He’s back!

9 04 2014

We find it a little difficult to believe, but we are very pleased to see that veteran democracy campaigner Chalard Worachat is back at it. Prachatai reports that 22 years after he put backbone into the movement to prevent the military consolidating power in 1992, Chalard is camping out near Parliament House and has been there since 22 March (another report says 21 March). That is the day the Constitutional Court nullified the 2 February election.

Back in 1992, it was Chamlong Srimuang, now a grinning leader of the rightist Dhamma Army and of the People’s Alliance for Democracy who got credit for his hunger strike that eventually led to demonstrations and a massacre of civilians (note this report where a little-known intervention by the king is reported, trying to get Chamlong to abandon his hunger strike). In fact, though, it was Chalard who, as a very lonely protester, began a hunger strike that forced usually spineless politicians like Chuan Leekpai of the Democrat Party to take notice.


A Prachatai photo

Prachatai sates that:

Chalard’s very first hunger strike took place [in 1980]…. He protested against the right-wing Prime Minister Kriangsak Chamanan, who was installed after the 1977 military coup, for raising oil prices…. It caused Kriangsak to resign on the 36th hour of Chalard’s hunger strike.

In 1983, Chalard was back, protesting:

during the General Prem Tinasulanond government, the House tried to pass a bill allowing bureaucrats and military officers to become Prime Minister, in effect allowing Prem to extend his term. Chalard held a hunger strike for nine days before successfully stopping passage of the bill.

He was back again in 1992, and then “played an important role in pushing for the 1997 constitution…”. From 1965 to 1987, Chalard was a member of the now disgraced Democrat Party. He once represented the Party in parliament. However, he:

protested against his party leader by holding a hunger strike to call on Chuan to amend the 1992 constitution to be more democratic, but on the 49th day, he quit due to his deteriorating health. The Supreme Patriach asked him to ordain instead…. His strike however led to “Chalard’s Friends,” a committee which successfully pushed for political reform as its main social agenda, and later paved the way for the drafting of the 1997 constitution.

In the hours after the 2006 palace-military coup, Chalard was arrested for protesting against it.

As Prachatai puts it, he is now back at the spot:

… where this 71-year-old man held a 45-day long hunger strike in 1992 to protest against General Suchinda Kraprayoon, then Prime Minister who came from a coup he led in 1991. The protest led to Black May, a people’s uprising in Bangkok which toppled the military regime and paved the way to a more democratic government for Thailand.

And, he has much the “same demands — to abolish an undemocratic constitution and oppose an appointed Prime Minister, as well as a military coup.” He isn’t refusing food yet, “but he says he will, should a military coup happen.”

Today, Chalard said “the core problem of Thai politics is the 2007 constitution which allows independent agencies too much power over the government.” He says: “We must call for the abolition of the current seditious constitution, and bring back a more democratic one.” If this doesn’t happen, Chalard states that the “situation will lead to chaos, more violence and a military coup for sure…. What we need is a new election to be held as soon as possible. We need a Prime Minister who comes from elections.”

Asked about the failed Democrat Party, “Chalard said he first decided to join the party because it was against the military in the 1970s…. Now it changed from opposing dictatorship to supporting it…”. In fact, even in the 1970s, the party’s opposition to military government was tepid.

Chalard’s actions always spur reaction, so it will be interesting to see if this current lone protest has any impact.

Notes on the news

20 02 2014

PPT is again having trouble keeping up with the flood of stories – bizarre and serious – that deserve attention at present. Here’s a brief set of notes:

Army hide-and-seek: Both Khaosod and Bangkok Post report on the military refusing/delaying handing over soldiers accused of involvement in organizing the assassination attempt on red shirt activist Kwanchai Praiphana. At Khaosod it is reported that the “military has not yet handed to the police four suspects…”. All are said to be from the 9th Infantry Division.

The Army had previously promised to deliver the suspects but this hasn’t happened. (Yes, it is the case that the military is treated differently from regular citizens in legal cases owing to their control of government for many years.) It seems the military are refusing to answer the phone. Worse, they are withholding evidence: “the 9th Infantry Division, … in Kanchanaburi Province, has also withheld two pick-up trucks thought to be used by the four suspects during their assassination attempt…”.

The Bangkok Post has it this way: “The army yesterday abruptly cancelled the handover to police of four soldiers allegedly involved…”. The Post says that the Army accuses the “police of allegedly breaking a handover condition and cited this as the reason for the cancellation.” Here’s the reason: “The suspects had travelled to Khon Kaen, along with the staff judge advocates and military court prosecutors, expecting to be handed over to police. Before they reached the police training centre they were informed that witnesses would be questioned while they were being interrogated, said Maj Gen Pairoj. This had not been part of the agreement, he said.”

Eventually, the suspects were delivered, and then released on bail….

Who us (Army)? No, couldn’t be. Then who?: At the Bangkok Post, a “top army officer [Maj Gen Varah Boonyasit, commander of the 1st Division (King’s Guard),] has denied speculation that troops shot at police during Tuesday’s clash between authorities and anti-government protesters.” Why would he need to do this? Because some on social media “questioned whether unidentified men who used deadly weapons during the melee were military officers.” For PPT, what we have heard is questions regarding the shooters – who are now pretty well-known and identified – is a question about whether they are serving or or were previously serving, soldiers. As Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha has previously said that these shooters appear to be well-trained and claimed he has no idea who they are, the social media question seems reasonable.Shooter 10

Meanwhile, the reprehensible Tharit Pengdit of the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) has also said that the shooters were “unidentified armed elements” with “high-explosive hand grenades, M79 grenades, high-velocity sniper rifles and handguns.  We doubt they are “unidentified given the photographs available of them.  We have more to say on Tharit below.

Courts again support anti-democrats: The Bangkok Post reports that the “Civil Court ruled yesterday the caretaker government has the authority to enforce the emergency decree, but issued a set of orders chiefly to prohibit dispersal of the anti-government protesters.” In essence, the court upheld the decree but rejected the measures needed to enforce it. Pondering the 2010 red shirt demonstrations, this action would have been unthinkable. So why the double standards? Simple: “It cited an earlier ruling by the Constitution Court that the PDRC rally is peaceful and without weapons.” Right…. The guys with guns and grenades actually are “unarmed”….  And the court was frank about its decision: “The court said its order was to protect the protesters’ right to hold peaceful demonstrations, citing massive mobilisation of security forces into Bangkok to break up the protest.” Funny, we don’t recall that logic being applied in 2010? Or have we neglected the courts providing “protection” to red shirts? It matter not that this is legal horse manure, for the Constitutional Court has ruled!

Anti-election commissioner: At the Bangkok Post it is reported that Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, who has led the EC’s charge against elections, stalling, fibbing, dragging feet etc. etc.,  says that by defending the government’s rice policy and trying to stem a political run on a state bank, “Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s televised address … risks breaking the law.” It is stated that a message posted on Somchai’s Facebook page – yes, it is okay for an election commissioner to post his views there it seems – where he said “the premier’s use of the media to woo voters conflicts with Section 60 of the organic law on elections and the EC’s announcement on the poll campaign. Ms Yingluck also promised to give farmers something, and this breaches Section 53 of the organic law on elections, he said. The premier, meanwhile, used state resources to seek votes, which goes against Section 181(4) of the constitution. She also failed to behave neutrally, which violates Section 57 of the organic law on the election.” It seems that in politics, Somchai is of the view that a caretaker government can do nothing at all, whereas the opposition is free to campaign as they please, including on the streets. More of those old blue double standards!

Meanwhile, Somchai is busy suing others for allegedly defaming him!

Abhisit VejjajivaAbhisit in la-la land: Also at the Bangkok Post, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has an op-ed and there is also a story about his call for a political path forward. He uses pretty political language to dress up his party as well-educated proponents of political compromise. The problem for PPT is that Abhisit seems to think that every one in the world interested in Thailand’s politics is either an anti-democrat or suffers memory loss.

Some seem to think it is a kind of breakthrough that Abhisit says “As the leader of the Democrat Party, I must share the blame for the failed politics…”. Of course he does. His party rejected elections after calling for them, trashed parliament, supported political extremists, engaged in serious hate speech and decided to lead street demonstrations because it can’t win an election. Abhisit has also destroyed the moderate wing of the Democrat Party and allowed it to be controlled by extremists. In addition, Abhisit was prepared to accept a military coup, make deals to grab the premier’s position and then participated in decisions that saw red shirt demonstrators shot down, more or less in cold blood. Yes, Abhisit has more than his fair share of blame for the current problems.

It is clear that he is in both denial and spin modes when he states: “We must all demand progress in bringing to account the perpetrators of over 30 incidents of violence against protesters and opposition leaders in the past few months.” The guy has to be given a negative credit for his complete rejection of his own violent responses to demonstrators and the failure to condemn violence by his own people; indeed, the Democrat Party’s own Blue Sky channel lauds the protester’s violence.

And the elitist Abhisit has also found farmers to be political tools when he finally manages to see them not as ignorant buffaloes but as tools for attacking his opponents.

Perhaps the least surprising element of his political diatribe is the call for “someone credible and accepted by all sides can lead the reform process and manage the short transition to new elections in which everyone participates. That someone is clearly not the current government, the protest leaders nor the Democrat Party…”. That call is the one emanating from the senior royalists and Abhisit must do what he is told.

Is it Dhamma or Army?: Chamlong Srimuang’s religious beliefs have long been soaked in politics and blood. From his time as a mercenary to 1976, 1992, and all the events since 2005, Chamlong has mobilized the so-called Dhamma Army, which nowadays appears to be bereft of dhamma and to act as a political gang. They were at the center of clashes with the police on Tuesday and they remain united under Chamlong as their commander. Other extremists populate the Dhamma Army contingent and encourage violence. As the Bangkok Post explains, “Police were attacked with grenades and gunfire but they also fired live rounds at protesters.”

And The Eel: We noted above that we’d get back to Tharit. This is reported in The Nation: “Tarit insisted that the police who carried out the operation were not armed.” As he did during the red shirt demonstrations when he was against them, he’s lying. It is clear from many reports, videos and photographs, police were armed with shotguns and automatic weapons. To claim otherwise is stupid. In another source, he states: “crowd control police were backed up by an armed unit, to protect them if they were in danger. However, the backup unit did not fire a shot on Tuesday, just displayed their weapons in a tactic to subdue the other side…”. Again, we think this is lunacy. The picture evidence is that police did fire shots. What is unclear is whether these were all live rounds or rubber bullets. With “allies” like this, enemies are almost unnecessary.

Violence and the end of the electoral state

9 01 2014

The Nation has a headline for its interview with Nittithon Lamlua, the leader of the extremist Students’ and People’s Network for Thailand’s Reform (STR): “STR will follow a peaceful framework, student leader says ahead of shutdown“. The content of the interview suggests something far more sinister.

Importantly, though, Nittthon explains the position of his group:

The STR does not have many members, but we are strong and understand the situation. We’re willing to confront violence if state officials unleash it. Most of the members were part of the People’s Alliance for Democracy and have had experience with political struggle.

Like PAD, STR is driven by a religious-like perception of politics as a moral question: “Politics today is about good and evil, right and wrong, morality and immorality.” There’s something of Chamlong Srimuang in this.

He is asked about the STR’s penchant for violent confrontation. The answer is:

The STR is not positioned to confront violent situations, but we have analysed important strategies that would lead to direct pressure on the government. Demonstrations are not enough pressure, but at the same time, what we do will be within a peaceful framework.

In the answer to another question, this is contradicted: “We’re willing to confront violence if state officials unleash it.” As far as PPT can tell, official “violence” is considered any act by state authorities that challenges demonstrators. The STR’s violence is “not something that the STR should be worried about. To say we provoke violence is but a move to discredit people’s right to protest.” This apparently includes the right to prevent others registering for an election: “From what we see, we have achieved our goal every time, particularly at the Thai-Japanese Stadium [on December 26].”

In fact, Nittithon would prefer violent confrontation: He believes that the Prime Minister’s only “choice is to use violence in the hope that it would strike fear…”. He taunts her: “If they [detain] the leaders [of the protest movement], then the public will be deprived of an important force and it will become difficult for them to find a replacement under the current circumstances.”

The STR’s position on the military is for it to protect the demonstrators when there is violence. He adds: “The military can hasten that and reduce the loss of lives.”

Anti-democratic violence

26 12 2013

Now that the bulk of the protesters have left the streets, the anti-democratic movement is in the hands of Suthep Thaugsuban, the People’s Alliance for Democracy leadership and extremist members of the Democrat Party. Their protesters are now the protest hardened toughs from the “rubber farmer” demonstrations in the south, which were particularly aggressive, the rabid ultra-nationalist/anti-Thaksin activists of groups like Siam Samakkhi and the Thai Patriot Network, Chamlong Srimuang’s professional protesters of the Dhamma Army, and the violence prone vocational students. Each of these groups is led by PAD operatives from the 2008 long occupations and associated street violence.

This is a dangerous and potentially explosive mixture of extremists.

The initial results of this in recent days has been the steadily increasing violence meant to prevent an election taking place. Today has seen a steady escalation of violence as Suthep has send his hardened activists to break into and occupy the election registration center at Din Daeng. They faced police, determined to keep them out. Violence erupted, with anti-democratic thugs attacking police with various weapons. The police replied with tear gas and rubber bullets.Machete

Amongst tear gas, shots were fired, killing one policeman and wounding several others, including a journalist. It seems medics were frightened by the violence and threats from protesters as they tried to save the policeman’s life. Others were apparently beaten by protesting toughs (see photo left).Taxi driver It was reported that “several other policemen were also wounded by gunfire from unidentified individuals…”. Protesters mainly suffered the effects of tear gas, as did the police.

It remains to be seen what lethal weaponry was used by the protesters, although one tweet with a picture claims that the shooter was apprehended by police (see photo right).Shooter

The situation was so dangerous that Thai Journalists’ Association, referring to “several reporters” being injured, stated that “the executives of all media should order their reporters to pull out from the risk area immediately…”. That makes sense, although if journalists are unable to report, expect the anti-democratic movement to concoct its own story of the events where the police will be painted as aggressors.

Election Commission staff had to be flown out of the stadium by helicopter, with some reports of shots being fired at the helicopters.

Meanwhile, one of the Democrat Party’s hired American supporters, with considerable combat experience, has claimed that he is with the “fighters” who were attacking the police.

YonOut of all of this, the useless dolts at the National Human Rights Commission managed to conjure a biased and pathetic statement:

… expressing its worry over the police operation against the protesters who were attempting to storm the Thai-Japan Stadium. It specifically criticised the police for using tear gas and rubber bullets, claiming that such measure is unacceptable in universal crowd control methods. The statement also urged the police to rely on peaceful dialogue as means to defuse the tension. The statement made no mention of any violence committed by the protesters.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission continues its flip-flops. At the Bangkok Post it is reported that the EC has again decided that an election is a bad idea. Not that long ago, we asked: How is it that the Election Commission can continue to ask for the election to be delayed? Their bleating seems designed to encourage Suthep’s anti-democrats to acts of sabotage against the election….  Their call seems unlawful. But that never seems to bother this lot.

Despite repeated flip-flopping and acknowledging that the election must be held according to the constitution, the EC has again “asked the government to postpone the general election scheduled for Feb 2…”. This time, the EC has stated a determination to postpone the election due to the anti-democracy movement’s protests, and has issued a threat:

“The EC would like to send a message through this statement to the government, to all sides in conflict, and people in all sectors, that the Feb 2, 2014 election will not happen without a joint agreement reached by all concerned.

“Therefore, the EC would like to ask the government to postpone the election until such an agreement has been reached. The EC is ready to act as a mediator to find a joint settlement,” the statement said.

If no action was taken to resolve and improve the situation, the EC would consider exercising the rights of individual commissioners to make a decision to resolve the situation as deemed appropriate, the statement said.

In fact, the political violence of the anti-democracy movement is one element of the creeping coup, with an equally important part being played by politicized agencies and courts, with the EC and other agencies lining up cases that can easily be used to end the government’s tenure, halt an election and declare anti-democrats the winners in this particular crisis.

Notes from the news II

30 11 2013

Again, PPT is trying to link to interesting stories we can’t find the time to post on in detail.

Note 1: The New York Times comments on the current anti-government protests and states:

… [they] are the largest in the country since a military crackdown left more than 90 people dead three years ago. This time the government and the military have been strikingly restrained in their reaction. The government says this is a deliberate strategy of nonconfrontation to avoid violence.

Of course, it probably needs to be stated that the government is different. This time, instead of a reactionary Democrat Party government, it is an elected Puea Thai Party government. As if to emphasize the difference, the NYT, while noting provocation, quotes a policeman:

We have not arrested a single protester so far,” Maj. Gen. Piya Uthayo, a police spokesman, said by telephone. Arresting protesters is “not our policy,” he said.

So far, no live fire zones, no emergency decree, no massive censorship, no hysterical rhetoric.

Sadly, the Times also observes that: “… police had received intelligence reports of possible disorder in the coming days that could lead to violence. The police have been ordered to ‘protect buildings and guard against possible calamity’.”

The NYT also makes another excellent, which PPT emphasizes: ”

The protests have been a highly personalized battle between Mr. Thaksin and his allies — who have won every national election since 2001 — and a vocal minority in Bangkok and southern Thailand that says his power threatens the country’s democratic institutions.

The Times notes that Democrat Party chums Abhisit Vejjajiva and Korn Chatikavanij have joined the protests that their election-losing party promotes.

The article also mentions that the “military went out of its way on Friday to back away from confrontation.” That is our note 2.

Chamlong invades

A Bangkok Post photo

Note 2: The Bangkok Post reports that that while the military may have not wanted to confront those who entered their HQ, including the old grinning gargoyle and master political manipulator over four decades, Chamlong Srimuang, it is making statements that no professional army should ever make. But this is the Thai military. A spokesman commented:

“The army calls for protests on all sides to be carried out under the democratic system and within the rule of law,” he said in a statement read out by army spokesman Col Winthai Suwaree. “[Protesters] should refrained from [causing] division and trying to bring the army to be on their side.

So far, so good you might think, and perhaps the protesters see it as  less than supportive. However, a professional military should not be commenting on such matters.

It is followed by this:

“The army would like to inform the public that the army is the army of His Majesty the King and the people. [The army] is monitoring the situation and is prepared to help people if there are injuries or the loss of lives from protests which could lead to violence.”

At least the Army seems uninterested in shooting protesters, but that raises the issue of double standards. How come they were so keen to murder protesters in 2010? Have they learned a lesson or are they showing a bias? And what of the claim about the king. Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy for over eight decades and yet the military clings to a feudal relationship (and vice versa). Professional armies act on the lawful direction of the government. But this is the Thai military.

Note 3: The Bangkok Post reports that Suthep Thaugsuban, in declaring Sunday the day for overthrowing the so-called Thaksin regime,  has come up with a people’s committee. It says:

He also introduced a “people’s committee” including businessmen, academics, activists, workers’ leaders and retired officers to gather under one umbrella to drive the campaign. He brought 24 people to the stage — every single one of them a man.

PPT isn’t sure that the lack of women is the important point here….

Note 4: From a couple of days ago, the Bangkok Post reported on academics in support of Suthep’s anti-democratic proposals. One is the ferociously yellow-shirted Charas Suwanmala, dean of Chulalongkorn University’s Political Science Department.  Charas apparently “believes some parts of the constitution must be put on hold for Mr Suthep’s ‘people’s parliament’ and ‘dream team’ government to become reality.”

Of course it would, for even this junta-tutored constitution is insufficiently undemocratic for yellow-shirted propagandists like Charas. He referred to “the need for the democratic system to take a break.” He sounds remarkably like the 2006 military junta talking about the same thing or the dopey old men who wanted to “freeze” Thailand.

He said that “the people’s parliament and government must have a strict mission to draw up a blueprint for political reform.” We assume he means “reform” in the sense of properly fixing the system so that the rural buffaloes will not be able to vote for pro-Thaksin political parties and will accept democratic tutelage from hierarchical institutions. It all seems very 1991 or 2006. But Charas seems to be an adviser to Suthep because he knows the details of the “plan”:

The parliament will only be temporary, existing for three months at most, he said. After that, a new election should be called and the new government must implement political reform as envisaged by the representatives of the people.

Yep, an unelected committee of appointed (by whom? Suthep?) notables will draft a program that elected representatives will have to implement. So the elections are all a bit of a smokescreen for the elected representatives will only be able to implement a pre-ordained plan. Fascism anyone?

Notes from the news I

28 11 2013

Things are moving quickly at present, so we can only provide some notes and links for readers to follow.

Note 1: We wanted to get to this one much earlier, but events took over. At the Bangkok Post a few days ago, op-ed scribbler and yellow-shirted booster Veera Prateepchaikul makes himself “the people.” He says “they” – he means himself – are crying out for regime change. His cry is a full-throated shout of support for Suthep Thaugsuban’s actions, legal or not. It is a cry to stop pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties winning elections by fixing elections. Veera and his ilk cannot believe that the majority of the population reject their elite politics. The result is a call to change the system so that his lot can be in power.No vote

He doesn’t know what the protst leaders want – who does – but he’s salivating for a return to elite control: “Even the protest leaders themselves have no idea of the full extent of the reform they wish. That, perhaps, is to be worked out later by academics.” For him, elite domination is a “noble objective.”

Of course, Veera recognizes that he and the protest leaders are not on about democracy, so his posterior cover is to tell foreigners that they can’t really understand the Thai situation: “Many may ask why can’t the anti-government protesters accept or recognise a democratically-elected government. If they have spent enough time in this country and tried to understand Thai politics, they will find that Thai democracy has a different meaning to that in Western countries.”

“Thai-style democracy” is not democracy at all, because, well, of Thaksin. That’s it. But we wonder what he says to Thais who don’t recognize anything democratic in the claims and actions of the protesters and their leaders? Grin and bear it?

Veera hates Thaksin, red shirts and voters. They are the reasons for demanding change – well, not change, but a return to elite rule.

Veera also managed to come up with an op-ed to justify breaking the law. Funny that, we seem to recall he was a rule of law junkie when the red shirts were demonstrating.

For the really looney stuff, look at this op-ed in the Bangkok Post that manages to make democracy the problem. Damn Thaksin and his lot! The buffaloes keep voting for his parties! Ipso facto, elections are a problem too.

GimmeeNote 2: The Democrat Party has surprised no one an announced support for their man Suthep. The Nation reports that Democrat Party leader and forever hopeful prime minister – just because he was born to it – Abhisit Vejjajiva found it necessary to confirm that “his party is determined to overthrow the ‘Thaksin regime’, saying the government had lost legitimacy.”

We guess he has plenty of experience with lost legitimacy, having never won an election, having been hoisted to power by the miltiary and having ordered crackdowns on protesters that caused thousands of deaths and injuries. This time Abhisit affirms that his craving for power means that all his MPs may quit parliament “in order to conduct the campaign.” He stated: “If it leads us to win the battle, we won’t hesitate [to do it] with unity…”. He claims that “unconstitutional means” won’t be used. He may as well just shout that parliament is dead and I want to be PM again, gimme, gimme, gimme!

Yingluck ShinawatraNote 3: Meanwhile, also at The Nation, Yingluck stated that “the establishment of a people’s council to reform the country could not be done under the current Constitution.” She urged protesters to leave occupied government buildings and enter into talks with the protest leaders to seek ways forward. That sounds quite reasonable, but will be rejected.

Note 4: Readers will no doubt remember the pained complaints of the Abhisit government and its supporters when red shirts were accused of being too pushy, demanding and scary in dealing with the Chulalongkorn hospital in May 2010. There seems – as yet – no such outrage when the Suthep lot turn off water and power at the police headquarters and the Police Hospital next door. The Bangkok Post reports that People’s Democratic Force to Overthrow Thaksinism (Pefot) and the Dharma Army – these are essentially Chamlong’s Srimuang’s yellow shirts – potentially impacting 500 patients. Meanwhile, the hopelessly hopeless National Human Rights Commission managed to shake its biased and hopeless collective head, but suggested that the power cut was not the work of the nice royalist allies demonstrators.

Updated: Running to the king

12 11 2013

It had to happen. The Bangkok Post reports that the yellow-shirted Anti-Thaksin Coalition has “submitted a petition to the palace asking His Majesty the King to allow a ‘people’s council’ to run the country’s administration in the place of the present government.”

PPT mentioned this people’s council tactic two days ago, pointing out that this is something like an assembly appointed by notables selected or ratified by the king, or maybe the military following a coup, that would act without election or through some fake process of acclamation. In other words, representative democratic forms of government will be jettisoned. The justification will be much like that of the coup masters in 2006: we will press the reset button and get a “real” democratic system in place….old-farts-and-jackasses

Of course, their “democracy” comes without electoral representation.

The anti-democratic activists are the usual cast of old farts and mad royalists: retired Admiral and former assistant to Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, Chai Suwannaphap;  The ultra-nationalist and PAD supporter and former General, Preecha Iamsuphan, who has been urging illegal actions against Cambodia; the ever-grinning political manipulator, Dhamma Army boss, PAD leader and former Major-General, Chamlong Srimuang, who led the airport occupations in 2008; PAD’s Somkiat Pongpaibul, who was once a Democrat Party MP, who was always pushing the party to be more activist and bright yellow; and PAD’s Samdin Lertbutr.

This tactic of running to the king is highly reminiscent of the call to use Article 7 in 2005, asking the king to dump the elected government. The call for a “national government” or a “people’s council” suggests that this lot thinks the palace is likely to be supportive of its actions.

Update: Naturally, when running to the king for support, the yellow shirts also expect the judiciary to do their part. While we missed this report at Khaosod, a regular reader picked it up:

11.00: The court has allowed Mr. Chaiwat Sinthuwong, a leader of the Yellowshirts, to join the anti-government rally and give speeches on the stage, as long as the speeches do not “encourage chaos in the nation”.  Mr. Chaiwat is facing a legal action for his role in leading the occupation of Survanabhumi Airport in 2008 as an attempt to oust the Thaksin-allied government at the time. The court has previously allowed him a bail release on the ground that he must not join any political activity.  Mr. Chaiwat said he would later give speeches at the rally in Ratchadamnoen Avenue today.

Recall that in the judiciary of double standards, red shirt leaders have been sent to jail for political activism.

The same report notes that the Army is also being drawn in:

15.00: A representative of Student and People Network For Political Reform of Thailand has submitted a letter to Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army, calling on the army to investigate a rumour that the government has secretly brought in foreign armed militants to sow chaos against the anti-government protesters.

Such reports and claims open the way for any violence to be attributed to the government.

The patterns here are just all too clear and remarkably depressing Thailand’s anti-democratic Groundhog Day.

With 3 updates: Rejectionism

11 11 2013

Whatever the result of the amnesty bill [in the Senate], the “anti-amnesty” protesters will bring down the government.

Whatever the result of the World Court decision on Preah Vihear, the protesters will reject it.

Rejectionism is now the modus operandi for the protesters who hope to bring down the Yingluck Shinawatra government.

The Bangkok Post reports that “three protest groups – the Anti-Thaksin Coalition comprising civic groups in all 77 provinces, The People’s Democratic Force to Overthrow Thaksinism and the Dhamma Army – are now marching to the Defence Ministry.” They do this to “demonstrate their intention to reject the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) ruling on the Preah Vihear dispute, no matter what it may be.”

They do it, led by a retired general, to seek the support of the military for their plan to overthrow another elected government. It is the political equivalent of “going home.”

Chamlong Srimuang and the Dhamma Army – so central to all PAD rallies in 2005 and 2008 – is now fully in support of the protesters and he is now taking a leadership role that sees him move from the shadows into the light. Sondhi Limthongkul’s media are at Chamlong’s disposal.

Chamlong is keen to oust the government, a position he has taken repeatedly over a very long period back to 1976.

Update 1: We guess that former deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban is take seriously by his frothing yellow-shirted supporters. We also guess that they must be the only ones who can’t see the cruel irony in Suthep’s sick claim that “he is the target of a government sniper…”. Of course, it is known that Suthep is one of those who ordered snipers to murder red shirt supporters in April and May 2010. Suthep’s crass statement is on a par with his previous claim that protesters got killed because they ran in front of Army bullets. He is a disgrace and a thug or is slug the word we are looking for?

Update 2: The Senate rejected the amnesty bill that after 10 hours of debate. Can anyone suggest why 10 hours was required to get a more-or-less unanimous vote against an already dead bill? Our guess is that the royalist-yellow-shirted lot amongst the unelected senators simply wanted to grandstand in the hope of stirring further anti-government street action.

While the lower house can resubmit the bill, that house has already withdrawn all amnesty bills.

This hasn’t stopped Suthep continuing his “anti-amnesty” rally, saying: “This amnesty bill is still not dead, even though the Senate is voting to block the bill,” and calling for a “general strike by workers Nov. 13-15, and urged people to join rallies to oust the government, which won a majority in elections in 2011.”

Update 3: At The Nation, Suthep is reported to have made further calls for “a civil disobedience action against the government” that involved strikes, go-slows, “schools, colleges and universities throughout the country to cancel all classes … and display banners with messages against the amnesty bill.” He also urged  “businesses to delay their corporate tax payments…”. Finally, he “told people to show their opposition to the government-backed amnesty bill by raising the national flag at home, carrying it with them, or displaying one on their car.” Many Thais display the flag anyway, so Suthep is simply being politically too clever by half on this.

In line with this kind of cynical maneuver, Suthep suggested that people harass government ministers and MPs in public places.

Suthep also announced “that he and eight other Democrat MPs had decided to resign their seats to fight alongside the people against ‘the evil government’.”

Updated: They ain’t going home

10 11 2013

The Yingluck Shinawatra government now faces a largely self-inflicted crisis that can now easily escalate into something resembling the events of 2008.

The Bangkok Post reports that anti-government groups calling themselves “the Anti-Thaksin Coalition _ comprising civic groups in all 77 provinces, the People’s Democratic Force to Overthrow Thaksinism and the Dhamma Army [Chamlong Srimuang’s lot]” – read PAD reincarnated – now aims, as we predicted, “to expel the government and the heads of the parliament because they have proved to serve the interests of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra…”.

What would this group want in place of the elected government? It seems “major reforms by the people’s council.” What could a “people’s council” be? We imagine it is something like an assembly appointed by notables of the king, or maybe the military following a coup, that would act without election or through some fake process of acclamation.

In other words, representative democratic forms of government will be chucked out.

That will require a palace or military (or combined) intervention a la 2006. A 2008 scenario seems unlikely as the opposition Democrat Party has too few seats to be again hoisted into place.

One more false move by the Yingluck government and it can be brought down – the protesters hope to create that out of the World Court decision tomorrow.

After having insulted, betrayed and condemned red shirts in recent weeks, the government now needs them. Will they rally to it or has the damage been too great?

Update: The Nation is now providing a schedule of anti-government actions for Monday. The newspaper is in full campaign mode (again).

Opposing amnesty for royal reasons and right reasons

5 11 2013

PPT should not be ever surprised by the shenanigans of royalists. However, we were just a little surprised by the recent report about royals publicly politicking.

The Bangkok Post has reported that a group of persons who claim to be lesser royals but who be ratchasakul, meaning  they have a surname that indicates they are descendants of members of the royal family (and perhaps by this trickery avoid Thailand’s declining descent rule) have weighed in on the amnesty issue.

Apparently, their view is that the “amnesty bill has a flaw and should not be forwarded to His Majesty the King for endorsement.” Aged former Police Major General and princeling (mom chao) Chulcherm Yukol claimed to be speaking on this for 50 families with royal lines.

Ignoring the law, Chulcherm said the raskuls:

… are concerned that the amnesty legislation is being opposed and disagreed to by many sectors in society as doubts have been raised about the government’s intention behind passing it into law. Therefore, it was not appropriate for the government to forward a flawed bill to seek royal endorsement from His Majesty the King.

Members of ratchasakuls would oppose the forwarding of such a controversial bill to His Majesty.

The raskul’s spokesman got lyrical:

“This bill is like a mountain run-off and members of the ratchasakul are like a weir to prevent it from hitting [His Majesty],” Pol Maj Gen MC Chulcherm said, adding the group will discuss and announce their next move later.

This lot seem opposed to the bill for all the wrong reasons, including protecting a position they consider privileged: “There has been too much infringement on the royal institution and the government is not being careful.” We are not at all sure how the amnesty bill infringes the king, but we get the idea that this lot feels threatened by anything to do with Thaksin Shinawatra.

Proclaiming his group ninnies, Chulcherm declared: “Our group does not play politics, but politics does not play with us…”.

Also in the Bangkok Post, there’s a much better attempt at explaining support and opposition. It begins:

There is nothing that unites the “We Hate Thaksin” brigade more than the possibility of an amnesty for the exiled former prime minister.

All of a sudden, the usual suspects, such as retired generals with empty nest syndrome, senile political has-beens and of course, the perennial “one-trick pony” party, start coming out of the woodwork for another day in the sun.

Mentioned are Chamlong Srimuang Sondhi Limthongkul, and “the leaders of ‘the one-trick pony’ party itself, namely Suthep Thaugsuban and Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The antics of this lot, who “colluded with undemocratic forces to bring us the 2006 coup, which led to an illegitimate Abhisit administration, ended up mimicking all of Thaksin’s populist policies, and now want us to believe they’re Aung San Suu Kyi fighting for liberal democratic values!”

PPT seldom agrees with the author of the op-ed, Songkran Grachangnetara, but his declarations this time make some useful points:

Let me be clear. I’m profoundly against the Thaksinisation of Thailand, and can think of nothing more repugnant. But honestly, I simply refuse to follow this bunch of invertebrates into protest, because you’ll end up being used and tossed aside like a dirty handkerchief once they get what they want.

He goes on to make a good point about the amnesty and lese majeste:

Firstly, it is not and should never be called a blanket amnesty, because none of the versions of the amnesty bill give an amnesty to those who were slapped with criminal charges under the Criminal Code’s Section 112, otherwise known as the lese majeste law….

He argues that the 112 victims are being traded down the river for an amnesty deal. Puea Thai people should be ashamed. And, he adds: “The Democrat Party, needless to say, has been the greatest beneficiary of Section 112, because it is their most potent weapon of mass destruction.”

Songkran then observes that it is the courts that may eventually decide the fate of the amnesty:

It is a bizarre situation that the courts will face. If this amnesty bill is unconstitutional then what of the previous amnesty clause that the military junta granted itself in 2006? And what of the many other amnesty clauses after each previous military coup?

So potentially we could see an amnesty bill that has been passed by parliament deemed unconstitutional by our Constitution Court, while a military junta seizing power through the barrel of a gun that subsequently writes its own amnesty clause into our constitution is deemed totally legitimate.

For PPT, the right reason to oppose the bill is because it is an act that does little more than make impunity law. THe state and its officials should not again be given to believe that they can wield their brutal power without consequences.