Shaky regime

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 pointed out 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 His candidacy was withdrawn by an order of the Supreme Court’s Electoral Affairs Division on March 19 because he was a partner-manager of a company, Mars Engineering and Service, which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).

Updated: Cheats cheating I

12 06 2019

As everyone knows, Thailand remains a military dictatorship and no government has yet been formed to replace it. Indeed, in a recent ranking, Thailand was determined as “unfree,” ranking between absolute monarchy Brunei and troubled countries with Zimbabwe and Iraq. The “unfreedom” will continue, with dozens of junta orders being converted into laws that will apply into the future, backing a backward constitution that permitted a rigged election.

That rigging has been a vast and expensive project that could, if unchecked, allow the odious cheat Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to remain as prime minister for another eight year as the unelected Senate he selected will vote again in four years if Thailand has another election.

The selection of the Senate has been a closely-held secret for months simply because of the thoroughgoing cheating it involved. Because the junta has gotten away with a coup, political repression, corruption, a fake constitutional referendum, a rigged and stolen election and more, it figures nothing can derail it now, so it has released some details of its cheating.

In the selection of The Dictator as premier, we know that every single unelected puppet senator voted for their boss (the Senate president abstained, but would have voted for his longtime boss if necessary).

We now also know that the “reserve list” of 50 senators, “publicized in the Royal Gazette, include Election Commission sec-gen Jarungvith Phumma, foreign minister Don Pramudwinai, former deputy governor of Bangkok Pol. Lt. Gen. Amnuay Nimmano, and former member of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly Prapan Koonme.”

The listing of the EC’s secretary-general indicates how just how flawed the EC is, run by junta puppets and automatons. Rigging an election requires a cheating EC. Having delivered the junta its “victory,” this puppet secretary-general will likely get his reward.

More cheating is confirmed by junta legal thug Wissanu Krea-ngam. It is reported that “[u]nder mounting pressure from transparency activists and political parties,” he has released “the identities of the selection committee who contributed to filling the 250-member junta-appointed senate.”

It should be surprising – but, then nothing is surprising any more – that:

Among the committee were six senators: former deputy PM Gen. Chatchai Sarikulya, former deputy PM Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, former deputy PM Thanasak Patimaprakorn, deputy junta head Adm. Narong Pipatanasai, former labor minister Pol. Gen. Adul Saengsingkaew, and former president of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly Pornpetch Wichitcholchai.

Wissanu has made unbelievable claims about the committee was “politically neutral” and that the secrecy about membership was to prevent “lobbying.” Of course, all the “lobbying” was actually the junta pulling all the strings.

He has also insisted – again unbelievable – that “members of the selection committee abstained from voting or attending the voting session if their name came up in the candidate roster,” while their brothers voted for them, saying “I can confirm that no member ever brought up their name in the selection process. Everything is on the record…”.

While we have no doubt that if he released “the record,” it would confirm his account. After all, the junta has scribes who can fabricate any record it likes. How Wissanu can say such things with a straight face is a measure of how low the junta – and Thailand – has sunk.

Now the cheating cheats have to ensure their continuing political domination for another eight years.

Update: The Bangkok Post has a few more details on the great Senate scam. The junta’s fixing panel that put the scam together had 10 members becoming nine when Pornpetch resigned. Six of them (see above) became members of the Senate they selected for the junta. The other four were Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Wissanu, Gen Anupong Paojinda, and deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak, all of whom are likely to be ministers in the “new” government. In other words, every one of the junta’s panel are now holding positions – or soon will be – in the junta’s “new” government as well as holding such positions under the junta. What can we say? The whole thing is a massive scam foisted on the nation by the junta. It seems there is no way of holding this bunch of election crooks accountable for any of their cheating.

Don and The Washington Post

12 06 2019

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai is a junta clod, given to defending his bosses and his and their anti-democratic politics. He’s been at it again, belatedly rising to the bait at The Washington Post.

He is reported to have “dismissed an editorial piece run by the Washington Post which suggested the United States hold back on resuming diplomatic ties with Thailand…”.

Noting that despite Thailand having “been a major non-NATO ally of the United States since 2013,” the WP observed that “for five years, the country’s military has been denied U.S. aid because of the coup it carried out against a democratically elected government.” It argued against resuming full military cooperation: “The leader of the resulting junta, Prayuth Chan-ocha, has now managed to have himself installed as the prime minister of a nominally elected civilian government, and his regime and some in the Pentagon are hoping for a full restoration of relations. They shouldn’t get it.”

The small amount of military assistance that Thailand got before the 2014 coup was automatically “cutoff … as [a] consequence of a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act that bars military cooperation with countries where an elected government has been ousted by a coup.” Observing that the “ban can be lifted if the State Department certifies there has been a restoration of civilian democratic rule.”

The WP then points out that “Prayuth’s confirmation as prime minister on Wednesday was less an exercise in democracy than a crude mockery of it. It followed a grossly unfair election campaign from which some opponents of the regime were banned and others were hounded with criminal charges.” It adds that the:

new constitution gave the military a huge advantage: an appointed, 250-seat upper house empowered to participate in the election of the prime minister together with the 500-seat lower house. Such is the unpopularity of the charmless Mr. Prayuth, however, that he almost lost anyway. After the March election, an opposition coalition appeared to have won a majority in the lower chamber, while the military’s party won fewer than the 126 seats it needed to confirm Mr. Prayuth.

The result was what the WP correctly identifies as:

… another orgy of ma­nipu­la­tion. First the election commission changed the rules for apportioning seats after the vote, with the result that the opposition lost its majority and 11 tiny parties were each awarded one seat. All promptly endorsed Mr. Prayuth, giving him — not by coincidence — the votes he needed. The regime picked up other support by having the courts disqualify some opposition members — including the most popular opposition leader. It reportedly offered bribes equivalent to millions of dollars to deputies to switch sides.

Given that Gen Prayuth now has a “fragile coalition of 19 parties,” the WP sees this is doing little more than “further empoweri[ng] the military and Thailand’s erratic king, who has been using Mr. Prayuth’s regime to persecute his enemies, several of whom have been murdered or abducted in neighboring Laos.”

Of course, with the Trump administration in the White House, it “has not hesitated to collaborate militarily with gross violators of human rights, such as the regimes of Egypt and Saudi Arabia,” so it might be expected that it would easily cosy up with the illegitimate regime in Thailand. But the WP reckons that any “State Department certification that Thailand’s government now can be called civilian and democratic would trample a law Congress enacted precisely in order to deter what the Thai military has done.”

Weakening in its argument, the WP acknowledged that should “the administration wish… to restore some cooperation, it … should do so gradually and in exchange for tangible human rights concessions; and it should recognize that a return to democracy remains to be accomplished in Thailand.”

Don (clipped from Bangkok Post)

Don said what should be totally obvious, but that he, as a dedicated authoritarian forgets: “The editorial does not represent the US government’s official view…”. He went on to say that “several countries have congratulated Thailand on its return to democracy and for hosting the Asean Summit this month.” We have no idea how the two are related and we have to say that we have not read of such congratulatory messages.

Don then went full alt-Thai, saying “some foreign media outlets are often based on ‘biased’ information provided by opponents of the Thai government.” Such bogus claims are drawn straight from the conspiracy claims of yellow shirts and their foreign alt-media allies.

Destroying Future Forward

11 06 2019

Over the past decade or so Thailand’s ruling class have repeatedly rejected the will of the people. It has achieved this its armed wing in the military that has seized power twice, slaughtered protesters and assaulted and repressed. It has also used the judiciary to enforce its will, several times dissolving popular parties.

It is doing it again. The Future Forward Party, which did surprisingly well in the junta’s 2019 election, is being punished and it will be destroyed.

So far, the regime – still the junta – has moved, through the puppet election Commission and the Constitutional Court, to charge the party’s leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit with several alleged offenses and has succeeded in having him kept out of parliament. It has also brought charges against the party’s secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul.

In another report of the determination to eliminate Future Forward, we learn that the slavish lapdogs at the EC have “accepted a petition against the Future Forward Party (FFP) over claims by some of its MPs that they were offered money to vote for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as prime minister…”. No complaint against Palang Pracharath has been seriously investigated because the EC and that party both belong to the junta.

Another tactic used by the ruling class has been to use its parliamentary wing to destabilize elected governments. This was seen when its former attack party, the so-called Democrat Party, deliberately damaged parliament and went to the streets with the ruling class’s anti-democratic street gangs.

The new, preferred ruling class party is the junta’s Palang Pracharath. Already, we see that it has descended into the maniacal monarchical slime to attack Future Forward’s spokesperson Pannika Wanich.

Everyone in Thailand knows that this is a witch hunt and that Future Forward is being targeted and will be destroyed. Yet it seems nothing can be done. The junta’s control remains strong. More importantly, the ruling class, its junta and its minority of anti-democrats have learned that overturning the people’s votes is rather simple. And, if it gets out of hand as it did in 2009 and 2010, well, the opponents can be killed and jailed.

Updated: Disdain for parliament

4 06 2019

An Army engineer

Following five years of rolling back electoral politics and election rigging, not everything went the way the Army’s political engineers imagined. Yes, they came up with a less democratic constitution in 2017. Less democratic than the previous not so democratic one engineered after the 2006 military coup. Yes, they came up with a bunch of laws that connected to the undemocratic constitution that made it virtually impossible to prevent military political interference or even dominance for years to come.

Where this came unstuck was on 24 March when constituency voters chose parties that were anti-junta. It was only the puppet Election Commission, supported by the biased Constitutional Court that the junta even gained a hope of bargaining its way to a lower house majority by cobbling together up to 20 parties into a Palang Pracharath-led coalition. But not even that is in place, less than 24 hours before parliament selects a “new” prime minister.

The bloody hands of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha are set to grab premiership (again), thanks to the junta’s Army engineering that allows for a junta-picked and appointed Senate being likely to vote as a block for The Dictator, along with his Palang Pracharath Party. This despite various pleading for the Senate to not act as the junta’s puppets.

The Democrat Party and Bhum Jai Thai Party may come on board with the junta – as they are desperate to do – but only after all of the bargaining for cabinet posts has been completed. It is looking likely that the selection of the PM will go ahead with a government having been concocted by the junta and its puppet party.

This means that six weeks after the election, Thailand continues to be administered by the junta. It hardly has a “government” in place as so many of its ministers scurried off to Palang Pracharath and the Senate. For The Dictator, his face will be saved, but only momentarily.

Remarkably, but defining of the whole process of coup to election charade, this political theater of a joint parliamentary sitting choosing a PM will likely take place without Gen Prayuth even showing up, let alone saying something to parliament.

According to Khaosod, Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam has stated that “there’s no need for junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha to show up tomorrow when parliament convenes to elect a new prime minister.”

We suspect that the prickly, arrogant premier-in-waiting is doing a Prem (again). He hardly ever showed up for parliament, treating it like a junior school where politicians squabbled and fought and he floated above it, buoyed by royal barami. Like Gen Prem, Gen Prayuth exhibits nothing but disdain for parliamentary politics.

With “lower house speaker Chuan Leekpai [having] promised on Monday to allow MPs ample time to debate the qualifications of PM candidates before going to the vote,” we are sure that Gen Prayuth sees this as several levels below his exalted status. He had hoped that parliament would be a bunch of yes-men and -woman and that he would be able to ignore them for a few years, leaving them to squabble and fight over the leftovers from the junta’s plate.

But the voters have thrown that plan into disarray, and Gen Prayuth, if he gets up tomorrow as expected, he can expect criticism. And that’s something that he has never learned to deal with.

And just in case you were wondering, “Deputy PM Wissanu also specified to the media Tuesday that Prayuth and the rest of the junta will remain in their positions until a new cabinet formally reports to its first day of work.”

So whatever happens tomorrow, it is Prayuth in the premier’s seat for the near term. If he gets his way tomorrow, we don’t expect that he will enjoy the medium term. Bookmakers are taking bets on the date of the next coup. He’ll hate the idea of parliament even more than he does now.

Update: According to a report in Post Today, about half of the Democrat Party’s more extreme MPs have decided to screw their party and bed down with the junta’s party. This is either a threat to the rest of the MPs to come on board with the junta and The Dictator or its another large nail in the coffin of this hopeless party.

Junta in trouble?

1 06 2019

The military junta had five years of rigging the “election.” Yet, thanks to voters, despite the rigging and with everything on its side including a puppet Election Commission, the junta’s party seems to be in trouble.

While a week or so ago it looked like Bhum Jai Thai and the Democrat Party were set to run into the junta’s waiting arms, something’s gone wrong.

It may still work out that these two anti-democrat parties coalesce with Palang Pracharath and form a 20+ party coalition. That would still be our bet. But, such a government would work with a wafer thin majority. At present, negotiations are over various matters but mostly revolving around ministerial seats, are creaky.

Bhum Jai Thai seemed set to join the junta’s party and government, but pulled back as a battle erupted in the Democrat Party over support for the military junta. It seems the Democrat Party needs another meeting to sort their position out. They want three ministerial seats.

Meanwhile, there have been rumors that Palang Pracharath is itself wobbly:

There have been reports that a 30-strong group led by Somsak Thepsuthin was threatening to quit PPRP unless it received the Agriculture Ministry portfolio, which the Democrats are also believed to covet. Mr Somsak denied the reports.

Even if the junta gets the Democrat Party and Bhum Jai Thai on board, governing a huge coalition is going to be a constant struggle for the junta. And that can be exceptionally expensive.

One response has been a renewed discussion of minority government. This notion was first raised by anti-democrat junta supporter Paiboon Nititawan before the election. He’s pushing the idea again, saying that “For budget-related bills, we can have both the Senate and the House of Representatives vote on them by stipulating Section 270 of the charter…”.

Of course, this would be a desperate measure as governing on a day-to-day basis would become difficult. And, the idea that the executive could govern without having much at all to do with parliament would be a politically divisive strategy.

Another idea that also comes of desperation is that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha can be selected as prime minister next week and then dissolve parliament and wait a considerable time before calling another election.

Finally, there’s the idea of another coup.

Whichever way you look at it, the junta is faced with difficult decisions. In effect, its five years in power amount to a massive political failure.

Updated: Crushing Palang Pracharath and supporting Thanathorn

27 05 2019

Aiming a huge kick at the junta/Palang Pracharath groin region, the Future Forward candidate Srinual Boonlue, in the Chiang Mai Constituency 8 election re-run on Sunday, crushed her Palang Pracharath opponent.

This is the re-run caused by the puppet Election Commission’s decision to disqualify Puea Thai’s Surapol Kietchaiyakorn “for breaching the election law by giving 2,000 baht and a clock to a monk before the general election on March 24. He claimed the money was for a merit-making ceremony on Feb 14, but the EC saw it as a political attempt to lure voters ahead of the poll.” The EC made this decision while refusing to investigate any of the alleged corruption, vote-buying and other infringements by Palang Pracharath in the junta’s rigged election.

With no Puea Thai candidate permitted, the voters spoke – nay, they shouted – that they only wanted an anti-junta MP. Srinual won with 75,819 votes, followed by the Palang Pracharath candidate with 27,781 votes. The latter figure was more than 11,000 votes lower than on 24 March! Srinual’s total increased by more than 46,000 votes over 24 March.

It might have been a safe Puea Thai seat, but the voters are clearly making a statement.

Meanwhile, the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights have issued a statement on the ongoing judicial harrasment of Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, which we reproduce in full:Regional MPs urge end to judicial harassment of opposition politician (in ไทย)

The Thai authorities must end their harassment of a prominent opposition politician and not seek to undermine anti-military parties in the National Assembly, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said today.Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the leader of the Future Forward Party (FFP), has faced at least two apparently politically motivated criminal cases over the past year. Last week, the Constitutional Court also suspended his duties as a Member of Parliament (MP), pending an investigation into an alleged violation of election rules.

“The Thai authorities’ pursuit of trumped-up criminal cases against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and other anti-military actors is a clear attempt to undermine critics of the junta. All charges against lawmakers, journalists, activists and others who have done nothing but express peaceful opinions must be dropped immediately,” said Charles Santiago, Chair of APHR and a Member of Parliament in Malaysia.

The FFP came third in Thailand’s 24 March general election with 6.2 million votes, winning 80 seats in the House of Representatives. The party has since joined the “democratic front” coalition that seeks to form a government without the pro-military Palang Pracharat party.

On 23 May, the Constitutional Court voted to suspend Thanathorn from carrying out his duties as an MP because he allegedly still held shares in a media company when he applied to run for office, a violation of Section 98 (3) of the Constitution. Thanathorn denies the charges and says he had sold the shares in January 2019.

Human rights activists have raised concerns about politicization of the Constitutional Court, as seven of its nine judges were either appointed or had their terms extended during the junta’s rule. It is furthermore concerning that the case against Thanathorn was brought to the Court by the Election Commission (EC) before the EC had completed its own investigation into the case. The Court is expected to rule within one month’s time on whether to fully strip him off his seat in the House of Representatives. If found criminally liable he could be barred from entering politics for up to 20 years, while also facing a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine.

Thanathorn has faced at least two politically motivated criminal cases since forming the FFP. In August 2018, Thanathorn and two other FFP members were charged with violating the Computer Crime Act for streaming a video on Facebook critical of the military. On 6 April this year, police filed three criminal charges against Thanathorn – including for sedition under article 116 of the Thai criminal code – which all relate to him allegedly providing assistance to an anti-military protest leader in 2015. He could face at least five years in prison if found guilty.

Regional lawmakers are concerned that the military junta used a range of repressive laws – including sedition charges and the Computer Crimes Act – to target and silence critics after seizing power in a 2014 coup d’état. Worryingly, sedition cases in Thailand are tried in military courts that do not meet international standards of fairness and where cases often face severe delays.

“In the context of the many politicized charges against Thanathorn, it is difficult not to see the Constitutional Court’s move as another attempt to silence a voice critical of the junta. For Thai people to have faith in their country’s democratic process, authorities must show that they respect the outcome of the recent vote. This means allowing those elected to take part in public life, no matter how ‘inconvenient’ their opinions are,” said Teddy Baguilat, APHR Board Member and MP in the Philippines.

Other politicians have also been targeted during the years of military rule, including Chaturon Chaisang – a member of APHR and former Education Minister – who was charged with two sedition counts after criticizing military rule at separate press conferences in 2014 and in May 2018.

The harassment of Thanathorn mirrors a worrying regional trend where authoritarian governments rely on the legal books to undermine opposition lawmakers.

In Cambodia, the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2017 orchestrated the arbitrary disbandment of the main opposition party through the Supreme Court. In the Philippines, several opposition lawmakers have faced trumped-up criminal charges since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016. These include Senator Leila de Lima who has been detained since February 2017 on drug trafficking charges that the UN and human rights groups have criticized as politically motivated.

“Parliamentarians can play a crucial role in upholding and defending human rights, but only if they are allowed to act without restrictions and fear of reprisals. It is disturbing that governments across Southeast Asia seek to undermine opposition figures through threats, harassment and criminal charges,” said Eva Sundari, APHR Board Member and MP in Indonesia.

Update: The Bangkok Post states:

The anti-regime alliance has no reason to celebrate the Future Forward Party’s (FFP’s) landslide victory in a Chiang Mai by-election, thanks to the Election Commission’s MP calculation method, which will also add two seats to the pro-regime side — giving them a net gain of one seat.

The Post makes a point but does this by accepting the EC’s absurd method of calculating party list seats and, more importantly, ignoring the fact that the result is a direct expression of the people as voters. The Post does observe that Srinual became the “constituency MP with the biggest win in the country…”. It also demonstrates the absurdity of the EC’s calculation and the impact of the junta’s rigging of the election rules:

the votes earned by third-placed Palang Pracharath (27,861) and sixth-ranked Democrat Party (1,738) will likely give two party-list seats to the pro-regime bloc — even though they won fewer votes than in the March 24 poll….

That’s how rigging works – get fewer votes and win more seats!