Further updated: Junta disorganized or just organizing

14 06 2018

We are beginning to wonder if the military junta is factionalizing as it gets both excited and frosty about its “election.” Organizing, vacuuming and spending are growing hot while some in the junta are decidedly cold about the whole idea. Or so it seems. Is it that orders also flow to the junta and that these are not especially clear?

After saying it wouldn’t, the junta is now said to be “set to hold its first meeting with politicians at the end of this month…”.

In the first linked report, from just a few days ago, one of the lonely civilians associated with the junta, Wissanu Krea-ngam, cast doubt on the “pressing need for talks,” which he said has “subsided.” He then said the junta “remains adamant they will happen.” But he couldn’t say when.

Now Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan says the talks are back on, and on schedule.

Prawit says The Dictator has assigned him to “chair the first meeting with political parties and the Election Commission to discuss which activities the politicians would be allowed to undertake prior to the election scheduled for February next year.”

Wissanu had also cast doubt on February as an election date.

But Prawit was clear that it was the junta that would tell the parties what they could do and that that wouldn’t be much. Certainly, campaigning will continue to be banned (except for The Dictator himself) and political meetings remain off the agenda.

“Election” delays remain highly likely. We are guessing April at the earliest although the junta will delay if it believes its parties can’t “win” its own rigged elections.

Update 1: The Nation reports that Wissanu met with puppet “legislators, charter drafters and the Election Commission … to seek solutions to problems arising from NCPO Order 53/2560, which amends the Political Party Act,” but that the meeting saw no solution to the junta’s decision to prevent political parties from getting organized. It passed the ball back to The Dictator, suggesting he use Article 44 to “temporarily allow political parties to seek new members…”.

Update 2: The reports on lifting bans on political party activities and on local elections are confusing and contradictory. Take reports in The Nation and the Bangkok Post as examples. The headlines on each story are directly contradictory. Reporting the same doorstop press conference with the Deputy Dictator, one says bans are to be lifted and the other says bans are to stay. Reading these accounts it seems that the ban stays until all “election” related laws are passed into law. What isn’t clear is how long that will take. On local elections, the EC says if they are held, this should be three months before the national “election.” Those elections also await laws being passed. It is anyone’s guess what dates are being considered by the junta.

“Election” news

13 06 2018

There’s much in the news about the military junta’s “election” campaigning. Just in the Bangkok Post we found four stories of the junta on the campaign trail.

The first Bangkok Post story reports that instead of dealing with political parties as it said it would, The Dictator’s legal whipping boy Wissanu Krea-ngam – he always the one sent to deal with legal news and bad news – “will meet the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) and the Election Commission (EC) Thursday evening to discuss preparations for the general election.”

Screw the parties that are meant to participate in the general election unless, of course, the junta like you and feeds you information.

Wissanu and that other anti-democrat since the 1970s, Meechai Ruchupan, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, seem to be the junta’s finger pointers.

Even so, Meechai “said that an agenda for the talks has not yet been set.” That seems to mean that he and Wissanu have yet been given their orders.

Meechai did say that the Election Commission “will specify the date from when, legally, an election can be held,” but that’s untrue because the process of approving legislation has maximum dates but also elastic periods in it as well.

Meechai dismissed the idea that parties should be able to communicate with the public – voters – saying they should be “sending the information electronically.” The idea of prospective politicians – other than the junta – talking to voters is off limits.

Getting in on the “election” act, National Legislative Assembly president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said: “Everything will happen next year as set out in the roadmap…”. He was “referring to the premier’s earlier statement regarding a poll next February.”

Even Wissanu doesn’t buy that claim.

The second Bangkok Post story is a bit of a re-run with the Puea Thai Party accusing “people in power” – the junta and its military minions – of “increasing their efforts to lure its politicians into their fold, asking whether this behind-doors approach is the best four years of political reform has to offer.”

The junta’s people have invited “some former Pheu Thai MPs … to meet authoritative figures to talk about switching parties in the lead-up to a general election next year.” As lures and bait, they were offered “positions, budgets and financial help during the election…”.

While some complain that this is “Thai politics is still trapped in the old cycle,” it is exactly what the junta intended by its “reform” efforts.

The junta’s vacuuming up of politicians makes James Dyson look like an amateur.

A third Bangkok Post story is about the junta’s “populist” policies. The junta is reacting to potential negative electoral impacts from rising fuel prices by subsidizing them.For gas, they’ve been doing it for some time already.

When previous “bad” elected governments did this there was considerable criticism, not least from the those campaigning against “populism” at the Thailand Development Research Institute. We await their market-friendly criticism of the junta. We won’t hold out breath.

The Energy Policy Administration Committee “will only be able to subsidise the cap until mid-July, assuming additional resources are not channelled into the fund.” That’s another junta decision to be made. It comes on top of diesel subsidies.

Almost 8 million households and vendors will benefit.That’s a lot of voters being influenced by what was called “policy corruption” when elected governments were involved.

But its not just using state funds but making huge promises almost everywhere The Dictator campaigns.

The last Bangkok Post story involves the money trail through the near north. There, the junta’s “cabinet accepted in principle Tuesday a proposal to construct a double-track railway linking Tak and Nakhon Phanom as part of the transport routes under the East-West Economic Corridor.”

That proposal goes back to the 1980s!

Junta spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd “said the proposed 902km railway development” would begin in Mae Sot and go to Nakhon Sawan on the Lao border. Presumably, scenic carriages will be used as the train runs through the mountains around Mae Sot.

No funds have been promised. Maybe in the 2019 budget, when The Dictator is still premier, “election” or not. Feasibility? Economic, environmental and social impacts? No news. It’s just an “election” pitch.

There’s also a “26.8-billion-baht road expansion proposal covering 486km for the same cluster” of towns on the route.

Another pitch was a “a proposal to build an airport in Nakhon Sawan” that would be “considered”even with so-called high-speed railway scheduled to zoom through that city. Even the junta knows this but promised some kind of airport to voters.

We are sure the “election” news will continue to mount as the junta seeks to rig the “election.”

The junta’s Election Commission

11 06 2018

For most of 2013 and some of 2014, the Election Commission was actually the anti-Election Committee, doing evertyhting it could to prevent and election and then to ensure it collapsed. In the latter, the EC had plenty of support from the People’s Democratic Reform Committee.

Since the 2014 military coup, the EC has been pretty much dormant, except when some of its members fell out with the junta.

However, a report at the Bangkok Post has a bit of detail about Pol Col Jarungvith Phumma, the EC secretary-general who says his position “will give him the opportunity to ensure a democratic culture takes root in Thai politics.”

In fact, this is a very large pile of buffalo manure. Pol Col Jarungvith is a dedicated anti-democrat and his definition of “democracy” is that of the “good” people defined by their yellow shirts.

Pol Col Jarungvith, appointed on 8 May after a period as caretaker, He says he “dreams of is a society in which people choose representatives of their own accord and where their choices are not driven by money.”

This is a sad reflection of the yellow shirt position that all those who repeatedly and consistently voted to elect Thaksin Shinawatra-associated governments were misled, duped and bought. It is an article of faith that grew from an inability of the people who became anti-democrats to defeat these Thaksin-affiliated parties in national votes.

As Jarungvith acknowledges, his job it to ensure the “new rules” are implemented, protected and enforced. That is, his role is to police the junta’s crooked rules.

This means “intense training” of his staff “on how to make political parties abide by poll regulations, how to deal with vote cheating and how to protect witnesses in election fraud cases.”

We doubt any of this is going to apply to the junta’s parties.

Jarungvith explains that his police work had him “tasked with closely monitoring political conflicts in the country. He was often assigned to deal with hardcore political activists and street demonstrators.” His conclusion based on that work will warm the hearts of the anti-democrats for its expression of where he stands:

“I saw clearly there was a specific group bent on stirring up violence,” he said.

He also learned that, in many cases, political rallies were sustained by money from unnamed sources. Apparently, there were people sponsoring the protests, who were also willing to spend their money to further a political cause….

He also found some rally-goers did not join the protest based on an informed decision, but instead were lured into the activities by behind-the-scenes influences.

Whether he’s speaking of the Assembly of the Poor, the People’s Alliance for Democracy or red shirts, this perspective is fundamentally anti-democratic mantra.

His loyalty was rewarded when Pol Col Jarungvith was appointed a member of the now-defunct National Reform Council.

He seems the junta’s perfect EC secretary-general.

Local elections “this year”?

11 06 2018

After essentially telling the nation that the military junta’s “election” was off the much-touted “road map,”  the Bangkok Post reports that an unnamed source says the junta was “preparing to hold local elections this year as it wants to ‘test the waters’ ahead of the national election expected next February…”.

We have doubts about this “source” and the claims. For one thing, almost no-one expects an election in February. For another, talks about local elections are not new, but have gone missing for several months. It was back in November that Wissanu Krea-ngam said local elections would be held within 45 days of bills to amend six laws relating to regional governing bodies being enacted.

We have heard little about those bills and laws. This report states that “the Council of State, which is the government’s legal advisory body, has finished scrutinising six legislative bills relating to local elections.” They would then go to the junta’s cabinet and then to the National Legislative Assembly before going through the formal approval process.

If that is true, it would mean that local elections could probably be held – if the junta so decrees – by very late this year or early next year. And, that could easily delay national elections even further.

The most recent mumbling about local elections “comes as the government [junta] is likely to reinstate several more local leaders put on suspension pending corruption probes in what is seen by critics as a ploy to achieve political aims at the general election.”

Another unnamed source, this one at the Election Commission, said the junta has ordered the Local Administration Department, which is under the authority of Gen Anupong Paojinda, “to prepare local elections as the government [junta] wanted to assess local support for the government [junta] and parties.”

As it was several months ago, local polls are seen as a way to “ease public calls for a speedy return to democracy.” According to this source, “the results of local elections will be factored in when the government [junta] makes a decision to hold the general election…”.

Given that most political parties are unable to do much at all at present, local elections would be easy for the regime to control and manipulate and would be a chance for it to promote pro-junta parties ahead of the national election it plans for them to “win.” It would also be an opportunity for the junta to ensure it has its people in administrative place for controlling national elections at the local level.

In this context, should local elections be held, the real fight will be to prevent the junta from expanding its bootprint even further at the local level.

The junta digs deeper

7 06 2018

As we have said for a considerable time, the military dictatorship will never allow free and fair elections.

The Dictator has confirmed this in a strong statement that shows it cares little about international attention – the West is fickle and distracted while China deals with anyone while, like the U.S. during the Cold War, prefers long-term political stability where it is dealing.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha declared that the junta would not lift its ban on political activities and that his military regime would not allow election campaigns to proceed unhindered once it decides to allow campaigning. The junta itself campaigns as it wishes, where it wishes, and with the full resources of the state and its security and military services.

Gen Prayuth said he is in no hurry to repeal the ban. Why would he be when he has the field to himself and the political parties are supine and prepared to wait for the morsels he throws them. Naturally enough, the pro-military parties have more room to move.

The Dictator claimed that promised “talks” with parties “would … determine which activities could be allowed…”. For Prayuth, “talks” means the junta telling the parties what they can do, sort of, for the junta wants sufficient ambiguity to allow it room to smash opponents when it feels the need.

He plainly stated that “parties should not expect to run their election campaigns freely.” He said:

An election campaign must proceed in compliance with the framework and it should be approved on a case-by-case basis. However, certain activities may not require approval. That’s how the ban is to be lifted. Some activities need approval and some don’t….

We [the junta] need to find a way to maintain peace and order to make sure there is no trouble before we get to democracy….

Gen Prayuth uses the word “democracy” to mean a regime that emerges after unfree and unfair rigged elections where the military continues to run the country with himself as premier.

The chairman of the Election Commission Supachai Somcharoen rolled over, as the Constitutional Court did, let Prayuth rub his tummy and said it was up to the junta to lift the ban whenever it felt like it.

The military junta is winning this election campaign. The only possible outcome it contemplates is victory.

On the EC and an “election”

6 06 2018

Don Pramudwinai works for the military junta. He’s the Minister of Foreign Affairs hired to give the military dictatorship a civilian face in its international dealings. He’s one of the few civilians in the junta’s cabinet.

He got his position because he has been important in converting the Ministry into a nest of anti-democrats clad in yellow. He’s also been defined by anti-democrats as one of the “good” people.

So it was something of a surprise when the Election Commission decided he may have breached rules in the junta’s 2017 Constitution

But, as reported by the Bangkok Post, the junta says this “good” minister “will not yet have to give up his post despite the ongoing controversy surrounding his wife’s shareholdings.” Not unless the Constitutional Court decides to stand him down.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has declared he’s not going to reshuffle his cabinet.

The irony of this case is that a so-called good person is caught in rules the junta’s puppets designed to limit elected politicians in any future civilian government as they schemed on how to destroy the Shinawatra clan.

Another complicating factor is that the complaint came from a Puea Thai Party member. This means that the case comes to be defined as good vs bad people in the eyes of the junta, anti-democrats and the minister himself.

This paradox causes a Bangkok Post editorial to find, as the junta has, in Don’s favor. The Post prefers not to wait for the Constitutional Court. That’s not a particularly smart approach for a newspaper that has supported rule of law and the justice system.

Haughtily, Don has decided he’s done nothing wrong either and seems miffed that he should be accused by people he hates.

This amounts to little more than another sideshow in the political poking of the junta. In addition, it helps the junta by taking attention away from bigger issues: Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s luxury watches (nothing heard from the National Anti-Corruption Commission on that), election rigging, the extra-judicial murder of Chaiyapoom Pasae, and so on.

Meanwhile, the “election” issue drags on.

The EC says it will “ask” the junta “to lift the ban on political activities if Tuesday’s meeting of the Constitutional Court backs an NCPO order on the political parties law.” It has done that so as everyone knows, there is no junta-imposed legal barrier to lifting its ban.

As an aside, it would have been unheard of for the Constitutional Court to decide against the junta. It could decide against Don, but that’s unlikely. Even if it did, he’s a civilian, so expendable for the military dictatorship.

Lifting the ban won’t change a huge amount the activities of the junta and its minions. It will still spy on and seek to disrupt the political parties it defines as enemies. It will continue to use the massive resources of the state and the military to campaign for a junta-preferred outcome to the rigged election.

Dictators and democrats

31 05 2018

The Deputy Dictator seems unusually distracted by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and the Future Forward Party.

This might seem natural in the sense that dictators are likely to be distracted by democrats who challenge their tales-cum-lies. That’s especially the case with this military junta that was born of anti-democratic movements and its own military fascism.

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan “has urged the Election Commission (EC) to look into whether the Future Forward Party has broken any laws.” He means on scrapping the junta’s unfair and undemocratic charter.

This might seem just a little odd when Khaosod reports that EC’s head Pol Col. Charungwit Phumma has stated that there “is nothing wrong with campaigning on a pledge to rewrite the constitution…”.

Thanathorn also “said he would pardon all political prisoners if the party gains power next February, when the election is due to take place.” Well, that date seems unlikely, but you get the picture.

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul also “insisted the party would seek to “amend” Section 279 of the charter on its first day in parliament.” That article “legalises all of the orders, announcements and actions of the NCPO [junta].”

Love the diamond ring

The media asked the Deputy Dictator about these things and “whether legal action would be taken against the NCPO in the future…”. By all accounts, Gen Prawit went ballistic.

He’s used to impunity. Just think of his luxury watches and jewelry case and how nothing has transpired. Nothing at all.

So if he’s threatened with even a hint of legal action for his crimes-made-legal-by-the-junta, he’s bound to get a little heated.

Exploding he declared:

What has the NCPO done wrong? It has done nothing wrong. Whatever we do, the prime minister orders scrutiny including budget approval and performance. We cannot do what we want but have to consider the law. I insist the NCPO always follows the law….

Of course, they make up the laws as it suits them. They are unaccountable. That’s what a dictatorship does.