Inside sucking noises

7 07 2017

PPT hasn’t previously commented on the junta’s decision to spill the Election Commission and create a new Commission with new members. The main reason we have ignored this is because it is like watching a movie with no good characters. It’s bad guys vs. bad guys; no white hats, just black hats.

The military junta is an abomination and the EC is a bunch of self-important jerks who did all that they could to prevent and election in 2014. The EC is anti-election. So what is there to support in any of this? Its going through the swill at the bottom of the barrel.

However, a report at Prachatai is of some interest. The EC, which has seen its members jumping about and saying how terrible it is that they are losing their positions, has decided on a counter-attack.

The report states that on 4 July 2017, the EC “initiated an investigation into 90 members of the NLA [that’s the puppet National Legislative Assembly] over alleged conflict of interest in their stock holdings.”

Up until this point, as far as PPT can recall, the puppet EC has had no interest in the puppet NLA. Thus, its action can only be interpreted as some inside politicking to keep lucrative posts.

It might be said that this action has only become possible after the passage of the junta’s constitution, but that also means that the action can only apply to activities by the NLA since the constitution was promulgated. So probably not much action possible at all. It is mostly bluster by the unhappy EC members.

One of the most reprehensible anti-election commissioners is Somchai Srisuttiyakorn, who must be especially miffed as he did more than others in binning the Yingluck Shinawatra administration, facilitating the anti-democrats and getting the military in place.

He says his lot is forming a committee “to investigate the issue with a two-month time frame. If the commission find reasonable suspicions, the ECT will submit the case to the Constitutional Court for a final judgement.”

At the very same time, the EC continued to make up rules that make any “elected” government that is not military-backed weaker than ever before.

The EC is a waste of political space and of taxpayer funds. Its a remora that seems to have lost its host.





Nothing changed IV

8 04 2017

Forget the constitution, it is Article 44 that still matters.

The Bangkok Post reports that the day after the somewhat bizarre constitution-granting show, The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha announced the use of his dictatorial powers to allow him to make the “selection of new Constitutional Court judges and members of a committee linked to the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG)…”.

Ostensibly because “the law pertaining to them under the new constitution has [not] been completed,” the use of Article 44 means that the shape of the most important and most highly politicized court is going to be maintained as the junta’s plaything.

The order means that “Constitutional Court judges must be selected within 45 days.”

While there are rules about senior judges “approving” appointees, it is pretty certain that the appointees will be rapid royalists with a penchant for military government and not much time for electoral politics and politicians (the latter being a dirty word in yellow shirt and junta argot).

Both the judges and the Auditor-General Committee will “serve a single term of seven years.”

That committee “will nominate a new auditor-general for consideration by the NLA “for a single term of six years, the order states.”

That all allows plenty military influence for a long time to come.





Updated: Moving from military dictatorship to military domination

5 04 2017

The Bangkok Post quotes the junta and its minions in saying that a “general election will be held in November next year [2018] at the latest now that the date has been set for the promulgation of Thailand’s 20th constitution, according to the roadmap set by the National Council for Peace and Order[they mean military junta].”

That calculation is based on a “schedule announced in the Royal Gazette on Monday,” which has the king finally and with great pomposity, signing the junta’s much amended and still secret constitution tomorrow.

By that calculation, an “election,” under the junta’s rules and direction, must be held “19 months from that date or no later than Nov 6, 2018.”

Frankly, given that the junta promised “elections” 12 months after it illegally seized power in May 2014, we will believe it when it happens.

But as we have said before, the “elections” will change very little. A few countries like the USA will accept a military-backed but formalistic “elected government,” and that will be seen by some as a plus.

In fact, as planned at the moment, the military and junta will remain the power in Thailand, much as it was through the 1980s. But back then it was General Prem Tinsulanonda ruling with strong palace-backing and a military-dominated senate. This time it will be whoever the junta wants in the premier’s seat backed by the junta’s constitution and its multiple unelected bodies, including the unelected junta.

The Dictator seems reasonably sure that the constitution will be signed tomorrow: “As far as I know, [the king] will sign the constitution on April 6 and I will countersign it as prime minister…”.

Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan appeared somewhat disoriented in his comments. Acknowledging that Article 44 powers will continue, he babbled that the “power cannot be used in violation of the core principles of the constitution. Nor can it change the new charter itself.” Of course, that would depend on interpretations by the Constitutional Court and other bodies developed by and beholden to the junta.

Then on the ban on political party activity, Meechai seemed befuddled, saying he “believes it will be eased after the political party bill is enacted” and then adding: “In any case, they can run their normal operation.” We are not sure what “normal” is and we are sure that the parties don’t know either.

Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesman of The Dictator, noted that:

Members of the cabinet, NCPO [junta], NLA [puppet assembly] and NRSA [puppet National Reform Steering Assembly] who want to run for MPs must resign within 90 days after the new charter comes into effect. The rule applies only to MPs, not senators or cabinet ministers.

He added: “Once the constitution comes into effect, enacting a law will be more complicated and public hearings and opinions of related government agencies must be taken into consideration…”.

It will be “more complicated” for the junta even if the “complications” were designed by the junta. But Article 44 doesn’t get complicated at all. It just stays and its use is legal before and after “elections.”

In the end, the junta’s road map is a representation of how to move from military dictatorship to continued military domination of politics. That’s the plan, the road map. We retain some hope that the people will reject the dons of the military mafia.

Update: Meechai was certainly addled on political parties, so the junta has made things clear. Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan said “restrictions on political parties’ activities will not be eased even after the enactment of the new constitution.” He added: “Please wait until things become orderly. There is still about one year left [before the poll is held]…”. About a year? Or about two years? The Nation reckons the election date remains unclear.





Ditching parties

10 12 2016

The anti-democrats working for the military dictatorship to come up with its constitution are chosen because they hate electoral politics and can’t abide elected politicians. This is because such institutions and individuals provide the citizenry with an alternative notion of sovereignty that challenge the hierarchical regime of the “good” and the “great” who claim Thailand for themselves.

A series of articles have appeared in the Bangkok Post discussing the implications of the changes proposed by the anti-democrats working for the military junta.

The first is in the Saturday feature, About Politics. Usually critical, the column this week is pretty much uncritical. We wonder if it is by different journalist or if the regular journalist is self-censoring or under threat or warning.

The report says that the Constitution Drafting Committee’s (CDC) draft organic law on political parties “is wrapped up and almost ready for submission to the palace, with many fearing the contents will build an iron-clad cage around parties big and small.”

Reflecting the ideological beliefs of anti-democrats, one section seeks to rid parties of “puppet masters” claimed to be “lurking behind the scenes and pulling the strings.” This is how you say Thaksin Shinawatra without actually using his name. The idea that a “law” is designed to prevent one person from being politically influential is remarkable. Other individuals in the military and among the great and the “good” are permitted, of course.

The draft “law” allocates tremendous power to the politicized Constitutional Court, which will be able to dissolve parties more or less at any time the powers that be decide the court should do so. Again, Thaksin’s name is not mentioned but they mean him when parties are forbidden to allow “a non-member or a ‘prohibited person’ from directing its administration, however discreetly…”,

Of course, “good” people will be outside this “law.”

The “final version of the draft organic law demands greater accountability from political parties for their actions and their role in forging national reconciliation by tolerating and accepting different political opinions and helping to resolve political conflicts through peaceful means…”.

That means following the junta’s orders and those set out in the so-called 20-year road map. Failure means dissolution.

The law also prevents some persons – such as those convicted by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions – from involvement with a party. Of course, this is another anti-Thaksin “law” and is aimed at the Puea Thai Party. Essentially, this “law” will be used to dissolve the party if it does well in any election the junta decides might be held. Thaksin has been made illegal.

Once the draft organic law comes into force, anything amounting to a “Thaksin factor” in a party’s affairs will be illegal, and the price for breaching the law will see the party cease to exist.

An earlier Bangkok Post report says that the “newly drafted bill on political parties may see the number slashed to 10 from the present 72 based on their records of financial support…”. That’s the word from anti-election election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn.

The plan is to ditch parties 3-4 years because each party must “recruit 20,000 members and collect annual supporting fees of at least 2 million baht.” Somchai giggled that only 10 parties can do that.

Silly Somchai stated that the “draft organic law on political parties … was intended to encourage strong parties with the potential to produce quality work and become institutions.” Perhaps he forgets that this was the plan under the 1997 constitution, and that it was rather good at creating “strong parties.” Of course, one of those strong parties has been dissolved following the 2006 coup – Thai Rak Thai.

The requirement for all party members to contribute funds to the party every year will mean that the less well off members of the population will be excluded.

Yet another Bangkok Post report indicates many of the complaints of political parties, including the anti-democrat Democrat Party. That party babbled about vote-buying. That’s another anti-Thaksin line for the anti-democrats all believe – wrongly – that TRT and Thaksin bought all their votes.

The party might be better looking at why it never gets elected and why it is so keen to get in bed with the military and rabid rightists.

The “law” is meant to recreate political parties that are weak and dependent, as they were under General Prem Tinsulanonda’s military-backed “semi-democracy.”





Military regime must go

9 12 2016

To mark Human Rights Day on 10 December, the Asian Human Rights Commission has called on Thailand’s military dictatorship to dissolve itself via an “election.” To be honest, while we agree with this call, it is all too tepid:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to draw attention to the situation in Thailand on this momentous day, December 10, which is observed as Human Rights Day. Unfortunately, in Thailand, the day will be eclipsed by the Military regime that is in power since May 2014, when it overthrew the last elected government. It is the rudimentary nature of the Thai legal system, and a weak Constitutional Court that has led to 13 military coups in Thailand since 1932. Despite 16 new constitutions having been promulgated since the first coup and the first Constitution, Thailand could not prevent a Military dictatorship from declaring and “taking over administration of the country” yet again.

Soon after the 13th successful Military coup, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) replaced the country’s Judiciary with Military courts, for all practical purposes concerning fundamental human rights and freedoms. Three NCPO announcements: No. 37/2014, No. 38/2014, and No. 50/2014, expanded powers, and retained Military court jurisdiction over civilians, in cases of lèse majesté, national security crimes, weapons offences, and violations of NCPO orders. The result of these three measures has been to extend the control of the Military judicial system to civilians and civilian cases.

According to information received from the Judge Advocate General’s Department (JAG) on 12 July 2016, 1,811 civilians have been tried in the Military court in 1,546 cases from 22 May 2014 to 31 May 2016.

The AHRC has found that the Military courts do not accord the same rights as Thailand’s civilian courts and violate internationally protected fair trial rights, especially rights to fair and public hearing by a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal, and the rights to legal representation.

On 12 September 2016, the NCPO also issued the NCPO Order No. 55/2016, under Article 44 of the Interim Constitution; it states that all cases involving offences covered under NCPO Order No. 37/2014, No. 38/2014, and No. 50/2014, will no longer be tried in Military courts. However, this Order does not cover cases initiated before the Order was issued; it also fails to cover cases under Article 12 of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015, the junta’s public gathering ban, and the NCPO Order No. 13/2016, which gives Military officers extrajudicial power. Therefore, crimes involving these laws still have to be tried in Military court.

For example, Ms. Sirikan Charoensiri, human rights lawyer and legal and documentation officer at Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), is now facing accusations of sedition under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code, as well as violation of Article 12 of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015. The inquiry officer informed Ms. Sirikan that she was charged with being an accomplice in the coup commemoration organized by the New Democracy Movement (NDM) at the Democracy Monument on 25 June 2015. These charges stemmed from Ms. Charoensiri not letting her car be searched and for her carrying the activists’ belongings. If indicted, she will be tried in Military Court.

The NCPO also issued a series of their orders and announcements and imposed Article 44 of the interim constitution, according to which General Prayuth Chan-ocha, as the junta leader and Prime Minister, has absolute power to give any order deemed necessary to “strengthen public unity and harmony” or to prevent any act that undermines public peace. As a result, the status of the Order issued under the power of Article 44 is equal to an act passed by the Legislature.

To illustrate, the NCPO Order No. 3/2015, issued under the authority of Article 44, permits boundless exercise of power and also inserts Military officials into the judicial process and provides them with the authority to carry out investigations along with the police. In addition, the Order gives authority to Military officials to detain individuals for up to seven days. During this seven-day period of detention, detainees do not have the right to meet with a lawyer or contact their relatives, and the Military officials further refuse to make the locations of places of detention public.

With two years having passed, 7 August 2016, was scheduled for the constitutional referendum by the Thai Military government and the NCPO. Providing the conditions for free and open political communication was the basic element of ensuring fair and democratic referendum processes. It is during times of political change that the right to freedom of expression is most essential, ensuring that a well-informed and empowered public was free to exercise its civil and political rights. However, under Thai law, the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 paragraph two and its implementation, along with NCPO Order No.3/2015, have shown contradictory results. It intends to restrict the rights of people, who need to discuss and to critically evaluate decisions about their country. As of August 2016, 165 people had been prosecuted for publicly opposing the draft constitution— many of them from the capital, Bangkok.

In addition, when the constitutional referendum passed, rights groups still expected the Military government and the NCPO would allow people to exercise their rights. However, the AHRC has witnessed how the right to freedom of expression and opinion has been muzzled, with critics having to eventually face lèse majesté or Section 112 under the Thai Criminal Code.

The AHRC would like to point out the permanent case of a 71-year-old writer arrested for the third time under lèse majesté law. On 15 November 2016, police officers from Chanasongkram Police Station, Bangkok, arrested a writer known by his penname Bundit Aneeya from his house in Nong Khaem District. At the Police Station, the police informed Bundit Aneeya that he was accused of committing an offence under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code for allegedly making comments about the Thai monarchy at a political seminar about the junta-sponsored constitution drafting process, on 12 November 2016. After his lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights filed a second petition asking for bail from the Military court, he was released on 400,000 bath (around $12,270 USD). He is one of the few lèse majesté suspects granted bail by a Military court. This trial is still ongoing.

The AHRC is deeply concerned that the Thai Military government and the NCPO are not serious about abolishing the Military courts and are tending towards continuing to restrict the people’s rights, in particular freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, even more so than in the past.

On Human Rights Day, 2016, the AHRC again calls for the NCPO to revoke Article 44 of the Interim Constitution and the NCPO orders and announcements that place civilians in Military courts, and to end all violations and harassment of ordinary people. In addition, the NCPO and Military government must arrange for elections and peaceful transfer of power to a civilian government, i.e. back to the people of Thailand.

This is where military dictatorships get the upper hand. Because they control everything, the best that liberal activists can do is request an “election.” As we have pointed out time and again, this hardly seems likely to change anything much. What is being missed is the purge of opposition in all of Thailand’s institutions and civil society. What is being missed is the deep repression revolving around the lese majeste regime that changes the nature of politics for years to come, if there is no rupture. What is being missed is how an “election” will be unfair, not free and will be an exercise in embedding authoritarianism.

Thailand is in a dark place.





Everlasting military rule I

30 09 2016

That’s the plan. Okay, we have known that The Dictator and is clique plan to control things for some time to come. It seems. however, that following “victory” in the “referendum,” the Dictatorial Clique – the junta – has decided that they are “popular” and are seeking to extend their rule well into the future.

We’ve heard of the “20 year plan” for the “reform” of politics, but the mantra was that the “next government” might or might not implement this. Now it seems the Dictatorial Clique is actively seeking to be around for a very long time, and appears to think it might implement the “plan” itself.

The Bangkok Post reports that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “vowed to completely wipe out corruption within 20 years via several means through the interim charter, government policies, the draft charter, and the national reform and strategic plan.”

It goes without saying that Prayuth thinks he can be the driving force for this national “reform,” even if corruption riddles his own family and Prayuth covers it up, and protects his brother General Preecha, as does his junta.

We can be pretty sure that “the establishment of a corruption division to be attached to the Criminal Court” will not impact the military leadership, the junta or associated families and other cronies.

Staying in power protects the interests – political and economic – of the Dictatorial Clique.

As well as staying power, The Dictator has his decrees remaining in place for far longer than anyone imagined. Most of us would have thought that declarations made under Article 44 of the military’s interim constitution would lapse when the “approved” constitution becomes permanent. Not so.

Prayuth has stated, in what the Post’s editor described as “our Dear Leader” on a “talking spree” for more than two hours. Among other things he babbled about making Thailand a “developed nation” in a familiar period – the next 20 years.

Self-aggrandizing Prayuth “proudly” stated “that in the 28-month period since he seized power from an elected government, he has issued a total of 104 special orders, or the so-called Section 44 orders permitted by the interim charter, to sort out the country’s ‘problems’.”

These orders and probably many more that the arrogant general issues before an “election” will “remain in force even after the military regime steps down.”

All  of this on top of the continuing maneuvering to ensure that Prayuth can be premier for a decade or more.

The Constitutional Court’s toady ruling on the “procedure to select a prime minister could pave the way for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to stay in power for another eight years after an election…”. Add the more than two years he’s been The Dictator and you see that he intends to be around for an excruciatingly long period.

That conclusion has been acknowledged by junta Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.

It is clear that absolute power demands absolute arrogance.





Updated: Article 44 and the junta’s fear

16 07 2016

It was something of a surprise a few days ago when The Dictator used Article 44to halt all selections for independent bodies. Sure, Article 44 has been used for all manner of things, from land seizures to universities and political repression, but this use seemed somewhat odd.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s order “suspended the selection of ombudsmen, election commissioners, Constitutional Court judges, members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission, and national human rights commissioners, pending the promulgation of a new charter.”

Now the reason is clear and in the media. As Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam “explained,” Prayuth’s “order on Wednesday halting the selection of a new ombudsman was issued to prevent a ‘serious untoward incident’…”.

The media asked for more information. Wissanu declared that it was “aimed at preventing serious repercussions.”

The media asked for more information: “Asked why the ombudsman’s selection process could have such a serious impact, Mr Wissanu said, ‘If you were at the parliament, you would know. It was a serious issue that should not have happened’.”

The order prevented the National Legislative Assembly from considering the partially complete selection of Rewat Visarutvej as a new ombudsman from continuing.

Why did the junta want the process halted? It seems that Dr Rewat, a former chief of the Medical Services Department and former adviser to the Office of the Ombudsman, has been blackballed because some of the junta members and some of the deeply yellow think he is tainted.

For them, it is a sin that Dr Rewat served as an adviser to red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikua when he was a deputy minister in Thailand’s last elected government. That made him “problematic,” threatening a “serious untoward incident” that would have had “serious repercussions.”

The NLA itself was split on Rewat, so the junta stepped in to prevent an appointment they considered impossible – no red shirts allowed.

NLA member, junta friend and former member of the 2006 junta, General Somjet Boonthanom “said if this selection proceeded, it could be seen as the NLA failing its duty and people would lose faith in it as well as the NCPO.” (Had some members forgotten who is paying for their rice, cars, advisers and more?)

Readers will recall that Yingluck Shinawatra was unanimously found at fault by the Constitutional Court and dismissed from office for the transfer of a top security officer, Thawil Pliensri, as National Security Council secretary-general in 2011. Yet the junta, with its own rules, impunity and double standards supported by “independent agencies” can do whatever it wants, when the fear of Thaksin Shinawatra is driving them.

Update: Some reports state that Rewat has the support of the brass. In that case, the junta seems as concerned about yellow opposition as it does of Thaksin. For the referendum, they want no opposition at all.