Silence on monarchy

4 02 2021

We have been trying to get to this post for a week or so. In the meantime, as we have collected news stories, it has grown and grown.

Among the demands of the democracy movement were constitutional reform and monarchy reform. When they come together, it is in parliament, where constitutional reform, law reform and lese majeste reform is meant to be considered.

On monarchy reform and especially reform of Article 112, the usual royalist rancor and “opposition” spinelessness has been on display. Khaosod reported a while ago that “[o]nly one opposition party is planning to raise the issue of the excessive use of the royal defamation offense when the Parliament reconvenes for a censure debate…”.

That is Move Forward, and a couple of their MPs have expressed reservations and fears. Move Forward plans to criticize the use of the draconian law to intimidate political dissidents. The party plans to “push for reforms of libel laws, including lese majeste…”.

Spineless politicians

Other opposition parties panicked, and even walked back on their censure debate which mentioned the political use of the monarchy. Puea Thai stated that while the “formal motion of the no-confidence debate accused PM Prayut Chan-o-cha of ‘using the monarchy as an excuse to deepen the division in the society,’ … the party has no plan to raise the issue of the lese majeste during the censure debate or support the law’s amendment.” A spokesperson added “We didn’t include monarchy reforms in the motion either. We only wrote it broadly, that PM Prayut damages the confidence in democratic regime with the King as Head of State.”

That sounds remarkably like backpedaling with a political spine gone to jelly. Former political prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk observed: “… Pheu Thai still lacks moral courage. It will only worsen and prolong the problem of political divisions.”

Acknowledging the status quo of decades, it was observed that “discussions about the monarchy during a parliamentary session are generally discouraged,” adding: “There are restrictions … we cannot mention His Majesty the King unnecessarily…”.

Khaosod reports that there’s a parliamentary regulation that “bans … ‘referencing … the King or any other person without due cause’.”

The Seri Ruam Thai Party also ran from the lese majeste law and monarchy reform. Thai PBS reported opposition chief whip Suthin Klangsaeng as saying they are “fully aware of the sensitivity surrounding the [m]onarchy, but he insisted that the opposition will refer to the [m]onarchy during the debate while trying to be very discreet and referring to the institution only if necessary.”

The part of the motion causing all the royalist angst states that Gen Prayuth has not been “…upholding nor having faith in a democratic system with the King as the head of state; undermining and opposing democratic governance; destroying the good relationship between the monarchy and the people; using the monarchy as an excuse to divide the people and using the monarchy as a shield to deflect its failures in national administration.”

Of course, the regime’s supporting parties are opposing any discussion of the monarchy and lese majeste. These parties announced they will “protest if the opposition makes any reference to the [m]onarchy during the censure debate…”. Government chief whip Wirat Rattanaseth said “he would feel uncomfortable with any reference to the Monarchy in the opposition’s censure motion which, in essence, says that the prime minister referred to the Monarchy to deflect accusations of gross mismanagement and failures in national administration.”

In the military’s Palang Pracharath Party royalist fascist Paiboon Nititawan emphasized that the pro-military/royalist parties will invoke parliamentary rules to silence any MP discussing the monarchy. He was especially keen to silence critics of the lese majeste law. He declared: “Our party’s policy is to defend the monarchy.” On the broader issue of constitutional reform, the Bangkok Post reports that Paiboon demands that “any provision related to the royal prerogative should not be changed at all, regardless of which chapters they were in.” No change to anything related to the monarchy. We recall that the last changes made to the king’s prerogatives were made on the king’s demand and considered in parliament in secret.

Democrat Party spokesman Ramet Rattanachaweng said MPs had to toe the royalist line: “Everyone knows what their duty is, because we’re all committed to the institutions of Nation, Religions, and Monarchy.” He said his party will oppose amendment of the lese majeste law. Why? “…[O]ur party has no policy to amend it, because we are not affected or damaged by it directly…”.

The parliamentary royalists were cheered on by mad monarchist and royal favorite Warong Dechgitvigrom who declared “he would regard attacks on lese majeste law – or any move to amend it – as an attempt to overthrow the monarchy.”

Soon after this pressure – and plenty more behind the scenes – the opposition buckled. Thai PBS reported that they “agreed to remove a reference to the monarchy, which the government may find provocative, from its censure motion to avoid protests from coalition MPs.” This came after a meeting  to resolve the conflict over the motion. The meeting was chaired by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.

Puea Thai leader Sompong Amornvivat was reported as pedaling backwards and was reported to have promised “that he will withdraw the motion and rewrite it.” He later denied that he had made this promise and the opposition pushed on with the motion.

Back at the debate about parliamentary (non)debate, Thai PBS had a story about royalist allegations that Sompong had broken his promise to delete the reference to the monarchy in the censure motion. Palang Pracharat MP Sira Jenjakha “threatened to file a lèse majesté charge with the police against opposition MPs who sign in support of a censure motion…”.

Government chief whip Wirat Rattanaseth “warned today that the opposition‘s refusal to delete the offending reference may lead to protests in parliament, to the extent that the debate may be disrupted and end prematurely.”

The last time the royalists disrupted parliament. A Bangkok Post photo showing a Democrat Party member grabbing a policeman’s throat.

Thai PBS took sides, declaring that “Thailand is bracing for unprecedented chaos [not really, see above] in Parliament later this month when the opposition shatters a deep-seated taboo by citing the monarchy in its censure motion against the prime minister.” It asserts: “Involving the monarchy in the no-confidence motion has sparked angry accusations from the government camp that this constitutes a grave insult to the revered institution.”

In response, the Bangkok Post reports that the regime “has formed a legal team to monitor the upcoming censure debate for inappropriate references to the monarchy…”. The person in charge of this is quisling former red shirt Suporn Atthawong, a vice minister to the PM’s Office whose own 112 case sems to have been forgotten. The regime’s legal team will “gather false allegations made during the debate against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and cabinet ministers and lodge complaints with police.”

The threats have come thick and fast. The regime is furious. Presumably the palace is too. What they want is to roll back politics to the golden era when the king was never discussed, by anyone, except the seditious.





With a major update: Another night, more protests

18 11 2020

As parliament convened to discuss charter amendment, first a small gang of conservative yellow shirts rallied and then a very large pro-democracy protest converged on parliament.

Before getting to the rallies, a comment on Parliament President and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai’s daft comment on charter change and parliament. He declared that “protesters from the two opposing sides in the political conflict to leave the politicians alone so they can get on with their job.” He said: “Don’t pressure them into voting one way or another…. Better to just let them vote independently.”

Chuan seems to misunderstand parliamentary democracy, where protesters regularly seek to influence parliamentarians. More revealing of a dull mind is the notion that this parliament can be “independent.” This is a parliament where the Senate was appointed by the junta and that, with the help of the judiciary and Election Commission, the junta rigged the parliament. There is strikingly little independence.

In any case, the regime is opposing constitutional change. Neo-fascist royalist and deputy leader of the Palang Pracharath Party, Paiboon Nititawan, “has urged fellow MPs who want to protect the Monarchy to reject the draft constitutional amendment proposed by … iLaw …, claiming that it is unconstitutional because the organization accepts foreign funding.”

Without being too flippant, we guess that Paiboon’s “logic” would mean that many of Thailand’s government of agencies “unconstitutional.” That would include the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Public Health, but we digress….

The day of rallies began with Warong Dechgitvigrom, leader of the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee group, arriving to present a letter to the president of the unelected, royalist, pro-regime Senate to oppose any changes to the current constitution.

Interesting, The Nation’s “timeline” on the protests (plural) does not say much about the yellow shirts. It doesn’t mention that the yellow shirts were welcomed at the parliament, but does note that “only three groups had been granted permission to protest: “the ultraroyalist Thai Phakdee, People Political groups, and a monarchy protection group.” The Nation does briefly mention yellow-shirted mobs attacking pro-democracy protesters. These attacks came from within the parliament precinct supposedly closed off by police.

The pro-democracy protesters were met with police barricades and repeated splashings of water and tear gas.

Clipped from Prachatai

Legislators began leaving the parliament by boats as government supporters and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed at nearby Kiak Kai intersection in Bangkok on Tuesday evening.

When the yellow shirted mob threw bricks, rocks and other things at pro-democracy protesters, at a police barricade at the Kiak Kai intersection, some of the latter responded. Police did not intervene. But, the yellow shirts melted away, as if supported by the authorities.

Meanwhile, legislators “began leaving the parliament by boats as government supporters and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed…”.

The pro-democracy protesters eventually made it to the plaza in front of parliament, made lots of speeches, urging change and withdrew about 9pm.

The Bangkok Post initially reported that 18 were injured, only one a policeman. Thai PBS later reported “[a]t least 34 people were injured…”.

Pro-democracy protesters called for a return to Rajaprasong today.

Update: Several reports have emerged regarding the protest at parliament. In out view, the most important is in a Bangkok Post report: “Six people were wounded by gunshots during the clashes.” Then there is this, in another Bangkok Post report:

A pro-monarchy supporter caught with a pistol and ammunition at the rally site in Kiak Kai area, near parliament, on Tuesday night told police he carried the firearm for self-defence.

Kasidit Leelamuktanan, 35, was detained by soldiers from the 1st Calvary Battalion. They seized a .357 pistol and 10 bullets from him and reported it to Tao Poon police around 8.30pm.

During police interrogation, Mr Kasidit admitted he took part in the pro-monarchy demonstration on Tuesday, but said he had the pistol with him only for self-defence.

Thisrupt reports:

According to Khaosod, one Ratsadon protestor was shot in the arm with a live bullet.  Meanwhile, citing the Erawan Emergency Center, Reuters reported at least 41 people injured, five with bullet wounds.

Other reports include an excellent Prachatai summary of the evening’s events and of the constitutional amendments being considered in parliament. It notes that:

Police water cannon began firing at protesters at around 14.00, an hour before the scheduled start time of the protest as announced by the student activist group Free Youth. The police reportedly warned protesters beforehand that they would fire a warning shot, and made an announcement while they were counting down that they had mixed a chemical irritant into the water….

At 19.44, after almost 6 hours of struggle, during which the police continuously fired water cannon and tear gas at protesters at both the Bang Krabue and Kiak Kai intersections, protesters broke through the police barricade at the Bang Krabue intersection, while protesters have already broken through at the Kiak Kai intersection….

There were reports of more than 10 waves of tear gas being used on protesters both in canister form and from the water cannon. Thairath also reported that gunshots and explosions were heard during a clash between pro-monarchy protesters in yellow and the pro-democracy guards.

On the use of tear gas and water cannon, former human rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit, who was at the protest site, said that “there was no violence from the protesters, but the authorities used tear gas anyway, and the police even told the protesters they were going to use rubber bullets, which does not comply with international human rights principles.”

Thai Enquirer observes that during the confrontation between police and protesters, something else was going on, with “police on one side of the street in front of parliament, the pro-democracy demonstrators were attacked and provoked by yellow-shirt royalist demonstrators on the other side.” It adds: “Most damningly, when the yellow shirt mob instigated violence, the police stood their ground tens of meters away and did nothing.”

As noted above, the royalists had special treatment. And, “[n]ot only did the police not do anything to stop the violence, at times, there seemed to be a dual-track approach to policing the two groups of rival protesters.” It points out:

The yellow shirts were allowed to march all the way to parliament to submit a letter to the president of the senate while the pro-democracy demonstrators faced chemicals, tear gas, and barbed wire….

The yellow shirt protesters were not herded and corralled by security forces. They were not blockaded by buses and makeshift-cement walls.

It makes one question the legitimacy of such a force that they would be so blatantly biased and in service of their paymasters.

There is little wonder that the protesters have been leaving behind dog food for the police because to the students, the security forces have been nothing more but lapdogs to the coup-makers.

In choosing to do nothing as royalist mobs continue to escalate an already bad situation, the police have shown their true colours. Can anyone really say they’re surprised?

Voranai Vanijaka at Thisrupt writes of: A day of shame: the police stood by as the people clashed.





The king and his rightists II

10 11 2020

The Nation reports that “[t]alk of an impending coup is growing louder online, as the government shows no sign of heeding protesters’ demands.”

But Army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewthae has dismissed this talk as “rumours.” When reporters pointed out that people – all of them are yellow-shirted ultra-royalists – “were urging the military to stage a coup, he responded that the possibility of a coup was less than zero.” All coup leaders have said the same thing before their coups, including Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Thai Enquirer reports that Narongpan revealed that all of those men in short haircuts and wearing yellow shirts backing up police on Sunday were all out-of-uniform army personnel. The Army says that “the soldiers were just there to facilitate and observe and not actively take part in the confrontation between the police and the protesters – clashes which left five demonstrators injured and needing medical care.”

That’s a lie. Anyone who watch the various livestreams saw the soldiers in action.

The “presence of army personnel during violent confrontation between the state and protesters has everybody on edge.” Many think something else is going on, and this is reinforced by Gen Narongphan’s exaggerations, reported by Thai PBS. He rattles on about “provocation” and “violence.”

And he doesn’t mean by the police who used water cannon. He is reported as pointing to “smoke flares … hurled by people among the protesting crowd…” and talks of “elements who are bent on provoking violence…”. And he doesn’t mean the police or military.

Thisrupt reports that: “At every major protest, hundreds of army men in yellow shirts stand watch.” It adds; “They aren’t in uniform. They wear no badge. They never identify themselves. There’s only the yellow shirts, the blue scarves, and the military haircuts.” And it observes: “The deployment of non-police to police the citizens through force and intimidation, in a uniform not authorized by the state nor recognized by the citizens” is a fascist tactic.

According to another Thai PBS report, Deputy Metropolitan Police Bureau Commissioner, Police Maj Gen Piya Tawichai, the use of water cannons against the protesters “was done according to the rule of law.”

It seems us that it is the police and military who are those threatening violence.

As usual, the police are looking at how they can tie up protest leaders in legal cases. Police have the “letters and the four red post boxes from the protest…”. They are going through the letters trying to find “content [that] violates any law.” Others will be charged with violations “of the Public Gathering Act.”

More worrying, however, are the yellow-shirted minions being mobilized.

Egged on by the palace, the king, queen and the king’s daughters, the Thai Enquirer reports that “[u]ltra-royalists, pro-military politicians, and some senators are agitating for conflict and said this week that they will escalate the situation themselves unless the authorities take a harsher stance against the pro-democracy demonstrators.”

Krit Yeammaethakorn, secretary general of the People’s Networks to Protect the Monarch, has demanded a “special law” to “shutdown” the country.

The “Center for People Who Protect the Institution said on Monday that they will escalate their protests against the pro-democracy protesters…. They said they will shut down streets, if necessary, to get the government to crackdown and arrest more pro-democracy protesters.”

The quite mad ultra-royalist and military junta appointed senator Pornthip Rojanasunand has accused protesters of being “unThai” and complained that “police commanders are not doing enough to protect the law and suppress [pro-democracy protesters]…”.

Ratbag Palang Pracharath MP and deputy leader Paiboon Nititawan urged “royalists … [to] file complaints of sedition against the students.”

Meanwhile, the palace women continue to promote the celebrity PR model and wed it with intimations of violence. Most recently, it has been the queen going shooting and carousing with yellow-shirted royalists, as reported at Royal World Thailand – รอยัล เวิลด์ ประเทศไทย





Challenging monarchism I

27 10 2020

Pro-democracy protesters have dramatically changed Thailand’s political and cultural landscape.

One of the best examples is in newspaper reporting. Some outlets have gone full-on mad monarchist, but all are reporting on the monarchy as never before. It was only a few weeks ago that Thais relying on the mainstream media might easily have thought that the king and queen were living in Thailand. Almost no outlet ever mentioned much about the royals spending all their time in Germany and Switzerland.

That’s all changed.

These outlets have to report on events such as last evening’s march to the German Embassy in Bangkok. In reporting such events, the media find that they must say something about them. Sure, they still self-censor on the most radical statements and the students poking fun at the monarch and even purloining his recent statements to ultra-royalists as anti-monarchy memes. For example, when Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha ignored the demand that he go, the Khana Ratsadon 2563 named the 26 October march to the German Embassy “Very Brave, Very Good,” with the note: “Because we can’t talk sense with the dog, we shall talk to the dog’s owner.” A huge banner read: “Reform the Monarchy.”

While not mainstream, like many other outlets, Thisrupt explained why the protesters were going to the German Embassy: “Today, Khana Ratsadon will march from Samyan Intersection to the German Embassy on Sathorn Road. Germany has been the residence of … King Rama 10 for many years. ”

The Nation reports: “Pro-democracy demonstrators submitted a letter to the German embassy in Bangkok on Monday asking its government to investigate whether HM the King is ruling from German soil.” The protesters stated; “The request is aimed at reinstating … the King to Thailand so the Palace is placed under the Constitution and Thailand can return to being a genuine constitutional monarchy…”.

A Thai PBS photo

Thai PBS reports: “Thousands of protesters ended their rally in front of the German Embassy on South Sathorn Road after submitting a letter addressed to the German government stressing their call for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign and demanding a probe into … the King’s frequent visits to Germany.”

Can anyone imagine such a reporting even a month ago?

Even anti-democrat ultra-royalists have had to acknowledge that the king they claim to revere prefers to spend his time living the high life in Germany. Their tiny rally at the German Embassy before the thousands of pro-democracy protesters showed up, begged the German government to ignore the “false information” about their usually absent king.

We don’t think the monarchy can recover from this. Of course, after its involvement in the 1976 massacre at Thammasat University, the monarchy took years to recover its ideological hegemony, mainly through military-backed government led by unelected premier and groveling royalist Gen Prem Tinsulanonda. In parliament, ultra-royalists like the reprehensible Paiboon Nititawan, an MP for the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, continue to wind the clock backwards, “accusing protesters of trying to overthrow the monarchy.”

Military supporters like Paiboon may want the extreme repression and bloodshed they’ll need to push the anti-royalist genie back into the bottle. We think the bottle is also broken.





Further updated: The things they say

15 09 2020

A day or so ago the Bangkok Post reported that recently- appointed government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said “his ambition is to facilitate a dialogue with people from different political backgrounds…”.

That would sound noble and good except that he said this “dialogue” was to “help them to understand how hard the government led by Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha is working for them.” That seems a one-way dialogue street. And, it comes from a former Democrat Party MP who has since joined the regime’s Palang Pracharath Party (after losing in the last election) and People’s Democratic Reform Committee activist, now being rewarded by being in the pay of the military-backed regime.

Needless to say, all of the babble he now spits out about “dialogue” bears no relationship at all to the way he behaved in bringing down the elected government and supporting the 2014 military coup.

The Nation reports that all that bleating about “dialogue” amounts to little when fellow PDRC activist against elected government Paiboon Nititawan, now a Palang Pracharat MP, sent the regime party’s response on constitutional amendment to the House speaker Chuan Leekpai. The party opposed all opposition suggestions and suggested that there were “irregularities” and “might not be in accord with the Constitution…”.

And, it seems, democracy should not be a part of “dialogue.” According to a report, Labor Minister and Palang Pracharath honcho Suchat Chomklin has “warned that a pro-democracy rally set for Saturday at Thammasat University would hurt the recovery by disrupting government plans to provide over one million jobs.” Some of this sounds like some of the techno-fascist virus chatter so common of many regimes, both authoritarian and “democratic,” but the use of the emergency decree remains “handy” for the regime in Bangkok.

There’s more of it, with the military claiming it is not seeking to prevent northeasterners from joining this weekend’s rally in Bangkok. At the same time, the military admits to extensive monitoring and repression in the region: “Our intelligence units have been closely monitoring political movements in the Northeast region to assess whether the situation could turn violent in order to employ suitable preventive measures within the framework of national security…”.

Then there’s the premier, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha saying:

The government would not do anything to trigger violence at the major anti-government rally on September 19, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Monday.

Prayut said he had ordered all relevant state agencies to ensure the safety of the demonstrators and not to allow any third party to take advantage of the event.

But then saying that protesters should not “accuse the Government of harassment if they break the law and authorities take legal action against them for doing so.”

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Some of this talk is worrying journalists. The Press Council of Thailand, the Thai Journalists Association, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, the Council of Broadcast Media Profession of Thailand, the Online News Producers Association and the Thai Media Central Labour Union have issued a joint statement that indicates they are fearful of violence on the weekend. They state:

they are not parties involved in the current political conflict and, hence, should not be targeted by the opposing elements and should be allowed to perform their duty independently in reporting the on the protests, in accordance with their ethical and professional standards, free from all forms of coercion or pressure.

Given that no demonstration in this round has been violent – and there have been dozens of them – we can only wonder if the journalists know something. Perhaps they should be more ethical and announce what they know. Or, if they are just being “careful,” perhaps they’d be better to condemn violence.

Update 1: The regime seems to be taunting the students, saying that the rally on Saturday will not be very large and that the students are not “professional” in protest and that the students are not united. Even so, more than 2,000 police officers are being mobilized for the rally and is now saying there will be “an influx of protesters travelling from other provinces to join the planned anti-government demonstration by students and supporters…”.

Update 2: The Thai Enquirer reports:

According to police estimates, up to 50,000 protesters could attend the weekend rallies. The police official told Thai Enquirer that several divisions of police are prepared to help maintain security throughout the weekend with reserves called in from various precincts.

At the same time, it reports a leaked memo that has been on social media, suggesting that the military will play a role on Saturday. This is denied and the memo said to be fake, but some are concerned that recent movements of soldiers and equipment and the memo is suggestive of either: (a) coup plotting; (b) intimidation of the students; or (c) a clampdown in the offing.





Convicted heroin trafficker rises

13 07 2020

The Palang Pracharath Party was morally bankrupt from the moment it was formed at the behest of the military junta. Yet it is proving it can dive deeper into the political muck.

NNT reports that after being its puppet master since it was an idea, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s move to the formal leadership of the military’s puppet party, sees his men and women being moved into top administrative positions in the party.

Gen Prawit “has appointed 10 new deputy leaders at the first meeting between Gen Prawit and party MPs.” They are listed as: “Mr Santi Promphat who also acts as party director, Capt Thamanat Prompow, Mr Suriya Juangroongruangkit, Mr Nataphol Teepsuwan, Mr Somsak Thepsutin, Mr Puttipong Punnakanta, Mr Wirat Ratanaset, Mr Nipan Siritorn, Mr Paiboon Nititawan, and Mr Suchart Chomklin.”

This is an interesting mix of money, yellow-shirted ideologues from the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, and local “influentials” with criminal links.

With convicted heroin trafficker Thammanat Prompao rising in the party it would be no surprise were he to be promoted from deputy minister to minister.

Such a rise would be reminiscent of the case of Narong Wongwan:

After the coup d’état of 1991 and ahead of the election in March 1992, he joined with other provincial businessmen, bureaucrats and supporters of the military coup group to form the Justice Unity Party, of which he became the chairman. The party won the election and Narong was designated prime minister, when media alleged that the United States had refused him entry admission due to … [suspicion] of involvement in drug trafficking. The US government threatened that relations between the two countries could worsen in case that Narong became head of government. He had to relinquish premiership and the parliament instead nominated the putschist General Suchinda Kraprayoon. Really, Narong had not been prosecuted as there was no sufficient evidence.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Narong rose during the time of another unelected military prime minister when he “joined the government of prime minister Prem Tinsulanonda, becoming deputy interior minister in 1980, deputy minister of agriculture in 1981, rising to be minister in 1983.” Also unlikely to be a coincidence, Narong represented the Phrae area in parliament. Thammanat represents the adjoining province of Phayao.





Prawit is the natural leader of mafioso

23 06 2020

The “news” that everyone knew was coming is now out. Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has “accepted” his nomination as leader of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, the party that he mostly formed and has directed throughout.

As the Thai Enquirer puts it, “[h]is ascension to the party’s highest post will pull back the loosely held curtain that had been in place for the better part of the last decade and shine a spotlight on Prawit’s central role in Thai politics.”

In fact, the title of this post is from that newspaper, which says: “To Palang Pracharat, with its patchwork makeup of local mafiosos and provocateurs, Prawit is the natural leader.”

Emphasizing this, the gang that crawled around the aging and sick general “to extend the invitation were Industry Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, Deputy Finance Minister Santi Prompat, Education Minister Nuttapol Teepsuwan, Minister of Digital Economy and Society Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao, Messrs. Paiboon Nititawan and Anucha Nakasai.” Local thugs, convicted crooks, moneybags who buy the party’s votes and MPs, and coup plotters.

They slithered around him at his office at a metropolitan Army base. Of course, it is the Army that provides Prawit with the accoutrements he’s used to after his years as a military manipulator.

As Thai Enquirer explains:

Prawit has been the mastermind behind not only the military coup of 2014 but the turbulent nature of Thai politics since the Abhisit government stepped down.

While Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has served as a ready ‘puppet’ … it has been Prawit that has been the brains behind the operations. [PPT does not consider Gen Prayuth a “puppet.” He’s worked hand-in-glove with Prawit and Anupong.]

Prawit is, after all, the spiritual leader of the military faction known as ‘Burapha Payak (Tigers of the East)’ or the Queen’s Guard military unit.

Burapha-aligned Generals like Prawit, Prayut, Udomdej Sitabutr and Anupong Paochinda have played a central role in orchestrating, from behind the scenes, much of the political upheavals since the PDRC protests [which they helped organize and motivate].

All four men have served as head of the army.

They control the regime and this move simply strengthens their control as the regime looks to years and years in power. Next, a cabinet reshuffle is needed to reward Prawit’s minions.

 





Further updated: Watching the watchman

2 06 2020

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s “borrowed watch” case before the supine National Anti-Corruption Commission was heard while the agency was headed by one of his cronies. No one was surprised when the NACC dismissed the case.

Seventeen months ago, Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a member of the Puea Thai Party, wrote to the NACC, asking it “to explain why it did not find Gen Prawit guilty of failing to declare 22 watches he claimed to have borrowed from a friend…”.

He’s now received a reply from Sukij Boonchai, the acting NACC secretary-general:

The letter says the NACC commissioners acknowledged that Pattawat Suksriwong was the owner of the watches and had lent them to Gen Prawit. It also confirmed that Gen Prawit had returned the watches, worth tens of millions of baht, to Pattawat after he used them.

“The borrowing is a ‘loan for use’. While a loan for use is a liability, it is not the type the NAAC requires to be declared in its (asset declaration) form,” Mr Sukit wrote.

The NACC’s definition of liabilities only covers money, not loans for use, in which the assets have been returned to the lenders in their original form (with no money involved), he added.

“Therefore, Gen Prawit is not obliged to declare the borrowed watches as liabilities in his asset declaration form,” he concluded.

Former finance minister, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Thailand, and qualified accountant Thairachai Phuvanatnaranubala has written that the NACC’s “interpretation” of “liabilities” offended “common sense,” noting that the “prevailing interpretation of liabilities is anything of monetary value, not just something where real money is involved.”

He implied that the NACC has concocted something “special” for Gen Prawit.

Some of Prawit’s loot

Meanwhile, law academic Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, a leader of the Progressive Movement, observed that the NACC’s Prawit rule amounted to a “trick” that “would open the door for widespread asset concealment.” He said:

The NACC’s interpretation destroys the checks and balances of politicians and government officials and renders useless the requirement that they declare assets and liabilities…”.

Luxury assets such as accessories, rings, necklaces, watches, sports cars, etc need not be declared anymore. “All you have to do is get a rich friend of yours to say it is their assets and then explain the properties were borrowed from him.”…

“The interpretation of the NACC today has given politicians and officials a new channel to hide their assets.

To protect the heart of the military regime, do we really need to trade it with the checks and balances we have so painstakingly built since 1997?”

Not Prawit’s watches

Usually supportive of rightist regimes, Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand pointedly asked: “Are we adhering to the rule of law or do we simply use it to favour some influential people? ” That’s really a rhetorical question; of course, there’s no rule of law in Thailand, just support for the ruling clique and their supporters.

The regime’s efforts to protect the aged Gen Prawit are likely to go up a gear as he maneuvers his way to the leadership of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, giving the military even more control over the party. A couple of days ago:

Eighteen of the 34 members of the executive committee of the main coalition party Palang Pracharath resigned on Monday, paving the way for the election of a new party leader and executive committee in 45 days.

This paves the way for Gen Prawit to take full control of the party, supported by fascists, anti-democrats and crooks like Paiboon Nititawan, Buddhipongse Punnakanta and Thammanat Prompao.

Gen Prawit channeled his inner Sgt Schultz, lying that “he was not involved in the mass resignation of executives” from his party where he’s officially “chief strategist.” He added: “I don’t know…. I’m not involved with them.”

Truly, these dolts seem to “think” the country is composed of people dumber than they are. Everyone in the country seems to believe that this is nothing more than a military power grab. Party members have already declared that Gen Prawit will be nominated for the “vacant” position.

It actually seems that this was a “deal” done when the party was patched together and to minimally camouflage its military base. As MP for Bangkok Sira Jenjaka explained:

… current party leader and Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana, and secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong, who is also the Energy Minister, will no longer have the power to run the party’s affairs.

Asked what was behind “the changing of the guard”, Mr Sira said that this was a deal when the party was formed that the current executive committee members were given one year to work, and their performance would then be assessed.

“They now must admit that it is time for a change,” Mr Sira said.

A cabinet reshuffle will follow and will see a reallocation of lucrative positions as payback for support.

Update 1: Thai Enquirer quotes Paiboon Nititawan on one of the reasons he wants Gen Prawit at the helm of the junta party. He says Prawit “has a lot of influence and prestige and is very generous…”. The generosity of a man who had to “borrow” watches from a wealthy friend raises the question of who funds Prawit’s generosity? There may be several sources. One is the funds that corruption in government provides. Another is the taxpayer funds. And, perhaps, the tycoons who get all kinds of benefits send loot his way. As an example of favors provided, think of the most recent benefit, as land and building taxes are slashed. Who benefits? Not smallholder farmers. Not single home owners. Nope. The beneficiaries are the wealthy:

… the cuts mainly benefit corporate owners of farmland, people who can afford more than one house, as well as owners of vacant land, or commercial/industrial properties.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post appears to confirm that the “generosity” of Gen Prawit has to do with “control the Finance Ministry which is to oversee a 1-trillion-baht Covid-19 relief plan…”. All that loot! It is reported that:

Of the 1 trillion baht, 600 billion is for financial aid and health-related plans for those whose jobs and businesses have been hit by the pandemic. The remaining 400 billion is for economic and social rehabilitation via projects aimed at creating jobs, strengthening communities and building infrastructure.

From the 400-billion-baht portion, the 273 government MPs will receive 80 million baht each while the 207 opposition MPs will receive 40 million baht each. There will still be almost 300 billion baht left over and this is why the finance minister post is being eyed by the PPRP factions….

One of the factions maneuvering for control of Finance is that led by convicted heroin smuggler and serial liar Thammanat.





Junta-style business (as usual) I

17 03 2020

While dithering and flip-flopping on anti-virus stuff, it is business as usual for the regime as its junta pedigree “shines” through.

The Nation reports that three members of the Future Forward Party have been charged with “organising a public rally at the Pathumwan Intersection Skytrain station on December 14 without seeking permission, blocking or interfering with train station services, organising a gathering without concern for the public, using speakers without permission and holding a public gathering within a 150-metre radius of the palace.”

We can’t help but see the last charge as definitional of junta style. The others are concocted to destroy the party – already kind of done – and to bury its star performers. It is another pile of junta-like buffalo feces.

How high can the junta pile it?

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Pannika Wanich and head of the Future Forward replacement party, Move Forward Party, Pita Limjaroenrat had to show up at the Pathumwan Police Station and answer the political charges and be fingerprinted and so on. The police aim to have them in court on 7 April, but this case is more about harassment, so expect it to be dragged out.

The three denied the accusations and police aim to file a case in court on April 7.

Piyabutr said the Public Assembly Act caused several problems, including a limitation that did not allow police to grant permission in time. He also said he would continue efforts to establish a political group to campaign on politics.

Meanwhile, former heroin smuggler, alleged mask profiteer and deputy agriculture minister Thammanat Prompao has told reporters he will “spend the next 14 days in self-quarantine after he came in contact with a man who tested positive for the novel coronavirus strain…”. He didn’t seem to say who or where or when. We suspect this is more Thammanat male cow manure and he’s just hiding out. Maybe he could sell masks online?

Related, the embattled head of the Internal Trade Department has resigned “amid allegations that he colluded with the hoarding and profiteering of millions of sanitary masks.” We wonder how well he knows Thammanat and his aide?

He “maintained he had nothing to do with the alleged stockpiling and sales of 200 million face masks to China.”

While on the topic of dipsticks, there’s the fascist Palang Pracharath Deputy Leader Paiboon Nititawan, who is interviewed at Thai Enquirer. How’s the regime being doing on the virus. Better than anyone else he says. Whatever he’s drinking, we want some of it.

Business as usual for the junta-cum-hopeless regime.





Shaky regime II

19 06 2019

In an earlier post, PPT commented on claims that the junta’s regime is in trouble. There, we discussed how a weakened regime might use the military.

The Dictator has admitted that:

the new cabinet lineup may be less than perfect, as there is little he can do about the proposed candidates who have been criticised for their public image.

“Public image” has to do with the fact that, like governments of the late 20th century, look like a buffet for crooks. One example is the blatant nepotism of Capt Thammanat Prompao, a Palang Pracharat MP for Phayao and chief of its strategic committee in the North. He’s considered a crook controversial figure, so can’t be a minister. His response is “let a family member take a ministerial post.” So slippery, so easy, so corrupt.

The junta, like juntas before it, seize power and then they and their buddies graze on the taxpayer funds and budgets.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, responsible for the “rules” that now envelop him, says of the political allies, crooks, party hacks, friends and relatives who will make cabinet is what he has to deal with: “We cannot reject anyone.” He babbled something about “democracy,” but he’s talking weak coalition government. And that is exactly what he and his junta “designed” in their efforts to defeat “Thaksinism.”

If things go bad, Gen Prayuth says he can reshuffle cabinet, in the manner of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda in the 1980s. Like Prem, he can also hope that he can rely on the military and repression.

And, as an article at Prachatai points out, following suggestions by rabid anti-democrat Paiboon Nititawan, Gen Prayuth’s yet to be convened government could look at using the Senate if it falls into minority status in the lower House.

If we at PPT were prone to gambling, in the short-term, we’d be betting on military-backed repression and pressure on recalcitrant MPs and ministers. If that fails, look for a “self-coup” to return power to a junta.