Updated: Tyranny into the future

15 06 2019

…[Gen] Prayuth Chan-ocha’s plans for a political makeover — one in which he would be labeled as head of a quasi-civilian government rather than military junta strongman — remain stalled as he continues to invoke Section 44 of the constitution.

He adds that “Prayuth is not expected to give up this weapon until after the country hosts a summit of regional leaders from June 21-23…”. That’s when his legal fixer Wissanu Krea-ngam says the “new” cabinet will begin work.

There is no smooth path to forming the “new” junta government + 19 parties. When the junta’s in trouble, it begins repressing, and as we have said before, this looks like the sad future for Thailand.

Macan-Markar says that “human rights groups and political critics are alarmed.” They also say that there’s “no end in sight for the dictatorship in Thailand.”

He cites Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch:

Gen. Prayuth maintains a host of repressive powers that allow him to prosecute dissidents, gag free speech, and put critics in secret military detention. They don’t tolerate even the slightest hint of mockery…. This is an embrace of authoritarian rule, not a transition to democracy, as Gen. Prayuth starts his second term in office.

The article then mentions the Wai Khru events that sent the junta into a repressive spin.

On this, HRW states that:

The authorities have even targeted high school students for ridiculing the junta. On June 13, soldiers and police officers went to Chumpholphonphisai School in Nong Khai province and ordered students to delete all photos on their social media accounts about their Teacher’s Day activities, in which they made pedestal trays with satirical messages about military dictatorship and the junta’s manipulation of the general election to prolong Prime Minister Prayuth’s rule.

It has since been reported that soldiers weren’t involved, only police. We are not at all sure how this makes it any less reprehensible.

This story really only gained traction when Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan got his knickers in a knot over social media posts. He exploded: “I believe there is someone behind this. How could the kids come up with this idea by themselves?”

We guess he’s blaming Thaksin Shinawatra and red shirted teachers. He’s such a dipstick, but fascist dipsticks are nasty dipsticks. The students contradicted Gen Dipstick.

Khaosod has further details on events:

Five Grade 12 students at Chumpholphonphisai School yesterday creatively adapted flower arrangements on trays that are traditionally offered to teachers to wai khru, in order to critique Prayuth’s appointment as prime minister for a second term.

In addition to the usual flowers, one tray depicted an imbalanced scale with cardboard signs saying “millions of votes” on the lighter side and “250 votes” on the heavier side – referring to the junta-appointed senate and their unanimous voting last week in favour of Prayuth’s bid for the top job. Another tray depicts figurines of armed soldiers and monsters surrounding Democracy Monument.

Pol. Col. Puwis Siriphanich of Phon Phisai police station is quoted as saying: “We did not order or intimidate students to delete the photos. We respect their rights.”

However, Pipat Srisookpant, the school director insisted “[o]fficers asked that the photos be removed from all social media and the students complied…”.

Anti-democracy campaigners used the event to chastise parents. Former Democrat Party MP Warong Dechgitvigrom complained that parents prevent the spread of democracy: “I ask parents to exchange thoughts with your children because they can be easily mislead…. Children are optimistic and can be indoctrinated by democracy.”

What party did he represent? Oh, yes, the Democrat Party, the anti-democrat party that looks like allowing dictatorship and repression to advance without impediment.

Adding to this depressing descent into political darkness, HRW mentions several other efforts by the junta to repress mocking on social media.

It is an effort to make Thailand a dark and fearful place.

If readers need a pick-me-up, there’s a story on the determination of democracy activists to resist despite having “been the target of increasing physical assaults and intimidation since the March elections…” and the disappearance and murder of dissidents.

Update: In his op-ed at the Bangkok Post, Wasant

We thought we were creeping back to democracy. We thought we were regaining our freedoms. After all, we have just welcomed a new government which has tried to convince the world that it came to power by democratic means.

But we are creeping even closer to 1984 than ever.

Indeed it is. Who would have guessed that the end of the junta, well, sort of, would result in deepening repression!?!





Updated: Democrat Party and military domination

4 06 2019

It was always going to happen. The Democrat Party has agreed to lie with the junta and its 19 party coalition. All of the buffalo manure of recent days represented a small battle within the party, a negotiation strategy and a smokescreen.

Why was it always going to happen? Several reasons. First, the Democrat Party’s history is peppered with long periods where the party has worked for military political interventions and has supported military governments and military dictatorships. Second, in recent years, the party has shown a disdain for electoral democracy, boycotting elections (2006, 2014), rioting in parliament, working with the military to establish a Democrat Party-led coalition in 2008, and cheered the military to run its coups in 2006 and 2014.

But these more recent events also weakened the party. In the 2019 “election,” those who usually supported the Democrat Party had a choice to make between a fully-fledged military party and a Democrat Party that campaigned as junta-lite. The result was that the Democrat Party was deserted by its rightist supporters.

Now, as the Bangkok Post reports, the “Democrat Party has voted overwhelmingly to join the Palang Pracharath alliance, sealing the deal for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to continue as prime minister and for the pro-regime party to form a government with a slim majority of 254 votes.”

 Principles: Buddies then.

As it was a secret ballot, there’s an intriguing question as the vote was by party executives and MPs who voted 61-16 to join the junta’s coalition. If any of those who voted against were MPs, then the junta’s coalition will be shaky from the outset.

The junta welcomed the Democrat Party back to its natural home.

Principles: Abhisit and Suthep as anti-democrats

Update: Abhisit Vejjajiva resigned as a member of parliament just a short time before parliament was meant to convene for what the junta hopes is an anointing Gen Prayuth. He stated “he could not break his word and follow his Democrat Party’s resolution to support Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as the next prime minister.” He then babbled that in his “political career, I adhere to ideals and principles…”.

We presume that means being backed by the military to form a government when he wanted to be PM in 2008 and the cold-blooded murder of protesters in 2010. It must also allow for the cheering of two coups, egging the military to intervene. Principled? Hardly.

Principles: Newin and Abhisit





Updated: Disdain for parliament

4 06 2019

An Army engineer

Following five years of rolling back electoral politics and election rigging, not everything went the way the Army’s political engineers imagined. Yes, they came up with a less democratic constitution in 2017. Less democratic than the previous not so democratic one engineered after the 2006 military coup. Yes, they came up with a bunch of laws that connected to the undemocratic constitution that made it virtually impossible to prevent military political interference or even dominance for years to come.

Where this came unstuck was on 24 March when constituency voters chose parties that were anti-junta. It was only the puppet Election Commission, supported by the biased Constitutional Court that the junta even gained a hope of bargaining its way to a lower house majority by cobbling together up to 20 parties into a Palang Pracharath-led coalition. But not even that is in place, less than 24 hours before parliament selects a “new” prime minister.

The bloody hands of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha are set to grab premiership (again), thanks to the junta’s Army engineering that allows for a junta-picked and appointed Senate being likely to vote as a block for The Dictator, along with his Palang Pracharath Party. This despite various pleading for the Senate to not act as the junta’s puppets.

The Democrat Party and Bhum Jai Thai Party may come on board with the junta – as they are desperate to do – but only after all of the bargaining for cabinet posts has been completed. It is looking likely that the selection of the PM will go ahead with a government having been concocted by the junta and its puppet party.

This means that six weeks after the election, Thailand continues to be administered by the junta. It hardly has a “government” in place as so many of its ministers scurried off to Palang Pracharath and the Senate. For The Dictator, his face will be saved, but only momentarily.

Remarkably, but defining of the whole process of coup to election charade, this political theater of a joint parliamentary sitting choosing a PM will likely take place without Gen Prayuth even showing up, let alone saying something to parliament.

According to Khaosod, Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam has stated that “there’s no need for junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha to show up tomorrow when parliament convenes to elect a new prime minister.”

We suspect that the prickly, arrogant premier-in-waiting is doing a Prem (again). He hardly ever showed up for parliament, treating it like a junior school where politicians squabbled and fought and he floated above it, buoyed by royal barami. Like Gen Prem, Gen Prayuth exhibits nothing but disdain for parliamentary politics.

With “lower house speaker Chuan Leekpai [having] promised on Monday to allow MPs ample time to debate the qualifications of PM candidates before going to the vote,” we are sure that Gen Prayuth sees this as several levels below his exalted status. He had hoped that parliament would be a bunch of yes-men and -woman and that he would be able to ignore them for a few years, leaving them to squabble and fight over the leftovers from the junta’s plate.

But the voters have thrown that plan into disarray, and Gen Prayuth, if he gets up tomorrow as expected, he can expect criticism. And that’s something that he has never learned to deal with.

And just in case you were wondering, “Deputy PM Wissanu also specified to the media Tuesday that Prayuth and the rest of the junta will remain in their positions until a new cabinet formally reports to its first day of work.”

So whatever happens tomorrow, it is Prayuth in the premier’s seat for the near term. If he gets his way tomorrow, we don’t expect that he will enjoy the medium term. Bookmakers are taking bets on the date of the next coup. He’ll hate the idea of parliament even more than he does now.

Update: According to a report in Post Today, about half of the Democrat Party’s more extreme MPs have decided to screw their party and bed down with the junta’s party. This is either a threat to the rest of the MPs to come on board with the junta and The Dictator or its another large nail in the coffin of this hopeless party.





Junta in trouble?

1 06 2019

The military junta had five years of rigging the “election.” Yet, thanks to voters, despite the rigging and with everything on its side including a puppet Election Commission, the junta’s party seems to be in trouble.

While a week or so ago it looked like Bhum Jai Thai and the Democrat Party were set to run into the junta’s waiting arms, something’s gone wrong.

It may still work out that these two anti-democrat parties coalesce with Palang Pracharath and form a 20+ party coalition. That would still be our bet. But, such a government would work with a wafer thin majority. At present, negotiations are over various matters but mostly revolving around ministerial seats, are creaky.

Bhum Jai Thai seemed set to join the junta’s party and government, but pulled back as a battle erupted in the Democrat Party over support for the military junta. It seems the Democrat Party needs another meeting to sort their position out. They want three ministerial seats.

Meanwhile, there have been rumors that Palang Pracharath is itself wobbly:

There have been reports that a 30-strong group led by Somsak Thepsuthin was threatening to quit PPRP unless it received the Agriculture Ministry portfolio, which the Democrats are also believed to covet. Mr Somsak denied the reports.

Even if the junta gets the Democrat Party and Bhum Jai Thai on board, governing a huge coalition is going to be a constant struggle for the junta. And that can be exceptionally expensive.

One response has been a renewed discussion of minority government. This notion was first raised by anti-democrat junta supporter Paiboon Nititawan before the election. He’s pushing the idea again, saying that “For budget-related bills, we can have both the Senate and the House of Representatives vote on them by stipulating Section 270 of the charter…”.

Of course, this would be a desperate measure as governing on a day-to-day basis would become difficult. And, the idea that the executive could govern without having much at all to do with parliament would be a politically divisive strategy.

Another idea that also comes of desperation is that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha can be selected as prime minister next week and then dissolve parliament and wait a considerable time before calling another election.

Finally, there’s the idea of another coup.

Whichever way you look at it, the junta is faced with difficult decisions. In effect, its five years in power amount to a massive political failure.





On the road to nowhere (new)

24 05 2019

Is wasn’t hard to predict the final “election” result. PPT predicted a junta “win” a long time ago. The “win” was never in doubt as the whole process was rigged.

HRW’s Sunai Phasuk put it this way:

The March 24 general election was structurally rigged, enabling the military to extend its hold on power. While maintaining a host of repressive laws, the junta dissolved a main opposition party, took control of the national election commission, levied bogus criminal charges against opposition politicians and dissidents, and packed the Senate with generals and cronies who will have the power to determine the next prime minister, regardless of the election results.

What wasn’t clear is that the bumbling generals would be snookered by the electorate. Thai voters, despite all the rigging and repression still voted for anti-junta parties, with the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Puea Thai Party winning a plurality.

Despite this, the junta’s puppet party, Palang Pracharath, will head up a coalition of some 20 parties. While a great deal of bargaining has gone on, pro-military parties like Bhum Jai Thai and the anti-democrat Democrat Party were always likely to saddle-up with the junta – after all, they have supported it for years and worked for its coup back in 2014.

In a throwback to December 2008, when the military midwifed a government led by the Democrat Party’s Abhisit Vejjajiva, it is reported that there was:

a meeting between Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha], his deputy Prawit Wongsuwon, Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul and Democrat secretary-general Chalermchai Sri-on at a military camp in Bangkok…. They discussed coming together to set up a government with the PPRP as the main party, the sources said, adding that given the atmosphere of the meeting, the “deal” to form the next government is almost sealed.

The wheeling and dealing is over who gets what. Bhum Jai Thai wants a bunch of potentially lucrative cabinet slots that all seem focused on benefits for the Buriram clan. The Democrat Party wants anything at all that will allow it to look stronger than its horrid election result suggest.

Following the junta’s clear message, via the Election Commission and Constitutional Court, that it intends to grind the Future Forward Party into political dust, the deals were more easily struck, with most of the remora micro-parties and even the middle-sized parties rushing into the octopus-grasp of the junta.

How strong that grasp will be is yet to be tested. A 20-party coalition is a recipe for instability or for massive corruption in keeping it together. There’s also the “Prem model” who tried to ignore party and parliamentary bickering and ruled as a cabinet-led government. Like Gen Prem, Gen Prayuth has a tame Senate. In fact, the Senate looks rather like the puppet National Legislative Assembly of the past few years.

A weak coalition government with an autocratic premier suggests that The Dictator will require strong support from extra-parliamentary sources – the king and the military. Neither is likely to be maintained without cost and deals.

Back in the 1980s, the main threats and support for Gen Prem were extra-parliamentary, and despite the image of a period of stability, saw several coup attempts.





Updated: Feckless fools

29 04 2019

The Election Commission is a hastily cobbled together sham and a joke.

After the re-run of the “election” in Nakhon Pathom province, on Sunday  EC commissioner Chatchai Chanpraisri announced that “the Future Forward Party had won over the Democrat Party by 65 votes.”

The Democrat Party challenged this announcement and provided figures showing its candidate won by four votes. Today EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma “admitted … the Democrat account was accurate.

EC deputy secretary-general Sawang Boonmee “said the incorrect results announced on Sunday were unofficial and were made before the counting tally had been completed.”

What a mob of feckless failures this EC is. The are incompetent and stupid. That’s probably not the EC’s fault as much as the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly selecting hopeless incompetents for the task of ensuring the junta “won” the “election.”

Update: It seems the feckless fools are also cheats. That seems to be the implication of Future Forward’s response to the Nakorn Pathom fiasco. The party is “pressing for a poll rerun … to set the record straight after claiming Sunday’s ballot recount was riddled with inaccuracies.” As well as the inaccuracies, the party also pointed to “a 20-second blackout while the ballots were being recounted…”. Blackouts seem to have been remarkably common during vote counts.





Election crisis

17 04 2019

PPT recently posted on the resurrection of the notion of a “national government.” The interesting thing about this hackneyed nonsense was the admission that Thailand faced a political crisis.

An opinion piece at The Nation is disparaging:

Moves to engineer a pseudo-deadlock to justify ‘neutral’ rule ignore the will of voters….

A so-called national unity government has always been a favourite gambit for Thai politicians who lose elections. By utilising this benign-sounding concept they can sweep aside the voters’ verdict and prevent opposing factions from taking power.

It points out that:

It was sad though predictable, then, to see the Democrats’ Thepthai Senapong float the idea again, after his party suffered a huge setback in the March 24 election. Exploiting the Election Commission (EC)’s apparent inability to produce a clear result, Thepthai has sought to convince the public that a national unity Cabinet is badly needed.

His idea immediately fails the test of credibility with his proposal that former prime minister and Democrat [Party] patriarch Chuan Leekpai lead the “unity” government. No neutral observer believes that Chuan is non-partisan.

While the opinion writer still has some faith that an election result will emerge that is not concocted by the junta, it is stated:

The election was far from perfect, but the elite, military and notably the junta must accept the outcome of a situation that they themselves created. The junta should now allow its opponents the chance to form a government to run the country, as mandated by the people.

Using underhanded legal tactics and other dirty tricks to retain power is not acceptable. The people delivered their verdict via an election by whose rules all parties agreed to abide. That process and its outcome are the only effective solution to the deep and lasting political problems in this country.

That would be a breakthrough as the elite, military and anti-democrats have never accepted election results that don’t give power to them.

But, as veteran Puea Thai Party politician Phumtham Wechayachai points out,  the junta’s “Constitution and the legal framework had indeed been designed to cause complications and difficulties that would draw the nation down the path to undemocratic rule.” He added: “The political situation is on a course that shows we are going toward a dead end…”.

The dead end is manufactured crisis and continuing authoritarianism.