Needing to love the military dictatorship

13 07 2018

Some pundits have wondered if the cave rescue has made the military dictatorship more popular internationally and more “electable” domestically. We don’t know the answer to those questions, but we do know that authoritarian regimes have long felt comfortable dealing with Thailand’s military junta and that the West, moving rapidly to the right, has sought to re-engage with the regime.

An op-ed – The Rest of the World Has Warmed to Thailand’s Military Rulers – by Joshua Kurlantzick, a senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, addresses the “warming” to the regime that has been seen in recent times.

Despite the junta embedding itself for the long term, delaying “elections” and engaging in widespread repression, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “has been welcomed in many leading Western democracies.” Worse, he observes that “[f]rom Europe to Australia to the United States, countries have largely dropped their efforts at pressuring the Thai government [to civilianize], even while Thailand’s political crisis stretches on indefinitely.”

After the 2014 military coup, “[m]any democratic states took a relatively harsh line toward Bangkok,” that’s changed. The countries in Europe, the U.S. and Australia are now moderately supportive of Thailand’s military regime.

The Dictator and the U.S.’s Trump

President Donald Trump hosted The Dictator at the White House in October 2017. No surprise there, but the “Obama administration had already begun normalizing those military-to-military ties.”

Kurlantzick observes that “European states and other major democracies have acted similarly.” The EU re-established “all political links with Thailand” in late 2017. In March, Australia’s conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomed Prayuth “reversing the Australian travel ban on top junta leaders.”

The Dictator and Australia’s Turnbull

The author doesn’t note it, but Turnbull has moved rapidly to the right, adopting policies that the military regime in Thailand would appreciate.

In June, “Prayuth took his first trip to Europe since the easing of EU sanctions on Thailand. He met British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron, along with a wide range of business leaders.” May heads a government that is engaged in a Brexit debate that sees the right gaining ground, recent events notwithstanding. Linked to post-Brexit needs, “Prayuth and May agreed to relaunch talks on a free trade agreement.”

The Dictator and Britain’s May

Kurlantzick observes that “[f]or all the junta’s attempts to boost its image abroad, the political environment in Thailand is still as repressive as it has been since 2014.” It is the other countries that are rushing to the right and thus having no qualms about embracing repressive military regimes.

Another factor involved has been the panic over China: “the junta has pointed to its growing ties with China, which did not condemn the coup, as a reminder to other leading powers that Thailand has alternatives for investment, aid and diplomatic and military ties.”

The Dictator with China’s Xi

This causes some Western countries to ditch human rights concerns in the interests of checking China. It’s all a bit Cold War like.

China’s influence is not new and has been on the rise in Thailand, as it has elsewhere, but the junta still craves “balancing” as much as it does “bending,” and it is the junta that has made overtures to the West.

And, as ever, business is interested in profits rather than human rights, making Thailand attractive as it is at the heart of a broader ASEAN region.

For all these reasons the West feels the need to cosy up with the nastiest of regimes.





All that is old is new again

19 06 2018

“New” is a relative term. What is new for a 10 year-old may be old for a 70 year-old. For those now piloting Suthep Thaugsuban’s Action Coalition of Thailand Party the really old conservative ploy of calling for a “national government” is promoted as if a new idea, not one recycled from previous conservatives and fascists.

Whenever such a call is launched it usually suggests that Thailand’s politics is deeply conflicted. And so it is again.

Party puppet leader Anek Laothamatas made an “appeal” to his party’s arch-enemies in Puea Thai. If the report at Khaosod is to be believed, Anek called on the “political rivals [to] bury the hatchet and form a ‘unity government’ after the next election.”

Worryingly, this former “scholar” – in Khaosod’s reporting he is transformed into a “veteran law scholar”- made his call based “inspiration” drawn from “last week’s historic meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un…” as his inspiration.

Anek is said to have told reporters: “Even North Koreans and South Koreans – they fought till millions were dead – managed to reconcile. Even Mr. Donald Trump and Mr. Kim Jong Un managed to reconcile.”

It seems Anek is a seer rather than a scholar of any sort, concocting a conclusion to recent events. That unused train station at the DMZ must be suddenly busy!

For the anti-democrat vision of “reconciliation,” the ACT’s fortuneteller “called on all key political parties to form a government in which they will share power and work for the good of the country.” For him, there should be “no opposition elements.”

He mimics dictators of the present and the past.





More on elections and U.S. policy

9 02 2018

Yesterday we mentioned Gen Joseph F Dunford, Jr, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Department of Defense and how delighted he said he was that Thailand’s military dictator was babbling about “democracy.”

U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davies is now in on the act, but a little more nuanced in his approach. He is quoted as saying: “American policy remains much as it has been. We believe that democracy is the great way to keep working together…”. But nodding to the realities of working under the Donald Trump administration, he adds: “[Between] old and new administrations there will be a different emphasis put on issues … but I think for the most part, our relationship and priority will be balanced on strategic interests … and on our principles that will continue under any administration.”

In our words, a return to electoral politics in Thailand would be welcomed, but the reality is the White House doesn’t really care.

Davies made his comments at at an exhibition marking 200 years of Thai-US relations. Davies says that his favorite piece in the exhibition is a “golden cigarette case that King Rama VIII gave to former US president Franklin Roosevelt in 1945 to convey a covert message to Washington…”. Now, this is a Thailand-ism demanded by self-censorship. As the somewhat garbled report makes clear, it was the regent Pridi Phanomyong who dispatched the gift, with an OSS officer. The young king was ensconced in Switzerland.

Given the loathing for Pridi in the palace and royalist circles, this being the favorite piece may well be seen as an implicit poke at anti-democrats and military dictators.

While on dictators, The Dictator is quoted in the first report above:

“I insisted that we would move forward to democracy. The US also understands our necessity,” [General] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] said. “I also told the US that Thailand has its own problems. We’ll have to have measures to ensure the country becomes firmly democratic in the timelines,” he continued. “That could be designated by either me or by laws.”

To us that sounds like a declaration of ongoing dictatorship.





Elections?

8 02 2018

We read in the Bangkok Post that The Dictator has met with Gen Joseph F Dunford, Jr, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Department of Defense.

We also read that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha told Gen Dunford that “the government [he means military junta] is sticking by its roadmap to the next election while the legislative branch is working on the laws related to the poll.” The Dictator added, via a mouthpiece, that he “insists on the national reforms that will lead Thailand to a strong and sustainable democracy…”.

That’s become the usual buffalo manure from The Dictator. His “roadmap” is the road to nowhere. The roadmap has been redefined at least four times since the 2014 military coup. It is a an imaginary map that changes according to the whims of the military dictatorship.

We are used to this nonsense from the self-centered who wants to hold power forever.

But what is somewhat surprising, although not too much surprises when it is related to Donald Trump’s administration, is that Gen Dunford seems a cloth-eared dunce. He is reported as saying: “I’m very encouraged as I come to Thailand by the commitment of its leadership to democracy. And that commitment to democracy is going to allow us to move forward and deepen our relationship in the future.”

Democracy? They don’t know the meaning of the word. Perhaps it is not understood in Washington either. General Dunford should be able to recognize soldiers even when they wear business suits. Thailand is a military dictatorship run by corrupt thugs.





Updated: Why has the EU capitulated?

13 12 2017

We are not sure why the European Union has, as reported at The Nation, “agreed to resume political contacts” with Thailand and “at all levels,” Which means it will deal with the military junta.

More than three years the EU suspended ties “in protest at the military coup in Bangkok.”

The EU claims that “developments in Thailand this year, including the adoption of a new constitution and a pledge by junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha to hold elections in November 2018,” now mean that it is “appropriate” to resume ties.

That is, of course, errant nonsense. If anything, the entrenchment of military political power and its repression have increased in 2017.

We figure that trade is the reason for dealing with the murderous and corrupt devils running Thailand.

Naturally enough, as The Nation reports, the junta and its minions are ecstatic as this “recognition” is a very public justification of military dictatorship.

With the Trump administration cashing in on dictatorship, following the Chinese, we guess the Europeans consider trade trumps human rights.

Update: Interestingly, a day after the EU Council capitulated to the military junta, Human Rights Watch issued a statement on “baseless sedition charges” against Sunisa Lertpakawat of the Puea Thai Party. HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams stated: “Bringing sedition and computer crime charges against a politician for criticism on Facebook shows the Thai junta’s growing contempt for fundamental freedoms…”.





A lawless and lying junta

11 10 2017

PPT has been busy posting about other things – the absurdity of lese majeste, junta political gymnastics – and so we neglected to mention an important op-ed by Umesh Pandey is Editor of the Bangkok Post. Earlier we posted on another commentary by Umesh on the basis of the junta’s rule in illegality and lies.

This op-ed may be seen as somewhat dated, given recent “changes” (see below), but we think his comments deserve consideration for the broader points made about what defines the military dictatorship, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Umesh’s latest commentary begins thus: “Bending the law and going back on words seems to have become the norm ever since the coup that ousted the elected government in 2014.”

In other words, the regime is built on lies and the manipulation of law.

The Post’s editor is particularly upset that The Dictator told US President Trump that there would be “free and fair elections in 2018,” only to renege. (We actually think that General Prayuth and his team of flunkies simply didn’t comprehend the statement they signed. They are not all that intelligent.)

Umesh also worries that the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee, led by serial constitution buster and military minion Meechai Ruchupan, “is defending delays in polls is something that should go down in history books as being one of its kind in the world.” He comments that the CDC “is a body that supposedly comprises some of the smartest people, who are supposed to look at the country’s future and its long-term well-being, and they are protecting the never-ending delays that this military regime is trying to undertake.”

Smartest? Really? As far as we can tell from their record, the CDC is composed of puppets with no more intelligence than their wooden counterparts.

And, this is certainly not the first time that the CDC has supported the junta’s delays. In fact, we have lost count. But this is nothing other than a collection of puppets with the junta pulling all the strings.

Umesh observes that:

The regime’s initial promise to hold elections was within a year of the coup, so 2015, then it turned out to be 2016, then 2017 and finally Gen Prayut announced at the United Nations that it would be 2018.

Then it was 2019, although in recent days The Dictator has changed this back to 2018 (maybe). We still don’t know why Prayuth back-flipped.

Umesh continues:

While democracy is being kicked around a football, the players are gradually being red-carded one after another. The latest headlines in yesterday’s papers suggest that there is an all-out effort to go for the final kill.

After having prosecuted the Pheu Thai and its predecessor parties for the past decade, efforts are being made to charge its backer, Thaksin [Shinawatra], with the feared Section 112. Newly appointed Attorney-General Khemchai Chutiwongs said 112 can be applied for video footage in which Thaksin reportedly blamed members of the Privy Council for the May 22, 2014 coup that ousted Pheu Thai government.

Of course, no election held under the junta’s rules will be “free” or “fair” or “democratic.”

Bravely, Umesh ponders the lese majeste law: “As far as most of the population of this country is aware, the lese majeste law clearly states that it applies to only members of the royal family.”

Well, sort of, apart from the cases related to Princess Sirindhorn, royal pets, dead kings, historical figures and mythical queens. But we get the point.

He asks:

So, what is the section of the 112 law that the attorney-general is going to use to prosecute Thaksin? Or is it the case that this law was changed over the course of time and people are not aware of it?

In fact, lese majeste is used however the junta (and palace) wants it to be used. There’s no rule of law in Thailand, just rule by junta.





Updated: Will it be 2019?

6 10 2017

Thailand’s military dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, presumably understood that in the U.S. he was signing a Joint Statement between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Thailand that stated “Thailand’s commitment to the Roadmap, which, upon completion of relevant organic laws as stipulated by the Constitution, will lead to free and fair elections in 2018.”

Lying is a bit like eating and sleeping for The Dictator; it comes naturally. In any case, within days, General Prayuth has corrected “misconceptions” that using the date “2018” actually meant the year 2018 in the Gregorian calendar.

We didn’t believe the statement on this point – neither Trump nor Prayuth fully understand “truth” – and the latter has now, magician-like, revealed that 2018 means 2019.

This election rabbit has been pulled from a hat when meeting with junta-worshiping, posterior polishing Thais in the United States “that the election should take place in 2019,” with the report adding that this is “many months later than the junta-appointed legislators had predicted.”

Remember all the times that Prayuth promised and the reneged? Recall all the times he has said he’s sticking by the roadmap and then changed it? Now, the earliest Prayuth’s election can be held is probably April 2019. But he could easily change his mind again.

Perhaps the junta feels that this date is appropriate and it reckons its iron grip will be tight enough by then to allow its people to dominate the “election.” After all, five years after the coup (in 2019), the dinosaur coup-makers probably assume there won’t be much left of the Shinawatras and theirassociated political party and red shirts. Pesky pro-democracy activists have been more or less cowed. And, following a royal funeral and coronation, the military thugs probably think they’ll have the country tied up.

If The Dictator remains unsure of his “electoral” victory, expect further delays. The rabbit can go back in the hat to be revealed again. Prayuth has repeatedly babbled about not wanting to be premier but he sure seems to crave the power and prestige.

Update: The Bangkok Post headlines a story: “Meechai unravels Prayut’s poll quote.” The story is about one of Thailand’s most destructive of conservatives, Meechai Ruchupan. This old man has meddled in the writing of Thailand’s most conservative constitutions and laws. For his role in 1991 when he was also serving military putchists, we have a post. It seems this geriatric is somehow in a time warp – 1968.

Meechai is, quite simply, the military’s man, responsible for multiple illiberal reversions over several decades. He currently chairs the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee. The sub-heading is “Says premier only speculating on delay.” We doubt The Dictator will fancy being told he’s “speculating.” The Dictator is more likely to be telling Meechai what to do. In fact, baring some kind of uprising from within the military or from society, it is General Prayuth who will decide when he wants to hold his “election”; Meechai, as a pawn, will do what he’s told.