Secrets and miracles

16 03 2017

The news media has been quite taken up with the scramble among junta people – and their accusations flying back and forth – on the failure to levy any tax on the Shin Corp sale deal back in early 2006.

Part of the problem for the tax authorities was that a later grab for Thaksin Shinawatra’s assets. The authorities wanted to his kids, but the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions had ruled that the assets really belonged to Thaksin, not his kids.

That seemed like a tax dead end, but no! At the last moment, before the statute of limitations expires, and amid recriminations within the bureaucracy, a way to tax Thaksin has been found!

Problem is, it is a secret. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is involved in just about every news event of late, said the “Revenue Department will proceed with the tax collection process before the statute of limitations in the case expires on March 31.” He claims the junta has decided on a “miracle of law” that will allow to collect the taxes, which he says should “be worth a try.”

Secrets and miracles are hardly the stuff of rule of law, but this is a military dictatorship.

This secrecy reminded us of the secret changes to the draft junta constitution. As we understand it, the king has flitted off to Germany.

As far as we know from news reports, he has not signed off on the document that he received back in early February. That version, the junta says, only made changes to the (so far) secret things the king demanded. So why is he sitting on it? We know he has 90 days (although some reports did claim 30) to sign and only about 38  of those have so far been used.

We can only guess that the constitution is not considered urgent by either the king or the junta. It may be that a full 90 day “consideration” suits the junta which seeks every way it can to extend its military rule. There are no miracles in the constitution story, just secrets.





Drought doubt

12 03 2017

A couple of days ago, The Nation had this headline: “No fear of drought this summer.” The story stated:

… water experts ruled out the possibility of a severe drought this year, although they cautioned people to use water wisely.

Today, The Nation has a story titled “King concerned about drought, urged govt to help those in need: Prayut.” In another instance of The Dictator speaking for the king, apparently like a ventriloquist’s dummy:

… the King has raised concern over the current drought situation and ordered the government to do all it can to ease people’s suffering, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has said.

The PM urged the public and agricultural sector to use water more efficiently with the arrival of the dry season.

In order to avoid water shortages, the prime minister asked people in drought-prone areas and those living outside irrigation zones to store water in large containers whenever there is rain.

He said everyone must use water wisely and efficiently so the country can endure the annual dry season.

He also instructed the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and other responsible units to reach out to everyone in need, while giving an assurance that the government would continue to monitor the water situation and has prepared a number of measures including rain-making operations.

As with corruption “investigations,” we are confused by these conflicting reports, this time in the same newspaper.

The king’s concern for “his” people seems not to extend to signing off on the junta’s constitution. Not yet anyway. Perhaps The Dictator is preparing contingency plans there as well such as delaying elections and making more secret changes to the draft charter.





Updated: Going after grannies

9 03 2017

The junta doesn’t discriminate when attacking and repressing its opponents. Age, gender and location are no barriers to repression.

Over the past couple of days, it seems the military dictatorship has turned its attention to repressing grannies.

A story at Prachatai reports that 20 villagers in Udornthani have ended a court case by pleading “guilty for violating the junta’s public gathering ban for supporting a referendum monitoring campaign.”

They could not afford to fight the case, so decided to plead guilty. Eight of the villagers are aged over 60 and several suffer chronic illnesses.

The “Udon Thani Military Court ruled that 20 villagers from Sakon Nakhon province were guilty of violating NCPO Head Order 3/2015, the junta’s ban on public assemblies of five people or more.”

The military court “sentenced the villagers to 1 month in jail each and fined each 5,000 baht” but reduced this “to a 2,500 baht fine and a 15 day suspended jail term” after the guilty pleas.

The case came “after the villagers took a photo with a banner from the Anti-Electoral Fraud in the Referendum Centre, the constitutional referendum monitoring centre run by the red-shirt movement.”

The junta and its military thugs considered them scary red shirt grannies. How low can the junta go? Very, very low.

Prachatai points out that:

During last year’s referendum, at least 143 people across eight provinces were prosecuted for violating NCPO Head Order 3/2015 after joining Anti-Electoral Fraud in the Referendum Centre’s campaigns. 74 of them decided to sign an agreement promising not to participate in any political activity in exchange for an end to their prosecution. Some pled guilty in courts to have their sentence reduced.

The arrests were a means of deterring anyone who considered the “referendum” somehow real and wished to participate in any way other than agreeing with the junta’s “constitution.”

That “approved” charter has since undergone changes and is still not approved by the king (he’s busy undoing royal titles for monks). It was meant to herald and “election,” and that is being delayed again and again so that the junta can further consolidate its position.

Update: Another Prachatai story notes that the military junta has “celebrated” International Women’s Day by pressing charges against seven women who are villagers opposing a local gold mine in Loei Province. The report states:

On 16 November last year, Ponthip Hongchai led 150 villagers in a protest at Khao Luang Subdistrict Administration Office where local officials were revising a request from Thungkham Limited, a gold-mining company, to extend its mining license. The protesters urged the office to immediately end the revision process.

On 18 December, a police officer accused Ponthip and six other female villagers of violating the junta’s ban on public assembly. 16 officials at the administration office also accused the six of coercing them into cancelling the revision process.

The seven will be summoned again on 30 March to hear whether a general-attorney [attorney-general] will indict them.

The Tungkum Company has had significant regime support and the junta see the villagers as having support from anti-regime activists.





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.