Democrat Party going home?

6 04 2019

It’s likely a homecoming. Reports in both The Nation and Bangkok Post refer to meetings of the Democrat Party or a faction of it. In essence, the reports are of the anti-democrat, People’s Democratic Reform Committee, aligned members electing to return to the junta.

This should come as no surprise, especially as the red/pro-Thaksin versus yellow/junta/royalist divide has been reasserted by the latter group.

While several pundits reckoned the election marked the end of that divide, its muscular reassertion as a series of attacks on pro-democracy parties, now identified as, variously, left-wing, pro-Thaksin, foreign-influenced and anti-monarchy, has been intense.

Some 30 Democrat Party members, including some who were elected, has “voiced support for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to continue running the country in a government led by the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), according to Thaworn Senneam.” The Nation reported that former Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai attended part of the meeting.

The group included other PDRC stalwarts Chitpas Krisdakorn and Atavit Suwannapak­dee. This PDRC aligned group is now going to press the party executive to take the party back to its natural political location. That is, with the military, the junta and the anti-democrats.

This is a challenge for the party as disgruntled anti-democrats could easily act as cobras, threatening the existence of the party.





After an “election”

14 07 2018

The Klong Dan convictions provide a timely reminder of what politics under the junta’s constitutional arrangements might look like following the junta’s rigged election.

In the linked story, readers are reminded that the saga began in 1995 under a Democrat Party-led coalition:

Suwat Liptapanlop, who served as science minister in the Democrat government headed by Chuan Leekpai, first proposed the wastewater treatment project in 1995. Prayoonvisavat Karnchang, one of the companies convicted in the case, was founded by Mr Suwat’s father Visava.

One of the other companies convicted, Seesaeng Karn Yotha, was founded by Banharn Silpa-archa, whose party at the time was a coalition partner with the Democrats.

Other cabinet-level supporters of the project were Vatana, who was then the deputy interior minister, and Yingphan Manasikarn, then minister of natural resources and environment, who died in 2003.

Like other rich persons who feel they are unable to negotiate a comfortable legal outcome, Vatana fled the country and has been “gone” for a decade, although we guess he arranges long periods at home.

The saga was so long that some readers may not have been born when it began. For background and for a reminder of how weak coalition governments worked under rules introduced by the military following the 1991 military coup, we provide a Bangkok Post investigative report from 2000 and a link to a Focus on the Global South Report from 2002.





Elbowing Abhisit

15 04 2018

The Democrat Party has been in trouble for years. We could go back to its founding as a royalist party founded by an alliance of disgruntled, restorationist princes determined to undo the political reforms of the People’s Party. But let’s just look at its time under current leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Abhisit, a scion of an elite royalist family, became leader of the party in 2005, following two crushing losses to Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party. The party hierarchy believed the ambitious Abhisit could bring the party some better election results. There were elections in 2006, 2011 and 2014, with Abhisit losing badly in 2011 and boycotting elections in the other two years. In both boycotts, Abhisit aligned his party with radically royalist street movements. Despite never winning an election, Abhisit became prime minister in late 2008. He managed this with the help of the military and judiciary, which engineered the ouster of an elected government and its replacement by a hastily cobbled together Democrat Party-led coalition. In addition, Abhisit supported two coups against elected governments in 2006 and 2014.

If that record isn’t bad enough, while resisting calls for elections in 2009 and 2010, Abhisit was premier when the military fired on demonstrators from the red shirts, killing dozens and injuring thousands. Because he was the military’s loyal ally in this murderous politics, he has not been held responsible.

That record makes Abhisit politically toxic for many Thais who prefer to vote in elections for the government they prefer.

The Nation reports that aged former party leader and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai has revealed that “there is an attempt within the party to replace current leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and that he and Supachai Panichpakdi were being considered” as replacements.

Chuan, who is about to turn 80, has led two governments. The first followed the 13 September 1992 election where the Democrat Party won 79 of the 360 seats and led a coalition. The second time in power came from an election defeat but the fall of a government beset by  economic crisis. Backroom deals saw Chuan becomes premier leading a hastily cobbled together Democrat Party-led coalition.

Supachai Panitchpakdi is almost 72. He has limited political experience, having been appointed as Deputy Minister of Finance in 1986-88, before becoming president of the Thai Military Bank. He briefly returned to politics in 1992 and became Deputy Prime Minister until 1995. In November 1997 he became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce, implementing IMF policies that were widely despised. He then went off to become head of the WTO and the of UNCTAD. In both positions, despite his claims to the contrary, he was more or less inactive and invisible.

So the Democrat Party looks to has-beens for a new leader in an upcoming (?) “election” where the big issue is how to get The Dictator back in the premier’s chair. We do not doubt that any of these three quislings can cooperate with the military. However, Abhisit is seen as both an electoral liability and too ambitious for the premier’s seat.

Chuan says the party needs “to pave the way for new people.” The problem for the party in “election” terms is that the “new blood” is anti-democratic and military supporting. Such an electoral profile is also likely to further stain the party.

Once the military junta’s ban on the activities of established political parties is lifted, “Chuan said that the party had to vote for a new leader following the new rules imposed by the [junta’s] new organic laws.”

As usual, the Democrat Party is in a political mess and will be as opportunistic as ever. An alliance with the military seems most likely (again).





Rolling back 1932 one piece of property at a time II

7 04 2018

The palace and Crown Property Bureau have been active in recent months as they seek, for the king, to consolidate what he considers the “royal precinct.” We have previously mentioned assertions of royal control over the Bangkok or Dusit Zoo, Suan Amphon and the Ananta Samakhom Hall. And who can forget the illegal (and still unexplained) removal of the 1932 plaque that the king and the junta must have thought sullied the “royal precinct.”

The most recent territory marking involves the Royal Turf Club and the Nang Loeng horse-racing track, also in Dusit district. It is reported that the CPB has demanded the Royal Turf Club vacate the property in 180 days.

Anant Waiwitaya, a CPB legal affairs officer recently wrote to the club “to demand the departure.”

For many years the very large property has been in the hands of aged military people who benefit from gambling and while having been in operation for more than 100 years, is most recently remembered as the home of anti-Thaksin/anti-Yingluck grey activists under General Boonlert Kaewprasit’s Pitak Siam. This group was supported by all kinds of old royalists and conservatives who began the initial agitation against Yingluck. Boonlert was – maybe still is – secretary-general of the Royal Turf Club.

The CPB’s Anant noted that the lease had expires and that the Royal Turf Club had to vacate the property and its “track, five-storey stand, two six-storey parking buildings, a five-storey management building, a one-storey structure and a swimming pool.”

The CPB stated that it “had to use the land and the buildings.”

The report says: “Initiatives to relocate it were discussed during the previous governments of Chuan Leekpai and Thaksin Shinawatra.” Nothing resulted.

We see the action as another effort to create the “royal precinct,” rumored to include plans for a massive palace. The map below shows that the king’s moves over the last six months have massively expanded his territory.





Weekend reads

1 04 2018

We are still kind of catching up from our downtime a weeks or so ago, and want to recommend some interesting material for our readers. Hopefully our military censors/blockers will also learn something from these stories.

At the Bangkok Post: The Cambridge Analytica/SCL Group story is belatedly addressed for Thailand – we commented about 10 days ago – but adds little to the story, although there seems an attempt to diminish the possible role of the Democrat Party even though the only Thai cited is Chuan Leekpai. If there were links between the Democrat Party and/or its government and SCL, look to the party’s Anglophiles for the connecting points.

On the extrajudicial killings at Prachatai: Yiamyut Sutthichaya writes that  “March 17th marked the first anniversary of the death of the young Lahu activist, Chaiyaphum ‘Cha-ou’ Pasae. He was shot dead by a soldier…”. As far as we can tell, nothing sensible has happened on this case since day 1. It has been a cover-up. Read the account, weep for Chaiyapoom and weep for Thailand under the junta’s boot. This is a case of official corruption far more egregious than the Deputy Dictator’s watch saga. The latter interests the middle class who seem to care little for rural kids murdered by military thugs.

“No conspiracy”: The Dictator says he’s stuck to the “roadmap” and there’s no conspiracy to further delay the junta’s promised election. Everyone knows this is a mountain of buffalo manure, but The Dictator keeps saying it. No one believes him – no one – and Alan Dawson at the Bangkok Post calls him out. While at the Post, go and read the stir caused for the junta when Thaksin suggests that Puea Thai will do well when an election comes along. That’s also what the polls say, including the junta’s own polling. That’s also why the junta is splashing taxpayer funds about, seeking to buy supporters.

Insidious Internal Security Act: In talking with political scientist Puangthong Pawakapan, Kritsada Subpawanthanakun reminds us that the the Internal Security Act has now been around for 10 years. A tool wielded mainly through ISOC, it is used to undermine political opponents of Thailand’s establishment. This is highlighted by the fact that the current law was implemented by Gen Surayud Chulanont’s government, put in place by a military junta and borrowing Surayud from the Privy Council. The links between ISOC and the palace are long, deep and nasty.

For more on ISOC: Nutcha Tantivitayapitak writes of “ISOC’s cultural mission” in “the ideological promotion process of ‘nation-religion-monarchy’ by the security agencies…, especially after the enforcement of the 2008 Internal Security Act. Security agencies such as ISOC, which has power over civilian agencies, moved forward in ideological indoctrination through cultural tools.”





Democrat Party and Cambridge Analytica

22 03 2018

PPT has done a bit of a search related to Cambridge Analytica, the parent company SCL Group and Thailand. The most detailed account we can find is at Investvine. We are unable to verify the claims made, but thought readers may be interested.

The story begins with a claim that is at the SCL and CA sites. This is the boast that the firm “influenced a past election campaign in Thailand for an unnamed client.”

SCL claims it “built and managed the world’s largest campaign center” for an election campaign in Thailand. It further claimed to have used it:

“cutting-edge Behavioural Dynamics Institute methodology” enabling it to correctly determine Thai voter behaviour down to the constituency level, which resulted in considerable campaign savings for the client and permitted a more targeted use of resources – all centrally controlled from the operations center.”

Investvine’s Arno Maierbrugger says that this intervention:

seems to be related to Thailand’s 1996 election when SCI (Cambridge Analytica was only founded in 2013) seems to have used behavourial analytics to support the campaign of Democrat candidate Chuan Leekpai who eventually became prime minister after a substantial tug-of-war with competing populist New Aspiration Party. The company illustrates its case study with the display of a Time magazine cover from March 30, 1998, with the title “Thailand’s comeback kid” with Leekpai being portrayed as the election winner.

Investvine’s comments on Thailand’s politics are limited. It is true that Chuan’s party did substantially better in the 1996 election than it had in 1995. Even so, the Democrat Party went into opposition. It was later hoisted to power in murky circumstances and sans election in late 1997.





Further updated: Pots and kettles I

11 12 2017

There’s an English saying about the “pot calling the kettle black.” It means something like people should not criticize someone else for a fault that they have themselves. In Thailand, when discussing current politics, it is sometimes difficult to determine which is a pot and which is a kettle, and the blackness seems equally deep and sooty.

So when we read the Bangkok Post: and discover one confirmed and frequent liar being called out by another of similar ilk we do get to wondering.

Government spokesman Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd and (anti)Democrat Party rich leader and Korn Chatikavanij have been going at each other.

According to this report, by Veera Prateepchaikul, a former editor of the Bangkok Post sides with Korn:

Lt Gen Sansern, who is also acting director-general of the Public Relations Department, accused former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij, without naming him, of being an opportunist craving media space with an intention to lead the public into believing the government has not been doing anything.

The publicity which appeared to upset the spokesman was just Mr Korn’s recommendations to the government on how it could help rice farmers shore up rice prices during the months of November and December when the main crops were to be harvested.

We can understand criticism of Korn on rice policy; after all, he’s never been assigned any work in a rural area, although he now claims “four years” of work on a rich kid botique rice marketing scheme (read about it here, which begins with an incorrect assertion about what Thais think of rice. We think he means his rich brethren).

What was more interesting, though, was Korn’s licking of the pot:

Korn said the government should be more open-minded and receptive to divergent opinions as several policies could help farmers.

He lectured the spokesman and urged him to distinguish friend from foe and not to sow the seed of conflict.

He also reminded the lieutenant-general that there are people outside the government who are loyal and have good intentions toward the country.

Korn is reminding the dictatorship to be nice to its political allies, which includes the coup-loving and coup-provoking Democrat Party.

Apparently Korn has “discovered” and recommended a variant on the long-standing rice pledging scheme that pays a guaranteed minimum price for rice (a plan implemented by others in the past).

Even if Korn is recycling policy, he’s also telling the junta to be gentle with friends.

Seemingly to emphasize this, former Democrat Party leader and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai has demanded that party members not be “persistent” in “asking the regime to lift its ban on political activities…”.

Chuan and “other party executives agreed party members should not keep demanding political restrictions be lifted.” He stressed that if there are delays, the junta should be blamed. But he is also wary of poking his bear-like friends in the junta.

Chuan, who supported to military coups and judicial activism to bring down elected governments then banged on about “democracy.” The “real obstacle” to “democracy” is “people who do not uphold democracy…”.

As far as we can tell, the Democrat Party is chock full of people who do not uphold democracy, including Chuan himself. The Democrat Party has a long history of supporting royalist anti-democracy. Indeed, that was the reason the party was formed.

Update 1: Interestingly, Chuan seems keen to advise the junta on its political base (shared with the Democrat Party). Worried about that base, Chuan “appealed to premier [General] Prayut Chan-o-cha to address falling household income in the South.” Chuan showed that under the junta, average incomes had fallen substantially in several southern provinces.

His advice has been taken up, at least according to the report: “Based on Mr Chuan’s petition, the government had announced a policy of boosting people’s income in a bid to pull the country out of the so-called middle-income trap.”

Chuan worries that the junta makes the Democrat Party look bad as they are seen as political allies.

Update 2: In another political reminder to the junta, anti-democrat leader and “former” Democrat Party deputy leader Suthep Thaugsuban has re-emerged to announced “that he would release a video clip showing the group’s fight during 2013-2014 ‘to commemorate the fight that we fought together’.”

While he did not explain who the “we” were, his latest move suggested to some commentators that he wanted to address the junta. His group supported the junta and allegedly invited them to take office during the months-long protests.

Observers “believe Suthep wanted to remind the junta of their fight and the purpose of their fight” and to oppose the junta’s plan to establish its own political party, which is said to “contradict the PDRC’s initial purpose.” He’s also worried that the junta is “losing” the south.





When the military is on top XI

15 09 2017

It’s a while since we had a “When the military is on top” post. This post is prompted by a couple of recent stories reveal more about the military dictatorship and its aims.

First, as we have noted previously, the dictatorship’s core task is uprooting the “Thaksin regime.” That task is deepening and widening. Following thoroughgoing purges and arrests, the attention to the money the dictatorship and its anti-democrat allies mistakenly believe underpins Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra’s electoral popularity. The latest effort has the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) and the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) seeking to bring money laundering charges against Panthongtae “Oak” Shinawatra. This is a ratcheting up of earlier efforts and a precursor to charges being laid.

Second, Prachatai reports that the new junta-written election commission law has been promulgated and means that the new election commissioners will be selected by 250 military junta-appointed senators. That decision means that the Election Commission will essentially be junta-controlled for the next 5 or so years (depending when the junta decides to hold its “election”). Should a new government not be as the junta wants it, it is likely that that government will always be under threat from anti-election election commissioners.

Third, members of “the Pheu Thai Party and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) have slammed a [police reform] committee over its move to invite former protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban to give his opinions on reforming the Thai police.” Suthep, mired in long-standing corruption allegations that go back to the 1990s, when his underhanded actions brought down Chuan Leekpai’s government in 1994, is an anti-democrats as coup planner and supporter.

The “committee on police reform [has] announced it would start seeking opinions from Constitutional Court judges, mass media, former national police chiefs, and the former leader of the now-dissolved People’s Democratic Reform Committee Suthep Thaugsuban, who has also come up with reformist proposals.”

The police are seen as a nest of Thaksinites, so Suthep’s views will be important. After all, he’s been a minister, accused of corruption many times, is an “influential person” in the south, has been in the courts several times, once essentially accused of mass murder. That seems just the kind of advice the junta will want.

Can Thailand sink much deeper into the fascist slime? Under the military dictatorship, it seems it can go much deeper.





Abhisit and the junta

27 03 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





With an important update: Chuan, charter and corruption

4 04 2016

Social media posters are asking why the Democrat Party’s Chuan Leekpai is not being sent to re-education for his entirely negative comments on the junta’s draft charter.

The Bangkok Post explains why he misses out on re-education. Chuan spoke “at a seminar on the draft charter organised by the Constitutional Court…”.It was also attended by other anti-democrat big shots including junta charter minion Meechai Ruchupan.

We imagine that his comments will get the junta riled and they might do something stupid (they usually do), but can a Constitutional Court event be dubious.

We are not about to support Chuan, but some of his comments were accurate. This is what he said about the constitution:

… the new constitution must not push the country backwards.

He said its progress has been stalled at times, but a retrograde step must be prevented.

[Update: We mixed up the following quote; it is now corrected.]

… he did not think the Meechai version is an improvement on previous constitutions.

“… we should not move backwards because we’ve already come a long way…”.

He also stressed the importance of an election for the development of democracy.

While Mr Chuan commended the draft charter’s rigorous measures to stamp out corruption, he noted a constitution is not intended specifically for anti-graft purposes.

Chuan then got weird and coup-loving. Remarkably, as a senior member of a party that boycotted two elections and has a history of bringing down governments since its formation, Chuan “stressed the significance of an election for cultivating democracy.”

Even more astonishing was this advice to the junta and its supporters: “Don’t run away from elections. If there are problems, fix them…”. The military junta is clearly trying to “fix” an election, but this bit of advice on the importance of elections seems bizarre from a coup supporter.

Chuan stated his support for the coup. He “noted the reason behind the coup on May 22, 2014 was partly that people responsible for safeguarding the law [and constitution] failed to carry out their duties properly.” He says he “wanted the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to explain to the public why they seized power so the public knows the truth…. It was the failure to respect the constitution and the rule of law…”.

Much of that failure to respect the law was by the Democrat Party and its allied anti-democrats.

Meanwhile, anti-Thaksin Shinawatra activist Jade Donavanik, who was “an adviser to the Meechai charter drafting panel … [and] a former member of the previous Borwornsak Uwanno charter drafting panel,” was at the seminar and stated that “the panel could not work independently as the other four of the so-called five rivers of power — the NCPO, the NLA, the cabinet and the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) — could influence how the draft charter was shaped.”

When Meechai spoke he spent his time explaining that the charter was about combating “corruption,” instilling “discipline among people and deal[ing] with lax law enforcement.”