Further updated: Blame and other games

12 04 2015

Readers will be aware of the deadly [sorry, not deadly, but certainly damaging] car bomb in Koh Samui, causing several injuries. There is little evidence about the culprits or about the reasons for the bombing. There has been no claim of responsibility to date.

What is remarkable is that all political sides seem to agree that the attack was politically motivated, and as The Nation reports it, “aimed at challenging the government.”

The junta claims “there were ill-intentioned groups seeking an opportunity to disturb peace and instigate violence.” It reckons that because it has cracked down so hard in Bangkok that “the perpetrators have moved to other areas.”

Democrat Party deputy leader Nipit Intarasombat said the bomb “was the work of anti-government groups and had nothing to do with the southern insurgency…. The culprits focused on a tourism place. They want to demonstrate their power…”.

Thaworn Senneam of the anti-democratic People’s Democratic Reform Committee said the attack “was the work of someone who wanted to cause problems for the government and the country’s economy…”.

Puea Thai Party’s Worachai Hema believed “the attack was aimed to discredit the government after it imposed Article 44 to keep peace and order.”

PPT got a bit lost, however, when the junta spokesman said “initial reports revealed that the people responsible for the car bomb was the same group that had planted a bomb in Bangkok.” We understood that the junta had claimed to have arrested those responsible for the Bangkok bombing. Yet this turns out to be the wrong bombing!

Military “intelligence” suggests that “there is a possibility that the perpetrators were southern insurgents or natives of southern border provinces who have expertise in assembling car bombs and were hired with the same motivation as in the case of the bomb blast on Soi Ramkhamhaeng 43/1 in Bangkok…”.

That bomb was on 26 May 2013, injuring seven people. Conveniently, those responsible were sentenced less than three weeks ago. As far as we know, these men, all from Pattani, did not give up anyone else.

That attack, when the Yingluck Shinawatra elected government was in office, has been attributed to “southern insurgents.” A report in The Nation observed that some linked 2014 blasts in “Sadao and Phuket [to] attacks back to the May 26, 2013 attack on Ramkhamhaeng Soi 43/1 by an insurgent cell.” It added that political leaders at the time “maintain[ed] the Ramkhamhaeng bombing was not linked to unrest in the deep South…”. Yet, “security officials confirmed that the attack was a bid by one of the longstanding separatist groups to enhance its leverage in negotiations…”.

That report also stated that “a group did claim responsibility for the Ramkhamhaeng operation, stating its aim was to be at the negotiating table.”

If readers can explain all of this confusion, we’d be happy to learn more.

Update 1: Not prizes for guessing what this update is about. The Bangkok Post reports that all of the politicians quoted above, as well as the junta spokesmen, may all be wrong. The report states that “might have been caused by a local business or political conflict…”. That’s “according to a report from the government committee on solving problems in the southern border provinces.” At the same time, a red shirt supporter has been detained.

Update 2: As noted in our first update, a red shirt supporter had been arrested. Khaosod reports that Narin Ambuathong was arrested in Nonthaburi on 11 April. The military dictatorship’s spokesman stated that Narin was arrested an held under the draconian Article 44 of the junta’s interim institution, which allows the military to search properties and detain individuals without warrants and to interrogate them in secret, usually military, locations for seven days. He was arrested because of Facebook posts that appeared to refer to trouble in Suratthani. This report also refers to a fire that “broke out at Surat Thani Cooperative Store on the mainland, though no one was injured. Police say the store belongs to Suthep Thaugsuban, former deputy chairman of Democrat Party and leader of the street protests…”. While the idea of a cooperative being owned by Suthep seems odd, the implication is that the bomb and fire were linked political acts. Despite the earlier claimed link to the Soi Ramkhamhaeng bombing of 2013, the report says the “military junta has also insisted that the incidents are not related to the ongoing insurgency in the southern border provinces…”. They seem to be having trouble getting their story straight.





Populist for its political allies

9 12 2014

As readers will recall, when the anti-democrats were on the streets, many of its “supporters” and its thugs were trucked in from the south. Many were rubber growers, and some of the larger growers provided money for the movement. Readers will also recall that the anti-democrats campaigned against “populist” policy.

The anti-democrats and its allies in the military hounded the Yingluck Shinawatra government on its “populism” and vowed to end such policies.

It is ironic – not the right word, we know – that the military junta has announced “four more short-term measures to arrest plummeting rubber prices ahead of a planned protest by farmers on Tuesday.” These four measures are added to 12 earlier measures! The cost, according to the junta Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Amnuay Patise is 58 billion baht.

The new measures hand out “1,000 baht per household with no more than 15 rai…”; “the existing rubber buffer fund, with outstanding amount of 20 billion baht, will buy rubber products worth 6 billion baht at a time for exports and price support”; “credit worth 100,000 baht will be extended so each planter can invest in a side-line job without having to turn to loan sharks”; and some other bits and pieces that include “pushing the three major buyer groups – cooperatives, Rubber Estate Organisation and latex buyers – to help farmers.”

Did anyone mention hypocrisy? Perhaps not. Just supporting your political allies.





Yellow reform I

27 10 2014

Anti-democrats reject elected politicians and political parties as divisive and corrupt. This is an essential point of the royalist discourse that seeks to limit policy making to the great and the morally good.

Of course, any reasonable assessment indicates that the great are often fabulously corrupt and the morals of the good are usually flexible. The notion of rule by the morally good simply equates with those who slither about saying what great monarchists and loyalists they are. Nepotism and collusion are quite alright if you are of the right politics, as the military dictatorship has so relentlessly demonstrated.

This is why it is expected that a group of the junta’s handpicked National Reform Council (NRC) members led by academic Sungsidh Piriyarangsan should also launch its very own “civic group” which they have called the “Thailand Reform Institute” at Rangsit University.

Along with Chulalongkorn, Rangsit University is one of the centers of anti-democrat/PAD/yellow shirt academic activism. The university is owned by Arthit Ourairat. Arthit’s self-promoting profile is here.

The “new” group at Arthit’s university “was founded to act as a coordinating centre for movements of civic groups working in the areas of national reform and development as well as helping to build a democratic society…”.

Frankly, we do not believe them. We can accept that they might want “reform.” After all, that was the unspecified demand of the anti-democrats who are responsible for the military’s coup, which they repeatedly demanded. But democracy? That’s a stretch for this group.

For a start, the “institute” is as much about disseminating royalist propaganda as gathering “people’s opinions.” The idea that the “institute” would “monitor the government’s use of power” is a stretch too far. Then, the members of the “institute” are dedicated anti-democrats.*

Suriyasai Katasila, listed as “a lecturer at the College of Social Innovation and the Green Group leader, [who] was appointed the director of the newly formed group” by the Bangkok Post is actually a former PAD leader and speaker on the anti-democrat stage.

Other committee members include NRC members “Rosana Tositrakul, Anek Laothammathat, Niran Pitakwatchara of the National Human Rights Commission, Sirichai Mai-Ngam, chairman of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) labour union, former PAD leader Pipob Thongchai and academics from various disciplines.”

Rosana is a strident yellow shirt who has supported all anti-democrats since 2004. Most recently, she has opposed having different views on the NRC, so her participation in this “institute” is likely about exclusion rather than inclusion of opposing views.

Anek is one of the ideologues of anti-rural propaganda that denigrates voters as bought, duped and ignorant.

Sirichai heads the unions that have supported every anti-democrat action since 2004. His unions were the ones who went about disconnecting water and electricity at government departments during the anti-democrat protests earlier in the year. All the state enterprises are now controlled by the military.

Pipob is a political ally of Suriyasai and a former member of the PAD leadership.

Suriyasai defended the notion that “some committee members were also on the NRC because talks to establish the institute had taken place before the selection of NRC members. But this would not be a problem in terms of work…”. In fact, conflict of interest is nothing for the “good.” These anti-democrats have colluded for over a decade, so there’s no obstacle to their propaganda work.

*We don’t rule out the possibility that this ginger group could fall out with The Dictator when he begins to make compromises and angles for a longer-term military presence in politics (think of 1991-92). They also want to make sure that he and his junta stay “on track” for radical royalist “reform.”

 





The military and new constitutional diapers

25 10 2014

Anyone who follows Thailand’s post-coup politics, dominated by The Dictator and his military brass, knew that the task in “reform” is to change the rules of politics to ensure that electoral politics is made subservient to the royalist elite’s interests. That means making electoral politics far less significant. PPT has suggested that the path chosen is likely to restore a political imbalance something like that of the Prem Tinuslanonda era.

One aspect of the rule changes involves the development of a new constitution. Constitutions are a bit like disposable diapers in Thailand; once the elite feels they are “soiled,” it has its military allies dispose of them. Even so, at least since the 1970s, the ritual of elite control is to come up with a constitution that allows lawless regimes to be lawful.

In moving to have the military’s handpicked puppet assembly establish a puppet National Reform Council (NRC) which then sends some nominations to the military junta for the puppet 36-member charter drafting panel the Bangkok Post reports a small tangle. With so many puppets having their strings pulled, it is inevitable that some knots will have to be unpicked.

Some of the puppets got tangled up and accepted a proposal “invite and nominate outsiders to sit on the 36-member charter drafting panel under its quota.” They wanted “five outsiders should also be invited to join the drafting panel.” These five would be drawn from the People’s Democratic Reform Committee – in case readers have forgotten, this is the anti-democrats who wanted the military’s coup – the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship – the official red shirts – and “representatives of major political parties such as Pheu Thai, the Democrat Party and Chartthaipattana.”

Several consistent anti-democrats were outraged. NRC member Paiboon Nititawan, known as a member of the “Group of 40 [mostly unelected] Senators, rejected the proposal. Paiboon pointed out that the NRC had its marching orders: “Everything is already going well, so why invite trouble?” He pointed out that the military dictatorship has tasked the NRC “with coming up with a blueprint for national reform, a leading role in deciding how the new permanent charter should be written…”.

Another former member of the bright yellow senatorial swill, “NRC member Rosana Tositrakul also disagreed with the proposal, saying it was wrong to appoint those involved in the political conflict to the drafting panel.” In a logical world, this would mean that Rosana would immediately resign. After all, she has repeatedly and stridently supported anti-democratic movements that brought down elected governments and repeatedly stoked “political conflict.” Expecting logic and ethics from Rosana is demonstrably unreasonable.

Of course, Rosana is dissembling. Not only is she one who thrived on “political conflict,” but the fact is that the NRC is full of others who thrived on “political conflict.” Another is “NRC member and former rector of the National Institute of Development Administration Sombat Thamrongthandyawong” who was one of the political strategist for the anti-democrat protesters and repeatedly appeared on the anti-democrat’s stage. He rejected the proposal.

Like children in diapers, the anti-democrats may sometimes throw little temper tantrums, but they will do as they are told. In fact, most of them don’t need to be told by the bosses, for they know what an anti-democrat constitution needs to look like.





Military corruption and politics

14 10 2014

When the story of three serving and retired naval officers being caught with millions of dollars of counterfeit U.S. banknotes in Cambodia, PPT didn’t have an opportunity to post about it. Now a longer and more detailed story at the Bangkok Post is available, we thought it warranted a brief comment.

As has become clear in recent days, the military brass in Thailand is riddled with corruption. Naval officers seem particularly adept at becoming “unusually wealthy,” as our clip from an earlier post indicates, there are at least four whales that need to explain their huge wealth.Navy

Of course, there may be no connection at all between whales and beached naval officers in Cambodia hauling around $7 million in counterfeit currency in cardboard boxes brought from Thailand.

Yet the U.S. Secret Service seems to think that “the huge bust points to a well-oiled and growing counterfeit operation in neighbouring Thailand, where identical notes had previously been seized.”

The navy has yet to comment in any detail.

We are reminded that the navy played a critical role in supporting and protecting the anti-democrats as they prepared the ground for a military coup. Prior to the coup in May, Naval Special Warfare Command (SEAL) commander Winai Klom-in was a strong supporter of the anti-democrats, providing serving and retired Seals as guards. All of this costs money, and we are sure that there is a need to pay some of this back.

The idea that the military brass is trying to cash up again following the coup is worthy of consideration, and this is sure to involve both personal and institutional funds expended in preparing for the coup through the support of the costly anti-democrat demonstrations.





Rewarding the anti-democrats I

8 10 2014

In an earlier post, PPT referred to the fiction of a separation between the military junta and the government. In another post, we pointed out the obvious: that the National Legistlative Assemby is a puppet assembly.

In this context of the military junta’s control of all government it is to be expected that the (fake) National Reform Council (NRC) will be stuffed full of the military’s political allies. Some time ago PPT posted from The Nation, stating that the leaking of 173 names claimed to have been selected for the National Reform Council (NRC) “clearly signify political bias and social exclusion, which could lead to unfair reform proposals that will make all reconciliation efforts fail…”.

The uniform you have when you slip out of the Army uniform

The uniform you have when you slip out of the Army uniform

Did this cause The Dictator to pause? Not a bit. He did exactly what the critics suggested. The military dictatorship has hand picked the NRC crammed with anti-democrats and fascists.

Khaosod reports that “Thailand’s military junta has appointed a 250-member reform body that is heavily stacked with traditional elites and allies of the country’s conservative establishment.”

General Prayuth Chan-ocha had lied that “the NRC would represent a balanced cross-section of society,” but it doesn’t. The final list of members “is dominated by conservative hardliners opposed to the former government.” Khaosod lists some of them:

Among them were nine leaders from the anti-government protests that preceded the coup, including Naowarat Pongpaiboon, Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, and Charas Suwanmala.

The protest group, known as the People’s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD), campaigned against the former government for seven months until the military intervened and launched a coup in May.

Eleven of the ‘Forty Senators’ clique – a group of unelected Senators who opposed the former government – also made the final cut, such as Rosana Tositrakul, Kamnoon Sitthisaman, and Pramote Maiklat. The so-called Forty Senators played an active role in the PCAD’s campaign to unseat then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and replace her with a royally-appointed PM.

In addition, 31 retired military officers were added to the reform council, as well as nine members of the governing bodies appointed by the previous coup-makers in 2006.

It is as if The Dictator is rewarding those who worked so hard for the coup and against elections earlier in the year.





Snitching for the royalist elite

4 10 2014

It is well-known that lese majeste charges are thrown at political opponents in order to discredit and silence them. The most proficient at this political ploy have been the anti-democrat zealots associated with the Democrat Party. Watchara Petthong, a former Democrat Party party-list MP is particularly notorious for slinging lese majeste mud at his opponents and has been doing it for years.

Watchara with the "evidence"

Watchara with “evidence”

This time he has filed a lese majeste complaint against Thaksin Shinawatra, Tom Plate and Suranand Vejjajiva and the company Matichon for publishing Plate’s translated book, Conversations with Thaksin or Jub Khao Kui Thaksin Shinawatra.

PPT has not been a fan of the book, finding it lightweight and uncritical. But that matters little in these circumstances for not only has the book “been available in the local market for more than two years” but Plate was apparently careful about the lese majeste threat. The English original was published in 2011 by Marshall Cavendish. The Thai translation, completed by Suranand, was published in 2012 and was reprinted earlier this year.

As is expected of lese majeste monsters like Watchara he claims that “some parts of the book contained material harmful to the royal institution and had been quoted worldwide.” PPT has read the English version, and we didn’t see anything remotely like a slur against the king, queen or heir apparent. Yet the lese majeste crazies can always construe and misconstrue when they want to settle a score or create trouble.Thaksin Book

Watchara is to be condemned for his puerile and self-serving nonsense and for hiding behind the repressive law and the throne. He’s not the first, though, for another anti-democrat, Somkiat Onwimon, babbled about this book on the anti-democrat stage in January 2014. At the time, Somkiat seemed to mistakenly think the book hadn’t been published in Thailand, but was simply looking for yet another excuse to attack Thaksin.

Tom Plate is undoubtedly an enthusiastic supporter of Thaksin. For crazed ultra-royalists, that seems to be a”crime.” Watchara’s warped world is marked by fear that the royalist control may crash, worry that the aged and ill monarch is unable to hold the royalist world together, and the threat that popular and electoral politics offers an alternative to armed feudalism.








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