Updated: The local elections ploy

13 11 2017

The six questions ploy was used a couple of days ago. Described in the Bangkok Post as one question from General Prayuth Chan-ocha: “Is everybody all right with my staying around as leader indefinitely to keep politicians in their proper place, by which I mean under our boots?”, the questions caused angst among those who want elections.

To assuage that angst, junta member and anti-democrat legal sage to the military junta Wissanu Krea-ngam suddenly said that there might be local elections and that this might see the ban on political party activities lifted.

The junta got rid of local elections when it had its coup in 2014. Occasionally it has raised hopes that these might return, saying local elections should be held before a national “election.” Nothing came of this because, at base, the junta wants no elections it can’t be sure of controlling. Despite the militarization of local government, the junta still can’t be certain that it can ensure its people win local elections. So it hasn’t done anything about them.

So Wissanu’s sudden claim lasted less than 48 hours. Even he was only talking about elections in some places where the junta reckoned it has a constituency, like Bangkok.

Then Puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) deputy chair Phirasak Phochit threw his spanner in the works and explained that local elections required that “investigations” into “local officials who have been suspended over allegations of graft before planned local elections are held.”

The involves “a large number of officials” who, since the coup, officials, “working for provincial administration organisations (PAOs) and tambon administration organisations (TAOs), have been suspended or transferred to inactive posts after the government launched a serious crackdown on corruption in state agencies.”

They haven’t been charged, let alone convicted, but The Dictator used Article 44 to purge these administrations. Most of those purged were considered supportive of political opponents of the junta, red shirts or Thaksin Shinawatra fans.

Further scuttling the elections notion, puppet Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) spokesman Chartchai Na Chiang Mai had a spanner to throw too, and said a swathe of laws “relating to regional governing bodies need to be amended before local elections can take place…”.

He implied that “if early local polls are to be held, it is essential to amend the five laws to ensure compliance with the new constitution’s provisions covering local administration organisations,” which probably means that the laws for the national “election” would then be delayed (again), despite assurances to the contrary.

After the local election laws were amended, they would then go to the tiresomely slow NLA. Chartchai said the NLA “must race against time if the government wants to pave the way for local elections…”. The NLA members do not race on anything except to collect salaries and allowances.

Another glitch, not yet mentioned is the lack of an Election Commission.

We are not holding our breath on any “election” soon, at any level.

Update: The almost non-existent (anti) Election Commission has decided that it must “ask the Constitutional Court to rule if it is responsible for organising local elections.” What a sham this ridiculous institution is, even in “caretaker” mode. The EC doen’t know what is does. The “laws” under the junta have apparently confused it:

EC [caretaker] chairman Supachai Somcharoen said while the charter requires the EC to hold local elections, the organic law governing the agency says its role is to oversee and ensure the local polls are clean and fair.

It seems the EC hadn’t even thought of local elections until the junta murmured something about them.





When the military is on top XI

15 09 2017

It’s a while since we had a “When the military is on top” post. This post is prompted by a couple of recent stories reveal more about the military dictatorship and its aims.

First, as we have noted previously, the dictatorship’s core task is uprooting the “Thaksin regime.” That task is deepening and widening. Following thoroughgoing purges and arrests, the attention to the money the dictatorship and its anti-democrat allies mistakenly believe underpins Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra’s electoral popularity. The latest effort has the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) and the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) seeking to bring money laundering charges against Panthongtae “Oak” Shinawatra. This is a ratcheting up of earlier efforts and a precursor to charges being laid.

Second, Prachatai reports that the new junta-written election commission law has been promulgated and means that the new election commissioners will be selected by 250 military junta-appointed senators. That decision means that the Election Commission will essentially be junta-controlled for the next 5 or so years (depending when the junta decides to hold its “election”). Should a new government not be as the junta wants it, it is likely that that government will always be under threat from anti-election election commissioners.

Third, members of “the Pheu Thai Party and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) have slammed a [police reform] committee over its move to invite former protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban to give his opinions on reforming the Thai police.” Suthep, mired in long-standing corruption allegations that go back to the 1990s, when his underhanded actions brought down Chuan Leekpai’s government in 1994, is an anti-democrats as coup planner and supporter.

The “committee on police reform [has] announced it would start seeking opinions from Constitutional Court judges, mass media, former national police chiefs, and the former leader of the now-dissolved People’s Democratic Reform Committee Suthep Thaugsuban, who has also come up with reformist proposals.”

The police are seen as a nest of Thaksinites, so Suthep’s views will be important. After all, he’s been a minister, accused of corruption many times, is an “influential person” in the south, has been in the courts several times, once essentially accused of mass murder. That seems just the kind of advice the junta will want.

Can Thailand sink much deeper into the fascist slime? Under the military dictatorship, it seems it can go much deeper.





“Election” readiness I

20 07 2017

It seems to some of PPT’s pundits that preparations for the military junta’s election are moving along. The signals are getting stronger.

For one thing, the middle classes seem to be getting bored with the military dictatorship. They are increasingly disgruntled by poor economic data and are beginning to complain about corruption. Another sign is that the military has seemingly filled its shopping list for new kit, just in case a civilianized post-“election” regime is less able to hand over all that lovely equipment.

The hopeless anti-Election Commission recently let it be known that it believes that the earliest the junta could arrange its election is sometime about August 2018.

More telling of the preparations being made is the continuing efforts to neuter the red shirts, the Thaksin clan and the Puea Thai Party. One of the major “cases” against Yingluck Shinawatra is drawing to a close. The linked report states:

A not guilty verdict is unlikely…. A not guilty verdict would be a huge blow for the junta. It would exonerate Yingluck while galvanising her support and the populist movement. The trial has already cost the junta a significant amount of money. It would threaten the junta’s hold on power while calls for a return to civilian-led democracy would grow louder.

But a guilty verdict would pave the way for an “election” with the Shinawatra clan further “damaged.” That said, her supporters are fighting back and are not done yet.

In another case, despite two courts rejecting accusations against him, the junta’s more politically reliable and predictable Supreme Court has jailed red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan to a year in prison for defaming former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Plenty on Abhisit’s side of politics were able to defame red shirt leaders and their supporters and used state power to murder dozens of them, but it is Jatuporn who is jailed.

The military and the royalist elite rightly consider Jatuporn a threat because he is a powerful orator and organizer. They have jailed him several times in recent years, overturned election results to keep him out of parliament and more. Yet red shirts also remain defiant.

Meanwhile, the courts have continued to exonerate yellow shirts. Clearly, the junta knows who its opponents and supporters are as it prepares to civilianize its political authoritarianism via an “election.”





Inside sucking noises

7 07 2017

PPT hasn’t previously commented on the junta’s decision to spill the Election Commission and create a new Commission with new members. The main reason we have ignored this is because it is like watching a movie with no good characters. It’s bad guys vs. bad guys; no white hats, just black hats.

The military junta is an abomination and the EC is a bunch of self-important jerks who did all that they could to prevent and election in 2014. The EC is anti-election. So what is there to support in any of this? Its going through the swill at the bottom of the barrel.

However, a report at Prachatai is of some interest. The EC, which has seen its members jumping about and saying how terrible it is that they are losing their positions, has decided on a counter-attack.

The report states that on 4 July 2017, the EC “initiated an investigation into 90 members of the NLA [that’s the puppet National Legislative Assembly] over alleged conflict of interest in their stock holdings.”

Up until this point, as far as PPT can recall, the puppet EC has had no interest in the puppet NLA. Thus, its action can only be interpreted as some inside politicking to keep lucrative posts.

It might be said that this action has only become possible after the passage of the junta’s constitution, but that also means that the action can only apply to activities by the NLA since the constitution was promulgated. So probably not much action possible at all. It is mostly bluster by the unhappy EC members.

One of the most reprehensible anti-election commissioners is Somchai Srisuttiyakorn, who must be especially miffed as he did more than others in binning the Yingluck Shinawatra administration, facilitating the anti-democrats and getting the military in place.

He says his lot is forming a committee “to investigate the issue with a two-month time frame. If the commission find reasonable suspicions, the ECT will submit the case to the Constitutional Court for a final judgement.”

At the very same time, the EC continued to make up rules that make any “elected” government that is not military-backed weaker than ever before.

The EC is a waste of political space and of taxpayer funds. Its a remora that seems to have lost its host.





Bored witless

15 06 2017

Forgive us, we are bored by the military dictatorship. It is so, so predictable and so pathetic that we are considering banning it using Article 44.

How predictable? Its like putting a sexy dancer in front of a sexy young dancer. You know how he will behave. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.)

How about the things that are hidden under nothing happening here-ness?

What about that poor kid shot by soldiers in the north. Nothing. Keep quiet and it won’t go anywhere.

How about the Rolls Royce and related corruption? Ignore it and the media will forget it.

What about police generals being paid by the richest guys in the country to smooth things for them. That isn’t even illegal!

And what about all those unusually wealthy members of the puppet assembly? Not even worth mentioning. That’s just normal corruption and the great and good harvesting their due.

We could go on and on. This regime is corrupt, like many of those regimes before it. But because they are rightist royalists, they are just fine for Thailand’s elite and middle classes.

Well, let’s go on a bit more.

Lese majeste? Hundreds of cases to both shut the activists up and to launder the king’s dirty underwear.

The junta reckons most Thais are stupid, and treats them as such, assessing that they haven’t a clue about democracy and are easily pushed around. A few threats can easily shut them up.

How about those pesky politicians? You know, the bad ones (because they are associated with that devil Thaksin Shinawatra). How many ways can they be repressed. Like all murderous, torturing military regime, the possibilities are many. How about charging them with corruption? That should gag that Watana guy from the Puea Thai Party who keeps saying nasty things about the middle-class cuddly dictatorship.

It irks The Dictator that Puea Thai types are still popping up. Ban them, ban their books, silence them. No debate with these guys.

While the junta is in power, its is almost genetically programmed to buy military toys from Chinese submarines to Chinese armored personal carriers (with the white sidewalls option, they should look stunning running over civilian protesters).

And while talking of Chinese, why not use Article 44 so that all of the land near the proposed railway tracks to link Thailand with China can be taken off poor farmers and become the accumulated wealth of Sino-Thai tycoons and their military allies. Money will fall line rain in the wet season into the already overflowing coffers of the rich and powerful.

It is so predictable it is now boring. What next? The Dictator campaigning for “election”? Yes, that’s already happening.

What about fixing the “election”? That’s a check. Even that anti-election Election Commission can’t be trusted, probably because they are all so thick and need ordering around, so replace them with people who can work out what needs to be corrupted without having to be ordered.

How many more years of this boring nothingness? We reckon the record is about 16 years. The current junta is aiming for 20. Only 16 and a few months to go.

And, an “election” won’t change all of this. It is embedded deeply into the fabric of administration.

It will take a lot of careful undoing when the people get a chance or take a chance.





“Training” for junta-appropriate politics

9 03 2017

The Nation reports that the military junta’s minions at the Election Commission (EC) are seeking to “train” political parties.

The report states that a “committee” has been established to “develop” political parties “in line with the charter’s national reform approach…”.

In other words, political parties are being “reformed” to match the junta’s rules, regulations and desires.

Unsurprisingly, the committee is headed by Anek Laothamatas, a former academic and failed politician. He has worked closely with the junta.

The junta claims that the committee includes “Pheu Thai Party’s secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai, Democrat Party’s deputy leader Chamni Sakdiset, Bhum Jai Thai Party’s leader Anutin Charnvirakul, and Chart Thai Pattana’s key figure Nikorn Chamnong, as well as some experts and academics.”

The EC says the committee will conduct a “strategy, plan, and approach” to “develop political parties in line with reform approach as stipulated in the charter draft.”

Parties have little choice but to be involved although the EC says the members are individuals, not representatives of their parties.





Thirayudh’s tattlings and the anti-democrat agenda

7 03 2017

We at PPT have to be honest and admit that we have never felt much interest in (faux) academic Thirayudh Boonmee or his mental meanderings. The feelings are probably mutual.

That said, we do acknowledge that, as an Octoberist, there remain people willing to listen to his rambling “advice” to Thailand’s elite. Most significantly, he tends to reflect the musings of the deeply yellow gaggle of anti-democrats.

A couple of days ago, at The Nation Thirayudh was described mischievously, as a “[p]olitical expert and independent scholar,” rather than retiree and political pundit. For the anti-democrat crowd, he “criticised the post-coup regime for what he viewed as its failure to undertake national reforms, warning of a possible decline in public faith in the government.”

That is likely to bother the military junta mostly because Thirayud speaks to the junta’s civilian constituency, despite the fact that his “briefing” sponsored by the Election Commission and was “at the Government Complex in Bangkok’s Chaeng Wattana area.”

He is urging the junta to maintain its anti-democrat “mandate” and push it further. This is why he wants the military “to stick to its promised ‘road map’ for a return to democracy.” Thirayudh knows that the “return to democracy” means the restoration of elite models of “guided democracy” that is no democracy at all.

This is why Thirayudh “expressed support over the use of absolute power under Article 44 of the interim charter, saying that it was in tune with the nature of Thais who are prone to accept authoritarianism.”

More than this, he demanded that the regime use Article 44 more. He argues the regime “should exploit it to its best use, but not abuse it.” His point is to push back against those “liberals” who are wavering on the regime’s authoritarianism.

You get the picture. The elite rules and exploits because the “nature” of Thais is to accept exploitation, murderous military regimes and repression. He ignores the long history of Thai rejection of these rulers and their schemes.

Thirayudh is worried that “the direction of politics currently leaned towards conservatism and there was little hope of reforming the power structure.” He is worried that the “present powers were civil servants [sic.] who would lose power once the reform was implemented.”

He believes the military regime has won and that those who lost just need to accept this and Thailand will be just right. But the regime needs to move to its guided democracy:

They [those supporting The Dictator] seem to have some accomplishments, but still there is no hope in the reform…. Moreover, they show the intention to support [General Prayut] to stay in power so they can, too. But things will get more difficult and the whole thing may collapse if they stay in power longer than [they promised] in the road map.

Thirayuth warns The Dictator and his regime that “the public’s confidence in the government had been shaken. Hence, it must do the right thing and keep its vow to hold an election as well as be prepared for issues to come after the poll by focusing on reform of the power structure and fighting graft.”

He worries that if The Dictator and his regime hang on, that a new 1992 may emerge, again unleashing the masses in politics.

In another Bangkok Post story, the (anti-)Democrat Party is reported to have backed Thirayudh, “saying the social critic pinpointed the problems and highlighted the failure of the government’s approach to them.”

Democrat deputy leader Ong-art Klampaibul “said the government needed to listen to Mr Thirayuth, no matter how harsh his opinions might be.”

Regarding reform, Ong-art declared “the people so far have not experienced any tangible outcomes…”. He added that after “three years in power, the government has only just started its bid for national reconciliation…”.

Junta spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd has already “rejected” Thirayudh’s “criticism,” asking for the critic to be “useful” by providing “practical solutions to the problems rather than preach about theories and principles.”

In fact, the point of Thirayudh’s intervention is to push the junta to increased “reform.” Like them, he is an anti-democrat, but he is opposed the embedding of military dictatorship. He wants guided democracy.

Increasingly, as Sansern expresses it, the junta wants more and more time for “reform.” He says: “It was not easy to achieve its desired results in such a short period because many of the country’s problems had been left unresolved for a long time.”

They have been supported by others from the Democrat Party. Supachai Panitchpakdi is a  politician who failed to gain top spot in his party and has led an undistinguished career in high-profile international organizations.

His name often comes up when “national governments” are discussed and we can’t help wondering if the ever-eager for top position Supachai sees another opportunity if the military is to get itself a party for an “election.”

He’s now serving the junta, and its members will feel happy that Supachai has supported them against Thirayudh’s mild criticisms. We guess that’s why they hired him.