How to “win” an “election” III

13 08 2018

On its webpage, the Bangkok Post says: “Unnamed, influential power holders tell legislature members to be quiet and stop attempts to change the selection process of election monitors.”

In its story, the Post states that those National Legislative Assembly (NLA) members who are “seeking a legal amendment on the selection of inspectors is being lobbied to back down…”.

Who could the ” influential power holders” be? After all, The Dictator supported them. Or at least he did a few days ago.

Now, someone or some people are telling the NLA members “to review their move out of concerns that it will trigger criticism because the amendment plan involves an organic law.”

We are not sure we follow the “argument” being made, but it seems that this is not about worries that the junta’s “election” may be delayed.

Rather, it seems that the unnamed powers worry about “precedent.” The concern is that if this NLA can change an organic law, nasty politicians may have a precedent for “seeking to amend the election of MPs law to do away with election primaries.”

As we understand it, even under the junta’s anti-democratic constitution, MPs are empowered to do this. However, the “unnamed powers” don’t want this to be morally possible.

So the “unnamed powers” sound like those who have had “independent agencies” and the puppet judiciary bring charges against MPs under the Yingluck Shinawatra government for engaging is constitutional activities such as seeking to change the charter.

Is this the Deep State, some form of the “network monarchy” or some other group that can bring enormous pressure?





Delusion and reality

10 08 2018

A report in the Bangkok Post suggests that the military junta is delusional. But we don’t think they are, at least not on this one. Rather, the junta’s minions at the National Legislative Assembly, are exceeding themselves in fabricating news, piling buffalo excrement mountain high. As we posted yesterday, the NLA, in doing the junta’s bidding and scrapping the (old) Election Commission’s selections for poll inspectors. It is clear that the junta, after falling out with the (old) EC, wants these appointments to be of their men and women.

As this move has been controversial, the dolts at the NLA’s Secretariat claim to have conducted an online poll on the move. Guess what? It “shows 100% of respondents support a bid by some NLA members to seek legal amendments to nullify the selection of poll inspectors — a move which could further delay the general election expected early next year.”

By Thursday, every single one of about 6,800 people who went to the site “voiced support for the proposed amendments which will effectively scrap the entire process…”. We actually believe this because we’d think the junta and the NLA mobilized soldiers, their cyber-snoops and other supporters to go to the site and “vote.”

Such stuffing of the “ballot box” may be a last ditch strategy for the junta when it comes to the “election” that may be held some time in the future. In making this prediction, we were reminded of some comments in a recent story by Shawn Crispin at the Asia Times Online, who was also betting on a “May election.”

Crispin points to “local media … awash with reports that the newly formed, pro-junta Palang Pracharat Party has poached politicians from both Peua Thai and the Democrats, with some local papers suggesting that either party could collapse under the weight of the supposed defections.” The Palang Pracharath lot reckon they have the “election” sown up under the junta’s rules. The report cites “Suchart Chanataramanee, the party’s co-founder and [Gen] Prayut[h Chan-ocha]’s military academy classmate, [who] has boldly predicted Palang Pracharat will win the next polls, though not with a majority. If no party wins an outright majority, the military-appointed Senate lends its vote to picking the next premier, a scenario that favors Prayut.”

But Crispin questions whether “the junta believes it is luring enough vote-winning politicians, as well as its own propaganda touting Prayut’s supposedly strong grass roots popularity, to finally hold long-delayed elections…”. He adds that “most independent analysts believe it will resoundingly lose.” He cites some statistics:

Reasons abound to doubt recent rosy pro-junta projections. Suan Dusit, a local pollster, showed in June that 55% of respondents saw Peua Thai as the country’s top party, with the Democrats at 34% and Palang Pracharat at a mere 17%. A National Institute of Development Administration survey in May also showed Peua Thai outpacing Palang Pracharat, though by a narrower 32% to 25% margin.

Polls conducted by the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), a military spy agency, have consistently shown that Peua Thai would resoundingly win new polls, a person familiar with the surveys told Asia Times. Those results haven’t changed even with Prayut’s recent populist-style forays upcountry, the same source says.

Crispin then wonders whether there will be an election, saying the junta “still has election escape routes…”.

One is the king’s coronation, and that hasn’t been announced.

Another is that the king could ask for amendments to the election laws.

Then there’s the unnamed “official close to the premier [who] says some in the junta remain reluctant to hold elections that could tilt towards instability while Thailand holds next year’s rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), a statesman role Prayut would apparently relish as a prestigious capstone to his tenure.”

And there are others not mentioned: the junta may just decide to stay on; the junta could create instability so it can stay on; the election inspector fiasco could delay the poll; the queen might die and require a military-managed funeral; the junta could hold an election and cheat and manipulate to win it (the Cambodia model); and so on.

Whatever excuse, with Thaksin Shinawatra criticizing the junta and declaring his forces will win the long struggle, the junta will be considering all its anti-democratic options.





How’s that February election coming along?

9 08 2018

We have to admit that when we read the stories about the National Legislative Assembly getting twitchy about the (old) Election Commissioners being involved in the selection of well-paid election inspectors, we were suspicious.

When The Dictator supported the NLA move, we were convinced that these were just more junta shenanigans to delay the “election” it might hold sometime in the future. We guess Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered the move.

Most in the media are still saying February for the junta’s election. PPT has been betting on May, perhaps, maybe.

While the report says “some NLA members are concerned that the poll inspectors have political connections and their independence and impartiality may be compromised,” the story seems to be that this is not just a possible delaying tactic but another way for the junta to get its people in positions to influence any election outcome.

Just think, if it comes to outright cheating, the poll monitors better be your people.

As the report states, “poll inspectors are tasked with investigating poll complaints and forwarding them to the EC for consideration which can result in suspension of elections and change an election outcome in any given constituency.”

Another clue for yet another election delay is the brakes being put on Suthep Thaugsuban.

Via army chief Chalermchai Sitthisart, the junta has warned Suthep to holf fire on his campaigning. Suthep was ready to start campaigning in the provinces, but the junta is still campaigning itself.

Gen Chalermchai “said the regime was in the middle of discussing whether the political activities ban can be relaxed by next month.”

Don’t put your hard-earned baht on that. As we have said many times before, we don’t think the junta will go to any poll it won’t win. At the moment, they still don’t think they can win. That is, delays will continue.





The puppet NACC

7 08 2018

The Bangkok Post has yet another editorial criticizing the National Anti-Corruption Commission. It begins:

[The NACC] has reached a crucial fork in the road. Soon, it will have to provide the public with the facts it has uncovered in the probe of the undocumented luxury watches worn by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon. Alternatively, it will continue to stonewall. This choice will inform the public that the NACC is a weak organisation, completely unwilling to speak truth to power and lacking the fortitude even to bring about the promise that brought Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to the premiership.

In fact, the “fork in the road” was passed long ago. It passed that point from the moment it was appointed by the junta. It sped further down the puppet road when NACC president Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit was made NACC puppet president and, after public pressure “recused” himself from the actual “investigation,” but continued in his job when “investigations” of Prawit “continued.” Watcharapol “has personal ties with Gen Prawit, and with Gen Prawit’s brother, former national police chief Pol Gen Patcharawat, who also has faced NACC graft allegations without result.”

The “recusal” was fake: Watcharapol “has stayed directly informed, as evidenced by his press conference on July 20 that gave information about the investigation.”

The NACC is a fake anti-corruption agency. It works as the junta demands. It ignores cases the junta wants ignored. As the Post points out, The Dictator’s anti-corruption drive is compromised:

One of the first high-ranking people to be accused of corruption was a four-star army general. But Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha [Prayuth’s brother] was never prosecuted. Former army chief and former deputy defence minister, Gen Udomdej Sitabutr [a Prayuth supporter], was responsible for the construction of the extremely controversial Rajabhakti Park but there were no consequences.

The Post recognizes that the NACC is a puppet institution, observing:

Pol Gen Watcharapol’s NACC decided not to pursue blatant, obvious and even admitted nepotism by many members of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly.

On Prawit’s case,

What it [the NACC] has been able to do to this point, more than eight months later, is to stonewall the corruption accusation. The public and opinion writers believe that the anti-graft agency is trying to make the country forget that the first deputy prime minister and closest associate of Prime Minister Prayut faces hard questions of how he got access to more than 40 million baht worth of watches.

In the end, the Post admits that the “fork in the road” is long passed, declaring that the NACC looks remarkably like “an agency far more interested in protecting bad actors of the regime than in doing its assigned job.”

That’s true. The sad thing for Thailand is that it is but one of the puppet institutions. Even regular bureaucratic agencies have suffered purges under the junta and been infiltrated by junta cronies.

Usually, the public learns little of the corruption of military regimes until they are gone. In the case of this junta, we may never know because it isn’t planning to go away for many, many years.





Greasing the junta’s wheels II

15 07 2018

The Nation has another interesting yet tantalizingly short report about the puppet National Legislative Assembly doing some more of the junta’s work.

As usual, almost unanimous votes granted “salary increases for judges, public prosecutors and members of independent organisations. The NLA’s first reading voted to pass amendments to five laws regulating personnel of the relevant agencies, as proposed by the Cabinet.” Anything the junta wants, the junta gets.

The “five laws involve personnel and remunerations regarding the Courts of Justice, the Administrative Court, the Constitutional Court, independent organisations and public prosecutors…”. The rises go to all the people who have been loyal to the junta, doing as they were told or acting as the junta’s automatons: “Heads of the courts, the Office of the Attorney-General, and independent organisations…. Among the independent organisations involved are the [anti-election] Election Commission, Ombudsman’s Office, [hopeless] National Anti-Corruption Commission, Office of the Auditor General and National Human Rights Commission.”

What is tantalizing is that we are not told who gets what rise, just that the cost to the taxpayer will be about 450 million baht.The rises will be backdated to just after the 2014 military coup, with the vacuous, toothless and hopeless NHRC getting raises backdated to 2005.

All of the junta-loving puppets in these organizations will appreciate the generals even more.





Greasing the junta’s wheels I

14 07 2018

The Nation may get its headline wrong, stating that the puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) again “voted unanimously” for a junta plan, giving the figure as 12.7 million baht rather than 12.7 billion baht, but the story is of more efforts to grease the military junta’s political wheels.

This is not just giving the military junta almost 13 billion baht “for the junta-initiated grand schemes, the 20-year national strategy and the Pracharat policy,” but is reallocating budget from government agencies to the junta’s proposed projects.

The report states that the “coup-installed legislature voted 183 with no opposition to pass a budget transfer act to fund the junta’s policies. Bt10 billion would be allocated for the controversial 20-year national strategy. Another Bt2.7 billion would go to a Pracharat fund…”.





King, sangha and returning royal power

8 07 2018

Some time ago, the BBC’s Jonathan Head reported on Wat Dhammakaya that skillfully weaved a story that ended with this:

Thailand is in the midst of a complex and potentially dangerous, triple transition; a delicate royal succession, a battle over the future of Buddhism and a still uncertain political transition to a military-guided democracy.

More than a year later, the dictatorship and the king have again come together in defining the future of the Buddhist sangha.

In 2016, the puppet National Legislative Assembly passed an amendment to the 1962 Sangha Act. The amendment was designed to delay the appointment of Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn, known as Somdet Chuang, after he was nominated by the Sangha Supreme Council to be Supreme Patriarch. He was considered by the military junta and palace to be too close to Wat Dhammakaya.

The amendment gave great power to the king as it was he who “selects and appoints a supreme patriarch while the prime minister countersigns the appointment.”

Apparently, though, this was not sufficient. It is now reported that the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly on Thursday “endorsed the Monk Act, which will enable the [k]ing to appoint or remove senior monks and members of the supreme council of monks.”

“Voting” in the puppet NLA

Speaking to the puppet Assembly, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said that the king “is recognized in the constitution as the patron of Buddhism and other religions. He said it would be fitting for the [k]ing to appoint or strip senior monks and members of the Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand of their titles, as stipulated in Article 3 of the act.”

Wissanu essentially explained this as a throwback act: “… such royal prerogative was practiced between the reign of King Rama V to King Rama VIII. King Rama VIII’s reign ended in 1939.”

This might be poor reporting as Rama VIII’s reign ended in 1946 when he was found dead by gunshot. What was meant, we think, was that the Act was amended in 1941. We are not sure why 1939 is stated, but perhaps there are readers who know more on this.

The linked article cites Buddhist scholar Surapot Thaweesak on the most recent junta-sponsored amendment.

He stated that the amendment “is tantamount to returning royal power relations between the King and the Sangha to those of King Rama V’s time…”.

Surapot added that “this is a return of royal power.” He concluded: “Thinking from the standpoint of the … state, there will be greater control of the Sangha… But from a democratic standpoint, [Thailand] should be a secular state…”. Surapot correctly claimed that “the act in general will make Buddhism and the Sangha a mechanism to support conservative ideology.”

Pious king

King Vajiralongkorn has a particular interest in Buddhism and has engaged politically on the sangha several times as crown prince and now as king.