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.





Updated: The junta’s political crisis

20 04 2019

A day or so ago, the Bangkok Post reported that “legal expert” to the junta, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, told the Election Commission that it should seek to have the Constitutional Court delay the date the EC is meant to announce the 95% election result.

We immediately recalled that the “election” itself was delayed years, usually with Wissanu involved in the machinations.

This time, however, Wissanu is fiddling with interpretations of the organic law to allow a delay until 23 May,” giving the EC more room to breathe.” A failure to meet the deadline – whatever it is – “could result in the election being nullified…”.

Clearly, delaying the announcement also gives the junta and Palang Pracharath more time to fiddle with the result and the coalition it is trying to put together.

But what if the court does not even issue rulings before 9 May? When asked “what would happen if the EC fails to endorse the result by May 9,” Wissanu lamely answered: “Let’s figure that out when the time comes…”.

So much of the junta’s “election” has been about figuring stuff out in a manner that seems to favor it and its party.

At The Nation, however, anti-democrat junta supporter Paiboon Nititawan had another suggestion for the junta, seemingly suggesting that it needn’t establish a majority coalition.

He reckons that as the junta’s constitution “stipulates the Senate had the authority to push through national reform,” then make all legislation in the next five years involve “reform.”

While even Wissanu dismissed this, Paiboon’s intervention suggests that the junta’s capacity to put together a coalition is strained and that instability could result, paving the way for a coup.

Future Forward’s Piyabutr Saengkanokkul noted that Paiboon’s suggestion effectively skirted the provisions of the constitution. He asked: “If the principles of the Constitution could be removed, then the election was unnecessary…”.

In the end, that might just be the junta’s solution if things get too difficult and complicated. Just ignore the election result and keep ruling by decree.

Update: Interestingly, the Bank of Thailand is warning that “a possible delay in the formation of a new government” could have a negative economic impact. This warning comes after the Bank had already “revised down the country’s economic growth rate this year from 4% to 3.8%.” The Bank’s Governor stated that a delay “would affect public investment projects and the economy as a whole as it could cause a delay of investment decisions in the private sector, particularly projects under Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) schemes in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).”





Dissolving a Thaksin-related party

10 02 2019

Students remind us that the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party is meant to be under investigation by the Election Commission for its big bash banquet claimed to have raised shiploads of loot.

The EC said that “investigation” would take weeks.

A much faster “investigation” is promised for the Thaksin Shinawatra-linked Thai Raksa Chart Party. The Bangkok Post reports that royalists are pushing hard for the EC “to dissolve the Thai Raksa Chart Party for nominating Princess Ubolratana as its prime ministerial candidate, even though it has now agreed to withdraw the nomination.”

As we recently posted, rabid yellow shirt Paiboon Nititawan of the pro-junta People’s Reform Party asked the Election Commission to reject Ubolratana’s nomination. It seemed that Paiboon’s reasoning may have previewed the king’s announcement (although the timeline is a bit hard to discern).

Paiboon is now leading the push for the EC to follow the king’s on his sister’s political fun and games and sink the pro-Thaksin party.

Interestingly, Alan Dawson at the Bangkok Post observes:

In five days (or less), the Election Commission will drive a stake through the heart of TRC. What is unknown about unravelling the princess’ attempted political entry is whether it will once and for all end the ninth life of the man nicknamed Cat [Thaksin].

Paiboon “said it was evident in the royal announcement that the nomination of the princess was linked to the monarchy, whose members could not be involved in politics. Thai Raksa Chart must end everything…”. He means the party must self-dissolve or be dissolved and all of its nominations for constituencies and party list are finished and vanquished for this election.

Paiboon, who previewed the king, now says:

Bringing a high-ranking member of the royal family to politics, in whatever manner, is an act in violation of royal tradition and national culture and highly inappropriate….

He essentially claimed the king’s proclamation as law: “the royal announcement is very clear and people understand it.” He also:

cited Section 92 of the 2018 Political Party Act, which stipulates that the EC, after obtaining credible evidence that a political party has committed an act deemed hostile to the constitutional monarchy rule, must propose the dissolution of the party to the Constitutional Court.

Thai Raksa Chart has already cancelled several campaign events and two other pro-Thaksin parties are being very careful and quiet.

The EC has already stated it will consider the “case” on Monday.

It is anyone’s guess as to how great the damage to the Thaksin camp is. However, the main beneficiary will likely be the junta’s party.

Was this a plot, a plan or just fortunate for the anti-Thaksin camp? Was it a ruse to lead to the postponing or canceling of the “election”?





Further updated: What a day!

9 02 2019

Thai PBS’s headlines

Yesterday was quite a day. Startling, bizarre and almost inexplicable.

The headlines were something to behold.

Of course, none of that seems to have caused the usual pundits from speaking on Ubolratana’s nomination, making all kinds of claims, almost none of which carried much factual content. Speculation reigned.

Then the king intervened, causing the same pundits to say something quite different a few hours later, sometimes contradicting their earlier predictions and speculative claims.

What can we say with some degree of confidence?

Khaosod English’s headlines

First, the idea of a member of the top-most members of the royal family standing as an “outsider” candidate for prime minister shocked most Thais, including politicians. As Khaosod put it:

There was a sudden silence across most of the political spectrum Friday after a royal nomination left a smoking crater in everyone’s election plans.

Many worried about what this meant for political development, observing that regular political robustness might be dampened and some worried how parties might reject her after an election. No one seemed to know what to do. In other words, decades of dull royalist compulsion and repression has left Thailand’s polity and many of its politicians with few options for marking difference and disagreement with the monarchy and royal family.

For example, when asked to comment, the junta’s legal specialist and Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-Ngam had no comment. When asked whether he was surprised, he quipped “Are you?”

The Democrat Party’s Nipit Intarasombat “wouldn’t give a specific response,” but he turned out to be correct when he said: “It’s still too premature. We’ll wait until the dust settles first.” It is a pity the pundits didn’t listen.

Second, royalists were dumbfounded. But more on this below.

Third, we know that Ubolratana was knowingly and wittingly proposed. She “thanked her supporters and vowed to lead the country toward a golden age.” She also declared her “commoner” status.

Fourth, the Future Forward Party took to the high ground, being the first party (as far as we know) to take a position. It restated “its position against a prime minister coming from outside of Parliament…”. That means a non-royal princess too.

Fifth, some royalists managed to oppose this move and did so on quite interesting grounds. This is probably the most significant response to the events. Paiboon Nititawan of the pro-junta People’s Reform Party asked the Election Commission to reject Ubolratana’s nomination. The EC went into hiding.

Paiboon’s reasoning previewed the king’s announcement. He said:

… the monarchy is a sacred institution that must not be drawn into politics, and pointed to an election law which bans any mention or use of the monarchy for political advantage.

Paiboon, a law scholar who has served as a senator and a constitution drafter, also argued that a 2001 Constitutional Court verdict ruled that any royal family member “either born or appointed with” the title of mom chao (the least senior possible rank) must remain neutral in politics.

In another report, he is quoted as stating that:

… Thai Raksa Chart might use the name of the princess for election campaigning. That would breach Section 17 of the election law, which bars candidates and political parties from using the monarchy…

He added:

The rank of nobility as written in some papers is another issue. The state of being a son and a daughter still exists in the royal institution though it is not in mentioned in the constitution. The fact is Princess Ubolratana is respected and treated as part of the royal institution. Use of the royal institution by any political parties is prohibited. It goes against the law….

On social media, Ubolratana was criticized by ultra-royalists who distinguished between her and the king, essentially dismissing her for having aligned with Thaksin Shinawatra.

Of course, there remain huge questions. One is important: How is it possible that Ubolratana could have nominated without consulting her brother? We know she’s flaky, but this is beyond flaky.

And now for our speculation: we think this series of events has further weakened the monarchy.

Update 1: Oops, forgot our sixth point, which is that we now know what Ubolratana’s political leanings are. What we don’t know is how much her leanings cost.

Update 2: Pravit Rojanaphruk of Khaosod adds another known:

But what is clear and can be said, is that the short-lived nomination of Princess Ubolratana by the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra party of Thai Raksa Chart brought back to the surface the bitter enmity between the pro- and anti-Thaksin camps like nothing else since the May 2014 coup.





Many micro-parties = The Dictator

8 04 2018

The “election” strategy that the military dictatorship seems to be favoring revolves around the formation and/or co-opting of as many parties as possible. The strategy seems to be based on a thought that the many parties will come together to support the only likely “outsider.” The use of this term signifies an “election”-shy candidate.

This strategy appears to have driven the push for provisions in the junta’s constitution that allow an outsider and those that encourage micro-parties. All very 1980s.

As the likely micro-parties are formed and register, they are announcing their support (or lack of it) for either Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha or an “outsider” for post-“election” boss of Thailand.

The latest party to do this presented no surprise at all. The Bangkok Post reports that the misnamed “People Reform Party” (it is a party but has nothing to do with reform or people), owned by ultra-yellowist Paiboon Nititawan, “has declared its full support for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as an outsider prime minister at its first meeting.”

The party, only “the second allowed by the junta to meet after New Alternative party first met two weeks ago, is the first to openly declare full support for Gen Prayut and announced it would vote in line with appointed senators.” Well, that’s only partly true. Plenty of others have more or less said they’d support him or an “outsider.” Others have been coy while their membership makes it clear who they are supporting.

The junta “allowed it to hold the meeting to decide on the party’s name abbreviation, logo, manifesto, policies and regulations. They also elected Mr Paiboon as party leader.” Given that he established the party and is the only name associated with it, nothing else could be contemplated.

Paiboon said: “Backing Gen Prayut is our secondary policy, which is to support a nonpartisan prime minister. In my view, Gen Prayut has all the qualifications, competence and integrity. Up until now, there has been no corruption scandals involving him or his family members so he’s our best choice…”. No surprise. Paiboon has been supporting Gen Prayuth since before the coup. But Paiboon is also lying. Nepotism has been rife. Ask Gen Preecha Chan-ocha about that.

Just to be clear on how the junta has positions “Paiboon’s party,” Paiboon declared that if “other parties draw enough votes to support someone else as the PM, People Reform would vote along the line of senators…”. Prayuth and the junta appoint the senators.

But that should be unnecessary: “I believe we and other parties can garner more than 125 votes. When combined with the votes from 250 senators, we can throw out any party-list PM candidate proposed by another party…”. The Dictator’s strategy is the clearest it has ever been.

Paiboon even made it crystal clear that his party is not even considering winning more than a few seats: “In any case, while the number of MPs is not our main goal, we predict we would win a satisfactory number of MPs.” By satisfactory he means sufficient to join with other faux parties to get Prayuth’s job for him.

Meanwhile, Paiboon’s buddy and political conservative twin, Suthep Thaugsuban has decided to “back a political party in the upcoming election…”. While this was never in doubt, the Bangkok Post reports that he will support (or establish) “a political party that will serve the people’s needs, not its own.” But it will support Suthep’s reactionary anti-politics.

Like Paiboon, “Suthep had previously stated that he would back Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to resume the premiership after the election.” So the party he supports will have its nose firmly positioned in Prayuth’s … corner.

Prayuth calls his anti-democrat position “political innovation” and like Paiboon reckons that the party he supports will be a “party of the people.” Paiboon and Suthep are the ugly twins in a very ugly political system spawned by anti-democrats, royalists and the military.

The easily forgotten military-backed party Bhum Jai Thai Party has begun re-registering its members. The Dictator will be spoiled for choice. The parties won’t be. They’ll be told who to support. Even so, much fun, games and heartburn seem sure to come.





Supporting the junta’s political agenda

3 03 2018

New political parties are emerging from the junta’s primeval electoral rules slime.We apologize for all the square brackets and inverted commas that follow, but these are necessary to indicate the contrived nature of politics arranged by the military dictatorship.

According to a Bangkok Post source at the Election Commission, several parties “want their party names to include the words ‘Pracharath’ (people-state partnership) or ‘Thai Niyom’ (Thai-ism) — from the government’s [they mean the junta’s] key [populist-electoral] development schemes which are now becoming popular catchphrases among the people [sic.].”

In other words, following the junta’s lead and its rules, a bunch of parties look like forming to support the junta and its dismal political objective of maintaining “Thai-style democracy” – i.e. no democracy at all – into the future.

These “parties” – really just junta factions and political opportunists – reckon that the junta’s dishing out of populist-electoral cash will have an “impact on voters as there are many who benefit from these projects.” The “parties” also want voters “to believe that the newly-registered parties have the backing of the government…”. Some do and others are hoping that they can suck up the loot that might result from a military-backed coalition government following an “election.”

The EC source particularly pointed to survey “parties” set up with the “clear intention of supporting the National and Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta]…”. These are the devil or Satan parties.

One is the Pracharath Party “which is speculated to include key figures from the government [junta + a few trusted anti-democrat civilians] and the NCPO [the junta – those civilians]. Speculation is rife that Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatursripitak, who is the head of the government’s economic team, will be the party leader.” Somkid is one of those +/- civilians.

Then there’s the “Muan Maha Pracha Chon Party pushed by Suthep Thaugsuban, former leader of the defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee is also meant to back Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha [The Dictator] to return as an outsider prime minister after the general election…”. Recall Suthep’s faux denial but remember his long alliance with the junta and the military coupsters.

Former senator and extreme yellow shirt Paiboon Nititawan is establishing a devil party to be “registered as the People Reform Party and will also support Gen Prayut making a comeback as premier.”

Then there are a bunch of hope-to-be-Satan-parties. These are micro-parties that have a hope of “joining an NCPO-sponsored government after the election.” They are presumably setting up money-laundering arrangements as we write this. One is the “Pheu Chart Thai Party. The group is led by Amphaphan Thanetdejsunthorn, former wife of the late military strongman Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong, who led a coup that seized power from the Chatichai Choonhavan government in 1991.”

Then there’s the New Palang Dhamma Party (NPDP), inaugurated on Thursday. Apparently a self-proclaimed devil party, it seems likely to throw its support to Gen Prayuth “if he bids to become an unelected, outside premier.” The party vows to fight corruption. It isn’t clear how supporting Prayuth and fighting corruption fit together. But, hey, this is the junta’s Thailand.

The real link between the junta and the reconstituted party is anti-Thaksinism:

[Rawee] … played an active role in bringing down two Shinawatra governments. Most recently in 2013 with the People’s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King as Head of State, or PCAD, aka the People’s Democratic Reform Council. Before that, Rawee was once a member of the former People’s Alliance for Democracy, the Yellowshirt party which played an instrumental role in opposing both Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra.

In summary, the formation of a myriad of minor parties supportive of The Dictator is in line with the junta’s script for post-“election” politics.

Yellow shirted “academic” Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, rector of Walailak University, observed “there is nothing new to expect and the next election will not bring any change.” Sombat’s own role in creating this neanderthal political system is not mentioned.





Updated: Watching Prawit watching The Dictator

12 01 2018

Khaosod has a short story that says much. We quote a bit of it:

A week after declaring himself a politician, junta leader and expected political candidate Prayuth Chan-ocha got his first high-profile endorsement today from none other than his embattled deputy.

“I likely agree,” Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan said Thursday when asked if he thought Prayuth – who’s also currently prime minister – should return to lead the government after the general elections promised for November.

No surprise. For the junta it is just as night follows day….

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that the Deputy Dictator has gone further in his comments, dragging the barely concealed cat out of the bag and throwing it at the media. According to the report:

Prawit … has thrown his support behind a plan to set up a political party to back Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to return as a non-elected prime minister after the general election expected late this year.

This follows the announcement by military acolyte Paiboon Nititawan who finally confirmed “his intention to form his own party on March 1 and openly pledged his support for Gen Prayut to resume his premiership after the election.” He’s also linking the new party to the People’s Democratic Reform Committee calling it, for the moment, the People’s Reform Party.

This is just another event in the junta’s shenanigans as they work for the preferred “election” outcome.