The junta’s senate

1 03 2019

The process of shortlisting senators by a military regime panel will not be difficult. That’s according to Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.

He says that’s because “[t]hey are likely to be recruited from members of various bodies who were appointed by the junta and from specialists in various professions…”. Wissanu added that those considered will be “drawn from the National Legislative Assembly as well as defunct bodies such as the National Reform Council and National Reform Steering Council.”

Wissanu revealed that “400 Senate candidates will be shortlisted by the recently established panel headed by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.” The Deputy Dictator will then pass these names to the junta. Yes, that’s right, the junta presents the names to the junta.

After the junta gets the names from the junta, it then chooses 194 unelected senators and 50 “reserve” candidates. And, of course, six seats are given to the bosses of each of the armed forces leaders, the supreme commander, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defense the national police chief. All of these are junta supporters, appointed by the junta.

The remaining 50 senators are also selected by the junta “from among 200 candidates who have already been shortlisted in a process supervised by the [puppet] Election Commission.”

In other words, the senate will be the junta’s people and will do the junta’s bidding.





Updated: Suthep’s political party

2 06 2018

Readers will probably remember that the military junta was grateful to the Democrat Party’s Suthep Thaugsuban for plowing the ground for its military coup in 2014 through his formation and manipulation of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee.

Readers might also recall that the junta got agitated when Suthep claimed a role in planning the coup and that it was also concerned by Suthep’s capacity for political mobilization. They seem to have threatened him and sent him off to the monkhood.

Since then, Suthep has been careful in his political steps, clearly not wanting to become a target for military assassination, as was yellow-shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul.

Finally, though, a new political party has been formed as a political vehicle for Suthep and some of his PDRC colleagues. It is called Action Coalition for Thailand (ACT).

It keeps Suthep as a “member” while the frontman Anek Laothamatas is said to be a founder. He’s failed politician who took funds from corrupt politicians and also from the current junta. He was also with the deeply yellow Thailand Reform Institute that brought royalists and anti-democrats together at Rangsit University. Many appear associated with Suthep’s Party.

Anek has been with the Democrat Party, once worked for Thaksin Shinawatra and is a former Communist. For a time he paraded himself as an “academic.” That he now appears as a “Bhumibolist” should be no surprise for someone who can change his political spots as easily as he changes his ties to a clownish bow-tie for his media appearances.

Clarifications. We say he’s a Bhumibolist referring to a clipped image from The Nation, below, where he wears a Bhumibol election pin and has books on the dead king carefully arranged for the photo op. We say he’s fronting Suthep’s Party because that is what he calls it:

Suthep will be just an ordinary party member, with no executive position in the party and no positions in the future, according to Anek. He also said that having Suthep as a member, the ACT could be viewed as “Suthep’s party”.

Unlike other parties, ACT  “will not elect its leader and other party executives at its maiden meeting.” They will do it later, knowing that the junta’s “election” is months away. The party also needs 500 members and Anek says it is short of that.

Some 250 members will meet at their political alma mater, Rangsit University, owned by yellow-shirt moneybags Arthit Ourairat today:

In addition to Anek, those attending the meeting will be former Democrat Party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban, who headed the PDRC until its demise following the 2014 coup, Rangsit University deputy dean Suriyasai Katasila and former National Reform Assembly member Prasan Marukapitak, according to Thani Thaugsuban, a former Democrat MP and Suthep’s younger brother.

Suriyasai, Prasan and Thani are formerly key figures in the PDRC, which led massive street protests between November 2013 and May 2014 against the government led by the Pheu Thai Party. The rally culminated in a military coup in May 2014 that overthrew the administration.

Many were previously involved with the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

Anek was generous to say that “he was going to resign from the current positions, before working at the new party.“ At present, Anek is still in the pay of the military dictatorship. He is “serving as chairman of the committee on political reform, which is part of the junta-appointed National Reform Steering Assembly, in addition to being a member and an adviser in other committees.” He gets a very handy income from the junta.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that, despite all of his previous statements that he had “left” politics, the former Democrat Party godfather Suthep is to be a “co-founder” of ACT. He’s fortunate the T in ACT doesn’t mean Truth.





Another privy councilor gone

3 03 2018

King Vajiralongkorn had no sooner arrived back in Bangkok from Germany when another privy councilor was sent packing.

Wirach (or Virat) Chinvinitkul (วิรัช ชินวินิจกุล), a former vice president and secretary of the Supreme Court and a member of the junta’s National Reform Steering Assembly was only appointed by the king on 13 December 2016. He was removed by announcement on Friday.

We await stories, announcements and rumors on why he was removed.

It is interesting to observe that some have reported that the king has been in Germany from 29 December 2017 until 28 February 2018.





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.





Now for the next 20 years…

1 08 2017

The well-paid puppet National Reform Steering Assembly members have finished their work assigned by the military dictatorship.

Its final meeting was addressed by The Dictator. As he “received” its final report, he praised his men (and a few women) for their diligence in doing his bidding. The Assembly was essentially a committee of military and bureaucratic minions and a few of the usual faces associated with regressive royalist “reform.”

General Prayuth Chan-ocha claimed that their report, demanding “reform” in 190 areas over 20 years, had “stakeholder” inputs. He means the military, bureaucracy, business and royalists anti-democrats provided some suggestions.

Prayuth is reported to have “stressed the 20-year strategic plan must be carried out along with national reform…”. Oddly, he insisted that the “plan is not designed to control governments. These are tools for driving the country forward…”.

We assume he means that the military is expected to be the enforcer of “reform” into the future. Governments not directly controlled by the military will presumably be threatened by the military.

Essentially, “reform” is meant to limit elected politicians. While other countries have checks and balances, Thailand’s military dictatorship favors barriers and imbalance, with unelected anti-democrats and royalists actually running the show.





Abolish KPI

9 07 2017

It is not often that PPT agrees with the anti-democrats of the puppet National Reform Steering Assembly. But on their criticism of the hopeless and historically challenged King Prajadhipok’s Institute (KPI), we (almost) agree.

A report at the Nation says that the KPI “has been accused of promoting networking among participants of its many courses that attract the political and business elite, as well as senior bureaucrats and other important people from many circles.”

In fact, that’s documented in chapter 5 of the 2016 book Unequal Thailand [readers may finds bits of it at Google books].

One of the numerous committees at the NRSA “has called for a review of the KPI’s roles and duties, as well as a reform of its courses.”

Seree Suwanpanont, the chairman of the NRSA’s political reform committee, “said that despite its many years of existence, the KPI had failed to help improve the standard of Thai politics.”

We agree with this observation. Some time ago, PPT observed that the then constitution manager for the military dictatorship, Bowornsak Uwanno  headed up the KPI, a front organization for “Thai-style” (non-)democracy.

One may peruse the revised KPI fairy tale history to learn that the royalist construction of “parliamentary democracy with the King as the head of state” came into existence in 1932 rather than when royalist and military ideologues hit on this mangled description in recent years. One might also note that under the misapprehension that the deposed king “granted” political change rather than having it forced on him and a coterie of princes.

In fact, since we wrote that, KPI has removed the last bit. Perhaps they read us?

Most significantly, KPI is claimed to have been “established specifically to promote democracy…”. In fact, it was established by royalists to subvert democracy, and Bowornsak is the perfect and trustworthy patron of that subversion of democratic and electoral politics.

That neither Bowornsak nor his royalist organization have done anything to promote  democracy is shown by the linking of the last absolute monarch with the Institute. If it were even necessary, Bowornsak was reported in The Nation in a manner that made this crystal clear.

Instead of “reforming” the KPI, abolish it.





Repression into the future

4 07 2017

PPT marvels at the capacity of the military junta’s puppet National Reform Steering Assembly for rubber-stamping. Voting 144-1, the NRSA has decided to spend oodles more taxpayer money “protecting” the monarchy.

As part of the junta’s 20-year national strategy, the NRSA has “decided” that exceptional measures, likely to be very costly, are necessary to “protect” the monarchy from social media.

The measures accepted include a requirement that “social media users to identify themselves” and the establishment a “central social media watch centre.”

The NRSA “cited growing problems such as a lack of media literacy, abuse and the ‘irresponsible exercise’ of rights and freedom, which had had social, political and economic impacts as well as affected the nation’s ‘main institution’…”.

Forget the guff about social and economic impacts, this is about the monarchy and repressing regime political opponents.

Registration of mobile phones and linking to social media accounts will be required because it will “have a psychological effect on users and could prevent them from exhibiting undesirable behaviours online…”.

The “central social media watch centre” would operate to monitor, delete, suppress and arrest those guilty of “inappropriate” use of social media. It seems the existing “Cyber Security Coordination Centre” is insufficient as “its more than 300 officers had not been able to work effectively because they lacked the proper technology.” So more “advanced technology” is needed to “trace and examine photographs, video, audio and text on YouTube and Facebook, allowing the identification of users posting the content.”





Get ready for even more regressive “reform”

1 06 2017

The Bangkok Post reports that the puppet “National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) has approved a series of political reform proposals intended to form a key part of the 20-year national strategic plan.”

As usual, the puppets are acting as wooden dolls on strings, voting “158 against 2 to accept the reforms their proponents believe will pave the way for cleaning up Thai politics.” They mean roll back electoral politics and make it subject to the military and the “great” and the “good.”

The puppets babble about “good governance” and “strong democracy,” but these are simply words that conceal their anti-democratic mindset.





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.





ASEAN lawmakers on Thailand’s authoritarian path

22 05 2017

We reproduce this in full from ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights:

ASEAN lawmakers: Thailand moving in the wrong direction three years on from coup

JAKARTA – Parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia warned today that Thailand is moving in the wrong direction three years after the country’s military overthrew the last democratically elected government.

On the third anniversary of the 2014 coup, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) reiterated concerns over arbitrary arrests, persecution of government critics, and restrictions on fundamental freedoms. The collective of regional lawmakers said that moves by the ruling junta have dealt lasting damage to Thailand’s long-term democratic prospects, and urged military leaders to return the country to elected, civilian rule as soon as possible.

“In the past year, this military regime has further strengthened its hold on institutions to the detriment of both democracy and the economic well-being of the country. Its actions since taking power appear aimed at systematically and permanently crippling any hope of democratic progress,” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament.

“To put it bluntly, Thailand is headed in the wrong direction. With the military firmly in the driver’s seat and a new constitution that guarantees it a central role in politics for years to come, Thailand appears further from a return to genuine democracy than at any point in recent memory. Meanwhile, investors are increasingly nervous about the control exerted by elites in managing the country. The damage incurred will have severe, long-lasting consequences that will not be easily undone.”

A new military-drafted constitution, officially promulgated on 6 April, contains anti-democratic clauses, including provisions for an unelected prime minister and a wholly appointed upper chamber of parliament. A version of the charter was approved by voters in a controversial August 2016 referendum, which APHR criticized at the time as “undemocratic.”

“With its new charter, the Thai junta has designed something akin to Myanmar’s ‘disciplined democracy,’ a flawed system where the generals still hold key levers of power and are able to pull the strings from behind the scenes,” said APHR Vice Chair Eva Kusuma Sundari, a member of the House of Representatives of Indonesia.

“This is a real concern for all those hoping that the Thai people will be able to enjoy democracy and prosperity in the future. In order for Thailand to truly return to democracy, the military needs to step aside, allow for genuine elections, and commit to remaining in the barracks, rather than meddling in politics.”

Since seizing power on 22 May 2014, the military-led National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has placed severe restrictions on political activities and arbitrarily arrested hundreds for speaking out against it. Journalists, human rights defenders, and former politicians have been among those subjected to arbitrary detention and mandatory “attitude adjustment” at military and police facilities.

“The situation for human rights in the country has deteriorated. In the past three years, we have witnessed steadily increasing repression and a clampdown on basic freedoms. These developments are especially concerning in the context of a broader erosion of democracy and rights protections across the ASEAN region,” said APHR Board Member Walden Bello, a former Congressman from the Philippines.

“After repeated delays to promised elections, it’s not clear that the generals who currently hold power have any intention of giving it up for real. There are also real concerns among the international community about the continued use of Article 44 and its implications for accountability and human rights,” he added.

Article 44 of Thailand’s interim constitution enables the NCPO chief, Prayuth Chan-ocha, to unilaterally make policy and override all other branches of government, and Prayuth has used this sweeping authority to restrict fundamental freedoms.

Political gatherings remain banned, a clear violation of the right to peaceful assembly. Meanwhile, political parties are prohibited from holding meetings or undertaking any political activity.

The country has also witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of individuals arrested and charged under Article 112, Thailand’s harsh lèse-majesté statute, which outlaws criticism of the monarchy. Over 100 people have been arrested on such charges since the NCPO took power.

Press freedom has also come under attack. A new media bill, approved by the National Reform Steering Assembly, was repeatedly criticized by journalists and press freedom advocates. Though the final version of the bill forwarded to the cabinet earlier this month eliminated controversial proposed licensing requirements for media workers, it still includes provisions for government officials to sit on a regulatory body tasked with monitoring and accrediting media. This provision would undermine media freedom and constitute undue government interference into the affairs of the press, parliamentarians argued.

“The military government must recognize that a free, independent press is critical to a functioning democracy. It must also do a better job listening to civil society, including by ensuring adequate consultation with relevant stakeholders on all legislation,” Eva Sundari said.

“As Thailand moves into its fourth year under military rule, it is now more urgent than ever that concrete steps be taken to right the ship. Junta leaders need to understand that their actions, which fly in the face of international human rights norms and democratic standards, are no way to achieve a peaceful, prosperous future for Thailand,” Charles Santiago said.