Updated: Prayuth’s recruiting tour I

24 07 2018

Using state funds, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is campaigning for appointment as prime minister long into the future. His current campaign trip is to Ubol Ratchathani and Amnat Charoen.

As in previous campaign trips, this one was about promoting preferred political parties and to display former opponent politicians who have slid over to the military and junta’s Palang Pracharath Party. The skid mark to that party has been lubricated with promises of projects and money.

While expressing (again) his disdain for the media and a touchiness that makes him nasty and vindictive towards critics, The Dictator told them to stop reading newspapers and learn to love him. He then declared: “If anyone criticizes me, I just punch him in the mouth…”. He added that “he has never hurt anybody and … [he] has the right to protect himself against bullying.”

This is a jaw-dropping lie. Prayuth has use laws on sedition, lese majeste and various junta decrees to harass, arrest and jail thousands – that’s his “punch … in the mouth” and these “punches” hurt not just the individuals involved but undermine the body politic, shaping Thailand as an authoritarian society.

Then the self-appointed prime minister decided to repeat lies about the junta’s recruitment campaigns. He “dismissed allegation[s] that his mobile cabinet meeting in Ubon Ratchathani was intended to ‘poach’ former MPs from political parties to join or ally with parties that is supportive of him, saying that it is the people who will decide whom to elect into the parliament.”

That lie was never believed by anyone and when The Dictator fronted an arranged crowd of about 1,500 at a local zoo, the welcoming group included “Supol Fongngam, a former Pheu Thai MP, and 14 other former MPs from the same party.” They had been invited by provincial officials, working under the Ministry of Interior and for the junta. It is widely known that most of these politicians will “defect to a pro-Prayut party.”

Prayuth’s campaign slogans seem to revolve around the classic anti-democrat/People’s Alliance for Democracy/People’s Democratic Reform Committee mantras about “uneducated,” “ignorant” and “duped” villagers electing the wrong people. The Dictator “blamed society’s ills on the public choosing ‘the wrong leaders’ and suggested in future they select a more ‘responsible’ prime minister.” He means himself.

Perhaps the premier should also be reminded that his electoral rules and constitution are designed to prevent people from selecting the premier, leaving that to a parliament that is meant to be dominated by junta parties and junta appointees.

Update: Interestingly, Prayuth also lied about the cabinet meeting. He stated: “he would not be ‘giving away’ millions of baht from state coffers to woo voters.” Yet the cabinet meeting is considering “Bt10 billion for development projects” in the region.





The heiress, a scam and the public purse

7 07 2018

In an earlier post, PPT commented on Singha beer heiress Chitpas Kridakorn aka Boonrawd seeking assistance from a taxpayer-funded Justice Ministry fund for defendants to meet court bail and costs as a low-income earner. Despite the fact that she’s heir to a fortune that currently stacks up to some $2.4 billion, she cried poor to apparently pay a bail surety in cases arising from her high-profile activities with the anti-democratic People’s  Democratic Reform Committee in the street protests against the Yingluck Shinawatra government.

In a report at The Nation, it now appears that this application may have been little more than a smart-assed legal ploy to delay the case: “It has been speculated that she had applied for financial assistance to stall for time in the criminal cases against her.” This is because she “had postponed a meeting with public prosecutors, citing the pending application to the Justice Fund.”

It is now reported that the Justice Ministry “has set aside a request for financial assistance from … Chitpas … to contest a treason charge after she failed to verify her suitability within the given time.” The Ministry stated that the Fund “had requested that she submit her tax documents to prove she should be a priority,” but that the letter sent had not been accepted or signed for and it had been returned to the Fund.

While this might seem to confirm a legal scam, the “fund managers chose not to scrap her request, and “Chitpas was eligible to re-apply anytime…”. That might be a legal position for the Ministry but sounds suspiciously like collusion in a legal scam.





Postponements

26 06 2018

In recent delays to the junta’s “election” timetable, it has usually been the civilian puppet minister Wissanu Krea-ngam who has been sent out before the media to make the first murmurs about the delays.

Part of the reason for this is that it relieves The Dictator and the Deputy Dictator from looking like they have repeatedly lied on the issue, which they have.

He’s done it again. In line with PPT’s guess Wissanu now says that the junta’s “election” could “be postponed until May 2019…”. The report states that “Wissanu said 11 months are likely needed before general elections and the primary vote process – a new electoral feature introduced by the junta – can take place.”

In stating the now obvious, Wissanu added to the mountain of lies about elections that have come from the military dictatorship. Wissanu also stated that the election “date would be picked by the EC [Election Commission], not the cabinet or the NCPO [junta].” This must be a fabrication as The Dictator has repeatedly said that the date of the election is up to him.

We also have to point out that we are linking with reports in the Bangkok Post. However, we must note that this newspaper is inserting pro-junta statements in its reports. In this report, for example, it states: “The discussion touched on a possible election date with Feb 24 next year proposed by the politicians, in accordance with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s election roadmap.” Of course, this is false. It was the junta that proposed 24 February as just the latest of its delayed “election” dates. And, it is false to claim that the dates mentioned follow any junta roadmap. That claim has been made for several years and the roadmap has been repeatedly revised.

It might be just us, looking for a conspiracy, but does it seem too coincidental that the “Criminal Court … scheduled May 14 next year for the first hearing of a case against 29 leaders of the [People’s Democratic Reform Committee] rally opposing the Yingluck Shinawatra government in 2013 and 2014″?





Rigged elections better than no elections?

18 06 2018

Pravit Rojanaphruk at Khaosod had an op-ed a couple of days ago that causes us to consider again the question of rigged elections being better than no elections at all.

Pravit essentially sees the formation of  “the ultra-conservative, ultra-royalist and ultra-nationalist Action Coalition for Thailand … [as] a sign that something is on the right track.” For him, ACT is “promoting its ideology to potential members and voters, and this is not a bad thing.”

He adds that this “is a positive development because Thai politics needs to be more ideology-driven and less dependent on outsized personalities and the notion of supporting the ‘lesser of two evils’.”

Although Pravit acknowledges that ACT is in fact led by “a very outsized personality. Suthep Thaugsuban,” he reckons other “key members took to the floor to espouse the party’s core doctrines of holding the monarchy above everything, ultra-nationalist oaths and aspirations for broad reforms.”

Pravit doesn’t say it, but the People’s Democratic Reform Committee also had plenty of other speakers on its stage.

So Pravit’s argument is not going so well… But, he does have a point: “… it is absolutely preferable to have fellow citizens trying to convince others to support them at a ballot box by peddling their ideas instead of mobilizing people to paralyze the capital…“. He adds: “… shifting that conflict and ideological struggle into electoral politics is a welcome development.”

It is difficult to disagree that an electoral system is better than dictatorship (not a point Pravit explicitly makes) or that electoral competition is not a better way to solve political disagreements than having the military murder protesters or protesters beating each other up or using gangs of thugs to disrupt protests by other groups.

Yet the idea that elections will simply resolve deep-rooted conflicts is naive. After all, it was elections that resulted in yellow-shirted street mobilizations. The reason was because the royalists, supported by elites, tycoons, palace and military, would not accept election results. They eventually rejected the notion of one-person, one-vote and majoritarian-based representative government.

That’s why the current, junta-developed constitution, its electoral rules and its so-called independent agencies and mechanisms have been put in place. The idea is that only one result can be permitted and that will be the victory of anti-democrats in a rigged election.

If they should happen to stumble and not get their preferred “election” outcome, what is to stop them rising again?

In cheering for a rigged election, Pravit goes too far in implicitly accepting that rigging and the anti-democrat agenda as the junta has enforced it. His hope may be that the anti-democrats do stumble and that a government more representative of those groups repeatedly beaten down may triumph is one most democrats would share. But, in the end, for the military dictatorship, in the short to medium term it looks like heads we win, tails you lose.





The junta’s Election Commission

11 06 2018

For most of 2013 and some of 2014, the Election Commission was actually the anti-Election Committee, doing evertyhting it could to prevent and election and then to ensure it collapsed. In the latter, the EC had plenty of support from the People’s Democratic Reform Committee.

Since the 2014 military coup, the EC has been pretty much dormant, except when some of its members fell out with the junta.

However, a report at the Bangkok Post has a bit of detail about Pol Col Jarungvith Phumma, the EC secretary-general who says his position “will give him the opportunity to ensure a democratic culture takes root in Thai politics.”

In fact, this is a very large pile of buffalo manure. Pol Col Jarungvith is a dedicated anti-democrat and his definition of “democracy” is that of the “good” people defined by their yellow shirts.

Pol Col Jarungvith, appointed on 8 May after a period as caretaker, He says he “dreams of is a society in which people choose representatives of their own accord and where their choices are not driven by money.”

This is a sad reflection of the yellow shirt position that all those who repeatedly and consistently voted to elect Thaksin Shinawatra-associated governments were misled, duped and bought. It is an article of faith that grew from an inability of the people who became anti-democrats to defeat these Thaksin-affiliated parties in national votes.

As Jarungvith acknowledges, his job it to ensure the “new rules” are implemented, protected and enforced. That is, his role is to police the junta’s crooked rules.

This means “intense training” of his staff “on how to make political parties abide by poll regulations, how to deal with vote cheating and how to protect witnesses in election fraud cases.”

We doubt any of this is going to apply to the junta’s parties.

Jarungvith explains that his police work had him “tasked with closely monitoring political conflicts in the country. He was often assigned to deal with hardcore political activists and street demonstrators.” His conclusion based on that work will warm the hearts of the anti-democrats for its expression of where he stands:

“I saw clearly there was a specific group bent on stirring up violence,” he said.

He also learned that, in many cases, political rallies were sustained by money from unnamed sources. Apparently, there were people sponsoring the protests, who were also willing to spend their money to further a political cause….

He also found some rally-goers did not join the protest based on an informed decision, but instead were lured into the activities by behind-the-scenes influences.

Whether he’s speaking of the Assembly of the Poor, the People’s Alliance for Democracy or red shirts, this perspective is fundamentally anti-democratic mantra.

His loyalty was rewarded when Pol Col Jarungvith was appointed a member of the now-defunct National Reform Council.

He seems the junta’s perfect EC secretary-general.





Updated: Arrogant heiress cries poor

8 06 2018

Chutzpah, egotism, smugness, vanity, audacity, cheek, conceitedness, contemptuousness, disdainfulness, gall, high-handedness, imperiousness, pomposity, self-importance, self-love, superciliousness, overbearance and scornfulness are just some of the words that come up as possible synonyms for arrogance.

Whatever it is described as, Singha beer heiress Chitpas Kridakorn aka Boonrawd has it in bulldozer loads.

In a Ripley’s style story, she is reported to be “seeking assistance from a Justice Ministry fund to help defendants meet court bail has been given until June 21 to submit a list of her assets and verify she is a low-income earner registered with the government.”

She’s heir to a fortune that currently stacks up to some $2.4 billion.

Despite this pile of cash, shares, houses, cars, planes and more, Chitpas “filed a request on May 28 that the Justice Fund place money as bail surety in legal cases against her arising from the street protests against the Yingluck Shinawatra government.”

Chitpas is described as “a co-leader of the former People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), cited her waiting for financial assistance from the Justice Fund as a reason for the delay” in answering the charges against her.

Some dopey senior official babbled that Chitpas may have fallen on hard times: “In the past, she may have been wealthy but maybe she no longer had the means to meet her bail requirements…”. Yeah, right.

After that astoundingly farcical babble, the same senior official said the “ministry would ensure the fair treatment of all applicants [for state funds] and examine any documents submitted. Ms Chitpas’ request would be approved, or not, depending on the documentation…”. He became delirious when he said the “ministry did not have a double standard and was willing to help all groups and people if they met the fund’s requirements.”

Well, yes, but he’s saying this in the context of a multi-billionaire to be.

Justice deputy permanent secretary Thawatchai Thaikhiew scoops the pool in awards for the most ridiculous statement by an official in June. He gets a bag of hammers.

Chitpas is simply reprehensible.

Update: Some pro-Chitpas social media reckon she’s been disinherited by the Boonrawds. As far as we can see, there’s no evidence for this claim.





Updated: Suthep’s political party

2 06 2018

Readers will probably remember that the military junta was grateful to the Democrat Party’s Suthep Thaugsuban for plowing the ground for its military coup in 2014 through his formation and manipulation of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee.

Readers might also recall that the junta got agitated when Suthep claimed a role in planning the coup and that it was also concerned by Suthep’s capacity for political mobilization. They seem to have threatened him and sent him off to the monkhood.

Since then, Suthep has been careful in his political steps, clearly not wanting to become a target for military assassination, as was yellow-shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul.

Finally, though, a new political party has been formed as a political vehicle for Suthep and some of his PDRC colleagues. It is called Action Coalition for Thailand (ACT).

It keeps Suthep as a “member” while the frontman Anek Laothamatas is said to be a founder. He’s failed politician who took funds from corrupt politicians and also from the current junta. He was also with the deeply yellow Thailand Reform Institute that brought royalists and anti-democrats together at Rangsit University. Many appear associated with Suthep’s Party.

Anek has been with the Democrat Party, once worked for Thaksin Shinawatra and is a former Communist. For a time he paraded himself as an “academic.” That he now appears as a “Bhumibolist” should be no surprise for someone who can change his political spots as easily as he changes his ties to a clownish bow-tie for his media appearances.

Clarifications. We say he’s a Bhumibolist referring to a clipped image from The Nation, below, where he wears a Bhumibol election pin and has books on the dead king carefully arranged for the photo op. We say he’s fronting Suthep’s Party because that is what he calls it:

Suthep will be just an ordinary party member, with no executive position in the party and no positions in the future, according to Anek. He also said that having Suthep as a member, the ACT could be viewed as “Suthep’s party”.

Unlike other parties, ACT  “will not elect its leader and other party executives at its maiden meeting.” They will do it later, knowing that the junta’s “election” is months away. The party also needs 500 members and Anek says it is short of that.

Some 250 members will meet at their political alma mater, Rangsit University, owned by yellow-shirt moneybags Arthit Ourairat today:

In addition to Anek, those attending the meeting will be former Democrat Party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban, who headed the PDRC until its demise following the 2014 coup, Rangsit University deputy dean Suriyasai Katasila and former National Reform Assembly member Prasan Marukapitak, according to Thani Thaugsuban, a former Democrat MP and Suthep’s younger brother.

Suriyasai, Prasan and Thani are formerly key figures in the PDRC, which led massive street protests between November 2013 and May 2014 against the government led by the Pheu Thai Party. The rally culminated in a military coup in May 2014 that overthrew the administration.

Many were previously involved with the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

Anek was generous to say that “he was going to resign from the current positions, before working at the new party.“ At present, Anek is still in the pay of the military dictatorship. He is “serving as chairman of the committee on political reform, which is part of the junta-appointed National Reform Steering Assembly, in addition to being a member and an adviser in other committees.” He gets a very handy income from the junta.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that, despite all of his previous statements that he had “left” politics, the former Democrat Party godfather Suthep is to be a “co-founder” of ACT. He’s fortunate the T in ACT doesn’t mean Truth.