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…”.

Setting the rigging II

20 11 2018

When the Army chief defends the use of Article 44 by the military junta it does little more than confirm the worst fears many have about efforts to rig election boundaries. When the puppet Election Commission babbles incoherently about the reasons for the delay/extension/non-delay, the fears appear justified.

Gen Apirat Kongsompong is reported to have somewhat angrily “affirmed that the regime’s latest order allowing the Election Commission (EC) to make changes to constituency boundaries until Dec 11 will not affect the proposed Feb 24 poll date.”

What the general didn’t do was explain why the order was necessary when “a few days before it was issued, the EC said it had already completed the redrawing and was preparing to announce the new boundaries.”

Gen Apirat insisted “that the order is intended to give the EC enough time to come up with an electoral boundary map which suits both voters and parties.”

What the general didn’t do was explain why the order reportedly eliminated public and party consultation on the proposed boundaries.

More confusing is the claim by the junta that the use of Article 44 was “a response to growing criticism that the redrawing of constituencies has failed to take public input into account.”

As all of this was going on, EC president Ittiporn Boonpracong was forced to admit that “the EC had earlier issued a regulation on redrawing constituency boundaries, requiring it to announce the new constituencies in the Royal Gazette by Nov 10.” He also “admitted that the EC had, in fact, finished redrawing the constituency boundaries on Nov, 5.”

So what happened?

Unconvincingly, the EC President has been reported as claiming Article 44 was needed as his EC suddenly got derailed because he “had to have an eye surgery…”. He added: “Therefore, the announcement had to be delayed…”.

What the EC President did not explain was why his personal problem became an unsolvable national political problem. He’s not the only person in the EC. It is a bureaucratic agency based on a hierarchy, with some very senior people working there. There’s more below on this.

If it all smells fishy based on his “explanation,” it gets worse.

After conjuring up this unconvincing “explanation,” Ittiporn added: “We’ll comply with related laws and will finish the job by the deadline [Dec 11]. After all, the NCPO’s new order explicitly says the EC has to do the job by the criteria defined in the law.”

He must have forgotten that he’d already said the EC had “finished redrawing the constituency boundaries on Nov, 5.”

Getting in on this charade, “Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said … the NCPO’s new order was issued to protect the EC from accusations of malfeasance surrounding the delay.”

What Wissanu fails to explain is why more time is needed if the EC President is being truthful when he says the agency had “finished redrawing the constituency boundaries on Nov, 5.”

Ittiporn more or less confirmed the assumptions that the junta is fiddling with boundaries when he “declined to answer whether the nearly-finished constituency map had to be redone or to comment on the NCPO order…”.

The whole thing gets about as clear as mud when Wissanu admits that not all was well in the EC: “the EC president was not well and other commissioners had different opinions on the redrawn map, further delaying the process…”. Further delaying? But the EC had “finished redrawing the constituency boundaries on Nov, 5.” But what of “different opinions”? What’s going on there if the EC had “finished redrawing the constituency boundaries on Nov, 5.”

Just adding to this mix of contradictory babble, The Dictator claims that he “used his special powers to issue the order on Friday, giving the EC the mandate to do what is necessary, including ruling on complaints arising from public hearings, to make sure the redrawing of all 350 constituencies is done before Dec 11.”

What Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha doesn’t explain is when there will be public hearings. As we understand it, the EC can now decide the boundaries without public hearings.

Things are likely to get even more confused as the junta seeks to muddy the waters as much as possible as it rigs its “election.”

Puppet Election Commission criticized

18 11 2018

In a follow-up to our most recent post on election rigging,, the Bangkok Post reports that the Open Forum for Democracy Foundation (P-NET) “is calling on the Election Commission (EC) to exercise independence in redrawing the election constituencies, saying it is a first step towards a free and fair election.”

P-NET is “urging the poll agency to be independent in doing its job and take into account factors such as demographic changes, public participation and voter convenience, in demarcating the boundaries of constituencies.”

In fact, these are all things that were “promised,” but the military junta’s use of Article 44 now makes the whole process opaque, secretive and manipulable.

P-NET calls the junta’s intervention “outright interference,” noting that the dictatorship’s intervention “comes after the EC completed the job and was about to publish it in the Royal Gazette.”

It adds that the junta’s intervention “may lead to the unfair carving out of electoral boundaries in the favour of certain parties, especially pro-military ones…”. The use of the word “may” is rather too weak; it seems clear that this is what the military junta is doing.

One important quibble is with the notion that boundary setting is “a first step towards a free and fair election.” As we have repeatedly pointed out, the military junta has engaged in massive election rigging. The first step in that was the 2014 coup itself, with the major effort being the rule-setting that began with the junta’s 2016 constitution, which led to a cascade of rules meant to rig the election. That makes electoral boundary interference only the most recent step.

Setting the rigging I

18 11 2018

The Bangkok Post has yet another politically timid story on the military junta’s elections. Indeed, the Post seems to move ever closer to the military tyrants.

In this story, it mentions that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “has signed an order granting the Election Commission (EC) the authority to do what is necessary to resolve disputes so that the redrawing of all 350 constituencies are done by the Dec 10 deadline.”

That order invokes Article 44 of the 2014 interim charter, that remains in force to allow The Dictator to do anything he wants.

The story then “explains” that the use of dictatorial power results from “complaints by several parties about the constituency map proposed by the EC and inadequate and incomprehensive [sic.] hearings on them.”

So The Dictator has decided that his puppet EC can do as it wants (or as it is ordered) in the event of complaints and screw the process. It also absolves the EC from legal responsibilities: “The EC’s decisions or actions shall be considered legitimate, constitutional and final…”.

This order trashes an earlier junta order “requiring public hearings on the new map before the EC approves it.” We can only guess that this now clears the way for junta boundary rigging should The Dictator decide this is necessary for his parties to triumph.

Thai PBS has a different take. It reports a junta spokesman as saying the order will “give more time for the Election Commission to demarcate constituency boundaries…”.

In fact, if there are no hearings and no scrutiny of the puppet agency, then “more time” makes no sense at all. With hearings gone, the process should require less time. If the EC is taking more time and dumping scrutiny and hearings then the conclusion is that  the junta wants more time to seek benefit for its parties.

This is confirmed when that spokesman “insisted that there was no hidden agenda behind the order…”. When the junta says such things, you can be pretty certain it is up to no good.

The junta at ASEM Summit

24 10 2018

We missed a couple of important things over the past couple of weeks and thank the readers who brought them to PPT’s attention.

The first is produced here in full:

Donald TUSK President of the European Council

Antonio Tajani President of the European Parliament

Lee Hsien Loong Chair of ASEAN

Dato Lim Jock Hoi Secretary-General of ASEAN

Angela Merkel Chancellor of Germany

28 September 2018

Your Excellencies,

The 12th ASEM Summit in Brussels (18-19 October) will be attended by General Prayuth Chan-Ocha who, as Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, led the military coup that terminated the democratically elected Government of Thailand in 2014 (the 12th military coup against democracy since the abolition of Absolute Monarchy in 1932.)

From 22 May 2014 the population of Thailand has been forced to live under the oppression of General Prayuth’s military junta – his ‘National Council for Peace and Order’ (NCPO).

In Article 44 of his 2015 so-called Interim Constitution, Prayuth granted himself supreme power and immunity from prosecution – also immunity to all who had played a part in his military coup.

The 2017 Constitution produced by his completely non-elect NCPO has ruled that Thailand’s future Upper House shall be comprised of 250 ‘senators’ (appointed by an NCPO-appointed NCPO committee) and have the right to appoint the Prime Minister, thereby ensuring that the workings of any future Lower House, elected or otherwise, can be blocked.

For the last 4 years the Prayuth junta has been doing all it can to squash all opposition through the issuance of more than 500 unlawful, totalitarian orders and edicts, through the banning of political meetings and assemblies, and through detention and life-threatening harassment of many hundreds of civil society leaders, politicians, academics and students.

Alongside Article 44 of the junta’s 2017 Constitution, the junta has employed Article 116 of the Thai Criminal Code, which covers ‘threats to national security’, and the stand-alone but junta-amended Computer Crime Act to crack-down ruthlessly on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly.

All these orders, edicts and articles have been and are being used by Prayuth to block and persecute public debate on the future of Thailand and to postpone free and fair elections and the return to parliamentary democracy ad infinitum. Prayuth’s junta has also taken ruthless advantage of Thailand’s anachronous and infamous lèse-majesté laws (Article 112 of the Criminal Code), using military courts to convict record numbers of people on trumped-up charges of lèse-majesté with sentences reaching 70 years of imprisonment.

Since 2014 the junta has claimed the right to send soldiers and police into people’s homes (usually 10 -12 armed personnel) without warning or warrant, to detain citizens and remove them to military bases for so-called ‘attitude adjustment’.

After four years without democracy the suppressive and oppressive policies of the Prayuth regime have been able to penetrate and impact upon every corner of the Kingdom, leaving the regular citizenry in a state of humiliating despair with regard to the political future of their country.

Not only is the Prayuth regime undermining the health and well-being of Thailand, his regime weakens the ability of the ASEAN to serve the ASEAN Community. It is thus of central importance to all parties to recognise and not abandon recognition of the fact that the Prayuth regime is not a legitimate government.

We request that the EU and Member States do not abandon recognition of the illegitimacy of General Prayuth’s attempt to represent the people of Thailand and the illegitimacy of the regime he is attempting to establish.

We request that the EU and member states do not entertain negotiating with Prayuth on any matter other than that of the removal his junta and armed forces from all forms of interference in the democratic development of Thailand.

With greatest respect

Name organisation/party

Judy A. Pasimio LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Right) Philippines

Atama Katama Vorned Dayak Forum International, Malaysia

Marthin Hadininata Kesatuan Nelayan Tradisional Indonesia

Glomis Balangne IBON Europe (Belgium)

Rayyan Hassan NGO Forum on ADB (Asia Region, Philippines, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India)

Pierre Rousset ESSF (France)

Tom Kuchrz Podemos, Spain

Balram Banskota NCP, Nepal

May Wong Globalisation Monitor(HKSAR)

Anselmo Lee ADN, Asia Democracy Network, Korea

Junya Yimprasert Action for People’s Democracy, Thailand

Tur-od Lkhagvaja Transparency Int., Malaysia