Updated: Voices silenced

28 08 2015

Political voice is usually considered to be the ability to express views and interests and to influence policy and decision-making processes.

One of the complaints made about electoralism is that it allows just a few minutes of voice.Yet for Thailand’s military dictatorship, any political voice is dangerous and threatening, and it prefers political silence.

At Khaosod it is reported that “Thais will not be allowed to independently campaign either for or against their new constitution before it goes before voters in a referendum as soon as January.”No voice

Junta hireling Wissanu Krea-ngam has declared “that public debate over its [the draft constitution] merits and deficiencies will only be allowed at officially sanctioned forums organized by the Election Commission and balanced accounts in recognized news media.” There can be no other “political gatherings.”

Wissanu”explained” that ” the government will have to keep its the lid on free speech in the months leading to the referendum for the sake of stability.”

The remarkably daft Election Commission stated: “Campaigns to influence the referendum cannot be done, whether to tell people to accept or reject the charter draft…. If anyone or any group comes out to campaign about the referendum, they will be guilty of violating NCPO order No. 7, which bans political assemblies.”

The EC and Wissanu are clear that political voice is verboten.

Update: In a new report at Khaosod its is explained that the military dictatorship’s “ban on ‘campaigning’ for or against the new constitution will include uses of social media…”. Wissanu stated that “the ban will also cover using social media to ‘mobilize supporters’ in support or opposition to the new constitution.” If this wasn’t clear enough, the hireling declared:

“If you send Line or SMS messages in ways that incite, mobilize, use rude words, use violent terms, or use aggressive terms; you cannot do that. It’s against the law.”

… “This includes sending video clips that break the laws. If we catch you doing it, we will arrest you. The principle is that: you cannot mobilize or incite that cause divisions. If you express your opinion in a normal way, it’s fine, for example, by expressing opinions on TV shows.”

Stunt or failure? II

26 08 2015

Now that the draft constitution is available, some opinions are now being expressed. Few seem very satisfied.

Some of the anti-democrats oppose it, preferring “reform” before constitutional change.

Yingluck Shinawatra has made her concerns clear. At the Bangkok Post, Yingluck is quoted as saying “she found the new constitution unacceptable because it is not linked to the people.”

Leader of the (anti-)Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva has “called for the National Reform Council to vote down the draft constitution on Sept 6, saying the proposed establishment of an all-powerful ‘crisis committee’ is unacceptable.”

The Nation has an editorial that slams the draft:

The new constitution would turn back the clock to the authoritarian rule of the late 1970s and ’80s….

The draft constitution, if passed by the National Reform Council (NRC) and then a public vote, would be a serious setback for democracy in Thailand.

Rather than ushering in “Thai-style democracy”, as claimed by Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chief Borwornsak Uwanno, the proposed national blueprint reflects the undemocratic way in which it was created.

In response, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has been predictable in his response to criticism; he’s rejected it: “Prayut called on the media not to cover remarks made by these politicians, saying they had failed to solve the country’s problems but insulted his military-led regime, which he said was not fair.” Presumably, leading an illegal coup and overthrowing an elected government and the constitution is somehow “fair” in Prayuth’s jaundiced view of the world.

He went further, threatening: “They should not have been allowed to make such verbal attacks. Many have court cases and have spoken out without fear. If they hit out at me, I must hit back. When they face legal action, do not scream that they do not receive justice…”. The idea that criticizing the draft constitution is an attack on Prayuth indicates how much he has tutored the drafters, to the extent that Prayuth feels the constitution is owned by The Dictator.

Dictators will be dictators.

Stunt or a failure? I

25 08 2015

Thailand’s constitutional lawyer for hire Bowornsak Uwanno and his puppet committee of charter drafters has recently produced the draft constitution. They presented it to the puppet National Reform Committee.

The Thai-language version is available for download.

The front page of the draft is shown to the right.Missing preamble

It is essentially blank. When PPT downloaded it yesterday, we thought there was a mistake with fonts of something similar. However, today it is reported at the Bangkok Post that: “Two reform panels have agreed to ask the Constitutional Court to rule if the draft charter, which is due for a vote early next month, is complete and legitimate as the preamble is missing.”

Borwornsak has reportedly “downplayed their concerns, saying the preamble is not the CDC’s task and it is exclusively for the monarch’s review.”

This is somewhat contradicted by this: “Traditionally, he said the preamble is written after the drafting of a charter is finished and the cabinet’s secretariat office will be responsible for the matter.”

We are not convinced that this is the usual procedure. The draft 2007 constitution circulated for the referendum included a preamble. Bowornsak reckons that the 1932 constitution had a “Royal Preamble.” Our viewing of that document does not confirm this.

Given that the hired lawyer should know what is required, is this a royalist stunt to hand back more power to the monarchy or is it something that introduces legal complications that will delay the referendum?

We welcome reader opinions on this.

Readjusting politics and news

14 06 2015

A few recent news reports deserve some comment as they are about the military dictatorship readjusting its attitude as it tries to prepare the ground for a longer period in total control.

First, about a week ago, PPT posted that a report at Khaosod English on the minimum wage is potentially defining of the military dictatorship.

In that report, Ministy of Labour permanent secretary Nakhon Silpa-archa told a seminar that his ministry is “proposing a plan to abandon the country’s daily minimum wage in 2016.” He reckons the “wage is not in line with current labour market situation or inflation rate…”.

A few days later, this account was “corrected.” The Bangkok Post reported that the Ministry of Labor “has clarified any change to the 300-baht national minimum wage will only be in one direction — higher.” It went on to report:

Deputy permanent secretary Arak Prommanee, in his capacity as ministry spokesman, said on Monday earlier reports that the Wage Committee had resolved to scrap the B300 national daily minimum wage and to float the wage were misleading.

“Actually, they were just proposals made by the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida). They were revealed at Friday’s seminar for the sake of discussion. It’s definitely not a resolution of the committee,” he said.

Hmm, the permanent secretary was wrong and misleading? Probably not, but the military junta, as well as reading PPT, probably noticed that this was a politically difficult move when it is looking at a referendum that is meant to legitimize all of its actions and political fiddles. If that doesn’t explain it, then we can only assume that the Ministry is more incompetent and dizzy than ever thought possible.

Second, we note the repeated claims about another coup. Deputy Prime Minister, Defence Minister and junta member General Prawit Wongsuwan has “dismissed speculation that there will be a military coup if chaos erupts when the National Reform Council (NRC) decides whether or not to pass the draft charter.” Like him, PPT does not anticipate “chaos” after the vote. Any coup would be simply a readjustment of the dictatorship, although we don’t see this as required just now.

Yet his second comment was revealing. Speaking of the voting, he stated: “It is nothing. Only a vote will be conducted in parliament.” Prawit is speaking for the junta when he declares that the puppet assembly is inconsequential.

Third and related, The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has added to this by denigrating his own puppet NRC. He states that he wants the NRC replaced by a “national reform steering assembly, saying the body will have legal authority to implement national reforms.”

Prayuth’s view is that “[t]he NRC has been in chaos…”. The Dictator complained that the NRC had failed to “help steer the country forward.” In other words, he reckons the NRC has been insufficiently loyal to the junta. He explains this with a lie: “They come from various groups, from all political colours.” They don’t, but Prayuth is used to all his subordinates following his orders without question or deviation.

To fix this, Prayuth has decided that one of the proposed changes to the interim 2014 charter will mean that the NRC will be dissolved no matter how it votes on the 2015 draft constitution.

The proposed national reform steering assembly will be pretty much a tool of The Dictator, having 200 members appointed by him “to give advice on reforms.”

It seems to us that The Dictator is in for the long haul.

Disingenuous Bowornsak

25 05 2015

Readers who have accessed PPT over the past several years will know that we have little time for so-called academics who are the paid servants of military dictatorships and other anti-democrats. We have long been critical of Bowornsak Uwanno.

He has been part of the hired help for elected politicians like Chatichai Choonhavan and Thaksin Shinawatra and for two military juntas, indicating his capacity for duplicity and his desire for influence, personal recognition and even a bit of loot. The company he keeps is revealing of where the loot comes from.

Bowornsak and friends

As well as having the For Sale sign hung around his neck for several years and most recently being a notorious royalist poseur, Bowornsak has trampled on the memory of those who died under military guns in 1992, demonstrated an incapacity to distinguish between elected and appointed parliamentarians, considered politicized royalist courts unimpeachable, been a messenger to the US for military juntas, taken orders from the Privy Council, worked to ban books and supported the draconian lese majeste law.

Following this long backgrounder, we turn to Bowornsak’s most recent bleating. The hired “head of the [military dictatorship’s] constitution writers has defended the new [draft] charter, saying it is a first to give citizens unprecedented rights under almost 200 sections.” Recall that this is a constitution that deliberately reduces the role of elections, thus challenging basic notions of representation and sovereignty, the basis of rights. Remember that this is a draft charter that allows for an unelected premier and that seeks to appoint a significant number of legislators to act as blockers against the popular will. “Rights” allocated from on high within a political system that is royalist, elitist and fundamentally undemocratic are unlikely to mean much at all.

But then this quite outrageous statement: “Whoever tries to take these rights away from the citizens will have to do so over our dead bodies…“.

Borwornsak seems to have forgotten that the bodies piled high in 2010 were dead, shot on the orders of the very thugs he now serves!

He can bleat about rights, but he knows nothing of them except as the privileges of the powerful and the armed.

His rhetoric is nonsensical when he argues that critics of the constitution “only point to the 15 or 20 sections that involve politics.” What kind of constitutional lawyer thinks constitutions essentially apolitical documents. Even Bowornsak is not this dull. In other words, he’s dissembling and disingenuous.

He showed his ignorance when he claimed the “Election Commission printed a big ballot and put every name in it in a bid to oppose us. Nowhere in the world is a ballot printed like that.” Perhaps he should look to Australia. A quick bit of Googling produced ballot papers that could cover a table.Oz ballot paper

Borwornsak is again making stuff up for his own political purposes.

The report adds to the list of Bowornsak’s failings by noting that he:

did not explain the bone of contention raised by critics of the charter draft. Foremost among them are why the prime minister should not always come from among elected MPs; why elected senate candidates had to be screened first by non-elected committees before voters can choose them; and why the open-list election method which is seen as undermining the unity and strengths of political parties is used.

Not much point in explaining these provisions as they appear to be what The Dictator wants. That’s not to say that changes won’t be made, but this remains the work of the military dictatorship. After all, they hired, pay for and pull the strings of the puppets.

On May 1992, part II

18 05 2015

In part I, we posted on a speech by the notorious royalist poseur Bowornsak Uwanno, who misused the occasion of a remembrance of the military’s murder of democracy and murder of civilian in May 1992.

In another report at The Nation on a memorial event, it is stated that “politicians and political groups yesterday attended a memorial service to remember those who lost their lives in the Black May 1992 political uprising.” It seems to us that the military dictatorship tried to manage this event as it was attended by “representatives of the junta-appointed agencies known as the ‘Five Rivers’. They included Prime Minister’s Office Minister Panadda Diskul, National Legislative Assembly (NLA) vice president Surachai Liengboonlertchai, Ekachai Sriwilat[,] Prasarn Marukpitak and Rosana Tositrakul members of the [puppet] National Reform Council (NRC).”

Even if any of this lot had any reason to be there, it seems they have forgotten the meaning of 1992. All are rabid monarchists and pro-military flunkies. Rosana is a strident yellow shirt who has supported all anti-democrats since 2004. Surachai is one of Rosana’s allies in the anti-democratic Group of 40 Senators, mostly unelected after 2007, who are ultra-royalists and deeply yellow. So is Prasarn. Panadda is a devoted royalist, specialized in self-promotion and a dedicated restorationist, committed to dictatorship and absolutism. They insult the memory of the dead.

Amongst attendees, there were some with a real connection to the events in 1992, including “red-shirt co-leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) Jatuporn Promphan and yellow-shirt co-leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee Pipop Thongchai.”

That the Democrat Party sent representatives is also insulting of those who died in 1992 for the Party was prepared to deal with the military then, if it got them close to power. Nothing much has changed.

The egregious Panadda said that the “incident” in May 1992 – he means the massacre of civilians – “showed the public’s will to achieve democracy.” It did, but to disgrace that resolve by linking it to The Dictator and self-appointed Prime Minister, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, and to claim that this vandal of democracy “had recognised the people of Thailand’s wish to see real democracy in the country…” is disgusting.

Rosana is as bad, saying that May 1992 “occurred because all the heroic people wanted to see reform of the political system without any influence. They hoped that the election would lead to the development of a strong democracy and that it would not result in a coup.” She’s lost in a make-believe history and she manages to link an anti-military uprising to the 2006 and 2014 military putsches, which she enthusiastically supported.

For those wanting a useful summary of the events of the time, not least as an antidote for the tripe served up by military flunkies, this PDF, available for free download, is not a bad place to begin.

On May 1992, part I

18 05 2015

PPT is seldom dismayed by the manner in which history is constructed and reconstructed by Thailand’s political elite for its own purposes.

May 1992 – Black May – was a significant event in Thailand’s recent political history. Several dozen people were killed, a similar number “disappeared,” and hundreds were injured and arrested. These were almost all civilians who demonstrated against a military-backed attempt to monopolize electoral politics.

At The Nation it is reported that incorrigible puppet Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Borwornsak Uwanno “took the two major political camps to task for their portrayal of ‘distrust’, saying their action was a bad sign that political division and disparity would not be resolved easily.”

Well, who thought it was going to be easily resolved? Perhaps just political hirees like Bowornsak. The drafter of constitutions for military dictatorships says “Political leaders must project optimistic views…”.

Not uncommon to hear such nonsense from a political body for hire, but the truly galling thing is that he somehow thought that such comments were appropriate for “an event marking the 23rd anniversary of the May 1992 bloodshed on Rajdamnoen Road.” Bowornsak is aiding and abetting the military in embedding its political influence in his draft 2015 constitution! That is what happened when the military thugs took over in 1991, drafted a constitution the king urged on the country, and eventually led to the May 1992 uprising.

Borwornsak is a disgrace.

We were pleased to learn that Bowornsak’s poisonous speech was interrupted by “a group of four women calling themselves ‘maled prik’, or chili, held placards with the message ‘No to 2015 charter’; ‘No reconciliation with murder’; and ‘Leading legal expert hired to destroy democracy’.” They went on to read a “statement saying society before the May bloodshed in 1992 protested to amend the charter to block the military from rising to power and pushed for elected governments. They were cracked down on by the military, resulting in heavy casualties.”

The report notes that “No military officials stood trial following these incidents.”

They went on to call “on the current military-installed government to scrap the amnesty bills that pardoned those who seized control of the state on February 23, 1991 and put military officials linked to the May bloodshed on trial…. They called for an elected PM and Senate and for public participation in drafting the new charter.”

The report states that “None of the group was arrested after their demonstration but their placards were destroyed.”


Screwing political parties

13 05 2015

We are a bit late getting to this report this report at the Bangkok Post, yet we think a post is warranted.

Everyone knows that The Dictator and his military junta run Thailand. They do so in the interests of anti-democrats, the royalist elite and the palace (yes, we understand that there is considerable overlap between these groups).

Even though this fact is very well understood, every now and again one of the military bosses still feels the need to issue warnings to others. The others are usually, but not always, opponents. And those the dictators hate most are former elected politicians associated with pro-Thaksin Shinawatra political parties.

In this mold, Army boss General Udomdej Sitabutr has warned politicians and political parties that they “should not organise forums of their own to express opinions and criticise the draft constitution…”. His warning is that they “should toe the line drawn by the National Council for Peace and Order [the military junta]…”.

In other words, former elected politicians and existing political parties are not to have a public view on the military dictatorship’s draft constitution. The military junta refuses to listen to them because it sees elections as a problem. The real problem for Thailand’s politics is the military and its interventions.

Udomdej explains that it will be on 19 May when there will be “a joint meeting of the cabinet and [the junta] … to discuss what changes should be made to the draft constitution and what should be left untouched.” After that meeting, he says The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, will “make clear his standpoint on the new constitution…”.

That will be the view that counts and elected politicians will be screwed.

Criticism of the draft anti-democratic constitution

7 05 2015

While the military dictatorship is desperately attempting to limit debate and even discussion of its draft constitution to puppet assemblies, the anti-democratic nature of the charter draft is causing widespread concern.

Internationally, a range of criticism has been reported, in quite different sources.

At the World Socialist Web Site, the military dictatorship is described as a “US-backed regime.” This seems a bit of an ideological over-stretch given that recent events would permit it to be called a China-backed or Russian-backed regime. The claim that the military dictatorship “intends to stay in control indefinitely, despite proposing to hold elections next year” might be a little more accurate, although the ways in which this might be handled ned nuanced analysis.

The WSWS is on very firm ground when it states that the “aim of the new constitution is to strip elected politicians of any power” and in claiming that the “Bangkok-based ruling elites—the military, the monarchy and their supporters in the state bureaucracy—want to ensure that the Pheu Thai Party, led by Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra, never regains office.”

The draft constitution is criticized for making the the preserve of “appointees close to the military and the bureaucracy”;  for having parliament “policed by a new National Ethics Assembly, authorised to remove MPs from office for ‘moral’ or ‘ethical’ reasons”; and for having provisions that allow the “generals … continue to wield power through a National Reform Steering Committee, which will set the legislative agenda for parliament to rubber-stamp.”

Meanwhile, at the Voice of America, the reporting is “even-handed,” giving space to junta sock puppet Panitan Wattanayagorn who appears to challenge the political parties, saying they “could mount a serious challenge to the draft before it is scheduled to be finalized in August.” He babbles that the path of the draft charter is “not going to be smooth, especially with Pheu Thai members, because they saw themselves as the losers in this constitution. The (former opposition) Democrats are not the same but still they are not happy because the constitution is aimed to reduce their power – at least to create more equal balance…”. We aren’t sure we know exactly what he means in the last phrase, but he probably doesn’t either.

The VOA agrees that the charter “weaken[s] the influence of major political parties, creating a greater need for coalition governments.” It quotes official red shirt leader Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn who says “it’s not a charter of democracy. They don’t want to ask the people before they can use this charter. They don’t want to have the strong party, the strong government. And especially you see the prime minister can come from other people, not the MP (member of parliament)…”.

Meanwhile, anti-democrat Kraisak Choonhavan, a member of the Democrat Party, states that the lack of support from political parties means “that the constitution will have to rewritten again and that would mean a longer stay for the military junta…”. That could be seen as a threat to the parties – accept the draft or you get the military thugs for longer.

One way or another, the royalist elite and the military keep a grip on power and a foot on the neck of Thailand’s majority.

On a referendum

5 05 2015

PPT has previously expressed reservations about a referendum on the military dictatorship’s draft constitution. The reason for this is that voting yes or no on hundreds of articles in a complicated document seems a futile exercise in constitution making.

However, as Prachatai has reported, a group of “[p]oliticians, labor unionists, academics, and others [have] urged the Thai junta to hold public referendum on the new constitutional draft, pointing out that people have the highest authority to determine the constitution.” That’s conceptually true but not something that the military dictatorship or the royalist elite would concede.

The “Public referendum group,” or Prachamati, has “over 150 leading academics, activists, and others such as Nidhi Eowseewong and Piyabutr Sangkanongul, a leading political scientist and a law scholar from Thammasat University, Chaturon Chaisang, the former Education Minister of Pheu Thai Party, and Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, a well known director” signed up to “a joint statement titled ‘[We] call for a democratic public referendum’.”

This statement “demands that the Thai junta must hold a public referendum on the new constitutional draft before its enactment and that if the public does not approve the draft, it should be redrafted by elected parliament members.”

The group adds that an elected Constitutional Drafting Committee would redraft the charter “if the draft is not approved by the public.” Such a strategy opens the way for a concerted No vote on the draft constitution. Elections associated with a referendum and a direct challenge to the military dictatorship’s tyranny sounds good to us. On this occasion, PPT has to agree with the political strategy involved.

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