Never-ending military dictatorship

1 11 2017

For some time, on all sides of politics, there’s been a view that “after the funeral” was going to be a time for more political action. Indeed, the military dictatorship had hinted at a possible loosening. But seriously, who could believe them? Judging by some headlines, apparently quite a few believed the junta’s (false) assurances. It is as if Thai politics has a learning curve that begins from zero with each military regime.

Prachatai reports that “[a]fter raising hopes, the junta head will not be lifting the ban on political activities even though the royal cremation is over…”. No one should be surprised. This is a military dictatorship. It does what is in the best interests of its own rule.

The Dictator let it be known that he “is too busy responding to the long-running flood crisis to consider lifting his junta’s ban on political activities.” He let the floods do their damage and added to the plight of people in farming areas by flooding them to save Bangkok and the royal funeral. After all, a flood in Bangkok at that time would have been inauspicious, so poor farmers had to be up to their necks in water.

The ban on political activity will remain “to ensure social order and stability.” Is anyone aware of threats to “social order and stability”? We guess not, but the junta can concoct such threats at any time it wants.

We also guess that the coronation is considered the next big deal and the junta will again want total control, not just for itself, but to keep the unpredictable king happy.

The pathetic military bootlickers at the Democrat Party warned that: “If the ban is not lifted by the end of the year, there will be problems…”. But then the Deputy Democrat Party leader Nipit Intarasombat stated that “he would be open to partially lifting the ban…”. That partial lift would allow “politicians and political parties to meet and register members to form new parties and elect their executive boards.” That’s it….

General Prayuth Chan-ocha “once again that the junta will revoke the ban when the proper time comes.” He opined:

I ask you to trust me. I myself am aware and thinking about this issue. But imagine if everything explodes!  And you can see that today it is still unsettled. Lots of people are still slandering each other…

Politicians reckon the more than three year ban (so far) “is preventing them from preparing for the upcoming election.” No kidding? That’s the point of the ban.

The irritable Dictator complained:

Don’t keep asking me how I will remove the ban. It makes me unable to think, so it’s slow. If you keep asking, I can’t really think. Let me think of a conclusion first, then I will reveal everything. It will be in time….

He means in time for the military dictatorship’s “election.”

Pro-democracy activist Sirawith Seritiwat got it right when he said of “promised” elections: “Let see what they will cite next to stall it further. There probably won’t be elections next year, and there will never be elections unless pro-democracy forces pressure them…”.

At the Bangkok Post, The Dictator has the next excuse ready. He said the election, “tentatively scheduled for November 2018, can only be held after the organic bill on the election of MPs is enacted and the new Election Commission (EC) members are chosen…”.

To date, “nobody has … applied for the [EC] posts.”

Other excuses are likely to be the coronation and another death in the royal family.

Why does the junta worry about the “election”? After all, it made the rules, controls the rules and is going to control everything anyway post-“election.” We feel it is a gradual weaning the population off elections and better establishing a royalist authoritarianism.

 





The Dictator, king, floods

3 08 2017

The Nation reports on the floods in the northeast as if the dead king was still around. It is the king who is ordering, instructing and advising. Admittedly, the new king has “instructed the government to follow his late father’s flood-prevention initiatives to ease flooding in the country given the recent disaster.”

To be honest, we don’t know of any “initiatives” for the northeast, apart from a penchant for dam building, but we might have missed some of the dead king’s many pronouncements. Some of his “flood mitigation” measures arguably increase the floods for some – usually the poor – to “save” other areas.

In the northeast and at Sakol Nakhon, The Dictator declared that: “King [Vajiralongkorn] has been monitoring the flood situation,” as General Prayuth Chan-ocha finally made a visit to the stricken province.

There are a dozen northeastern provinces experiencing floods but it is Sakol Nakhon that has seen most attention.

The Dictator added that the king “had urged authorities to improve the flood situation fast and introduce sustainable solutions.” He was also said to have “sent relief items to flood victims in Sakon Nakhon, and also had a kitchen erected in the province to hand out free food to affected people… [and] recommended that the government inspect reservoirs to ensure they were well maintained.”

The king seems to be doing all of this from Germany. The last we heard was that he was still there.

Meanwhile, at the Bangkok Post, the reporting of The Dictator’s belated visit sounds more like he’s competing with the king and even campaigning.

In this report, it is The Dictator who has “instructed authorities … to focus on the flood-plagued province of Sakon Nakhon and ensure most of the excess water is released into the Mekong River within a week.” He said rehabilitation will begin once the water is cleared.

General Prayuth has been at pains to ensure that the flood isn’t “politicized.” Clearly he recalls how the 2011 floods were used by the anti-democrats and the military to undermine Yingluck Shinawatra’s government as soon as it came to office.

He also sort to direct the media n how it should report the floods.

An absent king and a dictatorial regime belatedly acting to mitigate flooding while attacking political opponents seems defining of the regime.





It’s the republicans (or its a junta ruse)

4 02 2017

Yesterday we posted on the talk of assassination threats against The Dictator and the Deputy Dictator.

We thought that the claims, when put together with coup talk, might suggest that there was some dissatisfaction with the junta, perhaps even in the military.

Then there was talk of those nasty “politicians” causing ill-will towards the military dictatorship over its ham-fisted flood relief operations in the south. Junta spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd says “[s]ome politicians in Songkhla are behind a move to stir up dissent against the government…”. In the last election – remember that? – each seat in the province was won by a Democrat Party politician. Could they be getting their gun sights re-calibrated from red shirts to military dictators?

It seems that it is neither military nor anti-democrats. Rather, The Dictator has let it be known that the culprits of “an assassination plot targeting Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon could originate from lese majeste suspects who are living abroad.”*

Of course! It’s the rascally republicans! Or, more correctly, it could be them.

Perhaps they did offer a threat for they have no capacity for much else. At the same time, perhaps the junta is framing them for a “crime” that does allow for extraditions from foreign jurisdictions.

They are that desperate and such a pathetic lurk is in line with other cowardly acts by the junta, most notably in targeting the children and families of its opponents.

The junta’s desperation to shut down every single critical reflection on the monarchy borders on a mental illness; it is a paranoia and an obsession.

_________

*One part of the latter report that struck us as laughable was the mention of (fraud) academic-for-sale Panitan Wattanayagorn, “adviser to Gen Prawit,” and quite capable of authoring a fake plot. In one part of the report this dolt is quoted as saying: “It [death threats] is not unusual and security agencies will respond to it…”. A couple of lines later, this: “He said assassination plots against government figures in Thailand are rare…”.





Things that make you think

15 01 2017

There lots of stuff that goes on in the junta’s Thailand that causes you to wonder and think about motivations and machinations.

PPT’s perusal of the Bangkok Post today produced two such moments.

The first Bangkok Post story had us wondering…

The first paragraph was pretty much palace propaganda-like, with the king reported as having “reiterated the importance of children, urging the government to enhance the education system as a key part of the country’s development…”.

Prayuth Puppetry

Who is the puppet?

That’s pretty standard. But then we learn that this is not the king speaking, but The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Speaking at a ceremony marking National Children’s Day, The Dictator becomes the voice of the king and explains an apparently close relationship:

“… the [k]ing told me many times to give priority to children both in terms of education and the country’s development. He also wants the government to enhance the discipline of Thai children, which will result in orderliness and knowledge development of Thai people….

That sounds a lot like Prayuth’s voice rather than the king’s.It does seem a little out of the ordinary for a premier to speaking for the monarch. Is Prayuth out of line? Or are he and the king best buddies?

Just for good measure, The Dictator invokes the dead king: “During the rest of my term in office, I want all Thais to do good to follow in the footsteps of the late monarch, who was always concerned about his people…”. That is more the invocation we are used to from prime ministers.

The second Bangkok Post story is a tale of two parties and had us thinking of double standards and political machinations.

The About Politics column reflects on the floods in the south.

(Naturally enough, these floods can’t be blamed on Yingluck Shinawatra was the case in 2011. This time the culprit is not a government or a party, but the weather.)

The story praises “recovery operations” and singles out the so-called Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation.

Who is the puppet?

Who is the puppet?

This is the “foundation” established by anti-democrat boss Suthep Thaugsuban, as a post-coup vehicle for the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and others who temporarily or momentarily left the Democrat Party in order to engage in street activism to prevent elections and bring down an elected government.

Unlike the Puea Thai Party and red shirts, the Democrat Party and the Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation have not been sued, harassed, arrested, jailed and suppressed by the junta. After all, they did a lot to foment the coup that brought the military thugs to power.

Suthep and other “key leaders of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) have sprung into action, including Chitpas … Kridakorn [Bhirombhakdi], Chumphol Julsai and Isara Somchai” have been active in the region.

Most important has been Witthaya Kaewparadai, described as “Suthep’s right-hand man in this operation.”

As is well known, Witthaya is a former Democrat Party MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat. This former MP is said to have been an asset in relief operation having “helped boost the efficiency of distribution of essential supplies.”

Like us, many readers will wonder at this. The junta doesn’t like “politicians” meddling in anything. But, then, Witthaya is also a “member of the coup-appointed [puppet] National Legislative Assembly (NLA),” and this “secures coordination among state agencies and the military which need a go-between to bring help to where it is needed.”

Readers are then told that:

Since the PDRC protests, Mr Witthaya has remained active in his constituency, but his focus has been on community work. He has founded a cycling club where members do the necessary legwork to keep fit and the brainwork by discussing problems facing their community. This cycling club is said to be the biggest in the region.

The reports goes on:Kissing soldiers

The Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation’s contribution to flood rescue and relief operations can be no less; most of the flood victims are the very same people who kept the group’s street protests going in Bangkok during 2013-2014.

In other words, the PRDC-Democrat Party are catering to their members and supporters.

Imagine what would happen if a former MP from Puea Thai who was also a red shirt was doing something similar in the north or northeast. Sedition charges would be pending!

We learn more about these double standards when the report states:

While the former PDRC leaders are out there working in flood relief operations, the Democrat Party which has a political stronghold in the region is helping quietly, staying out of the spotlight due to a political ban by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

But they are indeed working there, with the PDRC. An unnamed source says: “People think the PDRC and the Democrat Party are no different. It doesn’t matter who leads the flood relief efforts…”.

“Election” preparations and electioneering are permitted in the south. Indeed, the military and junta facilitate them.

Double standards? You bet.

These double standards are reinforced in another story, in the same column, about the problems facing Puea Thai.

The party has few resources left and former party MPs are complaining that they are being left to their own devices and resources, with little help from the party or the “party’s heavyweights.”

Party leaders are tied up in a myriad of legal actions – hundreds of them – brought by the junta.

The longer the junta delays an “election” – some now suggest 2020, only partly tongue-in-cheek – the worse it gets for Puea Thai. And don’t think the junta doesn’t know this. All the talk of cremations delaying the “election” or the king making changes will be used as excuses for no “election.” However, one thing the junta wants is for Yingluck Shinawatra’s case and related cases against Puea Thai to be concluded this year.

The junta believes these cases will cause the collapse of Puea Thai. Once that happens, the junta can better control the “election” outcome.





Sinking farmers

12 10 2016

The junta is now playing navies. It isn’t sinking ships, it is sinking farmers, all in the name of  protecting its Bangkok-based supporters.

Readers may recall that the giant 2011 floods were all blamed on Yingluck Shinawatra and her government. Some of those criticisms were fair, especially regarding initial coordination of agencies. Many were politicized attacks, essentially blaming Yingluck’s government for the weather.

The junta has been saying for a couple of months that floods were not likely to be a problem. This was narrowed to assure Bangkok and some of the industrial estates (flooded in 2011) that there was no likelihood of flooding in 2016.

In fact, there is widespread flooding this year, as there has long been in Thailand’s wet season. As in 2011, it is unfair to blame the junta for the weather. That said, the junta can be chastised for making stupid claims that there won’t be floods and for poor coordination and for its lack of concern for farmers.

The Bangkok Post: has decided that farmers in Ayutthaya can be flooded up to their necks as authorities “divert flood water in riverside communities to water-retention areas [sic.] to reduce the impact of the floods.” They mean reduce the impact for Bangkok and surrounding areas.

The flooding of rice fields to about 1.5-2 meters follows the “advice” of the king on how to flood farmers and protect Bangkok, called kaem ling.

Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has declared that “the government has tried its best to prevent run-off from the North from flowing into Bangkok.”

He “urged affected farmers whose farmland is being used for retaining flood water to understand the need to divert water into their paddy fields.” He seems to be telling them to understand that Bangkok and its people trump farmers, their houses, stock, crops and families. That is, after all, the political message to rural people since the coup.





Updated: Strangling the Puea Thai Party

25 09 2016

A series of reports at the Bangkok Post show that the military junta’s plans – implemented from before the 2014 coup – to destroy the Puea Thai Party are proceeding apace.

One Bangkok Post story states that a “government committee has concluded that Yingluck Shinawatra must pay 35.7 billion baht in compensation for losses from her rice-pledging programme from 2012-14.” That’s more than a billion dollars.

That may not be enough as the “military regime pursues several other cases against the former premier, including compensation for losses from the ‘poorly planned’ responses to the severe flooding in 2011.” After all, her brother is listed as being worth $1.7 billion, and the regime probably wants all of that or wants Yingluck in prison.

As the Puea Thai Party has pointed out, Yingluck is “still being tried in the Supreme Court in connection with the rice scheme,” making it “inappropriate to use administrative orders to demand compensation unless culpability is legally established first.”

If this manipulation of power to crush Yingluck is not sufficient, the regime has let it be known that she will likely “be prosecuted for failing to deal effectively with the 2011 floods…”. Such a case would not only be unprecedented but would require a remarkable investigative effort (except that finding truth and facts are not in the TOR for most of these witch hunts).

Another Bangkok Post has the Puea Thai Party pointing out that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has used Article 44 to authorize the “seizure, confiscation and auction of properties of those accused of being responsible for the [rice] scheme’s losses” while also “granting protection to officials involved in filing civil liability lawsuits against the accused.”

The Party states that the junta’s intentions are clear: “to implicate former prime minister Yingluck … in the huge losses the rice scheme incurred without following legal procedures.”

It seems the political writing is on the wall. The “big” parties – the (anti)Democrats and Puea Thai – are both doomed to be smaller and probably much smaller. The new “election” system means “the bigger the party, the more prone it will be to shrinking.”

The system will be rigged to produce weak coalition government that will allow the military junta to continue to be politically powerful and will probably allow a military premier.

The complex election system, combined with the cases designed to financially cripple the Shinawatra clan, ban several of them and their senior politicians and (perhaps) to imprison some of them, is a strangling of the party.

As with the “referendum,” the “election” will deliver what the junta wants.

Update: Readers will be interested to know that Thailand’s military dictator has declared that the 15 individual cases against Yingluck do not amount to a witch hunt. He is quoted as saying: “the statute of limitation in the compensation case expires in February next year, and said he gave no instruction to any agency to rush the order.” That’s not what the reporting of this case has shown.





WikiLeaks, Clinton and Yingluck

24 03 2016

WikiLeaks now has a Hillary Clinton Email Archive. Its pages states:

On March 16, 2016 WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive for 30,322 emails & email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was Secretary of State. The 50,547 pages of documents span from 30 June 2010 to 12 August 2014. 7,570 of the documents were sent by Hillary Clinton. The emails were made available in the form of thousands of PDFs by the US State Department as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request. The final PDFs were made available on February 29, 2016.

A simple search for “Thailand” produces 73 results, several of which seem barely relevant, with Thailand simply mentioned. PPT hasn’t been through all of these cables as yet.

One that has gained some social media attention, not least via a Facebook post by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, is about Yingluck Shinawatra, the 2011 floods and a visit by Clinton. It is originally from Karen Brooks and forwarded by Kurt Campbell, and dated 16 November 2011. Some interesting bits of this cable are clipped and included below.

Yingluck Clinton

On the politics of the floods:

To keep momentum, Yingluck will need to make changes in her team. Given the poor performance of the past two months, a cabinet reshuffle is a must do. Top of the list is Agriculture Minister Theera Wongsamut, who hails from the Chart Thai Pattana party – a coalition partner but at best a fair-weather friend. Not only has Theera been inept in his handling of the crisis since Yingluck took office (water management being part of his portfolio), but he also served as Agriculture Minister in the previous Abhisit-led government. He is thus seen (correctly) as guilty of either malice or incompetence (or both) for his failure to appropriately manage water levels at the country’s two biggest dams in the months preceding the inauguration of the Yingluck government – which greatly exacerbated the current crisis.

On Yingluck and her work:

She is tired…. Very tired. I saw her last night at her house at 11pm and she told me that she is up around the clock with very little support and a cabinet team that has proven weak (her words were less diplomatic) and unable to rise to the occasion. She said she always expected the job would be hard, but that learning everything about government, while managing. the complexities of the relationship with the palace and the military, while being slammed with a major national crisis – AND doing it all with a weak team – has taken its toll. Even so, she is determined and has fire in the belly. She emphasized that she had won an absolute majority for only the second time in thai history, and that she would not let the millions of thais who supported her down. If it means not resting until her term is over, so be it. She can handle it, she said, because she believes in what she is doing. She will make some changes in her cabinet in the coming weeks once the water has been drained, and then look forward to getting the A Team back in May of next year, when the ban expires on the 111 Thai Rak Thai politicians removed from politics by the courts in 2007 after the coup.

Yingluck on reconciliation:

She made a point of saying that she is ENORMOUSLY grateful that Sec Clinton is coming today. “It’s been six long years of turmoil in this country,” she said. “I’m determined to use my mandate to bring people together and foster reconciliation, like I said in the campaign. I’m working hard to win over the military and help them see they have a real place here without interfering in politics. I’m working hard to do the same with the palace. But let’s face it: democracy here is still fragile. We need the US engaged.”

On General Prayuth Chan-ocha and not bringing down the government (just then):

Yingluck tell me she has gone out of her way to work cooperatively with Prayuth, and Prayuth seems to have come to appreciate her sincerity and hard work.

On the relationship with the palace:

The Palace, similarly, has not shown any inclination to use the crisis to bring down the government. The King has given three audiences (made public) to PM Yingluck since she took office. (In the opaque world of the Thai monarchy, this is one key tea leaf to read.) Moreover, other members of the royal family have given the PM private audiences in recent weeks (not publicly known) – including the Crown Prince and two of the princesses. Perhaps most telling, however, is the recent appointment by the government of two palace favorites, Dr. Sumet [Tantivejkul] and Dr. Veerapong [Virabongsa Ramangkura], to the new reconstruction and water management committees. Sumet, who is a long time advisor to His Majesty and runs one of his foundations, would never have accepted the appointment if the King had not explicitly blessed the move. Two others on the water committee are similarly associated with His Majesty.

To be honest, PPT had not previously seen Virabongsa mentioned as a “palace favorite.”

On Thaksin Shinawatra and amnesty or pardon:

Yingluck told me big brother remains in a dialogue with the palace described as “constructive” and expressed hope that this would yield an amicable end to the five+ year drama of his exile – either through a royal pardon or through a parliament sponsored amnesty law, with support from the palace. This is, at best, a delicate dance, and any mishandling or miscalculation on Thaksin’s part could yet trigger another cycle of political drama here.