Limiting campaigning

23 01 2019

Even before the junta’s election date was announced, the military dictatorship and the Election Commission joined in issuing threats to parties campaigning for votes.

Both the Bangkok Post and The Nation reported a rant by The Dictator and on the intervention by the EC.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha continued the pantomime regarding his desperate desire to continue as Thailand’s dictator following the “election.”

he declared he would only “join a hard-working and selfless party…” and claimed to be awaiting an “invitation” to join such a party:

If I need to continue my work, I’ll need to be with some party…. However, that party has to be hardworking and dedicated and not trying to undo everything built and achieved [in the past four years].

He was clear that devil parties must be supported:

If I decide to stay on [in politics] to carry on the work, I will need to subscribe to a party which is dedicated, truly selfless and determined to change the country for the better, not one which seeks to undo everything this government has started. That would be a waste of time….

Responding to “criticism over some Cabinet members becoming members of the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party and refusing to give up their current posts,” The Dictator defended the devil party and his men with pathetic lies:

Prayut asked critics not to view as unfair the ministers’ meetings with voters during the mobile Cabinet sessions in different provinces in what is perceived as an attempt to steal a march over other politicians contesting in the upcoming election. The government only works for the public interest….

This defense of the junta’s cheating, The Dictator also warned other parties that the should not criticize his regime: “Please don’t say that the government didn’t do anything…”.

While his regime has been doling out billions in election-focussed “policy corruption” and policy plagiarism, The Dictator “warned politicians to consider whether the policies they were campaigning on were feasible, because of the strict rules and regulations on the budget and expenditure.”

The Dictator “revealed” that “he has received over 200 complaints about how some parties are preparing for the poll…”. He declared that parties would be investigated.

He further declared that any post-election government had to work for the junta’s legacy:

Future governments are free to improve on these policies and laws where needed but they should not abolish them…. The laws include those on budget expenditure and anti-corruption measures related to rice schemes.

While blaming “politicians” for the “problems” of the past, Gen Prayuth demanded that the junta’s policies and programs “should be carried on by the next administration.” His example the junta’s “flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme…. Gen Prayut said political parties should not try to woo voters who are against the regime by pledging to scrap the project.”

The Bangkok Post observes that the Election Commission “effectively joined in, issuing a statement claiming to outline what it believes parties are allowed and prohibited.” The statement, signed by EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma, set exceptionally high hurdles for parties in promoting election promises.

Palang Pracharath has already been disregarding such limits. But that’s not a shock as Jurungvith had earlier admitted that the EC was not investigating the main devil party. It seems a law unto itself. Well, unto the junta.

Shoveling money into the electorate

28 08 2018

The military dictatorship’s electoral campaigning has hit high gear in a frenzied shoveling out of money “seemingly aimed at winning the hearts of voters at the grassroots.” That’s according to an account at The Nation.

As it looks increasingly like the junta and The Dictator have the confidence to hold their rigged election, they are pouring money into “projects” meant to turn voters to the junta’s party/ies.

Senior junta figures are associating themselves with those projects. Of course, these are state-funded projects or, more correctly, taxpayer-funded.

There’s nothing wrong with a government promising and then delivering on projects that benefit the poor. However, it has to be recalled that various pro-Thaksin Shinawatra governments were lambasted for such schemes – albeit that they were put to the test of elections.

Worse, many of these schemes were criticized as policy corruption by opponents and ended up in cases before courts that even brought down governments. Those critics have thrown their support behind two coups and the junta’s government.

As we understand them, these critics blasted Thaksin-allied governments for policy corruption because they saw those governments enriching ministers and Thaksin himself. They now say the junta is not enriching itself, so this may be vote-buying but is not policy corruption….

The junta’s targets for the spending are explicitly those considered likely to have voted for the Puea Thai Party: “farmers, low-income people and rural residents.” The aim being to turn their attention to junta-supporting parties.

The efforts include “a three-year moratorium on farmers’ debts, continuing through July 2021.” Recall that back when Thaksin first came to power with Thai Rak Thai? That costs Bt2.7 billion in “debt-interest compensation to the BAAC due to the suspension of debt repayments.”

Another important effort has involved the military’s Mafia-cum-Robin Hood seizing of assets from those it identifies as “loan sharks,” returning assets like cars and land titles to those who took loans. While we don’t condone illegal lending, the actions of the military in “applying pressure” seem as illegal as the loans. The targets are red shirt areas in Khon Kaen and Udonthani .

The junta has also ordered the BAAC to consider restructuring “debt that farmers have owed to the BAAC since 2000. This project involves combined debt topping Bt6 billion and interest of Bt4 billion.”

The junta “has made it a policy to hand out money to needy people every month. In the second phase of this undertaking this year, monthly handouts increased from Bt300 to Bt500 for individuals earning less than Bt30,000 a year and from Bt200 to Bt300 for people on annual incomes of less than Bt100,000.”

In addition, the junta is “injecting Bt200,000 each into more than 82,000 communities throughout the country.” Remember the Thaksin government’s scheme?

Then there’s “a Bt40-billion project to offer cheap loans to homebuyers on low incomes.” Recall the Ua Arthon projects under Thaksin?

The National Legislative Assembly is supporting the junta’s vote-buying efforts. The Bangkok Post reports that the “40-billion-baht budget for the Pracharat scheme has been spared from being trimmed…”. Originally scheduled for cuts, those cuts have been “redistributed … to other agencies instead.”

It’s all hands on deck to shovel the money out before any election. The pay-off is is expected in votes for the junta.

Elections, populism and campaigning

12 07 2018

Current Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak was an important member of Thaksin Shinawatra’s economic team, responsible for the policies labelled “populist” by opponents and “policy corruption” by the People’s Alliance for Democracy. Others considered the policies as examples of vote-buying by using state funds.

As the military junta embedded its rule following the 2014 military coup it looked to extend its time in power, Somkid was brought in as an “economic czar” to engage in policy plagiarism and improve the junta’s economic performance with doses of Thaksin’s policies.

From the Bangkok Post: Somkid and his master

Somkid adapted himself well to the military dictatorship and has now become one of the critical ministers in the junta’s efforts to “win” its rigged election. Somkid may tell himself that he’s just a technocrat but he’s become a willing tool of military dictatorship. This pattern of technocrats supporting authoritarian regimes is not unusual. In Thailand, it was a defining feature of Gen Sarit Thanarat’s regime, put in place in 1958 and extending to 1973 and the long Gen Prem Tinsulanonda regime.

Somkid has now become a junta politician, dealing with two other Thaksin traitors, organizing a political party that intends to have The Dictator continue in power for years to come.

In preparing for the “election,” Somkid’s attention is not just on organizing the Palang Pracharath Party but to ensuring that huge transport infrastructure projects (valued at almost 1 trillion baht) are in place for the Sino-Thai conglomerates to continue using state budgets for enrichment and pouring funds into the poorer parts of the population who make up the majority of voters. (As the poor spend most of the money they receive, this consumption spurs businesses, as Thaksin proved.)

As Somkid showed when he worked for Thaksin, such policies are powerful vote winners.

Defining “corruption”

20 12 2016

PPT is always a little reluctant to post about articles that appear at the National News Bureau of Thailand. In addition to being the junta’s propaganda site, the language used in both Thai and English reports tends to be vague.

However, this particular report seems to suggest the political “nuance” of “corruption” under the junta. It is not surprising that The Dictator is the chair of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). He is now painted by some toadies as campaigning against corruption. But what kind of corruption?

Indeed, this particular report states that General Prayuth Chan-ocha declared that the NACC should not “treat corruption as a trivial matter.” We wonder if that has been the case? We do know that, like all “independent” organizations, is politicized. But it has been zealous in chasing down the regime’s political opponents.

The Dictator further declared that the NACC “tackle the problem of corruption by focusing on prevention and suppression measures and also raising public understanding of the issue.”

He strategically added: “since some people have been distorting information related to certain corruption cases on social media, the NACC will need to work proactively against them while preparing measures to prevent and prosecute any future wrongdoing.”

It seems that the NACC is now in charge of hunting down whistle blowers and those who reveal the regime’s corruption and nepotism.

General Prayuth “also emphasized the significance of fostering a correct understanding of the corruption problem among public members.” We guess that this means “understanding” that “corruption” is something that is committed by others outside the families of members of the regime.

Military populism on a roll

22 11 2016

Yesterday PPT posted on yet another example of junta populism. The promise was for electricity and water subsidies for low income families. The junta has retained free rides on public buses and trains. Most subsidies are centered on Bangkok.

We noted that the junta is in “election” campaign mode. That campaign is rife with the populist policies that the junta and its anti-democrat supporters claimed were ruining Thailand.

Today, the Bangkok Post reports on even more populism from the military dictatorship. It states that the junta has approved “12.75 billion baht in cash handouts to help low-income earners, the latest bid by the government to boost consumption in the struggling economy.” This handout “will be distributed to 5.4 million non-farmers earning up to 100,000 baht a year.” That’s well more than 20,000 baht per person.

The measure is apparently paired with “aid packages for needy farmers.”

We have lost count of the populist programs being dished out by the junta. And, The Dictator says the junta is “planning additional measures to boost year-end spending.”

Where are all those anti-populists now? We guess that, for anti-democrats, just like the corruption of “good” people being acceptable, populist handouts by “good” people are quite okay.

It is made clear again and again that Thailand’s ruling elite and Bangkok-based middle class, as the core of the anti-demoocrats have no moral compass at all.

It is also clear that the junta is prepared to pay out lots of taxpayer funds to get its people “elected.” The junta is immoral as well, but everyone already knew that.

Trying to fix an election, part IV

2 05 2011

PPT recently posted on a report in the Wall Street Journal that, amongst other things, referred to a re-elected Abhisit Vejjajiva government having “fresh policies.” We wondered about this, and as well as pointing to “policy corruption” we might have also noted the plagiarism of policies that were developed by the Thai Rak Thai Party before it was thrown out by the 2006 palace-military coup.

The Bangkok Post has recently included a report on how far policy plagiarism goes in this coalition government by pointing out that the Thaksin Shinawatra innovation known as One Tambon One Product (OTOP) has been taken over by the Bhum Jai Thai Party-controlled Ministry of Interior as part of its election campaign.

OTOP was so popular that the program could not be ditched by the military junta-appointed government in 2006-07 or by the military-palace cobbled coalition led by Abhisit Vejjaiva. So Bhum Jai Thai now seeks to make OTOP their program and blatantly uses state-funded OTOP fairs for showcasing party candidates for the upcoming election.

The Post reports that “this year, the Interior Ministry has held three One Tambon One Product fairs in the northeastern provinces of Bung Kan and Surin and in the central province of Saraburi.” All are Bhum Jai Thai political strongholds and bands of “prominent politicians and potential election candidates from the Bhumjaithai Party [have] turned up.”

Bhum Jai Thai is reportedly wooing voters by a “hearts and minds” strategy that emphasizes that it is ”operating on the ground”. OTOP seems critical for this, and the party must hope that voters have short memories.

Blatant policy plagiarism and the use of the Ministry of the Interior as an election office seem not to bother the coalition, for any advantage is to be used in attempting to fix an election victory.

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