Shaky regime

17 06 2019

Facing legal challenges that can only be pushed aside if remarkable double standards are applied in the judicial system, the junta-spawned government-to-be is in a spot of bother that could become a major threat to the regime the junta is trying to put in place.

Of course, legal double standards have been the norm for much of the time since the 2006 military coup, so nothing can be ruled out. However, if the 41 MPs currently being challenged for media shareholdings on which the Election Commission and Constitutional Court moved with lightening speed when Future Forward members were involved, are laundered by those institutions, then the junta’s regime-in-the-making will be in serious trouble (except with the rusted-on yellow shirts and other anti-democrats).

A point to note, as pointed out by the linked story is that these cases should not be compared with that of Future Forward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (except perhaps on the speed with which his case was processed). Rather, the comparison should be with disqualified candidate Phubet Henlod, a Future Forward candidate in Sakhon Nakhon’s Constituency 2. His candidacy was withdrawn by an order of the Supreme Court’s Electoral Affairs Division on March 19 because he was a partner-manager of a company, Mars Engineering and Service, which registered as perhaps, one day, having an interest in the media business.

If, as Wan Noor claims, the junta’s regime is in trouble, what might happen. Readers will know that PPT doesn’t engage much in crystal-balling, but there is another story that offers some things to consider.

Gen Apirat

It will come as no surprise that a source said to be close to Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha states that The Dictator will “rely on the unity of the armed forces, which have done a good job over the past five years in backing him.” If Gen Prayuth does become Defense Minister, then he will work closely with rabid royalist and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong.

The anonymous source, reckons that Gen Prayuth “is highly unlikely to face any coups.” Not only has Gen Apirat been a member of the junta, but his  “allegiance and support for Gen Prayut” has been strong. The source also mentions that “internal structural changes — in which key units for coup-making are transferred — [mean] any military intervention is almost ruled out.”

For PPT, that last point is unlikel;y to prevent a coup if the Army commander ordered it. But all of this seems beside the point. What is more likely is a coup in support of Gen Prayuth if his government is unstable and unable to work as if it is a junta.

The story continues and observes that Prayuth’s “civilian” government “will depend on the army’s Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), which has the resources and the Internal Security Act to enable it to continue the kind of repression that has gone on over the past five years. The source added that “military tactics will be deployed to make the Prayut administration stay in power as long as possible and help him prepare for the next round of elections.”

We are already seeing that thuggishness used against opponents.

To keep his government in place via parliament, “[c]abinet reshuffles, money and lawsuits are also on the table.” Don’t rule out military threats; these have been used extensively in the past, including during Gen Prem Tinsulanonda’s government, when senior politicians like Kukrit Pramoj were intimidated.

What’s missing in this discussion – of course! – is any consideration of the palace. Gen Prayuth must work especially hard to satisfy and satiate King Vajiralongkorn. If he fails in this, he’s dead and so is his government (if he ever forms it).





New queen, new positions

16 06 2019

The royal couple may never be in Thailand all that much, preferring Munich, Tutzing and Zurich, but that doesn’t stop the royal tank grinding on.

The Bangkok Post reports that the king has “commanded” – oh, so feudal! – that six royal agencies be placed under new queen Suthida:

Suthida in the uniform, earrings and makeup of a General

The six agencies are Her Majesty Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother’s Private Secretary Division; Her Majesty Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother’s Royal Household Division; Supplementary Occupation Programme Division; Sirikit Institute; The Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Technique of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand; and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother’s ladies-in-waiting.

With Sirikit incapacitated for several years, this is generational change but it also represents the rise and rise of Vajiralongkorn.

Suthida also carries an multi-syllable name, Bajrasudhabimalalakshana. Quite a change from the family name Tidjai or even from the previous Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya.

Showered with “honors” and having moved up from second lieutenant to full general in just six years of military “service,” she holds military command positions with the Royal Thai Aide-de-camp Department and the large force that “protect” the king and royal family.





Deep harassment for the monarchy

13 06 2019

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have released a report that must be read in full. “Silent Harassment: Monitoring and Intimidation of Citizens during the Coronation Month” is a brave and important account of how royalism is enforced.

Of course, there are many loyalists and royalists in Thailand, with the most fanatical ever eager to harass, attack and slander. But this is a report of how perceived “opponents” are identified and repressed.

Here, we simply quote some bits of this seminal piece of work on “violations of personal freedom through constant monitoring and intimidation by state authorities … [conducted] in secret throughout the course of the [coronation events” for King Vajiralongkorn.

Authorities involved in harassing included “police, military, and special branch police…”. They “identify” groups categorized as “target groups” or “monitor groups” and “track their movements and restrict their political activities…”.

TLHR reports at least 38 instances “of monitoring and intimidation…”. In addition, activists have also been harassed.

In fact, “the groups of people being monitored during this period were quite diverse, as they had not necessarily previously expressed anything about the monarchy.”

The harassment has included home visits by authorities who ask about travel plans, take photos and are seen by other family members and neighbors. They are:

warned by the authorities not to do anything during the coronation period. Some were threatened by the police and told that if they did not comply, they would be handed over to the military and that the military might “abduct” them. In some cases, if the wanted person was not home the authorities talked to his/her family member instead.

Monitored groups get more regular harassing visits and are tracked and followed. For some “special” individuals, the harassment is continuous and involves family and harassing phone calls often from an officer assigned to trail and monitor. Former Article 112 prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk found his residence monitored around the clock. On 5 May 2019, activist Akechai Hongkangwarn revealed that “police took him to the cinema in order to keep a close watch on him all day.”

All were warned not to do or say anything during the coronation period.

Vigilantes were also at work, on the internet, tracking “people who posted their opinions about the coronation online” and reporting them to the authorities.

Royalist Thailand in 2019 is a dark and fearful place.





Don and The Washington Post

12 06 2019

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai is a junta clod, given to defending his bosses and his and their anti-democratic politics. He’s been at it again, belatedly rising to the bait at The Washington Post.

He is reported to have “dismissed an editorial piece run by the Washington Post which suggested the United States hold back on resuming diplomatic ties with Thailand…”.

Noting that despite Thailand having “been a major non-NATO ally of the United States since 2013,” the WP observed that “for five years, the country’s military has been denied U.S. aid because of the coup it carried out against a democratically elected government.” It argued against resuming full military cooperation: “The leader of the resulting junta, Prayuth Chan-ocha, has now managed to have himself installed as the prime minister of a nominally elected civilian government, and his regime and some in the Pentagon are hoping for a full restoration of relations. They shouldn’t get it.”

The small amount of military assistance that Thailand got before the 2014 coup was automatically “cutoff … as [a] consequence of a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act that bars military cooperation with countries where an elected government has been ousted by a coup.” Observing that the “ban can be lifted if the State Department certifies there has been a restoration of civilian democratic rule.”

The WP then points out that “Prayuth’s confirmation as prime minister on Wednesday was less an exercise in democracy than a crude mockery of it. It followed a grossly unfair election campaign from which some opponents of the regime were banned and others were hounded with criminal charges.” It adds that the:

new constitution gave the military a huge advantage: an appointed, 250-seat upper house empowered to participate in the election of the prime minister together with the 500-seat lower house. Such is the unpopularity of the charmless Mr. Prayuth, however, that he almost lost anyway. After the March election, an opposition coalition appeared to have won a majority in the lower chamber, while the military’s party won fewer than the 126 seats it needed to confirm Mr. Prayuth.

The result was what the WP correctly identifies as:

… another orgy of ma­nipu­la­tion. First the election commission changed the rules for apportioning seats after the vote, with the result that the opposition lost its majority and 11 tiny parties were each awarded one seat. All promptly endorsed Mr. Prayuth, giving him — not by coincidence — the votes he needed. The regime picked up other support by having the courts disqualify some opposition members — including the most popular opposition leader. It reportedly offered bribes equivalent to millions of dollars to deputies to switch sides.

Given that Gen Prayuth now has a “fragile coalition of 19 parties,” the WP sees this is doing little more than “further empoweri[ng] the military and Thailand’s erratic king, who has been using Mr. Prayuth’s regime to persecute his enemies, several of whom have been murdered or abducted in neighboring Laos.”

Of course, with the Trump administration in the White House, it “has not hesitated to collaborate militarily with gross violators of human rights, such as the regimes of Egypt and Saudi Arabia,” so it might be expected that it would easily cosy up with the illegitimate regime in Thailand. But the WP reckons that any “State Department certification that Thailand’s government now can be called civilian and democratic would trample a law Congress enacted precisely in order to deter what the Thai military has done.”

Weakening in its argument, the WP acknowledged that should “the administration wish… to restore some cooperation, it … should do so gradually and in exchange for tangible human rights concessions; and it should recognize that a return to democracy remains to be accomplished in Thailand.”

Don (clipped from Bangkok Post)

Don said what should be totally obvious, but that he, as a dedicated authoritarian forgets: “The editorial does not represent the US government’s official view…”. He went on to say that “several countries have congratulated Thailand on its return to democracy and for hosting the Asean Summit this month.” We have no idea how the two are related and we have to say that we have not read of such congratulatory messages.

Don then went full alt-Thai, saying “some foreign media outlets are often based on ‘biased’ information provided by opponents of the Thai government.” Such bogus claims are drawn straight from the conspiracy claims of yellow shirts and their foreign alt-media allies.





Updated: Assassins and other thugs

9 06 2019

PPT has posted a lot on the most recent tactics employed by the military junta in silencing opponents: murdering them and bashing them.

We can be pretty sure that these gruesome murders and repeated assaults are the work of the regime and its associated thugs because it does nothing to investigate the attacks. That some activists were reported as extradited to Thailand and have then gone missing also suggests high-level collusion with the regime on enforced disappearance.

The reason for these murders and attacks is to frighten and silence political opponents and critics of the monarchy.

In recent weeks, the international media has taken up these stories and especially those associated with the radical band Faiyen.

Over the weekend, a syndicated report in Australian newspapers on these events and their links has been widely circulated on social media. “They sent an assassination squad: Thai exiles speak of life in fear” by Michael Ruffles is well worth reading. One particular point, by Faiyen band member Worravut “Tito” Thueakchaiyaphum was striking:

I am not a criminal, and thinking differently about the monarch is not criminal. Criticising the monarchy should not be a death sentence….

We are not criminals. We want our struggle to be known internationally. This is a liberty and freedom people should have to think differently. We hope the brutality and barbaric acts of the Thai junta will be condemned.

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch is also quoted:

They are [seen to be] enemies of the palace….

There’s no evidence because there’s no investigation….

Laos has responded as if nothing has happened. What has made them turn a blind eye? When the bodies appeared it should have been a red light. What happened? Nothing.

All the combined signals, even though there’s no clear evidence, suggest someone significant enough to put them under the rug. It has to be someone really powerful to influence authorities in two countries.

Royalist Thailand, under a military junta, is increasingly lawless. The use of violence is likely to continue under a shaky government led by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha who will rely heavily on the king for maintaining his “new” regime.

Update: Read Human Rights Watch on the recent attacks on junta critics. It urges Thai authorities to “urgently and impartially investigate [these] assaults…”. It also reveals that the regime is ignoring these attacks: “Police told Human Rights Watch that security cameras in the area were either broken or blocked by trees, so they have no footage of the assailants…”. Even if there was, the police would do nothing. Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director, makes the obvious point: “The failure of Thai authorities to seriously investigate these assaults both encourages future attacks and suggests a possible role by officials.” We suspect that this is a preview of the way the junta-cum-Palang Pracharath plans to “manage” its regime.





Does parliament matter?

9 06 2019

That may seem like an odd question given that there was a first election in eight years not that long ago. But it’s 11 weeks since that election and the country still doesn’t have a government resulting from that election. And, that election was rigged, even if the result was not exactly what the junta planned and hoped.

Then there’s Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, who now claims to have been anointed by a parliament that he scorns by not bothering to deal with, probably something that will probably be common going forward, if “forward” is the appropriate word for the troglodyte regime and its spawn.

Most symbolic of the deep, dark trench that has been scoured by the monarchy-military regime, trying to excavate a politics that was meant to have been buried in 1932, is the homelessness of parliament. The previous parliament house has been acquired by King Vajiralongkorn before the new parliament house has been completely built.

A story at The Nation adds more information on the new parliament house. Not that long ago the public was told that the king’s takeover of the land and building would mean that parliament would remain homeless until the middle of next year. Now, it seems, “the current completion date leaning towards the end of 2020.” The date remains rubbery. It could be that parliament remains homeless well into 2021 or even longer.

As The Nation says, “In the meantime legislators will continue meeting at various large venues around Bangkok as needs dictate.”

While the new parliament building is heralded as a splendid piece of architecture, the building for the people’s representatives is also built with the monarchy in mind – indeed, a special royal functions hall – and will also house, for now, the unelected swill of the junta’s Senate.

Gen Prayuth is hoping that parliament doesn’t matter all that much, but the electors have (repeatedly) shown it does matter (even if rigged). Their votes have presented The Dictator with a nopposition that he can’t simply ignore, harass, jail or silence with the ease afforded by Article 44 and military power.





Faking it

7 06 2019

The Bangkok Post reports that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his minions are claiming some kind of democratic process and mandate from the rigged election and the even more obviously rigged vote for The Dictator as premier.

Deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak conveyed Gen Prayuth’s buffalo manure babbling that Gen Prayuth, the political crook who rigged both votes, “stressed that the majority votes first came from House of Representatives and then were combined with the votes from senators, creating a total of 500 votes. This goes along with a conventional rule…”. This seems to mean that Gen Prayuth is claiming to have been democratically elected.

Of course, this is utter nonsense, but the general has always craved the opportunity to make such a (banal) claim. Like a babbling but loyal dolt, The Dictator “promised to do his best for the country, religions, the monarch and the people.” We are not sure how anything is different from yesterday or a week ago, but there it is. As usual he demanded loyalty and order.

For a more realistic assessment of the rigged election and the rigged vote for premier, try the editorial at Khaosod, “Prayuth’s PM Victory is a Sham” or the Bangkok Post’s editorial “This is not democracy.”

The Khaasod piece is particularly good as it lists many of the efforts by the junta to rig the election and Thailand’s political system.

It gets more dangerous now as the irritable general seeks to ignore parliament or to buy off MPs while his minions use violence against opponents. Prayuth will need to rely heavily on the king’s support, so look for all kinds of ingratiation and a king with a big appetite.