Reflecting the regime IV

10 09 2021

Beyond the headlines, what does Wednesday’s sacking of Deputy Minister for Agriculture Thammanat Prompao tell us about the regime’s rotten political system?

He was sacked as deputy minister, along with Deputy Labor Minister Narumon Pinyosinwat, via an announcement in the Royal Gazette on Thursday following a “royal command” issued on Wednesday, that “stated that the prime minister said it would be appropriate if some ministers were removed for the sake of government.”

When asked, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said “he had his own reasons for the changes.” Thammanat remains, for the moment, secretary-general of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party, but that is unlikely to last long.

Thammanat released a “resignation” letter just before the official announcement that he’d been sacked.

Was he booted because of his shady background as a convicted heroin trafficker. Nor for his unusual wealth. Nor for lying about his education credentials. Nor for his underworld links via the lottery. Nor for links with a murder.

No, Thammanat was sacked for insufficient loyalty to Gen Prayuth:

Speculation is rife that the sackings have something to do with the alleged campaign to challenge the prime minister’s power. The campaign’s aim was said to replace Gen Prayut and rebuild a government that would result in a cabinet reshuffle, where certain key politicians in the PPRP, who are now deputy ministers, would be elevated to full ministers of A-grade ministries.

As one of those ministers, Thammanat “stands accused of manoeuvring the ouster campaign which allegedly involved a number of PPRP heavyweights and renegade members of micro-coalition partners and politicians in the main opposition Pheu Thai Party.” Thammanat wanted to be Minister of the Interior, which carries immense power and handsome rewards.

Clipped from Khaosod

It seems that Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan is another target as the two sacked ministers were close to Prawit. A party source said that Prawit’s position “hangs in balance following the dismissal of the pair who are his close aides.”

This is exactly the kind of party system that the military junta designed. This is how it works. Multi-party coalition governments mean there is always maneuvering for position and fortune. Allies fall out and become opponents. Money and power make the cement that holds coalitions together. Leaders must always watch their back, wondering whether friend or foe will stab them; usually the former.

Political instability in such a rotten system defaults power to the military chief and palace.

The system is corrupted and encourages criminals and other “dark influences” to seek power for the funds that inevitably flow from ministerial position.

This is the junta’s legacy for Thailand’s political system.

Updated: More vaccine contortion

21 06 2021

The vaccine “rollout” is more like a cart with square wheels “rolling.” It is off-again/on-again, rescheduled, and still the availability of vaccine is limited, delayed, and unsure.

Clipped from The Rand Blog

So unsure is the Siam Bioscience delivery of AstraZeneca, the Japanese are donating 1 million doses to Thailand. And still the regime stays mum on the situation of Siam Bioscience. No transparency where the king’s money is concerned. A new spokesman has been appointed, but he ain’t saying anything. In any case, his appointment is meant to make the regime’s obfuscations seem more realistic.

The there was the special allocation of vaccine to the stupendously rich.

The Bangkok Post reports that “Chatchai Promlert, permanent secretary for the Interior Ministry, is insisting that his approval to provide free Covid-19 vaccine doses to over 70,000 Thai Beverage Public Company Limited (ThaiBev) employees and their families is lawful.”

ThaiBev is mostly owned by Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi and his family, who always rank near the top of Thailand’s billionaires. Last time we looked, his fortune was over $10 billion.

As far as we know, most private companies are seeking jabs from private suppliers, but not ThaiBev. The company “requested assistance for the vaccination of 43,201 employees and 28,244 families in Bangkok and 76 provinces.” And this is from the state’s free vaccines.

Permanent-secretary Chatchai “was asked whether such approval was considered appropriate because many people across the country have yet to receive their jabs…. Chatchai, who is also responsible for dealing with emergency situations and coordinating with provincial governors…”, defended the decision as “lawful.”

He argued that he “approved the allocation of free Covid-19 vaccine doses to ThaiBev under the guidelines of the National Communicable Diseases Committee.”

But, then, Chatchai somersaulted. He issued a new order, replacing the previous “lawful” one, rescinding the latter. According to The Nation,

The new order … told the provincial governors to ignore the previous order and adhere to the guidelines provided by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration in procuring and allotting vaccine to the public in each province with focus on comprehensiveness and no discrimination.

The new order also urged the governors to establish awareness and understanding with the private sector and the public regarding the province’s plans to prevent new Covid-19 cluster cases in each area.

It is clear that the regime and its hand-picked bureaucratic bosses are seeking to do favors for good friends (who also have lots of money).

The shemozzle seems to be getting worse.

Update: Was there any “shenanigans” in vaccine allocations? Of course not. So says the regime and Ministry of Interior. They are lying. As is usual in such cases, their denials are so silly that it is obvious that there were shenanigans. Indeed, in a country of double standards, this is exactly what would be expected. It is normal.

Election off

8 01 2019

Khaosod reports that Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda has confirmed an official memorandum telling officials to cease preparations for an “election.”

The leaked memo was sent to “voting officials in every province.” Noting that there was no Royal Decree on the election, the memo ordered that “all preparations for elections are hereby halted.”

“Let me confirm again that there will be an election, 1 million percent, no matter which day it would be, and whether it would be sooner or later than we expected,” Anupong said. “We haven’t seen the Royal Decree for this election yet, so we have to wait for clarity.”

Anupong seemed to blame the Election Commission, saying his ministry was ready to do all necessary work when the EC told him when the election was on.

The blame lies elsewhere and Anupong’s response suggests there might not be an election for a while.

Ultra-royalism means ultra-stupidity

10 02 2018

The ultra-royalism that has infected Thailand since about the time of the 2006 coup has resulted in bizarre lese majeste cases and equally outlandish behavior by royalists as they manage their “loyalty.”

The latest royalist peculiarity involves Chanthaburi governor Withurat Srinam who has offered his resignation for his misuse of a “royal” word.

The governor has “come under fire after putting the royal term in two of his orders to officials in preparation to receive ministers during a mobile cabinet visit in Chanthaburi on Monday and Tuesday.” He is reported to have used the word rab sadet, meaning to receive, for The Dictator and his junta cabinet.

In most constitutional monarchies there is no “royal language.” But Thailand is an oddity. And the politicization of the monarchy both by ultra-royalists and opponents of the military and monarchical state has made things royal more important and “sacred” than they have been for more than a century. Ultra-royalists patrol the narrow boundaries of “loyalty.”

So in this strange world of ultra-royalism and neo-feudalism, we now find Interior Ministry permanent secretary Chatchai Promlert having to decide whether to “approve the resignation…”.

That decision also puts him in the firing line. Ultra-royalists may detect insufficient loyalty should he make a sensible decision and tell the governor to get back to work.

That senior officials should even have to deal with such antediluvian buffalo manure is a measure of how far Thailand has fallen into a royalist abyss.

Red Bull and the privilege of great wealth

12 09 2017

Both the Bangkok Post and Prachatai have stories on demands for Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda to be “investigated” after he signed an order that allowed a private company to make use of a 31-rai community forest in Khon Kaen’s Ubonrat district.

General Anupong issued a land use permit to KTD Property Development, allowing it to construct a water storage facility for an adjacent beverage production plant it owns.

KTD Property Development is said to have connections to the giant Red Bull corporation. Red Bull’s Yoovidhya family are reported to be shareholders of KTD.

We wonder if one of those shareholders is Vorayuth Yoovidhya. He’s the Yoovidhya who is a “suspect” in a brutal hit-and-run case in which a police officer was killed, and who has been allowed to miss court appearances time and again as the various charges he faces time out.

His case is an example of the double standards where the rich get benefits from the support they provide to officials and to the royalist ruling class.

Protecting one Yoovidhya is just another aspect of the work of tycoons and the best “justice” and officials that money can buy. These are the tycoons who treat justice as a business tool to keep the profits flowing. The benefits they enjoy through their wealth and extensive corporate control are counted in baht and dollars.

That seems to be what’s happening in Khon Kaen.

KTD has been buying land in the area for five years and requested that it be allowed to use Huay Mek community forest land in 2015. It is reported that the “local community had repeatedly rejected the request.”

The local level officials reckon that KTD will pay. How much? It is stated that the local administration will “collect an annual fee of 1,000 baht per rai, or about 31,000 baht per year.”

What a deal! For KTD and its Red Bull investors.

That said, we assume the company has invested heavily in local, provincial and national officials.

The ever activist Srisuwan Janya has “filed a petition with the National Anti-Corruption Commission to initiate an investigation against Gen Anupong and other high-rank officials of the Interior Ministry.”

Srisuwan and many others reckon General Anupong and his underlings have abused power in favor of a private company.

That support for big business has been a part of the military dictatorship’s “reform” agenda.

Monopolizing the premiership

4 06 2017

A week ago we posted briefly on The Dictator’s “questions.” The point of our post was to note that political parties were panicked that General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his cronies were likely to stay on longer and longer.

We commented that members of the political parties in calling for an “election” were neglecting that any “election,” they throw their support behind the junta’s constitution, its rules and its “election.” Our view was that they had been driven into a junta cul-de-sac from which they will find it difficult to break out once they have accepted the junta’s rules, procedures and illegitimate constitution.

The junta is continuing its campaign. The Bangkok Post reports that a campaign is underway to promote The Dictator and his (faux) questions.

His former boss in the army, General Anupong Paojinda, now Interior Minister, has been looking at a nationwide “campaign” so that “people can in two weeks’ time write their responses to four questions about future elections and governance posed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last week to educate the public and help foster democracy.”

The Interior Ministry will control the propaganda exercise, using its minions fro governors to village heads, and ensuring that anyone providing a response is identified, presumably to prevent any dissent.

Gen Anupong also said “he trusted no state officials would distort the people’s answers during the opinion-gathering process.” He claimed, “There’s no reason to do such a thing…”.

Of course, these officials know who provides their rice, so they are likely to ensure a particular outcome, keep activists away and will keep The Dictator happy.

Prayuth has said that “the questions were designed to get people to think about the consequences of voting for the wrong candidates.” He’s done this before, when he told voters who they should and should not vote for in the 2011 election.

We have to admit that we don’t think there will be an election any time soon. Prayuth looks set to stay on and these ploys play into his dictatorial hands.

Another bomb

31 05 2017

After a fourth bomb (that we know of) was located near the Thailand Cultural Centre MRT Station, it seems clear enough that the military junta’s “explanations” are confused and confusing and the “investigations” are a mess.

The clip from the Bangkok Post website gives the flavor of this, with a story that the bombings cases was “solved” (that’s the earlier story) and then the story of the new bomb, found before it exploded.

The “Bombing solved” story was of national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda saying: “Police believe they have identified the culprits behind a bomb attack at Phramongkutklao Hospital…”. That story also had Deputy Dictator and Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan claiming “about 50 suspects were in custody and awaiting interrogation over the explosion at the dispensary’s waiting room…”.

The second story, a few hours later, is of the new bomb, although seemingly slightly different in construction. In that, the very same police boss states that “no connection has been found between the discovered bomb and the hospital blast at this stage of the investigation…”. He then added that the “recent series of explosions in Bangkok could have been politically motivated or designed to discredit the police.”

Given that the police are pretty much discredited already, the latter motive can probably be dismissed.

Meanwhile, the response of The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha continues to suggest that the recent bombs have more to do with internal conflicts than what the junta describes as “politics.”

After all, the cabinet and Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda are pushing ahead with promoting The Dictator’s “four questions” rather than doing anything too serious about bombs. The Dictator himself claims to be taking a break from speaking, grumbling: ““I have been attacked for so long. Is that fair to me?”


Controlling the local

8 05 2016

The junta has been showing its blunt determination to ensure its preferred result in the charter referendum. It has been arresting, intimidating and repressing.

It has also been campaigning for a Yes vote in rural areas, sending out the military and local authorities. But, for the junta, the local is not trustworthy, so it wants total control.

When it seized power almost two years ago, local elections were scrapped. Elections were replaced by provincial panels, headed by the governor of each province, that selected councilors. This is insufficient for the dictatorship. The Bangkok Post reports that not even governors can be trusted: “the [junta’s new] order was made to prevent any conflicts of interest among provincial governors…”.

In fact, the junta’s puppet permanent secretary of the Ministry of Interior has confirmed that the junta will now control the selection and appointment of members of local bodies.

The permanent secretary will appoint a committee “to pick the councillors of the local bodies…”. All appointments will be made by this Bangkok-based committee of senior bureaucrats. The rollback to a regime that existed long before the 1997 Constitution.

The military’s selected bureaucracy is back in charge because, as puppets, they can be expected to do their masters’ bidding.

While the puppet permanent secretary claims the junta “wants to make changes that comply with good governance practices.” Most observers recognize that the members of the junta could not spell “good governance,” and that they certainly favor nepotism and political subservience over anything that might reek of principles.

The permanent secretary’s disclaimer can be read as an admission: “This also has nothing to do with the preparations for the referendum…”. Of course, it has everything to do with the referendum and what follows that event.

Election talk

7 05 2011

As readers will have noted, PPT has been watching election speculation and while agreeing that there is probably an elite strategy on the royalist government an electoral mandate that will (it hopes) silence critics, we have also noted the intense debate that has gone on within the elite on whether this was the “right” strategy at this time. This caused us to comment on the conflict with and in the People’s Alliance for Democracy as well as the unbridled use of lese majeste against the government’s opponents while demanding silence on the monarchy during an election campaign.

As the Bhum Jai Thai Party-Ministry of Interior-Internal Security Operations Command organized a large rally of the so-called Monarchy Protection Volunteers Group in Rangsit (go here and choose 6 May to see a front-page picture) and as the Army displayed on Channel 5 its nationwide activities supporting the monarchy and opposing those “threatening” the monarchy, and as the Cabinet approved huge budgets (see below and here) in an unusual, long and generous meeting, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said late Friday that he had submitted a decree for the king’s signature that would dissolve parliament and lead to an election.

The Economist, writing before Abhisit’s announcement, has a piece that includes some interesting issues.

It begins with Abhisit’s “spendthrift cabinet” approving “102 spending proposals, totalling billions of dollars.” (A Bangkok Post account says 137 billion baht.) It concludes: “Plainly, an election is in the offing.” The Economist believes “the contest will be bitter…. And whatever the result, some will not accept it.”

PPT hasn’t mentioned what the Economist calls “the centre of the show”: Thaksin Shinawatra. It observes:

Deposed in a coup in 2006 and banned from politics in Thailand, he is now in exile in Dubai. But his devoted followers, the red shirts, have kept the flame glowing, often in the face of extreme government hostility. Scores of their number were gunned down during a prolonged protest in central Bangkok a year ago. They see this election as possibly their last chance to right the wrong of that coup.”

PPT would add that the supporters of Thaksin have seen their votes count for nothing in the three most recent elections. Many of them will wonder if that will be the case again should the Puea Thai Party do well. It is unclear if people will remain connected to the electoral process if their votes are thrown out time and again.

Thaksin remains critical. As this report notes, many “hoped that Pheu Thai would evolve into an issues-based party rather than remain a Thaksin fan-club. Fat chance. As the election nears, the opposite is happening…”. One reason for this continuing “Thaksinisation” of the party is because “the party does not have a lot of choice, because of government crackdowns… [and bannings]. With so many leaders sidelined, Pheu Thai’s remaining talent pool is shallow.”

Abhisit sees an opportunity to “ opportunity “win his own mandate.”

The Economist raises one important question: will “the campaign will be a proper contest of people and ideas…”, adding that censorship, jailings and so on make “some red shirts argue that it will be almost impossible to hold a free and fair election.” Not just red shirts. PPT has argued a “fixing” has been going on.

A second important question relates to acceptance of a hypothetical Puea Thai victory. PPT thinks that such a victory would be a remarkable outcome with so much aligned against the party. Hence the generals say they will accept a Puea Thai government. We think this is little different from their claims back in 2007 when they said the junta’s constitution could be changed following an election that they thought the Democrat Party would win. When they didn’t, and People’s Power Party sought constitutional amendment, PAD mobilized, chaos resulted and the judicial coup took place in December 2008.

Writing after the Abhisit statement, the Wall Street Journal has another take on the election. Despite all of the obstacles and fixing, the Journal thinks calling an election is “a risky strategy” against a “well-funded opposition backed by former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the man the army kicked out of power nearly five years ago.” In fact, the Democrat Party doesn’t seem short of campaign funds, and has used the state coffers extensively to promote its position (see above).

The Journal has more on opposition to the election amongst the elite, saying “conservative royalists argue that Thailand isn’t ready to hold peaceful elections.” It cites Michael Montesano who says “that even among Thailand’s anti-Thaksin establishment, there are doubts that elections are the best way to stabilize the country.”

As we noted above, the military has actively campaigned for the royalist government and hopes that its work will be more successful than it was in 2007. Meanwhile, Abhisit, who was put in place and maintained there by the military says: “I think we see the military is now playing its role according to the constitution, and supports an elected government and the policies we adopt.”

More doublespeak by Abhisit, obscuring his enduring debt to the military and their weapons. Expect much more of this and also expect the military to be heavily involved as they provide bodyguards for Abhisit and other Democrat Party politicians as they campaign. Also expect the already huge promises made by both sides to get even bigger. And, don’t forget the monarchy. We assume the king will sign off on the dissolution of parliament, despite his operation. Even if the major parties agreed that it is unmentionable, state television and the military will continue to harp on “the institution,” implying that the opposition is disloyal.

Trying to fix an election, part IV

2 05 2011

PPT recently posted on a report in the Wall Street Journal that, amongst other things, referred to a re-elected Abhisit Vejjajiva government having “fresh policies.” We wondered about this, and as well as pointing to “policy corruption” we might have also noted the plagiarism of policies that were developed by the Thai Rak Thai Party before it was thrown out by the 2006 palace-military coup.

The Bangkok Post has recently included a report on how far policy plagiarism goes in this coalition government by pointing out that the Thaksin Shinawatra innovation known as One Tambon One Product (OTOP) has been taken over by the Bhum Jai Thai Party-controlled Ministry of Interior as part of its election campaign.

OTOP was so popular that the program could not be ditched by the military junta-appointed government in 2006-07 or by the military-palace cobbled coalition led by Abhisit Vejjaiva. So Bhum Jai Thai now seeks to make OTOP their program and blatantly uses state-funded OTOP fairs for showcasing party candidates for the upcoming election.

The Post reports that “this year, the Interior Ministry has held three One Tambon One Product fairs in the northeastern provinces of Bung Kan and Surin and in the central province of Saraburi.” All are Bhum Jai Thai political strongholds and bands of “prominent politicians and potential election candidates from the Bhumjaithai Party [have] turned up.”

Bhum Jai Thai is reportedly wooing voters by a “hearts and minds” strategy that emphasizes that it is ”operating on the ground”. OTOP seems critical for this, and the party must hope that voters have short memories.

Blatant policy plagiarism and the use of the Ministry of the Interior as an election office seem not to bother the coalition, for any advantage is to be used in attempting to fix an election victory.

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