On the junta’s “election” I

16 09 2018

As one academic wag put it recently, if the junta’s party/parties lose the upcoming “election,” then it may turn out to be a “good” election. Like Human Right Watch’s unsolicited advice  for the junta on its “election,” such commentary is missing the point or at least doesn’t make much of the real issues with this “election.”

HRW says: “Thailand’s military junta should immediately lift restrictions on civil and political rights so that upcoming national elections can be free and fair…”. Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director implores: “The government should rescind restrictive orders and restore freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.”

HRW says “[l]ocal activists expressed concerns … that independent monitoring of elections will not be possible under current conditions.” And observes that the “junta forcibly blocked efforts to monitor the constitutional referendum in 2016 and prosecuted many people involved in such activities.”

And HRW says that to “ensure that the upcoming election will be a genuine democratic process, the United Nations and Thailand’s friends should press the junta to”:

  • End the use of abusive, unaccountable powers under sections 44 and 48 of the 2014 interim constitution;
  • End restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly;
  • Lift the ban on political activities;
  • Free everyone detained for peaceful criticism of the junta;
  • Drop sedition charges and other criminal lawsuits related to peaceful opposition to military rule;
  • Transfer all civilian cases from military courts to civilian courts that meet fair trial standards;
  • Ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders to work, including by dropping politically motivated lawsuits against them; and
  • Permit independent and impartial election observers to freely monitor the election campaign and the conduct of the elections, and issue public reports.

That’s all fine and good, and the junta deserves criticism for all of its political repression. However, to look at elections as a campaign, vote and its counting is to miss too much. Yes, elections matter, but so do context, laws and rules that structure how those processes occur.

It should not be forgotten that the junta has spent more than four years ensuring that the context, laws and rules do not allow an election to be free and fair in Thailand. The junta’s repression has enabled it trample its political opponents and split them apart. It has worked to exile, jail, co-opt or suffocate the leaders of oppositions. It has also put in place rules and laws that mean that are meant to strangle any non-junta loving party that might form a government. It has rules in place that prevent a non-junta government from actually governing.

Likewise, it should not be forgotten that even when the parties the junta has sought to crush and limit gained power through elections in the recent past, the judiciary, military, anti-democrats and the powers that be have prevented them from governing. It is so much easier to do that under the junta’s rules.

Freedom to campaign, to vote and to speak are all necessary (with or without and election pending), but these don’t make for a free and fair election.

How to “win” an “election” II

13 08 2018

It isn’t just PPT wondering about the desperation rigging of the junta’s already rigged “election.” Khaosod examines some of the concerns:

As the junta backs efforts to rewrite laws, overturn norms and stack the deck with loyalists, whispers that it could attempt to subvert next election are growing louder.

PPT hasn’t been whispering, we’ve been shouting for many months.

But fear not, the man who became secretary general of the Election Commission after his predecessor was fired by the junta leader, Police Col. Jarungvith Phumma says his “independent” agency won’t be “involved in manipulating the vote in favor of junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seems intent on remaining in power.”

This is the EC that has seen “the dismissal of all commission members, the firing of its outspoken former chairman and a bid to select voting inspectors by junta-appointed lawmakers.”

And, as Khaosod points out:

The only time the public has cast a ballot in over four years was far from a healthy democratic exercise. For the August 2016 referendum on the new junta-backed constitution, campaigning against it was criminalized, virtually no monitors were allowed to observe and an unusual vote-tallying system was put in place.

Junta opponents worry about “bogus voters, tallies or trashed ballots.” Others point to “false vote counting at polling stations, ghost voters and tampering with the electronic process of aggregating the final vote count.”

While “Pongsak Chanon, the Thai coordinator for the Bangkok-based Asian Network for Free Elections” thinks “the proliferation of smartphones and cameras” prevent outright fraud, we think he’s wrong. The junta will do whatever is required to get the result it wants. When he says “it’s hard to cheat systematically” he’s forgetting all the rigging that’s already gone on, with more to come. Think of Cambodia.

Those who think the EC wouldn’t dare engage in massive fraud are living in a fantasy world. They have already engaged in a massive manipulation of voting rules.And, the junta is certainly prepared to do whatever it feels needed. Think of the constitution referendum.

The elite forces that have manipulated the judiciary and murdered with impunity has little to fear. At present, the junta’s plan is to “win” without being ballot box stuffing gross, but, if necessary, it will do what it thinks necessary.

Getting rid of the junta’s charter

1 06 2018

We neglected to post this a couple of days ago. So we are catching up, but it is an ongoing debate.

Future Forward Party leaders have stated that the junta’s undemocratic constitution. The junta has gotten agitated.

They have more to worry about. The Chart Thai Pattana and the Puea Thai Party have voiced support for this wonderful and essential policy promise.

Both parties noted the limitations placed on the election system, the political party system and national administration that all have to be scrapped.

As well. “Pheu Thai key member Watana Muangsook voiced support for the Future Forward Party’s initiative to scrap the 2017 constitution.”

He said he agreed the junta’s charter “was undemocratic and passed by a referendum that lacked transparency.” He added that the dictatorship “used every trick in the book to get the charter passed, including pressing charges against critics and dispatching military officers to highlight ‘good points’ to the public…”.

He is correct and he could have said more. The referendum was an antidemocratic farce.

Get rid of it. Get rid of the junta.

Updated: Devils and angels

29 05 2018

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has faced intense criticism from the military junta and The Dictators for his statement that the junta’s charter needs to be ditched.

He’s right. PPT has said this for a very long time. But we are not campaigning for a possible election, rumored to be held sometime in early 2019, maybe.

Thanathorn  is reported to have stated that the “2017 constitution can’t be amended so it will have to be torn [up]…”. He’s partly right. The junta’s charter includes provisions for change but the rules and appointments of senators, judges and others in various “independent” agencies means that amending the junta’s constitution will be impossible for any party that isn’t entirely aligned with the junta and its supporters.

Yingluck Shinawatra learned that the hard way when her elected government was unable to use the then charter’s articles on amending the constitution.

His other promise was “an amnesty for all political prisoners charged by the National Council for Peace and Order [the junta]…”. Again, that seems reasonable, but the junta and anti-democrats are up in arms.

The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, campaigning hard for the position of unelected, outsider premier after the still vague;y promised election, declared “it was inappropriate to criticise the charter and blamed it for political woes.”

It is “inappropriate” to criticize his charter, that was written by his carefully chosen puppets, passed by his puppet legislature, put to a unfree and unfair sham referendum where no one could campaign against it, and then was amended as an unelected king felt he wanted it.

That charter also has rules that embed the military’s domination of politics for years to come in a kind of guided democracy, which will be no democracy at all, not least because it overturns notions of representation.

For all those reasons, the junta’s charter should be dumped.

The Dictator then made threats about his thugs watching and waiting for political parties to break the law so they can be dissolved and leaders arrested. He didn’t use those words, but that’s the threat.

The Dictator’s client deputy, Wissanu Krea-ngam, also warned Thanathorn with vaguely semi-legal language that mounted to The Dictator’s threat repeated.

Then the hopelessly anti-democratic Democrat Party babbled about the constitution like junta lapdogs. Most egregiously, it was the Party’s deputy spokeswoman Mallika Boonmeetrakul, who views “democracy” as some kind of royalist absolutism, who “warned that the amnesty and charter-scrapping ideas could bring back the political rifts experienced earlier.” In other words, threatening another People’s Democratic Reform Committee.

More interestingly, it was Wirat Kanlayasiri, a Democrat Party legal advisor, who noticed that Thanathorn’s statements were, in his words, “empty promise to lure voters.” In other words, voters are likely to find these ideas reasonable and attractive.

Any election that is held some time in the future is now going to be a military vs. anti-military campaign or devil parties vs. angel parties in a proxy election.

Update: Khaosod reports that Election Commission head Pol Col. Charungwit Phumma has stated that there “is nothing wrong with campaigning on a pledge to rewrite the constitution…”.

Court follows the law

29 03 2018

Courts in Thailand are highly politicized. Usually they make decisions genuflecting to the powers-that-be (of which they are a part). Often what the law actually says is simply ignored, as has been seen in many lese majeste cases.

It is something of a surprise when, in political cases, a court actually follows the law. In one such case, the Bangkok Post reports that the “Phu Khieo Provincial Court of Chaiyaphum province has acquitted student activists Jatupat ‘Pai Dao Din’ Boonpattararaksa and Vasin Prommanee on charges of violating the 2016 constitution referendum law.”

That the “two student activists were charged with breaking Section 61 (2) the law when they wore ‘Vote No’ T-shirts and handed out leaflets on ‘7 reasons why we shouldn’t accept charte'”, an infographic prepared by the New Democracy Movement (NDM), at Phu Khieo fresh market on Aug 6, 2016, a day before the vote” was a travesty. There was no evidence that the two had broken the law. They were arrested because they opposed the draft constitution.

The Phu Khieo court rightly decided that “the two defendants did hand out the leaflets but the distribution was in line with the exercise of rights and freedom under Section 7 of the public referendum law.”

Junta vs. red shirts

11 03 2018

The military junta is intensifying internet censorship again. For us at PPT it is kind of difficult to determine if we have posted anything that gets their minions excited or whether it is just a broader effort to crack down on stuff considered of the opposition.

Meanwhile, Thai PBS recently reported that the junta is still trying to keep the military boot firmly on the neck of the official red shirts.

The Bangkok Military Court has recently had 18 red shirt leaders before it, including Jatuporn Promphan who is already jailed. They face charges of “defying the order of the National Council for Peace and Order in 2016.” Yes, that is 2016.

Jatuporn was in chains and “escorted by soldiers.” The junta treats its opponents in ways that are meant to degrade but actually demonstrates the repressive and vindictive nature of the military regime.

Apart from Jatuporn, the others “included Nattawut Saikur, Mrs Thida Thavornset, Weng Tochirakarn, Yongyut Tiyaphairat, Korkaew Pikulthong, and Virakarn Musikapong.”

The faked up charges relate to the “holding political assembly of more than five people after they held a press conference at Imperial Department Store in June 2016 to announce the formation of the Centre for the Suppression of Referendum Fraud.”

This was when the junta was forcing through its constitution in a unfree and unfair referendum.

Junta gets another slap

29 01 2018

In another important legal case, the Bangkok Post reports that a Ratchaburi provincial court “has acquitted four students and a reporter charged with violating the constitutional referendum law in 2016.”

The students were in court and accused of opposing the junta’s constitution, which was made more-or-less illegal. As the Post puts it, they were accused of “collaborating to publicly disseminate content inconsistent with facts or in a violent, aggressive, impolite, seditious or threatening manner for the purpose of discouraging voters from casting the ballot or voting in a particular way on the 2016 constitution draft.” The reporter, from Prachatai, was with them in a car and accused also.

The four students from the New Democracy Movement were Pakorn Areekul, Anan Lokate, Anucha Rungmorakot and Panuwat Songsawat. The reporter was Taweesak Kerdpoka.

The “evidence” was “stickers the student brought with them … had the text: ‘Let’s vote no on Aug 7 on the future we can’t choose’.”

Reportedly, the “court saw nothing wrong with this…” and rejected the prosecutor’s case.

The one “crime” they were convicted of was “failing to cooperate with officials when the refused to give fingerprints.” For this, they were fined.

The police were ordered “to return them the seized materials.”

If these kinds of legal victories continue, we might conclude that the judiciary is peeling itself away from the junta.