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.





Crumbling under the post-junta regime

11 07 2020

It may seem somewhat surprising that all major political parties appear to be in some turmoil.

Recent articles tell of the governing Palang Pracharath Party in turmoil with the consolidation of power by the army wing of the ruling party, with the exodus of four “technocratic officials sidelined by the party that is increasingly dominated by members with military ties.”

Then there are repeated reports of rifts in the hopeless Democrat Party and that it is losing electoral credibility in the south and has several breakaway parties led by former disgruntled senior members, all of whom strike us as hopeless and merely trying to ride the small party wagon to collect the dregs of the junta’s party system.

And, there are reports of the decline of the Puea Thai Party is in deep trouble, with all of its main leaders left out of parliament thanks to the junta’s constitution and the Election Commission, acting for the regime. Of course, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan keeps trying to entice Puea Thai MPs across to the dark side.

We may also recall that opposition Future Forward was gutted by the Constitutional Court, acting for the regime and that the remaining MPs remain rudderless.

In our view, with the military types consolidating its grip, Palang Pracharath looks more like a party of factions that are kept under control with money, cabinet positions and constant shepherding. This doesn’t necessarily make it stronger, but if the opposition is crumbling and unable to capitalize on these schisms, rifts and associated corruption, then unelected dolts like the current generals are likely to be able to hold together their rule.

As an aside, this “technocrats” versus green men is a narrative seen in several stories and we’d say it is an odd claim. A technocrat is usually defined as a person “appointed on the basis of their expertise in a given area of responsibility, particularly with regard to scientific or technical knowledge.” When we look at the “technocrats” leaving government, this definition applies only vaguely to one of them. Kobsak Pootrakool has a PhD in Economics from MIT and worked at the Bank of Thailand and the Stock Exchange of Thailand before becoming a banker. But the other three are political hacks rather than technocrats. Sontirat Sontijirawong with an MBA, has worked in packaging for business and for most of his career has spent his time as an “adviser” or committee member in relatively minor posts. Uttama Savanayana was trained as an engineer and also has a PhD in management but has spent the last 20-25 years administering and advising. Suvit Maesincee also has a PhD in management, having trained as a pharmacist, and has spent most his career sitting on boards.

In other words, journalists and commentators might want to look more carefully at the reasons why such men are referred to as “technocrats.” Does it have something to do with the regime having so few technically qualified persons in a cabinet dominated by army figures, politically-acceptable royalists, local mafioso and a convicted heroin smuggler?





Odd stuff

10 07 2020

A reader reckoned it was odd that PPT has been ignoring the ructions in the Palang Pracharath Party. While we have linked to a couple of stories on this, our view has been much as the Thai Enquirer has it:

The former party leader of Thailand’s ruling party and three other senior officials resigned from the party on Thursday signalling a possible cabinet shake up and the consolidation of power by the army wing of the ruling party.

We’d just add that it has always been a military-backed party. Recall that it was formed to allow Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his military junta to stay in power following a rigged election. The plan is to have the military pulling the string for up to 20 years.

On that 20 year period that The Dictator once called this “national reform.” It was a long-term plan to keep the military in politics and the monarchy in place.

Perhaps because the regime seems to feel it remains in control, as the Bangkok Post reports, no one seems particularly interested, demonstrated when a “Lower House sitting on national reform was cancelled yesterday for the lack of quorum.” The meeting was meant to “discuss progress on reform plans, which require a report and debate in parliament every three months.”  mainly because the .

For some grasping at “democratic” straws, see Prachatai.

Finally, the regime has ditched the ridiculous lie that the American general and his entourage had quarantined for 14 days prior to arrival in Thailand. Rather, it has sought to downplay the obvious double standards.

The Bangkok Post reports that:

Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said the delegation … would not be quarantined because health officials were confident of controlling any disease they may have….

Taweesilp added:

Thai officials who accompanied the visitors would also not have to be quarantined for 14 days subsequently, because they knew well how to protect themselves, kept a distance from the visitors, and had experience gained in handling returnees who arrived by plane….

Funny statement when Taweesilp has carved out those accompanying the US military delegation and those meeting with it. We don’t recall Gen Prayuth or Gen Apirat Kongsompong “handling returnees.” There are still glaring double standards at work, most especially when the regime maintains an emergency decree.

Rounding out a series of cockeyed reports, Gen Apirat is reported to have “insisted the US did not ask to use Thailand as a place to build a base.” He warned: “Don’t stir up issues that might create conflict in the region…”. Tell us more!





Demonstrating double standards

2 07 2020

Double standards have been a defining feature of the judiciary and the so-called independent agencies since the 2006 military coup. Confidence in the judiciary has declined and the “independent” agencies are a laughable.

Even so, they continue to coordinate on double standards. The reports of the last day or so shout DOUBLE STANDARDS!

The Constitutional Court ruled on 1 July that the ruling party’s Bangkok MP Sira Jenjaka had not abused his authority when in August 2019 he jetted off to Phuket to involve himself in case there and “attacked a police officer … for not providing him with an escort.” The loudmouthed Bangkok MP shouted at the hapless policeman, describing himself as a big shot who should have police escorts. The Palang Pracharath Party hack now plans to sue the 57 MPs who brought the complaint. It remains unclear why a Bangkok MP was involved in local affairs in Phuket.

Then there’s everyone’s favorite convicted criminal and deputy minister, Thammanat Prompao, also of the Palang Pracharath Party.  The Constitutional Court also rejected a petition against him. The Court had been asked “to rule on the eligibility of Thamanat … holding a seat in parliament due to his wife’s business dealings with The Port Authority of Thailand (PAT).” This wife, one of two, “holds shares in Klongtoey Market (2551) Co Ltd, and the company entered into a land lease contract with the … PAT.” He was claimed to be in breach of Article 184 of the constitution. While that article is straightforward and applies to spouses, “the court said it found the contract with PAT is not monopolistic. Therefore, there is no reason for Mr Thamanat to lose his status as an MP.” We have no idea why a monopoly matters in this case, except for the Court is slippery interpretation.

We suppose that ruling royalist party MPs getting off is par for the course these days and that the cases might sort of slip by as “normal” these days.

But then there is other news that makes it all reprehensible.

It is reported that:

Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has found that former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra abused her power, in violation of Section 157 of the Criminal Code, for her illegal removal, nine years ago, of Thawil Pliensri, from his post as secretary-general of the National Security Council and subsequent reassignment to the PM’s Office as an advisor.

NACC deputy secretary-general, Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, said today (Wednesday) that the NACC’s investigative panel found that  Thawil’s abrupt transfer was carried out with undue haste, taking just four days for the entire process to be completed.

Readers will recall that Yingluck was unanimously found at fault by the Constitutional Court and dismissed from office for the transfer of a top security officer, Thawil Pliensri, as National Security Council secretary-general in 2011.

That, following the 2014 coup, the junta summarily transferred hundreds of officials counts for nothing. It’s okay when the royalist thugs do it under conditions where only their “law” matters via retrospective edicts and so on.

Now the NACC “wants to bring another case against former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra in the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.” The NACC “will ask that Ying­luck be indicted for malfeasance and abuse of power.”

These royalist minions to the junta/post-junta are a nasty lot, but this action seems oddly vindictive. Why are they doing it? It is our guess that the regime’s bosses (again) see Thaksin Shinawatra as “stirring up trouble,” so they hit the family again.

 





Thammanat’s deep pockets

25 06 2020

We have had a few posts backed-up because of other things happening in neo-feudal Thailand and we’ll get to them over the next couple of days.

On story that caught PPT’s attention was a note at Thai PBS reporting that the Election Commission “has postponed the declaration of the official result of Sunday’s by-election, in the northern province of Lampang, until next week, due to allegations of vote buying.”

The Seri Ruam Thai party has “lodged a complaint of alleged election fraud, after the posting of a clip on social media, by former election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, claiming voting buying [by Palang Pracharath] had taken place on Sunday.”

Given that the EC usually slithers and slides around the regime, we don’t expect much from the agency and would expect green-lighting rather than serious investigation. Back in the 2019 election, it was reported: “Vote-buying was rampant on the eve of Sunday’s general election, according to the Open Forum for Democracy Foundation (P-Net), a non-governmental organisation focusing on strengthening democracy and electoral processes.” We don’t recall the EC doing much “investigating” then. Rather, it manipulated results and quotas to ensure the junta’s party was victorious. Still, the EC may yet surprise.

Of course, vote-buying is not unexpected. When there is a convicted heroin smuggler with bag loads of money running Palang Pracharath’s campaign, what else could be expected. Not the least because the whole formation of the party and its operations resembles the parties of the time when vote buying was especially rampant in the 1980s and 1990s. That period was, after all, something of a model for the junta when it designed a constitution that was meant to reduce the power of big parties and allow the negotiated construction of weak coalition governments, glued together by money and military power.

That’s exactly what we now have, with parties splitting and politicians coming and going, usually to the highest bidder. That is what makes Thammanat Prompao and the “generous” Gen Prawit Wongsuwan so important for the junta-designed regime.





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.

 





Palang Pracharath and the smuggler

22 06 2020

The ruling Palang Pracharath Party seems to like elections when it can win them. And win they did in a Lampang by-election on the weekend.

How the party went about winning is instructive as it relied on a local thug. Convicted heroin smuggler and alleged underworld figure and deputy agriculture minister Thammanat Prompao.

Convicted heroin smuggler

The  party won a seat formerly held by the Puea Thai Party. This time, only a couple of minor parties ran against Palang Pracharath.

How did this happen, making the Army-backed party a shoo-in? According to the Thai Enquirer, there was an extensive patronage network put together by Thammanat and his local mafia gang (well, that’s our description). The report adds:

Of course much of this network infrastructure that Palang Pracharat has is imported directly from Pheu Thai with many of the MPs within the ruling party were ‘recruited’ from their Thaksin-backed rivals.

And with that recruitment comes the prestige, patronage networks and local knowledge that the MPs have.

This manifests itself most clearly in Thammanat Prompao, the erstwhile Thaksin ally.

Thamamat reckons he used to “love” Thaksin, but one day came to the revelation that there was more to gain by joining the regime.

For the leaders of Palang Pracharath it matters nothing about where its “members” come from. What matters is maintaining their stranglehold on the state. If doing that means cooperating with glutinous thugs, then so be it. In any case, they value such traits among Army officers.

Most especially, “those close to General Prawit Wongsuwan … see Thammanat as irreplaceable because of his role at the center of an extensive network of patronage and ‘baramee’ chains.” The report continues:

This weekend’s by-election was proof that Thammanat plays a pivotal role in provincial electoral politics. He was seen on the campaign trail and seen with the PPRP candidate strategizing and lending a hand on numerous occasion. When the night was won, it was Thammanat whom Wattana turned to thank and hug….

The deputy agricultural minister has become too valuable and too deeply ingrained within the party’s fabric to simply abandon.

Thammanat might be the local thug, but he must pay his respect to his big boss, Gen Prawit. While thanking the “Lampang people for their votes and congratulated Mr Wattana on his victory,” he reported to Prawit.

Prawit was ecstatic: “The PPRP is ready to lead the people in every part of the country toward prosperity and well-being,” and “thanked Capt Thamanat for his important role in the party’s campaign.”

The heroin smuggler is in the veins of the Army’s party.





Preparing for (more) repression

15 06 2020

Increased repression is in the works.

One indication is that police “have summonsed at least three people to answer charges of violating the Emergency Decree in connection with a recent gathering to demand a probe into the [enforced] disappearance in Cambodia of pro-democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit.” (One of those to be charged is Chotisak Onsoong.)

Keeping the emergency decree in place is a part of the ongoing repression.

Another indication is that the Bangkok Post reports the “Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) will carry out a major drill next month aimed at testing its new internal security plan…”. ISOC’s targets are always opponents of the regime and the monarchy.

Prawit and Prayuth

A third indication has to do with the military bosses in the regime strengthening its control over its Palang Pracharath Party by having Gen Prawit Wongsuwan run the show. With Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda, the trio that planned the 2014 military coup are ensuring that parliament and oppositions are kept quiescent.

Anupong

As a Bangkok Post report states: “Once firmly in control of the party, his role will further strengthen the positions of Gen Prawit himself, Prime Minister Prayut … and Interior Minister Anupong…”. The move also strengthens the military itself.

While the trio already have control, they and the Army brass are worried about rising discontent, some of it targeting the absent king. And, they plan to stay around for years to come, controlling the country.





It is still a military regime VI

10 06 2020

All the nonsense about splits in the Palang Pracharath Party over who get access to the biggest bags of loot pales into nothingness when its considered who really runs the country.

In a report that is framed in terms that do not draw attention to the significance of the event, the Bangkok Post tells of how the military treats parliament with such utter disdain that opposition lawmakers “walked out of a parliament meeting on Tuesday…”.

The report says that this was “to protest against a lack of details in the government’s plan to reallocate 88 billion baht to a central fund to fight Covid-19 and rehabilitate the economy.” In fact, it was also a protest about the “Defence Ministry for hampering the panel’s work…” and acting as a law unto itself.

Defense Ministry officials had submitted to the committee a document which was marked “classified.” Shortly after these officials withdrew the document from the committee, collecting up all the copies.

Benja Saengchan, a committee member from Kao Klai Party, said the military officials claimed “the document was classified and … [they] took it back immediately; we did not manage to thoroughly examine the document.” Benja added: “The defence [ministry] is somehow ‘untouchable’…”.

The opposition “walkout was led by Worawat Ua-apinyakul, who sits on the ad-hoc committee vetting a draft bill on the budget transfer. The MPs abruptly left the meeting and accused the government coalition of trying to prevent them from doing their job.

As Ji Ungpakorn has pointedly observed: “No one should be under the illusion that Thailand has returned to democracy, despite recent elections. The military is still very much in charge…”.