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.





Another junta crook gets off

15 03 2017

No corruption allegations ever sticks to the military junta’s allies, or so it seems.

In the case of Pol Lt Gen Sanit Mahathavorn, everyone, and we mean everyone, knows he did it. But, as The Nation reports, he is let off without a charge or even a slap on the “ethics” wrist.

The Office of the Ombudsman has given up or been pressured to give up its “probe into city police chief Lt-General Sanit … allegedly earning Bt50,000 a month as an adviser to the country’s biggest producer of alcoholic drinks, Thai Beverage…”.

The Ombudsman seems to have decided, as it often does, except where junta political opponents are involved, that “there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the case.”

Sanit’s “excuse” is that declaring the payment was an error. He claimed “that there was a mistake on his asset declaration as a new member of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA).” What kind of mistake? “He said he had asked others to handle the declaration for him and he had never worked for the firm.”

So the claim is that some underling conjured up his illicit payment from ThaiBev. He or she just had a dream and wrote it on the boss’s declaration. That’s buffalo manure, but the dolts and political flunkies at the Ombudsman “believe” it because there’s no “evidence” to the contrary (apart from the declaration).

More importantly, Thai Beverage “said in a letter to the office that it did not hire Sanit as an adviser.” They are fibbing too. Of course they pay him, and plenty of other cops too. Everyone knows they do this. But it is “good business practice,” and “everybody” does it and all the junta boys are on the take too.

The tough pussies at the “Ombudsman’s Office sent a notice to Sanit warning him to be more careful in the future by thoroughly checking documents when complied by another person on his behalf and submitted to an official body signed by him.”

So the company and the cop get away with it.

Can it get any more pathetic than this?





Corruption updates

13 03 2017

Two interesting reports, both suggesting how muddy the waters are around both cases, with the authorities being the ones throwing the mud.

First, and one of our favorites in recent times, the case of Pol. Lt. Gen. Sanit Mahathavorn. Sanit at first disclosed that he was receiving 50,000 baht a month from ThaiBev, owned by one of Thailand’s wealthiest Sino-Thai conglomerates. When questions were asked, he took some time to think up a story. Finally, a story was produced: Sanit claimed there was a “mistake” in his asset declaration. He claimed he had never been an adviser for the alcoholic drink giant, Thai Beverage Plc. And that story was relayed by the Office of the Ombudsman.

Khaosod reports that Sanit’s story doesn’t work for everyone. Now the Ombudsman says they don’t accept the lies claims. It says it has “obtained his original financial disclosure document and found it certified with his signature.” In other words, he was getting the payment.

The Ombudsman is only looking at “ethics rules.” Sanit, like many other top cops will be confused by this word “ethics.”

Given that both Sanit and ThaiBev have denied any financial relationship, some serious questions should be asked. We doubt anyone will ask any.

Second, the Rolls Royce saga continues with continuing confusing reporting. The Bangkok Post reports that “National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) plans this week to discuss the scope of an investigation into the alleged bribes paid to 26 former Thai cabinet ministers and executives of Thai Airways International (THAI) in the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal.”

The report adds that “the three NACC members and the NACC secretary-general will discuss the probe framework this week with the sub-committee tasked with finding facts in the alleged bribe payments.” They reckon they might need some more “evidence.”

And, oh yes, the “NACC will focus on the third phase of the bribery scandal that occurred between 2004 and 2005…”. That seems to mean they will only look at that period, when the government was with Thaksin Shinawatra. No politics here, of course, because the NACC says this is the only period not outside the statute of limitations on such alleged crimes.

What of that “ethics” word? Unlike the Ombudsman, the NACC seems to have forgotten it or never seen it. What about the idea of naming and shaming those in earlier periods? That might be a bit difficult for the NACC because they’d be up against the “great and good” who are strong allies of anti-democrats and military junta.





Updated: Article 44 and the junta’s fear

16 07 2016

It was something of a surprise a few days ago when The Dictator used Article 44to halt all selections for independent bodies. Sure, Article 44 has been used for all manner of things, from land seizures to universities and political repression, but this use seemed somewhat odd.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s order “suspended the selection of ombudsmen, election commissioners, Constitutional Court judges, members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission, and national human rights commissioners, pending the promulgation of a new charter.”

Now the reason is clear and in the media. As Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam “explained,” Prayuth’s “order on Wednesday halting the selection of a new ombudsman was issued to prevent a ‘serious untoward incident’…”.

The media asked for more information. Wissanu declared that it was “aimed at preventing serious repercussions.”

The media asked for more information: “Asked why the ombudsman’s selection process could have such a serious impact, Mr Wissanu said, ‘If you were at the parliament, you would know. It was a serious issue that should not have happened’.”

The order prevented the National Legislative Assembly from considering the partially complete selection of Rewat Visarutvej as a new ombudsman from continuing.

Why did the junta want the process halted? It seems that Dr Rewat, a former chief of the Medical Services Department and former adviser to the Office of the Ombudsman, has been blackballed because some of the junta members and some of the deeply yellow think he is tainted.

For them, it is a sin that Dr Rewat served as an adviser to red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikua when he was a deputy minister in Thailand’s last elected government. That made him “problematic,” threatening a “serious untoward incident” that would have had “serious repercussions.”

The NLA itself was split on Rewat, so the junta stepped in to prevent an appointment they considered impossible – no red shirts allowed.

NLA member, junta friend and former member of the 2006 junta, General Somjet Boonthanom “said if this selection proceeded, it could be seen as the NLA failing its duty and people would lose faith in it as well as the NCPO.” (Had some members forgotten who is paying for their rice, cars, advisers and more?)

Readers will recall that Yingluck Shinawatra was unanimously found at fault by the Constitutional Court and dismissed from office for the transfer of a top security officer, Thawil Pliensri, as National Security Council secretary-general in 2011. Yet the junta, with its own rules, impunity and double standards supported by “independent agencies” can do whatever it wants, when the fear of Thaksin Shinawatra is driving them.

Update: Some reports state that Rewat has the support of the brass. In that case, the junta seems as concerned about yellow opposition as it does of Thaksin. For the referendum, they want no opposition at all.





Court actions

9 06 2016

Two short reports on judicial action deserve attention.

The first is about the Ombudsman’s Office petitioning the Constitutional Court over Section 61 of the referendum law that ill-defined illegal actions related to the constitutional referendum. The Constitutional Court on Wednesday accepted the petition. The report states that the court has “ordered the National Legislative Assembly and Election Commission to send evidence to counter the case.” Presumably the Constitutional Court now moves quickly to decide if Section 61 of the referendum law infringes on “constitutional rights” in the military’s interim charter.

AnarchyThe second story refers to the case of Natthapol Khemngern, a musician, who was arrested on 25 May 2015 for anarchist graffiti at the Criminal Court. Originally the Criminal Court sentenced him to two years imprisonment reduced to one year without suspension because he pleaded guilty. Natthapol appealed, and the Appeals Court upheld the sentence but suspended it for two years, fined him and ordered that he complete 12 hours of community service.

 





Referendum doubt

3 06 2016

Readers will remember that in May, a group The Nation described as “high-profile human rights advocates and former senators” submitted a petition to the Office of the Ombudsman, “seeking the nullification of the newly enacted referendum act, claiming it violates the interim constitution.” They claimed the law “violate[d] Article 4 of the interim charter, which guarantees freedom of expression.”

The Bangkok Post reports that the Ombudsman seems to have detected a case in this, and the “Ombudsman will petition the Constitutional Court to seek a ruling on whether the Referendum Act’s Section 61 violates the interim charter’s clause on freedom of expression.” Apparently, “the three Ombudsmen of Thailand voted unanimously Wednesday to forward the matter to the court by the end of this week.”

According to the Post, Section 61, which makes illegal a range of campaign “styles,” is seen as infringing “on people’s rights and freedoms. It could also be widely interpreted by officers and judges, due to the lack of definition of what constitutes ‘violent’, ‘aggressive’ or ‘inciting’ words or behaviour…”. The Office of the Ombudsman agreed “on the lack of clarity regarding the terms used in Section 61…”.

It is now for the politicized Constitutional Court to decide if it will look at the Ombudsman’s petition and, if it does, will rule on it.

Surprisingly, this move has worried pro-junta agents, who called for The Dictator to use his emergency powers under Article 44 to get around this “threat.”

However, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has rejected this call, instead saying “it is up to the court to decide on the matter, and if the court rules that the law is not in line with the interim charter, the referendum will have to be deferred.” He added: “If the referendum is to be postponed, don’t blame me. Just ask the court…”.

Puppet Constitution Drafting Committee chair Meechai Ruchupan dismissed the challenge, saying the “referendum is unlikely to be derailed by the matter.” Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said that all the Ombudsman wanted was for the Constitutional Court to clarify the terms in Section 61. He said that any changes to the law as a result would not derail the referendum.

Given Prayuth’s stated determination to stay on “until peace has been fully returned to the country,” any postponement or scrapping of the referendum would simply continue his hold on power.





Opposing the draconian referendum law

11 05 2016

A group of what The Nation describes as “high-profile human rights advocates and former senators”  has “lodged a petition with the Ombudsman’s Office, seeking the nullification of the newly enacted referendum act, claiming it violates the interim constitution.”

The group was “led by former senator and director of Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) Jon Ungphakorn…”. The group “asked the Constitutional Court via the Ombudsman’s Office to look at the second and fourth clauses under Article 61 of the Act. He said the clauses in question violate Article 4 of the interim charter, which guarantees freedom of expression.”

The group’s petition was “signed by 100 law experts, academics and human rights advocates” who stated that the act’s language was vague and broad, preventing people from knowing which “actions can be considered illegal.” Of course, this is exactly what the military junta intended as the act is meant to intimidate critics.

The group also declared the penalties as overly harsh, stating that “[e]xpressing one’s views in a ‘rude or aggressive’ manner may be inappropriate, but it should not be taken as a violation of law…”.

Jon stated that several clauses in the act are meant to “discourage the general public and the media to voice their opinions on the draft.” He added: “We have no intention to overturn the August referendum, but just want people to be able to arrange debates on the draft during the lead-up to the referendum…”.

Former National Human Rights Commissioner and the ex-senator Niran Pithakwatchara said the referendum may end up being a waste as, by its nature, a “referendum aims to hear people’s voices, so why is the law discouraging people from speaking out”? He added that “[f]ear has spread throughout the country and is harming democracy…”.

Of course, there is no democracy in Thailand and the military’s charter is not meant to achieve it.





Privy councilor as political dinosaur

27 04 2014

PPT and many of our readers noted that another privy councilor has decided to provide his observations on the ills of Thai society and their remedies.

Privy Councillor Kasem Watthanachai is reported at the Bangkok Post. His view is that:

Thailand has been mired in “a decade of darkness” resulting from the politics of populism and graft, told a seminar yesterday.

Mr Kasem said the crisis Thailand has been facing over the past decade is unprecedented.

He described it as a decade of darkness resulting from politics revolving around populist policies which have led people to crave and become addicted to materialism and consumerism.

He said corruption is a serious problem that needs to be addressed urgently.

Kasem has said similar things before, lecturing those who “sold” land to “foreigners” about “greed.” Then he complained about a third of Thailand being owned by “foreigners,” sold by “greedy” people; this was a nonsense.

A privy councilor since 2001, his claims about “darkness,” an unprecedented “crisis,” serious “corruption and linking this to “populism” is simply another privy councilor engaging in overt politics, attacking the elected governments that they loathe.

Hence, Kasem  can urge “people, including civil servants, to come out and ‘light candles’ to dispel and counter the darkness of corruption and for the government to make serious efforts to tackle the graft problem,” he may as well be asking them to welcome anti-democrats with gold whistles.

Supporting the anti-democrats? You bet he is. He was speaking at another of those “independent” agencies that have been carefully politicized under the influence of royalists, the Office of the Ombudsman.

The old men of the privy council worry that “Thai people are adopting some negative social values such as bowing to dishonest people, or admiring and supporting wealthy people who commit wrongdoings…”. He means Thaksin and the Shinawatra clan.

His political conservatism was matched by Ombudsman Sriracha Charoenpanich who:

told the seminar that Thai society has been “seriously ill” and is badly in need of “operations” at almost every level.

So it is that these political dinosaurs are encouraging right-wing extremists and gang of thugs just as they did when privy councilor Thanin Kraivixien was the royally-anointed premier. This time it is the so-called Rubbish Collection Organization led by Major-General Rientong Nan-nah and the enforcers of the anti-democrats.

Led by the ancients of the Privy Council, it is argued that the answer is to “restore moral and ethical values while national discipline must also be forged among people to move the country toward progress…”. They mean the king/monarchy.

Politically biased privy councilors and an Ombudsman who thinks he should engage in politics by attacking “impostor defenders of democracy,” and the battles lines are as clear as they were in 2006. This time, however, there is more push back. For example, the Puea Thai Party is needling General Prem Tinsulanonda. (Is it “greedy” to take 121,950 baht a month as a “position allowance” for a position that is not gazetted and does nothing? Is it corrupt for such an allowance to have been awarded by a buddy at the Privy Council who happened to be premier after the military coup?)

In essence, the Privy Council is the repository of much of the deeply reactionary thinking that exercises rightists and royalists in Jurassic Thailand.

Wikipedia notes that “[a]lthough the word dinosaur means ‘terrible lizard’, the name is somewhat misleading, as dinosaurs are not lizards.” Interestingly, for Thais, a “terrible lizard” can have a derogatory meaning. Obviously, PPT uses “dinosaur” to refer to a political dinosaur.

Such dinosaurs are dangerous because they are so disconnected from political realities, defining their “reality” by flunkies pandering to them and their connection to aged extremists and the class that believes it should rule Thailand and that is determined never to compromise with the rabble who favor elections.





Opposing the Constitutional Court

24 03 2014

The Bangkok Post includes a story about a “group of academics calling themselves the Assembly for the Defence of Democracy (AFDD) yesterday issued a statement opposing the Constitution Court’s ruling to void the results of the Feb 2 general election.” We thought this statement well worth reproducing in full, and nicked it from Asia Provocateur:

Statement of the Assembly for the Defense of Democracy (AFDD)

We Oppose the Ruling of the Constitutional Court Intended to Render the 2 February 2014 Election Unconstitutional.

The Constitutional Court has ruled on a matter forwarded to them by the Ombudsman under Article 245 (1) of the Constitution. The matter in question was whether or not the general parliamentary election held on 2 February 2014, in line with the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013), was constitutional. In a statement announced by the Chief Spokesperson  of the Constitutional Court, the Court commented that there were 28 electoral districts in which there were no candidates who submitted applications to contend in the 2 February 2014 election.  The Court further commented that elections cannot be held in those districts after 2 February because the effect would be that the general election was not held simultaneously on the same day across the kingdom. Therefore, the Court ruled that the 2 February 2014 election was not one that was held simultaneously on the same day throughout the kingdom. The effect of this ruling is to make the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013), particularly the setting of the date of 2 February 2014 for the election, unconstitutional and in contradiction with Article 108, paragraph two, of the Constitution. It is the view of the Assembly for the Defense of Democracy (AFDD) that this ruling of the Constitutional Court ruling contains the following problems of constitutionality and political legitimacy:

1. Article 245 (1) of the Constitution of Thailand stipulates that the Ombudsman can propose a matter to the Constitutional Corut when he thinks that there is “any provision of law that begs the question of constitutionality.” Therefore, the substance of the case that the Ombudsman has the discretion to send to the Constitutional Court to consider must be a “provision of law.” But in this case, the clearly visible problem is that the substance of the case is “the holding of the general election.” When the substance of the case is not a “provision of law,” the Ombudsman cannot propose the case to the Constitutional Court, and if the Ombudsman forwards such a matter to the Constitutional Court, it is the duty of the Court to refuse to accept the request for examination. The acceptance of the aforementioned matter by the Constitutional Court is unconstitutional in line with Article 245 (1) and is equivalent to the Constitutional Court singlehandedly amending the Constitution and altering the substance of the permitted cases for examination under Article 245 (1). There is no provision in the Constitution that gives the Constitutional Court the authority to do so.

2. Article 108, paragraph two, of the 2007 Constitution of Thailand prescribes that, “The dissolution of the House of Representatives shall be made in the form of a Royal Decree in which the day for a new general election must be fixed within the period of not less than forty five days but not more than sixty days as from the date of the dissolution of the House of Representatives and such election day must be the same throughout the Kingdom.” The facts show that the election day was set for the same date (2 February 2014) throughout the whole kingdom in the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013). The aforementioned setting of the date of the general election was therefore constitutional.

But in this case it appears that the Constitutional Court has used evidence of events that occurred after, and were unrelated to the setting of the date of the general election, as the basis of their examination. In other words, the Court used the fact of candidates not being able to register to compete in the election in 28 electoral districts to claim that if a general election was held in these districts after 2 February 2014, it would mean that the general election was not held on the same day simultaneously throughout the kingdom. The Court made this claim even though the Constitution does not mandate that the general election must occur on the same day throughout the whole kingdom. There may be acts of god or other unavoidable incidents which may make holding an election on the same day as the rest of the country impossible in some districts. The Constitution stipulates only that the election day must be “set” to be the same day simultaneously throughout the kingdom. Therefore, the setting of the date was already done constitutionally.

3. In addition, there is also the fact that, on the whole, the 2 February 2014 election passed in an orderly fashion. The Constitutional Court’s raising of the instances of not being able to register to run for election in some districts as a result of obstruction by some individuals in order to claim that the section of the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013) that set the date for the general election was unconstitutional was done with the intention to spoil the  election. In addition to having no basis in law, there is an additional problem of interpretation of this ruling. Have the ballots of those people who went to vote on 2 February 2014 been destroyed or not, and under the authority of which Constitutional or other legal provision?

4. Analyzed from a perspective of political struggle, it can be seen that the obstacle to the election came from the collaboration between the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and individuals who support the PDRC inside and outside the Parliament, and collaboration between those who are overt and covert in their actions to destroy parliamentary democracy. In addition, the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) did not act with an intention to work in line with their framework of authority and duty in order to successfully hold elections. Therefore, an effect of the ruling of the Constitutional Court is to prop up opposition to electoral democracy and make it come to fruition. This ruling disregards and neglects the rights of the people: those who hold the authority [in the country] and can express this authority in line with the rules and regulations that are in force.

5. This cooperation to oppose democracy will continue to create a political vacuum in order to open up the space for an extraconstitutional prime minister and government to come to power, and in order to push forward amendment of the Constitution in a direction that will weaken and devastate electoral democracy. The Assembly for the Defense of Democracy therefore condemns these attempts, those that have occurred and those that will occur in the near future, as antithetical to the basic rights and liberties of the people.

6. It is clear that from the 2006 coup up until the present, all of the independent agencies and the judiciary have become instruments of a powerful minority group acting in opposition to democracy. This group does so simply because they wish to swiftly destroy their political opponents. This has allowed the independent organizations and the judiciary to become distorted and seized to be used in the service of the destruction of democracy and the economic development of the country for the the sole purpose of causing the nation to become stagnant in a smelly, clogged whirlpool of violent conflict without end. Therefore, it is time for the people to come together to demand that the independent organizations and the judiciary are reformed and checks and balances are established. It is time to demand that these important mechanisms of the country come to be under the supervision of organizations representive of the voice of the majority. The people must take on these important tasks and make these changes come to fruition in the near future.

7. This method of spoiling elections has progressed for nearly a decade and may cause the nation to fall into a state of violence from which there is no exit. This state will remain until every authority and every side in Thai society comes to respect the equal voting rights of the people.

The Assembly for the Defense of Democracy would like to assert that the only solution for Thai society at present is to accept the principles of “equality of the people,” “sovereignty belongs to the entirety of Thai people,” “legitimacy of the majority,” and “respect in the rights and liberties of minority voices.” This is necessary to carry out reforms to eradicate the mechanisms that are antithetical to democracy, and before democracy, which is barely holding on at present, is completely destroyed.





Ombudsman on the job

17 10 2012

The Nation applauds the Ombudsman’s Office for being politically biased. In its article on the suddenly active agency, it is argued that “a series of high-profile probes launched over the past year…”.

Yes, in the past year, the Ombudsman’s office established in 1999, “the least talked about, at one point even seen as so insignificant as to be at risk of disbandment” has suddenly been activated. Former charter writer Kanin Bunsuwan notes hat the Ombudsman’s “teeth and claws” were “hidden” in the military junta’s 2007 Constitution. They remained hidden until the Yingluck Shinawatra government was elected. Since then, the teeth and claws have been bared.

Since that election, the Ombudsman “has examined Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s ethics for skipping a House meeting…”,  investigated “the qualifications of PM’s Office Minister Nalinee Taveesin and Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Natthawut Saikua…”, and have investigated Thaksin Shinawatra having a passport. The investigation of Natthawut was because he is a red shirt.

The picture of how the Ombudsman’s Office is being used is exemplified by People’s Alliance for Democracy and New Politics Party leader Somsak Kosaisuk. He filed the complaint over Thaksin’s passport, because that “agency had proven itself to be neutral and to make trustworthy decisions.” It seems that “neutral” for the yellow shirts means targeting the Yingluck government while being deliberately somnolent on the previous Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.








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