PAD hates elections and voters

26 02 2012

Chamlong

A story in the the Bangkok Post a couple of days ago deserves some attention. It is a story that has the People’s Alliance for Democracy “threatening legal action and mass rallies in response to the government’s charter amendment bid.” To be sure, there is nothing surprising there.  PPT has been posting for some time that PAD and other anti-Thaksin Shinawatra stalwarts have been getting back together to oppose the Yingluck Shinawatra government, and supporting the military junta’s 2007 constitution is the chosen political location for that.

What is interesting in the story is PAD’s complete rejection of elections and voters. PAD co-leader Chamlong Srimuang reportedly stated that a “charter rewrite would greatly damage the nation and the PAD would not tolerate it.”

PAD leader and former Democrat Party parliamentarian Somkiat Pongpaibul proclaimed that “the charter change as an attempt to create a new kind of state, which he said was unacceptable.” This is a pretext for Somkiat’s declaration that “PAD would stage major protests against charter change if the government pressed ahead with it.”

Another PAD leader Phipob Dhongchai defended the military’s constitution and engaged in some not very startling conspiricist “logic” that is PAD’s stock in trade. He reckons that a constitutional rewrite is about Thaksin, claiming, the “connections were clear…. Pheu Thai is the ruling party and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is Thaksin’s sister. The clear goal of the charter rewrite move is to secure an amnesty for Thaksin and introduce a new power structure in the country.”

PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan added that “politicians in power would control the CDA because the 77 drafters would be elected from each of the provinces and House members would select 22 other drafters who were experts. He said the CDA would create a whole new charter that would pave the way for a parliamentary dictatorship.”

Of course, the idea of electing members of the CDA is simply abhorrent fro Panthep and PAD. They think elections are part of a pro-Thaksin conspiracy and that voters are duped, paid and stupid.

This “analysis” was supported by the usual group of mostly appointed senators, in positions created by the junta and its constitution, with the deep yellow Rosana Tositakul opining that “there was an obvious intent to control the executive, legislative and judicial branches and nullify the criminal charges against Thaksin.” When she adds that “the constitution had been endorsed by 14 million people in a referendum,” she is ignoring the fact that the military dominated the process of developing the constitution, establishing, lecturing and controlling the drafting body.

Rosana

As just one example of the commentary at the time, the Asian Human Rights Commission stated that “the military junta … has coerced, threatened, bought and cajoled part of the electorate into passing its 309-article constitution on August 19.” It noted that half the country was under martial – i.e. military – law and that “[o]pponents of the draft were intimidated and materials confiscated from houses and post offices. Protestors against the coup have been charged with criminal offences.” All in all, the AHRC concluded that it “regrets the passing of this regressive charter…”.

The fact that the constitution allows change – and by a relatively simple method – is ignored. The fact that the People Power Party and Puea Thai Party both campaigned with promises to amend the constitution and that both received very strong electoral support count for nothing with PAD’s leadership.

PAD, their supporters in the senate and others of their ilk simply hate the idea that voters and elections count for anything or that their voice should be heard.





PAD, the monarchy (again) and a beat-up (?)

24 11 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that while the People’s Alliance for Democracy cancelled its anti-Thaksin Shinawatra-cum-anti-Yingluck Shinawatra rallying, it has “vowed to hold a prolonged mass rally against the government if there is a renewed bid to seek a royal pardon for ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.”

But PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul went further than this. He vowed to also have PAD rallying if the Yingluck government “fails to stop the anti-monarchy movement…”. Sondhi promised protesters numbering in the “hundreds of thousands.” Why the push on the monarchy?

Sondhi claims “the anti-monarchy movement was still active with websites with lese majeste content prevalent on the internet.” He claims that “PAD is gathering evidence to prove the government is insincere in protecting the monarchy.” Further, PAD is going to “submit a petition asking the government to take action against anti-monarchy elements.” If the government doesn’t act within 14 days, “PAD will stage a mass rally…”.

PPT has a feeling that PAD is just getting warmed up. Sondhi is going to bank on protecting the monarchy as the rallying cry. More importantly, now that a pro-Thaksin government is in power, the tawdry anti-Cambodia rallies of last year, which failed to draw crowds, can be left aside and the “true believers” – including the Democrat Party – can be brought out under the royalist banner to fight the devil and his followers. The issues are now much clearer and the target makes better sense for a broader group of anti-Thaksinites.

Interestingly, PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan warned the red shirts and the government, blaming them in advance for any confrontation. He also warned: “Thaksin has no land [in Thailand] to live on. Ms Yingluck may end up like her brother…”.

In a kind of footnote to this story, it is interesting to see the BBC’s comments on the whole royal pardon debacle. It seems the BBC finds something in the claim by Justice Minister Pracha Promnok “that the speculation had been dreamt up by a ‘frantic’ media.” The report states: “The current amnesty plan covers only serving prisoners, and excludes people found guilty of fraud. But local media claimed the government, led by Mr Thaksin’s sister Yingluck, was trying to change the rules of the amnesty to include the former prime minister.” It then appears to lash the Bangkok Post: “The Bangkok Post newspaper fuelled the speculation last week when it quoted a government insider as saying a secret cabinet meeting had been held to discuss the issue.”

Was it a beat up? Probably not entirely, for Chalerm Yubamrung was involved, seemingly intent on causing some kind of mini-crisis, but then PAD’s Panthep is cited in The Nation making some claims that seem to suggest the BBC is on to something: “The PAD said it did not believe what Pracha [Promnok] said [on the royal pardon decree] but as there was no clear evidence suggesting otherwise and no independent figure who had seen the draft, the PAD would give the government a chance to prove it was telling the truth. If the document was submitted to the Council of State, the government’s legal advisory body, the PAD may have a chance to see the content of the draft to verify that Thaksin would not really benefit…”.





Bangkok protests

15 02 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that summonses have now been issued targeting  the 10 co-leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), “requiring them to report to police for violating an order of the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO)…” under the Internal Security Act. CAPO prohibited the use of roads around Government House and the parliament that were occupied by PAD .

Those summonsed are: Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Prapan Khoonmee, Panthep Puapongpan, Rak Rakpong (Samana Pothirak, leader of the Santi Asoke sect), Suriyasai Katasila, Terdphum Jaidee, Pibhop Dhongchai, Amorn Amornrattananond and Tossapol Kaewthima.

While Chamlong Srimuang said his group would co-operate  with the police, he had brought a civil suit against a police investigator on the 2008 airports case, and The Nation reports that the The Thai Patriot Network had “filed a complaint with Central Administrative Court, asking the court to annul the government’s ban on demonstrations in seven Bangkok districts…. The complaint alleged that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Cabinet had unlawfully invoked the Internal Security Act to ban demonstrations in seven Bangkok districts.”

PAD protests are likely to be bolstered each time there is a clash on the Thai-Cambodian border. PAD’s unhappiness with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is likely to further increase.

The red shirts now seem remarkably “well behaved” when they protest.

Just to add to the mix of protests, the Bangkok Post reports that the Assembly of the Poor, which was seen as weakening, now “says thousands of its members are on their way to Bangkok for a protest to put pressure on the government to open all the sluice gates of the Pak Moon dam and properly compensate people affected by its construction.”

An AOP protest in 2007

The AOP has been rallying in front of the Ubon Ratchathani provincial hall for more than a month and has now decided “to move its protest to the parliament in Bangkok.” The AOP expects 5,000 assembly members to make the trip to Bangkok.

Their action follows an unfulfilled promise in December from PM’s Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey to “seek cabinet approval for the permanent opening of the dam’s sluice gates.” Nothing had happened since the promise was made.

It seems that the Abhisit and his government is now faced with a growing array of issues and problems – the south, corruption, the border, protest groups, red shirts, the failure of investigations into the events of April and May 2010, increasing army dissonance, etc. – that make for considerable political uncertainty.





Updated: Abhisit talks war

31 01 2011

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva talks peaceful means of dealing with border disputes but also speaks of war: “My intention of using peaceful approaches to settle the border dispute does not mean that the government is afraid of a war with Cambodia.” It is not surprising that the People’s Alliance for Democracy can drive such a hawkish agenda when they continue to have considerable support amongst the extremist and rightist elements of the regime. Abhisit must respond in ways that are seen as “tough.”

Meanwhile, “Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said fresh deployment of Cambodian troops and armour along border areas adjoining Si Sa Ket province are not cause for worry.”

Pushing hard, PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan “said yellow-shirt activists went to the Criminal Court on Monday morning and filed a suit against four cabinet ministers, accusing them of causing Thailand a loss of sovereignty. Mr Panthep said the lawsuit filed by Samdin Lertbutr and Tainae Mungmajon, representatives of the PAD, accused the prime minister, his deputy Suthep [Thaugsuban], Gen Prawit and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya of violating Articles 119 and 120 of the Criminal Code, for which the maximum penalty is capital punishment.”

Update: As Abhisit admitted “that Thai and Camboldian military forces were confronting each other along the border,” a court has quickly rejected the PAD suit.





Updated: PAD on Abhisit

25 01 2011

Relations between the yellow shirts of PAD and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva continue to deteriorate. PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan has complained  the premier’s televised address on Sunday night on the Thai-Cambodian border dispute. Panthep says the prime minister got the facts wrong.

Panthep insists that the “area where the seven Thais were arrested by Cambodian soldiers was a camp set up by Thai authorities for Cambodian refugees, and the government had allowed the fence to intrude on Thai territory.”

Panthep says that “Abhisit’s explanation of the border issue last night might cause the country to lose more land, and he could be be liable to punishment by life imprisonment or the death penalty…”.

This vehemence makes PPT wonder about suspected bombers with an array of weapons that suggests military connections (perhaps seek out the Sondhi Limthongkul gunmen?), the target of the current PAD rally and the reasons for PAD’s current intransigence. An election coming? A nationalist zealotry that potentially can mobilize a significant number of supporters? We don’t know, yet, but when Chamlong Srimuang gets motivated, the waters get murky.

Update: Interestingly, yellow-shirted protesters appear to scare business more than red shirts.





PAD, Chamlong and Abhisit

28 07 2010

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva still treats the People’s Alliance for Democracy and its activities with care and consideration. Not for the first time in his administration, Abhisit has demonstrated that the government and the PAD remain allies.

On Tuesday, led by former mercenary and long-time PAD leader Major-General Chamlong Srimuang, several hundred PAD-organized protesters rallied at the UNESCO offices on Sukhumvit Road. They were opposing any discussion of the World Heritage status of Cambodia’s Preah Vihear Temple and the management plan – which the government and protesters claim not to have seen – to be discussed in Brazil this week.

PPT briefly visited the rally site to listen to a few ultra-nationalist speeches and read the banners, of which quite a few were in English. Most of the people, in what was essentially a good-natured crowd, seemed to be from Chamlong’s rightist Santi Asoke-Dhamma Army group.

Chamlong stated that the plan could result in Thailand losing “more than 1.8 million rai of land to Cambodia … [and] threatened to unseat Abhisit if he failed to protect Thailand’s sovereignty.” As stated above, the plan seems not to have been seen by anyone, so Chamlong’s claims are based on previous PAD announcements and beliefs.

The more interesting things were taking place quite a long way from the rally, at Ban Pitsanulok, where Abhisit decided to meet with PAD representatives. The Bangkok Post reports that Abhisit met with “PAD’s co-leader Pibhop Dhongchai, the movement’s spokesman Panthep Puapongpan, [PAD-aligned, former Manager journalist, lese majeste activist and appointed] Senator Kamnoon Sitthisamarn and [ultra-nationalist] historian ML Walwipha Charoonroj, who leads the Preah Vihear listing monitoring network.”

At that meeting, according to The Nation, Abhisit “vowed to protect Thailand’s rights and interests…”. Abhisit declared that the plan should not even be considered. He promised PAD representatives “that his government would not accept a resolution from the Unesco World Heritage Committee that could hurt the Kingdom’s interests in any way.” He is quoted: “The resolution must not interfere with Thailand’s territory or sovereignty…. We will not cooperate if the management plan encroaches on our soil.” He promised to consider “harsh measures.” Abhisit blamed the U.N. for conflict over the World Heritage site. In fact, most of the recent conflict has had to do with PAD machinations.

Abhisit may have rejected PAD’s claim that “Thailand force Cambodian soldiers and people out of the disputed area” but told PAD that he would “not accept Cambodia’s map” of the area as it would be “a violation of Thailand’s sovereignty…”. PAD protesters were apparently pleased by Abhisit’s responses. Appointed Senator Kamnoon said “PAD and the government shared a similar view on protecting the country’s sovereignty.” He added that “he felt ‘relieved’ since the government had prepared measures to be taken against the UN agency if it ignores Thailand’s stance.” One measure seems to be non-cooperation.

Old soldier Chamlong was apparently not so sanguine and as well as threatening the government, “warned the PAD would not give up its rallies” on the issue. His view seems to be that the Cambodian claim will not be defeated, so favors more direct action. Chamlong has been antagonistic to several governments and commands limited support. However, he believes he can easily stir nationalist feeling.

At the same time, Abhisit appears to be positioning himself with other PAD leaders in a manner that will allow the government to ride with right-wing nationalism should it be stirred rather than be the target of xenophobic anger. Recall that the Democrat Party stirred such feelings when in opposition and trying to bring down the government in 2008 on this very same issue. It linked with PAD for that campaign as well. So it knows its allies very well and maintains that useful liaison. The Thai right-wing sticks together on the important issues.