Updated: Virus of double standards I

10 04 2021

The double standards that characterize Thailand’s legal system run through the bureaucracy. No better example of this is seen in the treatment of the virus infected. No that Thailand’s good work – most of it due to health professionals – is being undone, with outbreaks across the country, in the police force, among senior corporate types and with half the cabinet in isolation.

This outbreak seemingly stems from entertainment venues visited mainly by the rich and powerful, including members of parliament and officials, and perhaps even a minister or two.

But there’s a cover-up and the reasons for it remain opaque and might be interpreted as pure blockheadedness but which display the usual characteristics of impunity and double standards.

Recent reports illustrate how the blockheads are also thin-skinned.

It was reported on Wednesday that Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, secretary-general of the Bhumjaithai Party, is infected with Covid-19 and has been admitted to Buriram Hospital for treatment. The minister quickly denied “he had not been out in the Bangkok nightlife scene where the virus has been rushing back, with hundreds of new cases found in recent days.” He claimed that “he got it from one of his staffers who had earlier tested positive for the disease.”

Saksayam

From The Nation

Most of the Bhum Jai Thai Party parliamentarians – 61 of them – and staffers are said to be quarantining. That includes Health MInister Anutin Charnvirakul who was pictured maskless with Saksayam.

But then the political instincts kicked in as netizens wondered about Saksayam’s denial and then about his vague timeline of activities (legally required for contact tracing). It was soon stated that “[t]hree people in close contact with him got the virus. One of the three is Kittichai Ruangsawat, BJT’s Chachoengsao MP, who was quoted by the media as admitting that he had accompanied Mr Saksayam to a club in Thong Lor in mid-March.” People asked if he’d been back in recent days.

Of course, when the “new” story was being concocted, Kittichai “backtracked, saying the media got it wrong.” Not him, but the media. Then it was noted that Saksayam’s denial came a day before he was virus tested as positive. One response from the minister was to lie, saying he was fully vaccinated – he wasn’t.

This fibbing was compounded when “the minister refused to unveil his timeline of activities during the period. Only after mounting social pressure did his team release one, but it was incomplete.”

With all the media and social media attention, the minister enlisted a Buriram-based doctor to defend him. Of course, Buriram is a Chidchob family fiefdom. The doctor appeared in the media:

Dr Pichet Phuedkhuntod said three close aides to the minister had visited the Krystal Club on March 30 and the Emerald Club on April 1 with four other people. They were tested for the coronavirus on Sunday and Monday and the results released a day later were positive, he added.

“His infection was from his staff members who worked close to him and who were in the (Thong Lor) cluster comprising seven people altogether.”…

Buriram provincial health “released the minister’s timeline on Thursday” showing that he did not visit entertainment places. But it was a timeline with gaps, so the banter continued.

To deal with that, Saksayam’s lawyer “warned of legal action against people who post messages online that cause damage to his client by implying that his infection was due to his visit to an entertainment venue.” Sounds a bit like a miniature version of the regime’s approach to political repression. By Friday, the minister’s complaints were being lodged with Buriram’s tame police.

Backing him is Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. He’s threatened “legal action against anyone who used the expression ‘Thai Khu Fa Club’ to mock the government amid reports a minister had contracted Covid-19 at a nightclub in Thong Lor.” The mocking appearing to consider the cabinet as constituting a “club” of entertainment venue visiting ministers.

Gen Prayuth said: “I have ordered the legal team to consider whether it is against the law or not. Using the term Thai Khu Fa … is not [right]…”. Infecting half the cabinet seems okay….

It is yet another example of the tendency to double standards – one for the rich and powerful and another for everyone else – and the almost natural response to criticism being political repression.

Update: It is reported that Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, has “called on state agencies to investigate politicians who became infected with Covid-19 after attending bars in the Thong Lor area which is the epicentre of the new surge of infections.” He targeted “corruption and law-breaking” as associated with the most recent virus outbreaks, mentioning  hi-so entertainment places in Bangkok and illegal gambling dens and illegal migrants…”. He might have mentioned the Army’s boxing stadium. In fact, it is difficult to find an outbreak that is not associated with corrupt actions and impunity.





A junta win

28 12 2020

One of the main aims of the long period of junta rule was to produce rules and manage politics in a manner that wound back the clock to a pre-1997 era of electoral politics.

Their efforts meant that the post-junta regime could finagle a national election “victory” and make use of the junta-appointed Senate to ensure that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha could continue as prime minister. At the same time, the regime had delayed and delayed local elections so that it could ensure that it had measures in place that prevented national election-like “surprises.” Of course, it also used the Army and ISOC to control civilian administration and arranged for the Future Forward Party to be dissolved.

When the post-junta regime got around to local elections, the result provided evidence that the electoral wind back had been successful.

While initial commentary focused on the “failure” of Move Forward. In fact, while the party didn’t win any Provincial Administrative Organization chair positions, its candidates took more then 50 PAO seats and received 2.67 million votes.  This was on a voter turnout of just over 62% – low compared to the national election.

As time has gone on, commentators have become more incisive in assessing the results. Thai Enquirer wrote of a return to old-style politics, with political dynasties controlling local politics. A Bangkok Post editorial also focused on these factors, commenting: “About 40% of the winners of the PAO elections, Thailand’s first local elections in some seven years, are old faces, with the ruling Palang Pracharath Party making a big sweep in more than 20 provinces, followed by Bhumjaithai, almost 10, and Pheu Thai, nine.”

Recently, Peerasit Kamnuansilpa is Dean, College of Local Administration, Khon Kaen University writing at the Bangkok Post, has explained the big picture. He asks: “Are these elections really meaningful?” He concludes: “The net result is business as usual for PAOs, and Thailand will still be the prisoner of a highly centralised local administration.”

Helpfully, Peerasit lists the reasons for the failure of local democracy, all of them focused on junta/post-junta efforts to turn the clock back. He observes that the junta/post-junta has co-opted “local governments to become agents of the central government…”. He explains:

Following the 2014 coup, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), under then-army chief Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha upended a foundation of Thai democracy by issuing an order to suspend local elections. The politically powerful junta then began to co-opt all locally elected politicians and local government officials to become centrally appointed representatives of the central government.

This process began with NCPO’s Order Number 1/2557, in which one prescribed role of the locally elected leaders was to become partners of the military junta in restoring peace and order to the country. This made them complicit in undermining local governments in exchange for being able to legitimately keep their positions for an unspecified period of time without having to undergo the process of competing with other local candidates to secure the consent of the local citizens to allow them to serve. In other words, if they played ball with the junta, they would not need to face elections.

This “co-optation was then delegated to the Interior Ministry. This change obligated the leaders and the executives of all local governments to be accountable to the central government, thus becoming de facto representatives of the central government. Consequently, local leaders then had an allegiance to the powers in the central government.”

His view is that a promising decentralization has been destroyed: “In effect, the central government is — and has been — committed to failure from the beginning, by creating weak local government organisations.”

The people are not fooled and he reports data that “revealed that, when compared to other types of local governments, the PAOs were perceived as less beneficial than all other types of local governments within the surveyed provinces.” PAO level government is a processing terminal for the regime:

… PAO’s primary function has remained: serving as a conduit of budget allocation to be “authorised” by the provincial governor. This budgetary control by the governor is actually a smokescreen for influence by the central government of 76 provincial budgets, accounting for a very large amount of funding.

While yet another decline in Thailand’s democracy can be lamented, the fact remains that this is exactly what the junta wanted when it seized power in 2014.

 





More EC buffalo excrement

2 10 2020

The latest case before the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions, deserves attention, for the court has been forced to make a decision that is sensible and legal. Not even the judiciary was prepared to uphold the hopelessly biased and junta appointed Election Commission’s decision in a case against former Puea Thai Party MP Surapol Kiatchaiyakorn.

As Khaosod reports, the court overturned an “orange card” given to Surapol by the EC during the 2019, when it accused him of bribing voters. Surapol won in Constituency 8 of Chiang Mai province, for Puea Thai, and in its efforts to ensure that the junta’s party, Palang Pracharat “won” government, the EC disqualified Surapol and, with the orange card and a one-year ban, prevented him from running in the election re-run in the constituency.

The new poll gave “victory” to Palang Pracharath, but in a convoluted way. As Thisrupt explains, District 8 was won in the new poll by Srinual Boonlue won 75,891 votes, the largest in the entire country. Back then, she represented the now-dissolved Future Forward Party…. It was understood, supporters of Pheu Thai and Future Forward banded together to vote Srinual.” Within a year, “Srinual defected and joined the government coalition partner, Bhumjaitai Party, and became an avid defender of General Prayut Chan-o-cha.”

Chitpas and royalists opposing lese majeste reform (a Bangkok Post photo)

But the junta’s EC did far more for The Dictator than just overturning the voter’s original choice. Under the complex vote allocation system the junta put in place, “Surapol’s disqualification allowed two party-list candidates to become MPs.” The victors of this electoral sleight of hand were Palang Pracharath’s Watanya Wongopasi and the (anti)Democrat Party’s Chitpas Kridakon, both royalist anti-democrats, supporters of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee that paved the path to the 2014military coup, and and fans of Gen Prayuth’s premiership.

In other words, the disqualification – ruled legally wrong – eventually gave the regime three seats in parliament.

But guess what? None of this matters! Why? Because the junta’s 2017 constitution makes all EC decisions final, even if they are wrong and ruled so by the courts. The relevant section states:

Section 225: Prior to the announcement of the result of an election or a selection, if there is evidence to reasonably believe that such election or selection has not proceeded in an honest or just manner, the Election Commission shall have the power to order a new election or selection to be held in such polling station or constituency. If the person who committed such act is a candidate for the election or selection, as the case may be, or such person connives at the act of other persons, the Election Commission shall temporarily suspend the right of such person to stand for an election in accordance with the section 224 (4).

The order under paragraph one shall be final.

In other words, the junta’s constitution elevates the EC above courts.

While Surapol is not giving up and may sue the EC and get charges laid against the Commissioners in the Criminal Court,

For its part, the wrong and probably illegal actions of the EC count for nothing. According to the Bangkok Post, the EC insists “it did not wrongfully disqualify the politician.” EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma, said he disregarded the court’s decision: “The court saw him [violating the election law] without an intention [that’s buffalo talk for the court finding he hadn’t engaged in money politics], which is not in line with the EC’s opinion. But all the investigation processes were legitimate, and the court also agreed with the EC’s decision to give the orange card.”

How high can the double standards be piled in Fantasy Land? If the investigation was legitimate, how did it get it wrong? If the decision was wrong, how could the vote be overturned?

The answers are, of course, that the EC and the judiciary worked hand-in-glove with the military and the junta to rig the election and they got away with it.





Say no more

22 05 2020

The Bangkok Post reports:

The navy will sign a contract next month with BBS Joint Venture to build the 290-billion-baht Eastern Airport City Project at U-tapao airport which is one of five megaprojects under the government’s infrastructure development in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC)….

The BBS consortium, which comprises Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction, Bangkok Airways and BTS Group Holdings, offered the best return to the state at 305 billion baht under a 50-year contract.

It never ceases to amaze us at PPT that the military can engage in such business deals with barely a critical word from the media. But, hey, this is royalist Thailand under military domination.

And then there’s Sino-Thai Engineering, which has the following at its corporate website:

Wikipedia has a profile of Minister Anutin, leader of the Bhum Jai Thai Party, a key partner in the ruling coalition. Bhum Jai Thai is a party formed by Anutin’s family in alliance with Buriram’s “influential” Chidchob family. The Ministry of Transport is headed by Saksayam Chidchob, Secretary-General of Bhum Jai Thai.

Monty Python gets it right:





Updated: Newin-ram in lockdown

17 03 2020

Buriram, the neo-feudal estate and grazing fields for the Chidchob gang, now led by Newin, is reported to be in coronavirus lockdown.

Buriram had no cases of virus when the announcement was made, but the provincial governor Thatchakorn Hatthathayakul seemed to be taking the safer route. He did this under “under health regulations since Covid-19 was  declared a dangerous communicable disease last month.”

All people entering the province – both foreigners and local residents – will be required to undergo strict screening and then self isolation for 14 days. Authorities and volunteers will check up on them. Those with fevers will be sent to hospitals.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to be safe, but there had not been any central government order for this lockdown.

What interested us was the statement that:

The province is the new home of Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who is a deputy prime minister and the Bhumjaithai Party leader. He has moved his address from Bangkok to Buri Ram to stay close to his right-hand man, Newin Chidchob, considered one of the most influential figures in the party.

Anutin unmasked. Clipped from Der Farang.

Newin also posted a message on his Facebook account, giving his support for the lockdown of his home town. He said Buri Ram must be kept safe.

One has to ask if this was a Newin decision rather than the governor’s? Is the Health Minister hiding out in Buriram or planning to do so? Isn’t this the time when he should be showing leadership and fortitude. Yes, we know, he’s not known for either quality.

Update: Khaosod reports that Buriram has “46 people … suspected of having the virus. Although none tested positive so far, Tatchakorn called these preemptive measures a necessary ‘strong dose of medicine’.”





With two updates: Junta politics of influence, dark influence and murder

25 09 2019

A quick look at the English-language newspapers over the last day or so suggests that there’s more than a little poor journalism going on.

One was the report that “the Charoen Pokphand Group (CP)-led consortium, winner of the bid to build the 224-billion-baht high-speed railway linking three airports, will be told to sign the contract on Oct 15 or face a fine for failing to honour the terms of the bid.” That “ultimatum was decided upon … at a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who oversees the Transport Ministry, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, senior transport officials and the chief of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Office.”

PPT has no brief for the Sino-Thai tycoons at CP, but we would have thought that someone at the Bangkok Post might have recalled that Anutin’s family are the major shareholders in CP competitor Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction. Perhaps it might have also been useful to note that the Chidchob family, Anutin and his father have been political bedmates for over a decade.

While on Sino-Thai tycoons, the Post reported that Viroj and Samrerng Suknamai, the parents of “former beauty queen and actress Nusara Suknamai,” have “filed a lawsuit with the civil court on Monday, demanding 300 million baht in compensation plus a 7.5% interest from the manager of Vichai’s estate and the King Power Duty Free company, which is owned by the tycoon’s family.” Nusara “died on Oct 27 in a helicopter crash outside the King Power Stadium in Leicester…”. When all of the eulogies were for Vichai, at the time of the accident, BBC Sport Editor Dan Roan was in a spot of bother after being caught “talking about Vichai[‘s]… personal assistant Nusara Suknamai.” He correctly identified her “the mistress who died in the crash, otherwise known as member of staff, i.e. mistress… [of the so-called] family man [Vichai]…”. The report does indicate that the fabulously wealthy King Power lot have been pretty tight-fisted in dealing with the “other woman.”

The ruling class’s military-backed regime is anything but tight-fisted when it comes to buying support. Puea Thai Party chief strategist Sudarat Keyuraphan claims to have “an audio clip that would show that Phalang Pracharat had tried to lure …[14] Pheu Thai MPs by offering to pay them certain benefits.” Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan denied this. But no one should believe Gen Prawit. He’s got form on this, having bought up former pro-Thaksin MPs all over the country before the election. That included heroin trafficker and standover man Thammanat Prompao. Now, Gen Prawit needs “to prop up the government’s slim majority.” This wheeling and dealing is expensive and leads to all kinds of policies that are designed simply to raise money for political shenanigans. The media should be more active in pointing out that it is the military junta’s constitution that (re)created the capacity for such political corruption.

While considering the military junta’s corruption, look to the report that the “Parliament’s Anti-Corruption Committee is gathering evidence in a fact-finding probe against Public Relations Department chief Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd over accusations that he verbally and in writing ordered his subordinates to spread information allegedly helping the Palang Pracharat Party ahead of the March 24 national elections and attacking a former prime minister and his party.” Remarkably, the junta government’s former spokesman thinks that like a heroin smuggler, he can simply deny: “Sansern argued that he had never taken sides…”. Back when the junta moved Lt Gen Sansern to his position, the Bangkok Post observed that Sansern was in place to “control all government-run media and enforce censorship rules in the lead-up to the expected 2019 election.” While denying everything, Sansern ran back to the boss: “Sansern said he had briefed Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha about the case.” Of course he has.

And speaking of corruption, the National Anti-Corruption Commission is ever so careful when dealing with its masters the government. A report at The Nation advises that Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives from Anutin’s Bhum Jai Thai Party, Mananya Thaiset – yes, in there with Thammanat – “has not yet submitted her declaration of assets and debts to the anti-graft body within the required time frame…”. While the law requires all to declare their assets, NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon “said officials … would gather information regarding the matter and consider issuing a letter to Mananya requiring her to provide her reason for failing to file.” It gets worse as the NACC tiptoes around its masters: “If the NACC decided Mananya was required to submit the declaration, the NACC secretariat will issue a letter to notify her accordingly…”.

Back when the political dealing was in full swing, the Bangkok Post had a source who observed the obvious: “Because it receives a big budget, the ministry [of agriculture] can be used as a political tool…”. Money can be made, voters influenced and parties supported.And, as we know from the Thammanat case, “influential persons” get these positions because they are the party wheeler-dealers. And, Mananya is from a family of chao phor and chao mae. Not that long ago, her brother, Chada Thaiset, also a Bhum Jai Thai MP for Uthai Thani declared “I am an influential person.” Back in 2015 it was reported that. like Thammanat, Chada was considered a “dark influence”:

Crime suppression Division (CSD) police officers and commandos yesterday raided 11 locations belonging to alleged influential figures in Uthai Thani’s Muang and Sawang Arom districts.

Most of the targeted premises were those of former or local politicians. They included the house of former Chart Thai Pattana Party MP Chada Thaiset and a resort building under the care of Chada’s nephew.

The 200-strong “Yutthakan Sakaekrang” operation … seized 20 guns, four bullet-proof vests, two tiger skins, two pairs of wildlife horns and a clouded leopard carcass.

… the operation was part of the Royal Thai Police’s policy to suppress crime, crack down on influential figures and hired guns.

Then in 2017, it was reported that:

A former MP and four members of his entourage were released on bail on Sunday after being detained overnight for carrying firearms in public without permission.

Chada Thaiseth, a former Uthai Thani MP, reportedly has been on an official list of mafia-style figures.

More than 100 policemen, both in uniform and plainclothes, intercepted his convoy on a road in Uthai Thani province on Saturday afternoon.

Chada’s group was driving as many as eight vehicles and a search found several guns and illicit drugs in the cars.

A pattern? You bet.

Turning to the other side of politics, Khaosod reports that Nawat Tohcharoensuk, a Puea Thai politician was found guilty of “engineering the murder of a civil servant” and was “sentenced to death on Tuesday … [but] will continue serving as an MP for the opposition, his party said.” He’s appealing the verdict, so the case is not over, but even so, it might be considered prudent for him to step down. But with gangsters in the government, the opposition has them too. And a bit of reading suggests the modus operandi of a dark influence:

Prosecutors said Nawat hired two police officers to gun down Suchart Khotethum, an administrative official in Khon Kaen, in front of his home in 2013. Investigators cited romance-related vendetta as the motive.

And, just to finish off with state violence of the military kind, we see the remarkable report that “four red-shirt co-leaders on Monday … confessed to their roles in the violent protest outside the home of the late Privy Council president, Prem Tinsulanonda, in 2007.” Perhaps they confessed to get the case settled? Perhaps a deal has been done? We can’t help but wonder because Nattawut Saikua said:

he and fellow red-shirt co-leaders offered their apologies because the protest outside Gen Prem’s residence caused injuries among both protesters and police officers on duty.

“We are sorry for what happened,” he said, before insisting the red-shirt co-leaders harboured no grudge with the late Gen Prem.

No grudge? Why’s that? He was one of those who perpetrated the 2006 coup and egged the military on in 2014. He supported crackdowns on red shirts that resulted in deaths and injuries to thousands. He dis this for the military-monarchy alliance that underpins the ruling class. With all the royalist buffalo manure that surrounds this creepy general, there’s no criticism allowed. No one has asked about his unusual wealth, revealed when he finally died.

What a week it has been for a political system designed by the military junta.

Update 1: Legal eel and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam declared Nawat’s “tenure as an MP was now voided, even though the appeal process was not finalised…”. He said the “constitution stated clearly that MPs lost their status when convicted of a criminal offence.” While we think Nawat should step down and while Wissanu picks and chooses which aspects of the constitution he adheres to, we are not so sure he’s right on this. All sections in the constitution relating to convictions refer to final judgements. Indeed, Article 29 offers a general protection to those in the legal process, stating:

A suspect or defendant in a criminal case shall be presumed innocent, and before the passing of a final judgment convicting a person of having committed an offence, such person shall not be treated as a convict.

Despite this, and the fact that “appeal is automatic in the case of a death sentence,” the House Secretariat is advising a ruling from the Constitutional Court. Of course, the judgement of that Court will probably follow Wissanu.

Meanwhile, in another case of twisted ethics (see those above), the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party is “likely to field Krungsrivilai Suthinpuak in a potential by-election despite the Election Commission (EC) having issued him with a yellow-card for attempted vote-buying.”

The junta’s 5 years seems to have yielded an administration of goons and crooks.

Update 2: Being ever so gentle and flexible with junta party allies, the NACC has decided that Deputy Minister Mananya Thaiset “must declare her assets and liabilities despite her insistence she is under no obligation to do so.” But she’s forgiven for “interpreting” the law incorrectly and can take longer to get her assets list in order before submitting it. Can anyone imagine such leniency for the other side of politics? Of course not. The Post believes Mananya is known “for spearheading a mission to ban toxic farm chemicals.” We think they are gilding it. She’s best known for being from a family of dark influences.

Chada Thaiseth’s convoy stopped by more than uniformed and plainclothes police on a road in Uthai Thani province in 2017. Clipped from The Nation.





Updated: Disdain for parliament

4 06 2019

An Army engineer

Following five years of rolling back electoral politics and election rigging, not everything went the way the Army’s political engineers imagined. Yes, they came up with a less democratic constitution in 2017. Less democratic than the previous not so democratic one engineered after the 2006 military coup. Yes, they came up with a bunch of laws that connected to the undemocratic constitution that made it virtually impossible to prevent military political interference or even dominance for years to come.

Where this came unstuck was on 24 March when constituency voters chose parties that were anti-junta. It was only the puppet Election Commission, supported by the biased Constitutional Court that the junta even gained a hope of bargaining its way to a lower house majority by cobbling together up to 20 parties into a Palang Pracharath-led coalition. But not even that is in place, less than 24 hours before parliament selects a “new” prime minister.

The bloody hands of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha are set to grab premiership (again), thanks to the junta’s Army engineering that allows for a junta-picked and appointed Senate being likely to vote as a block for The Dictator, along with his Palang Pracharath Party. This despite various pleading for the Senate to not act as the junta’s puppets.

The Democrat Party and Bhum Jai Thai Party may come on board with the junta – as they are desperate to do – but only after all of the bargaining for cabinet posts has been completed. It is looking likely that the selection of the PM will go ahead with a government having been concocted by the junta and its puppet party.

This means that six weeks after the election, Thailand continues to be administered by the junta. It hardly has a “government” in place as so many of its ministers scurried off to Palang Pracharath and the Senate. For The Dictator, his face will be saved, but only momentarily.

Remarkably, but defining of the whole process of coup to election charade, this political theater of a joint parliamentary sitting choosing a PM will likely take place without Gen Prayuth even showing up, let alone saying something to parliament.

According to Khaosod, Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam has stated that “there’s no need for junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha to show up tomorrow when parliament convenes to elect a new prime minister.”

We suspect that the prickly, arrogant premier-in-waiting is doing a Prem (again). He hardly ever showed up for parliament, treating it like a junior school where politicians squabbled and fought and he floated above it, buoyed by royal barami. Like Gen Prem, Gen Prayuth exhibits nothing but disdain for parliamentary politics.

With “lower house speaker Chuan Leekpai [having] promised on Monday to allow MPs ample time to debate the qualifications of PM candidates before going to the vote,” we are sure that Gen Prayuth sees this as several levels below his exalted status. He had hoped that parliament would be a bunch of yes-men and -woman and that he would be able to ignore them for a few years, leaving them to squabble and fight over the leftovers from the junta’s plate.

But the voters have thrown that plan into disarray, and Gen Prayuth, if he gets up tomorrow as expected, he can expect criticism. And that’s something that he has never learned to deal with.

And just in case you were wondering, “Deputy PM Wissanu also specified to the media Tuesday that Prayuth and the rest of the junta will remain in their positions until a new cabinet formally reports to its first day of work.”

So whatever happens tomorrow, it is Prayuth in the premier’s seat for the near term. If he gets his way tomorrow, we don’t expect that he will enjoy the medium term. Bookmakers are taking bets on the date of the next coup. He’ll hate the idea of parliament even more than he does now.

Update: According to a report in Post Today, about half of the Democrat Party’s more extreme MPs have decided to screw their party and bed down with the junta’s party. This is either a threat to the rest of the MPs to come on board with the junta and The Dictator or its another large nail in the coffin of this hopeless party.





Junta in trouble?

1 06 2019

The military junta had five years of rigging the “election.” Yet, thanks to voters, despite the rigging and with everything on its side including a puppet Election Commission, the junta’s party seems to be in trouble.

While a week or so ago it looked like Bhum Jai Thai and the Democrat Party were set to run into the junta’s waiting arms, something’s gone wrong.

It may still work out that these two anti-democrat parties coalesce with Palang Pracharath and form a 20+ party coalition. That would still be our bet. But, such a government would work with a wafer thin majority. At present, negotiations are over various matters but mostly revolving around ministerial seats, are creaky.

Bhum Jai Thai seemed set to join the junta’s party and government, but pulled back as a battle erupted in the Democrat Party over support for the military junta. It seems the Democrat Party needs another meeting to sort their position out. They want three ministerial seats.

Meanwhile, there have been rumors that Palang Pracharath is itself wobbly:

There have been reports that a 30-strong group led by Somsak Thepsuthin was threatening to quit PPRP unless it received the Agriculture Ministry portfolio, which the Democrats are also believed to covet. Mr Somsak denied the reports.

Even if the junta gets the Democrat Party and Bhum Jai Thai on board, governing a huge coalition is going to be a constant struggle for the junta. And that can be exceptionally expensive.

One response has been a renewed discussion of minority government. This notion was first raised by anti-democrat junta supporter Paiboon Nititawan before the election. He’s pushing the idea again, saying that “For budget-related bills, we can have both the Senate and the House of Representatives vote on them by stipulating Section 270 of the charter…”.

Of course, this would be a desperate measure as governing on a day-to-day basis would become difficult. And, the idea that the executive could govern without having much at all to do with parliament would be a politically divisive strategy.

Another idea that also comes of desperation is that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha can be selected as prime minister next week and then dissolve parliament and wait a considerable time before calling another election.

Finally, there’s the idea of another coup.

Whichever way you look at it, the junta is faced with difficult decisions. In effect, its five years in power amount to a massive political failure.





Duty free awarded as it was always going to be awarded

1 06 2019

It was some time ago that there were mutterings that football oligarchs at King Power might lose their lucrative monopoly on duty free. Other retailers complained and mumbled about competing with King Power for the monopoly post-2020, when King Power’s contract ended. Others claimed that money owing to the state was going missing but the courts disagreed.

The junta even went back and forth a bit on the new concession and there were stories about auctions and big foreign bidders.

Now we haven’t followed this story particularly closely, but we did notice the story that Airports of Thailand Plc that the “King Power Group has won the bid to operate duty-free shops at Suvarnabhumi airport for another 10 years and six months and another to run commercial space at the airport…”. That seems to us like no change at all, despite the grinding of teeth that seems to have gone on.

AoT executive vice-president Wichai Bunyu said there were just three contenders, and that King Power blitzed the others “in terms of financial returns.” He said” “The promised return is higher than what we’ve received and exceeds our expectations…”.

The other contenders were a group led by Bangkok Airways and the Royal Orchid Hotel (Thailand) company.

Having held the monopoly at Suvarnabhumi since the airport opened in 2006, it will be 2031 when this concession finishes. Not bad when it is considered that tourist numbers have ballooned from 11.5 million in 2006 and are forecast to reach almost 80 million by 2030.

The very same day this concession was awarded, “King Power Suvarnabhumi Co, another subsidiary of the group, won the bid to develop and operate commercial areas at the international gateway, also for 10 years and six months” over Central Pattana Plc. AoT’s Wichai gave exactly the same reasons for this concession being awarded to King Power. He added that the “overall commercial space covered 22,000 sq m…”.

Other concessions are coming up for duty-free outlets at Phuket, Hat Yai and Chiang Mai airports, and King Power wants those too.

King Power’s Srivaddhanaprabha has grown hugely wealthy on duty free. It has also been able to back some political wheelers and dealers, most notably Newin Chidchob of the Bhum Jai Thai Party and has been skilled at making royal contacts. That all helps the group and family get wealthier.





On the road to nowhere (new)

24 05 2019

Is wasn’t hard to predict the final “election” result. PPT predicted a junta “win” a long time ago. The “win” was never in doubt as the whole process was rigged.

HRW’s Sunai Phasuk put it this way:

The March 24 general election was structurally rigged, enabling the military to extend its hold on power. While maintaining a host of repressive laws, the junta dissolved a main opposition party, took control of the national election commission, levied bogus criminal charges against opposition politicians and dissidents, and packed the Senate with generals and cronies who will have the power to determine the next prime minister, regardless of the election results.

What wasn’t clear is that the bumbling generals would be snookered by the electorate. Thai voters, despite all the rigging and repression still voted for anti-junta parties, with the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Puea Thai Party winning a plurality.

Despite this, the junta’s puppet party, Palang Pracharath, will head up a coalition of some 20 parties. While a great deal of bargaining has gone on, pro-military parties like Bhum Jai Thai and the anti-democrat Democrat Party were always likely to saddle-up with the junta – after all, they have supported it for years and worked for its coup back in 2014.

In a throwback to December 2008, when the military midwifed a government led by the Democrat Party’s Abhisit Vejjajiva, it is reported that there was:

a meeting between Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha], his deputy Prawit Wongsuwon, Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul and Democrat secretary-general Chalermchai Sri-on at a military camp in Bangkok…. They discussed coming together to set up a government with the PPRP as the main party, the sources said, adding that given the atmosphere of the meeting, the “deal” to form the next government is almost sealed.

The wheeling and dealing is over who gets what. Bhum Jai Thai wants a bunch of potentially lucrative cabinet slots that all seem focused on benefits for the Buriram clan. The Democrat Party wants anything at all that will allow it to look stronger than its horrid election result suggest.

Following the junta’s clear message, via the Election Commission and Constitutional Court, that it intends to grind the Future Forward Party into political dust, the deals were more easily struck, with most of the remora micro-parties and even the middle-sized parties rushing into the octopus-grasp of the junta.

How strong that grasp will be is yet to be tested. A 20-party coalition is a recipe for instability or for massive corruption in keeping it together. There’s also the “Prem model” who tried to ignore party and parliamentary bickering and ruled as a cabinet-led government. Like Gen Prem, Gen Prayuth has a tame Senate. In fact, the Senate looks rather like the puppet National Legislative Assembly of the past few years.

A weak coalition government with an autocratic premier suggests that The Dictator will require strong support from extra-parliamentary sources – the king and the military. Neither is likely to be maintained without cost and deals.

Back in the 1980s, the main threats and support for Gen Prem were extra-parliamentary, and despite the image of a period of stability, saw several coup attempts.