Updated: Delaying tactics

28 03 2018

The Dictator has ” denied the military regime was conspiring to delay next February’s election via potential plans to submit a poll-related bill [on MPs] to the Constitutional Court for a ruling on its validity.”

The Bangkok Post reports Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is refusing to send the MP bill for royal approval while the puppet National Legislative Assembly has sent the Senators’ bill for court scrutiny.

Improbably, The Dictator and some of his minions say that sending the bills to the Constitutional Court will not further delay the “election,” now (sort of) promised for February 2019.

The two bills, the last required for the junta’s “election,” were passed by the NLA on 8 March. Three weeks later – a delay – The Dictator announces: “I don’t want to submit it for royal endorsement as long as there are still disputes…”. He may have sent the bill for “legal scrutiny” – a delay. Gen Prayuth says he will decide by 12 April what to do with the bill.

According to Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said “if the charter court rules against any of the two bills, the legislation would be dropped and the drafting process would have to start anew.” A potentially long delay. As we posted previously, it already looks like the “new date” for the junta’s “election” will be May 2019.

Update: The puppet NLA has saved The Dictator from the trouble of being seen to be delaying the “election” by completing a double backward somersault and twist by sending the MP bill to the Constitutional Court after first deciding against this.





May is the new February

18 03 2018

Some well-connected members of the puppet National Legislative Assembly seem to be seeking another three months of “election” delay, effectively from February to May.

Six days after the NLA passed the organic bills on members of the Assembly and Senators, junta legal lackey and long-time anti-democrat “Meechai Ruchupan, the head constitution writer who helped draft them, suggested the NLA send the two bills to the Constitutional Court first to ensure they were completely sound.”

Military servant Meechai “expressed doubts about the reconciled bills, saying some parts were drastically different from the versions his team drafted, to the point they could be unconstitutional.”

As a result, the “NLA decided on Thursday to partially take … Meechai’s advice by sending only the senators bill to the Constitutional Court.”

We calculate the “delay” as meaning 5 years of military dictatorship.





Watches and the junta’s protection racket

15 03 2018

The Bangkok Post states:

The charter court ruled on Friday that the provision in the organic bill governing the NACC [National Anti-Corruption Commission] which excuses some of its members from qualification rules set down in the charter does not contravene the constitution.

It describes the ruling as “controversial,” not least because some of the current NACC members are simply and obviously not qualified to serve under the current charter.

In essence, the politicized court has allowed a “a law to override the constitution which is the supreme law.” Of course, this is not at all new in Thailand and especially not under the current junta. Military dictatorships come to power by overthrowing constitutions and when they develop their own, these are applied to others, but not to the regime.

When deep yellow activists like Pichai Rattanadilok Na Phuket express “concerns the ruling undermines checks and balances,” you know that there’s a real odor about this politicized ruling in favor of one of the military dictatorship’s puppet agencies. Pichai once fronted the ultra-royalist and neo-fascist Sayam Prachapiwat group.

One reason for this ruling is that the junta needs the NACC, headed by its lackey Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit.

We see this in the never-ending saga of the NACC’s “investigation” of the Deputy Dictator.

Another Bangkok Post story states that a “fact-finding committee on a collection of luxury watches worn by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon” cannot come to a decisionon the watch case. Now, we wonder what “fact-finding” means to the NACC. Its in-house dictionary seems to define “fact-finding” as “a process of delaying reports and investigations so that a cover-up may be achieved.”

This definition is clearly at work on Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s case because the NACC “fact-finding committee” is not deciding the case, but is “divided over whether to summon the deputy premier to make a statement.” Wow! It is also reported that the “fact-finding committee” is still “waiting for Gen Prawit to submit his clarification.” Wow and wow! Gen Prawit has been given at least four extended “deadlines,” which he simply ignores. After all, he’s busy arranging an “election” victory for his political allies, and can’t be bothered with little details like his hugely expensive watch collection and how he came by it.

The Post report points out that “the law allows the NACC to give only two extensions.” That’s another law the junta and his loyal servants can simply ignore. In essence, the military regime is lawless.





Protecting the old elite’s constitutional court

7 03 2018

Did anyone notice how quiet the Constitutional Court has been under the military dictatorship? One might consider this a result of the junta’s repression and its lawlessness. That would be a mistake. Our view is that the court’s relative silence has several causes.

One is that the court became highly politicized from 2006 for a particular reason. It was the (now deceased) king who politically activated the judiciary to “sort out the mess” following the Democrat Party (and friends) boycott of the 2006 election. Following that, the health decline of the monarch saw the judiciary, and the Constitutional Court in particular, become the weapon of choice in the old elite’s opposition to elected (Shinawatra-backed) governments. By 2014, while the court still repeatedly intervened, the military coup and resulting dictatorship became the ballistic weapon. The Constitutional Court’s job was done and the junta, despite ramming through its own charter, has little need for or heed of legal direction and limits.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

A second reason is that, if the judiciary replaced a health weakened king as the elite weapon against electoral democracy, then with a new king in place the courts becomes less significant. So far, the king’s and the junta’s political interests seem to coincide.

Yet as the political cycle moves slowly on to unfree and unfair elections, the junta envisions the need for a Constitutional Court that can again act as a political sledgehammer when required to stymie elected governments (of the wrong sort) and to support the junta’s preferred government that it hopes to hoist in place through an “election.” The result of this view is that, just like The Dictator or the king, the Constitutional Court has to be “protected.”

Prachatai reports that the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly’s law to “protect” the Constitutional Court, granting it “a legal immunity from criticism, and power to settle conflict between state agencies,” has been published in the Royal Gazette. thus making it law.

The law “prohibits rude, sarcastic and murderous criticism against orders and verdicts made by the court, with the possible sentence of up to one month in jail and fine up to 50,000 baht.”

This law allows a partisan court to make politicized decisions without fear of any peep of criticism.





Protecting the politicized constitutional court

27 11 2017

Prachatai reports that the junta’s puppet lawmakers have approved a junta law that will give “more power and protection to the Constitutional Court.”

Why would 188 of the dutiful National Legislative Assembly members vote as a block (with just 5 abstentions and not a single opposing vote) for this law?

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

Apart from the fact that the NLA slavishly slithers after the junta, the Constitutional Court is considered an important bulwark of conservatism, royalism and anti-democracy. Since King Bhumibol’s political activation of the courts in 2006, the Constitutional Court has often played a king-like role, being the institution to “sort things out.” Its decisions have been highly politicized.

 

Giving the Court more powers is in line with ideas about establishing an interventionist institution that can proactively and retroactively punish political oppositions challenging the established order.

The NLA also “protected” the Court from “people who make ill-intentioned criticism of the Constitutional Court, including those who post such criticisms online.”

There has been criticism of the NLA’s work.





Updated: The local elections ploy

13 11 2017

The six questions ploy was used a couple of days ago. Described in the Bangkok Post as one question from General Prayuth Chan-ocha: “Is everybody all right with my staying around as leader indefinitely to keep politicians in their proper place, by which I mean under our boots?”, the questions caused angst among those who want elections.

To assuage that angst, junta member and anti-democrat legal sage to the military junta Wissanu Krea-ngam suddenly said that there might be local elections and that this might see the ban on political party activities lifted.

The junta got rid of local elections when it had its coup in 2014. Occasionally it has raised hopes that these might return, saying local elections should be held before a national “election.” Nothing came of this because, at base, the junta wants no elections it can’t be sure of controlling. Despite the militarization of local government, the junta still can’t be certain that it can ensure its people win local elections. So it hasn’t done anything about them.

So Wissanu’s sudden claim lasted less than 48 hours. Even he was only talking about elections in some places where the junta reckoned it has a constituency, like Bangkok.

Then Puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) deputy chair Phirasak Phochit threw his spanner in the works and explained that local elections required that “investigations” into “local officials who have been suspended over allegations of graft before planned local elections are held.”

The involves “a large number of officials” who, since the coup, officials, “working for provincial administration organisations (PAOs) and tambon administration organisations (TAOs), have been suspended or transferred to inactive posts after the government launched a serious crackdown on corruption in state agencies.”

They haven’t been charged, let alone convicted, but The Dictator used Article 44 to purge these administrations. Most of those purged were considered supportive of political opponents of the junta, red shirts or Thaksin Shinawatra fans.

Further scuttling the elections notion, puppet Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) spokesman Chartchai Na Chiang Mai had a spanner to throw too, and said a swathe of laws “relating to regional governing bodies need to be amended before local elections can take place…”.

He implied that “if early local polls are to be held, it is essential to amend the five laws to ensure compliance with the new constitution’s provisions covering local administration organisations,” which probably means that the laws for the national “election” would then be delayed (again), despite assurances to the contrary.

After the local election laws were amended, they would then go to the tiresomely slow NLA. Chartchai said the NLA “must race against time if the government wants to pave the way for local elections…”. The NLA members do not race on anything except to collect salaries and allowances.

Another glitch, not yet mentioned is the lack of an Election Commission.

We are not holding our breath on any “election” soon, at any level.

Update: The almost non-existent (anti) Election Commission has decided that it must “ask the Constitutional Court to rule if it is responsible for organising local elections.” What a sham this ridiculous institution is, even in “caretaker” mode. The EC doen’t know what is does. The “laws” under the junta have apparently confused it:

EC [caretaker] chairman Supachai Somcharoen said while the charter requires the EC to hold local elections, the organic law governing the agency says its role is to oversee and ensure the local polls are clean and fair.

It seems the EC hadn’t even thought of local elections until the junta murmured something about them.





Updated: Double standards and lawlessness in the justice system

1 10 2017

PPT has regularly been posting on the gross failures of the justice system. Thailand’s justice system has long been pretty awful, but since the 2006 military coup that awfulness has been compounded by the fact that particular courts have become little more than political tools for the royalist elite and, in recent years, the military dictatorship’s instrument.

For this reason Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey’s op-ed “Hypocrisy of double standards” is an important statement on a defining failure of the justice system.

Writing after the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions decision to imprison former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, where “[t]he court’s verdict did not state whether the rice pledging policy implemented by Yingluck and her government was wrong but only stated that she neglected her duty in curtailing corruption in the scheme.”

If this is the courts definition of malfeasance, then PPT can’t think of a premier for several decades who wouldn’t be held guilty, including the current military one. But this use of the law is reserved for Yingluck as the military dictatorship wanted to be rid of her.

As Umesh observes,

The verdict left some room for appeal but less than 24 hours after it was handed down, the military government that overthrew the Pheu Thai-led government of which the Shinawatras were the key backers came out with new rules that force any appeal to be lodged by the convicted person and not through lawyers. To make matters worse, the statutory limit on the case, which is usually about a decade or so, is a lifetime.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

He adds that in most jurisdictions, “new rules are effective only after they are put in place, but this is Thailand and in Yingluck’s case the rules were effective retroactively.”

Of course, applying rules and laws retroactively has been a hallmark of military juntas. For example, juntas regularly absolve themselves of criminality when they overthrow governments and constitutions. A more egregious example was the use of Announcement No. 27 (2006) of the then junta  to dissolve Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party in 2007 using the junta’s Announcement retroactively. It was the junta’s Constitutional Tribunal – its Constitutional Court – that concocted this decision (while at the same time acquitting the parties that supported the coup).

On the current retrospective use of rules and laws, naturally enough it is royalist-military stooge Meechai Ruchupan, head of the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee, who said the new law, which was only published in the Royal Gazette on 28 September and took effect the next day, applied in Yingluck’s case. As Umesh states, this “basically closes the door on any appeal by Yingluck against the verdict and leaves no room for her to return to Thailand in the foreseeable future unless she’s willing to be behind bars.”

Umesh continues:

The case has raised more questions than it has answered. Many on the street believe that all these rules being put in place by those in power have a single aim of trying to curtail the power and marginalise the once powerful Pheu Thai Party. And to further cement this possible misconception [PPT: we can’t possibly imagine that this is a misconception] is the fact that other political parties are being left to do what they like and their party members and leaders are not being prosecuted even when they are in breach of the law.

To illustrate the double standards at work, Umesh points to the case of anti-democrat leader, coup plotter and “former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who has been accused of violation of Section 157 of the Criminal Code by committing misconduct or dereliction of duty for his handling of the 6.67 billion baht project to build 396 police stations under the Abhisit Vejjajiva government…”.

As he notes, that case began before Yingluck’s case, and had dragged on and on:

Little has been heard about it since May 2015 when Mr Suthep was still a monk and once after that when the anti-Pheu Thai “independent” National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) decided to change one of its outside members because Mr Suthep claimed he was biased against him.

This outside member was none other than Vicha Mahakhun, the NACC subcommittee chairman in charge of investigating Mr Suthep’s misconduct. Mr Vicha was hired as an outside member after he retired from the chair of the subcommittee in which he had implicated Mr Suthep.

But here’s double standards twist: Why is there no related case against Abhisit? After all, he was the premier when the alleged malfeasance took place.

While this dereliction of duty case continues to drag on, Democrat Party leader Mr Abhisit, who was Mr Suthep’s immediate boss, is basically left off the hook. There is no such case because Thailand’s judicial system is rigged, politicized and subject to the whims and desires of the military junta.

Umesh concludes:

All this gives the impression that those in power are trying to come up with a million explanations for their snail’s pace of investigation into those aligned to the people in power, but to the general public this kind of move is nothing more than what has been repeated a million times over the past decade — the implementation of double standards.

The blatant breach and different interpretation of rules for different sides makes one wonder how this country can achieve its goal of reconciliation and move on.

The junta’s answer is probably something like: “Just give us a few more years to embed double standards so deeply that they will be the only standards.”

Update: We hit the publish button a little too quickly as we wanted to write more about lawlessness. The best example of the courts acting against the law is lese majeste. There have been several cases where persons have been charged with lese majeste against royals, dead and alive, who are simply not covered by the law. The most recent case of this legal ridiculousness was just last month where courts and the Office of the Attorney General have agreed to proceed with a case involving Princess Sirindhorn who is not covered under Article 112.