Naughty Democrat Party and rubber rats

18 11 2017

The military regime has has warned the Democrat Party to behave itself.

The dictatorship considers that its (former?) political allies has been using “the plight of rubber planters, who are facing hard times given falling prices of the commodity, for political gain.”

Government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd warned against “lambasting” the regime, and declared the “Democrat Party could have helped by giving useful advice on how to help rubber farmers.”

The farmers are from the Democrat Party’s stronghold in the south, and the Party has complained about the regime’s failure “to shore up rubber prices, and for violating freedom of expression by summoning leaders of a rubber farmer network for ‘attitude adjustment’ at military camps last weekend” when the farm leaders threatened a demonstration.

The junta’s spokesman lied when he “insisted the government [he means junta] has never barred people from expressing opinions or voicing proposals about the issue.” He said those detained faced “no threats or abuses…”. They were simply detained for “re-education.”

It prevented “a large group of rubber farmers from travelling from the southern provinces to Bangkok…”.

He was absolutely truthful when he stated: “No rallies or gatherings should be carried out…”.

The Democrat Party is usually supportive of the military regime, but fearing a military political party and needing to shore up its political base, “deputy spokeswoman Mallika Boonmeetrakul said that summoning leaders to military camps was not the right approach.”

She declared the junta ineffective “in dealing with crop prices. It should stop sweeping the rubbish under the carpet because it is not constructive to do so…”.

Former Democrat MP Watchara Petthong said the junta’s “penchant to summon critics for attitude adjustment in military camps was a threat to people’s rights and freedom of expression.” Of course, when it is red shirts or anti-coup activists he tends to ignore the repression. We call that double standards.





No free “elections”

14 11 2017

According to the Democrat Party, local leaders have been ordered to answer The Dictator’s question/s. As this happens, it becomes crystal clear that no “election” that the military dictatorship decides to arrange can ever be free and fair.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan “warned candidates who intend to run in local elections to avoid campaigns that ‘attack’ the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)”, Thailand’s military junta.

The point is that if there is some local polling, which we seriously doubt and consider yet another delaying ploy, the junta is not going to allow anyone to campaign freely or fairly.

If and when there is something the junta will call a local election, it seems the military thugs will choose where these will be held and will seek to prevent political parties being (openly) involved. It may also seek to have the Ministry of Interior oversea local elections.





Thailand’s future politics II

2 11 2017

In our previous post we looked at two articles considering possible futures for Thailand’s politics. Here we look at two more.

Christina Larson is a Beijing-based reporter who has written for the New Yorker, Foreign Policy and Bloomberg. Her guess that the “respect felt by most Thais for their monarchy” is “genuine” is married to an appopriate observation that this is “besmirched by the growing enforcement of the world’s strictest lèse-majesté law…”. She adds that ” use of the law has allowed the government to persecute critics and to create a widespread fear while maintaining a veneer of legality.”

She observes that the “fate of the law has been inextricably tied up with the image of Bhumibol himself.” That’s a point that others have often missed. At the same time, the increased use of the law and its justification has been “protecting the monarchy.” Larson notes that the image of the monarchy that is protected is of the ninth king and adds: “But the burnished image of the ‘People’s King’ — as a crusader for little people, a camera-toting investigator and promoter of public works – was shaped and reinforced by a supremely successful 70-year-propaganda campaign.”

It is that propaganda image that has been reinforced again and again over recent years – not least because the incumbent was mostly hidden in a hospital – and because that image was challenged. The funeral pushed the image again to supreme heights. But it is constructed:

According to Thailand’s constitution and school textbooks, the monarch is above politics, separate from the spheres of government and business. But nearly every public and private establishment in Bangkok was marking the official mourning period. Black-and-white memorial photos of Bhumibol in full royal regalia were on display at major airports, on highway billboards, at restaurants and hotels, even on the screens of ATMs. Liquor sales were prohibited during the cremation ceremonies, and the city’s ubiquitous 7-Elevens closed early on Thursday. That speaks to the power of the monarchy – and the fear of causing offense – that’s opened up a wide venue for persecution.

Larson quotes Benjamin Zawacki on the monarchy and lese majeste. (As a former representative of Amnesty International, he spent a lot of energy arguing that the reign of the dead king promoted human rights! He and AI neglected lese majeste in Thailand.)

Zawacki makes a rather odd comment: “If the cremation shows us nothing else, it is that the depth of respect and adoration for the monarchy in Thailand renders the lèse-majesté law redundant…”. Clearly it wasn’t, and the palace and military used it whenever there were political crises or whenever it saw threats to the grand concocted image of the monarchy.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak seems to contradict Zawacki, saying:

With the new reign, the enforcement of the [lèse-majesté] law will likely only increase, not decrease, for two reasons. The new monarch does not command as much love and respect as his father on an individual basis, and the monarchy will be under pressure to structurally adjust to new democratic norms.

Thitinan sees a continuation of the monarchy’s anti-democratic politics and a deepening of fear and intimidation. That seems entirely consistent with what we know of Vajiralongkorn and The Dictator. The symbiotic relationship mentioned in our previous post is important. At the same time, the  junta benefits enormously from the lese majeste law.

Kasit

The final article is an op-ed by the Democrat Party’s Kasit Piromya titled Thai political transformation needs ‘third force’. He believes an “alternative exists to military rule and entrenched political elite.”

Given that Kasit seems to have supported two military interventions throwing out elected governments, was a long-serving and senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, filled with members of the elite who are deeply royalist, we can only marvel at his idea of a “third force” and his call for “full-fledged democracy.”

He asks: “How much longer must Thai society accept the military’s involvement in politics?” Perhaps the answer is when persons like Kasit stop supporting those who are responsible for the coups.

He’s not keen on electoral politics, with PAD-like anti-democrat finger-pointing at the “dominance of vested interests in the political landscape led to countless numbers of abuses of power and corruption” along with “a power-hungry civilian political elite that engaged in rent-seeking with its majority rule.” He means the Thaksin regime.

And the “third force”? It is a PAD “solution” based on its usual false premises.

Kasit declares a pox on all houses (not his own): “One cannot rely on the military to voluntarily return to and remain in the barracks, nor on the political class to change its exploitative ways.”

The citizens must take the lead. But, of course, only after this “uneducate,” duped, misled and paid among them “educate themselves by gaining full access to information about government services and tasks, including how the national budget is spent, how decisions are made and how they can have input.” Does Kasit do this? We doubt it.

PADistas like Kasit believe that the citizenry is fodder for Thaksin-like politicians because they are “uneducate.”

Somehow the “Thai democratic citizenry” will be achieved “with the advent of modern telecommunications that enable convenient and fast connections with the public through mobile phones, social media and other internet-based vehicles.” Internet-based vehicles?? He’s making this up as he writes.

But what of the “third force”? Kasit reckons it “could consist of like-minded people” who come “together to agree on a course of action and draw up a list of priority issues so that a national consensus can be reached on taking Thailand forward.”

We think he’s serious, but who knows. When he calls the “get together” we’ll be sure to attend. Oh, but hang on… we are not “like-minded” with Kasit (thankfully!).

That said, he is right that when old ruling classes in some places have “reached a consensus with society at large to agree on a transitional approach toward democracy.”

In Thailand, however, the ruling class has repeatedly demonstrated that it will not compromise. Kasit can ramble on about a “third force” but the problem is the ruling class. They need to be overcome.





Never-ending military dictatorship

1 11 2017

For some time, on all sides of politics, there’s been a view that “after the funeral” was going to be a time for more political action. Indeed, the military dictatorship had hinted at a possible loosening. But seriously, who could believe them? Judging by some headlines, apparently quite a few believed the junta’s (false) assurances. It is as if Thai politics has a learning curve that begins from zero with each military regime.

Prachatai reports that “[a]fter raising hopes, the junta head will not be lifting the ban on political activities even though the royal cremation is over…”. No one should be surprised. This is a military dictatorship. It does what is in the best interests of its own rule.

The Dictator let it be known that he “is too busy responding to the long-running flood crisis to consider lifting his junta’s ban on political activities.” He let the floods do their damage and added to the plight of people in farming areas by flooding them to save Bangkok and the royal funeral. After all, a flood in Bangkok at that time would have been inauspicious, so poor farmers had to be up to their necks in water.

The ban on political activity will remain “to ensure social order and stability.” Is anyone aware of threats to “social order and stability”? We guess not, but the junta can concoct such threats at any time it wants.

We also guess that the coronation is considered the next big deal and the junta will again want total control, not just for itself, but to keep the unpredictable king happy.

The pathetic military bootlickers at the Democrat Party warned that: “If the ban is not lifted by the end of the year, there will be problems…”. But then the Deputy Democrat Party leader Nipit Intarasombat stated that “he would be open to partially lifting the ban…”. That partial lift would allow “politicians and political parties to meet and register members to form new parties and elect their executive boards.” That’s it….

General Prayuth Chan-ocha “once again that the junta will revoke the ban when the proper time comes.” He opined:

I ask you to trust me. I myself am aware and thinking about this issue. But imagine if everything explodes!  And you can see that today it is still unsettled. Lots of people are still slandering each other…

Politicians reckon the more than three year ban (so far) “is preventing them from preparing for the upcoming election.” No kidding? That’s the point of the ban.

The irritable Dictator complained:

Don’t keep asking me how I will remove the ban. It makes me unable to think, so it’s slow. If you keep asking, I can’t really think. Let me think of a conclusion first, then I will reveal everything. It will be in time….

He means in time for the military dictatorship’s “election.”

Pro-democracy activist Sirawith Seritiwat got it right when he said of “promised” elections: “Let see what they will cite next to stall it further. There probably won’t be elections next year, and there will never be elections unless pro-democracy forces pressure them…”.

At the Bangkok Post, The Dictator has the next excuse ready. He said the election, “tentatively scheduled for November 2018, can only be held after the organic bill on the election of MPs is enacted and the new Election Commission (EC) members are chosen…”.

To date, “nobody has … applied for the [EC] posts.”

Other excuses are likely to be the coronation and another death in the royal family.

Why does the junta worry about the “election”? After all, it made the rules, controls the rules and is going to control everything anyway post-“election.” We feel it is a gradual weaning the population off elections and better establishing a royalist authoritarianism.

 





On Democrat Party hypocrisy

24 09 2017

The Democrat Party has a long history of political hypocrisy. For most of its history, it has been conservative, royalist and cooperative with military regimes. There have been brief periods where it has attempted to be a democratic Democrat Party, but these periods appear as aberrations.

(For an official history of the Democrat Party, written as fairy tale, see here.)

Under Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has led the party since March 2005, it has become a raucously anti-democratic party, losing all elections that it did not boycott, damaging parliament, supporting and leading anti-democratic street protesters, happily boostering two military coups and presiding over the gunning down of red shirt protesters.

On the latter, on the 2010 massacre, after getting off murder charges again and again, Abhisit’s ego seems to know no bounds. In a display of narcissistic hubris, Abhisit was reported as miffed that red shirts were pressing on with trying to get the 2010 murders properly dealt with. He “hit back against the red shirts, urging them not to turn the loss of life suffered in the 2010 crackdown under his administration into a ‘political game’.”

A “political game”? As far as we can tell, it is only Abhisit and his ilk who have treated the murders as a political game.

Then, remarkably and unbelievably, Abhisit said “he felt sympathetic towards relatives of the victims who wanted to know the truth in order to see justice…”. Not only does that feel like a blatant lie, but the former prime minister then doubled down with a statement he used intentionally for the purpose of deception.

He declared that these red shirts – those who had lost relatives to military bullets – “had not opposed the controversial blanket amnesty bill when it was tabled by then-Pheu Thai MPs and supported by the Yingluck Shinawatra-led government, even although the proposed measure would have granted amnesty for those who were involved in the crackdown.”

This is what the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship declared at the time:

Speaking on the eve of the final House debate Thursday on the controversial bill, UDD chairwoman Thida Thavornseth on Wednesday reaffirmed the red-shirt movement’s opposition against the blanket amnesty. She said that the UDD did not want the amnesty to cover both Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thuagsuban whom the movement held accountable for the deaths of red-shirt protesters in May 2010.

Mrs Thida said that the Pheu Thai party would have to be responsible for any consequences which follow after the endorsement of the bill by the House….

Abhisit has lied (again).

He’s not the only member of the Democrat Party prone to lies and flights of fantasy.

Ong-art Klampaibul, a deputy leader of the Democrat Party, recently babbled about an “election” held under the military junta. He said: “I hope the people’s voice will be respected this time…”.

Of course, it has been the Democrat Party that has refused to accept each election result since 2005. He probably meant to say that he hopes that his failed party can ride on the military’s coattails to a position in a military-dominated government.





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.