The Dictator and the media means repression

3 05 2017

There’s been a spate of reporting saying the military dictatorship was prepared to “compromise” on the controversial media control bill.

For example, the Bangkok Post stated that “National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) Monday endorsed a controversial media bill after making changes to two controversial issues in an apparent attempt to ease pressure from the press and critics.”

The Post reported that the revisions meant the “contentious plan to license individual journalists was dropped. However, journalists would be required to obtain certificates from their respective media companies.” Whatever that means.

It also reported that “the much-criticised 15-member national media profession council, which would include permanent secretaries from the PM’s Office and Culture Ministry, state representatives will serve on it during the five-year transitional period.” Again, this could end up meaning whatever the junta wants it to mean.

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post responded to this move, basically saying the whole bill should be flushed down the nearest drain.

Thailand’s Chaplinesque Hynkel, The Great Dictator, known more widely as General Prayuth Chan-ocha, even prattled about having ” a forum to hear the views of members of the media on the controversial media bill…”. But this is window dressing. The Dictator stated: “”Don’t worry. All issues of concern will be jointly discussed. The bill has both positives and negatives…”. Whatever one thinks of this verbal manure, Prayuth wants control and limits on the media.

At the same time that he was babbling to the media, he was also criticizing the Navy for giving too much information to the media, claiming that “no other country has ever had to disclose this much information about military hardware procurement as Thailand just did.” This is just a lie. But the point is, Prayuth wants secrets kept so that his people can do what they want.

Then there’s the abduction of critics. No one may speak ill of the junta.

Bigger than this, though, is the desire to control the history that Thais know, not to mention the protection of a new palace regime of toadies and other supplicants in the service of a king who simply can’t be trusted.

We have speculated that the king is responsible for the removal of the 1932 commemorative plaque. So when the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) decided to hold a panel discussion on the stolen plaque, the dictatorship had a political heart attack.

The result was that on 3 May , the “FCCT announced on its Facebook page that it had received orders from the police to cancel [the] panel discussion…. The police advised that the order came from so-called ‘relevant officials’ who perceived the seminar as a threat to national security.”

The national security threat is presumably an admission that the king had the plaque stolen.

The FCCT went on to say that it “regrets to announce that the panel discussion ‘Memories of 1932: The Mystery of Thailand’s Missing Plaque’, … has been cancelled. The decision was made after the FCCT received a letter from the Lumpini Police asking for the event to be called off, after the police were contacted, they say, by ‘relevant officials’…”.

It added: “The FCCT has been given to understand that this cancellation is on the orders of the NCPO, and we have no choice but to comply.”

That’s the junta’s position: the media cannot be free because it and the palace has many secrets that may not be revealed to anyone, least of all the media. If anyone reports on these secrets, they risk years in jail or even the king’s private lock up.





When the military is on top IV

27 04 2017

Military dictatorships only like media they can manipulate. Military dictatorships want to control the news. Censorship is their modus operandi.

Thailand’s military dictatorship is no different. The Dictator has shown, time and again, that he hates the media because it sometimes does not do as he wants.

Thailand’s military dictatorship wants to censor everything. It thrives on censorship. Its minions seek out material to censor in the media, on the internet and in private conversations.

The military dictatorship’s latest effort to control news is reported in the Bangkok Post. This effort is led by the mass media panel of the puppet National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA).

It has drafted laws that will require that any person the state deems to be a “reporter” “will be required to have a licence to do their jobs or face a jail term up to two years or a fine not more than 60,000 baht, or both…”.

In true Orwellian style, Pol Maj Gen Pisit Pao-in, the deputy chairman of the panel said his committee named the revised bill as being about “the protection of rights and freedom and promotion of ethics and professional standards of mass media…”.

It is really a dictatorial regime’s effort to limit rights and freedoms and has absolutely nothing to do with professionalization or ethics.

The dozy Pisit compared journalists to “traditional massage service[s]” in needing to be licensed.

He also explained who this bill was meant to silence. He noted that “licensing shouldn’t be a problem with old media — newspapers, radio and TV — but it won’t be easy with new media.”

Defining “reporters as those who have the intention and continuity in reporting news to the public and earn direct or indirect revenue from doing so,” the bill is meant to censor blogs, alternative news sites and “websites such as Sanook.com, Kapook.com or news apps on Line platform…”.

Maj Gen Pisit stated that the opposition of all “mass media organisations” – “against the bill, against licensing” – counted for nothing. He has a job to do for the dictatorship.





Updated: Moving from military dictatorship to military domination

5 04 2017

The Bangkok Post quotes the junta and its minions in saying that a “general election will be held in November next year [2018] at the latest now that the date has been set for the promulgation of Thailand’s 20th constitution, according to the roadmap set by the National Council for Peace and Order[they mean military junta].”

That calculation is based on a “schedule announced in the Royal Gazette on Monday,” which has the king finally and with great pomposity, signing the junta’s much amended and still secret constitution tomorrow.

By that calculation, an “election,” under the junta’s rules and direction, must be held “19 months from that date or no later than Nov 6, 2018.”

Frankly, given that the junta promised “elections” 12 months after it illegally seized power in May 2014, we will believe it when it happens.

But as we have said before, the “elections” will change very little. A few countries like the USA will accept a military-backed but formalistic “elected government,” and that will be seen by some as a plus.

In fact, as planned at the moment, the military and junta will remain the power in Thailand, much as it was through the 1980s. But back then it was General Prem Tinsulanonda ruling with strong palace-backing and a military-dominated senate. This time it will be whoever the junta wants in the premier’s seat backed by the junta’s constitution and its multiple unelected bodies, including the unelected junta.

The Dictator seems reasonably sure that the constitution will be signed tomorrow: “As far as I know, [the king] will sign the constitution on April 6 and I will countersign it as prime minister…”.

Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan appeared somewhat disoriented in his comments. Acknowledging that Article 44 powers will continue, he babbled that the “power cannot be used in violation of the core principles of the constitution. Nor can it change the new charter itself.” Of course, that would depend on interpretations by the Constitutional Court and other bodies developed by and beholden to the junta.

Then on the ban on political party activity, Meechai seemed befuddled, saying he “believes it will be eased after the political party bill is enacted” and then adding: “In any case, they can run their normal operation.” We are not sure what “normal” is and we are sure that the parties don’t know either.

Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesman of The Dictator, noted that:

Members of the cabinet, NCPO [junta], NLA [puppet assembly] and NRSA [puppet National Reform Steering Assembly] who want to run for MPs must resign within 90 days after the new charter comes into effect. The rule applies only to MPs, not senators or cabinet ministers.

He added: “Once the constitution comes into effect, enacting a law will be more complicated and public hearings and opinions of related government agencies must be taken into consideration…”.

It will be “more complicated” for the junta even if the “complications” were designed by the junta. But Article 44 doesn’t get complicated at all. It just stays and its use is legal before and after “elections.”

In the end, the junta’s road map is a representation of how to move from military dictatorship to continued military domination of politics. That’s the plan, the road map. We retain some hope that the people will reject the dons of the military mafia.

Update: Meechai was certainly addled on political parties, so the junta has made things clear. Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan said “restrictions on political parties’ activities will not be eased even after the enactment of the new constitution.” He added: “Please wait until things become orderly. There is still about one year left [before the poll is held]…”. About a year? Or about two years? The Nation reckons the election date remains unclear.





“Reconciliation” by military committee I

9 02 2017

We assume a report yesterday in The Nation is accurate when it reports that the junta has appointed a “reconciliation committee” composed almost entirely of “military officers and state officials…”.

It states that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “signed an order to appoint members of four committees under one umbrella covering reform, reconciliation, and national strategy.” Prayuth and the junta retain total control of the committees and their process:

Each of the four committees – the national strategy preparation committee, reform preparation committee, reconciliation preparation committee and strategic administration committee – will be chaired by Prayut, with one or two deputy PMs as vice chairman. Most members of the four committees are ministers, state officials, and the president and vice president of [puppet] National Legislative Assembly and [puppet] National Reform Steering Assembly.

We were stunned by The Nation’s wrongheadedness in referring to “outsiders” who “will sit on the reconciliation preparation committee which is the biggest with 33 members.”In fact, the committee will be under Deputy Dictator, General Prawit Wongsuwan, “and includes military top-brass and chiefs of security agencies.”

The alleged “outsiders” are “former charter writers Sujit Boonbongkarn and Anek Laothamatas; Panitan Wattanayagorn, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of political science and an adviser to Prawit; Suthibhand Chirathivat, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of economics, and former Supreme Commander General Boonsang Niampradit.”

Suchit is a determined royalist, one of the grand old men who has served both post coup governments since 2006. Anek has hawked himself to the regime for some time. General Boonsang is, well, a general. The Nation doesn’t say it, but he is an ardent royalist and was a second tier leader of the 2006 coup. Certainly the People’s Alliance for Democracy favored him.

Most bizarrely, the idea that (pseudo)academic-for-hire Panitan is an “outsider” is like calling his boss, General Prawit, an “outsider.” No one is further inside than the disreputable Panitan.

In other words, “reconciliation” is just like an “election” and the “constitution.” It’s all rigged by the generals.





Amnesty on the junta’s agenda

9 01 2017

There have now been several reports that the military junta is considering a political amnesty. A report at Prachatai states that the the junta is “currently reviewing the recommendations of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand before it forms its official policies on promoting reconciliation.”

After that review, the National Reform Steering Assembly will “recommend to the junta that future political amnesties be inapplicable to those suspected or guilty of violating the country’s anti-corruption laws, as well as Article 112 of Thailand’s criminal code — the lèse majesté law.” Political leaders will also be outside any amnesty and compensation will be available.

The exclusion of those accused of lese majeste and corruption continues a legal path where murderers and those involved in violence are considered less reprehensible than the “corrupt” and those who are anti-monarchists.

The NRSA is also likely to “recommend the establishment of a special committee tasked with deciding the merits of political amnesty on a case-by-case basis.” It will suggest that the amnesty be available for the period since 2004.

Amnesty has been a cause of political conflict, with an earlier amnesty bill – quickly withdrawn – under the Yingluck Shinawatra government sparking events that led to the 2014 military coup.

This version of amnesty is targeted to exclude the junta’s political opponents. Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra are excluded because of corruption charges. With lese majeste excluded, many of those politically charged and considered anti-junta activists will be outside “reconciliation.”

The exclusion of political leaders has no impact on Abhisit  Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban as the murder charges against them have all been dropped. Likewise, military criminals who have murdered and maimed continue to enjoy impunity. As for those leading the illegal coups of 2006 and 2014, they have already granted themselves amnesty.





The next 20 years of royalist repression II

5 12 2016

The Nation reports claims by the puppet Constitution Drafting Commission’s spokesman Udom Rathamarit on the “reform” that will come with the “promulgation of the military-sponsored constitution…”.

His comments are revealing of the anti-democratic spirit of that charter and those who followed the junta’s orders in developing it.

Udom “explains” that this constitution had specific aims, mean to constrain “raw powers, big families” and make them “play the game under the same rules.” In this, the anti-democrats have one eye closed. The greatest and darkest power in Thailand is the murderous military. That “great family” is permitted to do whatever it likes.

Like most anti-democrats, Udom makes claims about “morals and codes of conduct.” These “morals” are those of the elite and revolve around notions of impunity for the great and the “good.” Double standards are their most cherished “code of conduct.”

He is clear that the constitution is written by the CDC to coerce while the “independent” agencies are meant to prevent evil “politicians” to “be vigilant and see through the trick [before any irregularity occurs]…”. Elected politicians simply can’t be trusted. The military’s “tricks” are usually blunt: jail, repression, censorship and murder.

Those hoisted into “independent agencies” must be carefully screened to ensure they are loyal servants of the great and the “good.”

Turning to the planned 20 years of royalist repression, National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) member Kamnoon Sidhisamarn anticipated that “Thailand would see volatility and instability because of unprecedented mechanisms enshrined in the charter…” and “continual reform” over 20 years “that future governments will be required to follow.” He said that plan “would be finished within one year and a few months.”

Kamnoon said that “the sweeping power that junta head and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has would still be valid after the promulgation [of the charter] and most of the Senate were appointed by the junta…”, this would drive the “reform” agenda.





Even more surveillance

28 11 2016

Using the mourning period as a “cover,” the military dictatorship seems intent on more censorship and increased surveillance. The authoritarian state is deepening and darkening.

One report states that all mobile operators will be required “to introduce an online fingerprint ID system for new prepaid and postpaid mobile SIM card registration” from early in 2017.

The authorities claim this has to do with ensuring “greater security of the mobile banking channel and prevent the risk of fraud, which is likely to increase in a cashless society,” yet fingerprint verification for mobile SIM card registration also allows the military to hugely expand its capacity to monitor citizens. All fingerprints will be maintained by the state.

Possibly related, “citing urgent cyberthreats,” the junta is considering using Article 44 to impose a “temporary authority to police online content before supporting legislation is passed.”

A report from the National Reform Steering Assembly claims that:

computer and internet systems were in such peril that a proposed body, the National Cybersecurity Committee, must be urgently empaneled by the authority of Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who heads the ruling junta and serves as prime minister.

The report warns of imminent threats that “may cause damage to national security and the government’s digital policy…” and suggested that the “National Cybersecurity Committee step aside and grant full authority to the military in cases of severe threat.”

These efforts suggest a regime determined to control everything in the name of “national security.” That means “protecting” the monarchy and the royalist regime.





Snouts in search of the senate trough

26 09 2016

In our last post, PPT indicated how observers think the future of “big” parties is limited. Indeed, we happen to think that the future of all political parties – except, perhaps, a military party – is limited. This is because the military junta has “arranged” a political and electoral systems in a manner that diminishes the role of political parties by reducing popular sovereignty.

The main “electoral” game will revolve around the unelected senate, to be appointed by the junta. The Bangkok Post reports on this. It states:

The 250 seats to be offered in the Senate under the new constitution have sparked a frenzy of lobbying as hopefuls jockey for position long before any of the posts are ready to be decided. The organic law that is needed to complete the promulgation of the Senate laws is also far from complete.Snouts

The 250 members of the Upper House, appointed by the junta, will play a key role along with the House of Representatives in the selection of a prime minister during the country’s post-election five-year transition to democracy.

In effect, elections are now replaced by intra-elite lobbying.

The military junta will appoint 194 senate members and select 50 more from another pool of candidates who will represent 20 professional groups. Another six seats are “reserved for the chiefs of the three armed forces and the Supreme Command, the defence permanent secretary and the police chief.”

The Post reports that “there are several thousand hopefuls eyeing the Senate seats and they are gearing up to lobby the military regime for a favourable nod.” This includes those who have already served the military dictatorship as selected members of the junta’s National Legislative Assembly and the National Reform Steering Assembly. They want another five years of unelected power and influence.

Nepotism and favoritism are likely to be important, along with a need for unquestioned loyalty to The Dictator, the monarchy and the military junta.





“Elect” The Dictator

6 09 2016

The moves meant to ensure that the military junta gets its way (again) following an “election” include the manipulation and making of “rules” that allow The Dictator stay at the top.

The Bangkok Post reports that a misnamed “reform panel” is seeking to essentially dismantle all existing political parties, forcing them to re-register and re-form for any upcoming “election.”

The National Reform Steering Assembly’s (NRSA) panel on political reform is recommending the drafting of four organic laws associated with the new charter that will make an unelected premier the most likely outcome of the “election.”

One of the “recommendations” floated to see the public response involves “overhauling membership of political parties by requiring their current members to re-register, known as the ‘set-zero’ approach.”

After re-registering, each member will need to pay “an annual membership fee of 200 baht.”

This is meant to ensure that the huge membership of the Puea Thai Party is intimidated and, in the end, made far smaller than its highs at about 11 million.

The other recommendation is for the junta to “manage” the “election.” We’ve already posted on this manipulation.

Apparently, “Democrat [Party] deputy leader Sathit Pitudecha lambasted the proposed party membership overhaul, saying it would undermine the democratic system.”

He’s lost in space. There is no democratic system and the junta doesn’t propose one.

The Puea Thai Party was clearer: “Pheu Thai acting deputy spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard described the move as ‘expected’, saying the so-called ‘five-river organisations’ [the junta’s backers in its own ‘institutions’] were doing their part to keep the military in power.”

He’s right. This is part of the election “fix.





Making an “election” outcome

2 09 2016

The Dictator is in campaign mode. His men are supporting him, with options being considered for a military party and a “civilian” rightist-royalist party.

Whatever party becomes a vehicle for General Prayuth Chan-0cha becoming premier following an “election” requires that that “election” produces the required victory for The Dictator’s supporters and for him.

We mentioned that one of his boys, talking of a party, then told the Election Commission how to rig the election for his party and The Dictator’s “victory.”

Now the Bangkok Post reports that ill-named “political reform assemblymen” have “proposed” that an election law be crafted to “allow the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] to have a significant role in arranging the election expected next year.”

Junta land is indeed strange. But, presumably, rightists think all this “election” rigging is just fine because those rigging it are “good people.” For one thing, they’d assert that their people aren’t “politicians,” identified as the source of all evil in Thailand. (The greatest evil seems to have been allowing for popular sovereignty.)

This particular proposal for rigging the “election” was one of several proposals “that the political reform committee of the National Reform Steering Assembly submitted on Wednesday to the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) which will draft an election bill.”

The CDC spent a lot of time rigging the referendum outcome and setting the rules for Thailand’s dysfunctional political future.

It was “recommended a provisional clause that would allow the NCPO to closely cooperate with the Election Commission (EC) on organising and regulating the election.” Then this is added and is apparently a serious addendum: “The idea was meant to prevent criticism that the coup in 2014 was a failure.”

There would be no local involvement in elections. The Interior Ministry would “organise the election of MPs and local councillors.” Provincial election committees would “be dissolved and the EC [would be able to] order soldiers, police, administrative officials of the Interior Ministry and other government officials to support it during the election.”

The committee also proposed drastic measures against vote-buying. However, under their arrangements, vote-buying by the military’s party will be unnecessary anyway as the outcome is meant to be rigged for it.