The PDRC and Suthep

16 12 2017

Two recent news reports mention Suthep Thaugsuban and his People’s Democratic Reform Committee.

The report that got most attention was about Suthep and his anti-democrat colleague Paiboon Nititawan seeking changes to the organic law governing political parties, arguing for “fairness” for all parties. As all commentators have noted, this is an attempt to delay the “elections.”

Suthep and friends

Suthep has repeatedly called for the military dictatorship to remain in power, so this call is aimed at that end. The puppet National Legislative Assembly says it will hear from Suthep and Paiboon.

The second report, in the context of judicial double standards, is a tiny piece of what appears to be brighter news. At the end of a report on Jatuporn Promphan, it is briefly noted that the Phatthalung Provincial Court sentenced a former senator and PDRC key figure Thawi Phumsingharach and 10 supporters “for disrupting an advance vote and election officials in the province back in 2013.”

Thawil was slapped with a five-year prison term, and the others received from one to five years “for their role in obstructing the Muang district poll on Dec 28-31 and preventing the provincial election commission from performing its duty.”

We assume they are appealing.





More secret palace deals

9 12 2017

In a secret consideration, the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has approved “adjustments to the law that manages the safety and security of … the [k]ing and members of the [r]oyal [f]amily.”

After the event, it is reported that the NLA “voted unanimously to approve an amendment to the 2014 Law of Royal Safety in line with the 2017 Constitution, as well as a new law concerning the Royal household.”

The amendment to the 2014 law reportedly “authorises the Principal Private Secretary to … the [k]ing to provide security services to the monarchy rather than a committee chaired by Chief of Aide de Camp General to … the [k]ing, as stipulated in the old law…”.

The previous committee “included military commanders and other relevant officials…”. Whether there will be a new committee is apparently up to the Principal Private Secretary. That person:

… will also be in charge of security and safety services for … the [k]ing and members of the [r]oyal [f]amily whenever they travel abroad…. The old law commissioned the Aide de Camp Department [of the military] and the Foreign Ministry to take care of their safety. Under the new law, the Principal Private Secretary … will plan and command safety measures for … the [k]ing….

The 2014 Law on Royal Safety also “authorised the prime minister to be involved in the approval of safety plans for … the [k]ing and members of the [r]oyal [f]amily.” That role is now gone.

It is reported that the “amendment will be promulgated in the Royal Gazette later,” and that the “content of the new amendment was not available to the public during the NLA debate.”

This is another move consolidating palace affairs in the king’s hands and a process of removing all vestiges of civilian control of the monarchy and palace that were put in place in 1932 and after.

Earlier, the NLA had approved the transfer of the Royal Household Bureau, Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, Royal Aide-De-Camp Department, Office of Royal Court Security Police and Royal Security Command, formerly under control of the Ministry of Defense, the Prime Minister’s Office and the police, to the king.

He’s continuing the process of making the monarchy independent of any notion of civilian and parliamentary control. The previous justification for the move was that issues related to the king and his family could not be served by the state bureaucracy.

Not that long ago, the arrangements for control of the fabulously wealthy Crown Property Bureau were passed to the king in another secret set of dealings.





Protecting the politicized constitutional court

27 11 2017

Prachatai reports that the junta’s puppet lawmakers have approved a junta law that will give “more power and protection to the Constitutional Court.”

Why would 188 of the dutiful National Legislative Assembly members vote as a block (with just 5 abstentions and not a single opposing vote) for this law?

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

Apart from the fact that the NLA slavishly slithers after the junta, the Constitutional Court is considered an important bulwark of conservatism, royalism and anti-democracy. Since King Bhumibol’s political activation of the courts in 2006, the Constitutional Court has often played a king-like role, being the institution to “sort things out.” Its decisions have been highly politicized.

 

Giving the Court more powers is in line with ideas about establishing an interventionist institution that can proactively and retroactively punish political oppositions challenging the established order.

The NLA also “protected” the Court from “people who make ill-intentioned criticism of the Constitutional Court, including those who post such criticisms online.”

There has been criticism of the NLA’s work.





It is still about Thaksin

22 11 2017

Yingluck Shinawatra has completely disappeared from public view. She was targeted by the military junta as one important Shinawatra clan member as the junta has sought to dismantle something it and other anti-democrats identify as the “Thaksin regime.” Of course, they have also gone after other members of the Shinawatra clan and their supporters, attempting to expunge their political pull. For the junta, an important target is the Shinawatra wealth, which the junta mistakenly considers the basis of their political attractiveness for voters. Another aim is to “demonstrate” that the Shinawatras have been criminals, with the “thinking” being that this shows voters that they are not “good people.”

So with Yingluck gone, the targeting has moved back to Thaksin. Armed with new laws passed by the puppet National Legislative Assembly, the junta has directed public prosecutors to “pursue two corruption cases against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra despite the fact that he’s outside the country.” This (again) means that new laws are applied retrospectively.

The puppet Office of the Attorney General claims, against all logic and belief, that the retrospective application of the new law “was not meant to target the 67-year-old tycoon…”. He lied: “This is in accordance with the law. It is the duty of the Office of the Attorney General…. There was no discrimination.” Of course, the truth is that the new law was passed expressly to target Thaksin.

The cases go back to the first term of the elected Thaksin government.

The junta is desperate to destroy Thaksin and his clan and almost everything the junta does is in the shadow of Thaksin and his influence and popularity.





Updated: The local elections ploy

13 11 2017

The six questions ploy was used a couple of days ago. Described in the Bangkok Post as one question from General Prayuth Chan-ocha: “Is everybody all right with my staying around as leader indefinitely to keep politicians in their proper place, by which I mean under our boots?”, the questions caused angst among those who want elections.

To assuage that angst, junta member and anti-democrat legal sage to the military junta Wissanu Krea-ngam suddenly said that there might be local elections and that this might see the ban on political party activities lifted.

The junta got rid of local elections when it had its coup in 2014. Occasionally it has raised hopes that these might return, saying local elections should be held before a national “election.” Nothing came of this because, at base, the junta wants no elections it can’t be sure of controlling. Despite the militarization of local government, the junta still can’t be certain that it can ensure its people win local elections. So it hasn’t done anything about them.

So Wissanu’s sudden claim lasted less than 48 hours. Even he was only talking about elections in some places where the junta reckoned it has a constituency, like Bangkok.

Then Puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) deputy chair Phirasak Phochit threw his spanner in the works and explained that local elections required that “investigations” into “local officials who have been suspended over allegations of graft before planned local elections are held.”

The involves “a large number of officials” who, since the coup, officials, “working for provincial administration organisations (PAOs) and tambon administration organisations (TAOs), have been suspended or transferred to inactive posts after the government launched a serious crackdown on corruption in state agencies.”

They haven’t been charged, let alone convicted, but The Dictator used Article 44 to purge these administrations. Most of those purged were considered supportive of political opponents of the junta, red shirts or Thaksin Shinawatra fans.

Further scuttling the elections notion, puppet Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) spokesman Chartchai Na Chiang Mai had a spanner to throw too, and said a swathe of laws “relating to regional governing bodies need to be amended before local elections can take place…”.

He implied that “if early local polls are to be held, it is essential to amend the five laws to ensure compliance with the new constitution’s provisions covering local administration organisations,” which probably means that the laws for the national “election” would then be delayed (again), despite assurances to the contrary.

After the local election laws were amended, they would then go to the tiresomely slow NLA. Chartchai said the NLA “must race against time if the government wants to pave the way for local elections…”. The NLA members do not race on anything except to collect salaries and allowances.

Another glitch, not yet mentioned is the lack of an Election Commission.

We are not holding our breath on any “election” soon, at any level.

Update: The almost non-existent (anti) Election Commission has decided that it must “ask the Constitutional Court to rule if it is responsible for organising local elections.” What a sham this ridiculous institution is, even in “caretaker” mode. The EC doen’t know what is does. The “laws” under the junta have apparently confused it:

EC [caretaker] chairman Supachai Somcharoen said while the charter requires the EC to hold local elections, the organic law governing the agency says its role is to oversee and ensure the local polls are clean and fair.

It seems the EC hadn’t even thought of local elections until the junta murmured something about them.





Only double standards II

4 11 2017

Back at the end of October, the Bangkok Post ran what seems to us like an advertorial on the National Anti-Corruption Commission. We say it is an advertorial because it is full of glosses, fibs and outright lies.

On the 18th anniversary of its establishment, the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission is a failure. It is a politicized puppet of the military junta.

It claims to have zero tolerance for corruption, but as this blog has repeatedly demonstrated, this is a lie. For example, it has not taken action in any of the corruption allegations made of the military dictatorship. For the junta zombies, this inaction translates this way:

During the past two years, the ONACC has worked laboriously with the sole purpose of correcting the corruption culture and has brought about satisfactory results on all three aspects of their duty – anti-corruption, inspection of assets and liabilities, and prevention measures.

All of this is a nonsense. Hundreds of junta appointees have levels of wealth far in excess of their salaries. Not one investigation or case. Nepotism claims go unheeded. Big corruption cases languish in NACC twilight.

The NACC claims to have “conducted more in-depth investigations which have resulted in a 4.5-fold increase in total seizure and forfeiture of property due to official malfeasance.” But, as far as we can tell, none from the ruling junta.

The NACC “vision of Zero Tolerance & Clean Thailand” is a sad joke.

Just a few days later, Wasant Techawongtham the Bangkok Post’s former news editor had an op-ed slamming rising corruption:

When the military junta took over the government, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha proclaimed to loud cheers an age of reform.

Henceforth, there’d be no more bad politicians, no more bad officials, no more disharmonious squabbles and no more corruption. Hallelujah!

Only good people would have a rightful place in society. No more division of red and yellow, only good and bad. Needless to say, those who followed the junta’s lead are good.

The bad people either have to have their attitudes adjusted or, in the worse case, be put away in jail where they would not be able to spoil the rest of us.

Result? The “supposedly good people in government do something that calls into question their definition of goodness.” They are corrupt, snouts in the trough.

Gen Anupong Paojinda and General Preecha Chan-ocha are just two serial offenders. Then the most recent cases of nepotism involving General Preecha and Meechai Ruchupan.

No accountability, no embarrassment about being hypocrites, no help from anti-corruption organizations and the media remains hamstrung by the dictatorship.

As Wasant says, these stories “could be just the tip of the iceberg.”

But if it is, there’s not much chance the NACC will do anything. It is nobbled.

We can be certain of this. The puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has appointed former national police chief Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwan to a panel scrutinising the draft organic law on the NACC.

We can be pretty sure that virtually every senior policeman has been corrupt during his service. We say this because police generals are even wealthier than their corrupt military counterparts.

This general is also the younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.

He was appointed with Pol Lt Gen Boonrueng Polpanich, a member of the NLA. Both have been accused of unusual wealth.

They are supposed to be under investigation by the NACC, yet it was their buddy NACC chairman Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit who “came out to defend the appointment of two legislative panelists…”. He revealed that the “two cases have not yet reached the inquiry stage…”.

We can be pretty sure they never will be seriously investigated. We can be pretty sure of this because it is reported that those “cases” go back to 2010.

The NLA, the NACC and the junta are now covering up.





Meechai the nepotist

31 10 2017

Since the 2014 military coup, there have been several cases of nepotism involving the junta and its various puppet bodies.

Back in 2016, The Dictator was defending his brother General Preecha Chan-ocha against allegations of nepotism after a leaked memo revealed that the permanent secretary for defense had secured a military post for his son Patipat (see here and here). The same Preecha was also involved in a scandal when another son received military contracts worth nearly 27 million baht and from the army region his father once commanded. Earlier, Preecha had been unable to do the arithmetic in his assets declaration and was defended by his powerful brother.

In 2015, the Association of Organizations Protecting the Thai Constitution pointed out that Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam had seen his two brothers appointed to the National Reform Steering Assembly.

Also in 2015, it was reported that 70 members of the puppet National Legislative Assembly who have hired relatives to “work” with them at taxpayers expense, ranging from about 15,000 baht to 24,000 baht per month each. That amounted to around 17-18 million baht a year, not including per diems, travel and other perks.

Thailand’s dictatorship demonstrates the arrogance of unfettered power. Nepotism runs deep and no investigations are permitted.

Getting in for a slurp at the trough is Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan. He has fed from the military boot for decades as a dedicated servant of royalist authoritarianism.

The Bangkok Post reports that Meechai’s daughter, Mayura Chuangchote, draws a monthly salary of 47,500 baht as her father’s deputy secretary on the CDC.

Like other junta nepotists, Meechai rejects that appointing his daughter as a personal assistant in a government position is nepotism.

The nepotist says that appointing his daughter was justified because “the role had to be filled by someone reliable and who could be trusted to keep the panel’s work confidential.” Of course, he trusts his daughter! No one else among 65 million Thais could possibly do the job. Sounding like someone from the 13th century, Meechai says only family can be trusted.

We can well understand that Meechai has lots of secrets and that his work for the junta must be secretive as they connive and scheme to monopolize political power.

Meechai’s keeping it all in the family follows the example of The Dictator as puppeteer.