Updated: Reprehensible regime

17 01 2020

In what seems like a somewhat naive statement, Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2020 states:

The Thai government of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha elected in March failed to improve respect for human rights or restore genuine democratic rule after five years of military dictatorship….

To say that the military dictator’s government was “elected” in 2019 gives the military-backed, royalist regime too much legitimacy. It should never be forgotten that the military junta rigged the electoral rules and only cobbled together its coalition by having its Election Commission change the rules as the vote count was completed.

And, no one ever expected that the “new” government – which was really not very different from the junta’s government. The parties that joined the government were all composed of royalist supporters of the 2014 coup.

Coup plotters and election cheats

With those caveats, it is still worth reading the HRW report summary on Thailand. The report itself is a list of abuses by the regime that is little different from the 2019 report.

Convicted heroin smuggler

The regime seems little troubled by law or to have any moral compass. While not mentioned in the report, this is a government that has senior men who have been coup plotters, breaking the law and destroyed a constitution. It has other ministers who are flip-flopping opportunists. It also has a convicted heroin smuggler as a deputy minister.

Land grabber

And now the government’s Palang Pracharath Party has made land grabber and (if the law was actually used) criminal Parina Kraikup an appointed member of a House Committee on anti-corruption.

Nothing is bizarre enough for this essentially lawless regime. There might be a point to having a corrupt MP on the committee – she’d knows about corruption up close – being the daughter of a multiple hit-and-run former MP and local godfather figure.

It is a regime of reprehensible criminals.

Update: It is interesting to read the Bangkok Post’s editorial excoriating the EC. This is in the context of the efforts by the regime and ruling class to be rid of the Future Forward Party on trumped up charges and in a process that was probably corrupt and maybe illegal. But that’s just one of the EC’s biased actions meant to favor its bosses and the Palang Pracharath Party and the ruling regime. As the Post observes:

Given that its decisions have far-ranging impacts across the political landscape, the agency’s [the EC] seemingly dubious handling of many key political cases has steered the country’s democracy towards an increasingly dark and gloomy future.





Forgetfulness

1 10 2019

PPT is wondering about the “forgetfulness” that characterizes post-2014 Thailand.

Our wondering was partly prompted by Pithaya Pookaman, a regular contributor to Asia Sentinel. One issue is the awful standover man/MP/Minister/fraudster/former heroin trafficker/purveyor of fake degrees Thammanat Prompao. He’s gone very quiet and we assume that a bigger boss than him has told him to shut up. The advice is probably that quietness will see all that “trouble” dissolve. We previously mentioned that he would probably get away with his lies and deceit. He’s powerful, influential and well-connected. How many countries have convicted drug traffickers as ministers? But his sins can be “forgotten.”

Pithaya refers to “the farcical election in March 2019 that laundered the authoritarian power of the military junta under [Gen] Prayuth [Chan-ocha] into a shaky and unwieldly 19-party coalition…”. But what happened to the complaints about the election and the toadies at the Election Commission? Is that best forgotten? For the junta and its new regime, it probably is, but it seems stealing an election is not an offense when done by the military in 2019.

He also reckons that “the political conflict in Thailand is not between … the rich and the poor.” How quickly the basic facts are forgotten. We recall Amartya Sen’s confusing rhetoric on this, perhaps better forgotten. And it may be easily forgotten that back in 2007, per capita provincial GDP for the provinces that voted for the Democrat Party were more than 220,000 baht. For those voting for the People Power Party was just over 90,000 baht. It seems to us that those who gain most from electoral politics are those with the least.

Somyot and his money (or someone’s money)

Meanwhile, as China celebrates its nationhood, it was only a few days ago that Song Tao, the head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee met with Gen Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. It should not be forgotten that they reportedly “agreed to enhance cooperation between ruling parties for further development of bilateral ties.” Ruling parties…

Then there’s the long forgotten raid on the high-class Victoria’s Secret brothel. In recent days “[a]nti-human trafficking advocates [have been] calling on … Prayut[h] to look into a controversial decision to drop human trafficking charges against key suspects in last year’s Victoria’s Secret brothel crackdown.”

This involved underage women, including “services such as sex with virgin girls for which it charged customers as much as 100,000 baht as it was a ‘high demand service’…”.

The report remembers that “[f]ormer national police chief Somyot Poompanmoung last year admitted that he had borrowed “around 300 million baht” from [brothel owner] Kampol [Wirathepsuporn], whom he described as a friend.” It forgets to say that nothing at all has happened about Somyot’s corruption, his relationship with a sex trafficker and unusual wealth. Well, only unusual for regular people, not senior police who are mostly on the take and become seriously wealthy. Of course, Somyot was a big junta supporter and servant.

And, of course, there’s lots that is conveniently forgotten and some that’s forgotten because a lot of people are fearful of the power of military, monarchy, tycoons and other varieties of influential people.

There’s the case of Chaiyapoom Pasae, a kid shot and killed by the military and where that military has actively thwarted investigation.

Then there’s the bodies floating in the river, the disappeared anti-junta anti-monarchy activists, including men extradited to Thailand who simply disappeared. Can they really be forgotten?

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

Related, there’s the king. Do people really forget his missing missus? Do they forget the missing plaque and the missing monument commemorating the defeat of royalists?

But let’s not forget the protesters murdered by the military and never adequately investigated, in 1973, 1976, 1992 and 2010 (to mention just a few of the military’s murderous efforts).

There’s so much forgetfulness that any rational observer could only conclude that it isn’t forgetting but lying, covering up, maintaining impunity and great fear.

 

 





Updated: Military party, Mafia party

22 07 2019

The military’s Palang Pracharath Party was formed by the junta to ensure that it could continue in power following the “election” it rigged, but only just “won” after having its puppet Election Commission tinker with the results after the “election.”

The junta has engaged in a long and childish charade, seeking to suggest that its party was somehow “independent” or distant from the junta. No one ever believed the junta on this. First, several of the junta’s cabinet ministers combined to found the party, filching and poaching “members” from other parties and by soaking up several well-known crooked politicians and dark influences. Second, several junta cabinet members then “founded” the party, resigning from the cabinet to do so. This was just weeks before the “election,” conducted under the junta’s crooked rules. Third, The Dictator Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was the party’s candidate for prime minister and was then “elected,” thanks to the junta-appointed Senate that “voted” for Gen Prayuth as a bloc.

Now, the power behind the the junta’s throne, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has thrown his lot in with the party:

After years of serving as the public face of the now-defunct junta, deputy prime minister Prawit Wongsuwan is reportedly ready to try his hand at party politics.

Gen. Prawit, who until recently headed the defense ministry, will “soon” join the pro-military Phalang Pracharath Party, a source said Monday. The retired general will also secure a seat in the party’s executive board according to the source, who is one of Gen. Prawit’s close aides.

Gen Prawit met with his sidekicks, buddies and underlings in the party in Nakorn Ratchasima province as they schemed further on what parliament might mean for the party and for the junta-like cabinet. Prawit was ebullient, praising the junta hangers-on:

I appreciate the executive committee’s recognition of the importance of fellow members of the Palang Pracharat Party, especially MPs… This seminar boosts love and unity among the members of our party and our family….

That family includes the criminal. And we don’t mean the military that has murdered dozens of citizens, but the dark influences like Thammanat Prompao.

 

From the Bangkok Post

Update: In another report, Gen Prawit is portrayed as behaving very much like a party boss in his meeting with Palang Pracharath MPs in Korat. He called for party unity and declared that the “new” government would see out its full term. More interestingly, he also acted like the Deputy Dictator when he added: “I’ll try to ensure that the government completes its term…”. It was Prawit who ensured the junta continued through intense repression of political opponents. That’s a pointer to a bleak future.





Updated: On elections

18 07 2019

Readers might be interested in a report by Focus on the Global South:

In the first half of 2019, a great deal of global attention focused on national elections in three countries where authoritarian regimes or personalities were in command of the state: Thailand, the Philippines, and India. The big question was: would voters buck the authoritarian trend or affirm it? When the dust settled, the electorates in the three countries had delivered striking, if somewhat divergent results, between Thailand on the one hand and the Philippines and India on the other.This study seeks to shed some light on the electoral outcomes in the three countries by examining the national situation leading up to the elections, understanding the results of the elections by situating them within the dynamics of the broader political process in each country, and engaging in a comparative analysis of the electoral and broader political processes in the three countries, drawing out similarities and differences.

On Thailand it concludes: “In Thailand, the overriding task is how to change an electoral system that hems in and constrains democratic choice with institutions and procedures that are implicitly backed by the firepower of the army.”

Update: Readers might also be interested in two report – a shorter one in English and a longer Thai-language report on the 2019 “election” from P-Net. One of its comments is on the decrepit performance of the puppet Election Commission:

P-NET’s observers are very much unhappy with the ECT’s administration especially the inactive performance of 7 commissioners and their lack of courage (fear) on issuing the yellow and orange tickets to certain candidates in several constituencies in regions before the polling day. ECT could not control the partiality of the government officials to stay neutral, not to support the ruling party and the incumbent PM in their campaigns.





Updated: Waiting for royal imprimatur

6 07 2019

The Bangkok Post reports:

Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha said he has submitted the new cabinet line-up for royal approval and is expected to be sworn in soon. “You will see that the royal endorsement will come soon…”.

As has become usual for ultra-royalist, neo-feudal Thailand, the “new” government has been cobbled together but won’t be announced until after the king approves. We don’t follow the king’s travels, but he’s probably in Germany or Switzerland, so the approval will probably be done by email. We suppose he’ll have to be in Thailand to swear in the ministers once he decides he approves.

Meanwhile, readers may recall that the junta’s Election Commission was petitioned some time ago on Gen Prayuth’s eligibility for his post under the junta’s own constitution, section 98 (15):

A person falling under any of the following prohibitions shall have no right to be a candidate in an election of members of the House of Representatives:…

(15) being an official or an employee of a government agency, State agency, or State enterprise or other State official;

The puppet EC chose not to forward it to the Constitutional Court.

Now, House Speaker Chuan Leekpai has received a petition from 101 House members calling for the disqualification of Gen Prayuth as a cabinet minister. He has sent that petition to the Constitutional Court.

Given that the puppet EC didn’t dare deal with this challenge, it is a useful challenge.

Update: We updated the section number and statement for the constitution.





Palang Pracharath absolved by EC

4 07 2019

We missed this story in the Thai media, perhaps because we were looking at the stories on the cowardly attack on Sirawith Seritiwat. We looked back through the Bangkok Post – who can find anything there after the website revamp? – but nothing and we couldn’t find it in the usual English-language sources or in Thai social media. But maybe that’s just us and our hopelessness with technology.

Anyway, after months of “investigation,” the dolts at the Election Commission have cleared Palang Pracharath of any wrongdoing over its huge banquet fundraiser. We always knew that this would be the result, but we are surprised at the quietness about it. Here’s the full story we saw at Xinhua:

Thailand’s Election Commission has acquitted the Palang Pracharath Party, core of a new coalition government, of charges which could have otherwise warranted the dissolution of the party.

Election Commission Secretary General Charungwit Phumma, who concurrently acts as political party registrar, was quoted on Tuesday as saying the polling agency has ruled the Palang Pracharath Party not guilty of the charges that it threw a costly fund-raising party during the run up to the March election which had been alleged by a political opponent to have violated the law.

The Election Commission ruled that the Palang Pracharath Party’s fund-raising event was not considered a sales activity with commercial profits to be raised and shared.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission judged that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha could legally run for post-election prime minister though he was running the country as head of government during his candidacy under the tickets of the Palang Pracharath Party, regarding the constitution’s Article 88 and Article 89 and the organic law pertaining to the election of MPs.

According to the secretary general, the polling agency also ruled that Prayut did not practically own any media business though he had opened a Facebook page and an Instagram page during the run up to the election, regarding the constitution’s Article 170.

If found guilty of those charges, the party could have been otherwise dissolved at the order of the Constitutional Court.

Clearing the junta and Palang Pracharath is about what everyone thought would happen when there’s a puppet EC in place and where some of its members have already been rewarded with Senate slots.





Shaky regime I

17 06 2019

Facing legal challenges that can only be pushed aside if remarkable double standards are applied in the judicial system, the junta-spawned government-to-be is in a spot of bother that could become a major threat to the regime the junta is trying to put in place.

Of course, legal double standards have been the norm for much of the time since the 2006 military coup, so nothing can be ruled out. However, if the 41 MPs currently being challenged for media shareholdings on which the Election Commission and Constitutional Court moved with lightening speed when Future Forward members were involved, are laundered by those institutions, then the junta’s regime-in-the-making will be in serious trouble (except with the rusted-on yellow shirts and other anti-democrats).

A point to note, as observed by the linked story is that these cases should not be compared with that of Future Forward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (except perhaps on the speed with which his case was processed). Rather, the comparison should be with disqualified candidate Phubet Henlod, a Future Forward candidate in Sakhon Nakhon’s Constituency 2. His candidacy was withdrawn by an order of the Supreme Court’s Electoral Affairs Division on March 19 because he was a partner-manager of a company, Mars Engineering and Service, which registered as perhaps, one day, having an interest in the media business.

If, as Wan Noor claims, the junta’s regime is in trouble, what might happen. Readers will know that PPT doesn’t engage much in crystal-balling, but there is another story that offers some things to consider.

Gen Apirat

It will come as no surprise that a source said to be close to Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha states that The Dictator will “rely on the unity of the armed forces, which have done a good job over the past five years in backing him.” If Gen Prayuth does become Defense Minister, then he will work closely with rabid royalist and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong.

The anonymous source, reckons that Gen Prayuth “is highly unlikely to face any coups.” Not only has Gen Apirat been a member of the junta, but his  “allegiance and support for Gen Prayut” has been strong. The source also mentions that “internal structural changes — in which key units for coup-making are transferred — [mean] any military intervention is almost ruled out.”

For PPT, that last point is unlikel;y to prevent a coup if the Army commander ordered it. But all of this seems beside the point. What is more likely is a coup in support of Gen Prayuth if his government is unstable and unable to work as if it is a junta.

The story continues and observes that Prayuth’s “civilian” government “will depend on the army’s Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), which has the resources and the Internal Security Act to enable it to continue the kind of repression that has gone on over the past five years. The source added that “military tactics will be deployed to make the Prayut administration stay in power as long as possible and help him prepare for the next round of elections.”

We are already seeing that thuggishness used against opponents.

To keep his government in place via parliament, “[c]abinet reshuffles, money and lawsuits are also on the table.” Don’t rule out military threats; these have been used extensively in the past, including during Gen Prem Tinsulanonda’s government, when senior politicians like Kukrit Pramoj were intimidated.

What’s missing in this discussion – of course! – is any consideration of the palace. Gen Prayuth must work especially hard to satisfy and satiate King Vajiralongkorn. If he fails in this, he’s dead and so is his government (if he ever forms it).