Updated: Another activist assaulted

3 06 2019

Matichon reports that political activist Sirawit Serithiwat was assaulted on the evening of 2 June. He is said to have sustained minor injuries to his head and face, consistent with being beaten up. It is reported that he was attacked by a group of about five men at a bus stop.

After the assault (clipped from Matichon)

There’s a pattern emerging. Under the junta, police and military were used to intimidate, detain, arrest and charge political activists. In recent months, more or less coinciding with the junta’s need to allow political activity prior to the election, the pattern appears to have shifted to violent attacks. These are never seriously investigated by police, suggesting the involvement of the authorities in the attacks.

Add this to the murder and/or enforced disappearance of activists in neighboring countries, and the political landscape is looking increasingly dark.

As an aside, as the death of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda has had us looking back at the 1980s, it is noticeable that similar means of intimidation were used back then. We noted reports of with several activists being murdered or disappeared as well as assaults of others. In most cases, none of these attacks were seriously investigated.

Update: The Bangkok Post has reported this assault. Sirawith is reported to be asking “police to file attempted murder charges against the people who attacked him.” He added, “I will not forgive them…. I never thought they could be so cruel.”

Anti-junta politicians including “Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai and Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit posted messages on social media condemning the attack…”.

Phumtham observed: “This country is difficult to live in…”. Anti-democrats and yellow shirts will be cheering and hoping they leave the country. Those on the right seem to enjoy watching the military repress, assault and murder. They cheer it.





Election crisis

17 04 2019

PPT recently posted on the resurrection of the notion of a “national government.” The interesting thing about this hackneyed nonsense was the admission that Thailand faced a political crisis.

An opinion piece at The Nation is disparaging:

Moves to engineer a pseudo-deadlock to justify ‘neutral’ rule ignore the will of voters….

A so-called national unity government has always been a favourite gambit for Thai politicians who lose elections. By utilising this benign-sounding concept they can sweep aside the voters’ verdict and prevent opposing factions from taking power.

It points out that:

It was sad though predictable, then, to see the Democrats’ Thepthai Senapong float the idea again, after his party suffered a huge setback in the March 24 election. Exploiting the Election Commission (EC)’s apparent inability to produce a clear result, Thepthai has sought to convince the public that a national unity Cabinet is badly needed.

His idea immediately fails the test of credibility with his proposal that former prime minister and Democrat [Party] patriarch Chuan Leekpai lead the “unity” government. No neutral observer believes that Chuan is non-partisan.

While the opinion writer still has some faith that an election result will emerge that is not concocted by the junta, it is stated:

The election was far from perfect, but the elite, military and notably the junta must accept the outcome of a situation that they themselves created. The junta should now allow its opponents the chance to form a government to run the country, as mandated by the people.

Using underhanded legal tactics and other dirty tricks to retain power is not acceptable. The people delivered their verdict via an election by whose rules all parties agreed to abide. That process and its outcome are the only effective solution to the deep and lasting political problems in this country.

That would be a breakthrough as the elite, military and anti-democrats have never accepted election results that don’t give power to them.

But, as veteran Puea Thai Party politician Phumtham Wechayachai points out,  the junta’s “Constitution and the legal framework had indeed been designed to cause complications and difficulties that would draw the nation down the path to undemocratic rule.” He added: “The political situation is on a course that shows we are going toward a dead end…”.

The dead end is manufactured crisis and continuing authoritarianism.





Eulogies

29 03 2019

The Bangkok Post seems to be lamenting the “loss” of Abhisit Vejjajiva over several articles in recent days. This probably has something to do with the long relationship between the newspaper and the Democrat Party.

Over the years that Abhisit has been its leader, the newspaper has repeatedly published loving stories and interviews with Abhisit. Or it may be that the board of directors and major shareholders (they overlap) are Abhisit’s kind of people – royalist plutocrats.

The fact that Abhisit was never able to win an election, that he was responsible for the deaths of scores of civilians and that his toxic reputation “led” the Democrat Party to arguably its biggest ever loss at the polls doesn’t seem to have come between the affectionate newspaper and its favorite anti-democrat.

Meanwhile, the Puea Thai Party has delivered a eulogy for the Election Commission and the junta’s “election,” with secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai saying it was “one of the dirtiest in Thai politics.”

Comparing it with the 1957 election that allowed Gen Sarit Thanarat to come to dictatorial power, Phumtham “accused the EC of holding an ‘disorganised’ election with confusing results which called into question the [EC’s] credibility and efficiency…”. He  accused the junta of intimidation and pointed to rampant vote buying.

He could be right, but where does this leave the country? Prachatai has one useful and somewhat frightening response to that question.

PPT thinks that the next pressure point is when the EC begins to allocate red cards. If the rumors about this are correct, Puea Thai may see 25-30 of its candidates disqualified and 10-15 for Future Forward. If that happens, the constituency result could be overturned with knock-on changes to party lists, delivering government to the junta’s Palang Pracharath.

Such cheating would not be at all surprising from this regime.





Further updated: No law for the junta’s party I

21 12 2018

The junta’s main devil party, Palang Pracharath, held a big bash for “supporters” to give it hundreds of millions of baht. The Nation reports that the fund-raising bash “featured 200 banquet tables and was aimed at raising around Bt600 million for the pro-junta party.” In fact, the party’s deputy leader Nattapol Teepsuwan said the “actual take was nearly Bt650 million, against an outlay of Bt3 million.”

The whole event had a dubious legal status, but as we know, law doesn’t bother the military junta and its acolytes.

As pointed out by two other party hierarchies, even holding the event seems illegal. Puea Thai’s Phumtham Wechayachai pointed out that his party cannot “organise a fundraising event in that fashion because the organic law governing political parties does not permit fundraising [until] after a royal decree announcing the election takes effect.” He noted that the decree is not expected until 2 January.

Phumtham suggested that the Election Commission and the National Anti-Corruption Commission “investigate the feast following reports that government officials and political office holders contributed to the campaign.”

His position was supported by Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva who “called on the PPRP [Palang Pracharath] to disclose the names of its supporters at the fundraising banquet for the sake of transparency and in compliance with the law.” He observed that “people who donate 100,000 baht or more to a campaign are legally required to disclose their identities. Those who paid for the tables [at the Palang Pracharath shindig] are considered to be the party’s financial contributors.”

One of the legal questions relates to “how Cabinet ministers and civil servants were able to afford seats at an extravagant fundraising dinner run by the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party on Wednesday.” Well, maybe not how they could afford tables but where the money came from. In addition, the “law on political parties prohibits state agencies from giving them donations of any kind or participating in their activities.”

The devil party and the junta needs to “explain” how tables that cost Bt3 million each “were reserved in the names of the Finance Ministry and state agencies including the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).” Twenty tables were reserved for the Finance Ministry (60 million baht) and three for TAT (9 million baht), meaning that just these two state agencies poured 69 million baht into the junta’s political party.

Finance permanent secretary Prasong Poonthanet “insisted yesterday that no state funds had been expended.” He did not explain how the Ministry had and paid for 20 tables.

In addition, “[f]our tables, worth a combined Bt12 million, were reserved in the name of Phalang Pracharat secretary-general Sonthirat Sonthijirawong, who is commerce minister in the military-led government.”

Reacting to this obvious breach of rules, “activist Veera Somkwamkid said yesterday the National Anti-Corruption Commission should determine how many active civil servants attended the fund-raiser and how they obtained tickets.” He added to the legal mire by pointing out that if civil servants had seats given to them, “they should be scrutinised for illegally receiving a gift worth more than Bt3,000. And if they paid for themselves, they should be scrutinised for being ‘unusually rich’…”.

Because this is the junta’s party and enjoys reflected impunity and because the EC and NACC are essentially puppets of the junta, we would be surprised if they did anything much at all.

Update 1: For more information on who reserved tables at 3 million baht a pop, see the Thai-language ISRA News site. It lists names and numbers of tables. One important omission from the above news stories is the Bangkok Administration with 10 table (30 million baht). Naturally enough, the governor of Bangkok is a junta appointee and other senior members of that administration are deep yellow junta supporters.

Update 2: The Nation reports that the TAT has said it is “impossible” that “it spent Bt9 million on banquet tables at a fundraising dinner for pro-junta party Phalang Pracharat.” TAT director Yuthasak Supakorn declared his “agency had nothing to do with the dinner” adding that he “might take legal action against those reporting the false news for defaming the agency.” A Palang Pracharath official concurred and “rejected the report that the finance ministry and TAT had made donations and joined the fundraising dinner on Wednesday.” He added that “the fundraising process was transparent and the party would disclose the names of the donors in a couple of weeks.” We are pleased that’s sorted out then. Or that it will be fudged “in a couple of weeks.”





Boundaries managed III

1 12 2018

The complaints about the Election Commission’s (re)drawing of electoral constituency boundaries continue:

Political parties are angry about a redrawn electoral map of Thailand they say has been gerrymandered to boost the prospects of pro-junta parties.

Both major political parties, Pheu Thai and Democrat, said the new constituency map revealed Thursday increases the fortunes of parties such as Palang Pracharat Party – which supports the military government – in several provinces.

The two major parties of the past decade say this, Puea Thai and the Democrat Party: “They say the new voting divisions published in the Royal Gazette show constituencies suspiciously redrawn in a number of provinces, particularly Ubon Ratchathani, Sukhothai and Nakhon Ratchasima.” Puea Thai’s Phumtham Wechayachai said “some districts were split into four or five constituencies after local politicians there defected to [the] Palang Pracharat [Party of the junta] in those provinces.”

One Democrat Party member went further, declaring the EC commissioners were cheating for the junta’s parties.

Meanwhile, as well as going full Sgt Schultz – I know nothing, nothing!The Dictator used a curse word to attack the media for daring to ask questions and he condemned politicians for complaining. He also lied, saying, “I am not on any side and I did not make any order…”. Both statements are so obviously untrue that it seems Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha believes Thailand’s electorate is as malleable as clay and about as bright as a bucket of clay.

PPT sees this as just one more admission of election rigging. But there’s been so many of these efforts and admissions that it is normalized. In fact, the electorate is not thick and knows exactly what the junta is up to. The problem is that the military thugs have all the power in their own hands and so no one seems able to prevent this blatant effort to steal the “election.”

At least the politicians are now talking about the massive fraud. On the boundaries, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said “the new boundaries are unjustified and undermine the both the EC’s credibility and the election process itself.” He added that “several constituencies have not been redrawn in line with the law…”.

So the junta and its puppet EC have cheated and may have broken the law. But as Abhisit observed, “nothing could be done about it because the EC has been given immunity by the NCPO’s [Article 44] order.”





Traitors and others

9 07 2018

The Puea Thai Party has asked its supporters and members to tone down the criticism being made of defectors and the “three friends” who are using state and other resources to lure them to the pro-military party.

The party’s acting secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai said that “criticism against defectors should be avoided, and it would be best for all sides to try and maintain their friendships with colleagues to chose to step across the floor.” He added: “It’s essential that we respect the politicians’ decisions…”.

Huh? Really? Reading that we thought that this was a declaration of support for the military junta by the acting secretary-general. However, reading further, we might revise that judgement but still refer to the defectors and the “three friends” as traitors.

He says the defectors will have to face the electors and he seems to think that the electorate will spurn the defectors and traitors.

More positively, Phumtham believes that those leaving leave space for “Pheu Thai to empower a younger generation of issue-led rather than career-driven politicians for whom integrity rather than personal reward is the priority.” Okay, he has the benefit of doubt and of saying something useful.

Meanwhile, another Puea Thai politician alleged that the the junta is using not just carrots but also sticks to lure Puea Thai politicians to the junta’s camp. Worawat Ua-apinyakul “alleged some politicians facing criminal investigations were being ‘pushed’ to quit their parties due to threats to expedite proceedings against them.”

While Puea Thai worries and mulls the impacts, the “three friends” group plans to “make its [public] debut with a bang…”. That’s according to one of the traitors, now the “group’s secretary Pirom Polwiset, the former Pheu Thai MP for Nakhon Ratchasima.” Pirom declared that his new group of friends “has not decided when it will make a formal bow on the political scene although he insisted it will be soon.”

Where’s the Election Commission? Not only is the group poaching MPs and offering illegal incentives while acting for “outsiders,” including ministers, The Dictator and the Deputy Dictator, but it has a secretary-general and plans a public political bash.

Under the military dictatorship, there can never be a “level playing field” and notions of free and fair elections are long ago burned and buried.





Updated: Selectivity in the judicial system

22 05 2018

“Selectivity in the judicial system” is another way of expressing the notion of double standards. Several recent stories in the Bangkok Post highlight the junta’s continued emphasis on legal mechanisms to selectively repress its political opponents.

The first Bangkok Post story is about a civil court having “temporarily disposed of a civil case against Suthep Thaugsuban and 39 others for impeding the 2014 general election, pending the outcome of a criminal case against them.” Essentially, the court decided to ease the pressure on Suthep while other criminal cases are ever so slowly sorted out.

One of the oddities of this case is that it is brought by the EC which itself managed to impede the election through the decisions and actions of its then members.

A second Bangkok Post story tells of Puea Thai’s Watana Muangsook, Chaturon Chaisang and Chusak Sirinil being “charged on Monday with sedition for holding a press conference” that criticized the military dictatorship. It is the military that filed the case.

The notion that rights that even appear in the junta’s own constitution are ignored by the junta to claim sedition for relatively mild criticism is yet another example of double standards.

Five other party leaders were charged with violating the ban on gatherings for attending the press conference.

Pheu Thai’s secretary general Phumtham Wechayachai was mild in his response to the charges: “This government abuses the laws. They use laws to prevent people from investigating (them)…”. He added that none of those charged had broken the law.

But that’s the point. Under a military dictatorship the law is whatever the junta decides it will be.

Phumtham asked why it was that speaking “about the government’s performance for the last four years and how unsuccessful they are” should constitute an attempt to overthrow the regime or to incite insurrection.

Well, again, the dictatorship can decide what it wants. There’s no “legality” involved, just the whim of The Dictator. In this instance, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, campaigning vigorously to defeat parties that may not campaign, sees a chance to stick yet another dagger into the country’s most successful political party.

And finally for this account of double standards, the third Bangkok Post story is of three junior officials being charged by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) “the illegal purchase of Alpha 6 narcotics detectors 10 years ago.”

In fact, these devices are more or less the same at the GT200. Both are devices shown to have failed and to be scams, but widely purchased by official agencies including the military. Some 1,358 GT200 and Alpha 6 detectors worth 1.137 billion baht were bought by various agencies. Their use was vigorously defended by senior Army officers, including Gen Prayuth, and Army spokesmen

Five years ago, following convictions in the UK on these scam devices, PPT asked: will the Thai military brass and bosses of other agencies that purchased – often at inflated prices – will also be held accountable. The answer seems clear: not when the military runs the show.

Double standards and legal selectivity rule. Ask Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. One of his “borrowed” luxury watches costs more than an Alpha 6 at inflated prices. Maybe there’s a connection?

Update: We are pleased to note that the Bangkok Post has an editorial that takes up most of the points we made above.