Stealing an election VIII

18 05 2018

The Economist comments on The Dictator’s denial that he’s a political vacuum cleaner.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha made the denial “responding to the accusation that he was trying to hoover up support from political powerbrokers in anticipation of the restoration of democracy.”

Huh? What “restoration of democracy” has the newspaper imagined?

The one conducted by the military dictatorship with rules that “deliberately weakens existing political parties”? The one that will likely produce “a chaotic coalition, perhaps with Mr Prayuth, pretending to be surprised and reluctant, staying on as prime minister”?

We guess they mean the faux democracy foisted on the country by yet another military dictator.

The one where “the army, although notionally committed to free elections, seems determined to make sure that voters are prevented from repeating their past mistakes.”

Huh “notionally committed”?

Committed like establishing rules and practices that allow no free and fair election? Perhaps that kind of notional commitment.

The commitment made by generals who “have presided over widespread human-rights abuses; economic growth is relatively wan; workers are burdened by high personal debt and foreign investors have been scared away.”

That’s the commitment. And its for a faux election that the generals plan to “win.”

The same generals who have “smother[ed] the existing parties” and prevented them from doing anything much at all. The generals who have smothered news they don’t like or want.

The same generals who “passed [a law] last month bans policies that are intended to improve the government’s popularity but that may cause long-term damage to the economy or society—a definition so sweeping as to encompass nearly any government decision.” That’s while dishing out billions in election buying by the generals.

The junta wants to “win” and stay, for years and years. That’s the generals’ notional “democracy.”





Weird and freaky I

11 05 2018

That’s a title clipped from an article about Harit Srikhao’s art work. We have posted on him before. His art reflects his discovery “that his life was built on the lies of state propaganda. Returning to temples, museums and schools, he quickly learnt that everything he was taught growing up pushed Thai nationalism, and heralded Thailand’s longstanding monarchy.” He found it an absurd fiction.

What drew us to another story about his art and the absurdism of military junta’s and monarchist politics was another story, at Khaosod, that demonstrates how expressing politically inappropriate thoughts about the monarchy is defined as a madness.

The newspaper reports on a woman “held involuntarily for three nights and drugged at a state-run mental hospital after encouraging the monarchy’s support for the people at a recent pro-democracy rally.”

Encouraging this intervention suggested to police that she was mentally ill and they escorted her away “for a psychiatric test at the hospital.”

We have no idea of this woman’s state of mind, but is it not absurd that the police have not thought that calling on the monarchy to support anti-democratic actions and military coups – as has been common for yellow shirts – has not resulted in similar police action.

The thought of state hospitals packed with royalists having their mental fitness assessed for their calls to the monarchy seems absurd. We imagine that the powers that be and associated royalists consider the idea of the monarchy supporting democracy a crazy idea.





Rallying on ending the military dictatorship

10 02 2018

The pro-democracy rally near the Democracy Monument drew hundreds of activists on Saturday.

The authorities tried to prevent the rally in various ways, including a childish effort to cover open areas at the monument with potted plants, forcing hundreds of protesters onto footpaths.

In the end, the rally went ahead with speeches by several people including some of the MBK39.

As well as demanding an election that they said would mean the end the military dictatorship, speakers demanded that the Democracy Monument and what it stood for be given back to the people:

People seeking to cast ballots are blocked by police. A monument has been turned into a garden. No matter what this country has become, this monument still has meaning and significance. Let’s make today the beginning of an end to dictatorship….

Rangsiman Rome declared:

We meet today to demand an election and the end to the power succession. We show a three-finger salute today — first for the election, second for the end of dictatorship and third for democracy….

He also demanded that “politicians” get off their fat behinds and do something to support the pro-democracy activists.

The rally concluded with three of the the MBK39 co-leaders taken away to a police station. Rangsiman, Sirawich Serithiwat and Arnon Nampa were taken to the Saran Rat police station and then the Pathumwan police station. Earlier, Akechai Hongkangwarn, another co-leaader, had been whisked off by police before he could attend the rally.





More on elections and U.S. policy

9 02 2018

Yesterday we mentioned Gen Joseph F Dunford, Jr, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Department of Defense and how delighted he said he was that Thailand’s military dictator was babbling about “democracy.”

U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davies is now in on the act, but a little more nuanced in his approach. He is quoted as saying: “American policy remains much as it has been. We believe that democracy is the great way to keep working together…”. But nodding to the realities of working under the Donald Trump administration, he adds: “[Between] old and new administrations there will be a different emphasis put on issues … but I think for the most part, our relationship and priority will be balanced on strategic interests … and on our principles that will continue under any administration.”

In our words, a return to electoral politics in Thailand would be welcomed, but the reality is the White House doesn’t really care.

Davies made his comments at at an exhibition marking 200 years of Thai-US relations. Davies says that his favorite piece in the exhibition is a “golden cigarette case that King Rama VIII gave to former US president Franklin Roosevelt in 1945 to convey a covert message to Washington…”. Now, this is a Thailand-ism demanded by self-censorship. As the somewhat garbled report makes clear, it was the regent Pridi Phanomyong who dispatched the gift, with an OSS officer. The young king was ensconced in Switzerland.

Given the loathing for Pridi in the palace and royalist circles, this being the favorite piece may well be seen as an implicit poke at anti-democrats and military dictators.

While on dictators, The Dictator is quoted in the first report above:

“I insisted that we would move forward to democracy. The US also understands our necessity,” [General] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] said. “I also told the US that Thailand has its own problems. We’ll have to have measures to ensure the country becomes firmly democratic in the timelines,” he continued. “That could be designated by either me or by laws.”

To us that sounds like a declaration of ongoing dictatorship.





The junta is still going after kids and flouting the courts

8 02 2018

We hope Gen Joseph F Dunford, Jr, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Department of Defense, reads this. General, this is how the military regime you said displayed a “commitment … to democracy.” Here’s what democracy looks like in the junta’s Thailand.

Yesterday we had brief reference to arrests in the north:

In Phayao, police arrested 14 activists of the People Go Network and involved in the “We Walk” anti-government campaign. As has been the case in previous movements that have displaced military regimes, several of those arrested were farmers and students. The junta fears such alliances.

The Nation has further details about this political repression, which reports that it is the military that is taking action. It has accused the 14 of “organising an activity that might affect national security.”

Thailand’s national security must be balancing on a knife’s edge as the 14 farmers and students, including a 16 year-old, “a minor with intellectual-development problems…”, undertook “a 500-metre march in Phayao’s Phu Sang district.” That would be a walk of about two minutes, at a leisurely pace on a dusty village road.

The 14 now stand accused of “violating the ban by the National Council for Peace and Order [that’s the military junta] on political rallies…”. The report explains that “[i]f convicted, they face a jail term of up to six months, a maximum fine of Bt10,000 or both.”

Under orders from the junta’s military thugs, cops arrested 11 of the “marchers” on the evening of the “march” and kept them in jail overnight and they finally got bail the next day.

Recall that the Administrative Court issued “an injunction to protect the We Walk activities…”. Little things like court rulings don’t bother a lawless regime.

How’s democracy in Thailand looking to you Gen Dunford?





Elections?

8 02 2018

We read in the Bangkok Post that The Dictator has met with Gen Joseph F Dunford, Jr, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Department of Defense.

We also read that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha told Gen Dunford that “the government [he means military junta] is sticking by its roadmap to the next election while the legislative branch is working on the laws related to the poll.” The Dictator added, via a mouthpiece, that he “insists on the national reforms that will lead Thailand to a strong and sustainable democracy…”.

That’s become the usual buffalo manure from The Dictator. His “roadmap” is the road to nowhere. The roadmap has been redefined at least four times since the 2014 military coup. It is a an imaginary map that changes according to the whims of the military dictatorship.

We are used to this nonsense from the self-centered who wants to hold power forever.

But what is somewhat surprising, although not too much surprises when it is related to Donald Trump’s administration, is that Gen Dunford seems a cloth-eared dunce. He is reported as saying: “I’m very encouraged as I come to Thailand by the commitment of its leadership to democracy. And that commitment to democracy is going to allow us to move forward and deepen our relationship in the future.”

Democracy? They don’t know the meaning of the word. Perhaps it is not understood in Washington either. General Dunford should be able to recognize soldiers even when they wear business suits. Thailand is a military dictatorship run by corrupt thugs.





Further updated: Pots and kettles I

11 12 2017

There’s an English saying about the “pot calling the kettle black.” It means something like people should not criticize someone else for a fault that they have themselves. In Thailand, when discussing current politics, it is sometimes difficult to determine which is a pot and which is a kettle, and the blackness seems equally deep and sooty.

So when we read the Bangkok Post: and discover one confirmed and frequent liar being called out by another of similar ilk we do get to wondering.

Government spokesman Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd and (anti)Democrat Party rich leader and Korn Chatikavanij have been going at each other.

According to this report, by Veera Prateepchaikul, a former editor of the Bangkok Post sides with Korn:

Lt Gen Sansern, who is also acting director-general of the Public Relations Department, accused former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij, without naming him, of being an opportunist craving media space with an intention to lead the public into believing the government has not been doing anything.

The publicity which appeared to upset the spokesman was just Mr Korn’s recommendations to the government on how it could help rice farmers shore up rice prices during the months of November and December when the main crops were to be harvested.

We can understand criticism of Korn on rice policy; after all, he’s never been assigned any work in a rural area, although he now claims “four years” of work on a rich kid botique rice marketing scheme (read about it here, which begins with an incorrect assertion about what Thais think of rice. We think he means his rich brethren).

What was more interesting, though, was Korn’s licking of the pot:

Korn said the government should be more open-minded and receptive to divergent opinions as several policies could help farmers.

He lectured the spokesman and urged him to distinguish friend from foe and not to sow the seed of conflict.

He also reminded the lieutenant-general that there are people outside the government who are loyal and have good intentions toward the country.

Korn is reminding the dictatorship to be nice to its political allies, which includes the coup-loving and coup-provoking Democrat Party.

Apparently Korn has “discovered” and recommended a variant on the long-standing rice pledging scheme that pays a guaranteed minimum price for rice (a plan implemented by others in the past).

Even if Korn is recycling policy, he’s also telling the junta to be gentle with friends.

Seemingly to emphasize this, former Democrat Party leader and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai has demanded that party members not be “persistent” in “asking the regime to lift its ban on political activities…”.

Chuan and “other party executives agreed party members should not keep demanding political restrictions be lifted.” He stressed that if there are delays, the junta should be blamed. But he is also wary of poking his bear-like friends in the junta.

Chuan, who supported to military coups and judicial activism to bring down elected governments then banged on about “democracy.” The “real obstacle” to “democracy” is “people who do not uphold democracy…”.

As far as we can tell, the Democrat Party is chock full of people who do not uphold democracy, including Chuan himself. The Democrat Party has a long history of supporting royalist anti-democracy. Indeed, that was the reason the party was formed.

Update 1: Interestingly, Chuan seems keen to advise the junta on its political base (shared with the Democrat Party). Worried about that base, Chuan “appealed to premier [General] Prayut Chan-o-cha to address falling household income in the South.” Chuan showed that under the junta, average incomes had fallen substantially in several southern provinces.

His advice has been taken up, at least according to the report: “Based on Mr Chuan’s petition, the government had announced a policy of boosting people’s income in a bid to pull the country out of the so-called middle-income trap.”

Chuan worries that the junta makes the Democrat Party look bad as they are seen as political allies.

Update 2: In another political reminder to the junta, anti-democrat leader and “former” Democrat Party deputy leader Suthep Thaugsuban has re-emerged to announced “that he would release a video clip showing the group’s fight during 2013-2014 ‘to commemorate the fight that we fought together’.”

While he did not explain who the “we” were, his latest move suggested to some commentators that he wanted to address the junta. His group supported the junta and allegedly invited them to take office during the months-long protests.

Observers “believe Suthep wanted to remind the junta of their fight and the purpose of their fight” and to oppose the junta’s plan to establish its own political party, which is said to “contradict the PDRC’s initial purpose.” He’s also worried that the junta is “losing” the south.