Irony of dictatorship

15 09 2018

It is ironic and, indeed, defining of the nature of Thailand’s dictatorship that in order to prepare for the junta’s rigged election, that “preparations” – well some of them – require the use of The Dictator’s Article 44 to decree that political parties have “the green light to hold some [some] necessary pre-election activities…”.

Of course, campaigning remains forbidden.

By The Dictator’s decree, parties are “permited by to organise activities, including general assemblies, on condition that they inform the Election Commission (EC) at least five days in advance.” They are also given The Dictator’s permission to “use electronic media to communicate with their members but they are not permitted to use digital platforms for actual campaigning.”

If recent events in other countries are any guide, platforms such as Facebook could play a huge role in the run-up to voting day.

As we know, the ban on campaigning only applies to parties not affiliated with the junta.

Deepening the irony of the claims that Thailand is “returning to democracy,” the decree was required to even allow the Election Commission to call a meeting with political parties.





Updated: A rigged election awaits

6 09 2018

It looks increasingly like that the military junta has decided on its rigged election in the first half of 2019. Things may change, but one indicator is the ditching of local elections.

These had previously been mentioned as needing to be held before the junta’s national election. Back in June, the junta was reportedly preparing to hold local elections as a way to “test the waters” ahead of its “election,” then being touted for February 2019. Now it is reported that honorary unofficial junta spokesman Meechai Ruchupan, touted as head of the Constitutional Drafting Committee, says the Election Commission simply lacks “sufficient time to make preparations” for local elections.

Now we thought that the constitution was well beyond drafting stage, so wonder what Meechai is doing but guess it is watching the drafting of bills resulting from the charter. Even so, we didn’t know he was also directing the EC. But as an Interfering Old Man, he always feels entitled to tells lesser persons what to do.

Meechai revealed that the six draft bills governing local elections haven’t been “scrutinised by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)…”. He added that “it remains unknown at this stage if the election of district councillors will continue…”. In other words, there may be a period where local government has no councilors at all. We assume this means Article 44 will have to be used by The Dictator to enable local government to continue in the interim period.

That his junta twin Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam agrees with Meechai confirms that local elections are off for this year.

Another sign of a forthcoming “election” is the promulgation of even more policies to keep voters onside with the junta.

Update: We note that at The Nation, Wissanu is quoted as saying: “If the general election is held in February 2019, local elections will take place around May 2019…”. At the same time, he is also saying that the junta has agreed that political parties (who are not in the junta’s pocket and already at work) will be able to “campaign” for 60 days and he gives a December lifting of the ban. Again, this points to late February, perhaps, maybe.





The Dictator in control

26 08 2018

While the commentary from and about the junta on its “election” continues to be contradictory, one thing that has remained consistent has been The Dictator’s position that only he makes the decision on when his “election” will be held.

A recent report states that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha will decide when the “ban on political activities” will be lifted, probably by using his dictatorial powers under Article 44. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam reckons that might be “soon,” but only for “some political activities.”

It is The Dictator who will “start talks with parties next month.” Recall that such talks “started” some time ago and then died for lack of junta interest.

Wissanu revealed that “even after parties complete the election primaries, they will still not be allowed to canvas for votes.” It seems the junta has determined that election campaigning (by parties other than those they favor) will be as short a duration as possible, starting “after a royal decree declaring the poll date is issued…”.

The fact that no one seems to know how the primaries will work seems beside the point.

All of this junta scheming probably means about a month of campaigning, but from a standing start for the major parties, meaning that will be seriously disadvantaged. That’s just as the junta wants it.





Reporting truth on AMLO and the rigged election

17 08 2018

The Nation has some interesting comments on the events at AMLO.

Policeman Romsit Viriyasan “was abruptly removed from his top post at the Anti-Money Laundering Organisation (AMLO) largely because he failed to expedite a number of long-delayed politically sensitive cases, especially since the general election is looming…”.

The Dictator issued the transfer order under the power of Article 44, which allows him to do pretty much anything he wants.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha used his unbridled power and then said, unbelievably, that “… Romsit had done nothing wrong…”. He’d been in the AMLO job since 29 June 2018.

Prayuth added that AMLO’s boss had been changed “to make the agency more efficient.” This “abrupt removal followed the August 14 meeting of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] chaired by Prayut and attended by deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan, who had reportedly said there was a top-level discussion on AMLO’s leadership change.”

The Nation observes that the removal was “rather unusual.” That’s too bland. This action by The Dictator is “rather usual” in the sense that almost everything the junta does now is highly politicized in the sense that it is meant to consolidate its position going forward.

As The Nation explains, for the junta, “the top AMLO post is crucial, especially in view of the looming general election due some time next year. Hence, the AMLO secretary-general has to be someone who can take immediate action to speed up pending cases that are politically sensitive.” That is, the junta needs to finish off some important political opponents before an rigged election can be held and it can win it.

Apparently, “Romsit had not expedited several pending [political] cases, citing legal and other constraints, which prompted the premier to have him moved to an inactive post in the PM’s Office.”

One case in particular is that against Panthongtae Shinawatra, son of former premier Thaksin, which the junta claims involved “wrongdoing in the state-owned Krung Thai Bank loan fraud case.” But, in addition, the junta wants AMLO to “play a powerful oversight role in the upcoming general election regarding the flow of funds that are used by politicians during the elections.” In other words, AMLO has to be a part of the election rigging, and The Dictator didn’t trust Romsit to do the job he’d be given by the junta.

hHe Nation concludes: “So, there will soon be a replacement as the Prayut government gets ready to hold general elections next year.” Yep, that’s the rigged election (which will only be held when the junta is sure its lot can triumph.





How does that happen?

16 08 2018

With the military junta in its fifth year of rule, at times it does seem to lose even its own plot. Below are three news items that PPT struggles to comprehend.

First, in a financial scandal that looks something between a white-collar crime and a Ponzi scheme with new means, the Bangkok Post reports that a big investor on the Stock Exchange of Thailand and staff from at least three commercial banks “are suspected of being complicit in a 797 million baht (US$24 million) scandal involving a foreign investor and the cryptocurrency bitcoin…”. The banks are the big three: Bangkok Bank, Siam Commercial Bank and Kasikorn Bank. Police say that “several of the banks’ employees failed to report money transfers of 2 million baht or higher, a serious violation of bank rules.” Those rules come under the Anti-Money Laundering Office.

It was just a couple of days ago that The Dictator sacked the head of AMLO. That head had only been in the job for about a month. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha used his unbridled Article 44 powers to send the AMLO boss packing. What’s going on there?

(Call us suspicious, but we do recall the big wigs being involved in the Mae Chamoy chit fund that was exposed in the 1980s. The Wikipedia entry states:

The fund had a large number of politically powerful investors from the military and even the Royal Household and as such there were calls for the government to bail out the banks and the chit funds. After discussions with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the nature of which were not made public, the Mae Chamoy Fund was shut down and Chamoy Thipyaso was arrested. She was held in secret by the air force for several days and her trial was not held until after the losses for the military and royal personnel involved had been recovered.)

Second, the Nikkei Asian Review reports that the junta is dumping its Special Economic Zone projects. It observes:

Since taking power in 2014, the military-led government had floated SEZ projects with the idea of building industrial complexes in the poor, remote areas along the country’s border. The plans backfired by fueling property speculation and sending land prices substantially higher, driving up the costs of building the SEZs.

How does that happen? Perhaps it has to do with the third story, with the junta stating it now wants to concentrate on infrastructure rather than SEZs.

Third, the Bangkok Post reports that “Transport Ministry officials have confirmed that auctions for the construction contracts for all sections of the first phase of the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway project will commence by the end of the year, despite unsettled negotiations between both countries.” How does that work?

One way it works is by dividing up the work into “14 separate contracts, which will use design and construction blueprints from China.” Quite a few are going to be in the money!





Updated: The Dictator goes full Thaksin

16 08 2018

Yesterday we mentioned The Dictator saying something about traffic and privilege.

It is reported that he’s been out “inspecting Bangkok’s traffic conditions…”. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha then “ordered officials to alleviate congestion in Bangkok and its outskirts within three months with the help of technology, water transport and new bus routes.”

Pretending to be kingly, he trailed about, giving orders and advice.

We were reminded of Thaksin Shinawatra. On 6 July 1995, The Nation reported that “Palang Dharma Party leader Thaksin Shinawatra promised yesterday to come
up with ‘concrete’ measures within six months for solving Bangkok’s traffic woes.” One of his plans was to limit official motorcades. Critics scoffed.

A few months later, on 9 October 1995, Thaksin’s plans “to cut back on VIP motorcades for Cabinet members” were in trouble. As the police explained, “How can such a service be reduced
when the demand for it is so huge”!

Prayuth has emulated Thaksin, only 22 years later. But Prayuth has Article 44.

Update: We thought we should add a note from The Nation that has a junta spokesvoice saying that his dear Dictator has been misquoted. He didn’t say the problems had to be solved in 3 months, just that minion officials had to come up with solutions within 3 months. Again, Thaksin did much the same all those years ago. In any case, we have no reason to believe the spokesthings because they are paid to lie.





HRW on The Dictator’s European holiday

18 06 2018

Reproduced in full from Human Rights Watch:

UK Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron should press Thailand’s junta leader to respect human rights and ensure a rapid transition to democratic civilian rule, Human Rights Watch said today. Prime Minister Gen. Prayut[h] Chan-ocha is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister May on June 20, 2018, in London and President Macron on June 25 in Paris.

“Prime Minister May and President Macron should strongly express their deep concerns about the deteriorating state of human rights under military rule in Thailand,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “They should make clear to General Prayut that there will be no return to business as usual until Thailand holds free and fair elections, establishes a democratic civilian government, and improves respect for human rights.”

The UK and France are among major allies of Thailand that have repeatedly stated that bilateral relations will only be normalized when democracy is fully restored through free and fair elections.

Thailand has made no progress toward becoming the rights-respecting, democratic government that General Prayut promised as the country enters its fourth year after the May 2014 coup. As chairman of Thailand’s ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), General Prayut wields power unhindered by administrative, legislative, or judicial oversight or accountability, including for human rights violations. NCPO Orders 3/2015 and 13/2016 provide military authorities with powers to secretly detain people for up to seven days without charge and to interrogate suspects without giving them access to legal counsel, or providing safeguards against mistreatment.

General Prayut’s much touted “road map” on human rights and the return to democratic civilian rule has become meaningless. The junta’s promised election date continues to slide, making the timing wholly uncertain, and it has provided few reasons to believe that an election, if held, will be free and fair. Unless the junta lifts its severe restrictions on fundamental freedoms, Thailand’s political parties, media, and voters will not be able to participate in a genuinely democratic process.

The junta has routinely enforced censorship and blocked public discussions about the state of human rights and democracy in Thailand. Hundreds of activists and dissidents have been prosecuted on criminal charges such as sedition, computer-related crimes, and lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) for the peaceful expression of their views. Public gatherings of more than five people and pro-democracy activities are prohibited.

More than 100 pro-democracy activists have recently faced illegal assembly charges, some of whom have also been accused of sedition, for peacefully demanding that the junta should hold its promised election without further delay and that it should immediately lift all restrictions on fundamental freedoms. Over the past four years, the military has summoned thousands of people to have their political attitudes “adjusted” and pressured to stop criticizing the junta.

Trying civilians in military courts, which lack independence and do not comply with fair trial standards, remains a major problem. In response to criticism, General Prayut in September 2016 revoked NCPO orders that empowered military courts to try civilians. But the order is not retroactive so it does not affect the more than 1,800 military court cases already brought against civilians, many of them pro-democracy activists, politicians, lawyers, and human rights defenders.

The junta has disregarded Thailand’s obligation to ensure that all human rights defenders and organizations can carry out their work in a safe and enabling environment. Government agencies have frequently retaliated against individuals who report allegations of abuses by filing criminal charges, including for criminal defamation.

Prime Minister May and President Macron should recognize that the UK and France stand to benefit far more from a partnership with a country that respects human rights and rule of law. They should urge the Thai government to urgently:

– End the use of abusive and unaccountable powers under sections 44 and 48 of the 2014 interim constitution;

– End restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly;

– Lift the ban on political activities;

– Release all dissidents and critics detained for peaceful criticism of the junta;

– Drop sedition charges and other criminal lawsuits related to peaceful opposition to military rule;

– Transfer all civilian cases from military courts to civilian courts that meet fair trial standards; and

– Ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders to work, including by dropping criminal lawsuits against them.

“Business deals should not come at the expense of serious discussions on human rights and the junta’s tightening grip on power,” Adams said. “The UK and French governments need to press the junta to end repression so that Thailand can move toward democratic civilian rule.”