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

Rigging at every turn

26 09 2018

Some editors still write silly things about the junta’s “election,” such as the dopey observation about “the prime minister [The Dictator] … ensur[ing] the rules of fair play are respected in the lead-up to the poll.”

This is ludicrous. For one thing, the whole event of the 2014 coup and the subsequent constitution, rule writing and much, much, more has been about rigging the election so that no pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Party has much of a chance. As things have evolved, that seems to mean that a pro-junta party/parties must “win.” There can be no free and fair election. Sure, a party or parties that are not pro-junta may pull off a surprise, but the junta has done much – with more to come – to ensure that possibility is as remote as possible. (But even then, they have hamstrung any future government that is not in the junta’s pocket.)

In the latest in a never-ending series of moves that seek to rig the elections, The Dictator has “given the green light to his cabinet ministers to engage in political party activities, saying he does not mind if they support a political party of their choice as long as they do not break the law.” It is expected that at least three cabinet ministers will likely show their hand at the Phalang Pracharat Party’s general meeting this weekend. One of them is likely to be party boss and another the party’s spokesman.

The Dictator was ready for the questions and stated that there was no law to prevent them doing this.

One legal person says that “while the constitution does not forbid cabinet ministers from engaging in political party activities as party executives or members, the charter does say cabinet ministers must not mix their ministerial duties with party affairs because this will constitute a conflict of interest in violation of the charter.”

But that’s hardly the point here. Law doesn’t matter to the junta or The Dictator. In a functioning electoral system, there are safeguards for those who go to election while in government. Of course, in this situation, there are no safeguards and the junta is manipulating the system it has created. Ethics seems to be a word that has never entered the lexicon on military politicians and their supporters.

This lack of an ethical compass is also seen in The Dictator using Article 44 to appoint one of his paid advisers and a political ally for the “election” as mayor of Pattaya. Sonthaya Khunpluem has been appointed, allegedly to “facilitate the government’s Eastern Economic Corridor push.” The dark influence deal done earlier is mentioned here.

Having Kamnan Poh’s son running the show means, say the junta, having “a mayor and management team ‘with high potential, experiences, knowledge and capabilities’ to support the government’s EEC policy while the law on Pattaya administration and mayor election is being amended to ensure constitutionality.”

It also means that Sonthaya and his family can continue to extract huge wealth from the area while, as leader of Chon Buri-based Phalang Chon Party,” can support the junta and The Dictator when an “election” comes around. The sans ethical junta must be smiling and happy about this move, thinking it means the eastern seaboard is in the bag when the “election” is held.

The last elected Pattaya mayor was Ittipon Khunpluem, Sonthaya’s brother.

At the same time, the junta’s minions are not neglecting the little things. So it is that the Election Commission has recognized a party and a party logo that mimic Puea Thai. That’s just to confuse voters – the junta thinks that rural voters are all dumber than the junta’s team – into voting for the wrong party.

There’s no end to this rigging. Free and fair? Not on your life.

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!

%d bloggers like this: