Rabid royalists battle “liberalism”

7 09 2019

This Reuters report has been widely distributed, but deserves attention.

It notes the rise of a rightist ultra-nationalism as those who are insufficiently royalist are attacked as “chung chart” which “translates roughly as ‘nation-hater.’ Here, nation equals monarchy and support for the military and its current political regime.

Opposing that regime, the military or being considered insufficiently royalist means being seen by royalist-rightists “as a threat in a kingdom…”.

Royalist-rightists are identified as “waging an increasing battle against the opposition on social media and in the courts, illustrating the deepening political divide in the southeast Asian nation.”

Sound familiar? It should. Nothing much has changed in this royalist-rightist agitation since recently-released Sondhi Limthongkul and the People’s Alliance for Democracy signed up with the monarchy for ousting Thaksin Shinawatra in 2005. He and PAD were followed by royalist-rightist groups such as the Dhamma Army and Santi Asoke (since 2005), No Colors/Multi Colors (from about 2010), Green Politics Group (since 2007), Thai Patriot Network (since 2008), Siam Samakkhi (since 2011), Network of Citizen Volunteers to Protect the Land (2012), Pitak Siam (2012), Sayam Prachapiwat (2012), the White Mask group, People’s Army Against the Thaksin Regime (2013), the so-called Rubbish Collection Organization (2014), and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (2013-14).

This is just a selection of ultra-rightists, many associated with the military’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC). All have been anti-Thaksin. The current lot say:

they are acting in the name of the palace and the army also say they get no direct support from those institutions. Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat declined comment on the issue and said Thailand is a free country.

We are sure that there are ultra-rightists who act independently in the cause of promoting the world’s wealthiest monarch, a grasping playboy as a symbol of “the nation,” but we doubt that the military and ISOC are uninterested. After all, they’ve manipulated or arranged most of these groups over five decades.

Claims by by Defense Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich that the “military is not behind any groups…. The military does not support anyone engaged in activism outside parliament” are false.

The report claims that “chung chart” was made popular by The Democrat Party’s Warong Dechgitvigrom, who says:

I see this as liberalism that destroys traditions and the monarchy by claiming to be democratic…. We need to fight them through ideology. The New Right is a political ideology.

Akechai. Clipped from TLHR

The ideological fight usually leads to legal actions and violence. Indeed, there was plenty of political violence in the last days of the junta. Think of the repeated attacks on Sirawith Seritiwat and Akechai Hongkangwarn, among others.

As the report notes, “army chief Apirat Kongsompong … has described Thailand as being in a ‘hybrid war’ against enemies of tradition” and the rightist-royalists are working in support of his “war.”

The current targets of rightist-royalist angst and wrath include the Future Forward Party – who Warong considers false democrats and nasty “liberals.” That party also worries Gen Apirat as they are too popular; the military fears popularity that translates into votes.

The report cites former PADista and Democrat Party minister Kasit Primya as saying: “The two sides are becoming more entrenched…”. There might be more than two “sides,” but as far as we can tell, the “sides” have been deeply entrenched since PAD.

So it is that Future Forward and its supporters are painted by ultra-nationalist rightist-royalists as “want[ing] to destroy the Thai system [monarchy] and change it to the Marxist-Socialist system…”.

On social media, hatred of identified opponents is fanned. Such hatred has long proved useful of the military when it mobilizes violence to support military-backed regimes or to destabilize elected governments.





Loans, Prawit and ISOC

1 07 2019

A few days ago PPT posted on Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s backslapping regarding title deeds allegedly returned to debtors following the intervention of ISOC, Army police and administrative officials who claim to have magically convinced “loan sharks” to return land title deeds to the owners who had hocked them.

What amused us about the report was the data, which we questioned.

Interestingly, while not questioning the data, the Bangkok Post has questioned the program in an editorial. It notes that it was “deputy Democrat Party leader Nipit Intarasombat [who] floated an allegation that the return of land title deeds to debtors … was fake…”. He claimed that after the ceremonies fronted by Gen Prawit, “returning” the title deeds, “the documents were given back to the creditors…”.

Gen Prawit has denied this, but the allegations come from a man at the top of a “coalition partner,” which makes the whole idea of the junta’s ongoing “government” all the more fragile.

More significantly, the Bangkok Post recounts that:

… at another ceremony to hand back title deeds on Thursday, a group of 30 debtors of loan sharks from several provinces in the Northeast showed up uninvited to file a petition to Gen Prawit…. They said they were given back title deeds at previous ceremonies but when they went back home the police seized back the documents from them. They were then forced to repay debts or sign new borrowing contracts to get back the title deeds.

Will these villager be denied? Will they be harassed or arrested?





Chuan’s forgetfulness

23 06 2019

Aged Democrat Party politician and former lackluster prime minister Chuan Leekpai, back as junta-supported House Speaker seems to be suffering the forgetfulness of the anti-democrats.

When we read that he had “warned the 500 newly elected MPs to behave themselves and not to repeat the misbehaviour of lawmakers of the past,” we thought the story was going to be about the horrid behavior of anti-democrat members of the Democrat Party who have repeatedly boycotted elections (they couldn’t win) and run amok in parliament. Indeed, they became anti-democrat extremists.

But, no, that’s not it.

Chuan is telling them not to behave like little princes and kings when it comes to using their travel passes. That may be of some merit, but really, how can he forget the abysmal behavior of his own?

We well understand the double standards of anti-democrats, but this is a bit too much.





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 an op-ed at the Bangkok Post:

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.