When the junta rigs elections I

15 10 2018

What happens when the military junta is rigging an election? PPT has had a heck of a lot of posts on this already. Even so, we think it time to begin a series of posts.

One thing that junta has done is arranged a series of puppet organizations that are sometimes inaccurately referred to as “independent.” They are not independent of the junta. Indeed the reason persons get appointed to such puppet outfits is because of loyalty to the junta and those around it.

The Election Commission is one of these puppet organizations.

EC secretary-general Pol Col Jarungvith Phumma has “explained” that the EC warned the Future Forward Party against receiving contributions from supporters. In doing this, it was working for the junta.

Jarungvith now “clarifies” that “[p]olitical parties are allowed to receive donations…”, BUT the parties “need to seek approval from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)…”. That’s the junta.

The receiving of contributions is considered legal by the Revenue Department and under the organic law on political parties. But none of that trumps the military junta.

So, in the wash-up, no party is permitted to accept funds or raise funds WITHOUT the junta’s permission. Rigging? You bet! A dependent EC? You bet!

As it turns out, some the FFP’s revenue was not from contributions but “from souvenir sales…”. Presumably they need junta permission for that too. (In fact, FFP now says it only received funds from the sale of products and membership fees.)

Jarungvith added that “parties that wish to seek donations can seek permission from the NCPO through the EC…”.

In essence, the EC is the junta’s processing terminal on rigging the election.

As part of that, that the EC “has set up tambon democracy promotion centres to boost public understanding about the democratic system ahead of the polls…”. We have no idea what that means, but we guess that, as a junta processing terminal on rigging the election, then there’s likely to be a promotion of the junta’s version of (non) democracy.





Punked

8 10 2018

Some days ago, we posted on an upcoming punk rock concert to “seethe against the junta.” None of us from PPT went along, so we were interested to see a Prachatai report on the event. (We also note that Prachatai has been very quiet in recent months.)

It seems some 20 police officers “went to close down the punk concert … at The Overstay, Charan Sanitwong, on 21 September, on the grounds that it was a political event and permission had not been requested from the authorities.”

The concert called out the junta and the junta-loving slitherers among “personalities” like the group BNK48.

The punk’s Facebook page has more than 10,000 followers.

The junta’s police thugs demanded to see the business license for the venue, took photos and checked ID cards of participants and journalists, and generally oppressed.

The event was cancelled.





Updated: 6 October 1976

6 10 2018

PPT waited a few hours before posting our tribute and remembrance to the victims of royalist-rightist violence  in 1976. We waited because we wanted to link to any stories we saw in the English media. So far, we have seen one at the Bangkok Post, about an event at Thammasat University. We were also reminded of the website launched a couple of years ago from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, and established and maintained as an archive about the massacre of 6 October 1976.

We draw on our post from last year as a way of recalling those terrible events and the loss of so many lives.

On this day in 1976, royalists and rightists were mobilized with and by the police and military in a massacre of students and others they had decided were threats to the monarchy. With claims of lese majeste and communists at work, these “protectors” of the monarchy and royal family engaged in an orgy of violence, killing, injuring and arresting thousands. Central to this royalist rage was the then crown prince, now king, Vajiralongkorn.

For a radio program on the events, listen to the BBC’s Witness story on the October 1976 events in Thailand, with  archival audio footage of reporting from the time and Puey Ungpakorn, and a present-day interview with Thongchai Winichakul. Read Puey on the terrible events by following the links here.

The king and the royal family fully supported the massacre at Thammasat University.

In remembering this massacre in the name of the monarchy, we are reminded that the current military dictatorship bears many of the characteristics of the dictatorship that resulted from the murderous events of 6 October in 1976.

Thanin Kraivixien was a dedicated fascist judge who served the king. His government was established to turn back the political clock and established a 12 year plan to do this. Today, four years of military dictatorship is meant to be followed by 20 years of rewinding under military, royalist and rightist tutelage.

Mercifully, Thanin’s extreme authoritarianism only lasted a year but military-backed rule continued until 1988, first with General Kriangsak Chomanan as premier. He was replaced by the more reliable royalist posterior polisher, General Prem Tinsulanonda. Even after 1988, when Gen Prem was seen off, he retained considerable political influence as he moved into the Privy Council and he has repeatedly supported military coups. His support for the current dictatorship has been given several times.

The current military regime remains exceptionally prickly about this event of 1976. And justifiably so in that military fingerprints are all over one of Thailand’s worst massacres of civilians. So it is that last year Khaosod reported that a film about the event was prevented from being screened on the anniversary. By the Time It Gets Dark or ดาวคะนอง is a 2016 film directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong.

The only good military regime is the one that has been defeated. Until Thailand’s military dictators and military dictators are defeated, the country remains in a recurring pattern of political crisis and darkness.

Update: We should have mentioned the excellent account of the 6 October massacre and associated events in a story at the Los Angeles Review of Books by Suchada Chakpisuth and translated by Tyrell Haberkorn.





Junta-ed for a generation

30 09 2018

In line with the junta’s plans to continue to drive politics into the future via military domination, the Bangkok Post reports that The Dictator “has leapt to the defence of the government’s 20-year national strategy, saying he would not let any politicians scrap the plan that is designed to direct the country’s long-term development over the next two decades.”

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha threatened several political parties: “Several parties said if or when they become the government, they would scrap the national strategy. They will bring the country to its knees…”. The Dictator demonstrated no comprehension of electoral democracy, asking, “Will the people accept this? [He means the military and other anti-democrats.] That’s impossible. This is your avenue, your path you have to pursue if you want progress…”.

He seems to have forgotten/neglected the fact that most of the so-called plan was devised in secret by the military and other anti-democrats. He threatened: “future governments will not stray off course…”. In fact, the junta has made the so-called strategy “legally binding for future governments to fine-tune develop­mental policies, and ensure their budgets are aligned with it.”

There can be no future government that is not a coalition partner with the military and other anti-democrats. Even if there’s a political miracle and the junta’s parties are defeated, the “victors” are junta-ed for a generation.





Promoting loyal dullards and political allies

29 09 2018

In a military dictatorship, where The Dictator and sundry minions want to rule for the foreseeable future, it pays to be onside, to posterior polish with vigor, pay for links or to have family connections.

Readers may recall that we mentioned Big Joke some days ago. Best known by this nickname, Deputy tourist police chief Surachate Hakparn has demonstrated that he is a thug and a fool.

In fact, a perfect fit with the military junta.

It is reported that the Big Joke will “become the new Immigration Bureau (IB) commissioner in the upcoming annual police reshuffle.” Why? Well, mainly because he’s a thug closely associated with the Deputy Dictator, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

The Police Service Commission recently met “to deliberate the [police] reshuffle list involving officers in positions ranging from commanders to deputy commissioners general.” Gen Prawit chaired the meeting.

National police chief and junta minion Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda declared that “all” attending the meeting “had decided on promoting Pol Maj Gen Surachate due to his achievements.” His thuggishness, his demonstrated lack of capacity for thinking and his ability to posterior polish are what matter for the military junta. (Any ability for independent thinking will rule one out.)

Being a senior policeman more or less guarantees huge wealth. Who can forget Pol Gen Somyos Pumpanmuang? When the junta appointed cops to the puppet National Legislative Assembly, the average declared wealth for the police top brass was a whopping 258 million baht. No one investigated this unusual wealth as the junta has power and the National Anti-Corruption Commission is a junta lapdog.

Big Joke has been Gen Prawit’s personal lapdog assistant spokesman for a month. Conflicts of interest, nepotism, favoritism, and so on mean nothing to the lawless junta.

(Recall the way the Yingluck Shinawatra was pilloried for transferring an officer who was considered a political problem. The junta never faces such opposition or even criticism for all its promotions, transfers and favoritism.)

Meanwhile, The Dictator “has dismissed claims Phalang Chon Party leader Sontaya Kunplome’s appointment as mayor of Pattaya is a political ploy to ensure his return as premier.”

Another lie. Everyone in Thailand knows exactly what Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is doing, but he denies the obvious. Sontaya is there to make huge wealth – as his family has long done through its mafia-like operations – but mainly to ensure a political loyalist is in place when The Dictator becomes The (selected) Dictator.

Gen Prayuth may “dismiss … accusations that Mr Sontaya was being ‘rewarded’ for supporting Gen Prayut’s return as prime minister after next year’s general election,” but that’s the game. Recall that Sontaya’s dad, a convicted felon and dark influence, got extra special treatment from The Dictator, creating the patronage relationship. A previous relationship is discussed here.

Interestingly, Gen Prayuth affirmed his long-term relationship with Chonburi’s dark influences: “I have known many people in Chon Buri long before [becoming prime minister]…”.

We guess Big Joke has a relationship too, not least because the illicit loot that flows to cops and others from Pattaya means the Tourist Police do very nicely.





Junta plans

28 09 2018

The junta is going to maximize its advantages by maximizing the disadvantages of parties that don’t align with it. Its planning for the “election” it must win involves the construction of obstacles against its opponents, using every trick it can.

The Bangkok Post reports that the junta is likely to postpone until December a meeting with political parties that might decide to lift “the ban on political activities…”.

Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan “said no exact date or time has been set for the meeting, which will be chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.” This is a meeting that was first promised months ago, but the junta has seen the advantage it gains by holding off as long as possible. This allows the junta to fill the news, airwaves and keep itself in campaign mode while its opponents must remain silent.

At the same time, Gen Pravit boosted The Dictator, saying: “I support the prime minister in entering the political fray…. Whichever party he joins is his decision. I’m not concerned about him. I have confidence in him.”

Of course. But this is part of the planning. Promote Prayuth, silence others. By adding that there’s “nothing unusual about him potentially wanting to continue [in the post] for another four years…”, the dumpy general normalizes coups, the illegal use of force, repression, lies, arbitrary rule and the stifling of political participation. That’s the plan. There’s no need to hope that an election can change this. It can only change if the junta is firmly rejected.

Gen Prawit affirmed his own plans to stay on: “He said he would likely be interested in following the premier in governing the nation under a democratic framework if Gen Prayut were to ask him to stay.” The plan is for many of the junta’s men to return to positions as ministers.





Tortured confessions

27 09 2018

As we have posted previously, torture is a standard practice among Thailand’s police and military when dealing with “suspects.” A year or so ago we had this:

… the Bangkok Post reported on the military dictatorship’s puppet National Legislative Assembly having “dropped legislation to criminalise torture and disappearances after years of working on the bill…”.

The United Nations Human Rights Office and NGOs reported on this.

Because Thailand has long been dominated by the military, torture is not only “not a criminal offence … and perpetrators cannot be prosecuted,” but it is essentially standard practice among the military and police.

Torture as used by the current regime ranges from the blatant use of torture such as beating, choking and electric shocks when persons are taken into custody to deliberately delayed, long, drawn-out and secret trials of lese majeste suspects who are often shackled.

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post commented on another case of tortured confessions being accepted by the courts. It says the ruling on Tuesday, means “the legitimacy and transparency of the military’s unusual role in the justice process has again been questioned.”

The court “convicted nine young Muslim men of plotting to set off a car bomb in the capital, based mainly on confessions made during their detention in military camps.” As we know, in most “political” cases, it is now normalized for “suspects” to be held in communicado at a military base, for them to interrogated and sometimes tortured. Some “suspects” have died in custody.

In the case of these men, they have “testified earlier they were tortured into making false confessions.” The other evidence seems to have been more-or-less non-existent.

These men say that “[d]uring their detention in military camps … they were punched, head-locked, doused or sprayed with water, or locked in cold rooms to force them into making confessions.”

The editorial observes that such “military interrogation is made possible by two orders issued by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) — No. 3/2015 and No. 13/2016 — which allow soldiers to arrest and detain suspects in national security cases for up to seven days without granting them access to lawyers or any other legal rights guaranteed by the normal justice process.”

It adds that over the junta’s period of dictatorship. “there have been at least 18 known cases involving allegations of torture during detention at military camps.” That’s an under-estimate. Of course, “these claims have never been seriously probed by an independent body.”

The culture of impunity allows such horrid practices normal.