EC fails (again)

12 03 2019

Late on Tuesday, the Bangkok Post reported that an “investigation” by “Election Commission has found nothing wrong with Palang Pracharath’s fund-raising banquet…” back in December. This led  EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma to observe that there is “no reason to move for the [junta] party’s disbandment…”.

PPT expected nothing else from the junta’s puppet EC. However, what startled us was the “reason” for this decision, still to be formally reported to the EC by the “investigating” committee.

Jurungvith said the “commission’s investigation had not found any evidence a foreign party was among the donors.”

PPT’s collective memory may not always be accurate, but looking back through our posts regarding the banquet and linked media reports, we can find no mention of complaints that the banquet involved foreigners.

Rather, questions were asked about the size of “donations,” the involvement of state bodies and ministers, and the timing of the event.

Responding, one of the complainants, Srisuwan Janya of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution said:

We don’t know to whose petition the EC is responding in the interview. Our organisation has never asked whether foreigners had donated to the party….

Again, the EC has failed. It has failed the public by serving its masters.





Junta’s EC as tourists

6 03 2019

While the junta’s Election Commission has been doing little to maintain even a modicum of “fairness” in the junta’s election, it has found time for international tourism that has cost the taxpayer some 12 million baht.

Of course, the EC “defended the trips, saying that the members travelled abroad in order to inspect advance voting locations and ensure poll transparency…”, something it hasn’t managed in the country.

EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma is also reported to have cited Section 224(3) of the 2017 constitution as justification for the trips. That section reads:

where the result of an investigation or inquiry under (2) indicates, or an act is found with reasonable grounds for suspicion that an election or selection under (1) has not proceeded in an honest or just manner, or a referendum has proceeded in an unlawful manner, it shall have the power to suspend, withhold, rectify or cancel the election or selection or referendum, and to order the holding of a new election, selection or referendum in certain polling stations or every polling station….

If he is accurately cited, can we assume that there’s been cheating overseas?

Media “reported that seven commissioners took trips abroad, forcing the EC to postpone meetings this week, even though key issues were on the agenda.” They traveled to various places, “including including the United Kingdom, the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.”

Sounds like getting in for a bit of shopping while major issues confront the EC. Perhaps they feel better grabbing duty free rather than dealing with questions of how the Army, police and junta are acting in breach of the junta’s own election rules.





EC and double standards

22 02 2019

The Election Commission is under pressure from both its military masters and by those who want it to do its job as a neutral election manager. The junta has been using the EC for its own purposes, so it is those wanting the EC to do its defined job will be disappointed. The EC continues to evidence remarkable double standards.

EC chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong has tried to deny these double standards, insisting “there are justifications for handling two cases involving the Thai Raksa Chart Party (TRC) and the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) differently.”

Ittiporn did not appear to say how it was that the commission forwarded the Thai Raksa Chart “case to the Constitutional Court without any prior investigation.” He reckoned that the EC had “obtained enough evidence that the party committed an act deemed hostile to the monarchy.”

His “evidence” seemed to be the king’s command/statement/announcement that sated that “members of the royal family are above politics and cannot hold political positions.” Others disagree and note that the king’s “command” is not law.

Confirming double standards, EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma said the “EC has enough evidence in the TRC case” but  that the Palang Pracharath case “needs more time to gather evidence and investigate.”

In other words, back to square one. The EC decided on the Thai Raksa Chart case without investigation and when it comes to the junta’s party, “investigation” is glacial.





Further updated: Doubling down on Thaksin I

13 02 2019

With Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Raksa Chart Party in danger of dissolution for nominating Ubolratana as its PM candidate, the party and other Thaksin parties are well and truly on the defensive.

In an election that is now about loyalty, it is no surprise to see more royalist action against the party.

Khaosod reports that the party now stands accused of “inappropriately displaying” the king’s portrait as it tried to apologize for its previous “error.” So powerful is royalism in Thailand that this caused the police to rush to the party’s headquarters.

The police were hot on the trail of the party for displaying “a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn displayed with krueang thong noi, a flower arrangement only used to memorialize … royals.”

A senior officer and several policemen went to “Thai Raksa Chart headquarters to make sure the portrait was being displayed correctly.”

Who knew this was the job of the police?!? Drugs, murder, slaughter on the roads and making sure everyone displays the royal portrait with the correct flowers.

For royalists, this was just further evidence that the party must be destroyed as inappropriately pro-royal.

Update 1: The Nation reports that the Election Commission has already sent its case to the Constitutional Court, calling for the dissolution of Thai Raksa Chart.

Update 2: Reporting the same move by the EC, the Bangkok Post cites EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma as stating that: “The act [nominating Ubolratana] is deemed hostile to the constitutional monarchy…”. This statement will echo through the junta’s election. Whatever one thinks of the failed move by Thai Raksa Chart, the notion that the party can be dissolved without knowing the exact charges against it is weird, even for royalist Thailand. Party leader Preechaphol Pongpanit stated: ‘We still don’t have the details of the allegations or what’s being submitted to the court…. I still stand by our position that we’re innocent.” The EC did not even meet with the party leadership before making its recommendation.





Fallout from Ubolratana move

11 02 2019

If Thaksin Shinawatra really did “mastermind” the nomination of former Princess Ubolratana as prime ministerial candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart Party, then it goes down as a major failure, equivalent, perhaps, to the great amnesty fiasco that Yingluck’s government briefly “masterminded.”

Why anyone in the Thaksin camp thought this was a good idea is anyone’s guess. Most guesses are that somehow Thaksin and crew thought the king was on board. They seemed to think that on amnesty too. But even if this was the case, having a member of the royal family as a prime minister in a neo-absolutist regime is crippled (anti)democratic thinking.

The fallout is beginning to be seen.

For one, the monarch’s word – “command” – is now considered law:

Citing the King’s royal command issued late on Friday, the Election Commission (EC) did not include Princess Ubolratana’s name among prime ministerial candidates announced yesterday

It is shameful that a legal body does not or could not cite law in making its decision.

Even if one considers royalist Thitinan Pongsudhirak’s lame defense of the monarch and his announcement as “a reminder and a reflection more than an instruction,” the impact and interpretation in Thailand marks his interpretation as hopelessly flawed.

The Bangkok Post reports that “EC secretary-general Pol Col Jarunvith Phumma said that the EC’s announcement of prime ministerial candidates was final and there are no legal channels for parties to appeal the decision.”

Announcement=command=law. The balance in Thailand’s politics has moved even more into the palace. If that’s Thailand’s “new balance,” it is royally lopsided. Recall that coronation trumps election.

Second, the EC is investigating Thai Raksa Chart. The party’s executive is resigning in order to try and avoid dissolution.

If the party is dissolved, it is still unclear whether they can switch parties, but it could end up that all the pro-Thaksin parties, who many pundits considered the front runners in the election may be in a situation where they cannot compete in sufficient seats to garner the largest number of seats in the lower house.

The Post states that “the party may be dissolved and its executives could be banned from voting and running in elections for a minimum of 10 years, or even life…”.

If the party tries “to keep their MP candidates in the race with the party prepared to seek a royal pardon over its selection of the princess,” it is further consolidating royal control over politics.

Meanwhile, the move has unleashed the ultra-royalist and anti-Thaksin anti-democrats.

Third, with all the attention to Thai Raksa Chart, the junta’s devil party escapes the scrutiny it should be under.

There will be further fallout.





Limiting campaigning

23 01 2019

Even before the junta’s election date was announced, the military dictatorship and the Election Commission joined in issuing threats to parties campaigning for votes.

Both the Bangkok Post and The Nation reported a rant by The Dictator and on the intervention by the EC.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha continued the pantomime regarding his desperate desire to continue as Thailand’s dictator following the “election.”

he declared he would only “join a hard-working and selfless party…” and claimed to be awaiting an “invitation” to join such a party:

If I need to continue my work, I’ll need to be with some party…. However, that party has to be hardworking and dedicated and not trying to undo everything built and achieved [in the past four years].

He was clear that devil parties must be supported:

If I decide to stay on [in politics] to carry on the work, I will need to subscribe to a party which is dedicated, truly selfless and determined to change the country for the better, not one which seeks to undo everything this government has started. That would be a waste of time….

Responding to “criticism over some Cabinet members becoming members of the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party and refusing to give up their current posts,” The Dictator defended the devil party and his men with pathetic lies:

Prayut asked critics not to view as unfair the ministers’ meetings with voters during the mobile Cabinet sessions in different provinces in what is perceived as an attempt to steal a march over other politicians contesting in the upcoming election. The government only works for the public interest….

This defense of the junta’s cheating, The Dictator also warned other parties that the should not criticize his regime: “Please don’t say that the government didn’t do anything…”.

While his regime has been doling out billions in election-focussed “policy corruption” and policy plagiarism, The Dictator “warned politicians to consider whether the policies they were campaigning on were feasible, because of the strict rules and regulations on the budget and expenditure.”

The Dictator “revealed” that “he has received over 200 complaints about how some parties are preparing for the poll…”. He declared that parties would be investigated.

He further declared that any post-election government had to work for the junta’s legacy:

Future governments are free to improve on these policies and laws where needed but they should not abolish them…. The laws include those on budget expenditure and anti-corruption measures related to rice schemes.

While blaming “politicians” for the “problems” of the past, Gen Prayuth demanded that the junta’s policies and programs “should be carried on by the next administration.” His example the junta’s “flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme…. Gen Prayut said political parties should not try to woo voters who are against the regime by pledging to scrap the project.”

The Bangkok Post observes that the Election Commission “effectively joined in, issuing a statement claiming to outline what it believes parties are allowed and prohibited.” The statement, signed by EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma, set exceptionally high hurdles for parties in promoting election promises.

Palang Pracharath has already been disregarding such limits. But that’s not a shock as Jurungvith had earlier admitted that the EC was not investigating the main devil party. It seems a law unto itself. Well, unto the junta.





Updated: Whistling in the wind

19 01 2019

Human Rights Watch has released a call  – likely to fall on deaf ears – for the military junta to “fully restore democratic freedoms so that all political parties can fully and fairly participate in the electoral process…. But so far the junta just keeps persecuting critics, banning peaceful protests, and censoring the media.”

This call comes as HRW releases its annual World Report 2019. This one has the subtitle “Reversing Autocrats’ Attacks on Rights,” which has remarkable resonance for Thailand.

HRW may be whistling in the wind as their press release notes that “[i]n December, Thai authorities blocked access to the Human Rights Watch’s Thailand web page.” That additional effort at blocking has been noted by us as well.

While whistling in the wind, we should have been astonished to read that the Election Commission secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma has said “his office has yet to look into a fund-raising report from the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), which held a Chinese-style fund-raising banquet on Dec 19 last year.”

No surprise there. After all, despite a little arm wrestling over the royal decree, the EC remains a puppet agency.

This view of the EC as a sham seems confirmed in the same report, where secretary-general Jarungvith Phummais quoted (presumably accurately) saying the agency will “investigate” claims by “Democrat Party deputy leader Nipit Intarasombat that some politicians, with the aid of local authorities, are inducing voters to release their ID cards in exchange for 500 baht.”

This old-fashioned caper is “suspected” (really!!) of using the “citizenship cards to commit fraud in the general election.” But then Jarungvith is quoted as making a truly breathtaking claim: “the EC does not have enough information at this stage to say if the practice is considered an offence under election-related laws.”

If it isn’t, then renting ID cards will become standard practice. Who needs voters when you can rent their ID cards and vote for them.

And, finally – and this is all in a single report – Jarungvith

… declined to comment as to whether [The Dictator] Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha] and [government spokesman and Palang Pracharath Party member] Mr Buddhipongse [Punnakanta] should be allowed to continue to appear on weekly television shows in the run-up to the general election after complaints that the platform may give an advantage to certain parties.

The EC at work

It seems that any backbone that might have existed at the EC is now a gooey sludge at the bottom of a rancid canal.

But never fear, the EC is planning some real work. It says it is “prepared to launch a six-week campaign to raise awareness of the need for a free and fair election at more than 430 schools…” in Bangkok.

We are not at all sure which election they mean to promote as free and fair, but it won’t be the junta’s election, whenever that is held. And we can’t help wondering how many school children in those schools will be voting or renting out their ID cards.

Update: Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Thai Constitution Protection Organisation, has added to the problems the EC has in covering up for the junta’s election cheats. The Palang Pracharath Party now claims its big fundraising dinner didn’t raise 650 million baht. The Party “posted the list of donors at its head office on Friday,” showing a “total at 90 million baht…”.

Srisuwan went further, observing that “donations from three companies under the King Power group totalling 24 million baht might violate the political party law, which prohibits anyone from donating more than 10 million baht a year to a party and any juristic person from giving more than 5 million.” The companies are: King Power Suvarnabhumi Co Ltd and King Power Duty Free Co Ltd giving 9 million baht each and King Power International Co Ltd with a 6 million donation.

According to the Bangkok Post, its individual donors included: “Pongkavin Jungrungreangkij, a son of former transport minister Suriya Jungrungreangkij … with 5 million baht.” On the list of 24 companies donating were: Mitr Phol Co Ltd (6 million baht), Saijo Denki International Co Ltd (6 million), Sky ICT (5 million), TPI Polene (3 million), TPI Polene Power (3 million), Loxley (3 million), Khon Kaen Sugar (3 million ) and the Thai Cement Manufacturers Association (3 million).





Guessing game

17 01 2019

The guessing game about the junta’s “election” continues, although The Nation reports that The Dictator has finally actually stated that the 24 February date is off. Now everyone and his buffalo knew this, but Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has been reluctant to say it, fearing the palace and/or loss of face.

Then he babbled before stating something potentially rather significant. The babble was this: “We’re going towards full democracy.” That’s buffalo manure. For an analysis of why this is buffalo manure, see the op-ed by Zachary Abuza a couple of days ago.

The Dictator then said: “There will be an election no matter what…. [The election date] will be changed but still it will be by May 9.” We are interested in the “no matter what” bit. We are guessing that there’s pressure to delay everything until after the coronation. At the same time, with no royal decree, the junta seems to be grasping at rice straw and defining the constitution in a manner that gives it the most possible time in scheduling a rigged election.

Another report has Gen Prayuth declaring: “There will be an election before coronation…. We have to organize both things together, but we must give time to the coronation preparation first…”. Royalism trumps elections, even a rigged election.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post is reporting on a quiet arm wrestle between the Election Commission, the junta and the palace.

Before writing more, though, we have a response to a reader who asks whether it is the king or the junta holding things up. That reader wonders if a royal decree has been signed but that it is being withheld from publication in the Royal Gazette. Like everyone else outside the upper reaches of the dictatorship and the palace, we don’t know. However, it would seem that withholding the decree would both damage the junta and would amount to an act of lese majeste. So our guess is that the delaying is in the palace and that the junta’s bosses are fuming but hamstrung by their own royalism.

Back at the EC, it is reported that it “is highly likely to select March 10 as the election date as it has agreed that the 150-day deadline for the general election to be completed as set by the charter should include the poll results endorsement.” Of course, that would seem to contradict The Dictator’s assessment, so there’s a tussle going on, with the EC trying to get some clarity.

Another version, reportedly from a senior EC official talking to Reuters, is: “There are now two possible dates … March 10 or March 24…”.

EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma stated that EC “commissioners had agreed that the completion of the election process mentioned in the charter must include the poll results endorsement. This is the first time the EC has spelt out its stance on the issue.” It’s likely putting the EC in conflict with The Dictator.

Jarungvith, however, reconfirmed that “while the EC is authorised to set the poll date, the government is responsible for announcing the election. The EC is required to set the date within five days of the decree being published in the Royal Gazette.”

There’s no decree, so the arm wrestle continues.





The junta’s processing terminal II

11 12 2018

Just a couple of days ago, PPT posted about the Election Commission being flustered by criticism about reports that The Dictator was directing the EC on how ballot papers should be constructed. Several of its officials denied that The Dictator made any proposal, despite consistent reporting from sources who heard him speak in a meeting for political parties. The EC denied that the junta has manipulated the EC, which sounds like an admission of the fact. We noted that this ballot paper kerfuffle was reminiscent of the the recent constituency boundary controversy, where the EC did then it didn’t have boundaries ready.

We commented that there’s a pattern that suggests junta meddling and the more the EC fidgets, the more it looks like a collection of puppets. The only way out for the EC is to conduct its work transparently. We reckoned there was little chance of that.

Today we see that the EC is at it again, re-running its opaque “deliberations” on boundaries.

Yesterday, EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma “reiterated … that the EC has yet to decide on the format of the ballot papers and will listen to opinions on the issue from all involved.”

At about the same time, Nat Laoseesawakul, the EC deputy secretary-general, said the format will be discussed today and will “forward the proposal to the EC for consideration.” Yet at the same time he said that the “EC Office needs to prepare terms of reference [ToR] to find manufacturers. By early next week it should be settled…”. A TOR can only be written when the format is decided, so again the EC sows confusion. But confusion then becomes farce when he admits that the format alleged to have been proposed by the military junta is the format being sent to the EC:

It is information the EC Office will present to the EC for consideration. It doesn’t mean the EC has picked the format. We’re trying to cover all the possibilities. If we insist on printing the standard ballot paper only, do we have enough time to send the reserve ones if the first batch goes missing?…

Mr Nat said the proposed format of the ballot paper is unlikely to be against the law and that the EC will also discuss the management of reserve ballot papers with the Foreign Ministry.

So what’s happening. We think it is coordinated cheating. Readers may be becoming immune to this claim, but the whole election process is a massive fraud. The junta must be called out on every act of rigging and cheating.





On the junta’s senate

4 12 2018

The senate selection process belongs to the junta. This is why so few people “nominated.” To be selected, one needs to be a junta crony or one of its potential or actual political ally.

The Election Commission’s Jarungvith Phumma has said that just “7,210 people have applied to compete in the contest and the turnout is much lower than the EC expected.” It is stated that the EC expected at least 30,000 candidates. Another report has it that the EC had previously predicted “90,000 to 100,000 applicants from all over the country…”.

Confirming our view, “Chartchai Na Chiangmai, a member of the [puppet] Constitution Drafting Committee, said the low turnout could be because the candidates are not sure if they will eventually be picked by the regime.” And, many felt that the junta had already chosen its representatives for the senate. As Chartchai put it: “They [potential applicants] see no motivation for them to apply. They are sceptical [and see ] that in the end the NCPO [junta] may not appoint them…”.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that this “process” costs the taxpayer up to Bt1.3 billion.

The senate

An earlier Bangkok Post report explained that the junta is still in the process of setting up a secret committee to secretly consider the appointees for the senate.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the junta “will appoint between nine and 12 people to the committee that will oversee the selection of the 194 senators.” He revealed that few of these will “come from an open selection process as there might be too many applicants, which would make vetting their qualifications difficult.” Rather, the junta will choose.

One source at the puppet National Legislative Assembly is reported as saying “[p]otential appointees include the army’s top brass, political post-holders and businessmen who have close ties to Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha, his deputy [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwan, army chief [Gen] Apirat Kongsompong and NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai.” The senate is likely to look and behave like the puppet NLA.








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