He who must be obeyed … not

7 12 2018

With The Dictator now the de facto leader of the Palang Pracharath Party as well as being prime minister and head of the military junta, he must be obeyed. Or so he thought.

As reported by both The Nation and the Bangkok Post, the Democrat Party and the Puea Thai Party have rejected the order that they “attend the pre-election dialogue with the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) on Friday…”.

Other parties new parties including Future Forward, Thai Raksa Chart and Puea Chat are also boycotting the meeting.

The Dictator got angry.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, who has rigged the electoral and constitutional framework to ensure that the junta’s favorite parties do well in an unfree and unfair poll, declared:

If parties don’t show up, it means they reject the rules. When the boxers step into the ring, they are summoned by a referee to hear the rules. If they don’t come, the match is off….

Off? The election is off? Or is the meeting off? Why? In fact, the reaction is about face. It makes no difference to Gen Prayuth and his associated devil parties.

In fact, it seems the angry general means that the boycotting parties should not compete in the election, whenever he decides to hold it.

Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan described the parties boycotting as “troublemakers.”

Junta deputy spokeswoman Col Sirichan Ngathong found another way to stick the political knife into the no-shows: “If they don’t join, those who don’t know the details of the meeting discussions should refrain from making criticism. This is a matter of manner[s]…”.

Democrat Party spokesman Thana Chiravinij said “the party decided not to join the meeting in part because political parties were not allowed to voice opinions.” In addition, The Dictator “has also demonstrated an inappropriate attitude and lacked respect for the people.” Other parties have made it clear that it should be the Election Commission calling the meeting. They reject the junta being involved as it is not a disinterested party, actively campaigning for devil parties for months and months.

Monarchy, junta and a refugee II

4 12 2018

A couple of days ago PPT linked to a despicable tale of Thailand’s junta flouting international norms by detaining an accredited refugee from Australia. Hakeem Al-Araibi, a footballer, was detained at Bangkok’s international airport on an Interpol red notice issued at Bahrain’s request.

The Bangkok Post has noticed the case and has an editorial that states that “the detention is not just legal but conforms in all ways to international norms.” The are citing Immigration Police chief Big Joke (yes, that’s his nickname), Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn, a junta minion, close to Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

We are not sure either the Post or Big Joke are correct on this claim about “legality.” After all, Big Joke has previously engaged in illegal and dubious international interventions. In addition, as the Post points out, “case is almost completely opaque.”

In addition, as the Post notes, “Interpol notices are not legally binding, but simply indicate a request from one country to all others for help with alleged fugitives,” meaning claims about “legality” are buffalo manure or a big and sad joke.

So why does the military junta do this? Here’s the reason, as explained by the Post:

The problem is that Araibi is a legal refugee in Australia who is wanted in Bahrain, where he was persecuted and tortured for his political views about the monarchy of that country.

It adds that Big Joke is an “agent of an attempt to merely curry favour with an undemocratic Middle Eastern government.” In fact, Bahrain is about as democratic as Thailand under the military dictatorship and both are more-or-less autocratic monarchies. That fact speaks loudly in this case.

On the junta’s senate

4 12 2018

The senate selection process belongs to the junta. This is why so few people “nominated.” To be selected, one needs to be a junta crony or one of its potential or actual political ally.

The Election Commission’s Jarungvith Phumma has said that just “7,210 people have applied to compete in the contest and the turnout is much lower than the EC expected.” It is stated that the EC expected at least 30,000 candidates. Another report has it that the EC had previously predicted “90,000 to 100,000 applicants from all over the country…”.

Confirming our view, “Chartchai Na Chiangmai, a member of the [puppet] Constitution Drafting Committee, said the low turnout could be because the candidates are not sure if they will eventually be picked by the regime.” And, many felt that the junta had already chosen its representatives for the senate. As Chartchai put it: “They [potential applicants] see no motivation for them to apply. They are sceptical [and see ] that in the end the NCPO [junta] may not appoint them…”.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that this “process” costs the taxpayer up to Bt1.3 billion.

The senate

An earlier Bangkok Post report explained that the junta is still in the process of setting up a secret committee to secretly consider the appointees for the senate.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the junta “will appoint between nine and 12 people to the committee that will oversee the selection of the 194 senators.” He revealed that few of these will “come from an open selection process as there might be too many applicants, which would make vetting their qualifications difficult.” Rather, the junta will choose.

One source at the puppet National Legislative Assembly is reported as saying “[p]otential appointees include the army’s top brass, political post-holders and businessmen who have close ties to Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha, his deputy [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwan, army chief [Gen] Apirat Kongsompong and NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai.” The senate is likely to look and behave like the puppet NLA.

One year of the luxury watch non-investigation

3 12 2018

The Bangkok Post has to be applauded for its editorial that observes the anniversary of the day “Deputy Prime Minister [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwon showed off his diamonds and a costly watch…” that became more than a score of luxury watches.

The Post points out that the Deputy Dictator had never declared the watches in his assets lists.

He says he borrowed the watches, worth millions each, from a friend who is now dead. Lucky that, for Gen Prawit.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission was meant to “investigate” their boss. The NACC is also headed by a Prawit ally. So, the “investigation” has gone nowhere. The Post observes:

The watch scandal has continued until today. Every couple of months, Mr Worawit issues a statement that the probe will be wrapped up “soon”. Social media users have quickly grown cynical and openly deride the NACC for alleged incompetence.

In fact, the NACC is not incompetent at all. It is corrupt. It is deliberately corrupt, covering up for the junta’s deputy.

The editorial concludes:

Gen Prawit is the highest-ranking regime member caught in corruption suspicion. But other friends of Gen Prayut, including his brother Gen Preecha, also have been excused from the rule of law. It is inexcusable that the NACC refuses timely investigation and release of information to the public. It is far worse when the government allows such conduct.

What we can’t help thinking is how many corruption cases have simply been hushed up? Imagine what it is going to be like if this regime continues for another four or more years. How corrupt will it become when The Dictator has to cover up for his political party as it eats its fill at the taxpayer’s trough?

Military splits on show

22 11 2018

One of The Dictator’s tasks – seldom mentioned – has been to purge the military of those considered unreliable, disloyal, democratic or simply pro-Thaksin Shinawatra.

While the regime has been quite aggressive and successful in this purging of its ranks, occasionally there have been indications of splits remaining within the officer corps.

Most recently, Gen. Yosanant Raicharoen, who served as Deputy Supreme Commander of the Thai Armed Forces until his retirement last month, has criticized the 2014 coup, praised democracy, joined an opposition political party and, horror of horrors, called on the armed forces to “stand with the people.”

Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan was stunned. He lambasted the turncoat general, talking of a “defection.” The rat was described as disloyal, “doing a disservice to the military because of his open criticism…”.

He went on to describe Gen Yosanant as “ungrateful,” saying: “[h]e had been with us all along. Then he suddenly attacked the NCPO. He has clearly forgotten the kindness he received…” from the junta. Prawit described this betrayal as an  act of a chameleon.

Gen Yosanant has declared “[t]he era of ruling a country with dictatorial power is over…”. He added that “[t]he lesson of the coup in the past four years shows that the country is not going anywhere. People suffer. The economy isn’t growing.”

In response, Gen Prawit was incredulous:

He’s an adult now. He’s already retired. He has so much wisdom and has spent so much time with his subordinates. Yet he’s criticizing the NCPO now. Why is he speaking just now?

Prawit seemed concerned that Yosanant might spill the beans on the military and the junta: “… bringing out internal matters into conversation in a bad way is wrong…”.

We can imagine that the junta is now combing its ranks in search of other chameleons.

Military responsible for torture and murder in its own ranks

10 11 2018

Under the military dictatorship, the National Human Rights Commission is a neutered agency. Its fall into non-independence can be traced to a series of events over the period of political conflict, but most notably its alliance with the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime in 2009-11 when stewarded by Amara Pongsapich,. Her tenure at the helm of the NHRC was a disaster for human rights in Thailand.

Even so, there are odd rays of light from the NHRC. Most recently, The Nation reports that the military’s “beating of military draftees is a violation of their rights” according to the NHRC. It has “called on the Army to set guidelines for appropriate ways to punish infractions.” It also called for “regulations establishing the level of aid and remedial measures given the families of soldiers injured or killed while being punished.”

That last bit is an admission that the military continues to kill recruits in using enhanced disciplinary measures that have been most recently defended by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. Essentially, they have claimed that recruits who die are simply not tough enough.

The NHRC findings result from “an NHRC probe into two recent cases – the caning and kicking of a soldier at the Royal Thai Army Cavalry Centre in November 2016 and the fatal beating of conscripted Private Yuthinan Boonniam at a military detention facility in Surat Thani in April 2017.”

These cases amount to torture and murder.

The military brass involved is protected by the impunity attached to the men with weapons.

All used up

8 11 2018

When the royalist establishment deemed it crucial that it oppose elected governments, it supported the creation of “movements” with allegedly “charismatic” leaders, using “civil society” to bring down those governments. Backing them were royalists from business, including the giant conglomerates, and the military.

First there was Sondhi Limthongkul and the People’s Alliance for Democracy. It drew on considerable middle class discontent with Thaksin Shinawatra and his regime but was driven by royalist ideology.

After a series of false starts, the second great “movement” was the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, led by the royalist anti-democrats of the Democrat Party and fronted by Suthep Thaugsuban.

Of course, neither movement was able to bring down the elected governments. That required military coups in 2006 and 2014.

When they had done their work, the fact of their invention by the royalist strategists of the military, business and palace was seen in the manner in which the “movements” vaporized once their usefulness was over.

And, look at the leaders. Both had a capacity to mobilize supporters and this worried many in the military. At the same time, the military knew that it “deserved” to be on top and that the upstarts they created had to know their place.

Sondhi was targeted for what was either an assassination bid or a brutal warning to know his place. No one was ever charged, but it is interesting that the media at the time suggested that both Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda were considered “suspects” in the Sondhi shooting.

Suthep thought he was a “star” and “popular,” but the military put him in his place following the 2014 coup, having to enter the monkhood. While Suthep is back and campaigning for his Action Coalition for Thailand (ACT) Party, it seems his “movement” has evaporated and his capacity for garnering the political limelight has been lost under the military junta. Interestingly, this return is a backflip and, according to one op-ed, not popular with his former PDRC supporters (and presumably its backers).

The op-ed continues: “… Suthep seems to have overestimated his popularity, thinking it could be on par with the backing he received from PDRC supporters during the time he led the street protests.” He was disappointed: “his recent jaunts in several areas to recruit members for the party have apparently received a cold response.” This caused “core PDRC supporter Arthit Ourairat … calling for Mr Suthep and other PDRC leaders who have joined ACT to stop their political activities.” Arthit might have poured money into the PDRC but is an ardent anti-democrat and probably is 100% behind The Dictator’s bid for extended power. Tellingly, the man who funded and funneled money to Suthep and PDRC reckons that “people ‘no longer believed them’.”

Anti-democrats want a military-dominated regime and Suthep’s usefulness, like Sondhi’s before him, is over. Suthep’s response will be interesting as his face, position and wealth depend on state links.