Unusual, extraordinary, exceptional

23 02 2017

The amendments to the junta’s draft constitution remain secret. At last, the media is beginning to notice that this secrecy and the processes involved are strange.

Khaosod quotes legal scholar Jade Donavanik who said that it is “unusual for constitutional revisions to be submitted for royal consideration without first disclosing them to the public…”.

He added that this was especially the case since the draft charter was “approved by public referendum.” Of course, that referendum was a farce and a PR show by the junta, so it has no particular reason not to alter a document “approved” in such a sham referendum.

But the law professor did hedge, saying such secrecy “could be acceptable under certain conditions…”. What conditions might these be? Jade isn’t clear, at least not in this account. PPT can’t think how any constitutional changes could be kept secret in the modern world.

Jade did say: “It’s an extraordinary circumstance…”. It is indeed. He continued: “I’m not sure if this has ever happened in history, but I suppose it probably happened before in exceptional cases such as this one.”

We can’t think of a previous situation like this, ever, but if readers can help, let us know.

Thailand’s serfs must wait for the king to tell them what he demanded and what he got. And, they can do nothing about it. When the secrets are revealed, under threat of lese majeste, we assume that no critical commentary will be permitted.





Secrets, constitution and election

19 02 2017

Not that long ago, PPT posted on the secret amendments to the draft constitution. Despite the sham “referendum” on the “constitution,” the king demanded changes that, according to The Dictator’s account, give the king more power and flexibility.

Those amendments were crafted, in secret, by a puppet committee. Then the military junta declared that these palace and junta secret amendments would only be revealed to the public by the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary.

We remain in awe of the notion that a “constitution” put to a “referendum” can then be amended by a feudal institution and announced by that same feudal encumbrance. This is certainly a defining feature of Thailand’s authoritarianism in the tenth reign.

The Bangkok Post again quotes Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam on this bizarre process. He says the “draft constitution has been re-submitted to … the King and its revised content will be revealed soon…”.

He can’t say when, because that choice remains with the feudal forces of the palace.

Remarkable, even in this extraordinary process, Wissanu is quoted as saying that the junta’s “cabinet will be officially informed about it on Tuesday…”. We assume that “it” refers to the changes made.” But who knows, this is such a farcical exercise.

Wissanu then turned to the delayed junta “election.” He declared taht the junta’s so-called “roadmap to a general election remains intact…”.

That nonsensical claim was then amended: “It’s only that we can’t fix the date of each step as everything is set within a framework…”.

That’s in part because they don’t seem to know what the king will do. Wissanu says that the “date the constitution is proclaimed will be the start.” Then there are junta laws to draw up “on national reform and national strategy” and these “must be completed four months after that [proclamation of the constitution].” Then the organic laws “will be completed within six months from that date…”. He then got to the junta’s “election,” stating the “general election date can be set once the organic law on elections is proclaimed.

That the “election” is delayed hardly bothers the junta. It wants it delayed so it has plenty of time to prepare for its “election” victory.

They continue to work at neutering the Shinawatra clan and its supporters and the “reconciliation” talks give them the opportunity to sound out their potential electoral allies. The junta is also working to ensure that the bureaucracy is junta-friendly and sufficiently anti-Shinawatra and anti-“politician” so that the election counts for nothing.





Still getting the monarchy wrong

17 02 2017

Ralph Jennings, a Contributor at Forbes says he “cover[s] under-reported stories from Taiwan and Asia” but seems to specialize on China and Taiwan. Thus, venturing into things royal and Thailand is thus a stretch and a test of knowledge.

He’s right to observe that the monarchy in Thailand has “massive influence.”

But the picture he paints of the last king is pure palace propaganda when he states:

He had stopped coups, spearheaded rural infrastructure projects and met commoners in rough or squalid conditions. His actions helped strengthen people’s confidence in their country with an otherwise wobbly government.

Let’s correct a bit. He also initiated coups, as in 1957, and he supported coups, as in 2006, when it suited him. And that’s just two examples. He also supported right-wing extremists and acted as a prompt to massive blood-letting, as in 1976. The palace hand was always meddling in politics. The “infrastructure projects” are presumably the royal projects, many of them grand failures and, since the General Prem Tinsulanonda era, at great taxpayer expense.

And, “wobbly government” hardly seems to fit much of the reign, when the monarchy collaborated with ruthless military regimes, just as it does now.

The author is correct to observe that King Vajiralongkorn “is not expected to advocate changes in Thailand that reflect mass concerns or even go around meeting people.”

Recall that the dead king also essentially gave up “going to the people” for most of the last two decades of his reign. For one thing, he was too ill. For another, the “going to meet the people” was a political strategy for winning hearts and minds in his campaign to remake the monarchy. By the 1990s, this was largely achieved.

That King Vajiralongkorn is claimed to have “signaled little interest so far in shifting Thailand from quasi-military rule toward more democracy after a junta took power in 2014” seems an odd observation. And, in this quite natural political position for a monarchy such as Thailand’s, the new king follows the dead one.

That the new king wants more power for the throne is clear to all. That’s why the military’s “constitution” has been changed. But to say that the new version – we still don’t know the exact nature of the changes – allows the king “more freedom to travel overseas, where he has spent much of his life, and can appoint a regent to rule when he’s not around” is a misunderstanding of what The Dictator has let be known. The point of the changes was to allow him to not have a regent during his jaunts.

And, Mr Jennings must be the only one who thinks “[e]lections are due this year.”

He is right, however, to add that “[o]bservers believe that with King Vajiralongkorn, Thailand will continue to retain its strict lese-majeste laws, which ban any criticism of the monarchy.” That is a requirement of continued domination by a royalist elite.





Secret constitution amendments

15 02 2017

Readers will recall that the military junta’s “constitution” was sent to a process it described as a “referendum.”

Despite that exercise in (false) legitimacy, the junta then had to withdraw the draft constitution to make changes demanded by King Vajiralongkorn, said to increase his powers.

During the amendment process, the exact changes were kept secret.

The Bangkok Post reports that Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has declared that the secret “[a]mendments to the constitution … have been completed…”.

The “handwritten copy of the constitution, in the form of an accordion-style scroll by the Bureau of Royal Scribes and Royal Decorations of the Secretariat of the Cabinet, was also scheduled to be completed today.” Then it is sent to the king for another look at it.

The Dictator has not requested an audience with the king, so we can guess that the changes have been made to the “constitution” in a way that will please the king.

We think it is remarkable that the secret amendments will be announced by the palace rather than the junta. Wissanu stated: “The Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary would disclose the content of the amendments to the public…”.

That seem to us to be something quite novel, even for royalist Thailand.





Scary king

3 02 2017

In a new article at The Conversation, Eugénie Mérieau of Sciences Po has an assessment of King Vajiralongkorn and the constitution (the space is open to choose the military’s interim one or the draft, passed in a “referendum” but being amended military one). Readers will find it of interest. We don’t agree with all of it.

For example, she begins with a claim that the newbie king has “disregarded the provisions of the Thai constitution and its conventions to an extent unprecedented in the modern history of the nation.”

We think that’s going a bit far. His father wasn’t much troubled by these things, despite Mérieau’s view that he exercised constitutional powers “rarely and with caution.” And, as indicated above, which constitution? If it is the draft one, he has exercised a right granted to him. He didn’t “interfere” in constitution making but exercise powers that foolish royalist regimes have granted the monarch.

In terms of succession, his delay did leave Thailand without a king, but that had happened previously and the then prince was engaged in a PR exercise that actually eased his path to the kingship. As in the past, royal powers were exercised by a Regent.

That this left The Dictator ruling by decree changed nothing; he was doing this before the delayed succession.

We do agree that the changes he wanted are important and worthy of criticism. They are clearly a movement of constitutional power to the king. Mérieau might also have noted that the king now has the power to appoint the Supreme Patriarch.

We agree that there is a movement away from notions of constitutional monarchy and towards a monarchy that is institutionally very powerful. That is scary.





Charter changes are secret

23 01 2017

The Bangkok Post reports that the draft constitution has been returned to National Legislative Assembly and the Constitution Drafting Committee for changes demanded by the palace.

The amendments demanded by the king are to be written into the charter “by a special 11-member committee in line with observations from the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, CDC chairman Meechai Ruchupan said on Monday.”

We would assume that the special committee has already been directed on what changes are required by the palace and acceded to by the military junta. It is reported that the “amended version of the new constitution must be returned to … the [k]ing within one month for royal endorsement.” (Of course, “endorsement” is now a euphemism.)

The report then has a truly amazing claim: “As for the observations from the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, the new charter amendment committee agreed they could not yet be disclosed publicly…”.

The Thai public are not permitted to know how the “constitution, which was drafted by the CDC, [and] was approved by referendum on Aug 7 last year” is being changed and why.

Sure, they will eventually find out what has been changed, but they can’t know about it now and presumably won’t know until it is already “endorsed” by the very person who wants it changed.We did previously explain that the “referendum” was a PR stunt.

That, folks, is Thai-style democracy.





Military-led “reconciliation”

23 01 2017

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post reported: on the junta’s plan and bureaucracy for military-led “reconciliation.” It is seemingly a part of the broader 20 year plan that the junta has for the on-going domination of Thailand’s politics it now seems to label as “rounded democratisation.”

We imagine that a “rounded democracy” is something like “Thai-style democracy” or “guided democracy.”

In its highly complex system of committees, super-committees, buzzwords and hocus pocus, the matter of “reconciliation” will, according to General Prawit  Wonsuwan, involve “plans to compile opinions from all sides over three months on what should be done to bring about national reconciliation.”

The “brainstorming period” will lead to a report and then “the next step to improve national unity,” involving an MOU, or as The Dictator put it, “a truthful social contract, under which you do what you say.”

This MOU notion has already rejected by the anti-democrats and military allies like Suthep Thaugsuban. Others of his ilk, like Kasit Piromya seem to want the military to sign up to the MOU. His position is supported by others from pro-Thaksin Shinawatra groups who want the military to pledge no more coups and, in some versions, never overthrow a constitution ever again.

Prawit’s response was lame:

“There is no need for the military to sign it. I can assure you that nobody wants to stage a coup, except when the country is mired in conflict and lack of understanding. No soldier wants to do this…. Nobody wants to do this (stage a coup), except when the country is in a stalemate…. I’ll tell you what. Without the people’s support, nobody can stage a coup. There is no need to fear a coup if there is no support for it from the people….

There are several problems with this coup. Leaving aside Prawit’s nonsense self-justification, we know from Thailand’s history that plenty of officers are willing to seize power.

But the broader problem is the notion that “no more coups” is paired with a view that there should be no more overthrowing of the constitution. That’s dumb, now, when Thailand has a terrible draft constitution that is the military’s constitution. In fact, when Prawit says he doesn’t want another coup is because the current junta has set rules that allow only a “rounded democracy” that is no democracy at all and gives all power to the military and monarchy.

The proof of this is the dominance of military brass on the “reconciliation” control committees.

In response to criticism of that from many quarters, Prawit got lamer still, saying “that should not be a problem because the armed forces are politically neutral and they don’t have conflicts with any side.”

We’d be laughing if that wasn’t such buffalo manure. What the senior brass will do is manipulate and manage to get the outcome The Dictator wants.

And what’s that? Two articles in The Nation are virtually advertorials for the junta. In one of them (the other is linked above), PM’s Office Minister Suvit Maesincee, formerly Director of Sasin Institute for Global Affairs at Chulalongkorn University and one of Thaksin’s and Somkid Jatusripitak’s proteges gives a “hint.”

Suvit and Somkid  have collaborated in developing the junta’s 20-year strategy, and Suvit states: “Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s leadership was also a crucial factor in supporting the implementation of the Thailand 4.0 vision.”

We get the message. Thailand’s future is The Dictator’s future and he’s going to be around for some time to come.