Rigging the future

17 06 2018

The military dictatorship is not just seeking to rig its “election” but also Thailand’s political future. One major element of this latter rigging is the illegitimate constitution and associated laws and agencies. Another element is the so-called strategic plan that is a political straightjacket for any future government for two decades.

The junta-appointed assembly has recently resolved to establish a “committee to vet the junta’s proposed 20-year strategic plans.” Exactly what this might mean when the National Legislative Assembly is a puppet that always – always – supports the dictatorship is anyone’s guess. Our guess is that it is about providing the junta’s political straightjacket with fake legitimacy.

The NLA now has a “38-member committee to look into the details of the plans…”.

For the junta, as its legal remora Wissanu Krea-ngam told the assembled marionettes that:

having binding 20-year plans is appropriate for Thai society, as a new generation of Thai children will be born and grow up nurtured under future government policies that reflect the present junta’s plans.

He believes that is a good and noble idea, reflecting the warped political “vision” that emerges in those associated with dictatorships.

Wissanu added that “various national strategic plans … [have] room for adjustment … every five years.” By this he means that a junta-appointed “national strategic planning committee can inform the parliament and adjust the plan accordingly.”

In other words, future governments will remain under the control of a junta plan and a junta committee. Wissanu proudly declared that “the bill … would ensure that future governments cannot endorse policies that contravene the plans.”

The “national plans cover six areas devised by committees entirely appointed by the junta: national security [no fiddling with the military]; national competitiveness; human resources development; social equality; the environment and quality of life.” Most of those things might sound reasonable but all are defined by unelected puppet committees writing junta-defined and approved “plans” that seek to:

… turn Thailand into a develop country within 20 years; stress peace and order at all levels of society; reinforce loyalty to the nation, state and the monarchy; and change Thai attitudes to be more disciplined, ethical and honest.

The proposals intend, as one marionette explained it, to make “Thais … able and good…”. This stresses the anti-democratic notion of moral persons.

According to another report, the puppet NLA is going through the motions for the media and to suggest “legitimacy” but, in reality:

[u]nder law, the chamber has 30 days to decide on the plan after receiving it from the Cabinet. Unlike normal legislation that requires three readings during which the NLA could make changes, the Assembly cannot alter the strategy and can only either approve or drop it.

It is an sham assembly, providing sham legitimacy for a junta that is rigging Thailand’s political future.





Explaining ownership of the royal billions

16 06 2018

In the past, during the previous reign, several governments and palace propagandists have sought to “explain” that the Crown Property Bureau’s wealth is not the king’s personal property to do with as he sees fit. Some have even suggested that the CPB is some kind of fund for the nation. Ambassadors have frequently made this point when defending one of the world’s wealthiest monarchies.

Yet this ruse used by royal and royalist propagandists is no longer possible.

An AFP report at The Japan Times states that the CPB has issued an “explanatory note” that makes it crystal clear that King Vajiralongkorn “has been granted full ownership of the palace’s billions of dollars of assets under a law passed last year…”.

This was a point made in earlier accounts, and some argue that in practice this has been the case for decades, but now it is official.

The assets of the CPB are probably now about $60 billion, “although the monarchy does not publicly declare its wealth and is shielded from scrutiny by a draconian lese majeste law.” The CPB has “a vast portfolio that includes massive property ownership and investments in major companies.”

Last July’s amended a royal property law means “all ‘Crown Property Assets’ are to be transferred and revert to the ownership of His Majesty, so that they may be administered and managed at His Majesty’s discretion…”.

The “explanation” is not dated but is widely available, including at the CPB’s website.

It states that “all of the CPB’s shareholdings will also ‘be held in the name of His Majesty’.”

It also states that “previously tax exempt CPB assets will now be liable to taxation ‘in line with His Majesty’s wishes’.” We wait to see how this develops.





Money, money, money

8 06 2018

The military junta has proposed a deficit budget bill to its puppet parliament., with 3-trillion-baht spending earmarked for the next fiscal year that begins in October.

The sleepy National Legislative Assembly didn’t need to be awake for it was always going to vote for the junta’s budget bill. The Bangkok Post produced this handy table:

From the Bangkok Post

Under the budget, which is meant as an “election” budget, there are some expected increases and some unexpected declines.

Much attention has been to security budgets. $10 billion went to defense and security, with $7 billion to the military, continuing the rises that began in 2014. $7 billion  represents a $1 billion increase since the junta seized power.

The other $3 billion goes to “new threats”, “internal peace and order”, preventing transnational crimes and cyberattacks, as well as “protect” the monarchy.

An unexpected decline is to the Ministry of Agriculture, where Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is campaigning hard.

The line that hasn’t yet received much attention is the monarchy. “Royal agencies” are up by 6.4% to 6.8 billion baht or about $200 million if our calculations are right.

Of course, there’s way more than this as virtually every ministry sets aside loot for the royals, celebrating them, protecting them or promoting them. Money in Thailand flows like a river to the already rich.





Suthep’s big lie

4 06 2018

We at PPT are bemused by some of the media commentary regarding Suthep Thaugsuban’s political resurrection over the past few days.

Our bemusement is regarding the fact that some commentators expected the Democrat Party’s former bagman and godfather to keep his word when he said he was finished with politics.

Suthep and friends

Few of Thailand’s politicians make promises and keep them. That’s one reason why Thaksin Shinawatra remains so popular – he made campaign promises to the electorate and pretty much kept them. He may have been sneaky and shady too, but he kept the big promises. Or at least the ones the electorate appreciated.

But renege on his promise he did. From never being involved in politics again, he’s back in thick of it.

His excuse for his return in lamentable. He says he has to defend the junta’s constitution. He added that his party – that’s the Action Coalition for Thailand – “will protect the 2017 constitution – arguing support for the charter was reflected when it cruised through the referendum…”. As an anti-democrat it must be remembered that he is content with the unfair and unfree referendum where the junta allowed only one outcome.

He also bellowed: “There will be no pardon for any political prisoners…”. We are not sure if it is the reporting or its his words, but Suthep is acknowledging that the junta has jails full of political prisoners. After all, it is only those arrested and charged sin mid-2014 that are the subject of any proposal for “pardons.”

In his old kit as “a recruiter and fund-raiser for the ACT” – something he did for the Democrat Party using all kinds of dark influences – he declared that he couldn’t just do that: “when brothers and sisters who share the same ideology approached me and told me they were establishing a people’s political party, I had to join…”. He went on with populist rhetoric: “I will not run for the election [we can check on that one later!]. I volunteer to be a slave for the people and serve the people. I will use my 40 years of experience in politics to push and accomplish the establishment of the people’s party.”

It is a minority party, with its organizers who sit in Suthep’s shadow hoping for just 30 seats.

Explaining his big lie, Suthep explained that he was a “good” person, so his lies don’t count. He then added more populist blarney.

Party jumper Anek Laothamatas, who also can’t be trusted on anything political as his spots change daily, said ACT would be “governed by religious ethics and truly owned by the people, is a coalition of citizens that respects and aims to safeguard the monarchy.”

It sounds a bit like Tea Party Thailand, and that’s dangerous stuff, not least for keeping the monarchy at the top of a political agenda. Explanation: using the monarchy for political purposes is okay for “good” people, including former Communists.

In case anyone wasn’t quite convinced of CPT-cum-Democrat-cum-Mahachon-cum-Puea Thai-cum-ACT Anek’s royalism, he added that ACT would be “reducing inequality using the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s approach to development…”. We assume that’s the sufficiency economy nonsense.

We understand that Anek has now resigned from the junta’s puppet work and the handsome salary he received there. We guess that ACT moneybags like Suthep and others who supported Suthep in the past, like the Rangsit University proprietor, will stump up the funds for Anek’s services as figurehead leader of ACT.

While ACT wants to “reform in police and justice system by ensuring that the institutions involved will not become tools of politics,” he very pointedly accepts the military’s murderous political role. We can’t recall the last time the police led a coup in Thailand.

Of course, ACT is likely to want to support The Dictator as premier after the junta’s election.





When lese majeste is re-defined

29 05 2018

Buddha Issara is still in jail, now seen in a wheel chair. Our question is about one of his charges.

The last time we looked, lese majeste was being expansively defined by the current military junta to harass and jail political opponents. Dead kings. dead king’s dead dogs, princesses (although there was some pull back on that), against adults, children and the infirm and disabled, and for things said, not said but implied or nodded or winked about. It has been heavily used for those misusing the royal name/s and for profiting from royal proximity.

In short, lese majeste was draconian and more or less predictably horrendous.

So we were amazed and shocked to learn that the fascist and anti-democratic monk is charged with “forging a royal emblem on amulets he sold” but not lese majeste. As the report notes: “Claiming false ties to the monarchy is also considered a grievous offense in Thailand and has drawn royal defamation charges in the past.” The linked report also has some great photos of the fascist monk “at work.”

Yingcheep Atchanont, an activist who is said to monitor the use of lese majeste observes: “At least 40 people have been arrested in recent years for claiming a false connection [to the monarchy] for personal gain, as far as I know…. They include even some people who worked on royal projects.”

So what’s going on? Is the (former) monk protected? We don’t think anyone should be charged with lese majeste, but if he’s not, all those others, some who are dead, must be absolved of this most horrible of charges/convictions.

Interestingly, some of the monk’s former allies have abandoned him. “Veera Somkwamkid, an ultra-nationalist says: “His time is due. Because he is… well … Let’s say he has many more charges waiting against him…”. He added that an “influential person” wanted to “disgrace Buddha Issara but would not elaborate.” More interestingly still, he adds: “I believe police received a certain order from above…”. The question then is: what and who is above?





Recycling an imagined past

27 05 2018

The nationalist trilogy, put together by a king and used and misused ever since, most usually by fascist military dictatorships, and ground into people from school to shopping center, is in the news.

New king and a crackdown on unsound Buddhist bosses and the propaganda of the military dictatorship come together in a curious mix of police commando raids against monks, claimed to be corrupt  lawbreakers, and then apologies from The Dictator for the treatment of one fascist monk, assessments of state propaganda and the ill-timed royal launch of something called “Buddhism Promotion Week.”

The last report features mainly pictures of a jolly Princess Sirindhorn attending ceremonies with senior monks – presumably not the arrested lot – for Buddhism Promotion Week, coinciding with coincides with Visakha Bucha Day. It also shows Privy Councillor General Surayud Chulanont who was dispatched by King Vajiralongkorn to make merit on the absent king’s behalf for the deceased king and the now never seen queen from the last reign. The ceremony took place at the increasingly reclaimed area of the so-called Royal Plaza.

Bad timing when a bunch of senior monks are arrested, accused of all manner of crimes, but perhaps a part of the new reign’s “cleansing” of Buddhism. That “cleansing” has the possibility of assisting The Dictator’s electoral campaigning so long as the bad monks are not linked to him.

The Nation’s special report (linked above) on the military dictatorship’s throwback nationalist propaganda is worth reading. It covers Thai Niyom (Thai-ism) – an effort to promote the rightist concept of “Thainess,” the junta’s “patriotic” histories, the archaic costume party royalism, also promoted by the king, and crappy soaps that, as one academic says, are escapism:

“It shows the mental illness of our society…. Today we’re living in conflict, especially on the political front. Watching comical shows and fantasy soaps can temporarily heal people’s hearts. In reality we remain divided, and the fantasy is that we are united.”

The junta just craves devotion and adulation they imagine for earlier ages, located somewhere in the 1910s or late 1950s. As poorly educated, unthinking automaton royalists, the best they can do in this sphere is recycling.





World’s richest royal families

22 05 2018

The recent wedding in England of a British royal with an American entertainment industry woman caused some sober newspapers to consider aspects of monarchy, constitutional monarchy and royal wealth.

Business Report published a list of the five richest royal families, which is somewhat different from the usual Forbes list.

Its list had Thailand’s royal family ranking a distant 5th on the rich list after a bunch of Middle Eastern autocrats. That seems reasonable to us, as does the estimate of wealth for the royals of $60 billion.

The family ranked 1st was Saudi Arabia’s with a staggering $1.7 trillion.