Election Commission thuggery I

11 06 2016

A couple of days ago we posted on anti-democrat and anti-election Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn and his self-contradictory claims about constitution and referendum songs.

The clownish Somchai said the the EC’s ditty, that denigrated northerners and northeasterners in terms that echo of the infamous “uneducate” and “red buffalo” taunts of the military-backed and supported anti-democrat People’s Democratic Reform Committee, was just fine. He declared that “people are sometimes too sensitive and pay attention to trivial issues.”

Almost in the same breathe, he then damned another ditty, available on YouTube, charging that the “clip is … using rude words and influencing people in how to vote in the referendum.” He declared that the EC was after those responsible for the clip – the anti-coup Resistant Citizen group. Apparently, the EC and puppet Somchai was not “too sensitive” and that this was not a “trivial issue.”

Double standards? You bet! But puppets like Somchai can’t see this because, as well as being groveling bootlickers, they are not interested in law, logic or justice but loyalty, hierarchy and class privilege.

Prachatai reports that the junta’s EC thugs have been thwarted in their initial efforts to attack Resistant Citizen’s and the more than 20 people involved, including “Anon Nampa, Sirawit Serithiwat, Sombat Boonngamanong, Parit Chiwarak and Nattapat Akhad,” who are seen in the video.

Key members of Resistant Citizen, a well-known anti-junta activists group, and other leading pro-democracy activists might be charged with Computer Crime Act over performing in a music video on the draft constitution referendum.

Somchai has wallowed in sorrow as he revealed “that from the investigation the video clip was posted on YouTube from the first time on 13 April 2016, which was before the Draft Refere[du]m Act was enacted.” Much to his disappointment, this means that the “people involved in its production and those who posted the video for the first time will not be charged with the Draft Referendum Act.” That is, under the Referendum law that is meant to speed the junta’s military charter to a vote without citizens hearing any detailed criticisms.

But such legal barriers are not about to hold back determined anti-democrats like Somchai. He knows that the law is simply a tool for the junta and its minions to use in repressing opposition.

He gleefully announced that they “might instead be charged under the 2007 Computer Crime Act or for violating the orders and announcements of the National Council for Peace and Order …[he means the military junta] instead.”

Somchai also threatened thousands of others, saying that those who had shared the music video after 23 April 2016 “might be charged for violating the referendum act…”.

The military’s thugs are everywhere, threatening, oppressing and suppressing.

 





Two years of military dictatorship

22 05 2016

There has been quite a torrent of articles assessing the two years that have passed since the illegal seizure of power by the military junta that continues to rule Thailand. So much so, that PPT doesn’t feel the need to add to the tragic and dark story. Rather, we’ll link to a number of the recent stories that have appeared.

The Bangkok Post has had a series of lengthy articles assessing the junta and the past two years. One of them is about the treatment of political dissidents, where the Post refers to “hundreds” of arrests and cases “that reflect the …[junta’s] efforts to suppress freedom of expression.” There’s plenty more that readers can track back through recent issues.

Khaosod has an assessment of what it says were eight promises made by The Dictator when he “unveiled his policy objectives to his rubber stamp parliament shortly after it named him prime minister, his speech took nearly two hours.” It’s a mixed bag, but we regret that elections are not mentioned. That’s a big promise that was in a supposed “road map” that gets altered as often as the junta feels necessary. A second Khaosod article, this one by Pravit Rojanaphruk, advises that no one should believe the junta.

The Asia Foundation has found its voice. Back in 2006, it was supportive of the coup. This time it seems to take a different view. Here’s a snippet from the conclusion:

While speculation points to a variety of plausible scenarios, the deepest worry is that little will change whatever the referendum result. If the constitution passes, the NCPO may be in no rush to enact the extensive body of election and other “organic laws” that must be in place before an election is held. Alternative scenarios include public rejection of the charter, setting the country on an uncharted course of continued military rule, or cancellation of the referendum by the NCPO if the military leaders sense growing public unrest in the lead-up to August 7. Sadly, none of these prospective outcomes ensures Thailand’s release from the stubborn grip of authoritarianism and guided democracy – a prospect that seemingly weighs in a climate of creeping malaise and dwindling hope that observers sense among Thais across all strata of society – a mood that some observers suggest may portend unrest.

Global Risk Insights is a publication that looks at political risk news and analysis. It has turned its eye to Thailand and lists three near term risks: Yingluck Shinawatra’s show trial, the death of the king and succession and the referendum on the military’s charter.

The Southeast Asia Globe talks to some academics who are often also commentators. No one could really argue with the final statement from one of them: “Thailand is going backwards.” In a similar vein, Australia’s New Matilda looks at Thailand and Cambodia, apparently in lock-step on the authoritarian road.

AP has a useful account of “Why Junta Rules Thailand, With No End in Sight.” It observes that the “coup really was traditional ruling elite’s latest and most decisive intervention in what is now a decadelong war for political power with billionaire telecommunications tycoon-turned-politician Thaksin Shinawatra.” It concludes: “Thailand’s ruling generals have made clear they are not planning to yield control anytime soon. Initial plans to hold an election in 2015 were deferred until 2016, and are now deferred again until 2017.” And, as we know, this deferral may be extended even further.

AP has another story where they get opinions from various persons seems as somehow representative of particular interests. The one we found most revealing was from palace-connected coup supporter and wealthy businessman William Heinecke. It reflects that fact that most royalists and pretty much all of big business remain firmly behind the junta:

There certainly has been change. Bangkok if we remember correctly was almost at a standstill. No one could vote, an election couldn’t take place, traffic was blocked, protests were ongoing. So we’ve seen a return to stability. And that’s always good for business…. When you see instability on the streets, and in the mass media worldwide, it affects our business in every possible way. There’s a lack of confidence, there’s a lack of tourists, the economy was being strangled.

I think we’ve seen a return to normalized business. I think there has been significant improvement. To me, I know of no one that’s concerned about the protection of their rights — in terms of living peacefully, going about their business. Yes, if you say, ‘Do I have the right to rally in the streets?’ you may not, but to me that’s less critical than it is to make sure we can all continue with business and to make sure we can provide education for our kids…. Is it perfect? I’m sure it’s not. Is it better than it was? I think it is.

In contrast to this exceptionally wealthy capitalist and anti-democrat, Prachatai has a series of interviews with others who were outspoken in the anti-democrat movement of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. Environmentalist Prasitchai Noonual joined the PDRC and opposed projects that “favoured investors but would be harmful to the local environment.” Back then on the PDRC stage he declared:  “Today, we are carrying out a significant mission to uproot the Thaksin regime…”. Now he says “he has realized that he was wrong, since the junta has favoured foreign investors to an even greater extent … allowing investors to build anywhere and ignore the surrounding communities.” Recognizing that he was a political ninny, he says: “the junta is much worse [than Thaksin-dominated governments] because people were able to stop some government projects during Thaksin’s time, but never under the junta.” Supat Hasuwannakit is a medical doctor and activist who worked with the PDRC. He says:

Two years later … people are now fed up with the junta but they don’t dare to express their anger due to the intensive suppression of free speech. This anger, however, will manifest itself in the August referendum, meaning that people show their approval or disapproval of the junta through the ballot box.  …[P]ublic assembly is how the people bargain with the state, but that is hardly possible under the junta…. Let’s hold an election now. We’re sick of the junta. At least under an elected government, we can criticize, express ideas, and negotiate. Doing such things is very difficult under the junta…. This is a big lesson for all Thai people, that we might despair of representative democracy but a coup d’état is absolutely not an option in any way.

From this, we presume Supat must never have read a book about military authoritarianism or studied the role of the military in Thailand. That’s also true of student anti-democrat Thatchapong Kaedam who seems to remain a ninny:

After observing the junta administration for two years, Thatchapong told Prachatai that he was disappointed because it has failed to deliver what it promised to the public – that it would reform the country before an election. According the draft charter, it is obvious that reform will happen after the election. Moreover, the reforms will be carried out by an unelected government and junta-appointed political bodies, not by the people or civil society.

“Back then, I always believed that a coup d’état would never happen again in this country. One had just happened in 2006 so I thought the military would not do it again. But of course, I was disappointed…”. Thatchapong added that the junta’s intimidation of ordinary people will heat up political conflict. It is, however, not a conflict between the red shirts and the yellow shirts, but rather between the people and the dictatorial regime.

Boonyuen Siritham is a former senator and appeared on the PDRC stage. Her networks have suffered under the junta, so she has an altered view: “We use to call the former PM ‘the dumb girl’ but I’m not sure whether we now have a dumber PM or not, since our lives have more suffering than during the dumb girl’s government…”. We can’t help but observe that many “activists” simply personalize politics. Big pictures and grand ideas seem to rank lower in politics for them.

In all of this it is noticeable that it is Channel NewsAsia that reminds its readers that this military junta has blood on its hands. The report is of the failure of justice for the victims of the 2010 crackdown on red shirt protesters and reminds us that the “military’s leaders also stated they would bring about reconciliation while in power.” We doubt any red shirts ever believed this. Indeed, the junta has gone out of its way to deepen the political divide by targeting red shirts and the Puea Thai Party.

And, we should not forget the academic “media.” As we noted a couple of weeks ago, the Journal of Contemporary Asia has a special issue on Thailand’s authoritarian turn. Two of the articles are for free download.





Updated: Intimidation intensifies

27 04 2016

The military dictatorship appears to have moved into a period of even deeper repression and intimidation. Part of this has to do with the fear of Thaksin Shinawatra. Some of it has to do with the junta cracking down on widespread opposition to it charter and its anti-democratic intent. And there may be other motivations that have to do with junta fears.

We can’t post on all of the reports of this new and deepening intimidation. Rather, we provide a listing of recent reports. It quite a list over just a week. The pattern is clear. As Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk stated that a “climate of fear” is “growing in the country ahead of the referendum.” He added that the “junta is mobilising state machinery and everything is being used to promote the draft constitution while people who oppose the draft are being targeted…”.

In fact, as we will show below, as bad as this is, in fact, the intimidation is broader than this.

The junta has threatened Bencharat Sae Chua, a lecturer of Mahidol University’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies. The lecturer is distributing information for a vote against the military’s draft charter has been threatened with Section 61 of the Referendum Act of 2016. This could mean up to 10 years in jail.

Puea Thai Party members have been targeted. It is reported that some 300 police and soldiers searched the homes of two politicians among others in Nakhon Sawan, accusing them of being “influential” figures. The military barred reporters from the houses they searched.

Earlier today it was reported that at least four people were abducted by the military in the early hours of the morning. Two men were abducted in Bangkok and two in Khon Kaen. The four are accused of being red shirts.

Within a couple of hours, the number abducted by the military rose to eight, with the military then saying they held 10 persons. Two of those abducted worked closely with red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan. Of the 10, eight were taken in Bangkok and two in Khon Kaen. The two in Khon Kaen were accused by the military of “belonging to the New Democracy Group and the Resistant Citizen Group led by Anon Kampa.”  Activists called for protests.

At least some of those arrested seem to have been subject to complaints by the hopelessly biased puppet Election Commission. It  filed its first charges under the new referendum law that criminalizes political commentary. The charges were against a Facebook group for posting “foul and strong” comments criticizing the military’s draft constitution. The puppet EC claimed that the Facebook page had used “aggressive, harsh and rude language to urge readers to vote against the draft constitution to be put to a public vote Aug 7.”

Earlier, it was reported that Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan stated that both the People’s Democratic Reform Committee and the red shirts were under investigation for “announcing their stands on the draft constitution.” So far we can find no evidence of action against the PDRC.

A couple of days ago, the military “indicted six activists for demanding an investigation into the Rajabhakti Park corruption scandal.” Those indicted are reported to be “Sirawit Serithiwat, a student activist from New Democracy Movement, Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer and core leader of Resistant Citizen, Kititach Suman, Wisarut Anupoonkarn, Koranok Kamda and Wijit Hanhaboon…”.

Last week, in Udon Thani, soldiers intimidated anti-mine activists ahead of a planned forum on the environmental effects of a potash mine in the province.

Around the same time, Watana Muangsook complained that “certain people pressured the Charoen Pokphand Company (CP), one of the biggest conglomerates in Asia run by the family of his former wife, to convince Weerada Muangsook, his daughter, to leave the country.”

In the south, the military has summoned the leader of a sea nomad community on Rawai Beach in Phuket, to a military camp. There he was intimidated by the military who accused of violating a junta order which gives almost absolute power to soldiers with the rank of sub-lieutenant upwards to maintain national security.

Update: Members of the Neo-Democracy Movement and the Resistant Citizen group organized a protest against the arrests at the Victory Monument.Police grabbed and detained 16 of the protesters at the Phaya Thai police station. They were detained for protesting by standing still in a group.





More anti-democrat support for the junta

25 04 2016

The anti-democrats associated with the Democrat Party seem to be throwing their support behind the military junta. The pathetic Abhisit Vejjajiva mumbled something about the draft charter having  undemocratic elements but, as usual, didn’t say if he supported the charter. No surprise there.

Also not surprising is the support of Suthep Thaugsuban. He speaks for many in the official Democrat Party and for the broader flock of anti-democrats.Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban answers questions during a news conference in Bangkok

The Bangkok Post reports that Suthep, now chairman of the Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation (the residue of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee), “has declared support for the draft constitution, saying it is suitable for the current situation in the country.”

In other words, Suthep and his followers are fully supportive of the military-dictated constitution, prepared by a puppet drafting body which, if passed in an illegitimate referendum, promises to remove virtually all the hallmarks of a democratic constitution. No surprise there.

Suthep was speaking at a press conference. Yes, we know, such public campaigning is meant to be banned under the junta, but it deals only in double standards.

According to the report, Suthep “was full of praise for the draft charter…”. For Suthep, the draft charter, provides “a way out without requiring another coup if a similar crisis as in the past occurred.” In other words, the charter will embed military supervision and control for years to come, backed up by interventionist and elite institutions such as the judiciary.

In essence, Suthep feels that the Thailand is better under an authoritarian regime. He praised the appointment of senators and the likelihood of an unelected premier.

The junta will be pleased.





Anti-democrats for the military’s charter

14 04 2016

It should be no surprise that the anti-democrats who agitated and begged for a military coup in early 2014 support the military junta’s draft constitution.

The People’s Democratic Reform Committee cheered the military’s coup and have, by and large, continued to cheer all of its repression and political fixing by the royalist dictatorship. Having prepared the political ground for yet another military coup, it is to be expected that the PDRC, now disguised as the Muan Maha Prachachon for Reforms Foundation, will act as cheer leaders for the illegitimate regime and its illegitimate charter. Suthep blowing

Interestingly, despite the junta’s ban on commentary on the charter, the anti-democrats say they will explain its support for the charter “after this week’s Songkran festival.” Southern godfather and senior anti-democrat Suthep Thaugsuban is going to “explain the group’s stance…”.

Akanat Promphan, secretary-general of the so-called Foundation and a scion of various leaders of the Democrat Party and stepson of Suthep, stated that “the group’s key figures considered the draft constitution good enough to suppress corruption.”

Akanat went on to criticize political parties. First, he reckoned “people” would support the draft and that they should not listen to political parties. Presumably listening to a “Foundation,” the military and other assorted anti-democrats is just fine. He attacked “political parties,” exhorting them to “comment reasonably on the new constitution.” He means they must not criticize the junta’s regressive charter.

The Pheu Thai Party’s remarks on the draft did not relate to its content, but to political interests, he maintained.

Akanat also indicated that it supports military domination into the future, saying that his “group still supported the junta’s national reform efforts before the next general election.” We assume they support further delays to any election, with the military junta continuing on.





Updated: Panama papers II

6 04 2016

We continue to look for data on Thailand in the Panama Papers. So far we aren’t having too much luck. We were, however, reminded of an earlier report of some 600 Thais stashing loot overseas.

That 2013 report, also from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, included Pojaman Shinawatra, Nalinee Taveesin, Bhanapot Damapong, members of the Chirathivat family, Yuenyong Opakul, and note this very carefully, the Vongkusolkit family and Admiral Bannawit Kengrian.

The latter was described as “the former deputy permanent secretary of defense, who is listed as one of many shareholders in the British Virgin Islands company Vnet Capital International Co., Ltd in 1998” with 2006 coup connections and who is described in a Wikileaks cable as an acolyte of Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda.

On the new release of leaks from Mossack Fonseca, the main new report we have seen was in the Bangkok Post. It states that the “Office of the Auditor-General has weighed in on the so-called Panama Papers, asking the Revenue Department to look into tax payment records of Thai nationals named in a list of people allegedly using a Panama-based law firm for offshore holdings.”moneybags 1

Yet, as might be expected in a country that is protective of its wealthy elites and ruled by a military junta, a cover-up seems likely, unless the junta can come across the names of those it sees as political opponents. At the moment, “Justice Minister Gen Paiboon Koomchaya and the business community are urging the public not to rush to conclusions and let regulators verify the information first.”

“Verify” sounds like “cover-up” or “manipulate.”

Like the rich everywhere, the first bleat refers to law rather than ethics: “… using offshore company structures is a normal and legal business practice.” Not paying tax is legal they say. In Thailand, tax, like so many other things, is malleable and politicized.

Recall that Thaksin Shinawatra’s sale of the Shin Corp involved tax havens. While he didn’t have to pay tax on the transfers in Thailand, there was an outcry over this, and the opposition to him was strengthened. Now, it seems, things are to be reversed. So much for Buddhist ethics and the “good” of “The Good People.”

The report says there are “almost 400 Thais among 780 individuals who used Thailand as a residence and 50 companies were named on the lists.” While it is stated that “[p]rominent names include well-known business people, politicians, a former military officer and celebrities…”, only a few names are named.

As the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) observes, “there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts and it does not intend to suggest or imply that those named in the leak have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.”

General Paiboon said “… the leak is not verified information. But once it’s verified, no one can dodge an investigation. So let Amlo [Anti-Money Laundering Office] work on this first…”.

Our question is: Where are Thailand’s journalists who should be working on this? In most other countries, journalists are pouring out stories.

Auditor-General Pisit Leelavachiropas says “he has seen the list and had proceeded to ask the tax authority to review tax records to detect any possible wrongdoing.” He names no names.

Pisit also suggested that the “Centre for National Anti-Corruption (CNAC) can facilitate the probe by acting as a coordinator as it is the hub of 11 anti-corruption agencies.” Some of this group and Pisit were recently part of another cover-up, finding no corruption in the military’s Rajabhakti Park, while making “commissions” acceptable.

Now to some of the names and what they say.

Isara

Isara

One name in the Panama Papers is Isara Vongkusolkit, who is chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce. His response was to say that “he did not know and had noting to do with Mossack Fonseca. He was wondering how his name was mentioned on the lists.” Wondering? Really? He doesn’t remember the 2013 report?

He did admit that offshore banking and companies were necessary to avoid taxation in Thailand. He then went on to blame government for tax avoidance because it has had “high” tax rates!

The Vongkusolkit family maintains a tight set of relationships. One Chanin Vongkusolkit is a member of the Council of the Private Sector Collective Action against Corruption (CAC), which is:

an initiative by the Thai private sector to take parts in tackling corruption problem via collective action. The CAC aims to bring effective anti-corruption policy and mechanism into implementation by companies in order to create an ecosystem of clean business community.

Forbes says this of Isara and family:

To offset volatility in sugar prices, Isara Vongkusolkit’s privately held Mitr Phol Sugar, Thailand’s largest sugar producer, is expanding its energy business, which generates 400 megawatts of electricity, half for its own consumption. The company, which recently faced allegations of human rights abuses and illegal land- grabbing in Cambodia, said it was in discussions with the Cambodian government about its concessions. Brother Chanin stepped down as CEO of family’s Banpu, the country’s biggest coal miner, after running it for more than 3 decades.

Chanin remains on the Banpu Board of Directors. Others from the family on the Board are Buntoeng and Verajet Vongkusolkit. Australia’s controversial Centennial Coal Centennial is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Banpu.

Banpong

Banpong

The point seems to be that Isara and his family are fabulously wealthy Sino-Thai tycoons and like their ilk everywhere, seek to “minimize” tax while claiming to engage in ethical business behavior, if that is not an oxymoron.

Another listed is “Banyong Pongpanich, chairman of Phatra Capital and a member of the State Enterprises Policy Commission, posted a message on his Facebook page saying he was taken aback that his name was on the list.” Like Isara, he claims to not know Mossack Fonseca: “I have just learned of the company today and I never contacted or did any business with Mossack Fonseca…”.

Schultz

Schultz

We are reminded of Sgt. Schultz, again and again. How many times can “I know nothing” be used?

Patra Capital is a “certified” company at the Private Sector Collective Action against Corruption and Phatra Capital promulgates a Code of Ethics for Directors, Officers and Employees. In part, it states:

By adhering to exemplary standards and conducting our business with excellence and integrity, we enhance our reputation and cultivate the growth of our business. All of us must take personal responsibility for conducting ourselves in a way that reflects positively on the Capital Market Business Group and with the letter and spirit of the Guidelines for Business Conduct.

Like many of Thailand’s tycoons, Banpong has royal links, his with the Mae Fah Luang Foundation. He is also a member of the junta-created Superboard, which is said to be “overseeing all state enterprises has the stated aim of getting them all moving in the same direction towards strength and efficiency.” A Superboard of bankers, coal miners and more means endless conflicts of interest.

Both the Vongkusolkit and Pongpanich families are represented on the Board of Trustees of the royalist Thailand Development Research Institute, which has often commented on corruption and ethics in Thailand’s politics.

Bannawit

Bannawit

The last Sgt. Schultz excuse came from Admiral Bannawit Kengrien. The “former deputy defence permanent secretary, whose name is also on the lists, said this came as a surprise to him…. According to the retired officer he never conducted any business transactions overseas or given permission to anyone to use his name to set up offshore accounts.”

Bannawit has appeared previously at PPT as one of “Dad’s Army,” which was an elite forerunner to the more popular People’s Democratic Reform Committee in trying to bring down the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra. He was a member of several other yellow-shirted and royalist groups that sought to create conflict with the Yingluck government. Earlier, he was previously a member of the assembly appointed by the junta in 2006 and then caused controversy when deputy defense minister. He was not averse to very odd and racist claims when opposing red shirts.

Bannawit also seems to have conveniently forgotten the 2013 leaks from the British Virgin Islands. Or perhaps the rich and powerful expect the junta to enforce collective amnesia on the country.

Update: Khaosod has cast doubt on the Bangkok Post story, above, saying that the newspaper (and many others) confused the 2013 leak with the Panama Papers. INterestingly, whether its 2013 or now, nothing in our post would seem in need of change.





Judicial “reconciliation” is junta “law”

28 03 2016

Here are the facts, from Prachatai, which includes a photo:

On 28 December 2013, the defendants, together with other PDRC protesters, barricaded a Nakhon Si Thammarat candidate registration office. The protest prevented the local Election Commission from registering candidates. As a result, the general election could not be held in all nine Nakhon Si Thammarat constituencies on 2 February 2014.

Nakhon Si Thammarat was one of eight southern provinces which their candidate registrations for the 2014 election were disrupted by the anti-election protesters.

Nakhon Si Thammarat prosecutors indicted them for preventing the election.

Remember all that horse manure spread by the military junta about “reconciliation”? Here’s how the judiciary interprets it:

The court ruled that when the defendants were charged the political environment in Thailand was very divisive and all the prosecution witnesses were political opponents of the defendants. Therefore the evidence was weak….

Ignore the facts, the video evidence, the prosecutors and the case that comes from the police investigations and, most of all, ignore law when it is not politically acceptable. There are no double standards anymore, not under the military dictatorship. There are just the junta’s views, needs, desires and wants.








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