Abhisit and the junta

27 03 2017

We at PPT don’t usually pay much attention to the self-promoting bantering of failed (anti)Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. He seems to do several interviews each year for the Bangkok Post and they aren’t usually riveting reading.

This time, however, there’s more interest. The main reason for this is that Abhisit indicates that he and his party are under pressure from the military junta. Before getting too much into that, a little on Abhisit’s self-important view of how he has never done anything wrong. (We do note that he was not asked about the 2010 events and his role in those murders.)

Abhisit criticizes the junta, saying “… I am not sure if they understand who was actually involved in the political conflict in the most recent years.” He reckons the junta has “been obsessed with the notion the political conflict occurred because (the Democrat Party) did not accept the result of the (previous) election.”

At least the junta got that right. But, of course, Abhisit has to dissemble because his preferred notion is that his party’s anti-democratic stance was not his fault. He blames the Yingluck Shinawatra government’s amnesty bill.

There’s no doubt that that move was ill-considered, but it was also a useful trigger for unrest that the Democrat Party had been seeking to foment from the time of their landslide defeat in 2011.

His view that the “Yingluck … government still manage[d] to stay on for more than two years without any of us doing anything to disrupt her government…” is a bald-faced lie.

Worse, he still won’t accept an election result in the future if it doesn’t suit him. He says: “No matter who wins or loses in the next election, if corruption still persists and if a political amnesty push is revived, the conflicts among people will become more severe…”.

Implicitly, he is also warning the junta about contemplating an amnesty.

On his own future, and rumors that others are working to oust him, he initially retorts that he is continuing “doing my job while political parties are banned from engaging in activities.” As we understand it, parties can’t officially meet, so he “safe” for the present. If he later gets ditched, he says he will accept this.

He then gets really dumb, saying: “If I lead my party to contest elections and fail to secure success, they won’t keep me.” As he was trounced in 2011, we can only wonder why he’s still there. Maybe he forgot this crushing defeat?

As he resumes his criticism of the junta, he says, the “Democrats as a political party were not established to satisfy anyone and any change of its leadership won’t bend to the will of those in authority.”

That’s historically incorrect as the party was formed as a royalist party that supported royalist militarists. That aside, he’s indicating the junta is pushing the party to be rid of him.

He says he, Chuan Leekpai and other failed leaders “share the view that we will not change the party’s stance so as to kowtow to people in authority in exchange for securing cabinet seats.”

He means the junta is going to offer the Democrat Party cabinet seats after the junta arranges an “election” victory at some time in the future. However, the party is expected to ditch the lame baggage of the unelectable Abhisit.

Abhisit declares that “[e]veryone knows that we think along the same lines, particularly Mr Banyat who among us is the most ardent critic of the military.” Funny, we haven’t heard much of this or seen him called in for days of re-education by the military dictators.

Abhisit then criticizes the junta for scrapping local elections and organizations, saying this “will adversely affect the decentralisation of power.” He adds: “What the NCPO is doing now is really a retrograde step.” He is right on this.

The junta is seeking a coalition that it will be comfortable joining when it decides to manage its “election,” and Abhisit seems unlikely to be a part of that, and the ever “pragmatic” anti-democrats will happily ditch him to get into bed with the military party.





Updated: Suthep demands more dictatorship for longer

18 03 2017

The People’s Democratic Reform Foundation (PDRF) is the legalistic renaming of the anti-democratic People’s Democratic Reform Committee to allow it to keep operating under the junta it helped seize power in 2014.

It is still led by Democrat Party stalwart Suthep Thaugsuban, who “left” the party to arrange his anti-democratic actions opposing elections and the elected government led by Yingluck Shinawatra. Its bosses remain those anti-democratic elite and Democrat Party (former) members, Sathit Wongnongtoey, Akanat Promphan, Chitpas Kridakorn (Bhirombhakdi), Thaworn Senniam, Nattapol Teepsuwan, Chumpol Julsai and Sakoltee Patthippayakul.

It was this group that recently met with representatives of the military junta for “reconciliation talks.”

Readers might be surprised to learn (or maybe not) that, almost three years after he got the coup he wanted, Suthep “remained firm in its stance of ‘reform before election’, saying it did not mind a delay in the holding of the next election.”

Suthep and his clutch of anti-democrats also declared their full support for “absolute power under Article 44 of the interim charter” and claimed it “was not a problem for reform. Suthep said it as an opportunity for the junta to effectively reform the country.” We know he supports the murderous military and we guess he would also support military courts, torture and all manner of draconian measures against his political opponents.

Of course, we also know that Suthep hates elections, not least because his party never won one in its own right, and repeatedly hung off the military and royal coattails.

Likewise, it is no surprise that this group of anti-democrats “admitted to being fans of junta head General Prayut Chan-o-cha and the desire to complete key reforms.” Why wouldn’t they be? It was Suthep who claimed that he had worked since 2010 with General Prayuth on ways and means for preventing a Thaksin Shinawatra-aligned government from getting elected and then, if it did, on bringing it down.

Suthep and his cronies met with the junta’s people for “four hours of reconciliation talks” after which Suthep declared or maybe even threatened: “We’ve made the point in the meeting that the masses expect the National Council for Peace and Order [the junta] and the government led by [Prayuth] to finish the reforms so the country can continue as a democracy with the monarch as the head of state.”

Suthep, who spent many years as a Democrat Party powerbroker and politician chortled about “politics” being a problem: “Politics has to serve the people. In the past, it was [dominated by] politicians and financiers as well as interest groups. It’s never about the people…”. Because his party was resoundingly defeated time and time again, we can understand his reluctance to accept the will of the people.

Remarkably, as if Thailand’s elite is still under threat, he grasps the monarchy shibboleth by the throat and thunders: “Most importantly, political parties must be run by people who support democratic rule with the monarch as the head of state, not a republic.”

That purported danger justifies for Suthep, and his gaggle of anti-democrat scions of the elite, continuing military dictatorship. He reckons “the people” don’t want an election any time soon.

If the message wasn’t clear, Suthep stated: “The PDRF has no concerns over the NCPO staying in power so long as it works to push reforms.” He added that his support for “the military and Gen Prayut … was never hidden…”.

Update: And just in case anyone was wondering, the Bangkok Post reports that Suthep declined “to say whether his group would accept the outcome of the next election in the event that the Pheu Thai Party wins the poll.”





Death of democracy and those complicit in it

16 03 2017

PPT decided to post about this event, even though it is on Cambodia. Promoted by ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), it sounds like a reasonable event and we think readers will be interested.

Yet two things struck us about this event. First, that it is held in Thailand, which is a country under a military dictatorship. That’s kind of ironic and quite sad.

Second, a listed speaker and APHR Board Member is Kraisak Choonhavan, who is advertised as a “Former Thai Senator.” Another irony of this event is that Kraisak is a member of the Democrat Party, which has boycotted several elections, and he has supported two military coups, several anti-democrat movements and the actions of the current junta. He’s been very selective when it comes to human rights. That’s hardly the record of a parliamentarian who is serious about human rights.

Media Advisory: Report Launch and Press Conference

DEATH KNELL FOR DEMOCRACY
Attacks on Lawmakers and the Threat to Cambodia’s Institutions

Monday, 20 March 2017, 10:30am at the FCCT in Bangkok

In February 2017, Cambodia’s Parliament approved a set of new amendments to the Law on Political Parties, which grant unprecedented powers to the executive and judicial branches to suspend and dissolve parties. The move marked a culmination of nearly two years of escalating persecution of Cambodian lawmakers. These attacks have come in the context of a renewed, broader crackdown on dissent, which has targeted nearly all segments of Cambodian civic life, as well as similar growing threats to other legislators across Southeast Asia.

In Bangkok on 20 March, members of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), including lawmakers from Malaysia and the Philippines who will have just returned from a fact-finding mission to Cambodia, will present the organization’s latest report: Death Knell for Democracy: Attacks on Lawmakers and the Threat to Cambodia’s Institutions. The report documents and analyzes the recent wave of attacks against parliamentarians in Cambodia, including judicial prosecutions, violations of procedure surrounding parliamentary immunity, and physical violence. APHR members will also share observations from their recent fact-finding mission, as well as discuss wider regional parallels and implications. Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson will also join the panel to comment on the report and provide his perspective on recent events in Cambodia.

Featured Speakers:

Hon. Charles Santiago, Member of the Parliament of Malaysia, APHR Chairperson
Kraisak Choonhavan, Former Thai Senator, APHR Board Member
Rep. Tomasito Villarin, Member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines, APHR Member
Phil Robertson, Asia Division Deputy Director, Human Rights Watch

Where: Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT)
Penthouse, Maneeya Center
518/5 Ploenchit Road (connected to the BTS Skytrain Chitlom station)
Patumwan, Bangkok 10330

For more information or to request an advance (embargoed) copy of the report, contact: Oren Samet at oren@aseanmp.org

About APHR: ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) is a human rights intervention force of current and former parliamentarians, who use their unique positions and innovative means to prevent discrimination, uphold political freedom, and promote democracy and human rights throughout the region. APHR supports the work of civil society and human rights defenders and encourages sustainable solutions that increase pressure on governments and multilateral bodies to ensure accountability and uphold and enforce international human rights laws.





“Training” for junta-appropriate politics

9 03 2017

The Nation reports that the military junta’s minions at the Election Commission (EC) are seeking to “train” political parties.

The report states that a “committee” has been established to “develop” political parties “in line with the charter’s national reform approach…”.

In other words, political parties are being “reformed” to match the junta’s rules, regulations and desires.

Unsurprisingly, the committee is headed by Anek Laothamatas, a former academic and failed politician. He has worked closely with the junta.

The junta claims that the committee includes “Pheu Thai Party’s secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai, Democrat Party’s deputy leader Chamni Sakdiset, Bhum Jai Thai Party’s leader Anutin Charnvirakul, and Chart Thai Pattana’s key figure Nikorn Chamnong, as well as some experts and academics.”

The EC says the committee will conduct a “strategy, plan, and approach” to “develop political parties in line with reform approach as stipulated in the charter draft.”

Parties have little choice but to be involved although the EC says the members are individuals, not representatives of their parties.





“Reforming” almost everything

9 03 2017

Royal edicts are proliferating, removing royally-bestowed titles on Wat Dhammakaya monks. That they had them in the first place raises a question or two about regime and palace transitions over the past few years.

Meanwhile several of the monks have appeared in court, (seemingly not defrocked).

The junta says the standoff with Wat Dhammakaya will end in five days. How, exactly, we are not told, but it may be that troops and police will reoccupy the temple and arrest monks and their supporters. There are already more than 340 cases against the temple, 20 arrest warrants have been issued and a further 70 summons orders have been issued.

We all know that the military dictatorship tasked itself with an anti-democratic agenda of “reforming politics” when it seized power, and that this was in line with the demands of anti-democrats like the Democrat Party and its scion the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, led by Suthep Thaugsuban and others. One of the “others” was the fascist monk Buddha Issara. He has also been prominent in pushing for the end of Wat Dhammakaya.

What we may not have expected was that the military dictatorship would decide to “reform” Buddhism in Thailand as well, although an article at New Mandala recently suggested this.

Now this new reform cat is out of the bag. In a report at The Nation, it is said that the junta will “soon propose that the Supreme Sangha Council [SSC] and the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) speed up reforms in Buddhism…”. As is its habit, the junta has formed a “reform panel” and the SSC has “assigned three senior monks to join [it].”

“Reforming” Buddhism, “reforming” politics and maintaining control of the state and its budgets is a practice the interventionist and murderous army has long benefited from, along with its palace allies. “Reforming” the military and the monarchy is not on the cards.





Thirayudh’s tattlings and the anti-democrat agenda

7 03 2017

We at PPT have to be honest and admit that we have never felt much interest in (faux) academic Thirayudh Boonmee or his mental meanderings. The feelings are probably mutual.

That said, we do acknowledge that, as an Octoberist, there remain people willing to listen to his rambling “advice” to Thailand’s elite. Most significantly, he tends to reflect the musings of the deeply yellow gaggle of anti-democrats.

A couple of days ago, at The Nation Thirayudh was described mischievously, as a “[p]olitical expert and independent scholar,” rather than retiree and political pundit. For the anti-democrat crowd, he “criticised the post-coup regime for what he viewed as its failure to undertake national reforms, warning of a possible decline in public faith in the government.”

That is likely to bother the military junta mostly because Thirayud speaks to the junta’s civilian constituency, despite the fact that his “briefing” sponsored by the Election Commission and was “at the Government Complex in Bangkok’s Chaeng Wattana area.”

He is urging the junta to maintain its anti-democrat “mandate” and push it further. This is why he wants the military “to stick to its promised ‘road map’ for a return to democracy.” Thirayudh knows that the “return to democracy” means the restoration of elite models of “guided democracy” that is no democracy at all.

This is why Thirayudh “expressed support over the use of absolute power under Article 44 of the interim charter, saying that it was in tune with the nature of Thais who are prone to accept authoritarianism.”

More than this, he demanded that the regime use Article 44 more. He argues the regime “should exploit it to its best use, but not abuse it.” His point is to push back against those “liberals” who are wavering on the regime’s authoritarianism.

You get the picture. The elite rules and exploits because the “nature” of Thais is to accept exploitation, murderous military regimes and repression. He ignores the long history of Thai rejection of these rulers and their schemes.

Thirayudh is worried that “the direction of politics currently leaned towards conservatism and there was little hope of reforming the power structure.” He is worried that the “present powers were civil servants [sic.] who would lose power once the reform was implemented.”

He believes the military regime has won and that those who lost just need to accept this and Thailand will be just right. But the regime needs to move to its guided democracy:

They [those supporting The Dictator] seem to have some accomplishments, but still there is no hope in the reform…. Moreover, they show the intention to support [General Prayut] to stay in power so they can, too. But things will get more difficult and the whole thing may collapse if they stay in power longer than [they promised] in the road map.

Thirayuth warns The Dictator and his regime that “the public’s confidence in the government had been shaken. Hence, it must do the right thing and keep its vow to hold an election as well as be prepared for issues to come after the poll by focusing on reform of the power structure and fighting graft.”

He worries that if The Dictator and his regime hang on, that a new 1992 may emerge, again unleashing the masses in politics.

In another Bangkok Post story, the (anti-)Democrat Party is reported to have backed Thirayudh, “saying the social critic pinpointed the problems and highlighted the failure of the government’s approach to them.”

Democrat deputy leader Ong-art Klampaibul “said the government needed to listen to Mr Thirayuth, no matter how harsh his opinions might be.”

Regarding reform, Ong-art declared “the people so far have not experienced any tangible outcomes…”. He added that after “three years in power, the government has only just started its bid for national reconciliation…”.

Junta spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd has already “rejected” Thirayudh’s “criticism,” asking for the critic to be “useful” by providing “practical solutions to the problems rather than preach about theories and principles.”

In fact, the point of Thirayudh’s intervention is to push the junta to increased “reform.” Like them, he is an anti-democrat, but he is opposed the embedding of military dictatorship. He wants guided democracy.

Increasingly, as Sansern expresses it, the junta wants more and more time for “reform.” He says: “It was not easy to achieve its desired results in such a short period because many of the country’s problems had been left unresolved for a long time.”

They have been supported by others from the Democrat Party. Supachai Panitchpakdi is a  politician who failed to gain top spot in his party and has led an undistinguished career in high-profile international organizations.

His name often comes up when “national governments” are discussed and we can’t help wondering if the ever-eager for top position Supachai sees another opportunity if the military is to get itself a party for an “election.”

He’s now serving the junta, and its members will feel happy that Supachai has supported them against Thirayudh’s mild criticisms. We guess that’s why they hired him.





The political double-cross

21 02 2017

In discussing the “resolution” of the stand-off between the military junta and its “friends” protesting a proposed coal-fired power station for the south, PPT had the feeling that the junta had managed to get its political ducks in a row.

It seems not.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has denied that the junta has backed down “from the planned construction of a coal-fired power plant in Krabi but only ‘slowed down’ its implementation.” As he “explained,” the junta was “slowing it down in order to proceed…”. He said the only option was to “build the coal-fired power plant…”. Then he said that perhaps the plant will use “other fuels such as palm oil to replace coal is another topic. In any case, we must build it.”

The first suggestion we recall for palm oil-fired power station in the south came from the Democrat Party. It seemed to want two plants, one with palm oil and the other with natural gas.

On palm oil-fired power stations, read The Guardian (“the maddest energy scheme the world has seen”) and Friends of the Earth’s 2006 position paper. Denuding what remains of the southern forests, adding to the haze and planting palms all over the place is unlikely to do wonders for the environment and tourism.

Back to the General: “The government has not backed down and everything has been carried out according to procedural and legal steps…”. He seems to mean that a new environmental and health impact assessment will be completed.

As an op-ed at the Bangkok Post observes: “What is the point of having the EHIA redone when the decision that the project will go ahead has apparently been made?”

As that op-ed points out, the coal-fired plan had “not been approved by the responsible agency, the Office of Natural Resources and Environment Policy and Planning (ONREP).”

Further, it states that “ONREP said the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) which is in charge of the Krabi power plant project, withdrew its EHIA from consideration by the ONREP’s panel of experts two years ago.”

Despite the “health and environmental impacts study still pending, the National Energy Policy Committee (NEPC) chaired by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, however, gave the project the go-ahead last week.”

Meanwhile, “Egat has also gone ahead and awarded a contract to build the 32-billion-baht plant to a consortium of Power Construction of China and Italian-Thai Development…”.

The conclusion in the op-ed is: “If the project is pre-determined to proceed as stated by the Gen Prawit, it should be presumed that whatever the public has to say about it will not make any difference.”

We wrote about double standards but we can now see we should have discussed the political double-cross. The junta may still be in trouble with its natural political allies.

(As a footnote, we can’t help but think about Rolls Royce, Diageo, Tyco, General Cable, and more.)