Prem and the junta

26 08 2015

Former unelected prime minister and current President of the king’s Privy Council General Prem Tinsulanonda has celebrated his 95th birthday by, in the words of a Khaosod headline, showering praise on the military junta.

Prem and his boys

There’s no surprise in that. After all, Prem is essentially the “godfather” of the military brass and has long preferred military-dominated regimes. The aged meddler stated:

“Today is a day that I am very proud, happy and confident, to see the prime minister, Khun Pom and all military branches displaying their love, unity, sacrifice and loyalty for the people to see,” Prem said, referring to Prayuth [Chan-ocha’s] deputy Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan by his nickname.

In a display of mutual back massage, Prayuth “thanked” Prem for his “contributions” to the nation. He declared: “You are most loyal to the nation, the religion, and the King, which earns you respect and admiration, and you have become a role model for us…”.

Prem returned the praise from his boys, “referring to Prayuth and his Prawit by their nicknames – Tuu and Pom, respectively.”

The palace’s political position has always been clear over the past decade or so.

Updated: Still no election II

31 07 2015

In an earlier post we noted that Suthep Thaugsuban’s return to political activism had caused some concern amongst the military dictatorship. Indeed, some have warned him and his anti-democrats to remain politically quiet.

However, despite the fact that the military dictatorship bans political opponents from meeting, it allowed the anti-democrat cabal-cum-“foundation” to meet and hold a press conference.

The double standards were made clear when puppet member of the National Reform Council and long-time Thaksin Shinawatra opponent Paiboon Nititawan supporting Suthep, stating it is “Suthep’s right… to express his opinion…”. Of course, he would not say that for his opponents.

That press conference, led by Suthep, resulted in a declaration that they wanted the military dictatorship to “accomplish its reform goals before elections are held, no matter how long the process takes.”

NRC secretary-general Alongkorn Ponlaboot also supported Suthep and reckoned that some “reform” could be “done quickly, and some may be take many years, such as reforms about corruption.” He added that “reforms of all aspects should not take more than four years, because it’s a mission for this government and the next government.” It remains unclear if the “next government” would be an elected government.

Some in the junta will probably agree with Suthep yet they also drew a response, with the usually rather quiet General Anupong Paojinda mumbling that the junta’s “roadmap” is still in place with an election probably/maybe/anybody’s guess sometime late in 2016.

Update: Thanks to a report at The Nation, the support for Suthep and his “foundation” within the military regime is much clearer. That report is about Suthep’s announcement that the failed former foreign minister and yellow shirt activist Kasit Piromya is to act as a “foreign-affairs representative of the People’s Democratic Reform Foundation with the goal of forging a mutual understanding between Thailand and the international community.”

Kasit was a failure in this role when foreign minister under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime so there is no likelihood that he will be more successful for a bunch of anti-democrats. Yet it is the comments from Panitan Wattanayagorn that are most revealing.

Panitan, routinely described as an “international-relations academic from Chulalongkorn University” when he has no identifiable impact as an academic, is really a stooge for the military, acting as “a key adviser to Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.”

When Panitan says that “Kasit would likely act in favour of national interests and not for any particular group, including the current military-led government” he is stating the military junta’s position. His view on the anti-democrat’s “foundation” is the junta’s position: “It’s not unusual for a non-political, pro-society foundation to help build a better understanding towards Thailand for outsiders.”

Of course, Panitan’s claims are lies and spin, but they are also an accurate reflection of the alliance that exists, and has long existed, between the anti-democrats and the royalist military clique.

Readjusting politics and news

14 06 2015

A few recent news reports deserve some comment as they are about the military dictatorship readjusting its attitude as it tries to prepare the ground for a longer period in total control.

First, about a week ago, PPT posted that a report at Khaosod English on the minimum wage is potentially defining of the military dictatorship.

In that report, Ministy of Labour permanent secretary Nakhon Silpa-archa told a seminar that his ministry is “proposing a plan to abandon the country’s daily minimum wage in 2016.” He reckons the “wage is not in line with current labour market situation or inflation rate…”.

A few days later, this account was “corrected.” The Bangkok Post reported that the Ministry of Labor “has clarified any change to the 300-baht national minimum wage will only be in one direction — higher.” It went on to report:

Deputy permanent secretary Arak Prommanee, in his capacity as ministry spokesman, said on Monday earlier reports that the Wage Committee had resolved to scrap the B300 national daily minimum wage and to float the wage were misleading.

“Actually, they were just proposals made by the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida). They were revealed at Friday’s seminar for the sake of discussion. It’s definitely not a resolution of the committee,” he said.

Hmm, the permanent secretary was wrong and misleading? Probably not, but the military junta, as well as reading PPT, probably noticed that this was a politically difficult move when it is looking at a referendum that is meant to legitimize all of its actions and political fiddles. If that doesn’t explain it, then we can only assume that the Ministry is more incompetent and dizzy than ever thought possible.

Second, we note the repeated claims about another coup. Deputy Prime Minister, Defence Minister and junta member General Prawit Wongsuwan has “dismissed speculation that there will be a military coup if chaos erupts when the National Reform Council (NRC) decides whether or not to pass the draft charter.” Like him, PPT does not anticipate “chaos” after the vote. Any coup would be simply a readjustment of the dictatorship, although we don’t see this as required just now.

Yet his second comment was revealing. Speaking of the voting, he stated: “It is nothing. Only a vote will be conducted in parliament.” Prawit is speaking for the junta when he declares that the puppet assembly is inconsequential.

Third and related, The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has added to this by denigrating his own puppet NRC. He states that he wants the NRC replaced by a “national reform steering assembly, saying the body will have legal authority to implement national reforms.”

Prayuth’s view is that “[t]he NRC has been in chaos…”. The Dictator complained that the NRC had failed to “help steer the country forward.” In other words, he reckons the NRC has been insufficiently loyal to the junta. He explains this with a lie: “They come from various groups, from all political colours.” They don’t, but Prayuth is used to all his subordinates following his orders without question or deviation.

To fix this, Prayuth has decided that one of the proposed changes to the interim 2014 charter will mean that the NRC will be dissolved no matter how it votes on the 2015 draft constitution.

The proposed national reform steering assembly will be pretty much a tool of The Dictator, having 200 members appointed by him “to give advice on reforms.”

It seems to us that The Dictator is in for the long haul.

Passports revoked, lese majeste invoked

27 05 2015

A couple of days ago PPT posted on former elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s comments on the links between military and privy council in orchestrating the 2014 military coup.

Thaksin stated that:

The military listened to the Privy Councilors…. When they didn’t want us to stay anymore, they made Suthep [Thaugsuban, leader of anti-government protests] come out, and then had the military help him. Some people from the palace circle also provided help, which made us powerless.

For most observers of Thailand’s politics, this is hardly a startling claim. After all, there is ample evidence of palace circles working against Thaksin from 2005.

But The Dictator is ticked off. He worked hard to create a perception that the palace was not involved in the 2014 coup in the same way that it had actively planned the 2006 putsch.

Not only did self-proclaimed dictator premier General Prayuth Chan-ocha get testy with Thaksin’s claim, but so did a bunch of royalists in the so-called Democrat Party who demanded that Thaksin’s Thai passport be removed from him.

AP reports that “Thai authorities said Wednesday they revoked two passports belonging to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra following an interview he gave in South Korea they said could affect national security.”

Apparently, the malleable folks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided that Thaksin’s comments amounted to several “crimes” against, as the report quotes them, “security, safety and pride.”

In the same report it was facetiously stated that “Deputy government spokesman Maj. Gen. Verachon Sukhonthapatiphak told reporters in Bangkok that Thaksin was not being targeted by the junta. He said the government had to take action after security agencies referred the issue to them.”

Nobody believes such military nonsense. Even less so when it is reported at AFP that “Thai police are investigating whether fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra committed royal defamation in a recent interview…”. Confirming the report, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan asserted that Thaksin’s “remarks were detrimental to the state and the monarchy.”

Thaksin already has several outstanding claims of lese majeste against him, dating back to 2009. It seems he has at least four lese majeste charges outstsnding, and if this accusation becomes a charge, that will be five. That could amount to 60 or more years jail if he ever returned to face the biased and deeply royalist courts.

On the unelected

22 04 2015

As many will have recognized, one of the aims of the draft constitution is to limit the role of elected politicians. This is in line with long-standing royalist ideology.

Hence, is is unsurprising that one of the leaders of the military dictatorship should express support for an unelected premier.

At Khaosod it is reported that the current draft does “not explicitly require Prime Ministers to be elected Members of Parliament. The current draft only stipulates that a Prime Minister be appointed by a majority of MPs.”

General Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy chairman of the junta, has declared that this step away from parliamentary and democratic practice is to allow parliamentarians – who will not all be directly elected – to choose an “appropriate or neutral” person as prime minister “in the event of a political deadlock.”

He added: “I think it is not a big deal at all…”. It probably isn’t when it is considered that Prawit has been party to an illegal seizure of state and is a leader of an authoritarian military regime.

Even one of the puppet members of the  NRC, Direk Tuengfang, can point to the problem:

No one will believe you that such open-ended language will solve any crisis…. It will only open a special opportunity to pressure the parliament. In the end, we will have Prime Ministers who do not come from elections by the people.

Exactly right, and we seldom agree with anyone in the NRC.


Dense dictators II

27 03 2015

General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his junta minions have had what they must think is a bright idea.

As the United Nations, human rights organizations and a few brave protesters have focused on martial law, the military dictatorship’s collective mind has lumbered into “think” mode and decided to replace martial law with a law that is not called martial law but which has all of the same powers. Brilliant!

The Nation reports that states that “he was thinking [sic.] of replacing martial law with other laws including giving himself ‘absolute power’.” He made the point by pointing at his head, suggesting that he really does believe he thinks.

But this is a serious report. The Nation reports that the dictatorial clique want to replace martial law “with either Emergency decree, the Internal Security Act, including Article 44 of the Provisional Constitution, which gives the NCPO head ‘absolute power’.”

Prayuth stated that whatever measure he chooses, the “new law would be equal to martial law…”. Mostly unremarked by human rights organizations, “Article 44 gives the NCPO leader [Prayuth] ‘absolute power’ to issue any order ‘for the sake of reforms in any field, the promotion of unity and harmony amongst the people of the nation, or the prevention, abatement or suppression of any act detrimental to national order or security, royal throne, national economy or public administration, whether the act occurs inside or outside the Kingdom.” That same constitution makes every Order by the military dictatorship “lawful, constitutional and final.”

Deputy Prime Minister and General and member of the junta Prawit Wongsuwan let the cat out of the bag, explaining: “We are trying to reduce pressure. The United Nations asked us to [find a new law].” We would be surprised if the UN did give such advice, but understand that the dullards of the military dictatorship interpret advice that way.

Bombs, red shirts, martial law and torture

19 03 2015

PPT has held off posting on the recent arrest of persons allegedly involved in an incident where a grenade was lobbed into a car park at the Bangkok Criminal Court on 7 March 2015. We held off because, as is often the case under the military dictatorship, the information released appears politically compromised, partial and the details of the case/s contradictory and suspicious. We made similar comments when the police made statements about bombs at Siam Paragon. It has also been a developing story, and our account does not include even a proportion of the material available.

Bomb networkAs much as we’d like to support a movement against the junta, the story the junta and the police are weaving is anything but believable. As seems usual in such cases, the police have a network diagram, which we reproduce here. The previous claims about networks have all proven unfounded and were concocted by military and military-backed regimes for political gain, smearing opponents.

Not coincidentally, along with the bombers’ plot, pinned to red shirts, the military has “discovered” a small cache of weapons, mostly BB guns, in a temple they claim linked to red shirts in the northeast (although, the temple is actually in Saraburi…, but, hey, this is “military intelligence” at work). The really big “evidence” seems to be a pin with Thaksin Shinawatra’s image on it. This sounds like yet another arranged discovery meant to link red shirts to political activism against the military dictatorship. We simply find it impossible to believe a military with a huge record of deception, lies, murder and concoction of “evidence.” We wish there was an organized movement against the military dictatorship.

For PPT, the plot had a whiff of fish from the beginning, which according to the police and military, goes back to the Siam Paragon case. It got even whiffier when The Bangkok Post reported that the military junta was using the “plot” to seek the extradition of Manoon Chaichana (we know him as Anek Chaichana) said to be a lese majeste suspect, from the United States “as he also faces an arrest warrant for his alleged involvement in the grenade attack at the Criminal Court.”

The junta has been trying to extradite lese majeste suspects who have fled the country, but with no success. This is mainly because those other jurisdictions do not recognize the feudal lese majeste law. So tying Manoon to a bombing case seemed rather convenient. Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said the junta “would seek the cooperation of the country where the suspect lives.”

The cops say Manoon “gave financial support for the grenade attack…”. They also mentioned his leadership of the Thai Alliance for Human Rightsand linked the suspects to it. The Thai Alliance for Human Rights was formed in San Francisco in October 2014. The Alliance includes both Anek and Chupong Thithuan, both accused of lese majeste, in multiple cases. The police accuse this group of attempting to “raise public panic.” There are said to be 14 in the group.

One of the early reports on the arrest of the suspects in Thailand also caused us to think of fish. The military claimed to have a tip-off that there was to be an attack on the Court and soldiers lay in wait for the suspects to arrive and throw a grenade into a pretty much vacant car late at night, seemingly not trying to cause any damage. They were promptly arrested after a brief shoot out. Even if the military did have “intelligence,” and they rarely do, this bomb plot seems entirely different from that at Siam Paragon, which was conducted during the day with many people around. The similarity is that neither seemed designed to kill.

Then things got even more smelly when Nattathida Meewangpla was suddenly abducted by the military, who denied it was them, and then produced her – a witness to military crimes – as a suspect in the “bombing plot.” In the Bangkok Post it was reported that police said that “Nattatida was in the same group of people accused of attempting to hire others to launch grenade attacks at five locations in Bangkok last month. Targets included the 11th Infantry Regiment, Lumpini Park, the Chatuchak MRT station, the Criminal Court and the parking lot of the Siam Kempinski Hotel near Bangkok’s Siam Paragon shopping mall.”

Finally, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights claim that some of the suspects have been tortured (see the press release below).

Abduction, torture, lese majeste, police and military. That’s quite a combination. And, it all allows for the maintenance of martial law.

Press Release

Investigation of alleged torture against suspects of the Criminal Court Bomb urged, Martial Law must be lifted

For immediate release on 17 March 2015TLHR

          A bomb exploded inside the compound of the Bangkok Criminal Court on 7 March 2015 and nine suspects have been arrested so far. Today, 17 March 2015, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has received complaints from four of the suspects in this case including Mr. Sansern Sriounruen, Mr. Chanwit Chariyanukul, Mr. Norapat Luephon and Mr. Wichai Yusuk. It was alleged in the complaints that the four suspects had been subjected to torture including being hit, punched, booted in their head, chest, back and threatened with an assault in order to extract information from them. In addition, some suspects were electrocuted leaving visible traces on their skin while being held in custody invoking Martial Law during 9-15 March 2015.

          TLHR is gravely concerned about the use of Martial Law to hold a person in custody and to prevent the person from communicating with his or her relatives and lawyers during the seven days. Previous detentions invoking Martial Law since the coup have taken place in undisclosed facilities and were conducted without transparency and accountability. The latest case of its kind of the detention of Ms. Nutthathida Meewangpla which was made known later that she had been subjected to military custody. The deprivation of liberty of a person invoking Martial Law may give rise to arbitrary exercise of power, torture and ill treatment, and enforced disappearance. Torture inflicted on a person while being held in custody is considered a gross human rights abuse and is a breach to obligations regarding the UN Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) to which Thailand is a state party and was obliged to follow since 1 November 2007.

          TLHR demands the following from concerned agencies;

          1. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) must bring to a halt the invocation of Martial Law to suppress any criminal act since the police are already able to invoke their power as per the Criminal Procedure Code to effectively apply for arrest warrants and to investigate the case.

          2. The Department of Corrections which supervises detention facilities must ensure access to independent and impartial physicians of the four suspects. They along with other suspects in the same case should have access to physical and mental examination so as to create a guarantee against any possibility of being subjected to torture and ill treatment during the time Martial Law is imposed.

          3. The Royal Thai Police must conduct an investigation and collect evidence related to the abuses committed against the four suspects and to bring to justice the perpetrators.

With respect of people’s rights and liberties

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)


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