Updated: House in conflict

25 05 2019

PPT has been watching the Thai PBS telecast of the parliamentary session that is meant to select a House speaker.

As The Nation reports, “Phalang Pracharat MPs proposed postponing the voting for House Speaker in Parliament on Saturday amid reports that the pro-junta camp is still negotiating with other parties to form a coalition government.”

This has been vigorously opposed by the anti-junta parties, with the interim speaker, 91 year-old Chai Chidchob allowing a lengthy debate on the Palang Pracharath proposal. Palang Pracharath members repeatedly asked for the House to be postponed.

After a break of more than an hour at around lunchtime, the debate continued briefly before a vote was called.

Clearly, the junta doesn’t yet have all its score of parties in a row. This previews the future for the junta and its parties.

(One of the minor issues is that the parliament is meeting in a temporary building because the building has been given back to the king. The electronic voting system doesn’t exist, so Chai was confused on voting for a while. Eventually the idea of raised hands was suggested but a roll call preferred.)

Complaining, whining and making stuff up

11 09 2013

After clashing with police in parliament, throwing chairs about the same place and having party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva scape the bottom of the barrel by using sexist venom to attack Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, observers might think that the Democrat Party might be just a little contrite.

Not a bit! They are proud of their actions deeming it their duty and even invoking the monarchy in support of their antics!

At Khaosod, former premier and current Democrat Party MP Chuan Leekpai seems remarkably confused. Yes, he says, the party has decided on these anti-parliamentary actions. Then he seems to change tack and babbles about the party’s bad image on “the public” who apparently only see the Democrat Party’s acting like spoiled brats and Fascists because people “had not followed the Parliamentary debates in their entirety.” He’s fibbing.

At Bangkok Post, Chuan blames the the speaker of the two houses as being biased and provoking the Democrat Party. He reckons they should be “independent.” Perhaps he has (all too conveniently) forgotten the role of the speaker under the Democrat Party’s government.

Then he goes back to his former tack, which it seems is more truthful, by admitting that chaos was “a necessary method to challenge the power wield[ed] by … Thaksin Shinawatra via his sister, … Yingluck…”. He added that “the Democrat Party has chosen to sacrifice its good image for the sake of opposing tyrannical power of the government.”

So why whine and fib about “the public”?

Apparently because whining, lying and “rioting” are required as “the Democrat Party is the only group that Mr. Thaksin fails to control.” Of course, this is a complete nonsense.  Think major media outlets, various civil society groups, the judiciary, and so on.

Is anyone listening?

More fixing

10 03 2011

This interesting note from The Nation:

House Speaker Chai Chidchob has assigned a panel to check video tapes and other evidence submitted by the opposition for the next week’s censure debate, Democrat MP Warong Dechgitvikrom said on Thursday.

“Despite the opposition’s objection to the checks, Chai has invoked his mandate to verify the evidence in order to avoid confusing the public,” he said.

Is PPT missing something or is this the Democrat Party ensuring that it has control over each item to be raised in the “debate.” That appears to be more than a little “fixing” of the result….

Updated: Lese majeste is the most important political weapon

18 11 2010

PPT has been all too regularly posting about lese majeste events over the past month. In fact, this is because the coming to power of General Prayuth Chan-ocha at the head of the army and Police General Wichien Potposri as top cop has seen a coalition of determined royalists take control of the “grand fight” against Thaksin Shinawatra, the red shirts and the republicans (seen as one group by the yellow-shirted royalists).

The advent of this pro-establishment coalition has given the Democrat Party and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva a powerful political advantage that allows for the repression of opponents in the name of protecting the monarchy. Gutting the opposition through lese majeste laws and computer crimes laws wasn’t sufficient to counter the “red tide,” and it is now more direct repression and higher levels of propaganda warfare that are considered likely to defeat republicanism and red shirts.

It is the only way to maintain the elite’s “life as we know it” while avoiding the historic compromises that lead to more popular forms of democratic rule. This ruling class is not about to back down or compromise. In fact, they see democratic forms of government as the prime reason for the emergence of Thaksin, republicanism and red shirts. Their fight is as much about establishing anti-democratic forms of government as it is about defeating republicanism.

PPT is sure the palace, through the Privy Council, is desperately keen that dangerous republicanism be smashed and it has never favored any form of government that is not “Thai-style.” That is, hierarchical, elite rule, with the monarchy at the center of the system of rule.

Is PPT being too alarmist? We think not, but if you need convincing, follow this link to the 2Bangkok.com Forum, scroll up to the top, and read story after story (all in Thai, but with short English-language captioning) that is about lese majeste, the work of Prayuth (seen as a hero for yellow shirts), arrests, threats of repression and arrest and so on.

Interestingly, one of the stories is about how bringing down the Constitutional Court is the first step in getting rid of the monarchy. This kind of story is remarkably revealing for it lays bare the true attitudes of the establishment.

Democracy, rule of law and human rights mean nothing for them. When Thaksin once said democracy was a tool, he was revealing the same kind of attitude. Such words have no real meaning or political content. They can be mindless mantras spat out for an international audience, but in the elite’s Thailand there is no use for such ideas in practice. What matters is maintaining rule and any political tool will do. Most often it has been the military’s jackboot.

Update: Prachatai has a story – form one of the links above – that reports on a Democrat Party parliamentarian who wants Thaksin charged with insulting the monarchy, allegedly in Robert Amsterdam’s White Paper on state violence against red shirts in April and May. Watchara Petthong “told reporters at Parliament House that he had received complaints from the public about the book…. He said that the book, whose Thai version is available at major bookstores, contained passages accusing the courts, including the Courts of Justice, the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court, of being dominated and giving arbitrary rulings, and attacking the throne in regards to, for example, the court-ordered seizure of Thaksin’s assets, the massacres in 1976 and 2010 and numerous arrests under the lèse majesté law. Watchara said that he had already filed a complaint with House Speaker Chai Chidchob to look into the matter and forward the case to the National Police Chief Pol Gen Wichean Potephosree for legal action. [The … Thai version] does not bear the name of the author, only giving Amsterdam & Peroff as the publisher and Kled Thai Co as the distributor.  In its first edition, 5,000 copies were printed, each sold at 100 baht. And after the MP’s statement appeared in the news, it is reported that a major bookstore withdrew the book from its shelves.”

General Prayuth, the Chinese and democracy

11 11 2010

Reasons to fret about Thailand’s political future:

1) Prayuth Chan-ocha is quoted by Suthichai Yoon as saying this: “Let me pose a question. Who wants to stage a coup right now? Thailand has a democratic system under the Monarchy. This is the best system in the world. We are different from other countries. They only have a democratic system. Why do we want to go in search of another system then? That won’t solve our problems….”.

The best system in the world? Perhaps it has been for those in the elite who benefit from the power of hierarchical institutions to repress the subaltern classes. PPT would hope that this system’s days are numbered.

2) Xinhua reports on “China and Thailand [having] … underlined their commitment to deepen parliamentary ties.” Top Chinese legislator Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), “said the NPC would like to seek closer ties with the Thai Senate in all fields, step up experience sharing on democracy, legal system, legislation and supervision, and keep consultation and cooperation in international parliamentary organizations.” Wu was a guest of the President of the National Assembly of Thailand Chai Chidchob.

There have been some scuttlebutt regarding discussions amongst the business elite in Bangkok about the feasibility of a Chinese system – authoritarian politics with a capitalist economy. Is this what is meant by discussions of “democracy”? Chinese-style democracy meets Thai-style democracy?

Democrat Party and lese majeste

26 03 2010

For some months, the Democrat Party leadership under Abhisit Vejjajiva seems to have been trying to keep lese majeste out of the headlines. For example, the government has tended to use the Computer Crimes Act where they may have used lese majeste provisions in the past. But lese majeste is a political charge that tends to be used most actively to threaten and cajole in times of political challenge. It was no surprise to see Jakrapob Penkair’s case pushed forward a couple of days ago.

Now The Nation (26 March 2010) reports that Democrat Party MP Nipit Intarasombat has submitted a petition with Parliament President Chai Chidchob and the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s Office calling for second deputy House speaker Apiwan Wiriyachai’s speech delivered at the red-shirts’ protest site on Monday to be investigated.Apiwan is a Peua Thai Party MP and Nipit has charged that he made “inappropriate comments” that he believes can be “interpreted as being in contempt of the monarchy. Nipit also planned to “bring this case to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.” He does this because he thinks the comments by Apiwan violated a code of ethics for members of parliament.

It will be interesting to observe whether lese majeste cases will again be making headlines as a measure of political pressure.

A parliament “protected”?

25 03 2010

Update: After some limited media criticism, a fierce response from Peua Thai Party MPs, including a 2-day boycott of parliament, the government begun to reduce the huge military presence at parliament. Television news showed the troops withdrawing and razor wire and barricades being removed.

Part of the criticism today came in an extremely emotional statement in parliament by the one Peua Thai MP who showed up, spoke, and then left.As we mentioned below, the senate speaker also made a plea.

The government, which had earlier seen that images of the prime minister surrounded by military personnel was poor public relations, appears to have woken up to that fact that making parliament look like a military base in a war zone is probably not the best message. That said, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva seems not to care all that much, and in parliament was grim-faced in making statements defending his government and the military.


How many military personnel does it take to make parliament feel safe for the Democrat Party? Quite a few it seems, and not a few barricades and lots of barbed wire. The Bangkok Post (25 March 2010) reports that “Soldiers yesterday blocked all roads but for the intersection of Rajavithi and Rama V roads adjacent to Dusit Zoo. They erected concrete barriers, barbed wire and parked heavy trucks across other access routes. Only one lane was open for MPs and ministers to pass through to parliament.”

None of these are the traits normally associated with an elected parliament. However, several senior Democrat Party members have stated that they fear a repeat of events in October 2008. Those events involved the Democrat Party’s allies in the People’s Alliance for Democracy trying to prevent parliament from meeting. To date, the red shirt rally has shown no such inclination, despite a Democrat Party claim that “without the presence of police and soldiers at access points to parliament, red shirt protesters would have rallied there.”

The Bangkok Post (24 March 2010) reports that “Puea Thai MPs did not attend the House meeting today because they viewed the deployment of troops and placing of barricades inside and around the parliament building compound as a threat to legislators…”. Puea Thai demanded the removal of the barricades. The party also proposed to “file complaints with the Crime Suppression Police, seeking legal action against Mr Abhisit and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban for ordering the deployment of soldiers at parliament, and against Mr Chai for allowing the military to station troops at the parliament.” The Peua Thai Party whip made the claim that the “parliament has now been seized by the army in a silent coup…”.

In response, government whips decided to “seek the impeachment of Puea Thai MPs for violating the law.” What law was that? “The opposition MPs gathered at the parliament’s entrance gate, obstructing House Speaker Chai Chidchob and government MPs from performing their duty at the parliament this morning…”. Recall that the people making this claim themselves stayed away from parliament just a few days ago. The government’s whips confirmed that the troops would stay at parliament.

The man who boycotted an election in 2006, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said “opposition MPs, who boycotted today’s House meeting, had attempted to obstruct other MPs trying to enter the parliament to do their duty. That was undemocratic…”. The Bangkok Post (25 March 2010) claims that the so-called blockade had little impact apart from a short delay, so the prime minister is exaggerating things considerably. He also denied a “quiet coup,” saying, “Who took power from who? Everybody is performing their duty.”

In another report in the Bangkok Post (24 March 2010), Abhisit expressed concern that “Col Apiwan Wiriyachai, the first deputy House speaker, went on the UDD stage and made careless remarks about Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda.”

Interestingly, the military “protection” of parliament comes just prior to the meeting of the International Parliamentary Union in Bangkok, which may also see the Internal Security Act in place. Some ironies there.

The military apparently agreed to open other access roads and this saw the parliament convene and the Puea Thai MPs end their protest and most then left for their party headquarters, boycotting the session. The parliament of mainly government members then passed key pieces of legislation without debate.

The bias in reporting this event is noticeable. While the Bangkok Post (25 March 2010) does point out that “many MPs of both the government and opposition camps appear to have neglected this obligation [ to attend parliamentary meetings].” That said, the editorial is convinced that the military blockade was “because of the barricade [was] set up by the government to prevent red-shirt protesters from storming Parliament.”

The post adds “Anyone with a modicum of common sense would see that the roadblock and the heavy presence of troops in no way constitute an insult to the honour of the legislators.” PPT wonders which common sense permits government members and ministers, including the premier to boycott meetings but causes the Post to consider a huge barricade around parliament with hundreds of soldiers a necessary and democratic move.

Here’s the real kicker, as the Post states: “The government may have overreacted for fear that the red-shirt protesters might storm or lay siege to Parliament and hold all the attending MPs hostage inside the premises, despite promises by the protest leaders that they would not resort to such outrageous action.” In other words, it is only anti-red shirt bias allows the Post to agree with the government.

As a footnote to this post, there are now various reports of how many troops are now in Bangkok “maintaining security.” Last week it was widely reported that there were 48,000. Now it is reported that 13,000 to 17,000 have been added, with a similar number on standby. At a maximum that means 65,000 troops deployed in Bangkok. The minimum figure PPT saw was 49,000. If any of these figures are correct, that’s a heck of a lot. The U.S. had some 100,000 troops in Afghanistan at the end of 2009. Thailand is said to have some 300,000 active military personnel, meaning about a fifth of them might be “peace-keeping” in Bangkok, and thousands more in the provinces, with about another fifth in the south.

Ignoring parliament

16 03 2010

Yesterday PPT noted Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s patchy record on elections. Despite this, he had maintained a claim that parliament was the place to discuss and debate national issues. Some Democrat Party MPs had complained that too many MPs failed to attend parliamentary meetings.

Today, however, the Democrat Party effectively snubbed parliament. The Bangkok Post notes that “House Speaker Chai Chidchob about 9am on Tuesday ordered the postponement of the joint parliamentary meeting [he had called] due to lack of a quorum.” Only about “80 MPs and senators were reported to have shown up at the joint sitting.” Most of the MPs were from the Peua Thai Party.

It was reported that “Democrat MP Suthas Ngernmuen said after the closure of the meeting that Democrat MPs did not attend the joint sitting this morning because they were concerned that the parliamentary session could lead to violence as the red-shirts might consider they were being challenged by the coalition.” That’s not even a disguised untruth. The prime minister already said that none of his party knew why Chai called a special meeting but assumed it was somehow “political” and that Democrat Party members would not attend. “Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat said the failure to attend the joint sitting by MPs of the coalition parties was in line with the resolution of the government whips.” They feared opposition MPs could use the session to support red shirts. There are also rumors like these. Would they be challenged and even thrown out?

No doubt many of the Democrats are still at the beach, but Boonjong made the ludicrous claim that the red-shirts rally prevented the government and the parliament performing their duty, but said the situation would be only short lived.” Read that in many ways.

The government leadership, ensconced with the military, surrounded by the brass when they make speeches and announcements, using a barracks, flying in and out on military helicopters, is looking increasingly like nothing more than a military-backed regime.

The audio clip

1 09 2009

Further to PPT’s updated post on the allegedly faked clip of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ordering a violent crackdown on protesters at Songkhran, the Bangkok Post (1 September 2009: “SC Asset staff held over PM riot tape”) has further details of the Democrat Party’s response.

Following the arrest of two employees of the  SC Asset Corporation, charged with disseminating the controversial audio clip,police raided the company’s office. The company is still controlled by the Shinawatra family. The employees are said to be in “breach of the Computer Act.” Should this be Computer Crime Act? “A police source said the two were not responsible for producing or doctoring the clip. They were only accused of forwarding the clip through the email system at SC Asset.” SC Asset denies any connection to the clip.

In fact, the police believe that the CD of the clip was obtained at a bus stop and the employees then distributed it by email. Disseminating the clip was “believed” to be a crime. It is certainly a warning to others about distributing political materials by email.

The police are also seeking to link this alleged crime to red shirts especially in Udon Thani, where the clip was broadcast on community radio.

The Puea Thai Party has also denied any involvement with the distribution of the clip.

Update 1: Chalerm Yubamrung has suggested that the audio clip may not be a fake. Whether he believes this, it has certainly set a cat amongst the Democrat Party pigeons. In the Bangkok Post (2 September 2009: “Govt to explain editing of PM’s tape”) the government is rushing to put together a television clip of the prime minister’s explanations for wide distribution and again threatening the dissolution of the Phuea Thai Party. This is suggesting that the political fallout has been deep.

Update 2: It is interesting that Chalerm seems to think that the clip is real or that there is great political mileage to be gained by using it. He tried to get it played in parliament, but Newin Chidchob’s dad as House Speaker refused to allow it (even though he wasn’t in the chair at the time), so Chalerm began to read it out. He was stopped by Democrat Party parliamentarians (Bangkok Post, 3 September 2009). Abhisit, also reported in the Bangkok Post of the same date, in responding to Chalerm stated: “There is a voice of another person later and it was edited to make the clip more concise.” Abhisit added that: “The clip contains my voice from the ‘Confidence in Thailand with Prime Minister Abhisit’ programme recorded in April 19 at Government House and April 26.” He also “questioned Mr Chalerm’s motive in filing this motion and said his motion was nonsense.”

Petitioning against the petition

10 08 2009

Regular readers of PPT will recall that we recently suggested that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was less than truthful when he claimed that there were no government directions to oppose the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) petition for Thaksin Shinawatra’s “royal pardon.”

If any reader was still in doubt, we can now report that there have been several new official orders issued by the Democrat Party-led coalition government as it demands opposition to the petition.

Prachatai (8 August 2009: “Schools in Buriram told to collect signatures against the red shirts’ petition”) reports a letter from the local education office in Buriram “ordering schools to collect the signatures of staff and students against the red shirts’ petition.”

The letter affirms “that certain groups of people are trying to submit a petition to ask for a royal pardon for a former Prime Minister. This is considered an act of ‘lowering the sky’, ‘transgressing the royal prerogative’, ‘pressuring the institution’, and causing division among the people.” And it repeats Prime Minister Abhisit’s line that those who have signed the red shirt’s petition have been “deceived into doing so.”

The letter tells school directors to have “their staff and students to write their names and addresses, and sign an attached form” which is headed: “List of citizens who protect the institution to the death and oppose the petition submission which transgresses the royal prerogative.” The letter and form are included with the Prachatai story.

Related, a Bangkok Post (8 August 2009: “Two million oppose Thaksin pardon” – http://www.bangkokpost.com/breakingnews/151381/two-million-people-oppose-thaksin-pardon) story claims that “[m]ore than two million had signed their names in opposition of the campaign to seek royal pardon for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra…”. This revelation is from Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat.

The report notes that the Interior Ministry had “ordered provincial governors and district chiefs nationwide to arrange tables for people who want to sign to show disagreement with the royal pardon…”. Note the word “ordered” in both reports.

Boonjong expected to be able to announce the “official number” of people disagreeing with the UDD petition next week.

Meanwhile, Newin’s dad, House Speaker Chai Chidchob, said he was confident that the Ministry of Interior’s order to collect signatures against the Thaksin pardon would not create social divisions “because Thai people have the same beloved father – HM the King.” Again, the emphasis is on the orders given.

The same day it was reported (Bangkok Post, 8 August 2009: “Officials ordered to oppose pardon” – http://www.bangkokpost.com/breakingnews/151379/village-chief-told-to-oppose-thaksin-pardon) that Interior Minister Chavarat Charnveerakul on Saturday “asked village headmen and Kamnans … to explain [to] their villagers that the petition seeking royal pardon for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was not lawful.” Chavarat was speaking at a seminar for local administrative organizations, leaders of local communities and religious leaders in an event was organized by his ministry and the King Prajadhipok Institute, a curiously named institute that promotes royalist ideas about democracy and parliamentary politics.

Amounting to another order, the minister “called on the participants to help protect the royal institution and to tell their villagers not to support Thaksin pardon seeking move. The royal pardon for Thaksin campaign by the red-shirt people group could affect the country’s high institution.”

In a related move, the Ministry of Justice issued a statement designed to undermine the UDD petition (8 August 2009 – http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/21678/ministry-discredits-petition-bid) as arrests were made of three red shirt leaders in Chiang Mai.

The government is going to extraordinary lengths to oppose the UDD making it clear the the “great fear” has deepened for conservatives and royalists. As if it wasn’t already clear, the Bangkok Post (7 August 2009: “Suthep admits effort at peace has failed – http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/21597/suthep-admits-effort-at-peace-has-failed) Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said “the government has failed in its bid for national reconciliation as controversy over the pro-Thaksin movement’s royal pardon bid heats up.”

He was supported by Defence permanent secretary General Apichart Penkitti who said the “red shirts should end their move for a pardon for Thaksin as it was inappropriate and did not comply with the law…”. His other supporter was the former military coup leader and disgraced self-appointed prime minister responsible for the May 1992 massacre, Suchinda Kraprayoon.

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