1 Cases which have reached a verdict, but the right to a fair trial was not upheld

Ongoing cases as well as cases that have reached the final verdict in military courts, have not been heard in fair trials, and no remedy for the violation of this fundamental trial has been established.

The right to a fair trial is guaranteed by Article 14 of ICCPR, which underscores particularly the principles of judicial independence and impartiality. Military courts flout such principles because they operate under the authority of the Ministry of Defense and two thirds of their presiding judges are commissioned military officers who are not required to obtain a law degree.

In addition, over the past five years, military courts’ proceedings have been exceptionally protracted.

Some defendants prosecuted for alleged violation of Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (lèse-majesté) remain detained awaiting trial and their hearings were conducted behind closed doors. Those convicted by military courts for violating Article 112 have been sentenced to prison terms that have been twice as harsh as sentences imposed by civilian courts (for more information, please see 20 reasons why civilians should not be tried in the Military Court).

3.2 Defendants tried in military courts are barred from appealing their sentences

According to fair trial principles, defendants are entitled to have the right to appeal to courts of higher instance. Nevertheless, those indicted when Martial Law was imposed and whose cases fell under jurisdiction of military courts have been deprived of such right. To restore justice to the individuals whose cases have reached the final verdict, their right to appeal to courts of higher instance should be restored.

3.3 Arrest warrants issued by military court remain active

Apart from hearing the cases, military courts have also issued arrest warrants for suspects who remain large. As of 30 November 2016, over 528 individuals were still wanted by military courts nationwide (please see Why will Thanathorn have to stand trial in the Military Court?: Getting to know the Military Court under the NCPO Era). To ensure these individuals will stand trial in proceedings that uphold the principles of judicial independence and impartiality, TLHR recommends that the existing warrants be rescinded and new warrants be issued by the Court of Justice.

4. Offenses under NCPO decrees remain in place

Only 70 (12%) of the 557 decrees issued by the NCPO are being repealed. Most of the NCPO Announcements and Orders remain in effect and can only be repealed or amended by laws, except for the Announcements or Orders concerning the exercise of administrative powers, whose repeal and amendment are subject to the executive power of the Prime Minister or the
Cabinet.

In addition, all the Announcements and Orders and acts of the NCPO are made legal and constitutional by Sections 279 of the 2017 Constitution. Even after the imminent dissolution of the NCPO, the NCPO cannot be held accountable for violations that resulted from its Announcements, Orders or acts.

TLHR deems that NCPO decrees have no place in the legal system because they lack proper checks and balances. The retention of legal provisions that justify a lack of accountability in all circumstances contributes to fostering a culture of impunity in total breach of the principles of the rule of law.

5. TLHR’s recommendations

TLHR believes the Head of NCPO Order no. 9/2562 repeals only some Announcements and Orders which are no longer useful for the NCPO, but it does not serve public interest because the military authorities retains significant powers, including the power to restrict people’s rights and freedoms, for example under the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2558 and no. 13/2559, among others.

In addition, the NCPO is set to expand the power of military authorities in a variety of public affairs concerning civilians. In particular, the Head of the NCPO Order no. 51/2560 on the amendment of the Internal Security Maintenance Law increases the powers of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) and bolsters budget and structure of the regional and provincial ISOCs.

To address the coup’s remnants, the repeal of some NCPO Announcements/Orders is insufficient.

Rather, an effort has to be made to systematically restrict powers of the military as a whole. In addition, it is necessary to address the problematic NCPO Announcements/Orders, laws endorsed by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), court verdicts, justice system reform, and remedies for victims (for more detail, please see 5 years under NCPO, enough is enough? Recommendations to rid the coup’s remnants) Concerning the NCPO decrees and the judicial process, TLHR wishes to make the following recommendations to the House of Representatives;

1. Repeal Articles 265 and 279 of the 2017 Constitution, which make the decrees and acts of NCPO legal under Articles 44, 47, and 48 of the 2014 Interim Constitution to ensure that the NCPO Announcements, Orders, and acts comply with Thailand’s international legal obligations and the principles of the rule of law.

2. Review all NCPO Announcements/Orders and Head of NCPO Orders and all other laws adopted by the NLA and amend or repeal all those that violate the people’s rights and freedoms.

3. Immediately repeal the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2558 and no. 13/2559. When any wrongdoings or public disruption take place, law enforcement officials can already resort to powers prescribed in the Criminal Procedure Code. It is not necessary to retain power offered by these orders.

4. Take all necessary measures to provide redress to civilians whose cases were heard in military courts and have reached the final verdict. Civilians convicted by military courts after the imposition of Martial Law in May 2014 should be allowed to appeal to courts of higher instance and be provided compensation.

———————————————————————–

1 The Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2558 and No. 13/2559 endow appointed officers with extensive police powers, including powers to arrest, detain and search suspects without warrants and hold them in places not officially recognized as places of detention for up to seven days.

2 This order prescribes a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment or a maximum fine of 40,000 Baht (approximately USD1,250) or both. The order also has a provision that prohibits financial or property transactions.

 





A game of chance

16 06 2019

Readers may have noticed that some 10 days ago, Thaksin Shinawatra was sentenced to two years in prison “over his handling of a state lottery scheme he launched while in office more than a decade ago.”

It was in 2008 that a body of post-2006 coup, army-appointed “graftbusters filed … charges against Thaksin, accusing him and 46 cabinet ministers and other top officials of illegal use of funds from a state lottery, wrongly approving and operating the lottery from 2003 to 2006.”

In sentencing Thaksin, the court stated:

government lotteries were aimed at generating income for the country and the digit lotteries put the country at risk.

Despite opposition, Thaksin ordered a then deputy finance minister and director of the Government Lottery Office to launch the two- and three-digit lotteries without a law supporting it or measure to prevent financial risks of the state as the GLO [Government Lottery Office] usually did.

While the lottery scheme brought 123.34 billion baht to state coffers, not all draws were profitable, with seven incurring losses totalling 1.67 billion baht, according to the ruling….

Despite the large flow of funds to the state, Patanapong Chanpetpul, director of the NACC’s Bureau of Legal Affairs, said [that]… by law the Finance Ministry, which supervised the GLO, could demand compensation for the damage.” Work that one out.

Fast forward to the 2014 coup. When Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha used Article 44 to put now Army commander Apirat Kongsompong in charge of the GLO. His task was “to solve chronic problems of overpriced tickets.”This move was seen as a quick-win move that would “return happiness to the people”, as the junta had promised. A Bangkok Post report continues:

The board fixed the price of lottery ticket pairs at 80 baht apiece, revised quotas for vendor groups, banned bundled sales by popular numbers and increased printing of tickets to 90 million each fortnight from 37 million in 2014.

Five years on, lottery tickets are still selling at 90-100 baht, just as they did before the coup, and tickets are still bundled to fetch higher prices.

So Gen Apirat failed on that, with no return of happiness to the people, and overpricing remains a problem.He left the GLO to become an appointed member of the Senate.

Gen Apirat, now the army chief, stepped down from the GLO last month to join the Senate.

In his term, he probably kept the junta happy for it is reported that “the GLO has emerged as the largest contributor to state coffers, bringing in 40.8 billion baht in fiscal 2018, up from 15.3 billion in fiscal 2014.” We think “largest contributor” means from state organizations. After all, VAT brings in far, far more. Even so, you see that Gen Apirat has done a job for the junta. Thaksin got two years in jail for raising that kind of revenue for the state.





Updated: Tyranny into the future

15 06 2019

…[Gen] Prayuth Chan-ocha’s plans for a political makeover — one in which he would be labeled as head of a quasi-civilian government rather than military junta strongman — remain stalled as he continues to invoke Section 44 of the constitution.

He adds that “Prayuth is not expected to give up this weapon until after the country hosts a summit of regional leaders from June 21-23…”. That’s when his legal fixer Wissanu Krea-ngam says the “new” cabinet will begin work.

There is no smooth path to forming the “new” junta government + 19 parties. When the junta’s in trouble, it begins repressing, and as we have said before, this looks like the sad future for Thailand.

Macan-Markar says that “human rights groups and political critics are alarmed.” They also say that there’s “no end in sight for the dictatorship in Thailand.”

He cites Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch:

Gen. Prayuth maintains a host of repressive powers that allow him to prosecute dissidents, gag free speech, and put critics in secret military detention. They don’t tolerate even the slightest hint of mockery…. This is an embrace of authoritarian rule, not a transition to democracy, as Gen. Prayuth starts his second term in office.

The article then mentions the Wai Khru events that sent the junta into a repressive spin.

On this, HRW states that:

The authorities have even targeted high school students for ridiculing the junta. On June 13, soldiers and police officers went to Chumpholphonphisai School in Nong Khai province and ordered students to delete all photos on their social media accounts about their Teacher’s Day activities, in which they made pedestal trays with satirical messages about military dictatorship and the junta’s manipulation of the general election to prolong Prime Minister Prayuth’s rule.

It has since been reported that soldiers weren’t involved, only police. We are not at all sure how this makes it any less reprehensible.

This story really only gained traction when Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan got his knickers in a knot over social media posts. He exploded: “I believe there is someone behind this. How could the kids come up with this idea by themselves?”

We guess he’s blaming Thaksin Shinawatra and red shirted teachers. He’s such a dipstick, but fascist dipsticks are nasty dipsticks. The students contradicted Gen Dipstick.

Khaosod has further details on events:

Five Grade 12 students at Chumpholphonphisai School yesterday creatively adapted flower arrangements on trays that are traditionally offered to teachers to wai khru, in order to critique Prayuth’s appointment as prime minister for a second term.

In addition to the usual flowers, one tray depicted an imbalanced scale with cardboard signs saying “millions of votes” on the lighter side and “250 votes” on the heavier side – referring to the junta-appointed senate and their unanimous voting last week in favour of Prayuth’s bid for the top job. Another tray depicts figurines of armed soldiers and monsters surrounding Democracy Monument.

Pol. Col. Puwis Siriphanich of Phon Phisai police station is quoted as saying: “We did not order or intimidate students to delete the photos. We respect their rights.”

However, Pipat Srisookpant, the school director insisted “[o]fficers asked that the photos be removed from all social media and the students complied…”.

Anti-democracy campaigners used the event to chastise parents. Former Democrat Party MP Warong Dechgitvigrom complained that parents prevent the spread of democracy: “I ask parents to exchange thoughts with your children because they can be easily mislead…. Children are optimistic and can be indoctrinated by democracy.”

What party did he represent? Oh, yes, the Democrat Party, the anti-democrat party that looks like allowing dictatorship and repression to advance without impediment.

Adding to this depressing descent into political darkness, HRW mentions several other efforts by the junta to repress mocking on social media.

It is an effort to make Thailand a dark and fearful place.

If readers need a pick-me-up, there’s a story on the determination of democracy activists to resist despite having “been the target of increasing physical assaults and intimidation since the March elections…” and the disappearance and murder of dissidents.

Update: In an op-ed at the Bangkok Post:

We thought we were creeping back to democracy. We thought we were regaining our freedoms. After all, we have just welcomed a new government which has tried to convince the world that it came to power by democratic means.

But we are creeping even closer to 1984 than ever.

Indeed it is. Who would have guessed that the end of the junta, well, sort of, would result in deepening repression!?!





Junta hard at work

14 06 2019

Still working to get a government together, the junta remains very active. There’s no such thing as a caretaker government when the “new” government to be is also the junta’s.

The Dictator yesterday “exercised the all-powerful Section 44 to bring more than 20,000 illegal hotels and accommodation services nationwide under better state control and boost safety for guests.” That order is said to be “aimed at making accommodation services which have violated laws related to land use, city planning, building control and hotel businesses legal.” At about the same time, a military task force, led by the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) Region 4, and supported by police, “raided a cluster of 23 luxury hilltop villas on Koh Samui found to be illegally operating as a high-end hotel.”

Here’s the rub of dictatorship: The Dictator wields dictatorial powers and the military is running raids for which they are unaccountable. That the two acts contract each other is neither here nor there because Gen Prayuth Chan-och can do whatever he wants and it’s “legal.” We can’t help wondering what he will do after he’s got a government in place. We guess he’ll resort to threats and violence.

On the high-end resort, could we guess that this is a kind of mafia action. After all, the place has been high-profile and operating for eight years. Something’s happened to suggest that the usual pay-offs may be being re-routed.

Meanwhile, the same military boss has used Article 44 to “suspend the process of selecting new members of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC)…”.

The order comes as the “three mobile operators — Advanced Info Service, True Move H Universal Communication and Total Access Communication — are due to submit proposals to buy 700MHz spectrum licences, meant for the 5G network, on June 19.”

We are only guessing, but assume that deals have been done, kickbacks arranged, and so there is a need to maintain the existing “partnerships.”





Does parliament matter?

9 06 2019

That may seem like an odd question given that there was a first election in eight years not that long ago. But it’s 11 weeks since that election and the country still doesn’t have a government resulting from that election. And, that election was rigged, even if the result was not exactly what the junta planned and hoped.

Then there’s Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, who now claims to have been anointed by a parliament that he scorns by not bothering to deal with, probably something that will probably be common going forward, if “forward” is the appropriate word for the troglodyte regime and its spawn.

Most symbolic of the deep, dark trench that has been scoured by the monarchy-military regime, trying to excavate a politics that was meant to have been buried in 1932, is the homelessness of parliament. The previous parliament house has been acquired by King Vajiralongkorn before the new parliament house has been completely built.

A story at The Nation adds more information on the new parliament house. Not that long ago the public was told that the king’s takeover of the land and building would mean that parliament would remain homeless until the middle of next year. Now, it seems, “the current completion date leaning towards the end of 2020.” The date remains rubbery. It could be that parliament remains homeless well into 2021 or even longer.

As The Nation says, “In the meantime legislators will continue meeting at various large venues around Bangkok as needs dictate.”

While the new parliament building is heralded as a splendid piece of architecture, the building for the people’s representatives is also built with the monarchy in mind – indeed, a special royal functions hall – and will also house, for now, the unelected swill of the junta’s Senate.

Gen Prayuth is hoping that parliament doesn’t matter all that much, but the electors have (repeatedly) shown it does matter (even if rigged). Their votes have presented The Dictator with a nopposition that he can’t simply ignore, harass, jail or silence with the ease afforded by Article 44 and military power.





The thick-faced, the thin-skinned and other crooks

21 03 2019

Here’s a round-up of a few stories that show the very worst of junta and its “election.”

Campaigning with the monarchy: Thaksin Shinawatra tried to have a princess on his side and failed. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha had a birthday and got flowers from the king and some other royals. He made a big deal out of it and used it in his election campaigning.

Vote buying: The Bangkok Post reports that the Anti-Money Laundering Office “has set up an operations centre to monitor vote-buying and investigate poll-related money-laundering activities…”. Too late. If the money has changed hands, the deals will have been done already.

Army intimidation: Khaosod reports that “Party officials and candidates from the Pheu Thai and Democrat parties told the media that soldiers raided their residences on the pretext of looking for drugs or other contraband, though the politicians are convinced the army is seeking to intimidate them in the final days of campaigning.”

The fully-armed soldiers operated on junta orders: “soldiers did not have any court warrant, but forced their way in by invoking Section 44 of the 2014 charter, which grants soldiers acting under junta orders to search or detain anyone without a warrant.”

Buffalo manure award: The prize for the most egregious falsehood goes to Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Democrat Party. Just a few days ago, Abhisit loudly declared that he would not support The Dictator as PM after the election. Now he says “his party has yet to endorse his announcement that he will not support the junta leader for another term in office.” He fibbed and the strong group of anti-democrats in the party have put him in his place and announced support for Gen Prayuth.

Self-declared winners: Even before the big vote on Sunday it seems Prayuth’s devil party, Palang Pracharath, reckons it has already won and will immediately form government even before the vote count is finished. Breathtakingly arrogant and confident in the junta’s rigging and cheating.

Complete dicks: The lying, news fabricating dipsticks at Nation TV, caught out concocting a story meant to defame Future Forward Party, are unrepentant and unapologetic. Indeed, they are announcing that it is their right as journalists to fabricate and lie.

All this is how election cheats manage their manipulation and cynical fraud. It will only get worse.





Rigging, lying for Palang Pracharath’s advantage

31 01 2019

It may seem a political age ago, but it was only on Tuesday that The Dictator was reported in the Bangkok Post as having “insisted … he will not resign and will remain in power until a new government is sworn in.”

The Dictator claimed he was irreplaceable: “I won’t quit. If I quit, who can take my place?”

He might have added that staying in place while the Palang Pracharath  Party campaigns for him to be premier also means he can control funds and use them as he wishes to benefit his party. He will also be able to use dictatorial Article 44 whenever he wants.

His position on not resigning seems unchanged despite the fact that he is now officially the main Palang Pracharath candidate for prime minister.

Speaking about his political future, Gen Prayuth said he would “accept a party’s invitation to be nominated as a candidate for prime minister.”

One of his deputies, Somkid Jatusripitak, is also a Palang Pracharath nominee and a strategist for the party while still in place as a junta cabinet member.

It is pretty clear that Palang Pracharat is the junta.

When asked about its nomination of two junta members and a cabinet member who resigned as minister a day earlier, party secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong, who was Commerce Minister until a couple of days ago, decided to stick to form and lie.

He “denied that proposing Gen Prayut as prime minister was an attempt to extend the power of the junta beyond the election.” He went further into a dissembling swamp claiming his party “was founded in line with the democratic process and was not the political party of the National Council for Peace and Order [the military junta]…”.

Every single person in Thailand knows that Sontirat is lying. The party is nothing more than a junta device for staying in power, underpinned by its rigged constitution and electoral laws.

Another liar is Deputy Prime Minister Somkid who just a day or so ago “denied that he would be among the PPRP’s three potential candidates for prime minister.” That lie lasted about 24 hours.

But there’s a pattern here. The party is dominated by liars and cheats.

Meanwhile, there are other neglected parts of the junta’s regime that will continue to “work” right up until there’s an “election.” This is unusual, and even under the junta’s constitution, a caretaker administration is meant to be in place. But that doesn’t apply to the junta’s regime.

The National News Bureau reports that the National Legislative Assembly has been busy unanimously passing laws that will constrain normal political activity long into the future.

The most recent unanimous “vote” in the NLA was to pass a “draft Municipal Act into law on Friday.”

The law, endorsed without any objection, restricts the operations of local governance and decentralization. That’s been the junta’s aim since its coup, seeking to roll back local democracy.

The National News Bureau also reports that the NLA will only end its “meetings one week prior to the national poll.” After that, as far as we can tell from the junta’s constitution, the NLA continues in place until the day before the new parliament is convened. But if it is not meeting, then it is The Dictator and his junta who will be in control until a new government is formed, and that would be for up to two months.

So the junta has a party. That party has a government that is working for it as the junta and The Dictator control all of government for all of the “election” campaign and after the election. And, it has Article 44. That’s a huge advantage even in a situation where the junta has already rigged the rules.





Election (probably) delayed I

3 01 2019

Talk of further election delays has been going on since the military junta “confirmed” 24 February. When the junta began saying that it was the Election Commission’s job to set the date, it began to sound like a delay was being arranged.

On the day the Royal Gazette failed to publish the promised royal decree on the elections, EC Secretary General Jarungwit Pumma said: “There is currently no royal decree for the election but this does not mean the election date will be postponed.”

The same day, The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “insisted that the road map for national elections remain unaltered…”. He said:

Things remain unchanged…. The Election Commission [EC] will determined the election date. It’s up to them. But considering the current timetable, the election will take place before [the coronation ceremony].

He dismissed ultra-royalist demands that the election be postponed for the coronation. Notorious rightists Arthit Ourairat and Chulcherm Yugala had demanded “the long-awaited general elections should be held after the coronation ceremony.”

Significantly (maybe), Gen Prayuth also declared that “he has never spoken about a delay.”

So what happened? Today, the junta had Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam meet with the demonstrably puppet EC “to discuss the possibility of delaying the general election from February 24 so that it would not affect the coronation ceremony set for early May.”

Wissanu stated that “In case the election is delayed from February, the new date will be issued according to the Constitution, meaning not later than May 9…”.

The only problem with that is the timetable he set out for the EC more or less delays an “election” until late May at the earliest. That would be in breach of the constitution, but Article 44 can “fix” that.

Prayuth hadn’t ever spoken of a delay. So who did? Who must the junta obey? Or is it that the junta has wanted to delay because it needs more time to ensure the desired outcome? Or is it just going to delay elections for a very long time? We don’t know, but there are plenty of guesses.





Boundaries managed III

1 12 2018

The complaints about the Election Commission’s (re)drawing of electoral constituency boundaries continue:

Political parties are angry about a redrawn electoral map of Thailand they say has been gerrymandered to boost the prospects of pro-junta parties.

Both major political parties, Pheu Thai and Democrat, said the new constituency map revealed Thursday increases the fortunes of parties such as Palang Pracharat Party – which supports the military government – in several provinces.

The two major parties of the past decade say this, Puea Thai and the Democrat Party: “They say the new voting divisions published in the Royal Gazette show constituencies suspiciously redrawn in a number of provinces, particularly Ubon Ratchathani, Sukhothai and Nakhon Ratchasima.” Puea Thai’s Phumtham Wechayachai said “some districts were split into four or five constituencies after local politicians there defected to [the] Palang Pracharat [Party of the junta] in those provinces.”

One Democrat Party member went further, declaring the EC commissioners were cheating for the junta’s parties.

Meanwhile, as well as going full Sgt Schultz – I know nothing, nothing!The Dictator used a curse word to attack the media for daring to ask questions and he condemned politicians for complaining. He also lied, saying, “I am not on any side and I did not make any order…”. Both statements are so obviously untrue that it seems Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha believes Thailand’s electorate is as malleable as clay and about as bright as a bucket of clay.

PPT sees this as just one more admission of election rigging. But there’s been so many of these efforts and admissions that it is normalized. In fact, the electorate is not thick and knows exactly what the junta is up to. The problem is that the military thugs have all the power in their own hands and so no one seems able to prevent this blatant effort to steal the “election.”

At least the politicians are now talking about the massive fraud. On the boundaries, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said “the new boundaries are unjustified and undermine the both the EC’s credibility and the election process itself.” He added that “several constituencies have not been redrawn in line with the law…”.

So the junta and its puppet EC have cheated and may have broken the law. But as Abhisit observed, “nothing could be done about it because the EC has been given immunity by the NCPO’s [Article 44] order.”





All about the EC

23 11 2018

The Election Commission is on all front pages today in a series of stories responding to criticism and perceptions that the EC is doing the junta’s work.

For a body that has dubious constitutional credibility and that is a puppet for the military dictatorship this criticism amounts to a proxy attack on the junta itself.

Perhaps the biggest story and weakest response is on the potential for the junta to engage in boundary rigging. Of course, the EC denies that the junta’s extraordinary intervention to delay the EC’s publication of boundaries amounts to anything underhanded.

The problem for the EC and its credibility is that its chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong is unconvincing. He says “he did not think the regime invoked Section 44” to benefit its devil parties.

So why? According to reports, Ittiporn says “the order only provides an opportunity for the EC to address complaints from political parties and voters who say the redrawing of constituencies has failed to take public input into account.”

It is not at all clear that this is a fact. First, it must be asked that if there were complaints from parties, which parties had the privilege of knowing what the boundaries were? Was it the devil parties? Second, as we understand the intervention, it is to allow the EC to avoid public scrutiny. Why was that?

The EC chairman keeps banging on about law. He knows as well as everyone else that Article 44 is a law unto itself (well, unto The Dictator) and is only “law” because the junta dictates it.

When he says the law prevents the junta from intervening, he’s treating the public as idiots.

As head of the Puea Thai Party’s legal team Chusak Sirinil explained when he “expressed discomfort over the junta order that legalises any decisions on constituency mapping by the EC no matter whether they were in line with the existing laws,” he stated:

Pheu Thai would like answers from the EC – will you really go against the law and disregard electoral laws? The junta order obviously suggests and opens way for the EC to do anything.

He continued, saying:

…there was no other way to look at it, but as an intervention by the junta to tamper with electoral boundaries. Mapping constituencies is one of the fundamental issues in an election, Chusak said. If it is not done freely and fairly, it is impossible to believe that the whole voting process will be free and fair….

Well, it can’t be free and fair, but the point he makes is worth considering. The Democrat Party agreed that rigging was in the EC’s wind.

Even the Bangkok Post points out that Ittiporn is lying by omission, having “previously admitted the EC had tentatively finished redrawing the constituency boundaries on Nov 5 although it has not yet announced them.”

Then there’s the still unconfirmed election date. Ittiporn says that there’s no reason for a delay from the proposed 24 February. He then adds that the junta can intervene on date at any time it wants.

Meanwhile, the junta’s National Legislative Assembly has finally been made the EC whole and legal by appointing, in secret session, two commissioners. Earlier in the year there was debate about whether the currently operating EC was legal and constitutional.

A final report on the EC has it deciding to “investigate” its bosses in the junta over their recent cash splash of 63 billion baht – the linked report now has it at nearly 87 billion baht – into short-term cash handouts targeting low-income earners and retired officials.

Here’s a real chance for EC chairman Ittiporn to prove his “independence” and go beyond legalistic and/or vague non-answers. Will he have sufficient spine for the task? Will he really be permitted to investigate the junta?

Perhaps there’s evidence for him in the news reports that a junta devil party executive of the Palang Pracharath Party, Anucha Nakhasai “leapt to the defence of the government’s cash handout schemes.” He reckoned the cash handouts were the best thing since boiled rice, and “challenged parties which were critical of the packages to announce that they will scrap these measures if they take power after the poll.” Indicating that the handouts were a vote-buying scheme, he added, “And let’s wait and see if the 14.5 million people who stand to benefit from the measures will vote for you on Feb 24…”.