Abhisit and the junta

27 03 2017

We at PPT don’t usually pay much attention to the self-promoting bantering of failed (anti)Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. He seems to do several interviews each year for the Bangkok Post and they aren’t usually riveting reading.

This time, however, there’s more interest. The main reason for this is that Abhisit indicates that he and his party are under pressure from the military junta. Before getting too much into that, a little on Abhisit’s self-important view of how he has never done anything wrong. (We do note that he was not asked about the 2010 events and his role in those murders.)

Abhisit criticizes the junta, saying “… I am not sure if they understand who was actually involved in the political conflict in the most recent years.” He reckons the junta has “been obsessed with the notion the political conflict occurred because (the Democrat Party) did not accept the result of the (previous) election.”

At least the junta got that right. But, of course, Abhisit has to dissemble because his preferred notion is that his party’s anti-democratic stance was not his fault. He blames the Yingluck Shinawatra government’s amnesty bill.

There’s no doubt that that move was ill-considered, but it was also a useful trigger for unrest that the Democrat Party had been seeking to foment from the time of their landslide defeat in 2011.

His view that the “Yingluck … government still manage[d] to stay on for more than two years without any of us doing anything to disrupt her government…” is a bald-faced lie.

Worse, he still won’t accept an election result in the future if it doesn’t suit him. He says: “No matter who wins or loses in the next election, if corruption still persists and if a political amnesty push is revived, the conflicts among people will become more severe…”.

Implicitly, he is also warning the junta about contemplating an amnesty.

On his own future, and rumors that others are working to oust him, he initially retorts that he is continuing “doing my job while political parties are banned from engaging in activities.” As we understand it, parties can’t officially meet, so he “safe” for the present. If he later gets ditched, he says he will accept this.

He then gets really dumb, saying: “If I lead my party to contest elections and fail to secure success, they won’t keep me.” As he was trounced in 2011, we can only wonder why he’s still there. Maybe he forgot this crushing defeat?

As he resumes his criticism of the junta, he says, the “Democrats as a political party were not established to satisfy anyone and any change of its leadership won’t bend to the will of those in authority.”

That’s historically incorrect as the party was formed as a royalist party that supported royalist militarists. That aside, he’s indicating the junta is pushing the party to be rid of him.

He says he, Chuan Leekpai and other failed leaders “share the view that we will not change the party’s stance so as to kowtow to people in authority in exchange for securing cabinet seats.”

He means the junta is going to offer the Democrat Party cabinet seats after the junta arranges an “election” victory at some time in the future. However, the party is expected to ditch the lame baggage of the unelectable Abhisit.

Abhisit declares that “[e]veryone knows that we think along the same lines, particularly Mr Banyat who among us is the most ardent critic of the military.” Funny, we haven’t heard much of this or seen him called in for days of re-education by the military dictators.

Abhisit then criticizes the junta for scrapping local elections and organizations, saying this “will adversely affect the decentralisation of power.” He adds: “What the NCPO is doing now is really a retrograde step.” He is right on this.

The junta is seeking a coalition that it will be comfortable joining when it decides to manage its “election,” and Abhisit seems unlikely to be a part of that, and the ever “pragmatic” anti-democrats will happily ditch him to get into bed with the military party.





What a story!

20 03 2017

The junta’s minions have come up with a remarkable story regarding the weapons “seized” in Pathum Thani.

In our earlier post we did express some skepticism about the report and added a note about Thai Rath saying the weapons were for an assassination plot. We expressed skepticism about that claim as well.

There has been a lot of skepticism, and not just from us. (The yellow-shirted royalists and anti-democrats believe all the stories.)

So the junta has come up with a story of a “plot” that suggests a remarkable effort to weave together a range of moral and political panics by the junta and among its anti-democratic supporters.

We cannot say that there is nothing in the “plot” claims – after all, all “plots” have to have some aspect to them that will convince true believers to believe. However, the royalists and anti-democrats have concocted a remarkable number of plots over the past decade to justify their political actions. Think of the Finland Plot, the infamous republican plot diagram and the “Khon Kaen model.” None of these has ever been shown to be other than a political concoction.

More recently, there was the claimed republican plot to murder The Dictator. We mention this, because it seems that the junta is using this to weave its current plot:

Police believe the huge cache of mostly military weapons retrieved on Saturday were intended to be used against authorities who had laid siege to Wat Phra Dhammakaya, including a plot to kill Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Add to this remarkable aggregation of Wat Dhammakaya and a plot to assassinate The Dictator, the weapons are located at a “house linked to hardcore red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun, alias Kotee.” Then stir in a claim that “some of the seized weapons had been taken from soldiers during the violent red-shirt political rallies in mid-town Bangkok in 2010.”

Even the words in that quote are meant to reinforce the notion that red shirts are still “violent” and a political problem.

The cops reckon that the “weapons were being prepared for a potential attack against officers that had surrounded and were searching Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Pathum Thani’s Khlong Luang district…” and “were prepared to ‘harm or assassinate’ … Gen Prayut…”.

A police chief says that something he called “[a]n investigation” that “found people in Kotee’s group were preparing to use weapons to assassinate the government’s leading figures including Gen Prayut…. We found a rifle with a scope. We guarantee that this is not to shoot at birds but was going to be used to assassinate the leader of the country…”.

That’s a remarkably frivolous piece of evidence gathering and imaginative supposition.

He goes on: “If the government uses forces to suppress people in Wat Phra Dhammakaya, the armed group would be ready to help the temple and hurt officers.”

Evidence? It seems that “police and the DSI have always suspected that political groups have operated in Wat Phra Dhammakaya and intelligence from both agencies points to allegations they had tried to cause unrest.” Confirming this for the authorities, “[0]fficials found people in Mr Wuthipong’s network had been entering and leaving the temple prior to the siege and had been meeting him in the neighbouring country [Cambodia].” In fact, of the nine people so far arrested, the police say “[o]ne … was found to have showed up to the temple before…”.

It is a flimsy story. But there’s more: “Pol Gen Chakthip [Chaijinda] said Mr Wuthipong has played a role in inciting people to fight against the monarchy, and he is a supporter of Wat Phra Dhammakaya.”

And still more: The nine “suspects” had “joined the 2010 red-shirt political rally in central Bangkok.” The implication that the public is meant to draw from this is that the suspects might be “men in black.”

So far there’s red shirts, republicanism, Wat Dhammakaya, assassination, war weapons, men in black and monarchy involved in the plot. What more could there be? How about the frustration of the regime unable to extradite those they hate?

While Ko Tee has denied the arms belonged to him, the cops admit he’s been on the run since early 2014 (not since the coup as we said in our earlier post). “Pol Gen Chakthip said police had tried to contact … Cambodia … for Mr Wuthipong’s extradition, but had received no helpful reply.”

Now the police can claim that Ko Tee “allegedly played a leading role in gathering weapons to support the temple and as such must be considered a threat to national security…”. This “plot” will presumably help with gaining his extradition.

The next step for the police will be to parade the “suspects” before the media where they will presumably admit their guilt and “confirm” the “plot.” They may even be made to re-enact some “crime.” That’s the pattern.





All the king’s men

19 10 2016

It may be seen as fitting that the men at the head of major institutions in Thailand are now all authoritarian loyalists of the deceased king.

The youngest of the royalist trio is General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized government in a military coup in 2014. The Dictator made his career through acts of loyalty for the palace. Prior to becoming Army boss, he commanded troops that murderously crushed red shirt protesters in 2010. That was also an act of loyalty.

At 96 years of age, the doddery General Prem Tinsulanonda is now regent. When unelected prime minister, he presided over the years in which the monarchy was catapulted into a more exalted position than it had enjoyed since the days of absolutism.

The third of the royalist stooges is doddery privy counselor Thanin Kraivixien, 88, who is now selected as head of the Privy Council while Prem assumes the position of regent. Thanin was catapulted into the prime ministership in 1976 following a massacre of students and a military coup. He was a palace favorite and it is accepted that the king wanted the right-wing Thanin as premier. He presided over a period of fascist-like repression that was so extreme that even the military leadership soon ditched his government, much to the displeasure of the king who immediately vaulted Thanin to the privy council.

Wikileaks notes that Thanin was “ideological and politically extreme. After his taking office, he sent police special forces to notoriously [sic.] liberal book shops, and ordered the confiscation and burning of 45,000 books, including works of Thomas More, George Orwell and Maxim Gorky.”

In recent days, this unreformed rightist royalist has provided advice to the Prayuth dictatorship. Indeed, the junta’s 20-year “roadmap” to “democracy” is modeled on Thanin’s 16-year plan for “democracy.” There are other similarities and comparisons can be made. Among them, the draft constitution draws inspiration from the Thanin era, with Meechai Ruchupan having served the book burner in 1976-77. Like Prayuth’s military dictatorship, Thanin’s civilian dictatorship made use of the lese majeste law to repress political opponents.





Judicial system in danger

11 10 2016

Under the junta, the Thai judicial system, already deeply, deeply flawed, lacking impartiality, transparency and sometimes even legal knowledge among judges, has been made even worse.

The judiciary has become not just indistinguishable from the junta’s regime, but defining of it. So flawed is it that it is difficult to see any way in which it can be reformed once the junta has departed – if it ever does – and, of course, that is what the junta and a cohort of royalist legal flunkies intended.

The most recent example reeks of political partiality. It involves red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan, chairman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, but the decision of the court should worry anyone interested in a decent and competent judiciary.

Jatuporn has been “sent to jail for breach of his bail conditions by the Criminal Court…”. This bail refers to the “charges of terrorism linked to  the violent red-shirt street protests in 2010.”

The report tells us that “[p]rosecutors said the five defendants had in 2015 made remarks on several television programmes which could be construed as stirring unrest and violating the rights of individuals or state agencies, in violation of the conditions set for their temporary freedom on bail.”

That’s “could” and followed by “construed.” Okay, courts can interpret a bit. But this court declared that “Jatuporn had breached bail conditions by being ‘sarcastic’ about the work of the junta…”. Worse, it seems, he impinged on the “dignity” of the junta with “harsh words…”.

You get the picture. This is politically-inspired nonsense, “protecting” the junta as if it is a bunch of feudal lords.

The court is a kangaroo court that destroys the credibility of the whole judiciary with such bizarre political partisanship.





Promoting political allies III

5 10 2016

As PPT noted a few weeks ago, part of the motivation for some of the high-level promotions in the military was about political alliances with the Privy Council, protecting the regime and maintaining the anti-democratic and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra and anti-red shirt political alliance.

While this has promoted some social media speculation of a rift between General Prayuth Chan-ocha and General Prawit Wongsuwan, and hence the Hawaii flights scandal, those promoted have talked about their takes on their new roles.

The Bangkok Post reports on the views of new army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart. Even for a hardened military thug, his view of the strategic and threat environment is quite surprising.

He is seemingly unconcerned about, say, the South China Sea conflict, nuclear weapons in the region, border security, the US-China competition or even the military’s desire for new military kit. No, his consuming concern is domestic “political violence.”

According to the Post, General Chalermchai “told a briefing at the army’s headquarters … possible violent attacks were his concern because only a handful of the stolen army weapons had been recovered.”

Using an oxymoron, he claimed that “Army intelligence” was telling him and the top brass of “the possibility of violence because there were movements behind it…”. He said a “large number” of the “stolen” weapons “remain unaccounted for…”. Army data has it that 57 weapons were not found and these are driving the Army boss’s plans for future “political violence.”

Some observations on this. First, most of these weapons were abandoned by the military during the events of April and May 2010. Second, it is known that weapons illegally sold by corrupt officers and simply “missing” from military inventories far outweigh this number. Third, Thailand is awash with guns, and this 57 makes no difference to that. Finally, it is the military that is responsible for most of Thailand’s political violence over a very long period.

General Chalermchai is really saying is that, like the junta itself, he terrified by any form of political opposition, even if some of the alleged political plots are manufactured by the military and regime. He is Army boss because his political views align with those of The Dictator in viewing red shirts as the main threat to the regime and its royalist realm.

Also at the Bangkok Post, new 1st Army commander and vehement anti-red shirt Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong has added something to the social media speculation that there are some in the military unhappy with The Dictator and his regime by declaring that his main job is to ensure there are no counter-coups. Indeed, the Post states: “The appointment of Lt Gen Apirat reflects Gen Prayut’s intention to prevent a counter coup that may arise if he stays in power.”

Handpicked and trusted by The Dictator, Apirat has “pledged to prevent coups while maintaining peace and order and implementing the orders of the prime minister, the defence minister and the army commander.” He added on his loyalty to the regime:

My mission is to protect the monarchy with my life, and I will strictly follow the instructions of the prime minister, defence minister and the army chief and support the government without question….

With these appointments, the regime and in particular, The Dictator, have hardened their political position, reinforced its capacity for ruthless repression and marked out what they hope will be a counter-coup free space.





No exit for Prayuth

27 06 2016

Self-appointed Prime Minister,  dictator and coup maker General Prayuth Chan-ocha is making it clear that he’s staying put for as long as possible.

When asked about Brexit and the UK Prime Minister’s resignation when his preferred result failed, Prayuth seemed dumbfounded. The idea that he should resign if his referendum was rejected was considered unreasonable.

David Cameron’s example has been seen by some as a principled resignation and no one has ever noticed anything like a principle in Prayuth’s kitbag.

Prayuth “explained” that the “two issues could not be compared…”. He declared his unprincipled position:

The two cases are different. Do you want me to resign? I won’t. I set the rules. He did not come up like I did. His country does not have the same problems ours does….

In an odd, warped way, he’s right. Cameron was elected, not a military dictator who seized power through an illegal coup. Cameron followed the rules. Prayuth rejects the rules he doesn’t make himself in the interests of himself and his regime and is prepared to jail and even murder those he believes are opponents of the royalist order.

For those who think Prayuth is willing to cede power to anyone else, think again.





Dumb I

16 06 2016

Two stories in the media give us cause to pause. Here’s one of them.

The first story is at The Nation, and reports failed Democrat Party “leader” Abhisit Vejjajiva. Abhisit is best known for his tenure as premier boosted by military support and a judicial coup in 2008 and his government’s bloody murder of red shirt protesters in 2010.

In his statements following his meeting with US Ambassador Glyn Davies, he acknowledged that the junta’s referendum campaigning is biased. But he also appeared dumb and uninformed.

He’s reported as stating two rather dumb things. The first is that the US “will not interfere in the August 7 referendum since it is Thailand’s internal affair…”. Yet he then quotes Davies as saying “public participation was needed ahead of the referendum…”.

His second statement is bizarre as he “praised” The Dictator and self-appointed military Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha for “allowing the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship to set up an anti-fraud centre for the referendum as long as it did not break any laws.”

Is Abhisit a politician not watching any news and not reading newspapers? The UDD is being harassed and repressed.