Updated: Nothing seems to change

19 02 2019

The reporting over the last few days seems to suggest little has changed in over a decade of military coups, elected governments illegally thrown out, scores of deaths and mass street demonstrations.

In observing this, we are leaving aside the continuing speculation regarding Thaksin Shinawatra’s failed bid to make a (semi-) royal fruitcake a prime minister. Those guesses range on a spectrum from the events were out of the box to ordinary, that they weakened the king or made him stronger, that the king knew what was going on or he didn’t, and even resurrect some perspectives from the 1950s to try to explain various scenarios. And there’s still the misleading view that Thailand is somewhere on a road to democracy. And that’s all from the same source in several articles.

But back to the nothing-much-changes idea.

First, we see The Dictator showing himself for his Palang Pracharath Party and the party using his picture on campaign posters while he remains deeply engaged in all kinds of state activities, spending and so on.

Meanwhile, his former boss, brother-in-arms and Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda has “defended his [now] boss … by insisting that junta leader-cum-Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha should not step down before the royal coronation takes place in two months.”

Here the point being made to the electorate is that only The Dictator and the military can be “trusted” as loyalists. It was the anti-democrats of the People’s Alliance fro Democracy that proclaimed loyalty as a political issue of the era by donning royal yellow.

Second, to make the point about loyalty, none other than anti-democrat Suthep Thaugsuban is quoted as declaring that only a vote for his party (and pro-junta parties) “can prevent Thaksin Shinawatra from returning to power through its proxy parties…”. That’s a refrain widely heard from the anti-democrats for over a decade. And, Suthep appears to be admitting the electoral strength of the pro-Thaksin parties, something seen in every election from 2000 to 2011, when elections were free and fair.

Suthep’s claims that the anti-democrats could keep Thaksin’s “proxies” out saw him drawing on the experience of the repressive actions of the junta in forcing through its 2016 constitution draft in a “referendum.” Perhaps he expects/hopes for similar cheating in the junta’s “election.”

And third, Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong, who himself wielded war weapons against red shirt protesters in 2010, and who refuses to rule out another coup, has again declared that he will not be controlled by “evil” politicians.

After the military budget increasing 24% under the junta, the notion that it might be cut by an elected government prompted the evil but loyal Gen Apirat to order the “ultra-rightist song ‘Nak Phaendin’ [Scum of the land] to be aired every day on 160 Army radio stations across the country…”. This anti-communist song from the 1970s – another period when the military murdered hundreds in the name of the monarchy – was to be played twice a day. It was also to be played at the Ministry of Defense and and in all Army barracks:

The Army chief reasoned [PPT thinks that word is incorrect] earlier that the anthem broadcast was aimed at encouraging everyone to be aware of their duties and responsibilities towards the country.

The “duties” he means are to protect the monarchy and murder opponents of the military-monarchy alliance.

He was supported by Deputy Dictator, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who supported the notion that politicians are “eveil” and deserve death at the hands of murderous loyalists. He said: “Listen to the song that the Army chief mentioned. Listen to it.”

Apirat partially revoked the order later, with the song continuing to be broadcast inside the Army Command at noon. As former Thammasat rector and historian Charnvit Kasetsiri expressed it,

Other than calling for a return to absolute monarchy, they’re now rehearsing ‘Scum of the Earth,’ too? History will repeat itself if we don’t learn from it. And where will that path take us? Better or worse?

It leaves Thailand in its ultra-conservative, ultra-royalist time warp.

Clearly, the Army commander and the Defense Minister are campaigning against pro-Thaksin parties and for The Dictator and the party of the rightists, Palang Pracharat.

That’s not new. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, then head of the Army, demanded that voters reject Thaksin parties in 2011. However, this time, the threat is louder, nastier and very, very threatening.

Nothing much changes.

Update: PPT noticed that the Election Commission has issued a warning that “posting text, sharing or commenting on messages that defame political candidates violates the Computer Crime Act.” So how will the EC respond to Gen Apirat’s condemnation of Puea Thai and other pro-Thaksin parties as “scum” and actively campaigning against them? As a puppet agency our guess is that it will do nothing.

On the cheating campaign trail

17 02 2019

Thai PBS recently reported that The Dictator, in his role as prime minister “toured Bangkok’s … Chatuchak weekend market today (Saturday) and chatted with both vendors and shoppers.”

In fact, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was campaigning for his Palang Pracharath Party.

As the party’s prime ministerial candidate, he was “[a]ccompanied by Deputy Prime Minister [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwan, Interior Minister [Gen] Anupong Paochinda and Deputy Transport Minister Pairin Chuchotethavorn…”.

The campaign message is clear, with the current and future prime minister appearing with the two generals who were with him in defeating the red shirts and overthrowing the last elected government. The old team is united, loyal  and ready to rule for another four years.

The Dictator stated that “the current Pheu Thai- Palang Prachart conflict spurred him on.” That is, only the devil party can defeat the disloyal Thaksinites.

Junta thugs threaten pro-election activists

22 01 2019

While Prachatai reported that pro-election activists avoided a clash with the newly-reformed anti-democrats and X-men who oppose pressuring the king to endorse the election decree, one pro-election activist was attacked.

Akechai Hongkangwarn was attacked and bashed by three men and another issuing orders to the attackers. He was “assaulted … after leaving a rally demanding timely elections…”.

An ardent junta critic and former lese majeste prisoner, Akechai said “three men wearing motorcycle helmets attacked him at about 7pm after he left the campus to eat dinner. He sustained wounds to his head, face and arm.”

He added that “the assailants only fled after a group of Asian tourists rushed to his aid.”

Junta thugs have been tailing and attacking Akechai for some time. They are likely to acting on the orders of military supporters of Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

The junta’s campaign double standards

10 01 2019

With rumors that a royal decree is due at any moment, parties are continuing to campaign and the military junta is continuing to cheat.

The most recent example is the sudden withdrawal of permission for the Puea Thai Party to use a sports stadium for a campaign rally in Phayao.

Out of the blue, the Phayao Provincial Administration Organization withdrew its previous permission to allow use of the sports stadium to be used. Suddenly, the PAO discovered – was told – that this could not be done. Hurriedly, the PAO decided to “explain” this by declaring that allowing the party to use the government stadium “would give the party an unfair advantage over other political parties.”

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, confirmed that he was lying when he said that he knew nothing of this but then declared “he believed the PAO acted according to the law.”

Knew nothing but knew it was legal. Yeah, right. Baldfaced lying has been a a defining feature of fascists worldwide, and so it is in Thailand.

He was caught out when reporters asked him why it was that the junta’s devil party, Palang Pracharath, had been able to use a government facility in Phayao for a campaign rally, the lying general suddenly decided that the whole thing was a provincial affair.

Double standards? You bet, big ones.

Cheating? Of course.

Rigging the election? Yes, still rigging.

“Election” date unknown I

9 01 2019

There’s very heavy blocking going on in Thailand at present, suggesting that the confusion over the “election” is raising angst within the junta and its puppet agencies.

The Nation points out the all too obvious: the “much-anticipated Royal Decree on the election, which will allow the Election Commission to fix the poll date, has yet to be issued…”.  It was promised by the junta for 2 January. So far, nothing.

The junta has been mumbling about the need not to interfere with the king’s coronation, which was suddenly announced on 1 January.

What is The Dictator’s position on delaying his “election”? When asked, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said “he did not know when it [royal decree] would be published in the Royal Gazette.” He added: “It will be when it will be…. I haven’t said anything about a delay or no delay.” He has no idea. He’s stuck between a rock and the palace.

He then got irritated, saying: “All the countries I have visited, they understand [about coronation]. So, what do you want from me?” We weren’t aware that he had visited any countries since 1 January. Or is it that he already told foreign leaders about a poll delay before he told the Thai people? We doubt this and don’t think Gen Prayuth knows what’s going on in the palace or, if he does, he’s not going to say anything.

While the Deputy Dictator and serial luxury watch “borrower” Gen Prawit Wongsuwan “guaranteed” that his junta’s “election” would be held by 9 May, he hid the cause of the delay – lack of a royal decree – Gen Prawit hid behind the EC: “He … said that the authority to set the poll date rests with the EC.”

Catch-22: EC can’t do anything until there’s a royal decree. Why there is no royal decree? It seems that neo-feudal Thailand prevents the question and cannot allow an answer, at least in public.

The EC is at least maintaining a public image of pressuring for a royal decree to be issued. EC president Ittiporn Boonpracong made the position clear: “We don’t have any election date model and we’re waiting for the royal decree…”. No royal decree, no election date, and no election.

And around and around we go.

Reaction to the NACC’s Prawit decision II

29 12 2018

The Nation reports “widespread criticism after the [National Anti-Corruption Commission] commissioners decided to drop charges against [Gen] Prawit [Wongsuwan]’s controversial collection of 22 luxury watches…”.

A Bangkok Post editorial states the NACC ruling “is unconvincing and dubious due to its weak rationale behind the decision and and its half-baked probe into the case.” It adds that “given its half-hearted commitment to pursue the case in the first place, the public has reason to suspect that the intention was to let the deputy prime minister and defence minister off the hook easily.”

Interestingly, the Post points to a similar case where an official was convicted:

In 2011, when it probed former transport permanent secretary Supoj Saplom’s possession of an undeclared asset, a 2.9-million-baht car, which he claimed belonged to a friend, the NACC ruled against him, saying such high-value lending was not possible. It also ruled that Supoj was guilty because he was the one who actually used the car, even though the registration papers stated that his friend was the owner….

Conveniently for Gen Prawit and the military junta, the NACC now seems to have reversed itself and it now says that holding and using watches worth millions is okay.

Other reactions:

Anti-corruption activist Srisuwan Junya … issued a statement … alleging malfeasance on the part of the five commissioners who had found Prawit innocent and declared he had gathered 20,000 signatures to get them sacked.

Activist Veera Somkwamkid said … he will file [a] lawsuit against the NACC for letting Prawit walk free.

Meanwhile, Puea Thai Party deputy spokesman Wattanarak Suranatyut asked if others face a similar situation do they now just say the valuable item is “borrowed” from a “friend“?

The Democrat Party’s Charnchai Issarasenarak said “the NACC appeared to have found an excuse for General Prawit, instead of finding facts regarding the controversial collection.” He added: “The NACC was incapable of finding facts about the 25 watches. This is a disgrace for the agency and could end up being a catastrophe for it…”. Worse for the NACC, Charnchai”accused the NACC of lying to the public by claiming it could not find out who had bought these watches.”

In another Bangkok Post report, Khattiyaa Sawasidipol, deputy spokesperson of Thai Raksa Chart, said “the NACC’s resolution would allow people suspected of assets concealment to cite being on loan as an excuse.”

In The Nation’s report, the NACC is reported as “defending” its decision. NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon insisted its decision was “based on evidence shown in the case file…”.

That is about as weak as it can get. However, it matters little for the puppet NACC. It does as it is told and then returns to its protective shell – the military junta.

Reaction to the NACC’s Prawit decision I

28 12 2018

The Bangkok Post has a story reporting negative reaction to the National Anti-Corruption Commission decision to clear Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. It states the NACC:

found itself in the hot seat after it cleared Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon of wrongdoing in the luxury watch scandal, ruling by a majority vote that he did not make a false asset declaration.

It cites Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, who said:

the NACC failed to show transparency in investigating the case. It did not say what the charges were and initially declared Gen Prawit did not evade asset declaration. It was only after reporters asked whether he could be violating the law about accepting a gift of over 3,000 baht that the NACC said it was another issue.

… He also questioned the investigation process and conclusions of the NACC. “We can ask whether the laws contained loopholes for the asset declaration requirement. In that case, the laws need to be amended,” he said, adding that he wanted to see the individual verdict report of the five NACC members who cleared Gen Prawit of wrongdoing, and the three members who only said there was not enough evidence.

“In the justice procedure, the defendants can say anything but it depends on whether police seek to find the truth or not. Likewise, today we have to look into how the NACC works. But for the defendant, society has judged him already,” Mr Mana said.

The ruling was denounced by activist Thicha Nanakorn. She referred to: “This unscrupulous act by the NACC and the political office-holder will go down in history…”.

There’s more on the NACC “investigation.” On the diamond rings the NACC seems to have considered “some were considered lucky charms.” What does that mean? No value?

The NACC reckons it “sought information from various sources including local dealers of luxury brand watches, the Customs Department, the Foreign Ministry, and from overseas luxury watch manufacturers.” Why and about what is not clear.

An interesting aspect of this report is that while the NACC only located 20 watches, it apparently found scant evidence of the dead business tycoon having purchased the watches:

The investigators found Mr Patthawat bought one from a dealer overseas and two from other people. The NACC could not find purchase documents for the remaining watches and with dealers overseas refusing to give information the agency could not verify the origin of the rest.

This is why the NACC could only assume that the watches actually belonged  to the businessman. That assumption led to NACC concluded “he lent the 21 watches to Gen Prawit.”

Quite an “investigation.”