A sham democracy

4 09 2017

It wasn’t that long ago that the anti-democrats were loud in their criticism of electoral democracy as no democracy at all.

Those rants neglected the fact that the rules for elections in 2007 and 2011 that brought pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties to power via the ballot box were conducted under rules set by military-backed governments packed by royalists.

Now it is PPT’s turn to complain about empty elections. There’s a ridiculous trend in some media suggesting that any election the military junta decides to allow will herald a return to “democracy” for Thailand.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

According to a report at the Bangkok Post, the latest to fall into this trap is Yves Leterme, the secretary-general of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA).

IDEA’s aims include this:

We develop, share and enable the use of comparative knowledge in our key areas of expertise: electoral processes, constitution-building, political participation and representation, and democracy and development.

So you’d think that its secretary-general would be able to distinguish real electoral democracy and sham democracy. But, no.

He says that “[a]s Thailand transitions towards a democracy, it is critical to keep in mind that not only the elections but the government itself must meet citizens’ expectations for leadership, security and socioeconomic development…”.

Leterme appears to praise Thailand, saying “that demonstrating a clear intention to reinstall democracy through electoral processes is a positive step for the country.”

How could a “democracy engineer” get it so wrong? After all, the military dictatorship has fixed any upcoming election to ensure that only its approved “politicians” can gain seats in government. It also seems highly likely that a general will be prime minister and may not even be an elected member of parliament.

Perhaps the reason for Leterme’s democracy clanger has to do with his Board of Advisers, where the chair is none other than the (anti)Democrat Party’s Surin Pitsuwan, who joined campaigns to bring down elected governments.

Make no mistake, no “election” under the junta’s 2017 constitution and the junta’s electoral rules can be free or fair.





NACC bias

5 08 2017

At PPT we have long observed that the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is a tool of the ruling junta.

Now it seems the Bangkok Post has also seen this politicization of a supposed “independent agency.”

Noting that several of its cases “have now reached the judicial stage” and that it is “actively digging into more high-profile cases,” the Post editorial states that most of these cases:

are highly political in nature, and have little to do with corruption, unusual wealth or abuses of power for personal gain committed by government officials or politicians — the core mandates of the anti-graft agency.

It adds that “since the 2014 military coup, the NACC’s actions — and indeed its inaction — suggest it has not remained politically impartial, the core quality of an independent agency.”

This, it says, means the “agency’s increasingly political role is a questionable mandate that will do more harm than good.”

We’d suggest that it has already done great damage to itself and the country, at the behest of the military dictatorship.

Referring to the NACC’s 11 more cases against Yingluck Shinawatra, the Post says that

[a]s long as the NACC does not explicitly demonstrate how these cases involve outright corruption and abuses of power for personal gain, and were driven by ill motives, such political cases will continue to cast doubt about the agency’s effectiveness and impartiality.

The Post then turns to double standards:

Several corruption and abuse of power complaints filed against politicians from the Democrat [Party] camp have proceeded at a snail’s pace.

To the disappointment of many, the NACC’s probe into the alleged wrongdoing by members of the military regime since the coup had also raised suspicions. The graft agency has dismissed many of them without providing a sufficient explanation.

Its transparency has also been questioned. For instance, it repeatedly, for eight months, refused a request by a media outlet for information about its probe into an asset concealment allegation against Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha in 2015. The NACC subsequently agreed to disclose it at a later stage.

Then there are the cases that seem eerily silent:

… it has not made much progress on others concerning alleged corruption. These include its probe into the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal allegedly involving two state enterprises, which is still at a “preliminary stage” more than six months after a revelation by the UK Serious Fraud Office.

The Post reckons all this politicized action and inaction means that “the anti-graft agency will further risk undermining its credibility, which is already waning…”.

For us, that credibility was gone years ago.





Updated: Fear and repression I

24 07 2017

Talk of “reconciliation” seems pointless in the junta’s dictatorship. The task of the junta has been to repress those it identifies as “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition.” As it was largely through the efforts of the anti-democrats, led by the (anti-)Democrat Party, that paved the way for the 2014 military coup, it should be no surprise at all that the coalition of military and anti-democrats coalesces to continue the fight against those “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition.”

As everyone knows, the “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition” are mainly red shirts, elements of the Puea Thai Party and the Shinawatra clan and associates. After more than three years of heavy duty repression designed to decapitate these groups, there is limited evidence that they retain much capacity for mobilization. Yet the military and anti-democrats live in fear that they may rise against them.

As reported in The Nation, the pending verdict against Yingluck Shinawatra, due on 25 August, is causing considerable angst among the ruling regime and its anti-democrat allies.

This deep anxiety was inflamed by the sight of “[h]undreds of Yingluck’s supporters [who] gathered at the high court last Friday during the last hearing of the case against her.”

The Democrat Party, never very popular anywhere except in the previous palace hierarchy and among the royalist military, immediately went back to their rhetoric of anti-Thaksinism that has been a feature of their efforts to bring down each elected government since 2001. They claimed that “many of the supporters travelled together in an arranged trip from the northeastern provinces of Ubon Ratchathani and Amnat Charoen.” In other words, they reflexively denigrated their opponents as unthinking and unintelligent people/buffaloes, led around by money and bosses.

At the same time, Somchai Sawaengkarn, reported as “a member of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)” but in fact a former unelected senator, dedicated anti-democrat, anti-Thaksin campaigner for more than a decade, hard core royalist and prone to accuse opponents of lese majeste, claimed “that he has learned of a plot to incite riots in a bid to overthrow the government and the NCPO [he means his buddies in the junta].”

Somchai has concocted plots in order to denigrate political opponents in the past and we assume he’s at it again. “Good” people like him are skilled liars but usually claim they do it for the greater “good.” This usually means ousting an elected government, supporting the crown or lapping the military boot or, as in this case, encouraging it in political activism. This is why he invents a plot: “They will try to bring down the government and the NCPO [junta] through riots. Hard-core groups that are their allies have clearly said that they want to wage a ‘people’s war’…”. He predicts a “mobilization” of 10,000 people.

While we might hope he is right, based on previous “inventiveness” by Somchai, we can be reasonably sure that, tongue on military boot, he’s making this up to encourage his junta allies in further political repression.

Indeed, the military thugs are already at work.

The Nation reports a source in the ruling junta as revealing that the military and its bureaucratic handmaidens are “closely following movements by certain groups of people ahead of the Supreme Court verdict in the case against former prime minister Yingluck…”.

That source adds that “Army commander-in-chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart, in his capacity as secretary to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has instructed the local peacekeeping forces to monitor the movements of ‘all groups involved’ over the next month…”.

The Army’s regional commanders have been ordered “to make sure any suspicious movements are under their microscope…. If the local peacekeeping forces, which were formed after the military coup in 2014, discovered any plan to mobilise large groups of people into Bangkok, they would need to persuade their leaders to cancel such a trip…”. That will mean detentions, threats and other forms of repression. Indeed, the leaking of these orders are a part of that repression.

Military officers have already “been dispatched to different areas of the country in an attempt to persuade Yingluck’s supporters not to come to Bangkok … [and t]hey are going to meet with local community leaders and administrators and ask them to ‘create a better understanding’ among the local residents.” The order is that there “should be no mobilisation of the masses…”. In other words, the military presence at all levels is being heightened and the threats made real.

Update: Part of the fear of Yingluck’s supporters seems reflected in the estimates of the number who showed up last week. The Bangkok Post reports almost 1,000. The official red shirts of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) have warned The Dictator that his threats inflamed the situation and brought out even more supporters. More threats and intimidation could would damage the junta.





Washing away the blood

12 06 2017

There’s no debate. In April and May 2010, the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime ordered troops to clear red shirt protesters. Those military actions left about 100 dead and thousands injured. Almost all of the dead were civilians.

Abhisit’s then deputy  Suthep Thaugsuban says he gave the orders. That a prime minister shirks responsibility for the work of his government is a clear statement of Abhisit’s gormless egoism. In any case, it means little in a context where the regime had established the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations as a collective organization for making decisions on the crackdowns. As premier, Abhisit established CRES and was part of it while Suthep was its director.

Other members included then Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, now Deputy Dictator, then Army boss General Anupong Paojinda and former Department of Special Investigation boss Tharit Pengdit. Its secretary was the notorious fabricator, Thawil Pliensri.

The Army, Abhisit and Suthep have repeatedly claimed that soldiers weren’t responsible for any deaths, blaming “men in black.” This despite the fact that, for example, courts finding soldiers responsible for many of the deaths and that more than 100,000 live rounds were used in 2010, with more than 2,000 sniper rounds used.

The Abhisit and Suthep denial of responsibility has gone on for years and the “justice” system has agreed with them, kind of. The “justice” system has said they gave “legal” orders.

Prachatai reports that the Supreme Court “has accepted a lawsuit against a former chief investigator who dared to accuse Abhisit and Suthep of murder for ordering the bloody military crackdown on anti-establishment red-shirt protesters in 2010.”

That “investigator” is the eel himself, the former DSI boss, Tharit. Since the 2014 coup, the junta, royalists and the elite have vigorously gone after Tharit for his perceived betrayals.

The accepted lawsuit is against Tharit and his deputies and a couple of investigators. It is stated that the “four comprised the team tasked with investigating the violent crackdown on the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) demonstrators, the main red shirt faction, between April-May 2010.”

Now that the “justice” system dismissed all charges against Abhisit and Suthep, often based on false evidence, including from Thawil, those two Democrat Party bosses and supporters of two military coups are seeking restitution of their “reputations.” They accused the DSI team of “corruption and propagating false accusations against them, claiming that the DSI did not have the authority to investigate the crackdown in the first place.”

Both the Court of First Instance and the Appeal Court dismissed charges against the four, but the Supreme Court has done its job and agreed to hear the “case.”

Given that almost everyone involved in the murderous crackdowns is a part of the military junta or worked hard to promote its coup, that the “justice” system supports them should be no surprise. After all, Thailand has double standards precisely to serve the interests of the great, the “good” and the wealthy.

We can now expect that the Supreme Court will continue to punish Tharit and launder the blood from the clothes of those who ordered the murderous crackdown.





Dealing with death

8 06 2017

The military dictatorship has decided – or perhaps the king has decided – to kill three birds with one stone. Yes, puns are intended.

In a brain wave that may be a brain fade, it is “encouraging Thai citizens to join in a merit-making ceremony in tribute to King Rama VIII and King Rama IX this Friday at the Royal Plaza, Dusit Palace.” And, oh, almost forgot, “concurrently offering their blessings to Queen Sirikit.”

The ceremony is to “observe the anniversary of the passing of King Ananda Mahidol and the succession to the throne of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on June 9…”.

By “passing,” they elide the whole deal: gun shot death, the accusations by royalists and the Democrat Party that Pridi Phanomyong did it and his exile for life and the execution of three innocent people for the “murder.” King Bhumibol never explained his role, although others reckon he was responsible.

Forget that all of this is a mammoth propaganda construction; but then so is the whole monarchy a house built on lies and large dollops of taxpayer money and the support of the corrupt military. Forget it and join the king’s Supreme Patriarch as he leads “195 high-ranking Buddhist monks in chanting holy stanzas, dedicating merit to the two monarchs and also offering well-wishes to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of the Ninth Reign.”

The king “has kindly conferred prayer books on officials who are responsible for distributing them to public members participating in the merit-making ceremony.” We wonder if he knows about the family skeleton in the golden cupboard.

The junta says this is a “good opportunity for Thai people to express their loyalty to Kings Rama VIII and Rama IX and reminisce about their contributions to the nation…”. Perhaps they can reflect on Bhumibol’s political interventions.





Updated: Anti-democrats united and Democrat Party disunited

2 06 2017

The moves against (anti-) Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva are gathering some pace as the anti-democrats in the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, described by The Nation as “supposedly defunct,” seeks to take control of the party leadership. The report states that “the party’s future is unclear as key players are split on whether Abhisit Vejjajiva should remain the party leader.”

PPT has said several times that Abhisit is tainted goods in terms of elections. He ordered the murderous crackdown in 2010 but has not been able to develop the relationship with the military and its dictatorship that marked the cooperation between the former deputy and PDRC leader, who takes responsibility for the bloody attack on red shirts, Suthep Thaugsuban.

Suthep is far happier to get into bed with the men in green and canoodle with them than Abhisit, who sees himself as being too “virtuous,” “good” and “great” for that kind of relationship.

Interestingly, The Nation and the Bangkok Post diverge in their reporting of a meeting between anti-democrats of the PDRC and the Democrat Party. The Post emphasizes the coming together of the groups while The Nation is focused on Abhisit’s tenuous position and differences.

PDRC core leader, Thaworn Senniam now claims that the Democrat Party members who joined the PDRC are still with the party or never left it, at least in spirit. He said:

he wanted to make it clear that in their fight against the “Thaksin regime”, nobody had resigned from the party, refuting reports that said “they were returning to Democrat Party again”.

“We have always been Democrats up to the present,” the former PDRC leader said. “We joined, also with the Democrat Party, the fight against the blanket Amnesty Bill and we won.”

Going forward, he said the PDRC and the Democrat Party were united. (We already knew that.) He observed that the anti-democrats would:

First, … remain united in following the road map towards an election. Second, they shared the same ambition of achieving reforms within one year after the Constitution was promulgated.

Where the radical anti-democrats differ is that they don’t want an election. Suthep has made that clear. He’d rather stay in bed with the military in a consummated relationship based on the fear of Thaksin Shinawatra and a hatred of people’s sovereignty.

Update: The Democrat Party is now consumed by internal disputes as the PDRCistas seek to take control of the party. Abhisit is likely to be seen out the door, not least because the PDRC’s allies in the junta want him out for an “election,” should they decide to hold one. That said, Abhisit has so few principles and such a desire for prestige and power that he could easily do a deal with all the devils.





The end of 1932

14 04 2017

In a highly symbolic act of vandalism, Prachatai reports that the plaque marking the 1932 revolution has been removed, stolen  and replaced with a royalist plaque. The report is confirmed at Khaosod.

According to the report, the replacement graffiti states:

May Siam prosper forever [with] happy fresh-faced citizens [who are] the force of the nation. The respect and loyalty to the Buddhist Triple Gems, to one’s family clan, and being honest towards one’s King are tools for making the state prosper.

This is an obviously royalist paean and a junta-friendly message.

The original plaque, a source of angst for royalists who viewed it as a threatening reminder of a different Thailand, looked like this:

Memorial of the Revolution on the Royal Plaza: “…ณ ที่นี้ 24 มิถุนายน 2475 เวลาย่ำรุ่ง คณะราษฎร ได้ก่อกำเนิดรัฐธรรมนูญ เพื่อความเจริญของชาติ”; “…here, in the dawn of 24 June 1932, the Khana Ratsadon has brought forth a constitution for the glory of the nation” (From Wikipedia)

It is not clear who removed the original plaque. The report of its removal implies that the vandals may have been either ultra-royalists or officials acting on orders. Khaosod’s informants suggest the former.

We suspect that the vandals are acting on orders or are seeking to be seen as loyalists. If these vandals acted on orders, then those commands must have come from on high. A new reign and a new king have no links to 1932, except those that come from within a conservative palace. In fact, we are sure that the new king is likely to view 1932 as an impediment to the further re-feudalization of monarchism.

Make no mistake, this is an act of political vandalism by a faction that feels it is putting right the “natural” order of things in Thailand, sweeping aside the remnants of 1932.

The junta has demonstrated that it is a part of this reactionary royalism based in a desire to expunge 1932.

The events of the 1932 revolution have influenced Thailand’s politics for 85 years. The overthrow of absolute monarchy on 24 June 1932 set in place a conflict between conservative royalists and anti-royalists that see-sawed until about 1957, when General Sarit Thanarat set about a process of re-monarchizing Thailand.

Since then, the royalists have regained much of the political ground, rolling back much of the change initiated by those who overthrew the absolute monarchy. The reign that began in 1946, in the midst of that political struggle by princes and arch-royalists who mostly came together in the Democrat Party, led to a thoroughgoing monarchization of not just politics but of society.

Images and reminders of 1932 have been erased. So much so, that the Proclamation of the revolutionists is now seen by ultra-royalists as lese majeste:

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

All the people

When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that he would govern protectively. But matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, taking bribes in government construction and purchasing, and seeking profits from changes in the price of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood (phuak chao) to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

The government of the king above the law is unable to find solutions and bring about recovery. This inability is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (some called phrai, some kha) and as animals. It has not considered them as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, rather it farms on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use each year. As for the people, they have to sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money, the government seizes their property or puts them on public works. But those of royal blood are still sleeping and eating happily. There is no country in the world that gives its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, in nations that have now overthrown their thrones.

The king’s government has governed in ways that are deceiving and not straightforward with the people. For example, it said it would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened. It has never done anything seriously. Further than that, it has insulted the people – those with the grace to pay taxes for royalty to use – that the people don’t know as much as those of royal blood. But this is not because the people are stupid, but because they lack the education which is reserved for royalty. They have not allowed the people to study fully, because they fear that if the people have education, they will know the evil that they do and may not let them farm on their backs.

You, all of the people, should know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who protected the independence of the country from enemy armies. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all this money come from? It came from the people because of that method of farming on the backs of the people! The country is experiencing hardships. Farmers and soldiers’ parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating them brings no benefit. The government does not help. The government is discharging people in floods. Students who have completed their study and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment. They have to go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law. It oppresses the minor government officials. Ordinary soldiers and clerks are discharged from employment, and no pension is given. In truth, government should use the money that has been amassed to manage the country to provide employment. This would be fitting to pay back the people who have been paying taxes to make royalty rich for a long time. But those of royal blood do nothing. They go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee while the country decays and people are left to go hungry. All this is certainly evil.

Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government, have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have seized power from the king’s government. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by an assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind.

As for the head of state of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives. The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the head of state will be an ordinary person appointed by parliament to hold the position for a fixed term.

By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way. Everyone will have employment, because our country is a country which has very abundant conditions. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood amass from farming on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The government which the People’s Party will set up will draw up projects based on principle, and not act like a blind man as the government which has the king above the law has done. The major principles which the People’s Party has laid out are:

1. must maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic, etc.;
2. must maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. must improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry
4. must provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. must provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. must provide the people with full education.

All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will last forever. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing so, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being serfs (phrai) and slaves (kha, that) of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood farm on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

Khana Ratsadon
[People’s Party]
24 June 1932