The authoritarian future I

22 06 2017

The National Legislative Assembly is a puppet assembly established by the military junta to do its work. The members are a bunch of junta lackeys, mostly from the armed forces, putting money in their bank accounts. Their voting behavior is that of Japanese cats.

This voting pattern was seen when the junta’s planning for military domination into the future was as enacted as a National Strategy Commission with the national strategy bill.

No prizes for guessing the voting: 281-0.

The Commission will have the prime minister at its head, with three vice-chairmen being the Senate and House speakers and a deputy prime minister or minister assigned by the premier.

Our guess is that its likely that at least the premier and Senate speaker will be military, depending on how the junta manages its “election.”

The members of the Commission will be the defense permanent secretary; chiefs of the Supreme Command, army, navy, air force and police; secretary-general of the National Security Council; chairmen of the National Economic and Social Development Board, National Farmers Federation, Thai Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Thai Industries, Tourism Council of Thailand and Thai Bankers’ Association. Another 17 supporters members can appointed by the government of the day.

That’s 5 or 6 from the military and the rest will be anti-democrats who have long supported military dictatorship.

The Commission is able to demand particular legislation related to “national reform” and maintaining the junta’s agenda into the future.





Still working against universal health care

19 06 2017

Since its coup, the military dictatorship has continually tried to convince people that the Thaksin Shinawatra-inspired universal health care program should be ditched or modified. We have we have posted on some of these royalist-inspired efforts to roll back the universal health care program. We have also mentioned independent assessments of the success of that program.

The junta ha, each time it floated the idea, backed off when it was clear that the program has wide public support. That hasn’t stopped it sniping at he program as a part of the Thaksin regime that has to be uprooted. The regime has also ensured that the program suffers budget problems.

Along with the big hospital owners and the doctors who make a fortune from private clinics, the junta would prefer a privatized system (think America’s Republicans).

Its latest efforts to gut the program are being pushed with more determination this time, seemingly going ahead despite opposition. As The Nation puts it, “the National Health Security Bill is set to sail ahead despite its four public hearings utterly failing to appease opponents.”

Not only will the puppet National Legislative Assembly vote almost unanimously for whatever its bosses want, but it is made up of anti-democrats who consider universal health care a Thaksin plot to win votes. They call it policy corruption and grumble about populism.

The measure of the dictatorship’s renewed determination is shown by the efforts now being made to intimidate opponents of this dismantling.

The saving of the program will only be if the junta believes that changing the program will be “electorally” damaging when they decide it is time they win an election.





Secret meetings at the junta’s processing terminal

17 06 2017

Readers may recall that four months ago it was reported that an iLaw study pointed to the apparently unconstitutionality of some members of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly who were being paid large amounts of money for seldom appearing at the NLA. Immediately, the details of “leaves” taken were considered “secret.”

Clean hands?

At the time, the limelight was on The Dictator’s brother, General Preecha Chan-ocha, who had a record of nepotism and other allegations of corruption, all of which seem to have faded away or that he’s wriggled out of. It helps to have your sibling lording it over the country. It can make you rich and gets you off all kinds of potential charges.

Preecha hardly ever attended the NLA, but pocketed the salary, which was on top of numerous other salaries he collected because he has multiple positions, all state sinecures.

PPT guessed that Preecha would get off this one and continue to receive money for nothing because can “leaves” are secret. We predicted an announcement will be made that the non-attendees were “on leave.”

Sure enough, almost immediately, that statement was made by none other than Deputy Dictator and Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has declared that “it is not a problem that General Preecha Chan-o-cha, the former Defence permanent secretary and brother of the prime minister, takes frequent leave from legislative meetings…”. But he did say that “a committee is being set up to examine the case.”

Less than a week later, the vice president of the military’s NLA said “an internal review” found the seven members in question had in fact met the minimum participation requirements and would not be dismissed. No details were provided so we can assume this was all fudged and fabricated.

As might be expected under the military dictatorship, things went quiet and it was all forgotten. Preecha and his fellow non-attendees still pocketed the money.

The story returned yesterday, and readers will not be amazed to know that Preecha and his buddies have been officially cleared.

The NLA told the media that “the seven members, including former Army Chief General Preecha Chan-o-cha, did not breach the regulation.”

The reason for this was that “they sometimes had to perform their normal duty as state officials…”.

Of course, this is a nonsensical response that, on the face of it, ignores the NLA’s own rules.

However, we will never know what actually happened or get any further detail because “the meeting was held in secret for one hour today [Friday].”

Yes, that’s how the military dictatorship works.

Just to confirm suspicions that this was a concocted result, the “NLA also voted in favour of amending its work procedure rule, removing clauses which set out the number of times a member fails to vote that would cause membership to be nullified.”

That is clear. Loud and clear. The NLA is a rubber stamp for the junta almost always voting unanimously for laws handed down by its paymasters.

This decision acknowledges that the NLA is irrelevant; it doesn’t even need members present to do the junta’s bidding. In fact, calling it a “rubber stamp” assembly is giving it too much credit. It is an expensive processing terminal.





Illegal and repressive

30 05 2017

There can be no surprise that the draft cybersecurity bill proposed by the puppet National Reform Steering Assembly is considered by almost everyone as illegal.

But illegality seldom bothers the military dictatorship which simply transforms the illegal to legal. It has a puppet National Legislative Assembly that can be told to change any law it wants; it can order it to make laws.

The proposal is to allow the junta and any following governments to snoop on citizens and their internet, social media and other forms of communication activities without a court order.

The junta can already do this using Article 44 which “grants authority to officials in cases of emergency that would create ‘significant damages’ without immediate action.” As the report explain:

In such cases, the officials have the authority to gain access to information on communications, either by post, telephone, fax, computer, any tool or instrument for electronic media communication or telecommunications, or take any measures for the maintenance of cybersecurity with the approval of the National Cybersecurity Committee (NCSC), and then report the action to the courts.

The bill currently proposed “is an amendment to the original version drafted by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DE) and endorsed last year by the cabinet.”

There’s no detailed definition of “significant damages” and the “the draft is too broad and subject to interpretation…”. That’s according to Dhiraphol Suwanprateep, a partner in the intellectual property practice at Baker McKenzie.

The bill promises that the “authorities” will be free of any judicial review, even though such reviews are weak and malleable.





Military rule continuing

21 05 2017

A story reproduced in a Malaysian newspaper begins this way:

Thailand enters its fourth year under military rule Monday with the junta firmly entrenched in power and prospects for the return of democracy bleak despite promised elections at the end of next year, rights activists say.

Briefly, the article notes that the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly “swiftly passed an array of laws aimed at gagging dissent, in a country that already had strict Lese-Majeste laws forbidding insults to the royal family.” The junta also ruled by decree.

The story is of repression: “Since the coup three years ago, the junta has detained 597 people, including politicians, activists and journalists, according to iLaw…”. It adds:

Among them, 82 were held for violating Lese-Majeste laws, under which offenders can get as many as 15 years in jail for sharing a story on Facebook, while 64 were hauled up for sedition, iLaw figures show.

As we have stated before, we think these figures are underestimates.

The story quotes national human rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit: “The issue of concern is the snuffing out of freedom — [freedom] of speech, to hold demonstrations, peaceful public gatherings…. Human rights defenders are intimidated or prosecuted…”.

The Financial Times points to a critical transition:

A more unpredictable dimension for the junta is the arrival of the new king and the next phase in the military-monarchy alliance that has long underpinned the power of both. The generals clashed with Facebook this week as they stepped up efforts to scrub the Thai internet of commentary and images that were potentially embarrassing to the monarch. But the king has also been flexing his muscles independently, bringing various royally-linked institutions under his direct control and securing late changes to the constitution that increase his authority.

The junta is probably hoping for another royal death so that they can seek to further manage this relationship and maintain authoritarianism.

 





King’s power increased, public funds (mis)used

2 05 2017

Thailand’s restoration of feudal institutions and relationships just moved another step into the dark ages.

In an earlier post, PPT posted on a secret meeting of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly that gave a bunch of state agencies to the king.

Because it was a secret meeting, little was actually known about the changes made. Now, Khaosod has reported the changes. We think that the changes are important enough to reproduce the report in full, leaving out a last paragraph that was background:

Five state agencies that oversee the palace’s security and management were transferred to custody of … the King on Monday.

The transfer was announced last night in a bill passed in secret by the interim parliament two weeks ago. Following the bill’s enactment, the five agencies are no longer state bodies, but entities directly overseen by King Vajiralongkorn.

The transferred agencies are the Royal Household Bureau, Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, Royal Thai Aide-De-Camp Department, Office of Royal Court Security Police and Royal Security Command. The first manages royal affairs while the rest provide security services to the monarch.

They were formerly under control of the Ministry of Defense, the Prime Minister’s Office and the police.

The law transfers ownership of all agencies but the four-year-old Royal Court Security Police from the public back to the crown for the first time since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932. They will continue to receive public funds for their operation under Section 5 of the bill. The same section said any revenues generated by the four agencies will not be forwarded to the state treasury.

The bill’s footnote said the transfer was necessary for more efficient management of issues related to [the king] … and his family, whose needs cannot be served by the state bureaucracy.

The law was brought before the junta’s rubber stamp parliament on April 20, where it was discussed and approved in a single day by secret vote.

What a deal for the taxpayer. Pay for all these things but if they make any money, the royal freeloaders keep it. How feudal. How pathetic.





Self congratulations

25 04 2017

There’s very little scope for humility among the members of the junta and its minions which together constitute the military dictatorship.

The latest example of arrogance is in an “interview” with charter junkie and career anti-democrat Meechai Ruchupan by The Nation’s Suthichai Yoon.

A couple of decades ago, Suthichai portrayed himself as a journalist opposed to military dictatorship. Now he is an ardent supporter and his “interviews” and columns are propaganda pieces for anti-democrats.

Breathlessly, Suthichai asks how many times Meechai has been involved with writing constitutions. Of course, Meechai has been the rightists most important assets in opposing democratization, and this is why he claims roles in writing five charters, all military-backed constitutions. He also claims he “had parts in writing of the 1997 and 2007 charters.” He adds: “I did not help write them but I was in the Parliament and I helped checking and correcting. I also countersigned them after the royal endorsement.”

That’s quite a record of getting things wrong. Meechai’s task has been to ensure that royalist ideology is maintained and that popular sovereignty has been limited.

The aged Meechai complains that writing the military’s latest charter was exhausting for him: “It takes a lot of effort. Every day after work I always have to lay down very still. This is because it is not only the Constitution but also other legislation that is my job. This takes a lot of brainpower.”

We doubt the latter. Meechai essentially followed orders (orders he would have mostly agreed with). In fact, it was the military junta that dictated the terms of the charter, and with a puppet Constitution Drafting Committee and a puppet National Legislative Assembly, getting the required document approved was a doddle.

Suthichai then asks a seemingly rhetorical question that is is for the yellow audience. He asks if the new charter will keep those nasty “politicians” in line.

Yes, says Meechai.

He then asks if the military charter is durable. Meechai’s response is revealing:

Some said that when His Majesty the King presided over the ceremony to promulgate the Constitution it was the first time in 48 years. I thought to myself that this charter could be around for at least 48 years, too. I take it as a lucky number and think it is how long the charter will last.

He says this because the military makes it almost impossible to change the charter. Only a truly democratic revolution will change it, and the junta reckons they have seen this off.

Suthichai then allows Meechai to highlight his own greatness by asking how influential Meechai was in the process:

… I admit the wordings are mine because I was the one typing it for everyone to see in the screens. And we debated until we reached agreement. Also, we had to think about people outside the room, too. We tried to compromise.

Compromise and debate were actually missing from the process, along with any notion of public consultation. Debate was in a narrow circle of military and royalists.

Suthichai then allows Meechai to lie a bit when he asks, “Are you worried about criticism that you did this for the junta? Meechai’s response is a fairy tale:

No. We have treated the NCPO as everyone else. We sent letters to gather opinions from them. The Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) members had never seen PM Prayut Chan-o-cha. And the PM also left us alone.

We might believe that The Dictator stayed away, but only because he had a puppet drafter and puppet assemblies. But everyone knows that The Dictator is a meddler and there can be no doubt that he directed and coached, and the public record shows it. In fact, when Meechai states, “… there were no orders from the NCPO, I insist,” he is lying. He then adds:

… in the meeting we have Maj Gen Veera Rojanavas who is close to the PM. He only took notes and reported to the PM. I also told him to report to the PM too, assuring that the charter would be done in time.

Meechai then engages in considerable propaganda for the junta: no, the military won’t form a political party; the junta does not have a political base; the “election” will be held as soon as possible; The Dictator works hard and he does not want to stay on.

We can’t wait to see what further role the aged Meechai gets in a military-dominated future government.