He who must be obeyed … not

7 12 2018

With The Dictator now the de facto leader of the Palang Pracharath Party as well as being prime minister and head of the military junta, he must be obeyed. Or so he thought.

As reported by both The Nation and the Bangkok Post, the Democrat Party and the Puea Thai Party have rejected the order that they “attend the pre-election dialogue with the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) on Friday…”.

Other parties new parties including Future Forward, Thai Raksa Chart and Puea Chat are also boycotting the meeting.

The Dictator got angry.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, who has rigged the electoral and constitutional framework to ensure that the junta’s favorite parties do well in an unfree and unfair poll, declared:

If parties don’t show up, it means they reject the rules. When the boxers step into the ring, they are summoned by a referee to hear the rules. If they don’t come, the match is off….

Off? The election is off? Or is the meeting off? Why? In fact, the reaction is about face. It makes no difference to Gen Prayuth and his associated devil parties.

In fact, it seems the angry general means that the boycotting parties should not compete in the election, whenever he decides to hold it.

Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan described the parties boycotting as “troublemakers.”

Junta deputy spokeswoman Col Sirichan Ngathong found another way to stick the political knife into the no-shows: “If they don’t join, those who don’t know the details of the meeting discussions should refrain from making criticism. This is a matter of manner[s]…”.

Democrat Party spokesman Thana Chiravinij said “the party decided not to join the meeting in part because political parties were not allowed to voice opinions.” In addition, The Dictator “has also demonstrated an inappropriate attitude and lacked respect for the people.” Other parties have made it clear that it should be the Election Commission calling the meeting. They reject the junta being involved as it is not a disinterested party, actively campaigning for devil parties for months and months.





Updated: The Dictator in full campaign mode

5 12 2018

The Dictator has been campaigning for some time. He’s been campaigning for his own transition from military dictator-cum-prime-minister at the head of a military junta to military-backed dictator-cum-prime-minister at the head of a regime produced by the junta’s rigged election.

That campaigning has increasingly come to mean stumping for the devil Palang Pracharath Party and any other mini-party prepared to support his and the junta’s transition. It is no accident that the Palang Pracharath Party is organized and headed by members of the junta and its cabinet who see nothing wrong with such cheating.

In recent days, however, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s campaigning has gone to a higher gear. Not long ago Palang Pracharath “unofficially” declared their support for The Dictator as its preferred dictator into the future. At the time PPT commented that this declaration meant that Gen Prayuth is the de facto leader of Palang Pracharath and that each time The Dictator has his regime throw more money after votes, he does it for his party.

Meanwhile, Gen Prayuth has continued with his buffalo manure dissembling, saying he’s not sure which party he might allow to campaign for him to be premier after the rigged election. Everyone in the country knows he had his men set up Palang Pracharath as his vehicle for the “election.”

However, he did say: “If I am approached, I’ll consider any party which works in sync with what we’re doing now…”. Ipso facto, Palang Pracharath. That party is unlikely to “win” a majority, so Gen Prayuth also needs other like-minded anti-democrat parties. As The Dictator put it: “What I have in mind is that I will support parties which steer the country with a strategy. If other parties have better strategies than the PPRP, just present them…”.

In the last few hours, The Dictator has moved from the phony campaign to the real campaign, with a “giant billboard next to the main highway in Ratchaburi province” that promotes Gen Prayuth as prime minister.

Naturally enough, others have complained that Gen Prayuth is cheating and flouting his own law. Even the media notes that the billboard “appears to be an obvious violation of the order by Gen Prayut’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) that forbids all electioneering.”

Our immediate thoughts were not only that The Dictator is openly cheating – he’s been doing that for years – but that he or one of his minions seem to feel that Britain’s embattled premier, Theresa May, is the best advertising for a military dictator. For all of her faults, she at least faces a real parliament and comes from an election. She has also been shown to be subject to the rule of parliament. None of that fits Thailand’s military leader.

The criticism of The Dictator has caused Palang Pracharath’s Somsak Thepsuthin to complain that “certain political parties of dividing public opinion by attacking Gen Prayut for trying to prolong his stay in power.” He was unhappy that The Dictator was in any way criticized.

That’s a possible pointer to the future, where a Palang Pracharath-led government would “protect” Gen Prayuth. Expect more corruption, more repression and efforts to insulate The Dictator.

Update: It is now reported that the The Dictator’s  campaign poster has been removed. This comes as the Election Commission states that it is “investigating” the poster for contravening some law or a junta decree. Nothing serious should be expected of the puppet EC.





Campaigning and the monarchy

5 12 2018

The Dictator is not just pouring bags of money into the electorate to make sure he keeps his position in a post-election regime, he deploying the monarchy as a campaign shibboleth.

The Bangkok Post reports that Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has “called on Thais to maintain unity and goodwill towards each other as … the King’s coronation will take place soon.” By “soon,” he now means after the election. This after saying many times that coronation would occur before the election.

Why the change? Who knows? Astrology? Skiing in the Alps?

Speaking while campaigning in Chaiyaphum, The Dictator explained to 20,000 locals: “His Majesty’s coronation will take place soon. The King is a major pillar of the country. I know Thais are loyal to the monarchy. Please give a helping hand…”. He means vote for the devil parties.

He also played the king card by saying: “When the King sets the date of the coronation, we need to be sure peace and order prevail…”. He means vote for the devil parties as they have the support and guns of the military in their corner.

He then pulled another king from his pack, showing his closeness with the king and implying the king was well satisfied with his regime:

… the King has continued what King Rama IX initiated. His Majesty always tells me and the government to try our best to take care of the people, fulfil their needs swiftly, solve their problems and explain to them to make sure they understand….

The monarchy has long fallen in with military regimes and supported “semi-democracy.” Nothing much seems to change.





The election and the VAT man

4 12 2018

Nipon Poapongsakorn is one of those neoliberal economists working with the Thailand Development Research Institute. He’s widely reported as being flabbergasted about “the government’s plan to offer a 5-per-cent VAT refund to shoppers during the Chinese New Year festival in February…”.

At the Bangkok Post, he’s reported as saying: “I am speechless about it…”. He reportedly “believes the move is aimed at winning popular support ahead of the general election.”

The Dictator “brushed aside allegations that the government was introducing populist measures to win public support ahead of next year’s general election.” He says he just wants to reduce “people’s financial burden during the New Year season.”

Now the price of that burden shifting/electioneering VAT refund is said to be up to Bt10 billion.

Meanwhile, the mobile phone SIM cards with free internet access for 11 million welfare card holders has been announced in such haste that no one knows how it will work:

Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), said his agency and the Finance Ministry are discussing how the measure would take shape in practice.

That’s what you get when the military junta is desperate to shore up the devil parties and their electoral “support.”





The election splurge II

3 12 2018

Just days after shoveling taxpayer funds out to shore up its electoral appeal, and soon after the devil party more-or-less officially stated that The Dictator is their man for the premiership after the election, the junta has come up with even more electoral giveaways.

This means that the de facto leader of the Palang Pracharath Party is Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. So when The Dictator has his minions throw more money after votes, he does it for his party.

His latest scheme to pour funds into the party’s direction is seen by The Nation as blatant:

In a bid to garner popularity ahead of the election scheduled for February, the government has finalised plans to give more than 11 million low-income people free Internet SIM cards and other state subsidies that will together cost taxpayers billions of baht.

Mimicking Pansak Vinyaratn when he was with the Chatichai Choonhavan government in the late 1980s,

Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said it would benefit farmers, for example, who could access market crop prices and other useful data in real time.

He said farmers would be able to follow price trends on low-cost smartphones so they could make more informed decisions on what and when to plant, avoiding issues like oversupply. The NBTC would work out the details, Apisak said, and low-income people other than farmers would also benefit from online access to improve their individual economic well-being.

As well as helicoptering cash, the new taxpayer-funded handout is the free internet access.

How much more will the junta shovel into the electorate in order to maintain its political control?

Yellow shirted anti-democrats reckon there’s nothing wrong with all of this. Look at Yingluck Shinawatra’s rice subsidy, they say. But they then forget that they demanded and got people jailed for years for this scheme. But no one is about to “investigate” the junta in they way they hounded Yingluck. Double standards? You bet.

 





Updated: The election splurge I

2 12 2018

A couple of days ago PPT quoted Chaturon Chaisang who complained that the military junta was “going to take advantage over others until the last minute.” His comment was not just about electoral boundaries.

On cue, after splurging on rubber planters, the junta has come up with yet another way to use taxpayer money to improve the electoral appeal of its devil party.

Yesterday it was reported that the Ministry of Finance announced that the military government approved a “value-added tax (VAT) refund to shoppers who spend up to 20,000 baht … next year in a bid to boost domestic spending amid murky economic prospects.”

This decision is “expected to cost the government 6-7 billion baht in forgone revenue…”.

That comes following the junta’s 40 billion on its eponymous Palang Pracharath scheme for the current financial year, and the now “86.9-billion-baht splurge on low-income earners, the elderly and retirees” that was originally reported as 63 billion. And that’s just a fraction of the funds that the junta has poured out (for little economic impact).

Is anyone keeping track of this huge spending?

But back to the VAT handout.

When can shopping occur? 1-15 February.

When is the current most likely date for the junta’s rigged election? About a week after the shopping blitz.

Who is targeted? Sino-Thais who will spend for Chinese New Year.

Remarkably, it is reported that the puppet Election Commission “has insisted it needs to examine the law to see if the government’s proposed value-added tax (VAT) refund for next year’s Chinese New Year shopping gives a pro-government party undue political advantage ahead of the next election.”

Indeed, that sentence says it all. The suspicions are the charges.

Critics have pointed out the obvious: “that the programme is likely to allow the pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) to capitalise on the popularity of the refund and gain an unfair advantage over rival parties at the poll.”

Of course, similar rebate schemes and tax deductions have been offered before, but we do not recall any such scheme being scheduled a week prior to an election (while noting the date has not been officially set).

EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma said the “commission would take a look at the law to see if claims of an unfair advantage have substance.”

Let’s see if the puppet can cut the strings. We are not optimistic.

Update: In a remarkable state effort to pile buffalo manure as high as a Bangkok condo, Revenue Department spokesman Pinsai Suraswadi has come up with one of the smelliest piles in a while. He has stated that the so-called Shop for the Country tax deduction – that’s the now “regular” deduction allowed to shoppers, not the VAT scam mentioned above – is not meant to boost “big retailers” but rather “is largely designed to help farmers…”. This surprising claim is made because “purchases of eligible items will directly help farmers facing the low prices of their products, including tires made from domestic rubber, books, e-books, and OTOP items purchased directly from certified OTOP sellers.” All those farmers producing e-books and regular books…. Really, this and other fabrications emanating from the seemingly desperate military junta are no better than an average 4-year-old could come up with.





The “educate” on democracy

2 12 2018

We already knew it, but recent World Bank data briefly reported at The Nation confirms it. Thailand’s most highly “educated” – those with tertiary education – are less supportive of democratic politics than those of primary school education levels. More than 62% of the lower educated strongly support democracy while only 53% of “educated” university graduates feel the same.

That will worry the military junta for several reasons. First, like the rest of the anti-democrats, it considers the poor as uneducated, ignorant and gullible. After all, the junta’s current “electoral” strategy is based on this idea, so if those of lower education are more likely to support democracy, then that electoral strategy may be flawed. Second, the junta has sought to promote a notion of Thai-style democracy that is no democracy at all, and it may be that this spurious “democracy” will be rejected. Third, the result suggests that those of lower education levels may reject all of the anti-democratic rigging and fixing the junta has done over its several years of dictatorship.

 





Boundaries managed III

1 12 2018

The complaints about the Election Commission’s (re)drawing of electoral constituency boundaries continue:

Political parties are angry about a redrawn electoral map of Thailand they say has been gerrymandered to boost the prospects of pro-junta parties.

Both major political parties, Pheu Thai and Democrat, said the new constituency map revealed Thursday increases the fortunes of parties such as Palang Pracharat Party – which supports the military government – in several provinces.

The two major parties of the past decade say this, Puea Thai and the Democrat Party: “They say the new voting divisions published in the Royal Gazette show constituencies suspiciously redrawn in a number of provinces, particularly Ubon Ratchathani, Sukhothai and Nakhon Ratchasima.” Puea Thai’s Phumtham Wechayachai said “some districts were split into four or five constituencies after local politicians there defected to [the] Palang Pracharat [Party of the junta] in those provinces.”

One Democrat Party member went further, declaring the EC commissioners were cheating for the junta’s parties.

Meanwhile, as well as going full Sgt Schultz – I know nothing, nothing!The Dictator used a curse word to attack the media for daring to ask questions and he condemned politicians for complaining. He also lied, saying, “I am not on any side and I did not make any order…”. Both statements are so obviously untrue that it seems Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha believes Thailand’s electorate is as malleable as clay and about as bright as a bucket of clay.

PPT sees this as just one more admission of election rigging. But there’s been so many of these efforts and admissions that it is normalized. In fact, the electorate is not thick and knows exactly what the junta is up to. The problem is that the military thugs have all the power in their own hands and so no one seems able to prevent this blatant effort to steal the “election.”

At least the politicians are now talking about the massive fraud. On the boundaries, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said “the new boundaries are unjustified and undermine the both the EC’s credibility and the election process itself.” He added that “several constituencies have not been redrawn in line with the law…”.

So the junta and its puppet EC have cheated and may have broken the law. But as Abhisit observed, “nothing could be done about it because the EC has been given immunity by the NCPO’s [Article 44] order.”





Rubbery funds

1 12 2018

Rice farmers and rubber planters are quite different. In the junta’s politics, rubber planters are seen as the most loyal of junta supporters. Throughout its tenure following the illegal 2014 coup, the junta has been concerned about the price of rubber and the political impact of falling prices. Part of the reason for this political position has to do with the support given by planters to the anti-democrats in 2013-14, Some of our earlier posts on support for rubber planters are here, here and here.

With an “election” to be stolen-won, the Bangkok Post reports that yet another “financial package aimed at assisting rubber farmers and stemming the tumbling price of rubber” is being doled out.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Grisada Boonrach sounded not unlike previous elected governments as he earlier was offering 3000 baht a rai in support. aid the first measure will help rubber farmers troubled by the depressed prices of rubber. That now seems to be “a grant of 1,800 baht per rai, not exceeding 15 rai each … adding that the measure is intended to help farmers offset the cost of living.” (We have to say that we are unsure if these two figures are about different schemes or need to be added together or one replaces the other.)

The 1800 baht is divided between land owners and tappers, with a budget of “17.5-billion-baht budget to support the scheme.” It supports “999,065 rubber farm owners and 304,266 tappers…”.

A second measure to boost the price of rubber is to use it in “the construction of roads using asphalt mixed with rubber latex.” That scheme costs “92.3 billion baht would be budgeted by local administrative organisations to fund this scheme.” Of that, 16.3 billion is for latex.

The ministry is also advancing credit of 5 billion baht that “will be extended to support rubber processing for export…” and is looking at supporting farmers out of rubber planting.

There’s a lot of billions there. How much does a vote cost?





Boundaries managed II

30 11 2018

As a note to our previous post, where we wondered about complaints on boundaries, the Election Commission reports that it received 98 complaints it received across 33 provinces. Somehow we missed all of this amidst the other rigging going on. Sorry.

The EC has now had its “revised” boundaries published. What’s been the reaction?

If you are a Bangkok Post reader, you might think that only the Puea Thai Party has made a quiet complaint. One of its reports refers to “Subdued responses,” while this is modified a bit in a later report would have its readers believe that only the Puea Thai Party and an academic expressed mild concerns.

The Nation, however, tells its readers that “politicians from major political parties yesterday cried foul at the constituency mapping done by the Election Commission (EC), claiming that a particular party was favoured through alleged gerrymandering.”

It refers to this as an “uproar.”

The first politician cited in the report is from the Democrat Party. Former Sukhothai MP Sampan Tangbenjapol reckoned that the EC had come up with an “unforeseen electoral map” based on a new option not “previously offered only three choices for voters and candidates to see.” Sampan lamented that this is just the beginning of the “election,” but “already there’s this lack of transparency.” Sampan complained of “some irregularities in the new drawing.”

He urged “voters not to yield to corrupt representatives and to stand up against dictatorship in this election.”

Puea Thai’s Prayut Siriphanit “admitted that the maps could impact Pheu Thai candidates in those [reallocated NE] areas.”

Chaturon Chaisang complained that the junta order to the EC meant opaque decision-making:

The order was made even though the agency had already completed the task, with constituency boundaries in line with the opinions offered by local voters and MP candidates.

“The new drawings were done behind closed doors. A handful of people just proposed a new option via some expressway and they miraculously got what they’d asked for,” Chaturon wrote on Facebook. “So, they are just going to take advantage over others until the last minute.”

Redrawing boundaries is described as a “serious threat for political parties. If a party’s stronghold is separated into two constituencies, for example, that party could lose the election in one or both of those constituencies.”