Stealing an “election” VI

3 05 2018

The Bangkok Post recently reported that The Dictator gave an “assurance” of an “election” saying this “should satisfy those threatening to stage a prolonged rally on Saturday” calling for an election.

However, the activists and The Dictator seems at odds, with the former wanting an election this year and General Prayuth Chan-ocha saying it would be 2019.

For good measure, while threatening the activists, Gen Prayuth opined:”Please, the country is doing well. After we announced a prospective election date for early next year, no other countries raised an objection. We’re following through [with the election roadmap].”

In fact, when The Dictator says, “Do not worry that the election will be delayed again. I have no intention of doing that…”, we sort of agree with him. It seems that the junta’s plans are falling into place, allowing it and devil parties to steal the “election,” and if there are no major “issues,” we tend to think the sham election will proceed.

A measure of the junta’s election preparedness is seen in the damage done to existing political parties. Part of the plan for stealing the “election” involves weakening them. It looks like there’s been considerable success.

Democrat Party deputy leader Ong-art Klampaibul revealed “that only 100,000 of the … Party’s 2.5 million members reconfirmed their memberships with the party by midnight on Monday.” He blamed the junta’s orders for having “caused myriad problems for party members…”, saying, “[w]hat is happening now is the NCPO [junta] is showing its desire to destroy political parties…”.

The Puea Thai has a similar junta-induced problem: “Chaturon Chaisang told the Bangkok Post that about 10,000 of the party’s 130,000 members had reconfirmed.”

Chaturon said said the junta had “undermined the credibility of the parliamentary system.”

The junta believes it is already “winning” its “election.”





Stealing an “election” V

24 04 2018

A reader pointed out a recent op-ed at East Asia Forum on rigging the “election” in Thailand.

Academic Kevin Hewison points to the many “delays” to an “election” and writes that these:

delays are one element of a set of processes devised by the junta to prevent the election to government of any party associated with exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. For the junta and its supporters, ‘reform’ means neutering the Shinawatra clan’s Pheu Thai Party. The junta’s determination to crush Pheu Thai and the related red-shirt movement draws lessons from the military’s failure to defeat its opponents following the 2006 coup.

Another element of the strategy is the military boot:

Repression has been an important instrument. Immediately after the 2014 coup, the military showed that it had been assiduously acquiring intelligence on the vast red-shirt network by arresting and intimidating its leaders across the country. Several hundred red-shirts went into exile while local networks were penetrated and disrupted. The regime gave particular attention to anti-monarchists and lodged dozens of lese majeste charges. In one case, a red shirt leader was pursued internationally and ‘disappeared’…. At the same time, the regime prosecuted and incarcerated Pheu Thai leaders.

The junta has also:

plagiarised several Thaksin-era policies and launched concerted efforts to win the allegiance of those who voted for pro-Shinawatra parties. Like its yellow-shirted supporters, the junta believes that the provincial citizens who repeatedly voted these parties into government were duped or bought, or are simply ignorant. It assumes that these voters were insincere in their support for Thaksin parties and can be made ‘less stupid’ and weaned from Pheu Thai.

Hewison notes that the “regime and military intelligence is encouraging the establishment of small parties that, while nationally insignificant, may diminish Pheu Thai support in local constituencies” and has restructured the electoral, oversight and political system “to prevent any elected government from actually governing.”

He sees this as a kind of throwback to the 1980s when Gen Prem Tinsulanonda was an “outsider” prime minister, never elected. Prem “mostly ignored parliament” as it was “an unimportant place” where politicians argued and Prem ruled, with the “locus of political power was in the bureaucracy and the military.”

He views the rise of new and self-proclaimed “progressive” parties, as well as the junta-loving parties as “a measure of junta success.” Why?:

Small parties and a fragmented party system mean the military can maintain its political dominance in a Prem-style quasi-democracy that is better thought of as a stifling, semi-authoritarian political system.

This actually leads beyond “elections.” The arrangements put in place will indeed be stifling until, somehow, some way, the military is depoliticized and its repressive ménage à trois with monarchy and super-rich is unpicked.





The junta’s destruction of electoral politics

12 02 2018

The clamor for an “election” under the junta’s rules might be good politics but it is also a recipe for a post-election politics that is likely to be unstable. This is because the junta’s constitution and all of the related laws it has put in place are deeply flawed. The junta’s rules, put together by advocates of Thai-style democracy, is meant to limit popular sovereignty. As every anti-democrat and military leader knows, the people can’t be trusted.

An example of such flaws is seen in how political parties – both extant and in formation – are reacting to the junta’s laws.

Several groups have shown interest in setting up new political parties. In fact, more than a hundred have expressed “interest.” The reason for this has to do with the junta winding back the political clock to a period where strong governments were not the likely outcome of an election. Rather, coalitions of multiple parties were the rule and these government coalition parties fought over cabinet seats and the spoils of these positions to be doled out to keep the party going and MPs on side. Funds were also needed for vote-buying and MP-buying.

Meanwhile, an “outsider” premier would do what he wanted, relatively insulated from the parties and their squabbling. When the outsider PM was a military man, there were pro- and anti-military parties, but what mattered most was where the military leadership and palace stood.

When the Election Commission (EC) held meeting last Friday to provide guidelines for potential party founders, we gained an insight into the future of political parties as 291 people from 114 groups registered for the meeting. We don’t expect all of these groups to form a party that contests junta “elections,” but the nature of party entrepreneurs is revealed. Some of these were existing parties that preferred to set up new ones as this was easier than tracking down their “existing members.”

Some parties are angling to be part of the junta’s group of parties. One was reported to be Ampapan Thanate-dejsunthorn, a former mistress of 1991 coup leader and friend to dark influences the unusually wealthy Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong who died some years ago. Known as Big George, his son is Gen Apirat Kongsompong, Assistant Commander in Chief of the Army, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Government Lottery Office, director at Bangchak Petroleum and member of the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly. He shot to fame and up the military hierarchy after he took pot shots at red shirts back in 2010.

Ampapan said she would set up the Pheu Chart Thai party, promoting junta-style “reconciliation,” supporting delayed elections and an outsider premier.

Vichit Dittaprasop, leader of National Progressive Democracy Party, said that setting up a new party was “easy,” adding “[a]ll that is required is a 1-million-baht seed fund and 500 founding members.” Presumably the military could assist with that. He said his party would look to winning party-list seats.

Fragmentation was also seen in existing parties; this is something the junta has worked on. “Samphan Lertnuwat, a former Pheu Thai party MP, said he was forming a new party called People’s Power Party [Phalang Phonlamuang] with 10 former MPs.” He also bid for pro-military alliance saying “his new party had no objection to an outsider prime minister so long as he was a good man.”

“Good” men are almost all anti-democrats.





Abhisit, Yingluck and ISOC

29 09 2011

It was always kind of assumed that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government used the Internal Security Operations Command for its own political purposes. However, it is good to see this confirmed in the Bangkok Post.

The Post points out that ISOC “has become the latest battlefield amid continuing power struggles that the Yingluck Shinawatra government and the army commander are struggling to contain.”

The report states:

The past government led by the Democrat [Party]… reportedly exploited the Isoc’s vast networks, all the way down to community level, to promote itself and block deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra from returning to Thailand, and to fight _unsuccessfully _ the Pheu Thai Party’s rise to power.

At that time, Abhisit Vejjajiva, then prime minister, held the ex officio position of Isoc director and assigned army chief and deputy Isoc director Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to act on his behalf.

In essence, the last government teamed up with the army chief and army chief-of-staff Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan, who is secretary-general to the Isoc, to direct the organisation.

At that time, friends of Gen Prayuth and Gen Dapong from Class 12 at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School were appointed to all commanding positions at the Isoc.

The unit’s annual budget is more than 8 billion baht.

Further:

during the Democrat [Party] tenure, the Isoc also implemented a so-called economic solution project. It was reported that this was actually aimed at convincing people, especially in the North and the Northeast, not to support the Pheu Thai Party.

The Isoc also implemented an anti-narcotics campaign before the July 3 election. The campaign was viewed as an attempt to tame Pheu Thai canvassers.

Abhisit and his government politicized this organization and was supported enthusiatically by the military’s leadership. Puea Thai wants to claw this back. It should.

However, Yingluck did this by trying to appoint the horrid Panlop Pinmanee to be “the government’s chief advisor,” this has been opposed by many (including PPT). It is also opposed by Army boss General Prayuth, but for different and highly political reasons.

Prayuth wants to retain control. He is battling to keep the Puea Thai Party government from controlling the major security organizations.





CPJ condemns community radio raids

13 07 2011

The Committee to Protect Journalists has issued a statement that “condemns the raid and seizure of broadcasting equipment by police at six community radio stations in Thailand’s northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima province. The raids were staged two days after caretaker Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government lost to the opposition Peua Thai party in general elections held on July 3.”

Two of the six stations are royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) broadcasters and the others are red shirt-affiliated stations.

Remarkably, a PAD activist Supot Piriyagiatdisakul, seemingly blinded by rage, reckoned that the “raid was politically motivated and organized by officials wanting to please the new incoming Peua Thai-led government.” Yes, that is why they closed four red shirt stations. And, did Supot even stop to consider that there is no Puea Thai government, and won’t be for some time to come. It is the Democrat Party that remains in a caretaker role.

Sounding more rational, Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative is reported: “CPJ calls on Thailand’s incoming government to improve on the outgoing administration’s poor record of press freedom and to refrain from taking revenge against opposition media.” There’s been no hint of any “revenge” against any media, so Crispin is guessing.

 





Letter to Yingluck from sister of slain journalist

9 07 2011

The E-News recently posted the following letter to Prime Minister elect Yingluck Shinawatra from Elisabetta Polenghi, sister of Italian journalist, Fabio Polenghi, who was killed in the April-May 2010 demonstrations:

 

Open Letter. To the Prime Minister of Thailand.

The recent news of the Red shirt’s victory brought me to uncontrollable tears; a feeling that is hard to explain and which was both joyous and sorrowful, but at the same time infused with timid hope. I cried my tears in the hope that from today, a new era of justice and respect will arise and that all those victims who believed in a better country and contributed to the change with the ultimate sacrifice will now receive the respect and truth that they truly deserve.

Although my position does not allow me to express a feeling of integrated political participation, it is still true that I am a woman and a humanist and as such recognize the importance of your victory. May I, therefore, congratulate you and wish you all the strength and wisdom that this appointment requires. In this regard, it is my heartfelt hope that the investigations of the 2010 deaths will be reopened and reviewed and that the sacrifice of many will not have been useless and will be repaid with honesty, justice, commitment and responsibility for a strong and healthy rebirth of Thailand with a primary emphasis on the defense of human life. At your disposal, I am yours sincerely,

Elisabetta Polenghi





The Latest from Ji

18 06 2011

The Thai election is a referendum on the Butchers of Rajprasong

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The political situation in Thailand today does not bode well for free and fair elections on 3rd July. This point cannot be stressed enough. It is very hard for democratic elections to take place when the country is being ruled by non-democratic politicians like Abhisit Vejjajiva, who were installed by the military after a judicial coup in late 2008. Previously the military had staged its own coup to overthrow a democratically elected government in 2006. What is more, those in power ordered the deliberate shooting of unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators last year. Up to 90 people died, mainly at the hands of specially trained snipers. In Thailand today there is no freedom of expression and freedom to access information. The present military-backed government is using draconian censorship of the internet and community media and it controls all mainstream media outlets. It also uses the lèse majesté and computer crimes laws to jail those who express views contrary to the Government and the military.

So what is amazing is that the opposition Peua Thai Party, closely allied to the pro-democracy Red Shirts, is leading in the opinion polls. Will they be allowed to form a government if they win the most seats? Will the military and the conservative elites fix the election outcome? These are big questions on the minds of most Thais.

Fear of a Peua Thai victory has energised the head of the army, Prayut Junocha, into making an anti-Peua Thai speech on the two main TV channels owned by the military. He has invoked the spectra of an anti-monarchy movement in a desperate attempt to convince people not to vote for Peua Thai. But it isn’t working. The way in which the monarchy has consistently been used by the military to justify the 2006 coup, the destruction of democracy and the killings of unarmed demonstrators last year, and the fact that the king has remained silent about the prolonged crisis, allowing innocent people to be murdered, has changed people’s attitudes to the monarchy.

In the run up to these elections, the military, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the Electoral Commission, with support from the Democrat Party Government, are taking further steps to fix this election. It will not be anything so crude as just stuffing ballot boxes in all constituencies, however. It will be structural fraud.

The military and DSI have accused Red Shirt leaders of lèse majesté. The DSI has said that it can charge people with this law for merely using “body language” like clapping or smiling when someone else makes a speech. The Electoral Commission has also suggested that any political party which mentions the monarchy, in whatever light, can be banned and dissolved. This has created the conditions where the rule can be selectively used against the Peua Thai Party.

The election is a high risk strategy. The elites are extremely worried by the outcome of the election, but also desperately need to gain legitimacy by actually winning for once. Only the fascist PAD want elections scrapped altogether. Disgracefully, this PAD sentiment is echoed by one key Election Commissioner!

Previous to this, the conservative elites had changed the election rules and the structures of power to favour their side in many different ways:

1. “Normalising” military intervention by staging the 2006 coup, rewriting the Constitution and appointing pro-military Senators.

2. Using draconian censorship and military and Government control of the mainstream media in order to try to sway public opinion.

3. Appointing conservative royalists to the Election Commission and the National Human Rights Commission. The Election Commission can disqualify Red Shirt politicians after the election under weak pretexts if necessary. This could significantly cut Peua Thai’s possible majority.

4. Using the biased courts to dissolve political parties.

5. Suggesting that the political party with most “party list” seats, excluding constituency seats, should have the right to form a Government or arguing that the party with most seats does not have the automatic right to try to form a government.

6. Increasing the use of the lèse majesté and computer crimes laws against any opposition and using of lethal violence against demonstrators, designed to cause fear and demoralisation among Red Shirts.

7. Using threats and bribes to urge corrupt politicians to side with the Democrat Party.

This election is a clear and straight contest between those who favour brutal dictatorship and those who favour democracy.

Despite the persistence all parties handing out cash to the electors, vote buying will not be an issue because people are clear about what is at stake.

The election isn’t about Taksin, either, although most Red Shirts are very favourable towards him because of his pro-poor policies. It is the military, the fascist PAD and the Democrat Party want to make the election about Taksin, but only the Thai and some foreign media fall for this trick.

The military and the Democrats also want this election to be about the king. This may blow up in their faces. Will people interpret a high vote for Peua Thai as an indication of a strong republican mood?

Many media channels still talk about “clashes” between the army and the Red Shirts last year. This term is used to describe the deliberate use of snipers and tanks against unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators. Similar terms are not used by the same media when describing the Syrian crack-down.

Such media also talk about “Taksin’s corruption and abuse of power”, while ignoring the blatant abuse of power by the military and the Democrat Party and the corruption of the military and certain Democrat politicians. Military spending has sky-rocketed after the coup and the military installed Abhisit Government. That is corruption on a grand scale. “Taksin’s corruption” is a convenient short-hand handle for lazy reporters to stick on Taksin.

Taksin may have been corrupt, although the military have only managed to convict him of one single offence of allowing his wife to buy land off the state while he was Prime Minister. The land was actually sold at market rates. However Taksin was responsible for human rights abuses in the war on drugs and in the south. But this election is not a referendum on Taksin. It is a referendum on the Butchers of Rajprasong: the military and the Democrat Party who ordered the killings last year.

It is important to bear all this in mind when news about the election emerges.

 





Campaigning for the monarchy

5 05 2011

At the very time that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is demanding not a single mention of the monarchy in an election campaign, he is chairing a committee that spends billions promoting the monarchy as the symbol of the royalist’s Thailand. In other words, in a campaign against those considered republicans, who the regime identifies with the red shirts and Peua Thai Party. Abhisit proves once more that he could not lie straight in bed.

Prachatai reports that on 2 May, Abhisit chaired an Internal Security Operations Command meeting that discussed “activities to mobilize the public to protect the monarchy and national security.” Amongst the measures discussed were the ISOC-initiated “security hotline” – the “report a red shirt hotline” – that allegedly promotes “the public’s knowledge, understanding and awareness of security issues and impacts from various threats, and to seek their cooperation in monitoring and informing the authorities on the threats so that a mass coordination centre in each province can quickly solve problems.”

Just since April Fool’s Day, ISOC has despatched some 100 teams to propagandize on “the duties to protect the nation, religion, and monarchy.” This includes “the protection and worship of the monarchy…”.

ISOC promotes free concerts – and in some areas makes it compulsory to attend – to “promote patriotism and loyalty…”. It also “uses its community radio network for national security, consisting of 700 stations, to broadcast via the internet three times a day, focusing on the monarchy’s great gifts to the people and promoting patriotism and loyalty.”

We would assume that all of these stations are correctly registered, but that is a false assumption as these are pro-regime activities and are not subject to any laws, unlike opposition stations, which are harassed, censored and shut down.

ISOC continues the mass-mobilization of vigilantes, known as the Thai Volunteers to Protect the Country, recently “training 209 students of Srinakharinwirot University to produce educational materials to promote the appreciation of the royal kindness and loyalty, and organizing free concerts.”

The monarchy is only banned from politics for some parties. More of those double standards at work. A just which party would these vigilantes be promoting if there is an election?





With a major update: Clash escalating towards real war

8 02 2011

The border “skirmish” between Thailand and Cambodia continues to expand and grow. As ever, The Thai Report is providing a host of useful links to stories, tweets and video.

On the Thais side, there appears little way to back down. Readers can go back to our earlier posts on the relationship between PAD and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government for comments on the need to be “tough” in a tug-of-war for the nationalist yellow supporters. The military continues to run its own show with little or no effective civilian oversight and seems to line up in ways that provide considerable support for the yellow nationalists.

The Phnom Penh Post has several stories from the Cambodian side.

Update: As the armed forces seem to control so much, including the way the border clashes go with Cambodia – perhaps towards more martial responses, in The Nation, Democrat Party MP Thepthai Senapong gets upset that red shirt leader and Puea Thai Party MP Jatuporn Promphan has again talked of coup plots. Of course, Jatuporn isn’t the only one making these claims. Admiral Bannawit Kengrien, a yellow-hued supporter of the 2006 coup and (a former supporter) of the current government has talked of coup too.

Thepthai says Jatuporn “fabricated an alleged coup plot in order to drive a wedge between the government and the armed forces…”. Well, the fact is that the army is the dog and not the tail in this relationship, so if there is a breech, perhaps it is reflective of the tail not being adequate for wagging. He claimed that “the government had a good working relationship with the armed forces. This was in stark contrast to the situation when Pheu Thai was in power and failed to win the respect of top military leaders…”. Thepthai neglects to mention that the government is beholden to the armed forces. It stays in power while the military wants it there.

Jatuporn alleged that a  “coup plot was being hatched by five figures.” He named  the plotters as: “tycoon Prayad Boonsung, Army Chief-of-Staff General Dapong Rattanasuwan, retired General Saprang Kalayanamitr, businessman Piya Malakul and People’s Alliance for Democracy Sondhi Limthongkul.” All names that we’ve heard from before and potentially associated with a coup, some of them not for the first time.

The events on the border and the actions of PAD should be seen in the context of rumors of splits and coup plotting.

 





Thitinan on rule by law and judicialization

16 12 2010

Thitinan Pongsudhirak has a most useful commentary in the internationally-influential Wall Street Journal. He takes aim at Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s repeated claims about the rule of law. He begins: “On the surface at least, Thailand has returned to the rule of law. After the government declared a state of emergency in April, the military subdued the “red shirt” protesters and restored order. And in the last three weeks, the Constitutional Court dismissed two cases against the ruling Democrat Party that could have seen the party banned from politics. However, in both cases the government’s wins came at the expense of its perceived legitimacy.”

He argues that the military and judiciary are “[p]ropping up the pro-establishment status quo” and that the “public’s suppressed aspirations for reform mean that Thailand’s period of tumult is not over…”.

Thitinan argues that the “courts are increasingly the final arbiter of the country’s political direction. But because the courts are perceived as biased, instead of achieving [political] reconciliation and a way forward, judicialization has exacerbated matters.” He goes on to describe the Constitutional Court’s work on the cases against the Democrat Party as “shocking because they were made on procedural grounds and in the face of strong precedents for holding the ruling party accountable.”

The “precedents” are the cases that dissolved the parties and banned some 200 politicians associated with elected governments and that were pro-Thaksin Shinawatra in moves that look to PPT like judicial coups. Nothing of that for the so-called Democrat Party as technicalities were used to save the party of the establishment. As Thitinan politely observes, those trials “were expeditious and the court delivered the verdicts rapidly.”

He also notes that the cases against the anointed Democrat Party “dragged on, [and] several judges of the nine-member court were filmed discussing how to exonerate the Democrats.” Red shirt claims of “injustice” and “double standards” have traction, and Thitinan believes that red shirt opposition will be galvanized.

Thitinan observes that “the establishment forces’ game plan is clear. Having put down Mr. Thaksin’s challenge and crushed the red shirts’ uprisings in April 2009 and earlier this year, the latter at a cost of 91 fatalities and 1,900 injuries, the army-backed government of Abhisit Vejjajiva is emboldened to soldier on with its own populist agenda of deficit spending on handouts and giveaways in preparation for the polls. The Democrats are unlikely to win an outright victory, but the establishment camp can ensure they remain in power. The army is poised to pressure smaller parties to join a Democrat-led coalition, leaving out the pro-Thaksin Puea Thai Party.” He predicts that there are “a series of confrontations down the road.”

PPT would add that the establishment’s game plan only involves elections that they can “win” one way or another. They want to be able to further crush any red shirt and anti-monarchy movement by pointing to such a victory, effectively legitimizing their long-standing repression of  opposition. The military, palace and establishment allies do not want a repeat of 2007, when they thought they had organized an election victory, only to have it snatched from them. Their on-going repression, purges of the bureaucracy, police and military, corruption of the judiciary, and their support for shady coalition partners are all meant to ensure a victory in the next election (that will only be held when victory is assured).