Hitting Puea Thai, using populism

20 06 2018

Report after report has recounted how the military dictatorship is hoovering up Puea Thai Party politicians for its own parties.

The most recent we saw told the story of former Thaksin Shinawatra-linked politicians working for the junta canvassing in the northeast trying to entice and bribe politicians to join up with the junta.

After a trip to Loei, Suriya Juangroongruangkit (same family as Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit) and Somsak Thepsutin are heading into Nakhon Ratchasima “to try to convince former Pheu Thai MPs to switch their allegiances to a party supporting [Gen]Prayut[h] Chan-o…cha to be an outside prime minister after an election.” The offers are to join the Palang Pracharath Party and are said to target “three members of the Rattanaseth clan: former [party] list-MP Wirat and two former constituency MPs, Tassineeya and Athirat.”

Suriya and Somsak “are publicly leading the campaign to woo Pheu Thai members into the new political camp.”

The other element of this pilfering of politicians is the junta’s continuing efforts to destroy the Shinawatra clan and the Puea Thai Party.

The Bangkok Post reports that former foreign minister Surapong Towijakchaikul “has been sentenced to two years in prison for issuing a passport for Thaksin Shinawatra.”

The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions “ruled him guilty of malfeasance under Section 157 of the Criminal Code and the 2000 anti-corruption law.”

Surapong has appealed, but the message is clear: support Thaksin and we will screw you. Malfeasance is highly debatable under the law but the court decided that he was guilty because Thaksin was subject to “an arrest warrant on national security charges.” We take it that this means lese majeste. That charge is trumped up. But the yellow shirts and junta prevail over law.

The claim that Surapong’s “actions allowed Thaksin to travel freely and live abroad and the Thai government could not ask a country to expel or extradite him on the charge of not having a passport” is complete nonsense given that Thaksin has other passports.

When the court states that Surapong had “weakened the judicial procedures and court sanctions” and argues that he “tarnished the reputation of the country,” we can only point to the 2014 military coup that was illegal and caused serious damage to Thailand’s reputation (and still does). Yet the courts have always accepted that coups are retrospectively legal because the criminals make them so.

That effort to “legally” target the Shinawatra clan and Puea Thai sees more Supreme Court action against Thaksin.

While the junta pilfers politicians from Puea Thai and uses the judiciary against recalcitrants, the junta continues to pilfer political tactics from that party.

When The Dictator orders the execution of a prisoner, he captures some of the notion of populist appeal.

Gen Prayuth declared that “most people thought it [state execution] should remain in place,” he was appealing to fear. When he says:

The death penalty is legitimate. Many cases of severe crime have happened. Capital punishment exists to guarantee national peace and teach lessons. It is a necessity for us and people want it….

The Dictator is targeting the same vein of fear that had Thaksin receiving support for the reprehensible War on Drugs.

Take from Thaksin and Puea Thai while crushing them has been on the top of the junta’s agenda from the time that it planned the coup.

“Election” news

13 06 2018

There’s much in the news about the military junta’s “election” campaigning. Just in the Bangkok Post we found four stories of the junta on the campaign trail.

The first Bangkok Post story reports that instead of dealing with political parties as it said it would, The Dictator’s legal whipping boy Wissanu Krea-ngam – he always the one sent to deal with legal news and bad news – “will meet the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) and the Election Commission (EC) Thursday evening to discuss preparations for the general election.”

Screw the parties that are meant to participate in the general election unless, of course, the junta like you and feeds you information.

Wissanu and that other anti-democrat since the 1970s, Meechai Ruchupan, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, seem to be the junta’s finger pointers.

Even so, Meechai “said that an agenda for the talks has not yet been set.” That seems to mean that he and Wissanu have yet been given their orders.

Meechai did say that the Election Commission “will specify the date from when, legally, an election can be held,” but that’s untrue because the process of approving legislation has maximum dates but also elastic periods in it as well.

Meechai dismissed the idea that parties should be able to communicate with the public – voters – saying they should be “sending the information electronically.” The idea of prospective politicians – other than the junta – talking to voters is off limits.

Getting in on the “election” act, National Legislative Assembly president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said: “Everything will happen next year as set out in the roadmap…”. He was “referring to the premier’s earlier statement regarding a poll next February.”

Even Wissanu doesn’t buy that claim.

The second Bangkok Post story is a bit of a re-run with the Puea Thai Party accusing “people in power” – the junta and its military minions – of “increasing their efforts to lure its politicians into their fold, asking whether this behind-doors approach is the best four years of political reform has to offer.”

The junta’s people have invited “some former Pheu Thai MPs … to meet authoritative figures to talk about switching parties in the lead-up to a general election next year.” As lures and bait, they were offered “positions, budgets and financial help during the election…”.

While some complain that this is “Thai politics is still trapped in the old cycle,” it is exactly what the junta intended by its “reform” efforts.

The junta’s vacuuming up of politicians makes James Dyson look like an amateur.

A third Bangkok Post story is about the junta’s “populist” policies. The junta is reacting to potential negative electoral impacts from rising fuel prices by subsidizing them.For gas, they’ve been doing it for some time already.

When previous “bad” elected governments did this there was considerable criticism, not least from the those campaigning against “populism” at the Thailand Development Research Institute. We await their market-friendly criticism of the junta. We won’t hold out breath.

The Energy Policy Administration Committee “will only be able to subsidise the cap until mid-July, assuming additional resources are not channelled into the fund.” That’s another junta decision to be made. It comes on top of diesel subsidies.

Almost 8 million households and vendors will benefit.That’s a lot of voters being influenced by what was called “policy corruption” when elected governments were involved.

But its not just using state funds but making huge promises almost everywhere The Dictator campaigns.

The last Bangkok Post story involves the money trail through the near north. There, the junta’s “cabinet accepted in principle Tuesday a proposal to construct a double-track railway linking Tak and Nakhon Phanom as part of the transport routes under the East-West Economic Corridor.”

That proposal goes back to the 1980s!

Junta spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd “said the proposed 902km railway development” would begin in Mae Sot and go to Nakhon Sawan on the Lao border. Presumably, scenic carriages will be used as the train runs through the mountains around Mae Sot.

No funds have been promised. Maybe in the 2019 budget, when The Dictator is still premier, “election” or not. Feasibility? Economic, environmental and social impacts? No news. It’s just an “election” pitch.

There’s also a “26.8-billion-baht road expansion proposal covering 486km for the same cluster” of towns on the route.

Another pitch was a “a proposal to build an airport in Nakhon Sawan” that would be “considered”even with so-called high-speed railway scheduled to zoom through that city. Even the junta knows this but promised some kind of airport to voters.

We are sure the “election” news will continue to mount as the junta seeks to rig the “election.”

Suthep’s big lie

4 06 2018

We at PPT are bemused by some of the media commentary regarding Suthep Thaugsuban’s political resurrection over the past few days.

Our bemusement is regarding the fact that some commentators expected the Democrat Party’s former bagman and godfather to keep his word when he said he was finished with politics.

Suthep and friends

Few of Thailand’s politicians make promises and keep them. That’s one reason why Thaksin Shinawatra remains so popular – he made campaign promises to the electorate and pretty much kept them. He may have been sneaky and shady too, but he kept the big promises. Or at least the ones the electorate appreciated.

But renege on his promise he did. From never being involved in politics again, he’s back in thick of it.

His excuse for his return in lamentable. He says he has to defend the junta’s constitution. He added that his party – that’s the Action Coalition for Thailand – “will protect the 2017 constitution – arguing support for the charter was reflected when it cruised through the referendum…”. As an anti-democrat it must be remembered that he is content with the unfair and unfree referendum where the junta allowed only one outcome.

He also bellowed: “There will be no pardon for any political prisoners…”. We are not sure if it is the reporting or its his words, but Suthep is acknowledging that the junta has jails full of political prisoners. After all, it is only those arrested and charged sin mid-2014 that are the subject of any proposal for “pardons.”

In his old kit as “a recruiter and fund-raiser for the ACT” – something he did for the Democrat Party using all kinds of dark influences – he declared that he couldn’t just do that: “when brothers and sisters who share the same ideology approached me and told me they were establishing a people’s political party, I had to join…”. He went on with populist rhetoric: “I will not run for the election [we can check on that one later!]. I volunteer to be a slave for the people and serve the people. I will use my 40 years of experience in politics to push and accomplish the establishment of the people’s party.”

It is a minority party, with its organizers who sit in Suthep’s shadow hoping for just 30 seats.

Explaining his big lie, Suthep explained that he was a “good” person, so his lies don’t count. He then added more populist blarney.

Party jumper Anek Laothamatas, who also can’t be trusted on anything political as his spots change daily, said ACT would be “governed by religious ethics and truly owned by the people, is a coalition of citizens that respects and aims to safeguard the monarchy.”

It sounds a bit like Tea Party Thailand, and that’s dangerous stuff, not least for keeping the monarchy at the top of a political agenda. Explanation: using the monarchy for political purposes is okay for “good” people, including former Communists.

In case anyone wasn’t quite convinced of CPT-cum-Democrat-cum-Mahachon-cum-Puea Thai-cum-ACT Anek’s royalism, he added that ACT would be “reducing inequality using the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s approach to development…”. We assume that’s the sufficiency economy nonsense.

We understand that Anek has now resigned from the junta’s puppet work and the handsome salary he received there. We guess that ACT moneybags like Suthep and others who supported Suthep in the past, like the Rangsit University proprietor, will stump up the funds for Anek’s services as figurehead leader of ACT.

While ACT wants to “reform in police and justice system by ensuring that the institutions involved will not become tools of politics,” he very pointedly accepts the military’s murderous political role. We can’t recall the last time the police led a coup in Thailand.

Of course, ACT is likely to want to support The Dictator as premier after the junta’s election.

Thaksin is still the opponent

3 06 2018

Asia Times commentator Shawn Crispin writes about what is obvious to all but the military junta dare not express in words.

His account is a bit too junta-esque in other ways. For example, he or perhaps an editor states: “Thailand’s politics are percolating again with legal clearance for democracy-restoring polls in February 2019. But will they be free and fair?”

The answer to the question is a resounding NO. It isn’t even a question worth asking. It seems to us that the junta’s “election” will only be in February if The Dictator and his cronies believe they have a better chance to get their favored lot elected then. Otherwise, expect more delays and more repression.

The claim that the military “overthrew a Peua Thai-led elected government … [after] months of anti-government street protests sparked by a Peua Thai bid to pass … an amnesty that may have allowed the criminally convicted Thaksin to return to the kingdom as a free man” is only partly correct.

It should not be forgotten that many red shirts opposed the blanket amnesty. And, as important, it should not be forgotten that Suthep Thaugsuban and the Democrat Party were just the last of a series of military-backed efforts to undermine the Yingluck Shinawatra government. In 2011, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha had publicly announced that people should not vote for Puea Thai. There were then all kinds of efforts to (re)create a street movement. The amnesty bungle provided a spark that gave the anti-democrats more traction on the streets.

The notion that The Dictator and his junta “has endeavored since to uproot Thaksin’s and his younger sister ex-premier Yingluck[’s]… populist legacies … in the name of curbing corruption, restoring finances and political reform” is nonsense. Time and again, the junta has implemented policies plagiarized from those administrations.

But Crispin is right to observe that the junta “despite [the]… regime’s best blunt efforts, will be hard-pressed to erase Shinawatra family memories from voters’ minds.” Military surveys have shown this. Crispin knows this. He states:

One source with access to high-level junta officials says that the military’s own internal forecasting, conducted by its all-seeing Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), has consistently shown Peua Thai will win resoundingly, even with Prayut’s more recent efforts to put a more human, pro-poor face on his militaristic regime.

But that’s not the junta’s task. That is to splinter parties and have several devil parties that will “united” in coalition to allow for Prayuth to continue as premier.

He’s also right to observe that it is clear that the junta “intends to manage the elections on its own strict terms, including likely bans on acceptable and unacceptable political discourse on the campaign trail.”

Crispin later states correctly that:

…the junta’s ideal scenario, no single party will win an outright majority – a near but not 100% certainty under election rules put in deliberate place to prevent a landslide Peua Thai victory – and with a deadlock the military’s appointed Senate lends its numbers to select Prayut atop a coalition of parties in a military-friendly “national unity” government.

When he cites analysts as believing “the regime aims to stage the elections in the same repressed vein as the 2016 referendum…” is a point we have made many times.

It is very clear that Gen Prayuth will be loathe to tolerate an “election” that does not have him as boss.

Populist vs. populists

30 05 2018

In recent days there have been a couple of news accounts of “populism” in Thailand. One is in the Bangkok Post and another was in the South China Morning Post.

The SCMP reckons the military junta is stealing policies from Thaksin Shinawatra – something we at PPT have long pointed to. Indeed, the role of Somkid Jatusripitak cannot be discounted in accounting for policy congruence in areas the media delights in calling “populism.”

Taking quite a different approach to origins, the Bangkok Post believes the military dictatorship’s Thai Niyom Yangyuen (sustainable Thai-ness) campaign draws “inspiration” from “the Chinese Communist Party’s grassroots development campaigns…”. Given Somkid’s ethnicity and personal ties, that could also be true. We doubt many in the military are followers of Chinese Communist Party rural efforts, but they certainly like that regime’s strong authoritarian control, so perhaps its political models they draw on. But as an economist, Somkid also draws inspiration from Japanese models of development and innovation, and he did this successfully under Thaksin.

Puea Thai Party politicians are right, too, to point to “double standards as the government has been quite outspoken in the past in vilifying such attempts at populism.”

The Dictator is likely to get even more jumpy and agitated in his campaigning as the Shinawatra clan is again in the news. It seems Yingluck Shinawatra has been given a 10-year visa by the British government.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha looks silly because he keeps talking about extradition but does precious little. He is probably happier to have her outside the country as he campaigns for his own continued premiership, But he gets grumpy when the Shinawatras get media time.

But back to populism. One of the biggest “subsidies” going into an election some time in the future is that from the State Oil Fund. Gen Prayuth reckons he can maintain fuel prices at the current level until the election.

He insisted that “the State Oil Fund proves a vital tool for stabilising oil prices and limiting the effects on the economy.” It is also a means of preventing voter disenchantment with the junta’s devil parties. He says the Fund currently has “about 31 billion baht in its coffers” but don’t be surprised if that is added to if an election is called. There is also pressure on PTT to support lower prices.

For the junta, it is all hands and lots of cash on deck for an election.

We can, you can’t

21 04 2018

The term “populism” has a curious meaning these days, often used to mean any political leader or politician who seeks to curry favor with “the people.” In Thailand, this has been, at least since the word was first translated into Thai, just prior to Thaksin Shinawatra’s first election victory, a term of political abuse.

Indeed, the military junta that seized power in 2014 was heard to attack “populism” as evil and a scourge to be eliminated. Be that as it may, this has not prevented The Dictator, in his campaigning efforts to make him and his regime more popular, from  promising and even allocating billions of baht to various groups. His doling out of promises and funds has particularly targeted those who his political strategists think are pro-Thakin.

As it promised it would do soon after the military coup, the junta has had its legislative puppets draft a law to make populism illegal.

The Nation reports that the new “law prohibits Cabinet members from attempting to boost their support with budget spending that may damage the economy.”

One section of the State Financial and Fiscal Discipline Act (2018) seeks to have it so that:

in preparing annual state budgets, managing the country’s monetary and fiscal affairs, and creating public debt, Cabinet members have to carefully take into consideration such factors as the benefit to the country and the people, worthiness, financial burden, risks and possible damage to state finances.

The section states: “The Cabinet shall not run the state’s affairs with a goal of creating political popularity that may cause damage to the country’s economy and people in the long run…”.

It requires that there be “conformity with national development plans.” It does not say that the junta has put a 20-year plan in place.

The effect of the new legislation, the junta’s strictures and the constitutional mechanisms for “independent” bodies, all put in place by the junta, mean that parties can’t do much at all or offer much in election campaigning for fear of being in violation of this law.

Who will decide which policy is populist and which isn’t? Of course, junta minions and anti-democrats placed in “independent” agencies lie the Constitutional Court will use the legislation to limit elected governments and control the. If this fails, the aw can be used to rid themselves of “populist” regimes.

Initially, The Dictator will control a committee that “will decide what economic policy would be defined as ‘populist policy’ that could have a serious negative impact on government finances.”

In other words, it is another rigging of the system. If his “party” gains an “election” victory, he’ll do as he pleases. If an opponent wins, they’ll be hog-tied.

Money and power

21 03 2018

The military dictatorship’s “election” campaigning is intensifying. It is a campaign to strengthen the regime, whether it goes to an “election” or just remains in power through “election delays.” The intensity of the campaign and related action suggests a regime feeling stressed and worried about its capacity to retain power.

As we have noted several times, the military regime has been pouring money into the electorate. Its latest effort involves a plan to “inject 30 billion baht into more than 82,000 villages nationwide…”. This effort reeks of the so-called populism that the regime once criticized but has readily embraced as a means to retain power.

In fact, the regime has a “supplementary budget of 150 billion baht approved in January by the cabinet to spur the grassroots economy.” In other words, the 30 billion is just a part of the regime’s new “election” fund. Its going to rain money, especially in rural electorates.

The National Legislative Assembly will shortly endorse the supplementary budget with the regime urging NLA deliberation now, declaring “it is essential to disburse funds that can spur investment and the economy in general under the government’s Pracharath people-state partnership scheme.” That’s just one of the junta’s electoral campaigning fund.

Meanwhile, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha continues his personal campaign for nomination at prime minister following the junta’s “election,” should it decide to allow one. He’s visiting the northeast.

While campaigning, The Dictator still had time to use Article 44 to sack anti-election election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn. Somchai is a bright yellow election commissioner who has come to clash with the junta because he wants to keep his job but the regime is dismissing all commissioners. Presumably the junta finds the current commissioners, already under-strength, a little too unpredictable when it comes to its delayed “election.”

Somchai paints himself as a martyr, declaring: “It’s been an honour to reveal the face of the NCPO.” In fact, Somchai had a large role in preparing the political ground for the 2014 military coup, and feels the regime should be rewarding him, not appointing a new EC. He should be apologizing for his role in bringing the military dictatorship to power.

Then there’s the military arm of the junta. Army boss and junta member Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart has gone a bit crazy after Nitirat member Worachet Pakeerut raised the specter of a 1992-like uprising if The Dictator becomes an outsider premier following an “election.” Gen Chalermchai demands that no one speak of The Dictator’s political desire.

Drunken sailors and soldiers

2 02 2018

In seeking to bolster its “popularity” and electoral appeal, the military dictatorship is spending like a ship full of drunken sailors (well, a massage parlor full of soldiers).

The Nation reports that the Agriculture, Interior and other ministries will shortly begin spending 47 billion baht on The Dictator’s “Thai Niyom” development program That’s about 670,000 baht for every village and community in the country. We are always pleased to see funds flow to the poor but this looks more like a hastily cobbled together vote buying program seemingly developed just in the past few weeks (or the time of the Deputy Dictator’s luxury watch problems). If Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra parties could be accused of populism for programs that were taken to the electorate, what’s this large bucket of money?

Another program has had longer term planning. It also involves a heck of a lot more taxpayer loot: almost 1 trillion baht. The Bangkok Post reports that the junta’s cabinet “has approved 168 infrastructure development projects worth a combined 989 billion baht for its flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme.”

Interestingly, the military is in for its cut. The report observes: “government spending will account for 30%, with public-private partnerships making up 59%, state-owned enterprises 10% and the Royal Thai Army 1%.” The junta has stuffed state enterprises with its cronies. The navy isn’t listed, but it has a project in this scheme as well. Almost all of this investment (minus commissions and cuts) will be shoveled into formerly pro-Puea Thai Party electoral districts.

Such spending is calculated to bring electoral and popularity gains for soldiers who will fill their pockets along the way. More luxury watches?

Further updated: Prem votes for Prayuth (maybe)

28 12 2017

The President of the king’s Privy Council, General Prem Tinsulanonda, a former but never elected military prime minister and, more recently, a leader of anti-Thaksin Shinawatra forces and a coup planner, has redoubled his love for the military dictatorship.

Khaosod reports that the junta’s annual New Year visit to pay homage to the coup-master saw a public and mutual love-fest among these military opponents of a democratic Thailand.

The report states that Prem “showered the ruling junta … with his praise and support.” And why not. They are his boys doing his work for him.

Prem “blessed” the dictators and stated that “the public would be on the side of junta chairman Prayuth ‘Tuu’ Chan-ocha as long as he keeps working for the greater good.” He said:

Tuu has used up nearly all of his reserve forces. He barely has any reserves yet… But if you show the goodwill you have for the Thai people, more reserves will show up. Therefore, please stick to your goals, so that you will have more reserves….

I’d like to express my admiration and pride for the works that Tuu’s government has done…. I’d like to also stress on Tuu’s words that he will bring happiness to Thai people. He must commit to this goal, no matter how exhausted he is.

Prem apparently nominated Prime Minister’s Office secretary-general General Vilas Arunsri as a future prime minister: “You can easily become a prime minister because you work closely with Prayuth…”. That’s a tip worth following.

While it is no longer entirely clear how much the aged Prem speaks for the Privy Council or for the palace, his opinion still carries political weight, clearly Prem is voting for continued military domination that mirrors his own time in the top job.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post has some important additions to the Khaosod report. It adds that Prem “warned Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha Thursday that he has lost much of his support base but still has a chance to win the public over by serving as a positive role model.”

Prayuth is reported to have “responded by indicating he has a list of populist policy plans up his sleeve including some aimed at improving stagnating wage levels.” More plans and more giveaways?

Prem said that The Dictator “must stick to this goal and be determined to do everything in his power to make the public happier…”. And he continued: “I hope he stays true and attracts more supporters. Tu can do it, we can do it, too — and we are doing it…”.

Update 2: One of the odd things about social media debate on Prem’s talk with The Dictator is the the glee with which anti-coup types greet the seemingly negative comments. It strikes us as odd because both Prem and Prayuth are peas in a pod, even if there are times when they maneuver around each other. They each agree on the way “forward.” But Prem seems unhappy with the ever-extending “roadmap.” He wants more senators beholden to him whenever the “election” comes and he wants Prayuth to hold an “election” before the junta becomes politically rancid, thus ensuring authoritarianism or Thai-style democracy is Thailand’s political system into the future. Prayuth seems less keen. In any case, it remains to be explained who Prem speaks for these days.

The junta’s “election” stitch up II

27 12 2017

The “election” stitch-up continues and has gathered pace as The Dictator and his junta have handed out tons of what it calls “gifts” to the people-cum-voters.

The Bangkok Post reports that the policy corruption populism “gifts” include:

The Commerce Ministry joining with malls and manufacturers in cutting product prices by as much as 80% to 4 January, including consumer products, consumables, electrical appliances and gift hampers. The cost seems to be about 10 billion baht.

The Energy Ministry and PTT Plc will hand out half a kilogramme of rice to motorists who fill up at 1,500 PTT gas stations nationwide from 1 January for as long as stocks last. nationwide from Jan 1 until supply lasts. PTT is expected to buy rice locally.

The Agriculture Ministry is selling cheap pork, chicken, eggs and vegetables as well as plants and seeds.

The state’s GH Bank will “give a 1,000-baht cash rebate to good customers who owe not more than 1 million baht and repay their debts on time over the past 48 months.” An estimated 165,000 customers will benefit costing up to 165 million baht.

The state’s Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives will “give a cashback equivalent to 30% of the interest paid in 2018 to some 2.3 million small debtors with outstanding debts of less than 300,000 baht each.” In addition, “[r]egistered low-income earners may also borrow up to 2 million baht from state banks at low interest rates to buy houses.” The low-rate loans are set to cost 30 billion baht. Government officials can also get cheap loans.

Another Bangkok Post story of the big giveaways links them to an “election.” Campaigning in Phitsanulok and Sukhothai, General Prayuth Chan-ocha said he’d consider local development programs and would  prioritize infrastructure projects in the north “covering not only air but also land infrastructure, water management, tourism promotion and value addition to farm products.”

In all the junta’s “cabinet meeting approved 85 projects or activities as ‘New Year presents’ for the people, including tax breaks for tourism spending in 55 provinces nationwide next year, low-interest loans for low-income people in the South and technology training programmes for the elderly and the disabled.”

An op-ed refers to a list of gifts ranging from “a 5% income tax cut for small- and medium-sized enterprises and handouts to 850,000 rubber farmers of 1,000 baht per rai in 2014, to freezing the cooking gas price, cutting rental fees for farmers who lease state land, and providing tax breaks for shoppers and holiday makers in 2015, and the re-emergence of the tax deduction scheme and one-time cash handouts worth 12.8 billion baht to low-income people…”.

It continues:

welfare cards for the poor which cost at least 40 billion baht a year, the government has introduced tax deductions on expenditure for local tourism in second-tier tourist destination provinces, expanded the Pracharath broadband internet network to cover 24,700 villages nationwide, and launched multi-billion-baht development projects.

While it might be good for the poor to get support from the state, we can only ponder the hypocrisy of a regime and its curiously silent anti-democrat supporters who went berserk just a few short years ago, railing against vote-buying through populism and policy corruption.

But hypocrisy has been a defining characteristic of the junta and its anti-democrat fans. It’s all about extending military oppression and repression via a rigged “election” or other means.