On making a silk purse

24 01 2019

Yesterday, we posted on how the Bangkok Post had been slapped down by the judiciary. Today, we were surprised to see that the Bangkok Post, now back to a real editorial, appears to be engaging in junta petting.

Banging on about the election now having a date that is probably unlikely to change, it declares: “All stakeholders … have a duty to ensure the freedom, fairness, and therefore the success of the election.”

This is granting the junta’s election more legitimacy than it deserves. This “election” is as rigged as it gets. While the junta’s preferred outcome – The Dictator and pro-junta parties ruling for years to come – may not be fully realized, this does not mean that the election is anything other than but free, is unfair and very much rigged in the military junta’s favor.

Yes, we understand that the Post is seeking to make a silk purse of a sow’s ear and warning against even more blatant cheating, this is a dangerous strategy. It risks having people think that the poll was not rigged. It may even allow the junta to claim legitimacy following the “election.”

And, using a new logo for the “election,” the Post seems to claim that a junta’s election equals a return to “democracy.” That is a cart load of buffalo manure.

As a footnote, without ever having questioned the real reasons for the most recent delay, the Post suggests that the “circumstances” warranted this. Such pandering to a palace that is testing the usual boundaries of what is right and lawful for a monarchy that is meant to be constitutional is also a grave error, albeit understandable given Thailand’s horrendous lese majeste laws and the recent torture and murder of several who were anti-monarchy.

The Post’s final word is also worrying. It declares that a return to “normalcy” will be achieved if “all stakeholders agree to give democracy a chance and are willing to do their best to ensure the election is fair, the goal is within reach.” That is all but impossible. And, it says nothing of post-election rigging of the rules and the coup threats made by the current military boss.





Forgetting history

31 12 2018

The Bangkok Post seems to have had a brain fade. In an editorial, the history of the 1980s is rewritten with little attention to the facts.

It begins with a contradiction: “Gen Prem Tinsulanonda was last involved formally in politics just over 30 years ago. Last week, he climbed back into the ring for just a few moments.” If Prem’s advice to and support of The Dictator was a political involvement, then he’s been doing this for decades, even before he became Army chief in 1978.

It continues:

Gen Prem was prime minister of Thailand for twice as long as Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha] has served, with less than half the disputes. No democrat desires a military leader, but everyone admits Gen Prem earned his title of “statesman”.

This is historical buffalo manure. Prem seized the premiership with palace support and the support of military factions. A commentary at the time stated:

In March of this year, General Kriangsak Chomanan was forced to step down as Prime Minister of Thailand and was replaced by his rival, General Prem Tinsulanond. Unlike his predecessor whose bickering with the royal house may have hastened his downfall, Prem has the confidence of the monarchy.

This wasn’t a coup, but was seen at the time as a silent or pseudo-coup. Emphasizing this, for a time, Prem remained Army commander while premier (FEER, 12 Sept. 1980).

In power and never facing election, Prem faced several coups (links to a short PDF), only prevailing because the king took him in as a much-loved unelected military leader, which encouraged the military to congeal around Prem. In fact, Prem went through three administrations as five cabinets. In this sense, the current military dictatorship has been more stable!

Prem also faced several assassination attempts, and there were countless disputes that destabilized the government and forced several reshuffles. Using the palace’s support and the support of parts of a factionalized military, Prem hung on until he was pushed from the premiership in 1988 – Wikipedia also gets this transition wrong – by anti-Prem and anti-military movements including the Petition of 99 (clicking downloads a short PDF).

Clearly, then, the editorial writer at the Bangkok Post has forgotten the history of which it was a part. It gets worse when the editorial states: “The 98-year-old president of the Privy Council made no attempt to keep political power when he left the prime minister’s post to an elected, civilian regime in 1988.” We can simply point to Wikipedia and the notion of the network monarchy (clicking downloads a 21-page PDF) as examples of Prem trying to manipulate everything to do with Thailand’s politics.

The Post should get its history right and then it might see the similarities between Prem and Prayuth.





Free (no) and fair (no) “elections”

14 08 2018

While we at PPT often appreciate the broader sentiments expressed, there are times when we wonder whether editorial writers have the memories of goldfish.

An editorial at the Bangkok Post set us wondering again when it stated “[t]he three years of excuses for delaying a free and fair election have run out.” 

Hey! Bangkok Post people! The military junta that has established a military dictatorship has never had any intention of allowing their “election” to be free or fair. You know this! SO why make false statements?

From the moment of the military coup in May 2014, the aim was to ensure that there could never be another election that permitted pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties to form another government. By definition, by design and by repression, there could not be a free and fair election. That’s why the junta doesn’t want to set an election date and keeps delaying, for more than four years.

But you Bangkok Post people know this. You know that The Dictator “harshly enforces a ban on political activity” while he “himself is seen to be openly canvassing support for his own campaign.” That’s not free or fair.

You know that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha craves power and wants to stay on a premier for years and years. That can’t be free or fair.

The Dictator is not “skirting [skating?] very close to the line where Thais and foreign friends will describe any future election as neither fair nor free.” Gen Prayuth is well beyond that. The rules for the election, which pre-date the current manipulations, were never meant to be free or fair; they were meant to rig an outcome.

So stop all this babble about free and fair elections and say what they will be (whenever the junta chooses to hold them): unfree and unfair elections. They will be rigged elections.





Postponements

26 06 2018

In recent delays to the junta’s “election” timetable, it has usually been the civilian puppet minister Wissanu Krea-ngam who has been sent out before the media to make the first murmurs about the delays.

Part of the reason for this is that it relieves The Dictator and the Deputy Dictator from looking like they have repeatedly lied on the issue, which they have.

He’s done it again. In line with PPT’s guess Wissanu now says that the junta’s “election” could “be postponed until May 2019…”. The report states that “Wissanu said 11 months are likely needed before general elections and the primary vote process – a new electoral feature introduced by the junta – can take place.”

In stating the now obvious, Wissanu added to the mountain of lies about elections that have come from the military dictatorship. Wissanu also stated that the election “date would be picked by the EC [Election Commission], not the cabinet or the NCPO [junta].” This must be a fabrication as The Dictator has repeatedly said that the date of the election is up to him.

We also have to point out that we are linking with reports in the Bangkok Post. However, we must note that this newspaper is inserting pro-junta statements in its reports. In this report, for example, it states: “The discussion touched on a possible election date with Feb 24 next year proposed by the politicians, in accordance with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s election roadmap.” Of course, this is false. It was the junta that proposed 24 February as just the latest of its delayed “election” dates. And, it is false to claim that the dates mentioned follow any junta roadmap. That claim has been made for several years and the roadmap has been repeatedly revised.

It might be just us, looking for a conspiracy, but does it seem too coincidental that the “Criminal Court … scheduled May 14 next year for the first hearing of a case against 29 leaders of the [People’s Democratic Reform Committee] rally opposing the Yingluck Shinawatra government in 2013 and 2014″?





An anonymous Bangkok Post

16 05 2018

In the fallout following the Bangkok Post’s sacking/transfer of then editor Umesh Pandey, the Bangkok Post’s management first tried character assassination via other outlets.

That seemed to produce little positive for the tycoons’ press. So they have now tried statements of “integrity” and “autonomy.”

The statement is signed “The Editors of the Bangkok Post.” The problem is that this statement is effectively signed by an anonymous group. There are no names and when one goes to the company’s website (at 07:00GMT) there’s no indication of who might have the position of editor or editors.

Anonymous statements of integrity and autonomy are meaningless when there’s zero transparency. It does, however, say much about the Post as a company.





When the military is on top VI

10 06 2017

It is a while since we used this headline. Yet an editorial in the Bangkok Post draws us back to it.

That editorial is about a hot social media story about a traffic jam in Khon Kaen. The editorial states:

the wedding of Lt Col Pitakpol Chusri and his bride, a young woman from a wealthy family in Khon Kaen, on June 8 has drawn numerous complaints, mostly from commuters.

This was because part of the busy Mittraphap Highway was sealed in order to pave the way for the groom’s traditional procession in which a groom and his entourage make their way to the bride’s house to propose formally. The convoy reportedly resulted in heavy traffic congestion as it took place during rush hour. The tailback was said to have stretched over 10km and this caused an online uproar over the past few days.

The editorial doesn’t seem to mind this. After all, it is “traditional.” And, they want “to be fair” to the groom and his wealthy bride.

What gets the editorial’s author hot under the collar is:

the reaction from Col Winthai Suvaree, the spokesman of the National Council for Peace and Order, in his dire attempt to defend the groom, is unacceptable. Without properly investigating the matter, he simply denied the highway was partially closed for the groom’s procession. Col Winthai said the congestion occurred because there were so many guests who arrived in their own cars and it so happened that some of them had no choice but to park their vehicles along the road.

That is not the truth.

It isn’t true, and the editorial got irate:

The regime spokesman seemed to ignore the suggestion that authorities should look into the matter and probe why such a request [to close part of the highway] by state personnel was accommodated.

As the regime spokesman, we expect Col Winthai to carefully check information before making any statement. We also expect him to stick to the facts. The spokesman may have acted out of goodwill and dismissed the allegations, thinking the problem is trivial. But that can hurt his credibility.

The wedding case shows we have to question Col Winthai’s “no problem” attitude. It may bring into question whether anything he says in the future is truth or propaganda.

That’s where our headline comes in. It is propaganda that Colonel Winthai is hired to propagate. It is a military dictatorship.

That point is made by op-ed writer Kong Rithdee. He explains clearly and emphatically that life is changed by military dictatorship.

Yet neither Post article makes what we think is a critical point, found in a story by Khaosod.

Lt Col Pitakpol Chusri or “Seh Pete” is the “commander of the junta’s provincial security wing.” He is a junta thug:

After the junta seized power in May 2014, Phitakphon’s unit imposed a curfew that forced all concerts to end before 1am. The ban led to protests from mor lam folk musicians who said their traditional performances last until early dawn.

Phitakphon was also the officer who filed royal defamation [lese majeste] charges against pro-democracy activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, or Pai Dao Din, for sharing a BBC Thai article about the king. Jatupat has been jailed since December.

As a senior military thug, Pitakpol can do more or less anything he wants. If you don’t like it, he can arrange for you to be jailed. That’s what happens when the military is on top.

That’s why the Rolls Royce corruption “investigations” disappear, that’s why senior military can accumulate huge wealth, that’s why no one can ask what happened to the 1932 plaque, that’s why torture is not investigated, that’s why deaths in custody are not properly investigated, that’s why soldiers can kill with impunity, that’s why referendum and elections can be fixed, that’s why civilian protesters can be murdered; that’s why weapons and human trafficking can thrive. It just goes on and on.





Political vandalism and the control of history

23 04 2017

1932 plaqueThe political theft of the 1932 plaque has had unintended consequences.

The thief-in-chief was seeking to remove a perceived threat to the new reign and the junta’s constitutional basis for authoritarianism.

One unintended consequence has been to shine a light on 1932. The understanding of that time and the revolution that ended royal absolutism has been “controlled” by royalists for a considerable time. Think of the King Prajadhipok Institute and its mangled version of history. (If the KPI “The history” and “About KPI” seem reasonable, then you are a victim of the royalist control of history.)

Over the past couple of days, the Bangkok Post has had several op-eds that have posed questions about the received “history.” Each deserves attention. We’ll just quote some bits and pieces.

The first is by Wasant Techawongtham. He begins:

The switcheroo involving the 1932 Revolution memorial plaque seemed at first to be a simple act of theft or vandalism. But once the matter was brought to the attention of the authorities, things rapidly spiralled into the realm of the surreal.

And the more people try to make sense of it, the murkier it becomes.

He points out the quite banal and seemingly inexplicable initial responses from the junta:

Both government [junta] spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd and National Council for Peace and Order [junta] spokesman Winthai Suvaree, who can normally answer anything the press might throw at them, were lost for words.

The Dusit district chief who has jurisdiction over the area knew nothing about it either. The Fine Arts department chief not only did not know anything about the switch but claimed — rather hilariously, I should say — that the plaque was neither an artefact nor had any historical value.

The police not only did not know about it but would not accept complaints to look into the matter, claiming — I’m not sure whether I should laugh or cry here — that no one owned the object, and therefore no one could file a complaint. Huh?

You have to ask yourself: Is this for real?

The plaque was installed there for only 80-plus years and is associated with arguably the most significant political development in modern Thai history.

He refers to more ridiculousness by the junta and its minions before observing:

The silliness in this country knows no bounds. But this latest episode really takes the cake.

This really worries me. The Thai people under this military regime are already under orders not to think or speak their mind. But now we are supposed to not see or hear as well.

George Orwell would love to have written such a story.

We seem now to be living in another dimension where reality is distorted out of all proportion and truth is anything the powers-that-be say it is.

A second op-ed is by Ploenpote Atthakor. She begins:

… the plaque, which marks one of the most important incidents in modern Thai history, is a hot potato politically.

But though I fully sympathise with those inflamed by this apparent act of “political vandalism”, the extent of the public outcry has surprised me. Like those who are up in arms, I also wish the plaque, which marks the political transition from absolutism or constitutional monarchy, had stayed at its original site.

I believe Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who has ordered a probe into the case, will never give a full account of what has happened. Nor could he restore the original plaque to its rightful place….

She seems to believe she cannot say why this is. The vandal-in-chief is beyond criticism. The Dictator is beyond criticism.

She continues by noting the failure of people to understand 1932 or to respect its symbols. Likewise, she does not point to the royalist hold on “history” as the reason for this. It is fine to opine about “the people” being “ignorant,” but the reasons for their alleged ignorance need to be explained. But she sees a silver lining:

… its sudden disappearance has triggered an interest in this particular period of Thai history like never before. The people who removed it probably didn’t expect that.

The third op-ed is by Kong Rithdee. He begins:

Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present (tada!) controls the past. In summary, the military, like quantum physicists or mad sorcerers, controls time: The past, present, future, ad infinitum.

Through their coups, their fantasies and their laws, they control history — meaning the things that have happened or they want us to believe have happened. They also want to control the making of history — history as work in progress — meaning the shifting of glaciers and governments, the removal of memory and the manufacturing of dreams. Through the new 20-year national strategy bill, they also want to control the laying of future laws that will govern our life until eternity….

Much has been pondered about the missing plaque marking the 1932 Siamese Revolution. The erasing of history, an elusive heist, a voodoo ritual? Take your pick, for it looks like the burglary of the artefact is going down as one of the greatest puzzles of modern times. The sorcerers know they can’t change the past, even with chicken blood or powerful mantras, so they feel a need to change the record of the past — the imperfect past written by the revolutionaries who transformed the country into a constitutional monarchy.

He can’t get into the palace’s role although he could look at the role of royalist “historians” in the service of palace and military, writing “politicians” and the anti-royalists out of “their” history that is now “the” history. Or maybe he can, by allusion:

With the new plaque discreetly put in place of the original one, a palimpsest of history is being constructed before our eyes by the hand that appears firm, inexorable, invisible. So invisible that even the CCTV cameras (which only function when you’re speeding) lost all trace of what happened. The ghost did it. Again.

Some might see the ghost as a devil. He concludes:

The mark of dictatorship is when someone controls our life and our choice — that’s harder now because modern dictatorship still operates under capitalism, a system that values choice.

So it’s true dictatorship when someone attempts to control the concept of time — the mad aspiration to rule history and lay siege to the past, present and future while preventing us, the true holders of destiny, from writing our own parts. The clock is ticking but time is frozen. It’s not, as they often say, Orwell’s 1984.

This is a dystopian sci-fi, a country beyond Brave New World.

 





Getting headlines wrong

21 04 2017

Brief corrections to two stories in the media that mislead, both noted by PPT readers.

First, at Prachatai, there’s a report headlined “Junta blocks Youtube channel of exiled Thai journalist.” This is a story that reports the censorship of a YouTube channel run by exiled journalist Jom Petpradab called Jom Voice. He makes his program in the US and is critical of the regime. The story adds:

In 2014, after he was summoned by the junta, he fled Thailand to live in the US where he founded Thaivoicemedia.com, a web-based Thai media outlet in exile. The website is also blocked by the government.

Correction: As far as we are aware, the blocking of a YouTube channel is the work of YouTube, a Google subsidiary. The military dictatorship’s minions might have asked for the blocking but it is Google’s YouTube that does the blocking.

Google’s policy states:

Government requests to remove content
We regularly receive requests from courts and government agencies around the world to remove information from Google products. Sometimes we receive court orders that don’t compel Google to take any action. Instead, they are submitted by an individual as support for a removal request. We closely review these requests to determine if content should be removed because it violates a law or our product policies. In this report, we disclose the number of requests we receive in six-month periods.

The latest report we could find at Google is for the end of 2015 and then they counted nearly 5,000 government requests for censorship. No information was listed for Thailand. It states that: “From July to December 2015, the top three products for which governments requested removals were YouTube, Web Search, and Blogger.” It adds: “From July to December 2015, governments from around the world requested that we remove 6144 items from YouTube. Of these, we removed 4242 items—3498 due to legal reasons, and 744 found to be violations of YouTube’s Community Guidelines.”

Google has been named previously as working with the military dictatorship.

Second, at the Bangkok Post, there’s a headline “Future govts ‘won’t face curbs’.” It’s first paragraph states: “The government has given assurances that a bill supporting its 20-year national development blueprint will not restrict future elected governments from making changes to the plan as they see fit.”

The puppet National Legislative Assembly, without a single dissenting voice, voted “to accept the government’s bill setting out action plans for national reforms for deliberation…”.

But here is how junta minion Wissanu Krea-ngam is actually reported:

… Wissanu … told the meeting that the national strategy bill will set out action plans for long-term national development as stipulated by the new constitution.

Mr Wissanu allayed concerns that the 20-year national development strategy will cripple future elected governments’ ability to run the country.

The bill still allows future governments to adjust the 20-year plan to suit changing circumstances both at home and abroad, though any changes must be in line with the law and the constitution, he said….

…[H]e said, a range of measures will be in place to enforce compliance with national strategy, including warnings and coercive measures.

If state agencies fail to comply despite warnings, the National Anti-Corruption Commission will be asked to take action against the chiefs of those agencies, Mr Wissanu said.

This plan is deemed to take precedence over all others. It is binding on all agencies,” Mr Wissanu said.

Correction: Wissanu actually warned future “elected” governments that will most certainly be restricted from making any changes to the military junta’s plan for 20 years.





Stunned by reporting

23 03 2017

Well, we know nothing should stun us when it comes to Thailand, its politics and its media. Yet a report at the Bangkok Post is seriously stunning. We are stunned because the report seems to buy, consume, digest and reproduce junta propaganda.

In a report at the Bangkok Post, the newspaper combines reports on Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul and the claims by the junta that he was seeking to kill a couple of dictators, a story on the junta’s instrument, the Department of Special Investigation, a senior monk from Wat Dhammakaya surrendering himself for interrogation and a falling out between a DSI man, now assigned by The Dictator to head up the National Buddhism Office and fascist monk Buddha Issara.

Without the junta’s stories from a few days ago, there’s no connection between the stories, except for DSI being involved in each. But that’s not the headline, which is the junta ruse. That’s either really lazy editing or its a dumb acceptance of junta stories.

We also note that, as The Dictator demanded, the media is dutifully cutting back on its reporting of the Ko Tee story.

While on that story, does it seem odd that Ko Tee is reported charged: “A police source said warrants have been issued for Mr Wuthipong’s arrest on charges of possessing weapons of war and violating the Firearms Act.”

Now how does that work?

After all, the junta “plans to seek the extradition of Mr Wuthipong from Laos following the discovery of a huge [sic. that’s the Post accepting the junta story, again] cache of weapons…. They suspect the weapons were his.”

So he’s been on the run outside Thailand for more than three years but “charged” with “possessing weapons”? Poor reporting or dopey reporting?

Or is the new story that these weapons were sitting there for years and police didn’t find them in previous searches? We think we’ll go for dumb junta and dopey reporting.





The Bangkok Post on corruption

29 01 2017

PPT has been posting quite a lot on corruption. Of course, we skim our posts from a limited set of Thailand sources and sometimes international reports. We are not doing anything more than highlighting stories already in the media and adding a bit of background and detail where we can.

With yet more stories of officials and corruption on the front page of the Bangkok Post today, it is worthwhile to highlight the op-eds on corruption in that paper as the enormity of the corruption and the obviousness of the cover-ups is revealed.

While some columnists who write for the Post sound more and more like sycophants for royalist military rule, others are writing appropriately critical accounts.

The most recent story is what might be called petty corruption. That said, it can amount to big bucks over time. Police and state officials in Phuket are exploiting legal loopholes to extort money from foreign employees and migrant workers. These groups are standard prey for officials and police.

It needs to be remembered that poaching from such vulnerable small fry is a part of a broader system of corruption that is based in impunity and funnels funds up to higher-level bosses. Its essentially a crime syndicate in state garb.

Now the op-eds. We will link to them and just quote a couple of bits and pieces:

Corruption and cover-ups lists many of the recent cases and cites Transparency International: “The lower-ranked countries in our index are plagued by untrustworthy and badly functioning public institutions like the police and judiciary.” Thailand. The article adds: “The Great Cover-ups are under way.”

Thailand must clean up its act is by the Post editor. He refers to secret deals with Sino-Thai tycoons, among others, but then asks: “where [are] the voices are that supported and cheered the military coup that ousted an elected government on the grounds it was [allegedly] corrupt…. I do not hear their voices coming out to voice their opposition against the rising corruption and lack of transparency in the [General] Prayut[h Chan-ocha military] regime.” PPT has pointed out the distinctions in the minds of anti-democrats, between Good people being  corrupt, and others they see as Bad and Evil people. The Great and the Good can do what they like.

his-masters-voiceGraft nosedive comes as no surprise at all is by Kong Rithdee. He gets the Good people nonsense of the anti-democrats, when he says of Sansern Poljeak of the politicized National Anti-Corruption Commission complaining about the use of “being a democratic country” in “one of the checklists used to calculate the [TI]  score.” Kong asks: “What did he expect? That being a non-democratic country is nobler and less corrupt, because it has righteous people holding top jobs?” Well, yes! Of course, Sansern listens to his masters and obeys.

Then there’s Surasak Glahan’s We can’t all be starry eyed in busting graft. He complains long and loud about the lack of transparency, not just under this military regime, but over a long period. That’s all fine and dandy, but PPT wonders why, even when there is some transparency – think of the huge and unexplained wealth of the officials who are part of the puppet assemblies – nothing is done. Their wealth is on display, but no one cares or investigates. Only when one falls foul of the powers that be does “corruption” become something that can be (politically) used.

There’s also an editorial in the Post. It’s tepid because it is critical of The Dictator.

Far better is Wasant Techawongtham, former News Editor at the Bangkok Post, who looks at police corruption and police reform. He gets it right when he says real police reform won’t happen under the military regime:

What would happen if, after police reforms, people started to demand reforms in the military?

And who can confidently say the military is any less corrupt? The military is probably the least transparent and accountable organisation in the entire bureaucracy. It is inscrutable and refuses to be scrutinised. Any shady activities are therefore kept under wraps away from the public’s eyes.

So shouldn’t genuine reform begin with the military?

Its a mess. But its a very lucrative mess for those who benefit, in the civil and military bureaucracies, in the upper echelons of the royalist elite, and among the Sino-Thai tycoons.