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.





And, how’s that “election” coming along?

24 12 2017

As regular readers will know, PPT hasn’t joined the boostering about a junta “election” taking place next November. As it has turned out, all of the enthusiasm for a junta “election” has quickly faded.

In what should now be obvious to all, the military dictatorship has had The Dictator use his dictatorial powers – Article 44 – to provide advantages to “new” parties. The “balance” is now so far titled in favor of “new” parties that the junta might even be able to smell its (first) “electoral” victory.

The military bosses might be sniffing the political air a little too soon. After all, the Bangkok Post reckons that the recent use of Article 44 is “doomed” because “any misuse of power to benefit any particular group or help the military remain in power could take the country closer to the already ticking timebomb.”At the same time, the Post notes what General Prayuth Chan-ocha has done:

… paving the way for the formation of new political parties, possibly parties that have been rumoured to be in the making with the aim of the military transferring its powers if and when elections are held 336 days from today.

What was more surprising was the fact that under our dear leader’s abuse of power this time, all party members who want to keep their membership have to submit a letter to confirm their choice of party leader and pay their membership fee within a period of 30 days or lose their membership.

The 70-year-old Democrat Party, for instance, may lose the bulk of its nearly three million members….

Moreover, the party law previously exempted members of existing parties from paying a membership fee for four years. But the Section 44 order has nullified that and ordered both old and new parties to collect a membership fee for 2018 from at least 500 qualified members within 180 days, from April 1 to the end of September.

… What Gen Prayut has done with his use of the magic wand is give new political parties a month’s head start as they are allowed to start by March 1 against April 1 for existing parties.

This move looks set to help political parties and individuals who support the military, such as the likes of street protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban and Paiboon Nititawan, a former senator appointed by the military.

It is all pretty straightforward and is in line with every other move the military junta has made since its coup. It is preparing to maintain power and influence over Thailand’s emerging semi-authoritarian politics for another 15 or so years, at least.

The old political parties can cry foul but they are daft if they continue to publicly say that the junta is only now rigging the “election”; that’s been its grand game since the coup.

The Nation also added some important points:

The order also schedules the new deadline for political parties to complete their administrative work, which brings into question whether the election scheduled in November next year was still possible. The political parties Act, which was promulgated in early October, will come into effect only on April 1, 2018, according to the junta order yesterday.

The Article 44 order allows executive party members to continue in their positions but allows existing party members to choose whether to remain with the same parties.

If current party members want to keep their party membership, they must submit letters to confirm that choice to the party leader and pay a membership fee between April 1 to 30 next year or they will lose their status. Observers said the short period of time raises practical difficulties.

Moreover, the party law previously exempted the members of existing parties from paying a membership fee for four years. But the Article 44 order has nullified that and ordered that both old and new parties collect a membership fee for 2018 from at least 500 qualified members within 180 days or from April 1 to the end of September.

That timeframe makes it highly unlikely that elections will be able to take place in November, as announced earlier by Prayut.

As we have stated many times, the junta will hold its “election” when it can achieve the result it expects and wants.





The PDRC and Suthep

16 12 2017

Two recent news reports mention Suthep Thaugsuban and his People’s Democratic Reform Committee.

The report that got most attention was about Suthep and his anti-democrat colleague Paiboon Nititawan seeking changes to the organic law governing political parties, arguing for “fairness” for all parties. As all commentators have noted, this is an attempt to delay the “elections.”

Suthep and friends

Suthep has repeatedly called for the military dictatorship to remain in power, so this call is aimed at that end. The puppet National Legislative Assembly says it will hear from Suthep and Paiboon.

The second report, in the context of judicial double standards, is a tiny piece of what appears to be brighter news. At the end of a report on Jatuporn Promphan, it is briefly noted that the Phatthalung Provincial Court sentenced a former senator and PDRC key figure Thawi Phumsingharach and 10 supporters “for disrupting an advance vote and election officials in the province back in 2013.”

Thawil was slapped with a five-year prison term, and the others received from one to five years “for their role in obstructing the Muang district poll on Dec 28-31 and preventing the provincial election commission from performing its duty.”

We assume they are appealing.





The Buddhism stand-off

24 02 2017

As we have said several times, PPT has no particular insights on the confrontation that has involved thousands of police and soldiers intent on raiding and searching Wat Dhammakaya. We have posted a couple of times on why this case and is apparently so central for the junta and the broad yellow shirt movement (here, here, here and here).

As we write, it is reported that the temple remains surrounded by several thousand police and soldiers operating under The Dictator’s use of Article 44.

These troops, behind barricades, are supplied with shields, helmets and batons. No one may enter the temple. Those who wish to leave are let out. Data communications to the temple have been cut to prevent those in the temple using social media. This was meant to be a “secret.”

Those in charge of the temple have made an “announcement for followers inside to be prepared” for action by the authorities.

monks

In fact, in the lead-up to the current (renewed) stand-off, there have been several clashes. Even so, while the idea of troops clashing with monks and their supporters seems have caused some concern among the junta, it remains firm on pressing forward. Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan vowed that the search for the temple’s former abbot at the temple compound “will continue no matter how many more weeks or even if a year passes. Authorities are trying to avoid violent confrontations. But it is necessary to continue to enforce the law…”.

Odd alliances are claimed and seen. A Wat Dhammakaya supporter called Aye Phetthong “called on the government to revoke the order which he said has an adverse impact on the country’s image.” He’s also reported as saying that “key figures” from the “yellow-shirt and red-shirt groups” had “entered the grounds of [the] Wat … to ‘protect Buddhism’.” Meanwhile, a fascist and ultra-nationalist monk in Myanmar has offered support to the besieged temple.

Another report, by Reuters, offers some analysis – if that is possible of this situation – and seems to agree with one of PPT’s earlier suggestions, that the military regime and its supporters are intent on protecting the “religion” part of the nationalist-royalist trilogy of Nation, Religion and Monarchy.

The report quotes another with fascist leanings who is close to the junta, Paiboon Nititawan, who declares: “It [the sect] is trying to create unrest and subverting state power…”. That does seem far-fetched, but the political heat is now turned to full and yellow shirts like Paiboon have a history of political fanaticism.

Reuters reminds us of the timeline on these events:

The showdown for control began last year when the Sangha recommended a candidate for Supreme Patriarch with links to Dhammakaya and was under investigation over taxes on a vintage car.

The junta rejected that candidate. Then, when the new king took the throne in December, the law was changed to let him choose a patriarch and ignore the Sangha’s wishes.

Four days after a new patriarch, chosen from Thai Buddhism’s more austere fraternity, was installed the junta declared emergency powers over Dhammakaya.

The junta risks an unraveling of its rule not just on a Buddhist sect, but on several front, mostly because it is treading on the toes of the middle class, its natural (for Thailand) support base. Environmentalists, Buddhists who see themselves as devout, anti-corruption campaigners and similar types are getting the junta runaround and are seeing the hard edge of the regime directed at them. That signals a rising but reluctant opposition to the military’s authoritarianism.





Party like it’s 1991

26 10 2016

Back in August there was a report of a pro-military party being established by anti-democrat Paiboon Nititawan. He called on former military officers to join his “party.”

Because Paiboon had links to the junta, there were concerns that the “party” was to be the junta’s party for the next “election.” Things went quiet.

As the new rules for politics will likely mean a return to a pre-1997 pattern of coalition parties it seems that the military might see a need for more than one pro-military party.

The Bangkok Post reports that another anti-democrat party has been formed with military support. The party, Athippatai Puangchon Chao Thai (Thai people’s sovereignty) has been formed by Saman Singam and Praphat Ngoksungnoen, said to be associated with ultra-nationalist causes.

They claim that “Lt Gen Tharakrit Thapthongsit, deputy chief of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) Region 2, was behind the move, and was acting on behalf of Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan].”

Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit immediately denied any involvement.

An earlier report stated that Lt Gen Tharakit was “invited to preside over a foundation-stone laying ceremony of King Rama V statue at a learning centre of sufficiency economy philosophy in Sung Noen district on Sunday on behalf of Gen Prawit.” Praphat was reported to have arranged the royalist ceremony.

The two “announced the establishment of the People‘s Sovereignty Party after Lt Gen Tharakit left [the ceremony].”








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