With two updates: “Law” and repression II

8 10 2019

It gets worse.

Khaosod reports that police on Tuesday (or it may have been Monday evening) arrested Karn Pongpraphapan, 25, a pro-democracy campaigner who they accused of spreading “hatred” toward the monarchy in an online post.

Karn was taken into custody “at his home last night and taken to a police station where he was charged with violating the cybercrime law. Karn now faces up to five years in jail.

As is often the case in the lawlessness associated with rule by law and acts said to involve the monarchy, the “police statement did not specify what Karn wrote, but described it as an ‘inappropriate content on Facebook spreading hatred’ which ‘upset a number of people’ after it was widely shared.”

As usual, Karn is charged under a section of the Computer Crime Act banning content that “pose a threat to national security.”

His lawyer, Winyat Chatmontree denied the charge and said:

the message in question was a public Facebook post Karn wrote on Oct. 2, which asked “How do you want it to end?”

Karn then went on to reference historical events involving past foreign monarchies, such as “shooting like the Russians,” “beheading by guillotine like the French,” and “exiled like the Germans.”

Winyat stressed that “Karn’s writing did not mention the Thai monarchy in any way. He also disputed speculation on social media that Karn was criticizing the recent traffic woes allegedly caused by royal motorcade in Bangkok.” He said: “He was talking about the history of other nations.” He says that it was others who distorted his client’s writing.

The report adds that “[t]he arrest came several days after digital economy minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta announced that the police were on the verge of ‘purging’ anti-monarchy figures on social media.”

It is no coincidence that, at the same time that Karn languished in jail, Minister for Digital Censorship Buddhipongse issued a directive that “cafe and restaurant operators with free wifi service must collect internet traffic data used by their customers up to 90 days, or face punishment.” He “explained” that “officials may need to request for the information under Article 26 of the Computer Crimes Act…”.

It is also no coincidence that this follows that mass outbreak of complaints about the monarchy.

Update 1: Khaosod reports that the watchman, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, wants five people arrested on these (disguised) lese majeste charges of making “inappropriate” online comments about the monarchy.

In an attempt to deflect criticism from the throne, the king has arranged it with the regime that charges other than lese majeste are now used for those considered to have insulted the monarchy. (The regime has also taken to enforced disappearance, torture and murder in dealing with anti-monarchists.)

Prawit babbled “we’ll have to prosecute them, because their wrongdoing involves attacking the monarchy.”

Minister for Digitial Censorship Buddhipongse said Karn was not targeted “for his political beliefs.” He’s fibbing. He invoked rule by law, claiming that Karn’s nighttime arrest was a matter for the courts.

Buddhipongseis an anti-democrat from the People’s Democratic Reform Committee who became a junta spokesman, then a member of the junta’s front party and is now a minister.

(We should add that it was only a couple of weeks ago that Shawn Crispin at Asia Times trumpeted Thailand as being post-authoritarian, erroneously claiming: “Political scores are being aired and contested in the open, not through late-night police state knocks on the door…”. We remain confused how a journalist can whitewash the current regime’s political repression.)

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that Karn was granted bail late on Tuesday.





EC lacks spine

23 02 2019

The Nation reports that the Election Commission has declared that there “is no law barring Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha, as the PM candidate for Phalang Pracharat Party, from joining the electoral debate…”.

This is the same Gen Prayuth who makes campaign speeches on all television stations each Friday and the same prime minister who has doled out billions in vote procuring policies for Palang Pracharath.

The EC’s deputy secretary-general Sawaeng Boonmee “chose not to confirm whether or not the premier could join the debate, saying only that there was no law barring him as a PM candidate from doing so.”

EC like jelly before the junta

Phalang Pracharat is keen for The Dictator to spend even more time campaigning for his party. That’s according to party executive Buddhipongse Punnakanta. Last week, he was government spokesman.

The conflicts of interest between Palang Pracharath and the junta are so substantial that everyone in the country knows that the party and junta are electoral cheats.

Even the EC knows this, but it remains in search of its spine.

 

 





Updated: Is it still Prayuth?

7 02 2019

The rumor doing the rounds in Bangkok is that The Dictator will not line up with Palang Pracharath tomorrow. PPT has no real clue why this rumor has become so strong. Could it be true? Let’s see tomorrow.

What is clear is that the maneuvering for Palang Pracharath continues and that the junta’s people are moving into the devil party.

Khaosod reports that anti-democrat and military government spokesman Buddhipongse Punnakanta has resigned to be a candidate for the junta’s party; he was already a member. He should have resigned weeks ago.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reports that Buddhipongse has been nominated despite having been charged with insurrection for his role in the People’s Democratic Reform Committee in 2013-14. The charges were brought by the Department of Special Investigation. Another nominated devil party candidate is the PDRC’s Nataphol Teepsuwan, a former Democrat Party MP for Bangkok, faces the same charges.

And, the continuing imbalance in favor of Palang Pracharath continues unabated. The Bangkok Post reports that the junta appointed governor of Bangkok, Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang is seeking to regulate every single election poster in the city, sending out dozens of staff to inspect the posters.

Expect parties other than the junta’s party to be in trouble and see posters scrapped.

Update: The rumors seem to have been scotched, at least by the devil party: “Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), formed to extend the regime’s power by democratic means, will announce on Friday it has one candidate for prime minister – Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha.” Other rumors are that Thai Raksa Chart will announce a “surprise” candidate for PM. Let’s see tomorrow.





Cynicism warranted

28 01 2019

Thai surveying is not always very reliable. However, the enormous cynicism about the junta’s election that was displayed in a recent National Institute of Development Administration poll is warranted.

In this survey, “more than 78% of participants believe vote-buying will be rampant.” The fact that a similar proportion stated that they are keen to vote suggests that the junta’s devil parties may be in electoral trouble.

This is why the junta’s dirty tricks are multiplying. On the weekend, Puea Thai Party’s Sudarat Keyuraphan complained that soldiers were stalking her during campaigning. Such “monitoring” is meant to threaten but is also collecting “evidence” for later use in red-carding candidates from anti-junta parties.

Cynicism is also warranted because the space between the incumbent military regime and its Palang Pracharath Party is non-existent. They are one in the same. Most recently, the Bangkok Post reports on the “talent” recruited to the party. Most of this “talent” has “been recruited by government spokesman Buddhipongse Punnakanta, who is also a member of the PPRP…”.

The junta’s cheating and rigging may still not be enough to guarantee a clear victory. Expect more intense cheating and more cynicism.





Updated: Whistling in the wind

19 01 2019

Human Rights Watch has released a call  – likely to fall on deaf ears – for the military junta to “fully restore democratic freedoms so that all political parties can fully and fairly participate in the electoral process…. But so far the junta just keeps persecuting critics, banning peaceful protests, and censoring the media.”

This call comes as HRW releases its annual World Report 2019. This one has the subtitle “Reversing Autocrats’ Attacks on Rights,” which has remarkable resonance for Thailand.

HRW may be whistling in the wind as their press release notes that “[i]n December, Thai authorities blocked access to the Human Rights Watch’s Thailand web page.” That additional effort at blocking has been noted by us as well.

While whistling in the wind, we should have been astonished to read that the Election Commission secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma has said “his office has yet to look into a fund-raising report from the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), which held a Chinese-style fund-raising banquet on Dec 19 last year.”

No surprise there. After all, despite a little arm wrestling over the royal decree, the EC remains a puppet agency.

This view of the EC as a sham seems confirmed in the same report, where secretary-general Jarungvith Phummais quoted (presumably accurately) saying the agency will “investigate” claims by “Democrat Party deputy leader Nipit Intarasombat that some politicians, with the aid of local authorities, are inducing voters to release their ID cards in exchange for 500 baht.”

This old-fashioned caper is “suspected” (really!!) of using the “citizenship cards to commit fraud in the general election.” But then Jarungvith is quoted as making a truly breathtaking claim: “the EC does not have enough information at this stage to say if the practice is considered an offence under election-related laws.”

If it isn’t, then renting ID cards will become standard practice. Who needs voters when you can rent their ID cards and vote for them.

And, finally – and this is all in a single report – Jarungvith

… declined to comment as to whether [The Dictator] Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha] and [government spokesman and Palang Pracharath Party member] Mr Buddhipongse [Punnakanta] should be allowed to continue to appear on weekly television shows in the run-up to the general election after complaints that the platform may give an advantage to certain parties.

The EC at work

It seems that any backbone that might have existed at the EC is now a gooey sludge at the bottom of a rancid canal.

But never fear, the EC is planning some real work. It says it is “prepared to launch a six-week campaign to raise awareness of the need for a free and fair election at more than 430 schools…” in Bangkok.

We are not at all sure which election they mean to promote as free and fair, but it won’t be the junta’s election, whenever that is held. And we can’t help wondering how many school children in those schools will be voting or renting out their ID cards.

Update: Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Thai Constitution Protection Organisation, has added to the problems the EC has in covering up for the junta’s election cheats. The Palang Pracharath Party now claims its big fundraising dinner didn’t raise 650 million baht. The Party “posted the list of donors at its head office on Friday,” showing a “total at 90 million baht…”.

Srisuwan went further, observing that “donations from three companies under the King Power group totalling 24 million baht might violate the political party law, which prohibits anyone from donating more than 10 million baht a year to a party and any juristic person from giving more than 5 million.” The companies are: King Power Suvarnabhumi Co Ltd and King Power Duty Free Co Ltd giving 9 million baht each and King Power International Co Ltd with a 6 million donation.

According to the Bangkok Post, its individual donors included: “Pongkavin Jungrungreangkij, a son of former transport minister Suriya Jungrungreangkij … with 5 million baht.” On the list of 24 companies donating were: Mitr Phol Co Ltd (6 million baht), Saijo Denki International Co Ltd (6 million), Sky ICT (5 million), TPI Polene (3 million), TPI Polene Power (3 million), Loxley (3 million), Khon Kaen Sugar (3 million ) and the Thai Cement Manufacturers Association (3 million).





Campaign troubles amid enormous electoral spending

17 01 2019

One of the interesting aspects of waiting for the royal decree is the knots that the military junta is tying itself in when it comes to the division it has tried to maintain between itself and the devil party, Palang Pracharath.

Somehow or other the puppet party released a policy on land reeking of Somkid Jatusripitak’s influence.

A proposal by Palang Pracharath’s Suchart Tancharoen for restrictions on the the use of Sor Por Kor land be eased to allow for a deeper marketization of this land, allowing economic activities in addition to farming was the cause of a “rift” between military men and the puppet party.

The amount of land potentially marketized and fully commodified was about 35 million rai. Surely a prize for big capitalists.

The Bangkok Post reports the junta and The Dictator were concerned that this proposal deviated from long-held positions within the military on the control of this land, including its efforts to “regain” land from “loan sharks” and “local capitalists” developing land like this into “resorts.”

Suggesting the oddity of the position it is now in, government spokesman Buddhipongse Punnakanta, who is also a member of Palang Pracharath, contorted himself to announce that The Dictator “disagreed with the idea.” It was also reported that “Gen Prayut had ordered his deputy Somkid Jatusripitak, in charge of the economy, to reject the proposal.”

Seemingly unable to dissemble on this, hilariously, “Buddhipongse said he never acknowledged this was a move by the PM and did not understand why Mr Somkid was named.”

Magically, a Palang Pracharath leader said the “party is considering revising it [the proposal].”

This intra-party and intra-junta tiff has not prevented the junta from continuing its use of taxpayer funds as electoral “gifts.” A few days ago, the junta’s cabinet went on a huge spending spree in northern Thailand. Oddly, perhaps ironically, the ostensible excuse for the cabinet’s campaign visit was to “follow up on efforts to eliminate the annual northern haze, as well as address land rights issues.” At the same time, Bangkok choked and the junta was convulsed over land (see above).

But back to the electoral giveaways. The Bangkok Post reported that the cabinet/junta/members of Palang Pracharath “approved in principle 10 infrastructure projects worth a combined 17.7 billion baht for four upper northern provinces.” That budget was for road, rail, airport and other logistics-related spending.

In addition to that, the campaign-cabinet meeting “approved three irrigation development projects in the North with a budget of 559.6 million baht.” With a claimed benefit for 1,168 households, the junta could have bought those families a new house each.

And, on top of all that, the cabinet/junta/members of Palang Pracharath “agreed to extend the second phase of measures designed to improve the lives of welfare card holders by another six months until June of this year.” The cost is 4.37 billion baht.

Is anyone keeping a tally of this “populist” spending? Or is it just open to The Dictator and his cabinet/junta/members of Palang Pracharath to do what they like in garnering votes?





The election splurge III

8 12 2018

The junta’s mammoth election spending is accelerating as its “election” date is about to be announced.

Just a couple of days ago, The Nation reported that the junta has given the “green light to all government ministries to prepare projects considered ‘New Year presents’ to the people.”

New year presents appear to be nothing more than more vote buying by the junta and the list of vote catching projects includes many of those recently announced.

Anti-democrat Government Spokesman Buddhipongse Punnakanta immediately lied that this election ploy was not an election ploy at all, saying the gifts have nothing to do with the election and delivering votes to the junta’s devil parties. He did admit that there was an urgency to the splurge, despite saying such a “gift” to voters is “routine.”

One of the new vote enhancing measures seems to be the Industry Ministry’s 250 million baht for small and medium-sized enterprises, set to be announced next week when the junta’s cabinet will be campaigning in Nong Khai.

And guess who is announcing this measure? Of course, it is none other than Uttama Savanayana, who doubles up as Industry Minister and leader of the Palang Pracharath Party, the junta’s own party. He lied that announcing the package now had nothing to do with his party’s campaign for The Dictator. He plans more measures to be announced before the election.