8 years is too long

1 07 2022

Yesterday, we mentioned that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha seemed to be expressing doubts about continuing in office.

Now there’s another expression of doubt.

Deputy Prime Minister and usually the general’s reliable legal backers, Wissanu Krea-ngam saying he has doubts regarding his boss’s tenure and premier. He reportedly included himself among the “doubters” on the general’s 8-year term when he “encouraged those who may wonder whether … Prayut … will have spent a maximum of eight years in power by the upcoming August to call on the Constitutional Court for judgement.”

The court spins in the wind following the ruling elite’s wishes and usually supports the status quo. all members of which were handpicked by a coup junta under leadership of Prayut as army chief who then named himself prime minister. The report observes: “all members [of the court] … were handpicked by a coup junta under leadership of Prayut as army chief who then named himself prime minister.”

But, is the elite turning against the general?

Wissanu reportedly said that “Prayut’s eight-year tenure as maximally provided by law will almost certainly raise a bone of contention, thus prompting those who may have doubts about it to file a petition to the Constitutional Court to judge.”

He also said that “government agencies including the Council of State and the Secretariat to the Prime Minister as well as public attorneys may be told by the premier to find out an answer to this question so that he could get himself well-prepared.”

Prayut’s 8 years is up in August.

The constitution’s section 158 states: “The Prime Minister shall not hold office for more than eight years in total, whether or not holding consecutive term.” Seems clear enough.

Updated: “Fake” news, state news

13 06 2021

Anyone who struggles through the blarney posted by the regime’s PR outfits must wonder about the meaning of “fake news.”

But when the regime’s bosses talk “fake news” one can expect they are talking about others and their news. Mostly, they are worried about news on the monarchy and criticism of themselves.

All kinds of political regimes have taken up “fake news” as a way of limiting criticism, but it is authoritarian, military and military-backed regimes that have been most enthusiastic in using it to roll back and limit criticism. In Thailand, repression has been deepened through all kinds of efforts to limit free expression and to silence opponents.

With laws on computer crimes, defamation, treason, sedition, and lese majeste, a reasonable person might wonder why the regime needs more “legal” means for repression. But, then, authoritarian regimes tend to enjoy finding ways to silence critics.

It is thus no real surprise to read in the Bangkok Post that Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has ordered “the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) and security agencies to take tough action against those who spread fake news.” He included the “Anti-Fake News Centre, the Royal Thai Police, the Justice Ministry and the DES” telling them to “work together to respond swiftly to the spread of fake news on social media platforms, and take legal action accordingly.”

I Can't Speak

His minions “explained” he was worried about virus news, but when Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “instructed the Council of State, the government’s legal advisory body, to study the laws and regulations, including those in foreign countries, dealing with the spread of fake news” the focus was much broader and was clearly about anti-monarchy news. After all, officials added that the Computer Crime Act was insufficient for curbing “the damage speedily enough.”

The Thai Enquirer sensed an even broader regime agenda. They saw the use of the Council of State as a path to a “law that would control the online media in Thailand.”

They recognize that the aim is to strengthen “national security,” code for the monarchy. But, they also note a desire to limit “the criticism that the government has received over its Covid-19 response program from online platforms” including by Thai Enquirer. Of course, that criticism has also involved the monarchy.

They rightly fear that the online media “would be targeted under the new law.” They say:

This law, as commentators have noted, is an affront and a threat to free and fair press inside this country. It would make our job thousands of times harder and open us up to lawsuit and the threat of legal harassment by the government.

As we have been saying at PPT, Thai Enquirer believes:

we are being taken back to the dark days of military rule because the government believes criticism aimed at them is a threat to the entire nation. That they are unable to differentiate between a political party, its rule, and the fabric of the nation is arrogant and worrying.

But here we are, even as Deputy Prime Minister and legal predator Wissanu Krea-Ngam thinks of an excuse to shut us down, we promise to you that we will keep reporting to the end.

They call for opposition to tyranny, adding that “this new onslaught against press freedom” will be opposed through their reporting.

In a Bangkok Post op-ed by Wasant Techawongtham acknowledges that fake news can be a problem but notes that a new law “Bootis aimed at silencing critics of the ruling regime.” He adds:

Since democracy was banished from Thailand following the 2014 military coup d’etat, a number of laws have been enacted purportedly to protect the Thai people against the harmful effects of computer crimes. But it is crystal clear that the real purpose of these laws is to suppress the voice of the people.

Authoritarians tend to go to great lengths to ensure their stay in power through silencing dissent.

Under this regime, Wasant observes that regime opponents have been “harassed, or even put in jail” and several have been dissappeared and others killed.

He recognizes that a range of repressive laws have:

done quite a remarkable job of suppressing free speech. Those who insisted on speaking their minds against the current rulers have been severely dealt with. Those who were put in jail were allowed back to their families only after they agreed to seal their lips.

Not only regime and monarchy critics are silenced, but the “media — broadcast, digital and print — have felt compelled to screen their offerings very carefully, which in many cases leads to self-censorship.”

But none of this is enough! The regime wants more! There can be no freedom. There can only be the regime’s “truth.”

Update: Thinking about fake news from the regime, the royal propaganda machine is pumping out some real tripe. The latest has the king and his number 1 consort cooking meals allegedly for “medical professionals,” although in the story at The Nation, Sineenat isn’t even mentioned.

Royal cooks

Clipped from The Nation

As they often are, the couple appear in identical kit with minions groveling around them. We are told that “King … Vajiralongkorn on Saturday cooked a variety of food at the kitchen of Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in Dusit Palace…”. He’s the cleanest cook in history, with not a stain to be seen, suggesting that its fake news or, in other words, a photo op meant to deceive the public. And, their gear changes in several of the pictures.

To add to the “news,” the “Royal Office” is quoted as saying:

These foods have nutrition values of five food groups with fingerroot as a key ingredient…. Fingerroot or Krachai is a Thai traditional herb that has various medicinal benefits and could help strengthen the body’s immune system and help prevent Covid-19. Furthermore, eating freshly cooked meals is one of the recommended ways to stay safe from the virus.

We have to say that we at PPT must have wasted our time getting vaccinated because, as the royals have, hot food protects us, and we eat “freshly cooked meals” at least twice a day! Krachai may well be the king’s favorite ingredient as it is said to help with male sexual performance. But how to explain the erect chef’s hat is beyond us.

That aside, this palace propaganda must rank as “fake news.”

Royal secrecy deepens

13 12 2017

King Vajiralongkorn’s reign has been characterized by fear and secrecy.

The fear has spread throughout society. Fear of getting on the wrong side of a powerful man said to be vicious and cruel. Fear of his enforcers, including the junta. Fear of doing the wrong thing. Fear of the royalists patrolling royal boundaries. Fear of not knowing what those boundaries are and how they move.

Secrecy has surrounded all official dealings, from the raft of laws (including the constitution) that have been changed to suit the king and give him vastly increased power to the cremation of the dead king.

Put all of this fear and secrecy together and it means that officials are petrified.

Prachatai reports on how this petrified state has played out in yet another bizarre lese majeste case.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the Office of the Council of State (OCS) has denied lawyers access to a document required to defend a client charged with lese majeste for allegedly defaming Princess Sirindhorn.

Sensible readings of Article 112 are clear that she is not covered by the law. Yet that has not stopped courts from ruling on lese majeste cases about her.

The document is requested because “Sirindhorn’s official title in Thai before King Vajiralongkorn ascended to the throne included ‘Crown Princess’.” This leads to “dispute as to whether she was considered an heir apparent of the Thai monarch,” and thus covered by the law.

We think this is buffalo manure because, from 1972, there was only one heir apparent. But as the courts apply the law willy-nilly and in cases involving dogs and long dead kings, we see why the lawyer seeks it.

The report states:

The lawyer first requested access to the document in June 2017 but the OCS declined the request citing the Rule on Maintenance of Official Secrets 2001 and Article 14 of the Public Information Act 1997.

The OCS claims the document “is classified because information in the document could damage the monarchy if it is published.” The TLHR counters that “the document was accessible on the OCS website until at least June 2017.”

In August 2017, the court trying the lese majeste case to allow access, but this was rejected, with the court “stating that it can rule on the case regardless of the OCS document.” It also ruled that the “OCS does not have authority over the document.”

All things royal are becoming even more opaque than they were in the past. Neo-feudal Thailand is a dark, dangerous, unpredictable and daft administrative space.

Draft 2015 constitution

1 05 2015

Several readers have asked for the location of a translation of the military dictatorship’s 2015 draft constitution.

A translation done unofficially for the Office of the Council of State is available in several places for download as a 131 page PDF. The most conveniently accessed is here.

There are several others, including a Japanese translation.

Updated: Making stuff up

13 04 2014

PPT never ceases to be amazed by the nonsensical reports in the mainstream media that seems to have been written by persons with no memory, neither short-term nor long-term. To recent examples appear in the Bangkok Post.

In one story, the Bangkok Post reports on an interview with “former Senate speaker, legal expert and Council of State member Meechai Ruchupan.” Oddly – perhaps we should say “Of course” – the Post doesn’t see fit to describe Meechai as a rabid royalist ideologue associated with the 2006 military coup and junta and with several anti-democratic movements.

If the Post had stated this political position, Meechai’s claims about the constitution on who has the responsibility to call the Senate together when the House is dissolved.

At least the Post pointed out that “Meechai does not see eye-to-eye with colleagues who recently told the cabinet secretariat that the parliament president has the authority to seek a royal decree for the Senate to be convened.”

The story should be that Meechai has broken ranks with his colleagues on the Council of State for political reasons.

Also at the Bangkok Post, Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri’s is reported as coming up with the not-so-bright “idea to seek a recommendation from His Majesty the King if the Constitutional Court rules against caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra…”, using Section 7 of the Constitution.

PPT reckons it is dumb to try to involve the king/palace in anything political. They should be discouraged, not encouraged.

But what made us laugh in this report is royalist and anti-democrats criticizing “Chaikasem for trying to involve the institution of the monarchy in the political crisis…”.

Now, really, how ludicrous is such a claim from these political clowns? They spend almost all their time “defending the monarchy” and using it as a political weapon for lashing their opponents. And it was the anti-democrats who originally propounded the use of Section 7.

They are simply making stuff up and there seems no journalist willing to point out that these people are rolling in horse manure.

Update: Still making it up, the hopelessly biased and ridiculously incompetent Election Commission, unable to organize the 2 February election now thinks it is an agency on a constitutional par with an elected government (albeit in caretaker mode). It has been encouraged in this by the equally politicized Constitutional Court. The Election Commission “has warned there will be no chance of an election if the caretaker government and the EC cannot settle their differences.” It is a threat.

Election commissioner Somchai Srisuttiyakorn said the Constitution Court determined “the EC and the caretaker government must work together to set the date and organise a new general election.” He declared “that if the government and the EC cannot come to an understanding there will be no election.”

Look that fiction up in the constitution or electoral laws. Again, they are making it up for political advantage.

The point is that the EC is saying that it will determine the date of the next election. When? “Somchai, who is in charge of election management, said the fresh poll is likely to be months away.”

Updated: Anti-constitutional advice and demands

18 12 2013

PPT never ceases to be amazed at how simple it is for those who support the anti-democratic movement to conveniently ignore the constitution their military junta put in place in 2007, and which they keep shouting they support.

PADist op-ed scribbler Veera Prateepchaikul is dead keen for a delay in the election, supporting Suthep Thaugsuban and the anti-democratic movement. The problem for the movement and its supporters is that their calls are all outside the constitution they claim to uphold.

As another Bangkok Post story states:

[State] Council secretary-general Chukiat Rattanachaicharn said Section 108 of the constitution requires that the election be organised within 60 days of the House dissolution, or by Feb 6….  It would therefore be impossible to amend the royal decree on the election to allow the polls to be arranged at a later time, Mr Chukiat said….  Any move to change the election date would violate the constitution, he added.

Veera and his lot complain about the rules being unfair. Yet their people put them in place. Where are their standards and their consistency? Yes, because of their educated and elite position, the rules only apply to others. Another example of double standards.

Update: At The Nation, the “Election Commission’s new team says it could delay the general election from the scheduled date of February 2…”. EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn stated:

“We are willing to delay [the election] for three months, six months, one year to two years. But first things first: The political parties have to reach an agreement. The second thing is whether it [a delay] is allowed by the law. We, the EC, are the third factor…”. That’s about as clear as a bucket of mud.

How can this be given the Council of State’s comment above?

Somchai said: “The government can issue an executive decree to postpone an election if there is an emergency situation, he said. For example, if there were a national disaster or a war, nobody would go to the polls.” That seems like an invitation to Suthep to create chaos.

The dopes at The Nation come up with “Reasons to postpone.” They list five alleged reasons, four of which have nothing to do with postponing a national ballot. The one that does states: “A poll can be delayed by 30 days via royal decree if there is civil unrest, floods, fire or other eventualities (according to Article 78 of the 2007 Constitution’s organic law on elections)…”. That’s the emergency situation Somchai talks of, but there is nothing in this about “three months, six months, one year to two years.” Have we missed something or is the EC still politicized and ignorant of the law it administers?


The royalist use of lese majeste

22 04 2012

How much effort has gone into finding, persecuting and prosecuting lese majeste? How much effort did the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration put into using lese majeste as a means of political repression?

The trial of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, reported by Prachatai, has provided a rare insight.

Prosecution witness Colonel Wijan Jodtaeng is said to be the Director of the Law and Human Rights Department of the Internal Security Operations Command. As odd as it might be that an arm of the state’s repressive apparatus has a section that is working on law and human rights, we at PPT think of it as an Orwellian department for repressing human rights and using the law for state repression.

Col. Wijan testified that:

during the time that the Emergency Decree was in force in 2010, the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) was the main body which dealt with lèse majesté offences.  Security agencies collected evidence and sent this case to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).  The DSI accepted it as a special case, and sent it back to the CRES which then assigned him to file a police complaint.

In other words, CRES, the special body established by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime to suppress the red shirt demonstrations, also became the body that made complaints of lese majeste in this period. If it wasn’t already clear, this statement shows that lese majeste was used as a political weapon for political purposes by the Abhisit government.

And, it is worth noting that the colonel later told reporters that, until he was ordered to make the complaint against Somyos, he had never read the articles involved.

When asked whether the lese majeste prosecution of Somyos “involved CRES spokesperson Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd and followed the CRES ‘diagram of the plot against the Monarchy’,” Col. Wijan said CRES was involved and stated:

that the team working on this case consisted of over 30 officers from several agencies, including, for example, the DSI and the Council of State, and Col Sansern was part of the team, if he remembered correctly.

Yes, that is 30 officials working on the case against Somyos!

More broadly about lese majeste, the colonel was asked if any case was dropped under CRES. His answer: no, not a single case was ever dropped.

Prachatai also reports on the extraordinary effort that the Abhisit government put into hunting down red shirts and using lese majeste charges to repress them and freedom of speech. It cites evidence by a prosecution witness:

Col Nuchit Sribunsong from the Army’s Directorate of Operations told the court that since 2006 the security situation had apparently grown intense, and security agencies had monitored lèse majesté content in the media, on the internet, and in political public speeches.  Three magazines which were particularly monitored included Thai Red News, Voice of Taksin and Truth Today.

Colonel Nuchit adds further to the long list of government agencies involved in the great lese majeste hunt:

Information would be collected and analyzed jointly by the National Security Council, ISOC, the Police Special Branch, the National Intelligence Agency, the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, etc.

And all of this “information and opinions would be submitted to the CRES for consideration.” And this colonel also stated that the concocted and now discredited CRES “anti-monarchy plot” diagram was “used as a tool in their planning and analysis.” That is, a fictional plot was used to concoct evidence and charges against political opponents.

Who was directing all of this political repression and the use of the draconian and politicized lese majeste law? Charges were stated to be:

up to the CRES, which was chaired by Suthep Thaugsuban, then Deputy Prime Minister of the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, to decide whether the articles were offensive to the monarchy.  He and the rest of the team just presented the CRES with information and a preliminary opinion.

It is absolutely clear that both Abhisit and Suthep were heading the CRES campaign of repression. They used lese majeste against political opponents. They funded it extravagantly to enable that it repressed opponents, with one reliable estimate being that between 7 April and 25 May alone, CRES spent 1.9 billion baht, with with ISOC spending a further 2.08 billion.

More than this, CRES included significant others, including the military brass, who regularly told Abhisit what to do. Army commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha simply over-ruled Abhisit through CRES. For some time, the CRES director was General Prawit Wongsuwon, who was defense minister. The military called the shots, in cooperation with Suthep and Abhisit, all concocting plots against the monarchy as a way of maintaining the royalist regime.

PAD, Privy Council and amnesty

20 11 2011

With Thaksin Shinawatra apparently having announced that he “will not accept any benefit from the proposed royal pardon decree…”, the royal pardon story may been thought to have lost a great deal of its relevance. However, PPT thinks it still has legs for the anti-Thaksin crowd. They have seized on this as another opportunity to work towards the overturning of the July election result, and there will be continuing activism on this. In any case, no true yellow shirt would believe anything Thaksin says.

At The Nation it is reported that the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has “vowed to exploit all legal avenues to stop the government’s attempt to help ex-premier Thaksin Shinwatra [sic], brother of Prime Minister Yingluck, escape a jail term through a royal pardon.” PAD plans to rally outside the Council of State on Monday. They will also file a complaint with the National Counter Corruption Commission and Ombudsman and most strikingly, PAD is urging “the Privy Council not to advise His Majesty the King to bestow a pardon until the constitutionality of the draft legislation becomes clear.”

PAD grinning leader Chamlong Srimuang has emerged to damn red shirts who support Thaksin and with the vow that his group will continue to demonstrate “its readiness to protect the monarchy.” PPT isn’t quite sure what the threat to the monarchy is. Perhaps it is just Thaksin….

Another PAD leader Pipop Thongchai “called on the Council of State, the Office of His Majesty’s Principle Private Secretary [sic], the Privy Council and the military to take stands on the issue to prevent further political conflict.” With that lot, a political conflict is pretty much assured.

Meanwhile, red shirts in Udorn Thani, Mukdahan, Khon Kaen, Samut Prakan and Mahasarakham have rallied in support of a pardon for Thaksin.

The Bangkok Post reports that the PAD rally on Monday will last the whole day and add that it is seeking a “ruling from the Constitution Court on whether the royal pardon decree is constitutional.”

Over at the Army, The Nation reports that “General Prayuth Chan-ocha has approved the reshuffle of 221 Army colonels in a bid to consolidate his power base. Dozens of soldiers who are close to the Army chief and his colleagues from Class 12 of the Armed Forces’ Preparatory School were given key positions in various army units under reshuffle orders signed by Prayuth on Friday, sources said.”

On the same story, the Bangkok Post adds the somewhat unlikely view that the reshuffle is to “to consolidate power to prepare for the expected fallout of a proposed pardon for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.” That seems unlikely as arranging a large reshuffle is not an overnight decision.

As we have observed, almost all of the anti-Thaksin elements are back in play. It promises to be an interesting few weeks ahead, especially as the yellow shirts call the Privy Council and judiciary up to bat.

Thaksin, monarchy and the pardon (again)

18 11 2011

Predictably, there is a huge ruckus in the mainstream media and amongst the royalist bloggers and social media activists regarding the still strange story of a “closed door” cabinet meeting that has apparently come up with a draft royal decree that might allow Thaksin Shinawatra to be included in the king’s birthday list of thousands usually released following a pardon, along with about 26,000 others in jail and facing jail.

The story originates from Democrat Party parliamentarian Sirichoke Sopha and is now a rallying call, arguably bigger than alleged mismanagement of floods, for the anti-Thaksin, anti-Red Shirt, anti-Puea Thai Party and pro-royalist opposition.

As important background, PPT urges its readers to consult Bangkok Pundit’s account of the history and process of mass pardons associated with birthday and anniversaries associated with the monarch. Pundit points out that the pardon issue is not exactly new, mentioning earlier posts on discussions of the topic. Interestingly, Pundit observes that: “Last year’s Royal Decree for Royal Pardons [under the Democrat Party-led government] had a provision that it applied to those aged over 60 and have a period of imprisonment not exceeding three years…”.

In addition, vociferous and dogged anti-Thaksin activist Kaewsan Atibhodhi is quoted as having noted that the requirement to have served one-third of a sentence was also removed by that government. Kaewsan stated: “Especially regulations that may be to the advantage of Thaksin is the regulation that those aged over 60 and who have less than 3 years of their sentence for the 2007 pardon there was condition that must have served one-third of sentence, but in 2010 the government removed his condition so for 2011 the Yingluck government has the freedom to choose either the 2007 pardon regulations or the 2010 pardon regulations as they prefer…”.

In short, the current government has indeed chosen the 2010 regulations. Presumably Kaewsan and other activists didn’t jump up and down when the Democrat Party made these changes because they knew that Thaksin would be specifically excluded. Now, however, they have gone ballistic.

In the current struggle, the initial claims by the Democrat Party, taken up by the media, focused on the “secret” nature of the cabinet meeting. But aren’t all cabinet meetings behind closed doors? Apparently not. One Bangkok Post opinion seems to imply they are not: “Unlike the approval of similar decrees by previous governments, this draft to seek a royal pardon for convicts on His Majesty the King’s 84th birthday this Dec 5, was approved in a meeting behind closed doors.” Funny, we don’t recall the Abhisit Vejjajiva government being “transparent” in its decision-making in the cabinet. This is perhaps now a triviality associated with this reporting, but every media endlessly parrots it. None seem to mention the legal changes made by the Democrat Party.

Reading the newspapers now has a decidedly retro feel to it, with all of the anti-Thaksin groups suddenly roused from their focus on alleged floods mismanagement, law suits and rehabilitating the Army. For example, the Bangkok Post has a story that cites the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) that explains “it will meet soon to decide what action to take against the proposed pardon.” Most analysts had written PAD off, but as PPT has argued, this is premature. PAD’s boss, Sondhi Limthongkul is also cited, and is reported to have “deplored the pardon plan which he said has piled pressure on the monarchy.” Sondhi claimed “the Pheu Thai Party was blatantly trying to destroy the rule of law…”. Calling this “despicable,” Sondhi declared that PAD would “not sit idly by.”

Meanwhile, the report states that more than “20,000 people signed up to a Facebook account opened by well-known television news anchor Kanok Ratwongsakul … to voice opposition to the decree.” Kanok is one of the anti-Thaksin and anti-Red Shirt mainstays of the mainstream media and closely associated with the anti-Thaksin Nation Group (see here and here). As can be seen in its annual report (a large PDF), both he and his wife held important positions at the NBC of the Nation Group.

Kaewsan is also reported. He said his “Siam Samakkhi group also protested against the royal decree proposal.” He (now) claims that the “royal decree was unconstitutional because it ran counter to the court’s ruling.” He shouts: “How dare you exercise the limited power of the executive to overpower the judiciary for the interest of one man.” That argument will have political clout, but Kaewsan neglects that the decree is a draft that has yet to be approved – as a first step – by the Council of State who look at issues of constitutionality.

Ignoring that step in the legal process, Kaewsan “called for the whole cabinet to be impeached, saying if it stayed, it would amend the constitution to free Thaksin from many other corruption cases. He also recommended Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra be impeached and said that as the prime minister, she could not deny responsibility for the planned decree.”

Kaewsan’s call was supported by yellow shirt, hard-core royalist and appointed senator Somchai Sawaengkarn who joined with the Siam Samakkhi Group (again). Somchai has been behind lese majeste allegations against several political opponents, including Thaksin. Somchai was supported by yellow-shirted Bangkok Senator Rosana Tositrakul who has a long record of opposing the current administration and its supporters. She was vociferous in not wanting an election in 2011, fearing a loss for the royalist party.

Also roused is Tul Sitthisomwong, a long-time PAD activist who is repeatedly identified in the media as “leader of the multi-coloured shirts.” The Nation reports that Tul has already “lodged a complaint with the Council of State against the draft decree. He said opponents of the decree would hold a rally at Lumpini Park today to air their opposition to pardoning Thaksin.”

Rounding out the reconstitution of royalist and anti-Thaksin oppositions, business and academics are reacting. The Bangkok Post claims: “Business leaders are uncomfortable with the cabinet’s approval of draft royal decree for a royal pardon that could include Thaksin Shinawatra, saying it could add political risk at a time when businesses are already suffering from floods.” It seems that capitalists fear more political instability.

Predictably, the Bangkok Post reports that a “large group of academics has joined the growing chorus opposed to the Pheu Thai-led government’s proposed royal decree to pardon jailed convicts on the King’s birthday.” Apparently “large” is less than 90 academics nationwide. Their attempt to be novel on this issue is to claim that the release of “convicted drug and corruption offenders … would further widen the wedge in society, undermine national security and create chaos.” Of course, their spokesperson is from the royalist political science faculty at Chulalongkorn University, which has been remarkably yellow. They even predict “nationwide chaos next year…”.

Of course, the Democrat Party joined these calls, claiming the draft decree “would undermine the justice system and divide society further.” PPT always finds such claims about social division and rule of law laughable when they come from this party, which perpetuated and enhanced “division” as the tool of royalists and in defending the rules and laws of the military junta. Abhisit “confirmed that his party would fight the proposal to the end as it would bring about national disunity.” What he means is that Thaksin remains the devil incarnate and the “national unity” expressed in votes can be ignored. And, he’d so love to have some outside force lift him back to the position he knows he deserves as premier.

The Democrat Party is already looking at impeachment on this case, along with the alleged flood mismanagement where, as reported at The Nation, it has already “lodged an impeachment motion against Justice Minister Pracha Promnok…” and six other Puea Thai Party parliamentarians, several of them red shirts.

So just as the floods have seen a rehabilitation of the military, the pardon issue promises a reconstitution of the yellow-shirted alliances of 2005-06. And, the legal challenges to yet another elected government begin.

Nowhere is this rounding up of anti-Thaksin elements clearer than in the call by PAD for yellow “civil society” to “wake up” and for royal action. Suwat Aphaiphak, PAD’s long-time lawyer saidd “PAD is likely to turn to the National Anti-Corruption Commission for help, as the royal decree is against several NACC laws. Any opposition to the draft from the NACC will provide enough grounds for the Privy Council not to forward the amnesty decree to His Majesty for endorsement.”

Suwat’s call to the Privy Council was supported by “Preecha Suwannathat, former law dean of Thammasat University and an ex-Democrat MP,” who “said the proposed changes would violate the law” and said “he hoped the Privy Council would exercise good judgement when vetting the draft decree if the government insisted on proposing it to the King.”

Interestingly, Suwat claimed that street demonstrations would not be the way forward as “nobody can match the power of the red shirts who are looking forward to the return of Thaksin.” So, as the lessons of recent years have been digested, the action will shift to judicial areas, where the royalists have considerable support.

Another take on this issue is from the red shirt sympathetic who are scratching their heads as to why the Thaksin issue is raised now. PPT has already posted Ji Ungpakorn’s challenge, much of which we agree with. Somsak Jeamteerasakul has said “the government should exercise laws for the public interest instead of that of an individual. He said many pro-Thaksin red shirt protesters had not been treated fairly. It was not right for the government to draft the decree to help Thaksin…”.

In what now can only be a footnote to the rapidly gathering political action is the question of “why now?” The mainstream media has been saying it is because the government’s popularity is declining, it must act now on Thaksin. PPT doesn’t buy this line. Of course, the government has to have a draft amnesty decree in place by the time of the king’s birthday and this important anniversary. It may have been delayed by the floods, but we are still left to ponder why it is that the Puea Thai government has decided to be deliberately provocative when it knows that this action will re-galvanize its opponents.

Democrat meddling emphasizes political loyalty

6 08 2009

The police chief saga continues. The Bangkok Post (6 August 2009: “Police reshuffle can still be changed”) has a report regarding the police reshuffle list already completed by police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwon.

Council of State Secretary-General Porntip Jala is reported as saying that the list can still be changed “as it has not yet received royal approval.”

The Police Commission is due for an apparently special meeting on Friday to discuss the list while the police chief is absent. That would seem exceptionally convenient. Even better for the government, the “Council of State chief said [acting chief] Pol Gen Wichien [Potposri] had the authority to arrange another police reshuffle in the absence of the commander.”

Patcharawat is said to have warned against politicians changing the reshuffle list, and rumours are flying that a Democrat has been involved. Meanwhile, “some retired senior police leaders called for a legal amendment to prevent politicians from intervening in personnel management at the Royal Thai Police Office.”

Meanwhile, according to the Bangkok Post (6 August 2009: “Priewphan to seek court justice over acting police chief’s job”) the man passed over for acting police chief, Deputy national police chief Priewphan Damapong (see our earlier post here) has vowed to “seek justice in the courts.”

Priewphan said “that he believed he was not entrusted with the responsibility because he is a relative of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.” He added that “he has already served as acting national police chief 22 times.”

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva “responded to Pol Gen Priewphan’s claims a few hours later. He insisted the appointment of Pol Gen Wichien was appropriate and legal. He had taken into consideration seniority and suitability to do the job in the current situation, the prime minister said. The appointment of Pol Gen Wichien was in line with Article 72 of the Police Act.”

Then there is a neat tidbit: “Responding to the suggestion that Pol Gen Wichien might not be suitable for the post since the Royal Aide-de-Camp Department and Police Office attached to the Royal Household Bureau had earlier each issued an order prohibiting him from entering the palace, Mr Abhisit said he had checked and found that the orders had been revoked.” If any reader knows what this is about, PPT would be pleased to hear more.

Keeping the meddling to ensure loyalty to the government going, the Bangkok Post (6 August 2009: “Prawit fears meddling in lists”) has another, potentially more important story, if the reporting is accurate.

Apparently Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon (the on-leave police chief’s brother) skipped a cabinet meeting yesterday. At the same time, an army source has said that Prawit has urged “armed forces leaders to finalise their annual reshuffle lists by the middle of this month to prevent political interference…”.

Prawit is reportedly “concerned about the political situation and … is also worried about political pressure to have him removed.”

The Sondhi Limthongkul assassination case is considered to be putting Prawit under pressure and it is reported that “PAD leader Mr Sondhi and the ruling Democrat Party are looking for candidates to fill the defence minister’s post…”. It is said that “Potential candidates include former coup leaders who toppled Thaksin … such as Gen Saprang Kalayanamitr, Gen Boonsrang Niampradit and Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin.”

The source is also reported to have said that the “army officers involved in the crackdown on the Songkran riots are also poised to be promoted. They include Maj Gen Paiboon Khumchaya, commander of the 1st Division of the King’s Guard, who is expected to be made deputy commander of the 1st Army, and Maj Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, commander of the 9th Infantry Regiment, who will be made another deputy commander of the 1st Army. Maj Gen Kampanat Ruddit, commander of the Phetchaburi-based 15th Military Circle, will be made commander of the 1st Division of the King’s Guard.”

Wasn’t it Thaksin who was accused of meddling in the transfers and promotions, putting the military leadership off-side? The Democrat Party seems intent on rewarding loyalty and establishing its control over the forces of repression in Thailand.

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