Updated: That sucking sound

25 04 2018

We just posted on the unbelievable things that come from the mouths of military leaders and their supporters and minions.

Following one disgraced politician have accused The Dictator of offering jobs in the government to politicians in exchange for their support when Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha decides to be an “outsider” premier after an “election,” the General has denied and rejected this as an “allegation.

Rather, like a a well-seasoned politician, he “showed sympathy towards those politicians and former MPs who he said did not have enough opportunity to express their opinions and were neglected by their party executives.” He could do better!

Then there’s the “accusation that the National Council for Peace and Order [NCPO, the junta] or the government would go and force individuals, businessmen and the people [to bend to my will]. How do I get the power to do that?”

No answer required, he’s The Dictator.

The more interesting things he said made it clear that there is a Military or pro-junta party. He’s previously been coy about this.

Gen Prayuth said “he did not want anyone to say that he was ‘luring politicians to join his pro-junta party’.” He went on: “There was no way the pro-military party could lure anyone unless their current affiliate parties had not done their job well…”.

That military party or parties is/are sucking up as many “politicians” as it can.

This is one claim we believe. Everything is falling into place in The Dictator’s Suchinda Kraprayoon-like planning for staying in the top job.

Update: The (ever erratic) Dictator, after having confirmed a pro-military party in the making is now angry with a Democrat Party politician for comments about that party and its cost. The Dictator threatens legal action and his cronies babble about “fake news.”

Updated: Stealing an “election” II

17 04 2018

In the past, one of the ways that military regimes established their dominance was by forming political parties or by backing particular political parties, sometimes multiple parties. They do this to gain some supposed legitimacy. All over the world, dictatorial regimes use fake elections to do this, and the Thai military dictatorship is little different.

For some time, the junta and its allies have been working to establish support for pro-junta parties, giving these “new” parties support and preferential treatment. It has also been trying to peel potential politicians away from larger parties and The Dictator himself has been meeting various “people of influence” to sign them up for his campaign for the premiership. These were the so-called dark influences or chao phor who acted as political brokers in areas where powerful families control much economic and political influence by both legal and illicit means. (For more, download Ruth McVey’s now useful again book Money & Power in Provincial Thailand.)

In recent days there was the “appointment” of a Democrat Party anti-democrat to a position in the Bangkok administration leaving an electoral space for a pro-junta candidate. And the junta has worked hard to peel Puea Thai Party politicians away from that party.

Two more “appointments” have been made. that illustrate how hard the junta and military are working to grind their heavy boot on Thailand’s politics. Sonthaya Khunploem has been made an “adviser on political affairs to the prime minister…”. His younger brother Itthiphol is now “an assistant to the tourism and sports minister.” These are sons of Chonburi godfather and convicted murderer Somchai Khunploem or Kamnan Poh. The family has been powerful in many political parties and its political location has changed with the wind. Sonthaya’s most recent affiliations were to Puea Thai.

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-ocha “endorsed the appointments, proposed by the Secretariat of the Prime Minister, on Tuesday…”. In fact, the appointments have been concocted by the junta and the premier himself in order to gain electoral advantage in the eastern region.

Sonthaya is currently leader of the Palang Chon Party. Itthiphol is a former Pattaya mayor. Both have networks of political campaigners, plenty of money and lots of “influence.”

Somchai, now 80, went “on the run in 2006 for seven years before being arrested in January 2013 by a team of police commandos as he was travelling in a vehicle in eastern Bangkok.” He was sentenced to 28.5 years for murder and sundry offenses and was scheduled for release in September 2035. But he was released in late 2017 “after he was deemed to have met special criteria for early release.”

Doing these kinds of deals with local godfathers is not unique to the junta but it is another clear signal of junta political strategy.

Update: The Nation reports that The Dictator has downplayed these appointments. He may not have lied when he said “he needed politicians to advise him on political affairs…” and “to help him better understand politics” in the “elections,” but he certainly lied when played anti-politics and “denied the appointment was for his own benefit.” The report adds:

Somkid Jatusripitak, the chief of the junta’s economic team, has allegedly been consolidating power by wooing former members of the House of Representatives from different political parties to join a new pro-junta party.

The party reportedly is to be led by Somkid’s close aides, Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana and Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong. It is likely to be launched in June and is expected to back Prayut to return as a head of the government after the next election which is expected to be held next year.

Phalang Chon adviser Charoon Ngampichet yesterday did not rule out the possibility of the party banding together with a pro-military party after the election.

“It’s a matter for the future. If the opportunity is really offered, we’ll have to consider whether it’s appropriate,” he said.

Charoon welcomed the presence of key Phalang Chon members in the government.

On whether the planned pro-Dictator party is really being constructed, “Uttama admitted yesterday that preparations were being made for a pro-Prayut party. He said he had discussed the matter with Somkid and Sontirat…”.

Elbowing Abhisit

15 04 2018

The Democrat Party has been in trouble for years. We could go back to its founding as a royalist party founded by an alliance of disgruntled, restorationist princes determined to undo the political reforms of the People’s Party. But let’s just look at its time under current leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Abhisit, a scion of an elite royalist family, became leader of the party in 2005, following two crushing losses to Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party. The party hierarchy believed the ambitious Abhisit could bring the party some better election results. There were elections in 2006, 2011 and 2014, with Abhisit losing badly in 2011 and boycotting elections in the other two years. In both boycotts, Abhisit aligned his party with radically royalist street movements. Despite never winning an election, Abhisit became prime minister in late 2008. He managed this with the help of the military and judiciary, which engineered the ouster of an elected government and its replacement by a hastily cobbled together Democrat Party-led coalition. In addition, Abhisit supported two coups against elected governments in 2006 and 2014.

If that record isn’t bad enough, while resisting calls for elections in 2009 and 2010, Abhisit was premier when the military fired on demonstrators from the red shirts, killing dozens and injuring thousands. Because he was the military’s loyal ally in this murderous politics, he has not been held responsible.

That record makes Abhisit politically toxic for many Thais who prefer to vote in elections for the government they prefer.

The Nation reports that aged former party leader and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai has revealed that “there is an attempt within the party to replace current leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and that he and Supachai Panichpakdi were being considered” as replacements.

Chuan, who is about to turn 80, has led two governments. The first followed the 13 September 1992 election where the Democrat Party won 79 of the 360 seats and led a coalition. The second time in power came from an election defeat but the fall of a government beset by  economic crisis. Backroom deals saw Chuan becomes premier leading a hastily cobbled together Democrat Party-led coalition.

Supachai Panitchpakdi is almost 72. He has limited political experience, having been appointed as Deputy Minister of Finance in 1986-88, before becoming president of the Thai Military Bank. He briefly returned to politics in 1992 and became Deputy Prime Minister until 1995. In November 1997 he became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce, implementing IMF policies that were widely despised. He then went off to become head of the WTO and the of UNCTAD. In both positions, despite his claims to the contrary, he was more or less inactive and invisible.

So the Democrat Party looks to has-beens for a new leader in an upcoming (?) “election” where the big issue is how to get The Dictator back in the premier’s chair. We do not doubt that any of these three quislings can cooperate with the military. However, Abhisit is seen as both an electoral liability and too ambitious for the premier’s seat.

Chuan says the party needs “to pave the way for new people.” The problem for the party in “election” terms is that the “new blood” is anti-democratic and military supporting. Such an electoral profile is also likely to further stain the party.

Once the military junta’s ban on the activities of established political parties is lifted, “Chuan said that the party had to vote for a new leader following the new rules imposed by the [junta’s] new organic laws.”

As usual, the Democrat Party is in a political mess and will be as opportunistic as ever. An alliance with the military seems most likely (again).

Confirming the obvious

3 04 2018

At PPT we have been making the point for years. But if anyone didn’t think that The Dictator intended to remain prime minister for a very long time, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has now stated that “he could be ‘outsider premier’ after a general election…”.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Gen Prayuth dismissed Democrat Party “leader” Abhisit Vejjajiva’s statement that his anti-democrat party would not allow members who wanted an “outside premier.” Prayuth “urged the public to wait and see for themselves if the Democrat [Party member]s would make an about-face on the matter after the poll.”

We suspect that Prayuth understands the Democrat Party well enough. And, Abhisit can’t be trusted. He is a serial quisling when it comes to military domination of politics, having cheered two military coups.

By responding to Abhisit, Prayuth is confirming the obvious: he’s in the running and remains in high campaign mode. His party is the military, and it is working hard to ensure Prayuth’s position is safe.

Weekend reads

1 04 2018

We are still kind of catching up from our downtime a weeks or so ago, and want to recommend some interesting material for our readers. Hopefully our military censors/blockers will also learn something from these stories.

At the Bangkok Post: The Cambridge Analytica/SCL Group story is belatedly addressed for Thailand – we commented about 10 days ago – but adds little to the story, although there seems an attempt to diminish the possible role of the Democrat Party even though the only Thai cited is Chuan Leekpai. If there were links between the Democrat Party and/or its government and SCL, look to the party’s Anglophiles for the connecting points.

On the extrajudicial killings at Prachatai: Yiamyut Sutthichaya writes that  “March 17th marked the first anniversary of the death of the young Lahu activist, Chaiyaphum ‘Cha-ou’ Pasae. He was shot dead by a soldier…”. As far as we can tell, nothing sensible has happened on this case since day 1. It has been a cover-up. Read the account, weep for Chaiyapoom and weep for Thailand under the junta’s boot. This is a case of official corruption far more egregious than the Deputy Dictator’s watch saga. The latter interests the middle class who seem to care little for rural kids murdered by military thugs.

“No conspiracy”: The Dictator says he’s stuck to the “roadmap” and there’s no conspiracy to further delay the junta’s promised election. Everyone knows this is a mountain of buffalo manure, but The Dictator keeps saying it. No one believes him – no one – and Alan Dawson at the Bangkok Post calls him out. While at the Post, go and read the stir caused for the junta when Thaksin suggests that Puea Thai will do well when an election comes along. That’s also what the polls say, including the junta’s own polling. That’s also why the junta is splashing taxpayer funds about, seeking to buy supporters.

Insidious Internal Security Act: In talking with political scientist Puangthong Pawakapan, Kritsada Subpawanthanakun reminds us that the the Internal Security Act has now been around for 10 years. A tool wielded mainly through ISOC, it is used to undermine political opponents of Thailand’s establishment. This is highlighted by the fact that the current law was implemented by Gen Surayud Chulanont’s government, put in place by a military junta and borrowing Surayud from the Privy Council. The links between ISOC and the palace are long, deep and nasty.

For more on ISOC: Nutcha Tantivitayapitak writes of “ISOC’s cultural mission” in “the ideological promotion process of ‘nation-religion-monarchy’ by the security agencies…, especially after the enforcement of the 2008 Internal Security Act. Security agencies such as ISOC, which has power over civilian agencies, moved forward in ideological indoctrination through cultural tools.”

Polls, The Dictator and the “stupid”

23 03 2018

The Dictator continues his electoral campaign that sees billions of baht being doled out to potential voters.

In the land of the officially “stupid,” it remains unclear how much influence these huge dollops of taxpayer funds and intense junta repression and propaganda is having.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his minions and thugs must be angered by the results of a poll conducted by the E-SAAN Centre for Business and Economic Research of Khon Kaen University. Surveying 1,119 people in 20 northeastern provinces from 16-19 March, Puea Thai Party came out on top, with almost 43% picking the party for the next election.

Some 38% said they were still undecided, but only about 7% chose the Democrat Party.

Even so, that (anti-)Democrat Party was ahead of “any party supporting Gen Prayut” which would got support of a paltry 6%. Worse for The Dictator, “[m]ore than 80% of the respondents said the election should be held this year…”.

Meanwhile, The Dictator has taken to bragging about his military regime’s “successes” in a manner that suggests he thinks everyone in Thailand is officially stupid. He makes the claim that his junta “has solved more than 90% of the complaints lodged with the administration…”. He reckoned the official complaints received number 4,000-5,000 a month.

Gen Prayuth was campaigning in Nong Bua Lam Phu, making anti-democrat political claims about a system he called “democracy.” Clearly, not many have not been sufficiently intelligent to sign up to his political ideas. In fact, we have to wonder if the claim of stupidity is not better planted with the junta and its expensive political trickery.

Democrat Party and Cambridge Analytica

22 03 2018

PPT has done a bit of a search related to Cambridge Analytica, the parent company SCL Group and Thailand. The most detailed account we can find is at Investvine. We are unable to verify the claims made, but thought readers may be interested.

The story begins with a claim that is at the SCL and CA sites. This is the boast that the firm “influenced a past election campaign in Thailand for an unnamed client.”

SCL claims it “built and managed the world’s largest campaign center” for an election campaign in Thailand. It further claimed to have used it:

“cutting-edge Behavioural Dynamics Institute methodology” enabling it to correctly determine Thai voter behaviour down to the constituency level, which resulted in considerable campaign savings for the client and permitted a more targeted use of resources – all centrally controlled from the operations center.”

Investvine’s Arno Maierbrugger says that this intervention:

seems to be related to Thailand’s 1996 election when SCI (Cambridge Analytica was only founded in 2013) seems to have used behavourial analytics to support the campaign of Democrat candidate Chuan Leekpai who eventually became prime minister after a substantial tug-of-war with competing populist New Aspiration Party. The company illustrates its case study with the display of a Time magazine cover from March 30, 1998, with the title “Thailand’s comeback kid” with Leekpai being portrayed as the election winner.

Investvine’s comments on Thailand’s politics are limited. It is true that Chuan’s party did substantially better in the 1996 election than it had in 1995. Even so, the Democrat Party went into opposition. It was later hoisted to power in murky circumstances and sans election in late 1997.