After an “election”

14 07 2018

The Klong Dan convictions provide a timely reminder of what politics under the junta’s constitutional arrangements might look like following the junta’s rigged election.

In the linked story, readers are reminded that the saga began in 1995 under a Democrat Party-led coalition:

Suwat Liptapanlop, who served as science minister in the Democrat government headed by Chuan Leekpai, first proposed the wastewater treatment project in 1995. Prayoonvisavat Karnchang, one of the companies convicted in the case, was founded by Mr Suwat’s father Visava.

One of the other companies convicted, Seesaeng Karn Yotha, was founded by Banharn Silpa-archa, whose party at the time was a coalition partner with the Democrats.

Other cabinet-level supporters of the project were Vatana, who was then the deputy interior minister, and Yingphan Manasikarn, then minister of natural resources and environment, who died in 2003.

Like other rich persons who feel they are unable to negotiate a comfortable legal outcome, Vatana fled the country and has been “gone” for a decade, although we guess he arranges long periods at home.

The saga was so long that some readers may not have been born when it began. For background and for a reminder of how weak coalition governments worked under rules introduced by the military following the 1991 military coup, we provide a Bangkok Post investigative report from 2000 and a link to a Focus on the Global South Report from 2002.





Democracy as defined by anti-democrats

29 06 2018

It may be that the reporting is not complete, but we found a revealing statement by an ex-Democrat Party MP opposing the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration plan to “drop its plan to dissolve the city’s district councils and replace each one with a so-called civic committee, an elected body.”

Atthawit Suwanphakdi declared he opposed the change from elected councilors to an elected “civic committee” for particular reasons:

The district councillor is the only elected position that is least prone to being involved in corruption because the councillor doesn’t hold any authority to propose a project or make decisions in any budget allocations of the BMA….

Councilors receive a paltry salary to act as “an adviser to the district office director and a general inspector with good connections with both the BMA and the voters in each district…”.

Atthawit’s support for elected district councilors may be seen as slap to the military junta that has prevented elections at all levels since its coup, but his reasoning is classic anti-democrat.

In his view, elected politicians are only useful where they have no power to do anything, leaving the important decisions to bureaucrats and technocrats.





Rip up the junta’s basic law

16 06 2018

The Bangkok Post reports that representatives of Future Forward Party and Puea Thai Party “agreed at a forum that changing the whole charter is a top priority for their parties after the poll.” This amounts to a tearing up of the junta’s anti-democratic constitution.

Meanwhile, while Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva also believed that the junta’s constitution was a problem, as might be expected, he talked of amending it, not ditching it as a deeply flawed charter. Likewise, he did not think this a “top priority of the new government…”.

We don’t think the Democrat Party is particularly concerned about the junta’s charter but knows that the charter is likely to be a major election issue whenever the junta decides to hold its rigged election.

They also acknowledged that “the charter is written in such a way that change is almost impossible by following the normal process.”

 Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of Future Forward said:

The whole 2017 constitution should be scrapped as it is undemocratic and passed by a referendum that lacked transparency. Moreover, the charter also forces future governments to stick with the junta’s 20-year national development blueprint….

Chaturon Chaisang of Puea Thai said that the “national strategy will impose additional burdens on future governments as they will be required to comply with the new law.” If they fail to follow the junta’s plan, they could go to jail.

Chaturon “urged all pro-democracy parties to join in this task” of getting rid of the junta’s charter and its 20 year plan.

In contrast, as the Bangkok Post reports, while admitting that the charter and junta plan are “impediments,” Abhisit seemed happy enough to go along with the junta’s plan, altering it when the context changed. Indeed, he seemed supportive of the plan saying “anyone who has better plans than the government’s 20-year national strategic plan must present them to the public.” He seems to not have an alternative.





Not criticizing The Dictator

13 06 2018

The puppet National Legislative Assembly has worked hard for the military junta. Passing laws, delaying laws, speaking the junta’s language and being loyally anti-democratic.

So deeply committed to their junta employers is this hotch-potch of lazy generals, rewarded anti-democrats and automatons that, as Khaosod reports, “[m]ore than three quarters of [all] the bills made into law by junta-appointed legislators have been passed without a single vote of opposition…”. As the report has it: “The Internet Reform Dialog group found that 77 percent of 292 bills have been passed in their third reading without a single nay…”.

One of the appointed marionettes says this is the wrong way to look at it. Wallop Tangkananuwat reckons the process of deliberation is important and that the vote represents just a decision on the NLA’s final outcome.

That may be true, but the lack of any opposing voices means that almost no bill is actually debated by the somnolent puppet legislators. Relatively few major changes to the junta’s bills, unless approved by The Dictator.

Even the Democrat Party’s Nipit Intarasombat, “an eight-time former MP with the Democrat Party, said those results would only appear normal before a parliament appointed by a dictator.” He adds: “That’s how the system work[s]. In a dictatorial system, it would be abnormal if there are voices of opposition.” He’s right.

The iLaw’s Narongsak Niamsorn says it is also a result of the simple fact that “of the current 248 NLA members, 144 are active-duty or retired military officers, 66 are government officials and 11 are from the police force. That adds up to 221 – 90 percent – of the body’s 248 members.”

It is a rubber-stamp parliament that dare not criticize the junta or The Dictator. But then the NLA has no reason to criticize, being peas of the same anti-democratic pod.





Updated: More junta campaigning

11 06 2018

No electoral campaigning is allowed for Thailand’s political parties. But the junta can be on the campaign trail all it wants with all the resources of the state backing its “electioneering.”

The Bangkok Post reports The Dictator led his junta/cabinet to the north today, “on another two-day trek to … Phichit and Nakhon Sawan.”

The first stop in Phichit was at a temple where The Dictator will recharge his barami. He then  spent several hours in both places meeting the “people” he wants to vote for pro-military parties whenever the junta decides to hold its election.

If there’s no election, then this effort is part of building the junta’s image for a longer period of military domination.

We guess he also met with various influential persons who will be arm-twisted or sweetened up for supporting the regime and/or its parties.

Update: The Nation reports that the junta’s election candidate Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, on the campaign trail in the north reiterated his 2011 call for voters to elect anyone but the Puea Thai Party, preferably “good” people. He didn’t put it exactly in those terms. He said: “It starts from whether you will get a government with good governance. Please vote for people whom you trust, not only those whom you’re familiar with…”. He’s saying don’t vote for Puea Thai or the Democrat Party.





Suthep’s big lie

4 06 2018

We at PPT are bemused by some of the media commentary regarding Suthep Thaugsuban’s political resurrection over the past few days.

Our bemusement is regarding the fact that some commentators expected the Democrat Party’s former bagman and godfather to keep his word when he said he was finished with politics.

Suthep and friends

Few of Thailand’s politicians make promises and keep them. That’s one reason why Thaksin Shinawatra remains so popular – he made campaign promises to the electorate and pretty much kept them. He may have been sneaky and shady too, but he kept the big promises. Or at least the ones the electorate appreciated.

But renege on his promise he did. From never being involved in politics again, he’s back in thick of it.

His excuse for his return in lamentable. He says he has to defend the junta’s constitution. He added that his party – that’s the Action Coalition for Thailand – “will protect the 2017 constitution – arguing support for the charter was reflected when it cruised through the referendum…”. As an anti-democrat it must be remembered that he is content with the unfair and unfree referendum where the junta allowed only one outcome.

He also bellowed: “There will be no pardon for any political prisoners…”. We are not sure if it is the reporting or its his words, but Suthep is acknowledging that the junta has jails full of political prisoners. After all, it is only those arrested and charged sin mid-2014 that are the subject of any proposal for “pardons.”

In his old kit as “a recruiter and fund-raiser for the ACT” – something he did for the Democrat Party using all kinds of dark influences – he declared that he couldn’t just do that: “when brothers and sisters who share the same ideology approached me and told me they were establishing a people’s political party, I had to join…”. He went on with populist rhetoric: “I will not run for the election [we can check on that one later!]. I volunteer to be a slave for the people and serve the people. I will use my 40 years of experience in politics to push and accomplish the establishment of the people’s party.”

It is a minority party, with its organizers who sit in Suthep’s shadow hoping for just 30 seats.

Explaining his big lie, Suthep explained that he was a “good” person, so his lies don’t count. He then added more populist blarney.

Party jumper Anek Laothamatas, who also can’t be trusted on anything political as his spots change daily, said ACT would be “governed by religious ethics and truly owned by the people, is a coalition of citizens that respects and aims to safeguard the monarchy.”

It sounds a bit like Tea Party Thailand, and that’s dangerous stuff, not least for keeping the monarchy at the top of a political agenda. Explanation: using the monarchy for political purposes is okay for “good” people, including former Communists.

In case anyone wasn’t quite convinced of CPT-cum-Democrat-cum-Mahachon-cum-Puea Thai-cum-ACT Anek’s royalism, he added that ACT would be “reducing inequality using the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s approach to development…”. We assume that’s the sufficiency economy nonsense.

We understand that Anek has now resigned from the junta’s puppet work and the handsome salary he received there. We guess that ACT moneybags like Suthep and others who supported Suthep in the past, like the Rangsit University proprietor, will stump up the funds for Anek’s services as figurehead leader of ACT.

While ACT wants to “reform in police and justice system by ensuring that the institutions involved will not become tools of politics,” he very pointedly accepts the military’s murderous political role. We can’t recall the last time the police led a coup in Thailand.

Of course, ACT is likely to want to support The Dictator as premier after the junta’s election.





Thaksin is still the opponent

3 06 2018

Asia Times commentator Shawn Crispin writes about what is obvious to all but the military junta dare not express in words.

His account is a bit too junta-esque in other ways. For example, he or perhaps an editor states: “Thailand’s politics are percolating again with legal clearance for democracy-restoring polls in February 2019. But will they be free and fair?”

The answer to the question is a resounding NO. It isn’t even a question worth asking. It seems to us that the junta’s “election” will only be in February if The Dictator and his cronies believe they have a better chance to get their favored lot elected then. Otherwise, expect more delays and more repression.

The claim that the military “overthrew a Peua Thai-led elected government … [after] months of anti-government street protests sparked by a Peua Thai bid to pass … an amnesty that may have allowed the criminally convicted Thaksin to return to the kingdom as a free man” is only partly correct.

It should not be forgotten that many red shirts opposed the blanket amnesty. And, as important, it should not be forgotten that Suthep Thaugsuban and the Democrat Party were just the last of a series of military-backed efforts to undermine the Yingluck Shinawatra government. In 2011, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha had publicly announced that people should not vote for Puea Thai. There were then all kinds of efforts to (re)create a street movement. The amnesty bungle provided a spark that gave the anti-democrats more traction on the streets.

The notion that The Dictator and his junta “has endeavored since to uproot Thaksin’s and his younger sister ex-premier Yingluck[’s]… populist legacies … in the name of curbing corruption, restoring finances and political reform” is nonsense. Time and again, the junta has implemented policies plagiarized from those administrations.

But Crispin is right to observe that the junta “despite [the]… regime’s best blunt efforts, will be hard-pressed to erase Shinawatra family memories from voters’ minds.” Military surveys have shown this. Crispin knows this. He states:

One source with access to high-level junta officials says that the military’s own internal forecasting, conducted by its all-seeing Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), has consistently shown Peua Thai will win resoundingly, even with Prayut’s more recent efforts to put a more human, pro-poor face on his militaristic regime.

But that’s not the junta’s task. That is to splinter parties and have several devil parties that will “united” in coalition to allow for Prayuth to continue as premier.

He’s also right to observe that it is clear that the junta “intends to manage the elections on its own strict terms, including likely bans on acceptable and unacceptable political discourse on the campaign trail.”

Crispin later states correctly that:

…the junta’s ideal scenario, no single party will win an outright majority – a near but not 100% certainty under election rules put in deliberate place to prevent a landslide Peua Thai victory – and with a deadlock the military’s appointed Senate lends its numbers to select Prayut atop a coalition of parties in a military-friendly “national unity” government.

When he cites analysts as believing “the regime aims to stage the elections in the same repressed vein as the 2016 referendum…” is a point we have made many times.

It is very clear that Gen Prayuth will be loathe to tolerate an “election” that does not have him as boss.