Military rule

8 09 2015

Khaosod reports that, should the dictatorship maintain its place until mid-2017, it will the longest period of military rule since 1969.

The point is a good one and results from the discarding of the draft constitution, even if it fudges a bit on history.

Although General Thanom Kittikachorn held elections in 1969, he and his military thugs simply formed a party and won the “election,” staying in power until a self-coup in 1971 that ousted parliament. Then the military continued until October 1973.

Khaosod reports that:

Sunday’s no-vote [ditching the draft charter] was mostly led by hardline, pro-junta members who believe junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha should stay in power to complete his mission of national reform prior to allowing public elections.

 





Speculating on the end of the draft charter

8 09 2015

Social media and the mainstream media is alive with speculation about the reasons for the junta turning on its own draft charter.

Such speculation is warranted when it is considered that the military dictatorship was established to repress opponents of elite rule and, ostensibly, to change the political rules to maintain that hegemony into the future. They did this with a handpicked set of charter drafters and committees who came up with an appropriately anti-democratic and elite-dominated set of rules. So why ditch it?

Successionists speculate that the real reason for the 2014 coup was to manage succession. However, the continued life in the royal body means that succession is still and issue and the military brass worries that it needs to control the royal passing and the new king.

Some suggest that the military brass got cold feet as a referendum on the draft charter loomed, knowing it could not pass, especially after “the mistake.”

Others add to this view, saying the military brass feared that a referendum could unleash “conflict.” Of course, the military is adept at silencing dissent and purging the civil and military bureaucracies but its leaders remain unconvinced that they have crushed opposition and feel they need more time to do this.

With paid servant of the military Wissanu Krea-ngam explaining that it is now at least 20 months to the promised election, quite a few speculate that The Dictator just wants to extend his tenure as a rambunctious and unpredictable premier.

(We recall that in May 2014, the junta announced that it would be at least 15 months before an election. That has now changed to be at least 35.5 months.)

Interestingly, at Prachatai, the Neo-Democracy group has declared that “the junta … step down after the 2015 charter draft was rejected on Sunday, saying that the junta only wants to hold on to its power.” The group stated that the “junta was only putting up a show to convince people that it maintains the rule of law, but the regime’s intention is only to maintain power.”

The group promised to continue its activism against the military dictatorship.

Another line is from the anti-democrat clique. Despite their one-time leader Suthep Thaugsuban saying the draft charter was “good enough,” the reform-before-election and root-out-the-Thaksin-regime anti-democrats claim success in pressuring the junta to drop the “early” election.

PPT is not convinced by any single explanation for the dumping of the anti-democratic draft, but can see something in each of these explanations and feel that the collective cold feet in the military junta emanated from all these fears, concerns and desires.





Further updated: Draft charter dumped

6 09 2015

The big news for the day, already predicted by the media, is that the military dictatorship’s draft charter has been dumped by the military junta’s puppet National Reform Council.

Update 1: According to the Bangkok Post, “The National Reform Council on Sunday voted 135-105 with seven abstentions to reject the draft constitution.” While some of those opposing the military dictatorship will be pleased with the dumping of an anti-democratic charter, it seems the real force behind the defeat was the military itself. As the Post states, “the rejection of the draft charter was as expected following heavy lobbying during the past week, reportedly by NRC members closely linked to the military.”

Because the draft charter has been voted down, the National Reform Council’s term ends and a new 21-memeber charter drafting committee will be established charged with coming up with a new draft within 6 months. That has to be followed within another 4 months by a referendum. This timetable provides the military dictatorship with ample scope for further repression over a long period.

Update 2: As regular readers will know, we are no fans of lawyer for sale Bowornsak Uwanno, the chief author of the now ditched draft charter. The Nation reports that Bowornsak, feeling rejected, has stated that “he would not return as a new Constitution drafter.” He seemed to think that the clause “highlighting the power of the people … would be deleted” by a new drafting committee. Maybe, but that statement meant almost nothing in a draft charter that promised to embed dozens of anti-democratic provisions. He did “thank” the “three generals who voted for the draft. On the other NRC members representing the military and voting No, he said it was natural for them to respect orders.”





Petrified by opposition

5 09 2015

The military dictatorship, for all the tough talk by The Dictator and other military thugs, is actually petrified. It is terrified that any form of protest could bring its world tumbling down.

Yes, it has all the guns. has cowed many and threatens all, but it has a recurring nightmare: that the people will rebel.

When a group called the Democracy Study group made a call on its Facebook page “asking people to show their stand on the constitution draft at 4pm on Saturday at the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre,” the junta panicked.

Scores of security officers were sent to surround the Centre.

Protest 2 - Copy

The police issued an order banning the use of the property as a demonstration site. Under Section 7 of the Public Assembly act, enacted last month, the cops “prohibited a public gathering within 150 metres … [of] a palace.”

A palace? Yep, according to the police order, the “small yard in front of the centre or the skywalk across the Pathumwan intersection is within the radius of Sra Prathum Palace so no protest can be held…”.

Sra Prathum Palace is “a residence of … Princess … Sirindhorn.”Protest 1 - Copy

The report and several social media accounts explain that the “Democracy Study group, however, appeared undeterred. It posted on its Facebook the meeting was still on at 4pm, showing a picture of its props and a measurement tape.” The group intended to avoid the ban by gathering at 151 meters from the  palace.

It engaged in several activities showing disapproval of the draft constitution, including a mock referendum.

We are sure the military dopes can’t abide a protest of any kind, but we are not entirely sure they want the constitution to move forward. They might prefer a longer period in the driving seat.





Anti-democrats speak, red shirts gagged

5 09 2015

Less than a week ago PPT posted on anti-democrat Suthep Thaugsuban calling a very public press conference to trumpet his support for the military dictatorship’s democracy crippling draft constitution. Good enough he declared! Support it he demanded!

In reaction, red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan declared that he would also call a news conference. Jatuporn stated: “I will exercise the same rights as Suthep…. I hope we will be treated in the same way that Suthep was.” The junta had granted permission for Suthep’s grandstanding.

What was the junta’s response? Double standards of course.

The junta’s mouthpiece Colonel Winthai Suwaree said his bosses had “decided not to allow the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) to exchange views with the media on the charter draft.” He added:

We have to stick to the existing guideline [of banning] any activity that may potentially cause confusion, adversely affect unity, peace and order, or can possibly impede us from following the roadmap….

Suthep is not restricted but red shirts are. Suthep is a supporter. Red shirts are accused of “smearing the NCPO or influencing people to have a negative view about us by using incomplete facts. Such behaviours were the factors of our consideration…”. It seems only critical voices are to be silenced. Anyone who wants to lick the military’s boots can line up to speak.





Updated: Still intent on silencing

2 09 2015

The Bangkok Post reports that the military dictatorship has revoked the passport of former Puea Thai Party education minister Chaturon Chaisaeng.

Why? Apparently “for defying the NCPO’s summons to report in, breaching martial law and inciting unrest in violation of Section 116 of the Criminal Code.”

In junta-speak, Chaturon has dared to chastise the criticism averse military junta.

The ministry source lied that the “passport cancellation was a normal practice at the ministry.” This is an unusual action and is targeting a politician the junta fears will criticize the draft constitution it is forcing on the nation and its people.

Chaturon is an articulate critic, in both English and Thai, and the junta wants to silence him in the run up to the constitution referendum, and we suspect that the junta is using this as a warning or is concocting further charges against him.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that Chaturon has demanded an explanation for the revoking of his passports – one current and one expired. He reveals that while the “military court had approved his requests to travel abroad three or four times during the past 12 months,” the military junta has “recently rejected two requests, saying he had criticised them too much.”

Adding to this explanation of the personalized and paternalistic authoritarianism, The Dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha said that Chaturon’s passports were revoked because he was “making the same mistakes over and over,” and this was “despite being warned a dozen times.” He added: “Let’s look at their behaviour [opposition politicians]. If they are warned several times and don’t obey, then there must be some degree of punishment…”.





Red shirt voice?

2 09 2015

Readers will recall that a couple of days ago the anti-democrat Suthep Thaugsuban called a press conference to announce his support for the military junta’s draft constitution. The intention was to have his rabid anti-democrat supporters sign up for the flawed charter.

When he went public, we suggested that the junta might have chastise him for this as he didn’t have their permission for this public statement of support for the constitution when the junta had been campaigning against political voice on the charter.

The reaction of the red shirts was of interest. Khaosod reports that red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan has declared that “he will hold his news conference on Sunday in response to one staged by … Suthep…”. Jatuporn stated: “I will exercise the same rights as Suthep…. I hope we will be treated in the same way that Suthep was.”

The report reveals that the junta granted permission for Suthep’s news conference. It remains to be seen if the red shirts will gain permission.

Yes, it is bizarre that anyone should have to have the dictatorship’s permission for a media event, but this is Thailand under the military boot.





If the king can’t say it, Suthep can

1 09 2015

The Bangkok Post reports that anti-democrat leader Suthep Thaugsuban is campaigning for the military dictatorship’s constitution. Yes, there were warnings against this, but a little pushing from Suthep is probably welcomed by the junta (even if they chastise him later).

The Post reports him as saying:

He said that although the document may have some shortcomings, they could be amended in the future as deemed necessary.

“What is more important is that there must be a guarantee for Thailand’s future, for the people to see the light and have a better life,” he said.

According to Mr Suthep, the final draft of the constitution is good enough for the people to support it in the referendum.

Compare this with the king’s 1992 support for the then military-backed government’s constitution:

ความจริงวิธีนี้ถ้าจำได้ เมื่อวันที่ ๔ ธันวาคม ๒๕๓๔ ก็ได้พูดต่อสมาคม ที่มาพบจำนวนหลายพันคน แล้วก็ดูเหมือนว่าพอฟังกัน ฟังกันโดยดี เพราะเหตุผลที่มีอยู่ในนั้น ดูจะแก้ปัญหาได้พอควร ตอนนี้ก็พอย้ำว่าทำไมพูดอย่างนั้น ว่าถ้าจะแก้ก่อนออกก็ได้ หรือออกก่อนแก้ก็ได้ อันนั้นทุกคนก็ทราบดีว่าเรื่องอะไร ก็เป็นเรื่องรัฐธรรมนูญ ซึ่งครั้งนั้น การแก้รัฐธรรมนูญก็ได้ทำมาตลอด มากกว่าฉบับเดิมที่ตั้งเอาไว้ได้แก้ไข แล้วก็ก่อนที่ไปพูดที่ศาลาดุสิดาลัย ก็ได้พบพลเอกสุจินดา ก็ขออนุญาตเล่าให้ฟังว่า พลเอกสุจินดาแล้ว พลเอกสุจินดาก็เห็นด้วยว่า ควรจะประกาศใช้รัฐธรรมนูญนี้ และแก้ไขต่อไปได้ อันนี้ก็เป็นสิ่งที่ทำได้ และตอนหลังนี้ พลเอกสุจินดาก็ได้ยืนยันว่า แก้ไขได้ก็ค่อยๆ แก้เข้าระเบียบให้เป็นที่เรียกว่า ประชาธิปไตย อันนี้ก็ได้พูดมาตั้งหลายเดือนแล้ว ในวิธีการที่จะแก้ไข แล้วข้อสำคัญ ที่ทำไมอยากให้ประกาศใช้รัฐธรรมนูญ แม้จะถือว่ารัฐธรรมนูญนั้นยังไม่ครบถ้วน ก็เพราะเหตุว่ารัฐธรรมนูญนั้น มีคุณภาพพอใช้ได้ ดีกว่าธรรมนูญการปกครองชั่วคราว ที่ใช้มาเกือบปี เพราะเหตุว่ามีบางข้อบางมาตรา ซึ่งเป็นอันตรายแล้ว ก็ไม่ครบถ้วนในการที่จะปกครองประเทศ ฉะนั้นก็นึกว่า ถ้าหากว่าสามารถที่จะปฏิบัติตามที่ได้พูดในวันที่ ๔ ธันวาคมนั้นก็นึกว่า เป็นการกลับไปดูปัญหาเดิม ไม่ใช่ปัญหาของวันนี้

Academic Kevin Hewison commented on this several years ago (downloads a PDF), stating:

Following the 1991 coup, the draft constitution was faxed to the King in Chiangmai, and was returned in the same manner, reportedly with some minor alterations (FEER 14 March 1991). This nonchalant attitude was also reflected in the King’s reaction when the constitution was challenged. He pointed out that while the draft was ‘not … fully adequate’, it should be promulgated because it was ‘reasonable’ (มีคุณภาพพอใช้ได้) and could be ‘gradually amended … in a “democratic” way…’. In other words, the principles embodied in the constitution were not particularly important, but its promulgation was necessary so that instability could be avoided….

Such support for the military’s control of politics is not unusual for the monarch, but this constitution was rejected, led to protests and to the massacre (again) of the military’s opponents.





The elite’s constitution

31 08 2015

A couple of days ago, PPT posted Ji Ungpakorn’s take on the military junta’s draft constitution. Apart from the basic unrepresentative nature of the charter, its attack on electoral politics, its military tutelage and its origins in a military coup, the “constitution draft reflects more obviously the wish of the elites to entrench their power in Thai politics.”

An important “innovation” in maintaining elite rule is opposition to it has to do with the proposed National Strategic Reform and Reconciliation Committee, the “crisis committee.

Military hireling has “explained” why he thinks the crisis committee is required. He fears that the junta’s constitution will ignite conflict – he means opposition – “during the referendum process … in January 2016…”. His biggest fear is that opposition will emerge against elements of the constitution that the military has made central: controls on political parties, “independent” organizations, undemocratic and unelected swill having control.

Wissanu explains that the crisis committee is required to “control” and prevent opposition to elite control of politics:

Any sign of renewed political conflict would have to be stopped right away, without a coup, and that was why the National Strategic Reform and Reconciliation Committee was needed — to serve Thai society….

He means to serve the elite in society.

Yet even when there is no “conflict,” Wissanu explains that:

… the panel has the power to tell the government to do anything for the sake or reform and reconciliation. The government must comply with its requests if the panel confirms its decisions.

Wissanu and his military bosses expect to control politics into the future, for the elite.





Ji on the military dictatorship’s constitution

29 08 2015

As we often do, PPT reproduced Ji Ungpakorn’s most recent observations:

Thai Junta’s draft constitution pushes democracy back indefinitely

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

No one with an ounce of intelligence would have expected the junta, and its herd of “academics for hire”, to come up with a democratic constitution or anything other than a host of anti-reforms to set the authoritarian political agenda for years to come. Tedious as it may be, I and many other activists and academics have had to plough through the endless pages of garbage in the new draft constitution in order to establish a facts-based critique of this offensive document.

Overall, it differs little in its tone from the previous draft, although there is a shocking additional article towards the end. The general tone is patronising and banal, with constant references to the monarchy. Since the late 1950s, the monarchy has been a tool of the military and other elites, justifying all manner of authoritarian measures and human rights abuses. At the same time the king has been a pathetic and cowardly character, always willing to do the bidding of his masters, while keeping up the pretence of being a “God-like genius”.

The draft constitution reads like a Thai-style kindergarten text, talking about the “duties of citizens to be loyal to King and Country and to maintain discipline. Duty and discipline take priority over the rights of citizens. There are pages and pages of rubbish about the qualities of “good” political leaders and naturally they must be loyal to “Nation, Religion and King”. We should not forget that this draft constitution is drawn up by gangsters and thugs in uniform, who murdered pro-democracy demonstrators and used violence to stage military coups and pervert the democratic process.

It is also a neo-liberal constitution, like all the various constitutions since the 1996 economic crisis. So it talks of public health being organised according to a “fair” market economy, the need to maintain “fiscal discipline” and the importance of following the King’s reactionary “Sufficiency Economy” ideology. As usual, this is all aimed against redistribution of wealth and state spending which benefits the poor. Naturally, military and Palace spending are not a threat to fiscal discipline (in the interests of national security).

In this light, article 189 and other sections of the constitution outlaw what the reactionaries like to call “populist policies”. This is aimed directly at Taksin-style measures which were hugely popular among the electorate. Such policies need to be outlawed by wise men because the majority of the population are “too stupid” to know what is good for them. However, there will be “people participation” in managing communities through toy-like “citizens’ assemblies”.

People like Taksin and some other Pua Thai politicians will be barred from office for “legal” reasons, much like the gerrymandered electoral system in Singapore or Burma which bars opposition politicians for dubious legal reasons. However, state murderers like Abhisit and Sutep, will not be banned from office.

There will be 300 constituency MPs and between 150-170 national party list MPs. The number of party list MPs will be adjusted according to the national vote for each party and the number of elected constituency MPs, so that it will be a more proportional representative system. However, parliament will have reduced powers.

The Prime Minister need not be an elected MP, if supported by 2/3 of parliament. All ministers must have bachelor degrees, to weed out any ignorant poor people, and the Prime Minister cannot hold office for longer than 8 consecutive years.

The all-powerful senate will be made up of 77 senators, elected in each province, and another 123 senators appointed by the military and the elites. The senate will have extensive powers to appoint the Electoral Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Constitutional Judges. In the past these bodies exercised power over the democratically elected Yingluk government and paved the way for a military coup. The senate will also appoint the useless Human Rights Commission, no doubt ensuring that there are plenty of military and police officers on board.

The illegal and highly oppressive “temporary” constitution, which was drawn up by the military in 2014 immediately after the coup, will be a guiding force for the new constitution, making sure, in article 285, that all the anti-democratic acts of the junta are “deemed to be legal”.

However, the worst aspect of this new draft is the last section, from article 259 onwards, with the establishment of a committee to determine the strategy for anti-reforms and so-called reconciliation. This committee will in effect be a “Super Junta”, with powers to veto any decisions made by an elected government and to take power at any time via a “legalised coup”, if and when it deems fit. Naturally the Super Junta will be dominated by the military top brass. This Super Junta will be enshrined in stone for 5 years, but its length of duty can be extended.

The upshot of this is that whoever is democratically elected to form a government will have very limited room to determine policy.

Of course, the constitution can never be amended to make Thailand into a republic or to allow self-determination in Patani. Any other amendments which have been sanctioned by a parliamentary vote, must be approved by the elite appointed Constitutional Court.

Now, it stands to reason that anyone who supports democracy and human rights would oppose this nonsense of a constitution. Yet, all manner of threats are being issued to silence critics. Apart from threatening to push back elections if the constitution does not pass in a referendum, the deputy Prime Minister Wisanu Kruangarm, and the head of the Electoral Commission, have stated that it is illegal to campaign against this constitution using social media and other means. Wisanu also took the opportunity of saying to the media that it was the “best constitution ever written”.

We all have rights, but some have more rights than the rest of us!