More on elections and U.S. policy

9 02 2018

Yesterday we mentioned Gen Joseph F Dunford, Jr, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Department of Defense and how delighted he said he was that Thailand’s military dictator was babbling about “democracy.”

U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davies is now in on the act, but a little more nuanced in his approach. He is quoted as saying: “American policy remains much as it has been. We believe that democracy is the great way to keep working together…”. But nodding to the realities of working under the Donald Trump administration, he adds: “[Between] old and new administrations there will be a different emphasis put on issues … but I think for the most part, our relationship and priority will be balanced on strategic interests … and on our principles that will continue under any administration.”

In our words, a return to electoral politics in Thailand would be welcomed, but the reality is the White House doesn’t really care.

Davies made his comments at at an exhibition marking 200 years of Thai-US relations. Davies says that his favorite piece in the exhibition is a “golden cigarette case that King Rama VIII gave to former US president Franklin Roosevelt in 1945 to convey a covert message to Washington…”. Now, this is a Thailand-ism demanded by self-censorship. As the somewhat garbled report makes clear, it was the regent Pridi Phanomyong who dispatched the gift, with an OSS officer. The young king was ensconced in Switzerland.

Given the loathing for Pridi in the palace and royalist circles, this being the favorite piece may well be seen as an implicit poke at anti-democrats and military dictators.

While on dictators, The Dictator is quoted in the first report above:

“I insisted that we would move forward to democracy. The US also understands our necessity,” [General] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] said. “I also told the US that Thailand has its own problems. We’ll have to have measures to ensure the country becomes firmly democratic in the timelines,” he continued. “That could be designated by either me or by laws.”

To us that sounds like a declaration of ongoing dictatorship.





Black deals II

1 07 2017

It seems that if a diplomat is posted to Thailand, he or she is not inoculated against foot-in-mouth disease. This affliction is rife amongst the members of Thailand’s military dictatorship and it highly contagious.

The US ambassador appears to have caught it.

In a revealing story at the Bangkok Post, Ambassador Glyn Davies has decided to “shed light on US President Donald Trump’s invitation to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to visit Washington, saying people have a ‘misconception’ that Washington halted diplomatic relations with Bangkok following the coup.”

There’s no need to shed light on Trump’s invitation. He’s invited Prayuth and Philippines President Duterte, praising the latter’s murderous war on drugs. Everyone understands what Trump’s doing and that he feels better when cosied up with right-wing fascists. The only place he has made a claim for “democracy” is in rolling back Obama’s changes on Cuba.

And, Trump is demanding trade deals to even things up, so let death’s traders do their work.

Davies goes further, saying that he and presumably the administration in Washington have decided that the junta is civilianizing. As we said a very long time ago, that’s all the US wanted.

But to deny that “the US stance towards Thailand under a military government has changed recently, particularly after Mr Trump in April invited Gen Prayut to meet him at the White House” is a bit like the military dictatorship denying it uses torture. Both are fabrications and distort that thing known as truth.

Then Davies adds more on the military relationship with the junta, saying that “despite the past criticism of the military government, the relationship has continued as usual, citing the sale of military equipment to Thailand this year.”

Of course, the “as usual” bit is a gross exaggeration. But he’s been told that Trump wants to get back in Thailand, so Davies stuffs and garnishes his exaggerations: “Our military ties have been strong. We have sold almost US$1 billion (about 34 billion baht) worth of arms to Thailand just over the last ten years…”.

Ten years means since 2007. He then says the “Thai government bought Black Hawk and Lakota helicopters from the US after the coup.”

We are not sure this is accurate. We recall orders in 2009 and 2011, and deliveries in 2013 and then in August 2014. We are not sure that is a purchase of Black Hawks after the coup. We think the Lakota sale goes back to 2013, with deliveries after the coup. Readers can look up these and more at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

His claim that in “2017 alone, US$261 million worth of military deals are in the works…” is probably accurate, although “in the works” is elastic.

We are pleased that Davies clarified that the reduced cooperation and assistance after the military coup was just something to do with law and that it was a minor impediment.

Now he’s really sounding like the military dictatorship, saying: “Our laws state that when a civilian-elected government is overturned by a military coup, certain aid must stop…”. But that’s trifling says the ambassador: “a few million dollars of aid could not be compared with the kind of cooperation that has continued between the countries.” Yahoo! That law is nothing and we deal with dictators.

We all knew that, it’s in the DNA of the relationship between Thailand and the USA.





Dumb I

16 06 2016

Two stories in the media give us cause to pause. Here’s one of them.

The first story is at The Nation, and reports failed Democrat Party “leader” Abhisit Vejjajiva. Abhisit is best known for his tenure as premier boosted by military support and a judicial coup in 2008 and his government’s bloody murder of red shirt protesters in 2010.

In his statements following his meeting with US Ambassador Glyn Davies, he acknowledged that the junta’s referendum campaigning is biased. But he also appeared dumb and uninformed.

He’s reported as stating two rather dumb things. The first is that the US “will not interfere in the August 7 referendum since it is Thailand’s internal affair…”. Yet he then quotes Davies as saying “public participation was needed ahead of the referendum…”.

His second statement is bizarre as he “praised” The Dictator and self-appointed military Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha for “allowing the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship to set up an anti-fraud centre for the referendum as long as it did not break any laws.”

Is Abhisit a politician not watching any news and not reading newspapers? The UDD is being harassed and repressed.





Updated: West talks human rights, trains with Thai military

23 05 2016

The groups of aged women “demonstrating” at the US Embassy and demanding that Ambassador Glyn Davies be ousted from Thailand for commenting on lese majeste and human rights might suggest yet another junta-linked low point between the two former firm friends.

Behind the huffing and puffing though the USA and other Western states are dealing with the military dictatorship.

The Army Times reports that the US Army will send “soldiers from 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division … to the Asia-Pacific region to train with the Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian armies.”

Earlier, in 2015, the US’s Pacific Pathways exercises were conducted with “Mongolia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia and Indonesia.”

Pathways is said to be “about enhanced interoperability. It’s really about enhanced readiness…”. It is reported that the “next Pathways will kick off in June, with soldiers from 2nd Stryker Brigade…. The soldiers will travel first to Thailand for Hanuman Guardian.”

Meanwhile, the Australian government, which like the US has been critical of Thailand’s junta and its failures on human rights, is reported in The Diplomat has been co-hosting, with Thailand, a regional peacekeeping exercise known as PIRAP-JABIRU. From “9-20 May, over 100 participants from 22 Asia-Pacific militaries, police forces, and non-governmental organizations are involved in PIRAP JABIRU 2016 in Bangsaen, Thailand.”

Interestingly, while hosted by Thailand’s murderous military, “Australian Defense College Commander Major General Simone Wilkie [stated that] during the exercise participants are tested by realistic scenario-based problems that reflect contemporary United Nations operations, including how to protect vulnerable populations such as women and children, understanding peacekeepers’ rights and obligations under international and domestic law and how to maintain logistics support in austere environments.” He added that modern armies are involved in “a broad array of objectives including promoting good governance and human rights, providing humanitarian assistance and assisting in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants.”

It seems unlikely that the Thai military could adopt such principles and methods in its domestic activities. It prefers to rely on nepotism, corruption, torture and repression.

Whether the US, Australia and other Western countries recognize their own hypocrisy in dealing with an illegal junta and a murderous military is unknown.

Update: A Thai Embassy announcement in Washington DC points to training and equipment being provided to the Thai police. It states: “The New York City Police Department is set to give the Bangkok Metropolitan Police the CompStat computer program that helped ‘New York’s Finest’ dramatically reduce crime in the Big Apple since the 1990s, making Thailand the first country in Asia to receive this technology.”

We don’t want to suggest that Thailand’s police, known for botching investigations and using beatings and torture to extract “confessions” shouldn’t get more high-tech, but this report had us scratching our collective head. The NYPD has used CompStat since 1994, and it tracks crime by locality and was expanded as a tool for managament and accountability. The Thai police, however, say it was the “Erawan Shrine bomb attack in September 2015 spurred the Bangkok police to request CompStat.” Apparently because that event showed a lack of coordination. At the same time, it seems unlikely that CompStat is useful for such crimes.

According to critics, CompStat was introduced alongside major management and operational reforms, something the police bosses in Thailand have long resisted. We imagine that the Thai police will make use of the package for tracking political opponents and for making lese majeste crackdowns more effective. Given that crime and corruption is a feature of the Thai police, we wonder how CompStat will track that.





With a major update: Anti-democrats in a flap

16 05 2016

As expected, following US Ambassador Glyn Davies responded to reporters questions that got the military junta’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in an angry spin late last week, the response of the increasingly anti-American rightist royalists and other anti-democrats was expected.

Sure enough, according to Prachatai, they have gone bonkers, raging against the US Ambassador rolling out the usual shrill nationalist messages calling for Davies to be expelled.

This huffing, puffing and manure-rolling is apparently because the Ambassador reiterated that the State Department had expressed concern about the junta’s terrible human rights record and its manufacturing a lese majeste case against Patnaree Chankij.

Arthit Ourairat declared “Davies’s action … despicable and lacked diplomatic manner. He suggested that Thai government should send him back to the US in order to protect Thai monarchy’s dignity…”. We are not sure how the monarchy’s dignity was harmed, but that matters little to ideologues like Arthit. He is a former Parliament Speaker, a PAD funder who regularly appeared on the anti-democrat stage, as well as being president and owner of Rangsit University, where he funds and maintains a den of anti-democrats.

Like the dopey royalist rant by Justice Minister General Paiboon Khumchaya, Arthit babbles about Thailand being “a country with an older and greater culture than the US, [that] should be able to teach the US that by sending such a bad manner person to be an Ambassador is an insult to our country.” He wants Davies made persona non grata and expelled.

Taking up the royalist-nationalist cudgel was Former deputy spokesperson of Democrat Party Mallika Boonmeetrakool, who has a history of histrionic and neo-Fascist outrages. She” posted an image of Davies on her Facebook with a message that read ‘Get Out’.” The post has been widely shared among yellow shirts.

PAD and PDRC ideologue Chirmsak Pinthong declared that “Davies would only worsen US-Thailand relation[s].” He also took up the latest nationalist fashion of declaring Thailand socially and culturally unique, requiring the lese majeste law.

How such a draconian law is civilized is not expressed. But, then, that’s not the point when racists and nationalists flap their deformed right wings.

Update: According to the Bangkok Post, the military junta is also in a flap. Uncoordinated, contradictory and concocting things, the junta seems driven by the rightist rage and by yellow-shirted social media.

As usual, The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha is erratic, idiosyncratic and reflects his incapacity to understand much outside his hierarchical world of military posterior polishing. As a dedicated yellow-shirt and social media follower, he demands: “Is Thailand a US colony?”

Again revealing his insular perspective, Prayuth bleats: “The ambassador likely based his comments on general US democratic principles and information he gleaned from media reports…”. We imagine that he says similar things about Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Spain and the UK, all of which expresed concerns about the junta and its repression at the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.

While not a complete record of the event, a video of the Davies and Don meeting with the press is here:





Updated: Junta lost in international politics

14 05 2016

PPT has long observed that the junta is manned – and its almost all men involved – by a bunch of inglorious dolts who got to their positions in military and government, not through learning or skills in any arena other than in posterior polishing, mostly in the palace, but of other superiors as they gravitated to the top. Almost none of them have any capacity in governance or foreign affairs.

In foreign affairs, the junta’s record is lamentable. Most recently, its performance at the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was full of lies and hypocrisy. It has to be admitted that “defending” the junta’s record is like pushing piles of excrement up mountains. Yet even looking beyond human rights, the military dictatorship has shown itself incapable. Think of it s failures with the EU. Its fallout with the USA and even its problems with China (on the latter, the big deal was rail, and that seems gone).

In recent days, the junta and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs flunkies have been in a spin over the US and its relationship with the junta. The junta’s actions demonstrate its lack of diplomatic skill and its narrow-minded and bloody-minded approach to criticism. More broadly, its response to the US in recent days show how doltish the regime is.

The most widely reported incident is a tense and very public standoff between US Ambassador Glyn Davies and the junta’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai.

The junta became agitated when an AFP report that stated that the US had “condemned Thailand’s arrest of an activist’s mother [Patnaree Chankij] for allegedly insulting the royal family in a one-word Facebook post.”

This report was widely carried internationally and in Thailand. The junta became incandescent over the use of the word “condemn.” The National News Bureau & Public Relations propaganda site declared on behalf of the junta:

The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs has thoroughly reviewed the United State’s Department of State’s stance on Thailand’s Article 112 and Computer Crime Act and finally found that the US agency has not released any official statement on the matter.

The Foreign Ministry’s Information Department announced that the US Department of State’s spokesperson has not used the term “condemn” during a press conference as mistakenly reported by some news agencies.

Besides, the Information Department said the Thai government has affirmed that it respects the international principles of human rights and values all freedoms and that its actions have been taken only to maintain stability and unity in the Kingdom in the face of the country’s reform plans.

The last paragraph repeats lies and propaganda propagated at the UN.

The first paragraph is at best a deliberate mirepresentation or just another junta lie. US State Department officials have described  “grave reservations about the practice of using military courts to try civilians [and] … utilizing the lèse majesté laws in a way that is unprecedented…” and, after several years of not doing so, the Human Rights Practices Report for 2015 lists lese majeste victims as political prisoners.

The second paragraph is the main point of the report. The junta’s claim is that the word “condemn” was not used, and so the problem in the relationship can be ignored. In fact, the AFP report stated clearly the words used by the State Department:

“These actions create a climate of intimidation and self-censorship,” said Katina Adams, the State Department’s spokeswoman for east Asia and the Pacific.

“We are troubled by the recent arrests of individuals in connection with online postings, and the detention of Patnaree Chankij.

“The arrest and harassment of activists and their family members raise serious concerns about Thailand’s adherence to its international obligation to protect freedom of expression.”

That seems clear enough. Does this add up “condemn”? Various definitions suggest that condemn is a reasonable description of the US statement. Synonyms are: censure, criticize, castigate, attack, denounce, deplore, decry, revile, inveigh against, blame, chastise, berate, upbraid, reprimand, rebuke, reprove, reprehend, take to task, find fault with, give someone/something a bad press, etc.

Foreign Minister Don’s impatient intervention makes things far worse and would have observers believe that the junta is unconcerned about the US. Yet the junta does seem to have a propaganda problem with the deterioration of the relationship with the US. So much of a problem that it has had the official propaganda agency concoct a story of US understanding.

The agency “reports” that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “clarified to a representative of the United States that his administration complies with human rights principles and expressed gratitude for the country’s understanding of the Thai political situation.”

A reader could be confused by this claim. But who is this “representative”? The report states:

Adm Dennis Blair, Chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA, paid a courtesy call on Gen Prayut at Government House for a discussion on several topics. Deputy Government Spokesman Maj Gen Weerachon Sukontapatipak, who accompanied Gen Prayut during the meeting, revealed that the premier assured Adm Blair of the government’s adherence to the law and human rights principles when making arrests and taking judicial proceedings against law breakers. He insisted that citizens are guaranteed full freedom of expression within the legal framework.

As for the national reform process, Gen Prayut confirmed that general elections will take place in 2017 as stipulated by the roadmap. He also gave details on the guidelines for various areas of reform and said any advice from the US would be welcome.

Maj Gen Weerachon pointed out that Adm Blair has extensive experience both in the military and the administrative branch and thus already has a clear picture of Thailand’s reform process. During the discussion, Adm Blair showed his awareness of political developments in Thailand as well as the reasoning behind the military takeover of the administration. He also expressed his confidence that the Prime Minister will be able to overcome all impending challenges.

Admiral Blair is not a representative of anything other than the privately-funded Sasakawa Foundation. He has no official role.In fact, Blair “resigned” from the Obama administration after “a tenure marred by the recent failures of U.S. spy agencies to detect terrorist plots and by political missteps that undermined his standing with the White House.”

And what standing does his Sasakawa Peace Foundation have? A good place to begin is the Wikipedia page for Ryoichi Sasakawa, its founder. On his death, an obituary in Britain’s Independent newspaper referred to him in these terms:

The last of Japan’s A-class war criminals has died, a nonagenarian multimillionaire. In the land where most people do their utmost to pass unnoticed, Ryoichi Sasakawa stood out as a monster of egotism, greed, ruthless ambition, political deviousness and with a love of the limelight equalled in his time only by his fellow right-winger Yukio Mishima.

He founded Japan’s fascist party before WW2 and remained an extremist rightist and hardline nationalist even after he was released after the war. His postwar reputation and wealth owed much to gambling and rightist connections, with some claims of links with organized crime and the CIA.*

A failed administrator, unrepresentative of anything other than a Foundation of dubious origins in the Japanese far right, seems a perfect fit for Thailand’s rightist military dictatorship. Certainly, as “diplomats,” the junta is a failure that misrepresents its activities internationally and nationally.

(*There is a curious link between Sasakawa and the monarchy, following this list of links: here, here, here and here.)

Update: Above we mentioned the problems the junta had had with the Chinese on the much-hyped railway project. Interestingly, yesterday The Nation had a story stating that the “project back on track.” What this seems to mean is that “Thailand to be sole investor.” This is quite a different project than that which was touted at a propaganda-like “ground-breaking” ceremony and signed MOU back in December 2015.





“Reforming” Thailand is killing it

15 12 2015

Deutsche Welle has a depressingly reasonable article about Thailand’s current descent into military-driven disaster. It begins:

Since it seized power last year, the Thai military has been ruling the country without success. While Thailand finds itself increasingly isolated internationally, criticism of any sort is punished with harsh sentences.

The article initially concentrates on the attacks on US ambassador to Thailand, Glyn T. Davies, and “the growing chasm between the two sides [Thailand and the US]…” before moving on to the rash of horrendous and harsh lese majeste charges brought against Thais.

On the investigations of Davies, an “analyst” is cited as saying: “Even Thai diplomats and foreign ministry officials are shocked…”.

Somehow we doubt this. The junta has been promoting attacks on the US, viewing it as somehow conspiring with Thaksin Shinawatra to bring down the monarchy. As bizarre as this sounds, this discourse has been strong among royalist groups on social media.

We do agree that a “probe against the US ambassador would have been unthinkable two or three years ago. And the current police investigation against the US diplomat would be unimaginable without backing from the highest levels of the military leadership…”.

It is true that the junta has a “strong penchant for deepening ties with China.” The explanation is that “[t]here is a faction within the military that benefits hugely from the relationship with Beijing, and it is apparently seeking to sabotage a rapprochement with the US…”. The Dictator is mentioned as promoting ties with Beijing.

Domestically, the pressure on the military is growing. The report points to Corruption Park. It is observed that the “case is particularly sensitive, the expert says, because it strikes at the heart of the military’s legitimacy to rule the country.” This is because the military has identified the corrupt as elected politicians. Now the military “is also mired in graft scandals.”

The report observes that the “military government’s performance since it seized power 19 months ago has been grim.” The “economy is in tatters” and political “polarization in the society hasn’t ebbed…”.

A journalist says “Thailand is frozen in time…”. It is actually worse than this. Thailand is going backwards at a very rapid pace.

According to the report, part of the reason for “standing still” has to do with succession. DW observes that the king and “the royal household remain politically influential, even though the country is officially a constitutional monarchy.” It says that:

The royals exercise their clout, on the one hand, through the Privy Council, the king’s personal advisory board which is composed of former military leaders as well as influential politicians, among others.

On the other hand, there is the Crown Property Bureau, which manages the real estate properties and investments of the Thai monarchy running into billions of dollars.

Another analyst says all of these failures and repression mean that there is “growing discontent among Thais…”. Increased repression may reflect this: “The military is attempting to strengthen its hold on power by spreading fear…”. The DW report suggests that “a return to political normality, and to democracy, is postponed indefinitely.”

The military junta’s “reforms” are leading to repression, royalism and the submerging and squashing of ordinary Thais and their aspirations. The country is a failed state and the only way out is the ousting of this ridiculous and failed regime.