First takes on the junta’s draft constitution

30 01 2016

PPT hasn’t had a chance to look at the draft 270-article, 95-page constitution in any detail, but there are commentators who have (a PDF of the draft can be downloaded, in Thai). While most of the provisions have been flagged in recent weeks – at last the most controversial, we thought we’d combines some of that commentary here.

In the Bangkok Post, the anti-democrat agenda of the drafters and junta is made clear by the aged military flunkey Meechai Ruchupan: “”Given the limited time, we have drafted the best constitution within the 2014 interim charter’s framework. We want it to be the charter that can efficiently suppress corruption and does not whitewash wrongdoers…”. He referred to the draft as a “reform constitution.” In the Khaosod report linked below, Amorn Wanichwiwatana, spokesman of the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee, said the redesigned election system, will “prevent parliamentary dictatorship…”. He added: “It won’t be majority rule…”.

The CDC and junta are pandering to the anti-democrats and the fearful middle class. The anti-democrats will probably be happy (but see below), although the Democrat Party may be less so. However that party is able to lie in any bed.

One of the provisional clauses gives the military an extra three months in power, which The Dictator will have asked for. However, if the referendum dumps the charter, then military rule will be around for as long as the junta wants. In another interesting transition arrangement, if the charter gets up in the referendum, Article 44 remains in place through to a new government being formed. In essence, the draconian Article 44, which empowers the military junta to do anything it wants, stays in place. This allows considerable interference in referendum, election and the formation of any new government.

Pravit Rojanaphruk has an article at Khaosod that has a listing on some of the main (and, by now, well known) aspects of the military junta’s charter, in his sub-headings: Unelected Prime Minister and New Electoral System; Rise of Constitutional Court and Unelected Agencies Over Elected Government; Unelected Senate, Lack of Public Participation and a Less-Than-Democratic Charter. He also has some commentary.

Nipit Intarasombat of the Democrat Party doesn’t quite say it, but the charter tries to take Thailand back to a period of small parties, coalition building and busting, unelected premiers and vote-buying. The old political schemer and chief Privy Council meddler General Prem Tinsulanonda must be as pleased as Punch to have his political system essentially resurrected in this draft charter.

Nipit declares that the outside prime minister a threat: “This is unprecedented, and nowhere in this world can we find [such rules]. It allows for an outsider to become prime minister without being elected,” adding that the voting system “was designed in such as way as to ensure that no single party will ever gain outright majority in election…”.

The Puea Thai Party’s Chaturon Chaisaeng, saw the remarkable political power allocated to the Constitutional Court in legal terms:

“Having the power to define what constitutes a crisis and to use that power [over an elected government] is a serious dismantling of the check-and-balance system of the three branches under a democracy,” Chaturon said. “In getting it to try to solve [political] crises, the court will be increasingly dragged into politics. This is outside the democratic system, and will itself more easily induce crises.”

In fact, the new powers for the Court and for other independent bodies are to create a substitute for the monarchy’s political role, no longer considered reliable. Royalists and the elite figure they can maintain conservative control of the Constitutional Court.

Interestingly, a senior adviser for the People’s Democratic Reform Committee and regularly on their stage in 2014, Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, also a former member of the now defunct National Reform Council, told the Bangkok Post that “the structure of parliament set out under the draft charter is flawed and outdated and goes against the principles of democracy.”

We are sure there’s plenty more commentary to come.





Replacing the king I

12 01 2016

Article 7 of the 1997 and 2007 constitutions has been controversial. This has been because it has been a rallying cry for every anti-democratic movement since the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

Article 7 of the 1997 charter was used by anti-Thaksin Shinawatra protesters in 2005 and 2006. PAD pushed the use of this article very strongly. As Michael Connors explained it in his well-known Journal of Contemporary Asia article, the call for royal intervention was persistent and became a plea for the king to sack Thaksin, supported by both PAD and the Democrat Party. He also notes that the Democrat Party was prepared to use Article 7 in other circumstances in 2006. They made another call for its use in 2012 and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee tried again in 2013-14.

As Connors explains it, Article 7 was introduced to the 1997 constitution by conservative royalists just before it was promulgated, and after public hearing were completed. He argues that “the effect of Article 7 was to limit the reach of all … new [democratic] claims by empowering a traditionalistic and royalist interpretation should one be so required” (pp. 150-1).

While the 2005 plea was rejected by the palace, it led to the king’s call on the judiciary to intervene following the abortive 2006 election, which eventually led to the 2006 military coup and the political struggles that have continued to this day as the royalists prefer the intervention of unelected and unrepresentative powers against elected and popular political regimes. Article 7 pits the elite against the people.

Today The Nation reports that the current Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) says that it has “removed the highly controversial Article 7 from the draft charter yesterday as the commission entered its final week of work.” According to the report, the CDC “expressed the opinion that it was inappropriate that the revered [sic.] Royal institution would make such a decision, so power was transferred to the Constitutional Court to make the final judgement in cases of deadlock.”

In effect, the power that has resided with the conservative monarchy is now to be transferred to an unelected body that it arguably the most conservative, royalist and politicized of all such institutions. It does this to insulate the royalist elite from both elected governments and from a doddery king and from any future king who may not be as predictable and trustworthy as the elite would want.





Protecting the judiciary

26 07 2015

It has become increasingly common for the judiciary to “protect” itself. This “protection” appears to have originated as the red shirt movement developed and became critical of the obvious double standards displayed by the judiciary following the 2006 palace-military coup.

The judiciary has been manipulated to become an important arm of the royalist elite in maintaining its rule, taking on some of the work of the king as he allocated it more responsibility in dealing with the elite’s perception of threats from electoral politics.

A recent example of this self-protective behavior is the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a “one-year prison term, without suspension, imposed on Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit and former party MP Kiat-udom Menasawat for defaming former Constitutional Court president Wasan Soypisudh.”

Wasan’s defamation lawsuit “said they wrongfully accused him during a press conference on June 8, 2010, of acting inappropriately and lacking judicial ethics and impartiality.” We have more on Wasan’s bias below.

Earlier, the Criminal Court had “found the pair guilty of defamation and sentenced them to one year in prison, suspended, and fined them 50,000 baht.” Wasan and several of his royalist buddies were enraged and the Appeals Court “lifted the suspension, ruling the defendants had intentionally insulted the judge and discredited the judiciary, despite being well-educated and holding political positions. The Supreme Court upheld that decision.”

As if to emphasize double standards, the “Supreme Court overruled an Appeals Court ruling and acquitted former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban … of defaming Prommin Letsuridej, a former executive of the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai Party in 2006. The court also upheld the prior acquittal of former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Ong-art Klampaibul of the Democrat Party on similar charges.”

Back to Wasan. He was, until 2013, a politicized judge at the head of a politicized Constitutional Court. PPT has had several posts on his activities. The Constitutional Court has been irretrievably biased in favor of the royalist elite. This court has been shown to be corrupt and colluded with members of the elite, including in the palace. The Constitutional Court repeatedly acted as the judicial arm of the royalist elite, most notably in its actions to dissolve various pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties and politicians and in its protection of favored parties and groups. Its actions to stymie legal constitutional change have been some of the most biased and ludicrous cases ever seen in Thailand.

The court’s politicized decision-making has been central to the political conflicts of the past decade and Wasan has even stated the biases of the court:

At a seminar on the court’s role in keeping the balance in Thai politics, he referred to the court’s resolution to dissolve the People Power, Chart Thai and Matchima Thipataya parties [the 2008 judicial coup]. If various groups had not staged so many rallies at the time, the decision might have been different, he said. “If the country at that time had been peaceful, the government and the opposition could have joined hands, the country could have moved forward, and I believe most of the judges would have decided not to dissolve the parties,” he said. “But the country at that time was chaotic and the Constitution Court had to use its judgement to maintain law and order,” he said, adding however that the court was under no pressure.

Wasan did more than any other judge to politicize the Constitutional Court. His politicized career included strong connections with  the Democrat Party, having interned with  are long. The report states the royal leader of the early Democrat Party, Seni Pramoj.

As a Supreme Court judge, it was Wasan who dished out the two-year imprisonment term on Thaksin for allegedly assisting his wife in the Ratchada land purchase deal.

He also played a role in stripping red-shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan of his parliamentary election victory by ruling that his incarceration on bogus charges meant he was ineligible.

Was he defamed? Not if it is considered that the defendants told the truth about a corrupt and biased judge. Yet the judiciary wants to protect its capacity for politicized interventions.





Fearing Thaksin II

23 07 2015

In an earlier post we referred to the fear of Thaksin Shinawatra evident in the military junta. A couple of new stories suggest that the fear is real and knee-tremblingly real.

In the first story at the Bangkok Post, we are reminded that Yingluck Shinawatra was impeached as premier by the Constitutional Court that ruled she violated the charter on the transfer of National Security Council chief Thawil Pliensri. Thawil was opposed to the Yingluck government, effectively a troll for the royalists defeated in the 2011 election. One transfer and out the door.

That is not the situation for the military junta, which can transfer anyone it likes, and has done so many times. The most recent case is “National Security Council deputy secretary-general Pongsakorn Rodchompoo [who] has been unexpectedly transferred to an inactive post in the latest move to rid the agency of all influence of former prime minister Thaksin…”. The Dictator issued the order.

The Post reports that an “NSC source said the transfer was part of the campaign to eradicate ‘watermelon’ soldiers from the security agency.” Pongsakorn was appointed by Yingluck, so he was suspect.

The Dictator is considering a new boss for the NSC. Who might be in the running? None other than military posterior deep polisher Panitan Wattanayagorn. His appointment would be entirely appropriate as he is nothing more than a military flunkey with limited abilities. The military dictatorship has no other interest than in appointing dull followers.

In a second story highlighting the military’s fear, one of the 155 persons banned from traveling by the military junta, Wattana Muangsuk, a former Puea Thai parliamentarian, sued The Dictator-General Prayuth Chan-ocha over the ban.

He argued that the ban “restricts human rights and breaks international laws, as well as the 2014 interim constitution,” and “is discriminatory and arbitrary…”.

Wattana knows that his efforts are futile because the junta and The Dictator are a lawless bunch. He “is well aware his case will go nowhere since the NCPO chief has absolute power over all three branches of government under Section 44 of the interim charter.” He explained:

I resort to exercising the right to sue to demonstrate a civilised way to solve problems, not by rolling tanks to seize people’s power and then issuing orders arbitrarily….

He’s right, but the military lot are anything but civilized. Essentially, like their predecessors, they are political thugs, knuckle-draggers and afraid of elected and popular politicians.





Thawil’s lies continue

29 04 2015

Some may have been surprised to read at Khaosod a couple of days ago that Thawil Pliensri, “who served as director of the National Security Council under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva,” has declared before the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) that the “military operation that dispersed Redshirt protesters in 2010 and left more than 90 people dead was not a ‘crackdown’…”. But don’t be. Thawil has a long history of such claims. He has never produced any evidence for his position on the events of 2010.

It is more striking that the newspaper describes Thawil as a “key witness in an ongoing legal case over the incident,” because he was deeply involved in the team that planned and ordered the crackdown that left dead and injured strewn across Bangkok’s streets, many killed by the military (as several court inquests have independently determined).

Thawil repeated his claims in testimony to the NACC to defend the regime he gladly served and his former boss Abhisit Vejjajiva. The NACC is “seeking to retroactively impeach Abhisit and his deputy, Suthep Thaugsuban, for authorizing the military operation on Redshirt protesters in April – May 2010.” They are “charged … with abuse of power for excessive use of force against civilians in the operation.” They should be charged with murder.

Thawil’s testimony is the same story as that provided by Abhisit, Suthep and the military dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha. All claim that “security officers were forced to respond to the protests because armed militants had infiltrated the demonstrators and launched attacks on troops, police, and important buildings.”

Thawil went a little further when he “also contested the use of the word ‘crackdown’…”. He concocts a position that there “was no use of force or crackdown on the protests…”.

No, none. All of those pictures and videos and all the court inquests area all somehow wrong or misused and that all of the use of snipers, live fire zones, armored personnel carriers, hundreds of thousands of live rounds and so on were simply actions against the mysterious men in black. His blatant lies include his “admission” that “live ammunition was used in the military operation, [but] he insisted that security officers resorted to using firearms only after they were attacked by Redshirt-allied militants on the night of 10 April 2010…”. The evidence of that night is clear that Thawil is concocting this.

As we noted above, none of this is new. Back in 2012, PPT posted this:

Who could possibly be surprised when Thawil Pliensri defends the Army’s murderous assault on red shirt protesters in 2010. After all, Thawil was secretary-general of the National Security Council at the time of the sniper orders and secretary of the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations set up by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government to crush the protests by the red shirts. He says that “the operation to retake areas in Bangkok occupied by the protesters was a legitimate one.” Of course he does. He claims that “[s]ome information has been distorted and tampered with,” but seems to provide no evidence. Ultra-royalists will believe him. He, like the Army boss, declares: “state officials who risked their lives to disperse unlawful protesters deserved praise and should not be accused of killing people.”

Thawil was also one of those behind the fabricated anti-monarchy plot diagram that the Abhisit regime used to threaten and repress opponents.

Of course, it was Thawil’s transfer by the Yingluck Shinawatra government that eventually led to the Constitutional Court’s ousting of Yingluck in a move that set the groundwork for the May 2014 military coup. Read more on that successful judicial plot here.





Purge and the military takeover

18 01 2015

Almost a week ago, PPT commented on more than 200 transfers in the police, all of them made for political reasons. We pointed out the obvious double standards if this political exercise was compared with the May 2014 Constitutional Court decision that sacked then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra a transfer of one official.

Double standards define Thailand’s judiciary and the military dictatorship.

The Bangkok Post reports another purge taking place in the Ministry of Interior.

AnupongGeneral Anupong Paojinda was gifted this powerful Ministry by The Dictator, who previously served Anupong in murderous attacks on protesting red shirts in 2010. He is reported to have engaged in “a bout of reshuffling of those who would not respond or contribute to the minister’s initiatives — transfers to inactive posts came thick and fast.” The report continues to state that “Gen Anupong will not hesitate to order another purge …”.

Anupong is getting rid of persons he identifies as political opponents and is “relying heavily on military and security officers who are required to coordinate closely with Interior officials in adjusting the attitude of anti-coup elements.”

The Interior Ministry under Anupong is said to have “been transformed into something resembling a military command centre. His action team is full of men in uniform…”.

There’s nothing hidden about this purge. It is a political act, with Anupong tasked with establishing the conditions for extended military control across the country. Yes, the Bangkok Post makes the claim that he is meant to make “sure nothing goes wrong as the country transitions to democratic rule after national reform and the constitution drafting processes are completed,” but this is ludicrous propaganda.

The purge is meant to ensure that no elected government nor elected politician can ever rule.

Anupong conducting a purge and stuffing the military full of military uniforms is nothing other than an act of future political sabotage and an effort not unlike that undertaken by dictators in some of the worlds most vicious military-dominated regimes in the 20th century.

Double standards, no justice, and military domination. It just gets worse and worse.





Preparing the anti-democrats

16 01 2015

Thailand’s Constitutional Court is a political instrument of a royalist elite that rejects notions like electoral democracy.

Not for the first time, it is demonstrating a detachment from justice and democracy in a report of one of its activities that can only be described as bizarre. Khaosod begins its report by stating:

The Thai court known for ousting a string of democratically elected political parties is now offering a course titled “Good Governance For Democracy.”

PPT won’t go through all of the anti-democratic actions of the Constitutional Court over recent years. Rather we just point to a few earlier accounts of these actions: here, here, here, here and here.

The bastion of anti-democracy trumpets that its “democracy” program is “open to members of the state and private sector who want to improve their ‘conscience and behaviour’…”. Apparently some of the corrupt and politicized judges, who have repeatedly demonstrated not only a disdain for democracy but even for constitutions, are “teaching” the course.

During the opening class it was revealed that the class included 52 “students,” many of them with unblemished track records of opposing democracy, elections and elected politicians.

Some of those named in the report are: disgraced and disgraceful boss of Thailand’s failed National Human Rights Commission Amara Pongsapich, Pornchai Rujiprapa, the Minister of Information, Communication, and Technology who is one of the most vigorous users of the lese majeste law and a proponent of illegal internet surveillance, Vicha Mahakhun, former constitution drafter for the military junta in 2007 and a member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission who not that long ago stated, “We all know elections are evil…”, adding that “[p]eople, especially academics who want to see the Constitution lead to genuine democracy, are naïve…”, and Surachai Liangboonlertchai, a dedicated anti-democrat who The Dictator made deputy chairman of the puppet National Legislative Assembly.

PPT an only imagine that this is an opportunity for these anti-democrats to slap each other on the back, work out future strategies for limiting democracy and ensure ideological oneness.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 184 other followers