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.





Further updated: Sparks beginning to fly

28 01 2018

Quite some time ago we said that, as in the past, the spark that lights a fire under Thailand’s military dictatorship might come from something quite unexpected.

We think we might have seen that spark and it may be two events that have begun to tip the political balance. One is Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan’s luxury timepieces. It isn’t so much that he’s seemingly corrupt. After all the timid middle classes and the wealthy capitalist class “understand” corruption and it is a price they are ever willing to pay so long as they can continue to prosper. And, if the corrupt are “good” people, then it’s okay. What has led to a beginning of an unraveling of this political relationship is Prawit’s arrogance about his massive watch collection and the demonstration (so far) of cover-up and impunity. This taints the junta as self-serving, grasping and certainly not “good” people.

The second spark is the continual delay in the holding of an election that is neither free nor fair. The middle and capitalist classes were fully prepared to accept the junta’s manipulated constitution, its forcing of the constitutional referendum, the tinkering with the details, a senate that maintains military political dominance and human rights restrictions. However, as well as the political repression of the lower classes, they wanted something of a say in politics via that unfair election. By delaying numerous times, the junta is displaying arrogance and a craving for power “unsuited” to the middle and capitalist classes.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

The peeling away of support even sees diehard yellow shirts, the boosters for the coups of 2006 and 2014, criticizing the military junta it bet on for turning back the lower class political tide. It also sees cracks appearing in the junta’s domination and control both in events and institutions. We have posted on the “We Walk” march and its court victory. Some of the NGOs involved in that event were those that were present at the birth of the People’s Alliance for Democracy in 2006. For some of those yellow shirts, there is disappointment in the regime for not doing sufficient political cleansing. More disappointment comes from the decisions by the junta to allow legal pursuit of PAD and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. Such legal cases are not just a disappointment but construed as a betrayal.

In this context, the re-emergence of political protest is telling. First We Walk and now the student activists. It isn’t that these students haven’t pushed the junta before. In fact, they have been regular opponents, but they have faced numerous legal cases, arrests, abductions and so on. The Bangkok Post reports their most recent event this way:

The Democracy Restoration Group, led by Sirawich “Ja New” Seritiwat and Rangsiman Rome, posted on Facebook on Friday asking people who share the same views to join them at 5.30pm at the BTS skywalk near the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre.

Pathumwan police said they did not try to stop the campaign so long as it did not block traffic.

Around 100 people came to the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre at 5.15pm while police stood by and took photos of the participants. Many of them showed the sign “Election 2018” or show its photo on their mobile phones.

Core leaders of the group took turns giving speeches.

Interestingly, the demonstrators emphasized not just elections but watches.

Update 1: A reader emailed us saying that we missed one of the most important bits of the linked Bangkok Post story. That reader is right that we should have specifically noted that the rally brought together stalwarts of both red and yellow shirts, with ultra-nationalist yellow shirt Veera Somkwamkid and red shirt iconoclast Sombat Boonngamanong. That is an unexpected alliance. Yet it is just this kind of unusual alliance that has underpinned anti-military movements in the past.

Update 2: An updated Bangkok Post report has more from Veera. He declared: “There are no colours right now…. It’s all about joining hands and removing corruption from the country.” He added: “The problem is we cannot rely on the government because they are in fact the ones who are not transparent.” The principal organizers, the New Democracy Movement declared “it will continue to pressure the government and Gen Prayut to dismiss Gen Prawit and to keep his promise to holding the election this year. They will gather again in the same spot on Feb 10.” Meanwhile, in Songkhla, “members of 19 civic organisations walked from Hat Yai municipality to Sena Narong army camp in Hat Yai to voice their grievances over several state projects in the South and to support the [People Go Network/We Walk group].”





Observation a crime under the junta

29 12 2017

Back on 31 July 2016, two members of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) observed a “Talk for Freedom” seminar on the military junta’s then draft constitution that was meant to be approved in a referendum. In order to ensure a positive vote, the junta had banned any discussion of its constitution that it deemed negative.

The activists who organized the seminar were charged with breaching the junta’s ban on public gatherings of five or more people.

Remarkably – well, not really, for no act of political repression is remarkable in Thailand – the police and military also arrested the two TLHR observers.

Even more remarkably – well, not really, for no act of political repression is remarkable in Thailand – a Military Court in Khon Kaen province has begun hearing the case against the two for doing no more than observing the seminar.

While the two have pleaded not guilty and will fight the case, Prachatai points out that “the TLHR staff were not the organisers of the event, but rather human rights defenders who came to observe,” and adds that this “is the first case under the NCPO [junta] regime where the authorities have pressed charges against human rights defenders for merely monitoring an anti-junta activity.”