Strong coalition = strong extra-parliamentary opposition?

6 07 2011

As the victorious Puea Thai Party puts together a coalition government, there is even talk of renegade Phum Jai Thai Party members doing yet another back flip and heading back to Puea Thai. Some of the “traitors” may be returning with the aim of parliamentary strength.

PPT wonders if it is wise to build a seemingly impregnable coalition government of 300+ seats in parliament. After all, the last time this happened – Thaksin Shinawatra and the Thai Rak Thai Party in 2005 – this unleashed extra-parliamentary and extra-constitutional forces.

Listen to what the U.S. Embassy was saying back then, courtesy of Wikileaks:

“Evidence suggests that Prime Minister Thaksin is alienating an ever-growing segment of the political class…. [Because of TRT strength] The anti-Thaksin forces are reduced to hoping for help from two extremes — the street, and the palace.”

“Thaksin’s opponents can’t unseat him (at least, in the short term) through the ballot box, so they feel they have to try something. There isn’t much hope of seriously splintering TRT…. The opposition parties and NGOs remember 1992, when the power of street demonstrations, coupled with the resulting loss of royal support, helped oust a despised PM; those who are virulently anti-Thaksin hope such tactics might work again.”

“It is hard to see how Sondhi [Limthongkul] and the political opposition can inflict serious political damage on Thaksin with these current tactics. However, they are clearly set to keep provoking the PM with accusation after accusation, knowing that Thaksin, with his tendency to speak and act before he thinks, is frequently his own worst enemy.”

Can Thaksin’s impetuousness be contained? Will the parliamentary dominance of Puea Thai mean that its back to the streets and even the palace? Can they do it all again? The accusations are already flowing and the mainstream media is taking these up. And not mentioned in the above cable at all is the opposition in the military. Will red shirts and others who voted for Yingluck Shinawatra and Puea Thai accept another elite victory via proxies and the streets and military-palace?



Democrat Party and dirty politics II

20 06 2011

In PPT’s first post on this theme, we wrote of the Democrat Party’s provocative actions that are planned to agitate red shirts. In the media, especially on television, it is the Democrat Party that it complaining of dirty tactics.

In The Nation, Democrat Party leaders are cited as denouncing “bullying by supporters of the rival Pheu Thai Party…”. What is this bullying? It is a few people, who show up where Abhisit Vejjajiva, Chuan Leekpai and Suthep Thaugsuban are campaigning, and hold up signs asking for an account of the dead in April and May 2010. The implication is that these people, some in red shirts, blame these men for the deaths.

On television, Suthep has stated that these protesters are engaging in unfair tactics, that “the red shirts and Puea Thai Party are one, and that they are under the orders of Thaksin Shinawatra.” He demanded that the Election Commission investigate this unholy alliance. In The Nation, Suthep “called on Pheu Thai to tell the red shirts to stop ‘bullying’ the Democrat… [Party] during their campaign tour.” He added: “I can’t stand it anymore. I denounce Pheu Thai for allowing bullies to interrupt the campaigning. I call on the public to oppose these people…”.

In The Nation, Abhisit claims that his party is behind in the polls because party supporters are intimidated by the handful of protesters and hecklers, and don’t want to identify themselves and their voting intention. Abhisit said “many of the party’s supporters were peace-loving and they did not want to get into trouble for clearly stating that they were Democrat supporters.” He added: “I believe there are many people in this group. They keep their choice to themselves. My message to the bullies is that they now have a little more than 10 days to do the bullying. When July 3 [the election day] arrives, the Thais will tell you that you can bully the Democrat Party but you can’t bully Thailand…”.

Of course, such “peace-loving” supporters of the Democrat Party such as the Army, DSI, palace, ISOC and Interior Ministry could never be accused of “bullying.” They prefer much stronger measures. Indeed, it was under Suthep’s watch that snipers were first deployed against red shirt protesters. Directing bullets at a person’s head is rather more vicious than a bit of campaign banter.

PPT has also noticed something else in recent days that seems a little more intense than bullying. Readers will have noticed the brazen gunning down in Bangkok of a Phum Jai Thai Party canvasser from Lopburi. On television, Suthep and other Democrat Party leaders were quick to state that Puea Thai was responsible. The news reports have harped on this line and given extraordinary attention to this murder.

PPT has no idea who might have killed this canvasser. However, it is noticeable that the murder of a Puea Thai Party canvasser in Ayutthaya has received far less attention, even when it is known that he was killed by a political opponent. Nor have other murders and attempted murders of Puea Thai canvassers and candidates received the same attention as that of the Lopburi canvasser. Indeed, it was Suthep who claimed that “some parties” – the implication was clear – might be shooting at their own, simply to garner sympathy and votes.

It is indeed ironic when the butchers of Bangkok, those who presided over the state’s killing and maiming, who locked up hundreds while censoring tens of thousands of opposition media, and who claim that Puea Thai is simply a vehicle to whitewash Thaksin, are the ones who seek to whitewash themselves, painting themselves as “peaceful,” and subject to nasty bullying and worse by groups they insist are violent.

Now the Democrat Party hopes for violence before election day in order to boost their vote. PPT can’t help wondering if they can arrange that. Are they desperate enough for that kind of tactic?

The Army’s election campaign: Vote monarchy!

13 04 2011

It seems PPT’s earlier post on lese majeste charges against red shirt leaders has underplayed the extent of Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha’s efforts to “protect” the monarchy by using the lese majeste law against political opponents.It is far worse and far more sinister than our post indicated.

If The Nation report is to be believed, Prayuth has gone nuclear on the monarchy. He is now actively campaigning in an election period for the monarchy. In essence, for the royalists in the Phum Jai Thai Party and the Democrat Party.

Prayuth wants a high voter in an election as he thinks a high “turnout is the key to safeguarding the monarchy and bringing about change under a democracy…”.

Getting the number of eligible voters wrong by quite a way, he says: “”I believe if all 60 million [eligible] Thai citizens come out to cast their votes, they can change the country…”. He seems to mean changing Thailand to be a Thai-style democracy where the monarchy rukes.

Prayuth thinks that an election “could end the political turmoil that had gripped the Kingdom.” He seems to mean that if the Democrat Party wins, it can finally claim electoral democracy. And as the party of the royalist elite, the “people” would effectively be safeguarding “the country’s revered institution by weeding out ill-intentioned politicians…”. He means any politician who are in the opposition, associated with Thaksin Shinawatra, the Puea Thai Party and the red shirts.

Commenting on offensive remarks about the monarchy, Prayuth “said he saw no justification for certain individuals to try and fault the King, adding that politicians should not allow their political rivalry to spiral out of control and tarnish the monarchy.”

He continued, “urging voters to punish the instigators of last year’s riots through the ballot box.” He added: “Everyone knows the culprits behind the lost lives and the injuries incurred…”. PPT is sure he doesn’t mean the military! He means those who are in the opposition, associated with Thaksin Shinawatra, the Puea Thai Party and the red shirts.

Although the instigators tried to attribute the blame to anti-riot forces, the crowd-control measures had been activated as a last resort and in a defensive manner due to the provocation, the Army head said. Prayuth then got really nasty, when he “pointed out that troops and protesters suffered high casualties while the rally organisers themselves had come out unscathed.” Perhaps he forgets that most casualties were to those wearing red shirts. Or perhaps he remembers and is simply a liar or perhaps he doesn’t care.

The Nation says this is “a veiled attack on red-shirt leaders.” It isn’t. It is a direct threat and the army chief is up to his thick neck in political campaigning for the current regime. Nothin g much else could be expected from the army chief. What is really very sinister is that this political figure who happens to be army chief has the temerity to criticize “red-shirt leaders for trying to link the military to politics in a bid to sway the crowds.”

Related, the political police at the Department of Special Investigation have “launched an investigation into 10 red-shirt leaders, including Pheu Thai MP Jatuporn Promphan, on suspicion of their having offended the monarchy during the April 10 rally last year at Democracy Monument.” Do they mean this year?

DSI director-general Tharit Phengdit revealed yesterday that his team of investigators was preparing to charge Jatuporn and rally organisers for lese majeste, as evidenced by their recorded rally speeches.

Tharit said Jatuporn Promphan “had contacted him via telephone to inquire about surrendering to face a lese majeste charge. Other red-shirt leaders likely to face the same charge include Weng Tojirakarn, Nattawut Saikua, Korkaew Pikulthong, Suporn Atthawong, Kwanchai Praiphana and Laddawan Wongsriwong.

The Army chief has already filed a police complaint against Jatuporn, Suporn and Wichian Khaokham forlese majeste.

So is that 13 accusations of lese majeste in 2 days? Maybe the U.S. State Department can review its so-called human rights report now that the political intent of the use of lese majeste is so clear that a blind monkey could see it.

More corruption claimed in flood relief

12 11 2010

More than 200 people are now dead in Thailand as a result of the horrendous flooding. PPT’s earlier posts on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s tardy, seemingly unconcerned, and incompetent response, the royal family’s apparently mean response and others here, here and here ).

Government relief efforts continue to be plagued by claims of corruption as PPT pointed out some time ago. Now a Puea Pandin parliamentarian “has accused the government of abusing an emergency cash payment scheme for flood victims, saying the money was distributed primarily in districts where by-elections are scheduled to take place next month. Anuwat Wisetjindawat, of Nakhon Ratchasima, told the House yesterday he suspected foul play in last weekend’s cash hand-out scheme by certain cabinet ministers in Nakhon Ratchasima.”

As we indicated earlier, PPT thinks he’s pretty much right in this claim. He says that the “government resolved to pay cash of 5,000 baht to about 632,000 affected families nationwide via the Government Savings Bank as initial assistance. He said the cash payment and distribution were concentrated in six districts of Constituency 6 which would see by-elections on Dec 12 after deputy interior minister [and from Newin Chidchob’s Phum Jai Thai Party] Boonjong Wongtrairat was stripped of his seat in parliament.” Anuwat later claimed “that cabinet ministers who inspected the flood in Nakhon Ratchasima canvassed votes for the Bhumjaithai candidate.”

PPT has checked with several sources in the Northeast, and these claims are accurate, with some in Korat still sitting in water and being told “the government doesn’t have the money for them.”

Abhisit says “he would ensure all victims received proper assistance” and that the “government was working to improve its disaster mitigation and management plan to ensure prompt and efficient relief.” Efficient is hardly the word to use, but Abhisit is now chief propagandists for his own government.

It’s propaganda because the claims being made are confirmed. For example, “flood victims in Phatthalung were taken by surprise when they saw the names of politicians in the Commerce Ministry’s rice sacks…. Some flood victims also reported that they found the name of a senator in the Commerce Ministry’s rice supplies.”

Updated: Floods and politics I

1 11 2010

For our posts on much larger and wider impact 2011 floods, click here to begin or simply click through to our home page.

PPT has posted on the flooding that has inundated parts of Thailand since about 10 October 2010. We mentioned the incompetence of the Abhisit Vejjajiva government. We also noted the corruption involved in the allocation of relief. We have also commented, in the same post, on the way in which the leaders of the current regime seem to have neglected the level of the crisis, with more than 100 dead and millions impacted.

It’s three weeks and PPT has been talking with a few villagers sitting above flood waters in a part of the northeast for two weeks. PPT asked them what they had received from the government so far?

Nothing. Nothing at all, they said. What of the 5,000 baht the government promised? Not seen yet.

What are local officials doing, we asked. The response was really very interesting. The new nai amphur is said to have been put in place because he is a Phum Jai Thai Party man. He’s telling the villagers that they are getting no help because they voted for the wrong party in the 2007 election. He’s supported by a PJT headman, elected for almost ever thanks to the post-2006 coup junta, who also tells the villagers they are being politically punished. He says the party they voted for better help them.

The villagers are probably right to assume that these heartless bastards are pocketing the relief money.

PPT is not exaggerating. We don’t say this is happening every where. We do say that the punishment of red shirts is ongoing and even deepening.

Update: Maybe the elite read PPT? We have no idea, but a reading of today’s (Tuesday) suggests that they have seen the political problem emerging from the floods. They are dumping in money. Will that just permit greater corruption?

The fear factor

10 10 2010

In our last post, PPT mentioned a Bangkok Post editorial that raised questions about the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s ratcheting up of alleged threats, saying that these claims are part of “the politics of fear that is taking root in Thai society.” PPT noted the Post’s comments on the claims regarding a team of so-called red shirt terrorists-in-training who will likely turn out to be nothing of the sort and will soon fade from the collective memory apart from the idea that there are trained assassins “out there.” The stirring of fear is a tactic used by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government since it came to power (for very early PPT posts on this see here, here and here).

And it just gets worse.

Admiral Banawit Kengrian (pick the howler in this bio), a former deputy defence permanent secretary, and aide to Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda, is cited in The Nation with a truly bizarre claim.

The admiral states that he has “confirmed a report that armed militia are plotting assassination of leaders and attacks in the capital during the next 20 days. Bannawit said he had learnt from military intelligence officials that tens of foreign armed militia from a neighbouring country’s Seals, with the same capability as the Royal Thai Navy’s Seals and the Royal Thai Army’s Special War Command or Red Hat, are planning terror strikes.” Somehow Bannawit links this claim to the Nonthaburi explosion and adds that his “report was based on facts and militias had infiltrated several spots in Bangkok to commit sabotage.” He claims that army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has these groups being followed and has warned the government.

Adding threat upon threat, Bannawit says 4 RPGs “found near the old headquarters of the opposition Pheu Thai Party could be linked to a Parliament attack.” It seems “near” is good enough for Bannawit. Evidence counts for little when the desire is to instill fear and loathing.

Bannawit is joined as a contestant on Fear Factor by Democrat Party Spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks, who has a long record of unfounded claims and accusations. Maybe that’s his job, but he often sounds a couple of salung short of a baht. He reckons the government is about to round up a bunch of bombers involved in: “plotting sabotage at Santirat Withayalai school, the Bhum Jai Thai Party [PPT thought the alleged bombers were already in custody?], and the military camp in Chiang Mai [see our earlier post]; the group linked to the missing weapons from an arms depot in Lop Buri [likewise, we understood that the thieves were already in custody]; and trained militia [no idea who he means here, but more conjuring and stunts are possible].”

And just for good measure, “First Army Region commander Lt-General Udomdet Sitabutr confirmed the reports that ill-intentioned groups were planning attacks. He called on the public to tip off security officials to prevent rogue elements from striking terror.”

A yellow shirt senator and hard-core royalist Somchai Sawaengkarn chimed in, claiming “that sabotage was planned against basic infrastructure such as power plants.”

PPT wonders if there is any point to observing that red shirts are pretty much leaderless and that the lese majeste bomb threats, bombs, explosions, “terrorists-in-training” and weapons seem remarkably convenient this reconvening collection of royalist, pro-government and privy council alarmists.

Further updated: Abhisit and the king maker

10 10 2010

The Bangkok Post has a piece drawn from Thai Rath, with the headline: “Abhisit can’t afford to alienate king-maker Newin.” PPT is tempted to think lese majeste associated with Newin Chidchob at such an exalted level, and in Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Thailand, it just might be possible!

More seriously, the article, recounting how Newin, supposedly banned from politics, is the real leader of the Phum Jai Thai Party, and “now commands wide influence, judging from his birthday celebration attended by high-ranking officials in the government, businessmen and ordinary folk who flocked to his house in Buri Ram province on Monday to wish him well…”.

The Oxford lad and the king maker

The story is right in stating that: “Even Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva cannot deny the fact that if it were not for Mr Newin, he would not be able to sit in Government House as the country’s leader.”

Newin’s influence is said to have been evident in arrest of 11 men “allegedly engaged in secret military training for covert operations. Even though several news sources gave conflicting accounts, Mr Newin dared to state outright that the 11 were part of a group of red shirt paratroopers who were trained to engage in assassinations against both the prime minister and deputy prime minister, the defence minister, the former army chief and himself…. Newin even pointed to the mastermind as his former boss in exile overseas…”.

What is Newin’s influence in this? It seems that it is the propaganda value of having as former Thaksin Shinawatra associate naming him.

Worth noting is the comment that Newin abandoned Thaksin and complained of a supposed “New State” movement “advocated by some elements in the red shirt movement, which he called unacceptable as it would mean the abolition of the monarchy…”. Interestingly, a “New State” CD was said to have been found in the wreckage of the Nonthaburi apartment explosion that the media and government attribute to a red shirt supporter.

The links between Newin and these events are notable.

The problem Abhisit faces with Newin is that “Bhumjaithai is constantly mired in corruption allegations involving several government projects under its ministers’ supervision.” This includes the recent 200 armed men in black  storming an airport car park.

Abhisit needs Newin and Newin needs money in order to make inroads against the Puea Thai Party. Abhisit’s Democrat Party can’t win without Newin, so the twinning goes on.

The issue for the Democrat Party and its elite backers is how to keep Newin leashed. That’s tough because he’s the kind of  provincial politician the elite does business with but find repulsive. It seems only Newin has the capacity for hands-on, never-ending dirty politics. Most of the Democrat Party leaders – Suthep Thaugsuban excepted – are simply too effete for the grubbiness required.

Update 1: One way to keep the king maker on the leash is to manage allegations against him, keeping the grubbiness to the fore. The Nation reports that the National Anti-Corruption Commission “released the results of its panel meeting on Thursday regarding veteran politician Newin Chidchob, who was deputy agriculture and agricultural cooperatives minister at the time, and associates allegedly colluding over the construction and procurement of equipment for the Central Lab, which examines agricultural and food products. The investigation found that the NACC did have the authority to investigate cases involving state officials allegedly colluding with private companies.” The Nation had a story on Newin’s earlier exploits and “nine (political)  lives” some time ago.

Update 2: Interestingly, there is a story in The Nation that views Abhisit as leading a corrupt government and lacking leadership. The article lists a bunch of projects where Abhisit’s leadership has been missing. However, the idea that this problem is Abhisit’s alone and that he lacks a capacity for tactics is missing an important element. That is the observation made above: Abhisit is not the chief “player” but is rather a person called on to play a particular role. That role requires the kind of arrangements now in place and Abhisit is playing his part. He has little room for personal maneuver.

Who were the men in black?

5 10 2010

PPT is referring to the 200 armed men in black who occupied an airport parking lot late last week, not the government’s claimed men in black associated with protesting red shirts. PPT’s earlier post is here. Who were they?

Newin Chidchob

Well, we have to say that it is no surprise to find that they are probably associated with Newin Chidchob and his Phum Jai Thai Party.

The Bangkok Post states that the party is “being accused of making false promises to two businessmen to lure them into investing hundreds of millions of baht in a project to manage parking lots at Suvarnabhumi airport.” This comes as  “Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) announced … it had decided to terminate the concession of Parking Management Co to manage the airport’s parking lots.”

Immediately, former “executives of Parking Management, issued a statement yesterday to explain their role in the company. They claimed they were approached by an aide to a political figure to ask them to invest in the company. The two refused to name the politician or the party to which he belonged, but they said the party had proposed a project to the cabinet to lease 4,000 gas-fueled buses to supplement the ageing Bangkok Metropolitan Transit Authority fleet. This was a clear reference to the Bhumjaithai Party.”

PPT would guess the politician is either Newin or one of his close associates. After all, the airport has essentially been handed over to Newin and his backers in King Power to be milked of profits and other funds for personal gain and political activities.

The businessmen handed over hundreds of millions to get seats with the milking cow that is Suvarnabhumi. They claim to have then been double-crossed. The car park, they say, was “taken over by a group who claimed to be associated with a senior army officer. The group began collecting parking fees without sharing the proceeds with the two businessmen or the AoT.”

Who would not have guessed that an army officer was involved? It is all so predictable. That is also true of  Phum Jai Thai Transport Minister Sopon Zarum’s denial of the allegations. In what might be known as the car park standoff, the AoT chairman sounded military when he stated that the company “would retake control of the parking space on Oct 11…”.

What a shambles.

Abhisit’s desire to be an elected PM

13 09 2010

The big news of the day at The Nation is that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has “revealed a desire to win a second term if a general election is called this or next year – which could prove the climax to his political career.”

A pipe dream? Quite possibly, for his party has never received electoral support from more than a minority of voters, being at the head of a party that wins an election is a little far-fetched. But he does have all the forces of the state with him in his effort to bend public opinion in his direction.

Abhisit Vejjajiva

Abhisit said that a “general election might be called early next year” but he wanted to be sure there would be no repeat of the embarrassing result of 2007, when the Democrat Party unaccountably lost an election the military thought it would win.

No, he wasn’t that honest. He actually said “he wanted to see results first from inquiries by a reconciliation committee led by Kanit na Nakhon and another panel led by Sombat Thamrongtanyawong.” Both panels have been almost invisible since being formed.

PPT can understand that Abhisit, hoisted into place by a bunch of elite and palace autocrats, manipulated by the military, business interests and corrupt and self-serving political hacks, would really like to be elected to his essentially appointed position. With sufficient threat and use of the armed security forces, he might be able to wrangle such a result.

In his weekly talk, Abhisit showed that reconciliation is simply a political shibboleth when he made comments that associated the Puea Thai Party with a recent string of bombs: “The red-shirt leaders and the Pheu Thai Party leaders cannot deny involvement because the suspects who were arrested also are linked to them…”. PPT wasn’t aware that suspects were held in many of these cases. Of the recent cases, we assume Abhisit is speaking of one case – the attempted bombing in front of the Phum Jai Thai Party headquarters.

Responding to ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s latest statement on reconciliation, Abhisit “said Thaksin should know that reconciliation was about national interest, not his personal interest.” A standard line, but then Abhisit resorted to the very personal when replying to students in recent days.

Even if he manages to fiddle an election victory, he will always carry the stain of being the Butcher of Bangkok, responsible for deaths and injuries on the streets and for the imprisonment of hundreds of political prisoners.

Updated: Another King Power bomb

26 08 2010

The Nation reports that another bomb has exploded near an entrance to the King Power complex in Soi Rang Nam in downtown Bangkok. Unfortunately, a security guard has been injured. Police apparently have a suspect is in custody. As the report points out, “King Power has strong political connections with the Bhum Jai Thai Party.”And Newin Chidchob.

PPT cover King Power and owner Vichai Raksriaksorn several times. We have posted on him and international football and on local football and politics, on polo and influence.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post reports that the explosion was due to an M79 grenade launcher. That articles cites police: “It was also not yet known if the attack had anything to do with Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda, who celebrated his 90th birthday on Thursday, or Newin Chidchob, a politician under a five-year ban who has close connections with King Power…”. Even so, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who is in charge of security affairs, said the explosion indicated that some people still wanted to cause a public disturbance. Therefore, it was necessary for police to step up security at important locations and houses of important people…”.

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