Updated: Another lese majeste debate

10 11 2021

The king seems to think the threat to his throne has been seen off. According to reports from Andrew MacGregor Marshall at Facebook, the king and his extensive entourage of women, servants, minions, and other hangers-on, he’s back in Germany.

Yet, it is reported that, in under a week, more than 120,000 people have signed a petition to parliament calling for the repeal the infamous and draconian lese majeste law (see also a Prachatai story on this petition).

That will cause consternation among the military leadership and the former military leaders leading the regime but we suspect that they also feel that their lawfare approach has worked, with several leaders of the protests jailed without bail and thousands of others, arrested, harassed and repressed.

But an ongoing debate on lese majeste strikes at the heart of the regime’s political ideology.

Khaosod’s Pravit Rojanaphruk writes that last week’s “unprecedented flurry of reactions both in support and opposition to amending the controversial lese majeste law” means it is likely to “turn the next general elections into a de facto referendum on the law…”. That’s the last thing the palace wants – as Thaksin Shinawatra quickly determined – and it isn’t what the regime and its shaky party want.

Despite facing multiple lese majeste charges, Thaksin has always sucked up to royals; it seems in the genes of big shots brought up during the last reign. That’s why it was a surprise when, “just hours after the renewed major protest by monarchy-reform groups [to] reiterate their year-long call and started a signature drive for the abolition of the law … the opposition Pheu Thai Party’s chief of strategic committee Chaikasem Nitisiri issued a statement … saying the party supports pushing for the proposal to be debated in parliament.”

Thaksin nixed that. Regime and its associated parties were suitably unimpressed, standing up for the status quo.

The royalist Democrat Party declared Article 112 unproblematic, blaming the students and other protesters for the debate that is not needed. It is what is expected of a party founded by vindictive royalists and populated by royalists today. One of them babbled:

The lese-majeste law is not problematic as distorted and claimed by those calling for the amendment by the parliament… If it’s tabled for the parliament we shall fight. We support strict enforcement of the law….

The opposition parties, like Move Forward talk amendment rather than abolition, but the activist fire under them wants the law gone.

Pravit is enthusiastic about the debate:

To amend or not amend the lese majeste law, or even to abolish it, is a much needed debate and we can start on the right foot by trying to be more honest about where the different groups stand. The perpetuation of a state of self-denial will not do Thailand any good.

Royalists are livid and want no debate, no changes, no nothing (as usual).

The Bangkok Post reported that Suwit Thongprasert, better known as the fascist former monk and political activist Buddha Isara, has “submitted a petition to the parliament president to oppose any moves to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law.”

He and representatives of the so-called People’s Army Protecting the Monarchy claim 222,928 signatures supporting their ultra-royalism. They also oppose amending Article 116, the sedition law. Articles 112 and 116, along with computer crimes laws are the main lawfare statutes used by the regime to stifle political dissent.

Like all royalists and the regime itself, the fascist former monk “insisted that the monarchy has been one of the main pillars of the country, a source of Thai culture and tradition, and a unifying force for the Thai people.” Blah, blah, blah palace and rightist propaganda.

The royalists face off against the Progressive Movement which is campaigning “for people to sign an online petition seeking to amend Section 112.”

According to Thai PBS, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is predictably opposed to any amendment:

Deputy Government Spokesperson Rachada Dhnadirek said today (Thursday) that the prime minister told his cabinet that his government will not amend the law and will run the country by upholding the three main pillars, namely the Nation, the Religion and the Monarchy.

She said that the prime minister would like to assure the Thai people that this is the administration’s position.

He was quoted to have said about this controversial issue yesterday, “Every country has longstanding cultures and traditions. No one thinks all the good in our past should be erased in favour of the new, created without rules. We shouldn’t be destroying what all Thais hold in high regard.”

The regime’s party is uniting against change. The Bangkok Post reports that Thipanan Sirichana, who is attached to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat Office says it is “impossible to repeal Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law, both in technicality and spirit, and doing so runs counter to the constitution…”. Thipanan insists that Section 6, “that the monarch holds a position of reverence which is inviolable” translates to an impossibility of amending or ditching the law.

That’s looney, but in this atmosphere being mad is a credential for ultra-royalism.

Interestingly, though Thipanan sees campaigning against the law as a campaign tool, suggesting that she knows there’s considerable support for change and reform.

Bangkok Post’s Chairith Yonpiam, an assistant news editor, writes that:

Right-wing conservative factions will have to learn, albeit with a sense of disappointment, that demands to change Section 112 will remain a key point in the drive to reform the monarchy, in what appears to be a long-haul political endeavour.

The calls to modify Section 112 are nothing new. They surfaced in the latter period of King Rama IX’s reign, and have now become predominant.

Sensibly, Chairith reminds readers of earlier efforts to reform or abolish 112, focusing on Nitirat which also had a lese majeste reform petition to parliament back in 2012. Back then, dark forces were unleashed against the university lawyers. One of the major voices denouncing Nitirat and threatening reformists was, of course, Gen Prayuth, then army commander.

Charith is correct to observe that:

The abuse of democratic rule with the launch of the military-sponsored 2017 charter by Gen Prayut and conservative elites, who branded themselves as staunch royalists, propelled calls for the reform of the monarchy, which have become louder in parliament and on the street.

He notes that “politics as we used to know it has changed, as it is no longer dominated by politicians. This is because people are aware that political conflicts have affected all elements in society and reform is necessary.”

His view is that: “Amending Section 112 is absolutely necessary to prevent the abuse of this draconian law.”

Amending this feudal law is not enough. Too many have suffered. Get rid of it. Vajiralongkorn and his mad monarchists are facing determined and growing opposition. Intimidation will be the royalist response, but that is likely to further expand the opposition to royalism and the regime.

Update: Thaksin has said more on lese majeste, seemingly contradicting his earlier position that 112 was “problem-free.” Now he’s saying “the 15-year maximum jail sentence for violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code is too harsh. The law must be amended to lower the punishment as a matter of urgency.” He stated: “We need to figure out how to keep the punishment from being too heavy,” adding that those detained under the law “must be granted the right to bail.”





Updated: Remembering the 2014 political disaster

22 05 2021

The 2014 military coup was not unexpected. After all, the military brass had been planning it and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee had been demonstrating for months in support of a military intervention.

Here we recall some of our posts at the time of the coup, with some editing.

The story of how it happened, from the Bangkok Post, via Matichon, is worth recalling:

At 2pm on Thursday, representatives of seven groups began the second day of peace talks hosted by army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The general began by asking all sides what they could do about the five issues he had asked them to consider on the previous day, a source at the closed-door meeting told Matichon Online.

Armed soldiers stand guard during a coup at the Army Club where the army chief held a meeting with all rival factions in central Bangkok on May 22. (Reuters photo)

Wan Muhamad Nor Matha of the Pheu Thai Party said the best his party could do was to ask ministers to take leave of absence or vacation.

Chaikasem Nitisiri of the caretaker government insisted cabinet members would be breaking the law and could be sued later if they resigned.

Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party disagreed, citing as a precedent Visanu Krue-ngam, who had previously resigned as acting deputy prime minister, but Mr Chaikasem stood his ground.

Veerakarn Musikapong of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) said this debate was useless and a person would need a mattress and a pillow if they were to continue with it.

This was like discussing a religious faith in which everyone was firm in his belief. The army chief had a lot on his shoulders now because he came when the water was already waist-high.

If he continued, Mr Veerakarn said, he would be drowned. The army chief should walk away and announced there would be election. That way, his name would be untarnished.

At this point, Gen Prayuth snapped back: “Stop it. Religious issues I don’t know much about. What I do know is I’ll hunt down each and every one of those ‘infidels’. Don’t worry about me drowning. I’m a good swimmer and I’ve studied the situation for three years.

“Back in 2010, I didn’t have absolute power. So don’t fight me. I was accused of accepting six billion baht in exchange of doing nothing. I insist I didn’t get even one baht.”

At this point, Jatuporn Prompan of the UDD appeared more appeasing, saying since an election could not be held now anyway, the best solution was to hold a referendum on whether national reform should come before or after the next election.

The debate went on for a while before Suthep Thaugsuban of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee said political parties were not involved in this.

“This was a problem between the UDD and the PDRC,” he declared.

He proposed the two groups meet in a separate session.

Mr Abhisit said the government should also join in, but Mr Suthep insisted on only the people’s groups.

Gen Prayuth allowed the two groups to meet separately.

In the meantime, Mr Abhisit suggested other participants should go home now that the two sides were in talks, but Gen Prayuth insisted on everyone staying where they were until a conclusion was reached.

The UDD and PDRC sides talked for 30 minutes.

After that, Gen Prayuth led them back to the meeting, saying he would announce the results of the talks.

At that point, Mr Suthep asked for a minute and walked over to say something with Gen Prayuth, with Mr Jatuporn present.

When they were done, Gen Prayuth said: “It’s nothing. We talked about how the restrooms are not in order.”

After that, the army chief asked the government side whether it insisted on not resigning.

Mr Chaikasem said:” We won’t resign”.

Gen Prayuth then declared: “If that’s the case, the Election Commission need not talk about the polls and the Senate need not talk about Section 7.”

He then stood up and spoke in a loud voice: “I’m sorry. I have to seize the ruling power.”

It was 4.32pm.

At that point some of the attendees still thought he was joking.

They changed their minds when the general walked to the exit and turned back to tell them in a stern voice: “You all stay here. Don’t go anywhere.”

He then left the room.

After that armed soldiers came to detain the participants in groups. Notably, Prompong Nopparit who came in the government’s quota was detained with the UDD group in a separate room.

Mr Veerakarn had a smile on his face and forgot his cane.

Mr Abhisit told Varathep Rattanakorn and Chadchart Sittipunt of the government: “I told you so”.

A pale-faced Chadchart snapped:”So what? What’s the point of saying it now?”

The military put the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties in the same room while the rest were put in different rooms.

The senators and election commissioners were let out first.

The rest is history.

The mainstream media essentially welcomed the coup. We observed that the tenor of announcements in the controlled media is that a National Order and Maintenance Committee – the military bosses – are arresting people, grabbing control of even more of the media, implementing a curfew and the usual things these military leaders do when they take over. There are some unconfirmed reports of shooting.

Supreme Commander Gen Thanasak Pratimaprakorn, Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, Navy chef Adm Narong Pipattanasai, Police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew became Prayuth’s deputies.

It is becoming clear that the plan is exactly what the royalist and anti-democrats have wanted: a search for a “neutral” premier. Look for a former military commander or a privy councilor or someone who fits both categories.

Weng

Given that the Bangkok Post published not one but two op-eds supportive of military intervention today, we assume the editorial board is dancing in the streets (until curfew at 10 P.M. One was by Voranai Vanijaka, who stated, among other now dumb as a box of rocks statements, this:

Look for an interim government, appointed. Look for reforms, not necessarily to tackle corruption or to solve the education crisis, those issues take years, and we wouldn’t want an appointed government for years.

But definitely look for reform measures to ensure future political stability and economic opportunity. In this, look for factions and individuals to be persuaded to fall in line and do as told.

In addition, look for these measures to be more effective in setting Thailand on the ‘’right’’ course, as compared to after the 2006 coup.

Then, look for a reasonable period of time until the military is sure that the peace is kept. Three months, six months, a year, however long it may take.

After which, look for the return of the democratic election and things to actually go back to normal – well, normal for Thailnd, that is.

A scenario is mere speculation based on past lessons to ascertain likely future possibilities. If there is any certainty, it is that democratic elections will return.Voranai

The other op-ed was by a died-in-the-wool anti-democrat at the Post:

Dopey shit

Following these two cheering op-eds for the military and its form of fascism, the Bangkok Post managed an  editorial that polished Prayuth’s ego and posterior and justified military intentions. It concluded with this: “The sad thing is it’s the very act of a military takeover that is likely to stir up stiff resistance, provoke acts of violence and possibly cause more loss of life. This coup is not the solution.” Well, of course it is not the solution, but the Post has been part of the problem, failing to clearly stand for democratic process.

Kasit Piromya, former foreign minister under a fully anti-democratic Democrat Party, propagandized and defended the coup at the BBC.

He noted the anti-democrat call for the military to intervene “for quite some time.”

He argued – and recall this was early on – that the caches of arms found “amongst the red shirts” meant there was going to be great violence. It has to be said that the Army suddenly finding caches of weapons is a propaganda device they have regularly used in the past. He’s fully on board with the military, as you’d expect.

His comment on the “problem” of democracy is that his side can’t win, and the majority always win. That’s our interpretation of his anti-democrat tripe. He reckons this is the military resetting democracy. He sounds like he’s still in the yellow of 2006; it was the same story then.

Some of these commentators took years to learn that the military intervention was a huge disaster. Others continue to support military, monarchy and fascism.

Update: We noticed a couple of articles in the English media on the anniversary of Thailand’s bleakest of coups. At Thai PBS, there’s a story on Yingluck Shinawatra’s response. Among other comments she observes:

The past seven years, since the coup, are seven years of lost development opportunity and seven years of the people’s voice being ignored. It is seven years that people have been hoping for a People’s Constitution, which nobody knows whether it will ever be realised….

That’s pretty much it, but no one could possibly have thought that this set of dinosaurs was going to be progressive or interested in anyone other than themselves and the monarch, who must, at all cost, be revered and coddled.

The Bangkok Post has two stories. One is a kind of “evenhanded” account that sees the only support for the junta-post-junta being expressed by its people. Government and military spokespersons come up with a large pile of buffalo manure.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri insisted the government “is trying to prevent clashes between those involved and is not acting as a party to the conflict…”. He seems to think everyone is as stupid as he is. And to prove his own stupidity, his claim for “progress” after seven years was this: “reforms initiated by the government have made substantial progress with laws being amended to accommodate changes. When the bills are enacted, the reforms will be more visible.” Yes, that’s a zero.

The Ministry of Defense spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich is worse still, making stuff up, squishing manure and making military manure piles. He invents a story that “the NCPO stepped in to end political conflict and solve problems such as illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and aviation safety problems.” He’s bonkers.

The other Post story is more about the zero outcomes (for most of us) and the bleakness. But the really sad thing is the future:

Unless the constitution is changed to prevent senators from voting on a PM before the next election, Gen Prayut will likely be the prime minister for another six years, for a total of 13 years, beating Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, the longest-serving PM to date with 9½ years in office.

A more terrible political future we cannot imagine, unless it is Vajiralongkorn’s vision of neo-absolutism. Only the students saved us from that (at least for the moment).





Updated: Mafia regime

26 04 2021

The monarchy-military regime is a mafia regime. We at PPT may not be very worldly, but we can’t think of another regime that has a convicted heroin trafficker as a deputy minister and as a major powerbroker in a ruling party.

Thammanat

Clipped from Khaosod

A Bangkok Post report alerts us to the centrality of convicted drug trader Thammanat Prompao to the Palang Prachachart Party’s electoral profile and successes. Thammanat has been assigned by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan to destroy coalition partner the Democrat Party’s electoral base in the south of the country.

The party mafia is using state funds to do this by appointing Thammanat “to supervise a national centre for Covid-19 coordination” with “particular attention to the southern provinces of Songkhla, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Phuket,” all Democrat Party strongholds..

The Democrat Party leader “said the move may be designed to pave a path for the PPRP to eat into the Democrat stronghold in the future.”

Crooks have big appetites.

Update: Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Secret Siam also has a post on the regime’s mafia links. This story relates to the regime’s coalition partner, the Bhum Jai Thai Party. Well worth reading.





Bail double standards

26 02 2021

A couple of days ago we posted on the limp response on bail by one who should do better. The observations there become even more stark as yellow shirts, found guilty of sedition, stroll away with bail while four lese majeste defendants are repeatedly refused bail and may be kept in jail “indefinitely.”

The former People’s Democratic Reform Committee leaders, including three serving ministers, given their posts as “repayment” for paving the way to the coup in 2014, were sentenced on Wednesday. As Khaosod had it, those convicted were:

… former Democrat Party executive Suthep Thaugsuban and five others on charges of insurrection for their roles in street protests against the elected government back in 2013 and 2014.

Suthep was sentenced to 5 years in prison for the protests, which culminated in the military coup that toppled Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration in May 2014. The court declined to suspend their sentences, though it is not clear as of publication time whether Suthep and others would be granted a bail release while they appeal the verdict.

Defendants who were given jail sentences alongside Suthep include Digital Economy Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, and Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senniam.

Buddhipongse and Thaworn were sentenced to 7 and 5 years in prison, respectively, while Nataphol got 6 years and 16 months.

In all, 25 PDRC leaders and members were sentenced for treason and sedition. Other key PDRC leaders were given jail sentences were:

  • Issara Somchai – eight years and four months
  • Suwit Thongprasert, formerly Buddha Isra – four years and eight months
  • Chumpol Julsai – 11 years
  • Suriyasai Katasila – two years

Today, the Appeals Court granted bail to at least eight: “Suthep Thaugsuban, Issara Somchai, Chumpol Julsai, Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, Suwit Thongprasert and Samdin Lertbutr.”

But, for those who have not been convicted of anything remain in jail as further charges are piled on. They are detained pending trial which means they are detained indefinitely until the trial is over or until bail is granted.

Double standards? You bet.





Silence on monarchy

4 02 2021

We have been trying to get to this post for a week or so. In the meantime, as we have collected news stories, it has grown and grown.

Among the demands of the democracy movement were constitutional reform and monarchy reform. When they come together, it is in parliament, where constitutional reform, law reform and lese majeste reform is meant to be considered.

On monarchy reform and especially reform of Article 112, the usual royalist rancor and “opposition” spinelessness has been on display. Khaosod reported a while ago that “[o]nly one opposition party is planning to raise the issue of the excessive use of the royal defamation offense when the Parliament reconvenes for a censure debate…”.

That is Move Forward, and a couple of their MPs have expressed reservations and fears. Move Forward plans to criticize the use of the draconian law to intimidate political dissidents. The party plans to “push for reforms of libel laws, including lese majeste…”.

Spineless politicians

Other opposition parties panicked, and even walked back on their censure debate which mentioned the political use of the monarchy. Puea Thai stated that while the “formal motion of the no-confidence debate accused PM Prayut Chan-o-cha of ‘using the monarchy as an excuse to deepen the division in the society,’ … the party has no plan to raise the issue of the lese majeste during the censure debate or support the law’s amendment.” A spokesperson added “We didn’t include monarchy reforms in the motion either. We only wrote it broadly, that PM Prayut damages the confidence in democratic regime with the King as Head of State.”

That sounds remarkably like backpedaling with a political spine gone to jelly. Former political prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk observed: “… Pheu Thai still lacks moral courage. It will only worsen and prolong the problem of political divisions.”

Acknowledging the status quo of decades, it was observed that “discussions about the monarchy during a parliamentary session are generally discouraged,” adding: “There are restrictions … we cannot mention His Majesty the King unnecessarily…”.

Khaosod reports that there’s a parliamentary regulation that “bans … ‘referencing … the King or any other person without due cause’.”

The Seri Ruam Thai Party also ran from the lese majeste law and monarchy reform. Thai PBS reported opposition chief whip Suthin Klangsaeng as saying they are “fully aware of the sensitivity surrounding the [m]onarchy, but he insisted that the opposition will refer to the [m]onarchy during the debate while trying to be very discreet and referring to the institution only if necessary.”

The part of the motion causing all the royalist angst states that Gen Prayuth has not been “…upholding nor having faith in a democratic system with the King as the head of state; undermining and opposing democratic governance; destroying the good relationship between the monarchy and the people; using the monarchy as an excuse to divide the people and using the monarchy as a shield to deflect its failures in national administration.”

Of course, the regime’s supporting parties are opposing any discussion of the monarchy and lese majeste. These parties announced they will “protest if the opposition makes any reference to the [m]onarchy during the censure debate…”. Government chief whip Wirat Rattanaseth said “he would feel uncomfortable with any reference to the Monarchy in the opposition’s censure motion which, in essence, says that the prime minister referred to the Monarchy to deflect accusations of gross mismanagement and failures in national administration.”

In the military’s Palang Pracharath Party royalist fascist Paiboon Nititawan emphasized that the pro-military/royalist parties will invoke parliamentary rules to silence any MP discussing the monarchy. He was especially keen to silence critics of the lese majeste law. He declared: “Our party’s policy is to defend the monarchy.” On the broader issue of constitutional reform, the Bangkok Post reports that Paiboon demands that “any provision related to the royal prerogative should not be changed at all, regardless of which chapters they were in.” No change to anything related to the monarchy. We recall that the last changes made to the king’s prerogatives were made on the king’s demand and considered in parliament in secret.

Democrat Party spokesman Ramet Rattanachaweng said MPs had to toe the royalist line: “Everyone knows what their duty is, because we’re all committed to the institutions of Nation, Religions, and Monarchy.” He said his party will oppose amendment of the lese majeste law. Why? “…[O]ur party has no policy to amend it, because we are not affected or damaged by it directly…”.

The parliamentary royalists were cheered on by mad monarchist and royal favorite Warong Dechgitvigrom who declared “he would regard attacks on lese majeste law – or any move to amend it – as an attempt to overthrow the monarchy.”

Soon after this pressure – and plenty more behind the scenes – the opposition buckled. Thai PBS reported that they “agreed to remove a reference to the monarchy, which the government may find provocative, from its censure motion to avoid protests from coalition MPs.” This came after a meeting  to resolve the conflict over the motion. The meeting was chaired by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.

Puea Thai leader Sompong Amornvivat was reported as pedaling backwards and was reported to have promised “that he will withdraw the motion and rewrite it.” He later denied that he had made this promise and the opposition pushed on with the motion.

Back at the debate about parliamentary (non)debate, Thai PBS had a story about royalist allegations that Sompong had broken his promise to delete the reference to the monarchy in the censure motion. Palang Pracharat MP Sira Jenjakha “threatened to file a lèse majesté charge with the police against opposition MPs who sign in support of a censure motion…”.

Government chief whip Wirat Rattanaseth “warned today that the opposition‘s refusal to delete the offending reference may lead to protests in parliament, to the extent that the debate may be disrupted and end prematurely.”

The last time the royalists disrupted parliament. A Bangkok Post photo showing a Democrat Party member grabbing a policeman’s throat.

Thai PBS took sides, declaring that “Thailand is bracing for unprecedented chaos [not really, see above] in Parliament later this month when the opposition shatters a deep-seated taboo by citing the monarchy in its censure motion against the prime minister.” It asserts: “Involving the monarchy in the no-confidence motion has sparked angry accusations from the government camp that this constitutes a grave insult to the revered institution.”

In response, the Bangkok Post reports that the regime “has formed a legal team to monitor the upcoming censure debate for inappropriate references to the monarchy…”. The person in charge of this is quisling former red shirt Suporn Atthawong, a vice minister to the PM’s Office whose own 112 case sems to have been forgotten. The regime’s legal team will “gather false allegations made during the debate against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and cabinet ministers and lodge complaints with police.”

The threats have come thick and fast. The regime is furious. Presumably the palace is too. What they want is to roll back politics to the golden era when the king was never discussed, by anyone, except the seditious.





Land of (no) compromise II

17 12 2020

No compromise in the “land of compromise.”

If anyone wanted to stymie “reconciliation” they would appoint those least likely to reconcile with anyone else. And, according to the Bangkok Post, that’s exactly what the regime has done.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government “has named Suporn Atthawong and Terdpong Chaiyanant as its representatives on the proposed national reconciliation panel.”

Suporn is vice minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, appointed as a turncoat red shirt who worked to entice notheastern politicians away from Thaksin Shinawatra and over to the regime’s Palang Pracharath Party. Terdpong is a Democrat Party MP who was among their anti-red shirt partisans.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan explained their appointments, saying: “They know what they should do.” The regime’s bidding and nothing at all to do with “reconciliation.”

The Bangkok Post also reports that there can be no slack for Thaksin. Serial complainer and yellow shirt Srisuwan Janya has asked the regime’s pliant Election Commission (EC) to consider dissolving the Puea Thai Party for Thaksin’s “influence.”

All this because Thaksin supported one candidate in local elections.

It is a beat-up by Srisuwan, but the EC is such a bunch of dullards that, if ordered, they will probably take the case to the Constitutional Court.





Updated: Confrontation looms

25 11 2020

The use of lese majeste and the multiple threats of arrest today have mounted. The regime has seemingly calculated that the events at police headquarters and the royal family’s PR blitz and its “demonstrated generosity,” that a crackdown on protesters targeting the king and his wealth may not earn them “too much” public derision.

Police and military are preparing for tonight’s rally at the Crown Property Bureau. Razor wire is up and the so-called “royal” exclusion zone established. That the military has been active with helicopters suggests preparations for a confrontation.

Thai PBS reports that “increased helicopter activity, heard over several areas of Bangkok on Monday night,” and “which went on for hours” was described  by Army Chief Gen Narongphan Chitkaewtae as “part of security arrangements for the motorcade of … the King and Queen…”. We fear it is preparations for tonight, especially when he added that while “it is the police’s responsibility to deal with the rally,” the army is prepared to “help” if “there is a request from the police.”

The Free Youth have also upped the anty, publishing this statement:

Meanwhile the regime is doubling down. Neo-fascist member of the Democrat Party coalition party, Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senniam declared that the regime arrest Progressive Movement’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul for being responsible for the uprising and anti-monarchism.

He “explained”:

“As a Thai citizen and a Democrat MP, I will perform my duty to protect the Nation, the Religion, the Monarchy and the democratic system with the King as the head of state,” said Thavorn, claiming that 90 percent of the Thai population agree with him.

As “evidence” he “showed the media today a video clip of Piyabutr giving a speech at the University of London, on the topic of “Is Thailand in a Deeper State of Crisis?” on June 11th, 2016.” Yes, that’s more than four years ago.

On Thanathorn, Thaworn says that “in several speeches, has stressed the need for reform of the Thai Monarchy, adding that the founding of the Future Forward Party, which was dissolved by the Constitutional Court, was intended to achieve that goal.”

He went on to accuse “Thanathorn and Piyabutr of spending more than eight months brainwashing and inciting hatred of the Monarchy among Thai youth, with the intention of turning the protests into riots and, eventually, civil war.”

In fact, Thaworn is simply reflecting the views of ultra-royalists and rightists who are baying for blood.

It will be a difficult evening as the regime, at this point, seems to have drawn its line in the sand and the rally is likely to test that.

Update: As has happened previously, the anti-government protesters have changed their rally site, reducing the prospect of a clash. The new location is related as the rally will be at the Siam Commercial Bank HQ, with the king being the biggest shareholder in the bank.

We are not sure that the change was to avoid a clash and the inordinate efforts the regime had taken to seal off the area around the CPB, or just a prank to make the regime expend effort and look a bit silly.

The regime has barricaded the area around the CPB, with “[r]olls of razor wire and steel barricades…”, mainly shipping containers stacked end-to-end and two high. These efforts caused huge traffic jams. In addition, “[s]oldiers in plain clothes were seen deployed around the CPB…”.





More EC buffalo excrement

2 10 2020

The latest case before the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions, deserves attention, for the court has been forced to make a decision that is sensible and legal. Not even the judiciary was prepared to uphold the hopelessly biased and junta appointed Election Commission’s decision in a case against former Puea Thai Party MP Surapol Kiatchaiyakorn.

As Khaosod reports, the court overturned an “orange card” given to Surapol by the EC during the 2019, when it accused him of bribing voters. Surapol won in Constituency 8 of Chiang Mai province, for Puea Thai, and in its efforts to ensure that the junta’s party, Palang Pracharat “won” government, the EC disqualified Surapol and, with the orange card and a one-year ban, prevented him from running in the election re-run in the constituency.

The new poll gave “victory” to Palang Pracharath, but in a convoluted way. As Thisrupt explains, District 8 was won in the new poll by Srinual Boonlue won 75,891 votes, the largest in the entire country. Back then, she represented the now-dissolved Future Forward Party…. It was understood, supporters of Pheu Thai and Future Forward banded together to vote Srinual.” Within a year, “Srinual defected and joined the government coalition partner, Bhumjaitai Party, and became an avid defender of General Prayut Chan-o-cha.”

Chitpas and royalists opposing lese majeste reform (a Bangkok Post photo)

But the junta’s EC did far more for The Dictator than just overturning the voter’s original choice. Under the complex vote allocation system the junta put in place, “Surapol’s disqualification allowed two party-list candidates to become MPs.” The victors of this electoral sleight of hand were Palang Pracharath’s Watanya Wongopasi and the (anti)Democrat Party’s Chitpas Kridakon, both royalist anti-democrats, supporters of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee that paved the path to the 2014military coup, and and fans of Gen Prayuth’s premiership.

In other words, the disqualification – ruled legally wrong – eventually gave the regime three seats in parliament.

But guess what? None of this matters! Why? Because the junta’s 2017 constitution makes all EC decisions final, even if they are wrong and ruled so by the courts. The relevant section states:

Section 225: Prior to the announcement of the result of an election or a selection, if there is evidence to reasonably believe that such election or selection has not proceeded in an honest or just manner, the Election Commission shall have the power to order a new election or selection to be held in such polling station or constituency. If the person who committed such act is a candidate for the election or selection, as the case may be, or such person connives at the act of other persons, the Election Commission shall temporarily suspend the right of such person to stand for an election in accordance with the section 224 (4).

The order under paragraph one shall be final.

In other words, the junta’s constitution elevates the EC above courts.

While Surapol is not giving up and may sue the EC and get charges laid against the Commissioners in the Criminal Court,

For its part, the wrong and probably illegal actions of the EC count for nothing. According to the Bangkok Post, the EC insists “it did not wrongfully disqualify the politician.” EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma, said he disregarded the court’s decision: “The court saw him [violating the election law] without an intention [that’s buffalo talk for the court finding he hadn’t engaged in money politics], which is not in line with the EC’s opinion. But all the investigation processes were legitimate, and the court also agreed with the EC’s decision to give the orange card.”

How high can the double standards be piled in Fantasy Land? If the investigation was legitimate, how did it get it wrong? If the decision was wrong, how could the vote be overturned?

The answers are, of course, that the EC and the judiciary worked hand-in-glove with the military and the junta to rig the election and they got away with it.





Domestic and foreign ultra-royalism

21 08 2020

Whenever political attention turns to the monarchy, the ultra-royalists get rolling.

A pattern has emerged since the mid-2000s.  Emphasizing that the current wave of anti-monarchism is not new, in the past, the ultras respond to rising anti-royalism with ragtag and aged ultra-royalists and ultra-nationalists holding small rallies. As the broader establishment lumbers into action, these royalists tend to sprout like weeds and the military and other security agencies tend to choose the most viable for support. Ultras usually seed acts of violence, often with support from these agencies. Before that sharp response, however, there is usually a media blitz of ultras and other rightists and conservatives promoting royalism and “Thainess.” Often that includes trusted foreign commentators who are mobilized to “explain” royalism to a foreign, mainly Western, audience. Of course, the extremist version is peddled by other contractors.

Warong

In recent days, these initial moves have been in evidence. The Bangkok Post recently reported that some “200 Thai right-wingers launched a group on Wednesday to counter student-led protests…”. The so-called Thai Pakdee (Loyal Thai) group of mostly middle-aged wealthy ultras was predictably launched at a Bangkok hotel. Its proclaimed leader is ultra-royalist and “prominent right-wing politician Warong Dechgitvigrom, who said His Majesty the King’s monarchy was under attack.”

Warong is a former member of the Democrat Party, People’s Democratic Reform Committee member and now runs with Suthep Thaugsuban’s pro-military/pro-junta micro-party Action Coalition for Thailand,

He reckons the “father of the country is being harassed…”. Well, maybe, but it is an absentee father. The king lives in Germany and is being harassed there. In Thailand, the call is for reform.  But he then makes the usual call for rightist support: “How can Thai people stand by?” Despite his claims to the contrary, Warong is effectively encouraging violence.

Young

Speaking for his “new” group – all who seem to have a pedigree in PDRC and the broader yellow shirts, Warong made three demands: “No dissolution of parliament, maximum legal action against anyone who seeks to topple the monarchy, no change to the constitution except via the proper channel.”

On the token foreigner wheeled out to support the ultras and the status quo, it is again Stephen B Young, recycling his old and tired lines about “Thainess.” Previously a favorite at The Nation, this time it is the Bangkok Post that carries his babbling. As we have commented previously on Young and the things he recycles now, we’ll just link to those earlier posts.

 





Crumbling under the post-junta regime

11 07 2020

It may seem somewhat surprising that all major political parties appear to be in some turmoil.

Recent articles tell of the governing Palang Pracharath Party in turmoil with the consolidation of power by the army wing of the ruling party, with the exodus of four “technocratic officials sidelined by the party that is increasingly dominated by members with military ties.”

Then there are repeated reports of rifts in the hopeless Democrat Party and that it is losing electoral credibility in the south and has several breakaway parties led by former disgruntled senior members, all of whom strike us as hopeless and merely trying to ride the small party wagon to collect the dregs of the junta’s party system.

And, there are reports of the decline of the Puea Thai Party is in deep trouble, with all of its main leaders left out of parliament thanks to the junta’s constitution and the Election Commission, acting for the regime. Of course, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan keeps trying to entice Puea Thai MPs across to the dark side.

We may also recall that opposition Future Forward was gutted by the Constitutional Court, acting for the regime and that the remaining MPs remain rudderless.

In our view, with the military types consolidating its grip, Palang Pracharath looks more like a party of factions that are kept under control with money, cabinet positions and constant shepherding. This doesn’t necessarily make it stronger, but if the opposition is crumbling and unable to capitalize on these schisms, rifts and associated corruption, then unelected dolts like the current generals are likely to be able to hold together their rule.

As an aside, this “technocrats” versus green men is a narrative seen in several stories and we’d say it is an odd claim. A technocrat is usually defined as a person “appointed on the basis of their expertise in a given area of responsibility, particularly with regard to scientific or technical knowledge.” When we look at the “technocrats” leaving government, this definition applies only vaguely to one of them. Kobsak Pootrakool has a PhD in Economics from MIT and worked at the Bank of Thailand and the Stock Exchange of Thailand before becoming a banker. But the other three are political hacks rather than technocrats. Sontirat Sontijirawong with an MBA, has worked in packaging for business and for most of his career has spent his time as an “adviser” or committee member in relatively minor posts. Uttama Savanayana was trained as an engineer and also has a PhD in management but has spent the last 20-25 years administering and advising. Suvit Maesincee also has a PhD in management, having trained as a pharmacist, and has spent most his career sitting on boards.

In other words, journalists and commentators might want to look more carefully at the reasons why such men are referred to as “technocrats.” Does it have something to do with the regime having so few technically qualified persons in a cabinet dominated by army figures, politically-acceptable royalists, local mafioso and a convicted heroin smuggler?








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