The Dictator and “unfinished business”

10 08 2015

PPT has sometimes briefly wondered why a digital media news editor at the Bangkok Post has a weekly column on politics. But then Saritdet Marukatat has a reasonably long history as a yellow-shirted rightist and we guess the rag’s owners like his political views, even if he does hold the gong for the most ridiculous op-ed we at PPT have read in a newspaper that presents itself as a serious news outlet.

His task this past week has been to support the military dictatorship, The Dictator and, at least for the moment, the junta’s roadmap. That also seems to be the task of another Post op-ed rightist, Veera Prateepchaikul who also attacks those wanting reform before elections.

Believe The Dictator says Saritdet. Despite extending the junta’s term in power, General Prayuth Chan-ocha and the military junta have “no desire to stay longer in office and is looking forward to an elected government taking over Government House from him.”

He admits that “some National Reform Council members and Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee” might be a bit disappointed, and might fear that the 2014 coup will go the way of the “failed” 2006 putsch “which failed to uproot the political influence of Thaksin Shinawatra.”

But worry not, he asserts: “An election will return the country to a credible position internationally.” And, he might have added, don’t worry that this will be anything other than a sham election.

The new constitution will be passed by the puppet National Reform Council and “a referendum in early January,” which will be no problem. In other words, the “roadmap is still on…”.

What about after the “election.” Saridet explains The Dictator’s scheme:

If things go as planned, the new charter will welcome an outsider as prime minister for the sake of stability, if politics reaches an impasse when parties cannot decide on a premiership candidate after the poll.

The charter writers have already made it difficult for one party to dominate parliament. It looks like a return to the old days of Thai politics when small parties could bargain for cabinet seats….

If there is “political instability,” then the outsider PM will be used: “As of this moment, there seems only one candidate who fits the outsider mould. He knows what has been done and what should be pursued by an elected government to finish all reform issues.” We guess that any kind of nominated “instability” will do.

To be honest, we do not have the insider knowledge of the yellow-shirted schemers, so we are left to guess on the one “candidate.” Prayuth perhaps? He’d be Prem-like, controlling everything.

The result would be that “[r]eal democracy might have to wait a bit longer because there remains ‘unfinished business’.”

That’s the real roadmap.





Still no election I

30 07 2015

Suthep Thaugsuban has launched back into politics claiming to support the military dictatorship. Some in the military and the dictatorship are worried.

Suthep is reported to have stated that he and his “foundation” of anti-democrats is not “a political group, even though those involved come from the political arena. It also has no affiliation with the Democrat Party” despite the fact that most of its “members” are former Democrat Party politicians.Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban answers questions during a news conference in Bangkok

Rather he seemed to confirm that these politicians are, well, anti-democrats.

He said “no more rallies, protests or storming into anyone’s offices,” but “vowed to do everything he could to protect the national interest” as defined by his anti-democrats and, most significantly, declared that “he wanted to see the military government accomplish its reform goals before elections are held, no matter how long the process takes.”

While Suthep said “the foundation supported the junta,” he issued a threat or, depending on interpretation, a reminder to the regime.

He declared that “if it [the “foundation”] sees the government is making a wrong move, the foundation would oppose it in an orderly manner…”. Suthep declared: “We will tell the public how and what (the government) is doing and how it differs from what we think. Whether right or wrong, the people will decide…”.

PPT’s interpretation is that the anti-democrats have acted because they fear the junta is being compromised by opposition meaning it cannot properly root out the “Thaksin regime.”

Some in the military will worry that Suthep and the anti-democrats are scheming and that they are “scrutinizing” the regime. At the same time, this is support for the junta and its original mission.

The anti-democrats demand that the military postpone elections until their fascist “reforms” are in place. In other words, the anti-democrats are demanding that the military not make the same mistakes as 2006-7 that allowed the return of Thaksin via elections.





Further updated: Suthep re-enters politics

28 07 2015

Much of the media commentary about Suthep Thaugsuban leaving the monkhood has been about his declaration that he will no longer be involved in politics.

Suthep

A Bangkok Post photo

Suthep entered the monkhood not that long after the coup, as a kind of political exile, and after a couple of slaps from the military dictatorship on commentary he made about the coup and his People’s Democratic Reform Committee links to the military’s planning of the coup.

Like others with a penchant for mobilizing people, be it Thaksin Shinawatra, Sondhi Limthongkul or even Chamlong Srimuang, the military is suspicious of them.

Hence, Suthep’s declaration that he is not re-entering politics is something of a ruse.

For one thing, saying he is done with party politics is not saying much when the military dictatorship has sent parties to the wilderness. Parties are more or less defunct and those drafting the new constitution have tried to make them less significant into the future.

Second, during the PDRC campaign against Yingluck Shinawatra’s government, much of the rhetoric was driven by royalist notions that are anti-party and a anti-politician, so an immediate return to party politics would be a denial of that anti-democratic ideology.

Third, it is noticeable that Suthep remains politically engaged. Photographed in his PDRC livery emphasizing monarchy and nation, Suthep stated that he “plans to join a foundation that other former protest leaders have established,” allegedly “to promote vocational education and other grassroots projects.” When he states that “I will work with the Foundation of the Great Mass of the People for Reform of Thailand. I will never go back to run in an election ever again. But I will be working in civil politics alongside the Great Mass of the People for the benefit of our country.”

In a sense, this is an acknowledgement of the post-politician/post-party politics that will be acceptable to the royalist elite and the military dictatorship. Suthep has re-entered politics in a space delimited by the military.

Update 1: As if on cue, Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr has warned Suthep to steer clear of political organizing.

Update 2: The military dictatorship’s concerns regarding Suthep’s re-entry into politics has been shown in a statement by The Dictator. General Prayuth Chan-ocha “admitted yesterday he was concerned that politician Suthep Thaugsuban … has become politically active once again.” Prayuth was expressing concern about a press conference scheduled for Thursday that “will be the first time since the coup in May 22, 2014, that 12 PDRC leaders will officially get together to continue their push for reform.” Prayuth and Suthep

As Chairman of the so-called Foundation of the Great Mass of the People for Reform of Thailand, Suthep will attend the event. So will all of the other anti-democrat leaders: Sathit Wongnongtoey, Thaworn Senniam, Issara Somchai, Witthaya Kaewparadai, Akanat Promphan, Chumpol Chulasai, Chaiwut Bannawat, Puttipong Punnakan, Sakoltee Phattiyakul, Natthapol Theepsuwan and Chitpas Bhirombhakdi-Kridakorn.

The “foundation” will consider its “strategy to support ‘reforms’ according to the six-point proposal initiated by Suthep himself…”.

 





Sedition

24 07 2015

“These is no justice in this country, we should be separated as Lanna State”

That’s the message on a banner hung in Chiang Rai in February 2014.

Article 116 of the Criminal Code states that:

whoever makes apparent to the public by words, writing or any other means anything which is not an act within the purpose of the constitution or which is not the expression of an honest opinion or criticism (a) in order to bring about a change in the laws or the government by the use of coercion or violence, (b) in order to raise confusion or disaffection amongst the people to the point of causing unrest in the kingdom, or (c) have people violate the law, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding seven years.

In a case of protecting the judiciary, the court ruled that “the claim … that there is no justice in the country after the criminal court in early 2014 rejected to grant arrest warrants against the key leaders of the anti-election People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters was false.”

They don’t explain why it was false, but like the rulings of the king and of The Dictator, no debate or dissension is really possible. In any case, the banner hangers were expressing a widely-held view at the time. As everyone knows, including thoise who benefit from it, Thailand’s judicial decision are riddled with double standards.

The judges of the provincial court seemed most miffed that “by expressing such claims, the defendants also insulted the Criminal Court’s ruling to deny the arrest of the PDRC leaders then.” Of course they did, and the court deserved insulting over its politicized ruling.





The land of dictators

19 07 2015

Readers may find a post on Thailand by Craig Moran at the Fair Observer, a site new to PPT, of some interest.

Moran sets out the rise of military domination since the 2014 coup, observing;

There is a stark difference between the government’s proclaimed good intentions and the tangible results of its authoritarian rule. According to iLaw, authorities have called in 712 people for “attitude adjustments,” 159 others for “political offense” and detained hundreds of journalists since the coup. With this in mind, one can imagine why Prayuth [Chan-ocha]’s self-proclamation as a “soldier with a democratic heart” was met with derision.

Derision indeed, although we at PPT still wonder and worry about The Dictator’s mental state, for a delusional authoritarian “leader” is a dangerous one.

Interesting too are Moran’s comments on political paternalism:

Thais are eerily familiar with paternalist figures assuming power—the pinnacle of which is their monarch … whose “divine” image is enforced with one of the toughest lèse majesté laws in the world.

Rulers with fatherly attitudes are not new, as dictators have had similar approaches in the past. However in Thailand, this traditional style often goes hand in hand with the monarchy and, even if reluctantly so, it is still widely accepted. This is why admirers refer to Prayuth as “Uncle Prayuth,” a name triggered by his “happiness campaign” that includes a commissioned soap opera and a pro-junta pop song called “Return Happiness to Thailand,” which he penned himself.

The claim, however, that Prayuth took power with ease “points to a resigned population and a weak political culture where coups are almost accepted as facts of life” is rather too simplistic.

For one thing, Prayuth’s royalist coup was not easy. The anti-democrats needed to be mobilized for months to destabilize electoral politics and create the circumstances necessary for yet another coup, and this followed from several other probing anti-democrat efforts that began from the time of Yingluck Shinawatra’s election. The military also sent a considerable time preparing for the coup, identifying opponents and those who could mobilize resistance.

In addition, the Yingluck government was stymied by the alliance of military, monarchy and business elite opposition. Finally, the continuous palace propaganda always presents the king as a reliable alternative to elected politicians at the same time as portraying it as “unifying” and support for the monarchy, rather than elected governments, as “loyalty.” In other words, the monarchy has been constructed as an alternative to the sovereignty of the people.





Supporting anti-democrat political allies

12 07 2015

In another case indicating the uneasy relationship between the junta and its political allies of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, the apology issued to PDRC and People’s Alliance for Democracy coordinator Supot Piriyakiatsakul stands out.

As PPT posted a week or so ago, Supot received Mafia-like threats from thugs organized as soldiers, who thought he was supporting the Dao Din students. Supot bleated about his support for The Dictator and the military dictatorship but referred to “an arrogant exercise of power…”.

This event has caused an apology from the Army to its “brother.” At a Korat Army base, “Col. Patikorn Eiamla-or, a senior commander of 21st Army District, said the incident was a misunderstanding.” He apologized: “I would like to apologize to you, brother…. I insist with my dignity as a soldier that I had no intention to use my power or duty to cause conflict in society.” The idea of the Army having anything like dignity and not wanting to cause conflict is a lie, of course. The Army is was obviously concerned about Supot’s organizing capacity but still needs political allies.

Supot’s response raises other questions. He opined: “”Even though I am a Thai of Chinese descent, my heart is dedicated to love for my country. I have been campaigning in politics since 2006 by choosing to stand on the side of the righteousness…. I have always supported the military in all their actions.”

The questions raised by this statement include the issue of ethnicity and why Supot raises it? Was he accused of disloyalty based on his ethnicity? Was there a supposed link to the Communist Party of Thailand that was being investigated and as trumpeted by a member of the Democrat Party? It is entirely within the realms of military possibility that Chinese ethnicity, links to former CPT and even counterinsurgency figures and political organizing in the northeast could be construed as a political threat. Yet the mad anti-democrat from the so-called Democrat Party seemed to be pointing a finger at Thaksin Shinawatra-linked “communists” rather than those linked with PAD or indeed to the Democrat Party itself. Yet the military is seldom used to or using political nuance.

The second question is perhaps not as controversial. Supot’s claim to have “always supported the military in all their actions” may not be entirely accurate, but it is telling of the relationship between anti-democrats and the men with all the guns. The evidence of military links with PAD and PDRC is not difficult to find.





Double standards that protect political allies

11 07 2015

The military junta has an uneasy relationship with the anti-democrats who paved the way for its 2014 military coup.

On the one hand, there can be little doubt that the military brass had numerous political alliances with Suthep Thaugsuban’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee, as it agitated to provide a pretext for yet another military intervention. On the other hand, the military brass is always concerned about anyone or any group that can mobilize outside its control. (The military does not mind mobilizing its own groups for political purpose.)

Despite this uneasiness, the military junta knows that its relationship with the PDRC was critical for kicking out another Shinawatra government and providing the royalist elite with another opportunity to reorganize its dominant political position.

It is in this context that a recent Bangkok Post story that reports that the disruption of the 2014 election by PDRC protesters was “constitutional” should come as no surprise.

The Criminal Court dismissed the case filed by public prosecutors against PDRC members who surrounded the Din Daeng District Office to prevent officials from distributing ballots to polling places. This action meant that “no voters in the district could exercise their right [to vote]…”.

The court ruled the PDRC action “was legitimate based on a judgement by the Constitutional Court.”

The protest “at the district office was also peaceful and unarmed. Besides, there was no proof all the suspects padlocked the gate of the office as accused by the prosecutors…”. In fact, much violence occurred prior to election day as the PDRC created a situation that was meant to intimidate voters and those election officials who weren’t already aligned with the anti-democrats.

There are other PDRC thugs awaiting trial on similar charges. They can be fairly confident that they will now walk free after having deprived voters of their constitutional rights.








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