Promoting political allies II

15 09 2016

A few days ago, PPT posted on the rise of the new Army boss General Chalermchai Sittisart.

It seems the Bangkok Post’s military correspondent essentially agrees with us. Wassana Nanuam reckons that The Dictator’s promotion of Chalermchai was a “bold move [that] has surprised many.”

As we said, there should be no surprise as The Dictator is selecting a man “well-suited with what he called ‘the current situation’.” She means well-suited to managing the military junta’s continued control of politics, “election” or not.

Chalermchai is not from the Burapha Phayak clique, having never “served in the 21st Infantry Regiment (Queen’s Guard) nor the 2nd Infantry Division where Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha] and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon grew into their military careers.”

But Chalermchai is well “qualified” for repressing the junta’s opponents. The new boss “is from the ‘red beret’ Special Warfare Command (SWC) where he had served in intelligence and secret services throughout his career.” He served on the Thailand-Cambodia border during the Khmer Rouge era meaning he probably made a reasonable amount of money.

He also served under another red beret, General Surayud Chulanont, now a privy councilor. The report says he “formed a close bond with Gen Surayud.” That bond and links to the queen have been critical for Chalermchai’s rise.

Gen Chalermchai’s is not due for retirement until September 2018 meaning Gen Prayuth can expect “stability within the army…”. The report states that “[s]uch stability is important for Gen Prayut if he becomes a non-elected prime minister of an elected government.”

Chalermchai’s appointment is also a sign that Prayuth “wants to maintain close ties with Gen Surayud and strengthen relations with the Si Sao Thewes clique of Privy Council president [General] Prem Tinsulanonda.”





Updated: Promoting political allies I

10 09 2016

Military watchers in several media outlets seem to think that the selection of the next Army boss was “out of the box” because the choice was not from the dominant faction.

The Bangkok Post reported General Chalermchai Sitthisart’s appointment as causing friction between General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his elder, General Prawit Wongsuwan. Prawit is said to have wanted another officer.

The Post reckons The Dictator “went for an army chief from outside of the ‘Tiger of the East’ ranks to quash the growing assumption of a leadership monopoly which could sow seeds of distrust and stoke conflict within the army.”

The argument was that “unity in the force has never been more important at a time when the country is transitioning back to democratic rule…”.

That’s where we got lost. No such transition is likely. What drives The Dictator and his junta is making sure that they control Thailand’s faux democracy after an “election.”

Unity means loyalty and a deep determination to defeat the Thaksin Shinawatra “regime.”

This is why the other key appointment is Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong as commander of the 1st Region Army. Apirat has shown a merciless hatred of the red shirts. He will shoot to kill if required.

That kind of loyalty is critical to the junta’s political ambitions into the future.

Another report at Reuters was a little odd. It states:

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Friday endorsed a new army chief in an annual reshuffle, an appointment from outside the faction that has dominated the army for several years, surprising some experts.

We don’t think the king could do anything like this while hooked up to myriad life support systems. How are such “endorsements” occurring? Who is signing? No regent has been appointed so the assumption is that the king is able and understands what’s happening. That seems unlikely.

Update: The Bangkok Post has more on General Chalermchai’s appointment. It identifies him as a member of the “red beret” special army combat unit. It states that he is “known to enjoy the support of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda and privy councillor and former prime minister Gen Surayud Chulanont, who is also a red beret.”





A regime in decline

19 08 2016

We at PPT have feeling that the military dictatorship has entered a period of decline. It is a “feeling” so we may well be wrong. After all, decrepit regimes can hold on for years,

In the present, we discern a regime that may have engineered a referendum victory, but which is now lost in its own machinations, repression and lack of intellectual capacity for arranging its political future other than by further repression.

Such blunt instruments can work, but a regime that intends to convert itself into an “elected” regime needs to display a little intelligence, some strategic thinking and an ability for a different kind of politics.

This regime displays none of these characteristics. In fact it is probably the dullest and least intelligent regime we at PPT can recall.

Evidence for this is seen in tow recent reports.

The first is associated with bombings, or so we thought. The 15 or 17 suspects in the recent bombings are suddenly not bombers but plotters in the overthrow of the military-royal regime.

Deputy Prime Minister, General Prawit Wongsuwon has, as if there had been no earlier reports, denied that the “17 detained southern bombing suspects” were involved in any of that, He now says they were “involved in other activities against his National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the bumbling junta].”

As if Thailand has entered a time warp, police say the 17 are “communists.” Yes, seriously, that is what this bunch of dolts have invented,

The most elderly group of “13 men and four women” included leaders of an “anti-coup movement: no one had ever heard of before.

 

The “Revolutionary Front for Democracy Party” are claimed to be “hardcore reds” who have been “active in Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani provinces and allegedly coordinated by masterminds who were influential politicians in southern border provinces.” The inventive authorities say this is a “nationwide network, except in the lower South.” At the same time, they are not red shirts.

No sensible person can believe such inventive, throwback nonsense. The inventiveness of the regime is so ridiculous that we wonder if they are taking mind altering drugs. Of course, they have invented several conspiracies in the past and jailed people but have seldom brought anyone to trial. It is all the junta’s 1960s style counterinsurgency reborn in 2016.

The second story has to do with student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa. His story has to rank in the pantheon of junta duplicity and legal invention and manipulation as one of its most scurrilous pieces of work.

Not that long ago, the junta was declaring that the hunger striking student activist should take the bail offer the puppet courts had offered, stop his hunger strike and go home.

He had been “detained for 13 days since the police arrested him on 6 August when he handed out anti-draft charter flyers at a market in Phu Khiao [in Chaiyaphum].” Following the arrest, he “started a hunger strike because he asserted that his activity is lawful. The police indicted him under Article 61(2) of the the controversial Referendum Act for allegedly distributing materials that distorted the draft’s content.”

On Friday, 19 August 2016, the anti-junta activist from the pro-democracy Dao Din group accepted the bail offer. However, junta thugs immediately re-arrested him on new charges.

We can hardly think of a nuttier move. After all, the junta had been keen to end his hunger strike. Now he’s back in jail.

This kind of buffoonery suggests the junta is in a spin and that may easily be a downward spiral. It can’t  be soon enough as the regime is a disastrous and nasty joke  inflicted on a people who deserve better.





Further updated: Bombs and politics

13 08 2016

As usual, when there have been significant bombings in Thailand, the authorities immediately discount international terror and southern separatists.

This denial is almost a Pavlovian response by the elite and rulers to maintain the environment they feel encourages foreign investment and tourism, which have been the lifeblood of their wealth for decades.

Now, some time after the bombings and fires, more information on the military dictatorship’s response is available. Much of the early journalism, including by “academics,” was speculative.

To date, no group has claimed responsibility for the incidents. CNN and BBC are on a loop, referring to the explanations of Thai officials focusing on local politics.

At the Bangkok Post, it is made clear that, as with the Erawan bombing a year ago, the first likely culprits on the junta’s list are political opponents:

Authorities are giving weight to the theory that anti-regime elements were behind the deadly coordinated bombings and arson attacks that rocked the South and the resort city of Hua Hin from Thursday to Friday.

Apparently a meeting of security officials chaired by Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, guessed that “political issues topped the possible cause of the attacks.” As the post reports an anonymous source,

This could be the work of opponents of the regime or those who wanted to discredit the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which seems to have gained more popularity based on last Sunday’s referendum on the military-backed draft charter, in which most people voted in favour of the constitution….

As others have also claimed, national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda said that domestic politics was the source of the attacks because “the attacks took place in the provinces where the majority voted in favour of the draft charter and … those attacks were aimed at damaging the government’s handling of politics, tourism and the economy.”

He claimed that “the investigation” suggested to him that “the incidents were linked to people who have different political views and may be connected to the violence in the deep South due to the similar use of improvised explosive devices…”.

There’s been little evidence of such links in the past.

General Prawit “ruled out a spread of violence from the far South as a cause of the attacks…”. He confidently stated: “This motive can be discarded. I confirm this is not the case.”

It is this kind of declaration without investigation that suggests that the military itself may be involved. (Our view is that the junta’s loyal forces are probably wasn’t involved, based on its previous actions. However, disgruntled groups in the military, with extensive links in the south cannot be ruled out.)

Some in the junta’s administration apparently thought that if its not local political opponents then international terrorism is “the second possible cause, … noting there are reports of Islamic State (IS) activities in Malaysia…”. Indeed, the Post states that a “source at the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry said the SIM cards in the mobile phones used to detonate the bombs were from Malaysia.”

General Prawit was aggressive, declaring that he would “bring those responsible for the attacks to justice. He then lied: “I will have the perpetrators arrested. We succeeded in making arrests every time, and will also do so [this time].”

Of course, if it is “local politics,” the military has seldom arrested anyone at all.

The Post says Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha “refused to pinpoint the motive behind the attack, saying the investigation is still under way.” That sounds good, except that it is not true, as the Post makes clear:

I want you to think what happened before and after the referendum. Why did the incidents take place when the country is getting better and moving towards improving its economy and tourism. I must ask, who are the ones who do not want these things to happen? Who are they? Find them for me….

In the same statement, officially released, Prayuth pointed a finger at domestic political opponents.

Junta pimp , Panitan Wattanayagorn “said both domestic and foreign intelligence warned of possible violence before the referendum…. Thai authorities deployed officials to keep tabs on suspects and nothing bad had happened, except some violence in the far South.”

Is he saying there was a failure of security officials?

Meanwhile, the Post reports a cause for wider concerns:

A source in the 4th Region army said the attacks were the work of political groups connected to a political base in the South. An order was made to carry out attacks in the popular tourist destinations as well as key business zones in the South and in Bangkok.

As usual, it sounds like the “official” response is confused, confusing and potentially scary.

Update 1: The Guardian has an interesting editorial on the bombs in Thailand and domestic politics.

Update 2: New Mandala has a useful post on bombs and the south. Well worth reading. It also has an earlier post speculating on who might be involved.





The military party

10 08 2016

It seems like only yesterday that we wrote:

Now that the military junta has had its way with the referendum and anti-democratic charter, its next task is to ensure that it gets the government it wants in place. We can see two possibilities: a new military-backed party or a coalition of anti-democrats, loosely organized around a revamped Democrat Party and probably sans Abhisit Vejjajiva.

It was the day before yesterday….

When we updated that post we said:

The junta has declared that there will be an election in 2017, but likely in December rather than July. And, apparently responding to PPT, has also stated that it will not establish a political party. Believe them? We don’t.

How much things change in just 48 hours. Or, they don’t, and the junta and The Dictator remain inveterate liars.

Here’s the Bangkok Post today:

One day after Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon indicated no military involvement in politics, plans were announced for a pro-coup political party to back Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as the post-election prime minister.

No surprises in this for anyone.

Nor is there any surprise that the new military party grows out of the anti-democratic, ultra-nationalist, royalist and statist Buddhist and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movements:

The self-appointed leader of the new pro-military party is Paiboon Nititawan, a Buddhist activist who was a member of Gen Prayut’s original National Reform Council, formed in May, 2014, but now defunct.

Since then, he has been known mainly as a strong campaigner against the Dhammakaya sect, opposing the official nominee for Supreme Patriarch. He is closely aligned with the activist Buddhist monk and Bangkok Shutdown leader Phra Buddha Isara.

On Monday Mr Paiboon announced his intention to set up a party and run in the next general election for the House of Representatives.

He called for “retired” military officers to join his party.

Welcome to the era of strongmen, military politicians and repression. (Yes, we know, this began more than two years ago.)





Getting the junta a vote

6 08 2016

With The Dictator dressing in military uniform to display the junta’s demands for a Yes vote, it is also seen that the military regime is using all of the state’s vast resources to get its desired outcome.

The Bangkok Post reports that the junta “has pulled in all its resources, including provincial governors and military officers, to ensure it meets its ambitious target of a 70% ‘yes’ vote in Sunday’s referendum, according to government sources.”

Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan have been hard at work mobilizing the resources of two of the major ministries. They control a vast number of troops and administrative officers “which are the key machines to canvass for votes.”

The Interior Ministry established “a special panel to mobilise public relations campaigns for the referendum” in May, populated not just by officials but by “Election Commission deputy secretary-general Sawaeng Boonmee [who] assumed an advisory role on the panel.”

The panel tasks set up “provincial and district sub-panels handling the referendum campaign, organising the training of people assigned to teach locals about the draft charter’s contents, as well as launching public relations campaigns on the draft.” It is claimed that “[m]ore than 700,000 people [kamnan, village headmen, public health volunteers and teachers] have been deployed to explain the draft charter to locals in 5,903 communities and 74,588 villages across the country.”

Given that almost no one knows much about the contents of the military’s draft charter, this has been a massive propaganda exercise.

The ministries have also sent people out villages and communities “to survey the possible number of people who would come out to vote and educate them about the draft’s advantages.” (This contradicts the dictatorship, which denies surveying.)

The Post quotes a “source” as saying: “Verbal warnings [threats] have been issued that in any areas found to have low voter turnouts, local villagers, kamnan and village headmen risk being removed or changed.”

It also notes that “[p]rovincial governors are assigned to make sure public relations campaigns are proceeding as planned, while police have been instructed to ensure there will be no activities against the referendum…”. The junta has appointed, transferred and removed several “provincial governors and police station superintendents … across the country to make sure those in charge are supportive of the government…”.

They are also tasked with ensuring that “politicians” – they mean former elected politicians and members of political parties – “in each area have been obstructed from playing any roles on issues related to the draft charter…”.

Teachers have also been mobilized. The report states that: “Many of them underwent training on the draft charter and were urged to pass the word on to parents through their students…”.

All state agencies have been told to monitor their staff and report those “who fail to cast a vote to provincial authorities…”.

The charter referendum is a junta exercise in repression, threats, surveillance and propaganda. The way to oppose this is obviously a No vote.





Dictators say vote for dictators

2 08 2016

The military dictatorship continues to repress red shirts and other opponents of its anti-democratic charter and as royalist university administrations do their job and prevent students and activists discussing the daft charter.

The repression is unrelenting.

Meanwhile, the junta’s minions are begging for support from voters in the illegitimate referendum that is meant to legitimize authoritarianism.

Meechai Ruchupan, chairman of the junta’s handpicked Constitution Drafting Committee, is reported in The Nation coming up with the bizarre statement that “it’s dangerous to trust politicians…”.

It’s dangerous to trust military politicians, juntas and generals. They have the track record of murdering Thailand’s citizens with impunity and of deep political corruption 9defined not as it is in Thailand, but in the rest of the world).

In doublespeak, the junta’s politicians are busy urging “voters to use their own judgement and not allow politicians to influence their decisions when casting their ballot in Sunday’s referendum on the new constitution.”

Junta unelected politicians crudely define themselves as angels and former elected politicians as devils; it is the way of authoritarian regimes, twisting meanings while they repress and oppress.

Meechai believes it is only elected politicians who have “conflicts of interest regarding the new constitution.” Ludicrous and illogical nonsense is the way of authoritarian hirees, twisting meanings while supporting repression and oppression.

Meechai is a disingenuous and partisan royalist and military politician and has been for decades.

Then another confirmed liar, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan continued his lies, declaring falsely that “the government had not conducted surveys to determine the possible results of Sunday’s vote.”

Prawit also “dismissed a rumour that military personnel had been ordered to vote for the draft charter.” Never believe a general when he says his underlings are “free.” Their training is to follow their leaders. That’s why the military tortures and kills recruits.

 

Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda joined the disingenuous gang saying that “nobody should be able to tell them [voters] how to vote.” The junta has been telling people how to vote for over two years. He babbled about democracy.

Military ally and devoted anti-democrat Suthep Thaugsuban predictably supported the most anti-democratic charter in Thailand’s modern history.