The Buddhism stand-off

24 02 2017

As we have said several times, PPT has no particular insights on the confrontation that has involved thousands of police and soldiers intent on raiding and searching Wat Dhammakaya. We have posted a couple of times on why this case and is apparently so central for the junta and the broad yellow shirt movement (here, here, here and here).

As we write, it is reported that the temple remains surrounded by several thousand police and soldiers operating under The Dictator’s use of Article 44.

These troops, behind barricades, are supplied with shields, helmets and batons. No one may enter the temple. Those who wish to leave are let out. Data communications to the temple have been cut to prevent those in the temple using social media. This was meant to be a “secret.”

Those in charge of the temple have made an “announcement for followers inside to be prepared” for action by the authorities.

monks

In fact, in the lead-up to the current (renewed) stand-off, there have been several clashes. Even so, while the idea of troops clashing with monks and their supporters seems have caused some concern among the junta, it remains firm on pressing forward. Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan vowed that the search for the temple’s former abbot at the temple compound “will continue no matter how many more weeks or even if a year passes. Authorities are trying to avoid violent confrontations. But it is necessary to continue to enforce the law…”.

Odd alliances are claimed and seen. A Wat Dhammakaya supporter called Aye Phetthong “called on the government to revoke the order which he said has an adverse impact on the country’s image.” He’s also reported as saying that “key figures” from the “yellow-shirt and red-shirt groups” had “entered the grounds of [the] Wat … to ‘protect Buddhism’.” Meanwhile, a fascist and ultra-nationalist monk in Myanmar has offered support to the besieged temple.

Another report, by Reuters, offers some analysis – if that is possible of this situation – and seems to agree with one of PPT’s earlier suggestions, that the military regime and its supporters are intent on protecting the “religion” part of the nationalist-royalist trilogy of Nation, Religion and Monarchy.

The report quotes another with fascist leanings who is close to the junta, Paiboon Nititawan, who declares: “It [the sect] is trying to create unrest and subverting state power…”. That does seem far-fetched, but the political heat is now turned to full and yellow shirts like Paiboon have a history of political fanaticism.

Reuters reminds us of the timeline on these events:

The showdown for control began last year when the Sangha recommended a candidate for Supreme Patriarch with links to Dhammakaya and was under investigation over taxes on a vintage car.

The junta rejected that candidate. Then, when the new king took the throne in December, the law was changed to let him choose a patriarch and ignore the Sangha’s wishes.

Four days after a new patriarch, chosen from Thai Buddhism’s more austere fraternity, was installed the junta declared emergency powers over Dhammakaya.

The junta risks an unraveling of its rule not just on a Buddhist sect, but on several front, mostly because it is treading on the toes of the middle class, its natural (for Thailand) support base. Environmentalists, Buddhists who see themselves as devout, anti-corruption campaigners and similar types are getting the junta runaround and are seeing the hard edge of the regime directed at them. That signals a rising but reluctant opposition to the military’s authoritarianism.





Toys for boys

22 02 2017

PPT has been trying to find a “space” for this post for a few days. Now we have it.

An op-ed at the Bangkok Post comments on Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, who doubles as the Minister for Defense, and his confirmation that “the Royal Thai Navy will spend 13.5 billion baht for one Chinese-made submarine, delivery guaranteed in 2017.” Another 27 billion baht will be paid “for two additional subs have been approved in principle.”

The op-ed states that this is “a disappointing rejection of both public and expert opinion that opposes the long drawn-out plan to equip the navy with submarines on every conceivable ground imaginable.”

That’s about as strong a rejection as possible! It gets stronger, saying the junta’s justification for the sub purchase “should be grounds for immediate cancellation of the order.”

The reason given by the navy “has boiled down to a single reason: neighbouring countries have submarines. This justification is entirely unremarkable.” The author continues: “That other countries have submarines can have no real bearing on Thailand…. But there is no arms race in the region, no palpable threat of war — nothing to justify taking 40 billion baht from the public coffers to begin a brand new military branch.”

The op-ed then mentions other military purchases that have been farces: an aircraft carrier that carries no aircraft that can fly and the army’s dirigible, the ill-fated Sky Dragon that has never been operational and the GT200 magic wand that was said to be a “bomb detector” but was a fake.

No one has ever been held responsible for these (and myriad other) ridiculous purchases. Who got those commissions?

The author concludes:

It is becoming more difficult by the day to shake the thought that the coup of May 2014 was more about the coup-makers than the nation. The junta, the prime minister and every ministry has refused to engage the public on every decision — political, social and economic. The purchase of these costly boats for the navy are often derided as “toys for boys”. The lack of credible justification for the purchase of yet more non-strategic hardware makes that tough to refute.

That seems a reasonable conclusion about an unreasonable regime.





The political double-cross

21 02 2017

In discussing the “resolution” of the stand-off between the military junta and its “friends” protesting a proposed coal-fired power station for the south, PPT had the feeling that the junta had managed to get its political ducks in a row.

It seems not.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has denied that the junta has backed down “from the planned construction of a coal-fired power plant in Krabi but only ‘slowed down’ its implementation.” As he “explained,” the junta was “slowing it down in order to proceed…”. He said the only option was to “build the coal-fired power plant…”. Then he said that perhaps the plant will use “other fuels such as palm oil to replace coal is another topic. In any case, we must build it.”

The first suggestion we recall for palm oil-fired power station in the south came from the Democrat Party. It seemed to want two plants, one with palm oil and the other with natural gas.

On palm oil-fired power stations, read The Guardian (“the maddest energy scheme the world has seen”) and Friends of the Earth’s 2006 position paper. Denuding what remains of the southern forests, adding to the haze and planting palms all over the place is unlikely to do wonders for the environment and tourism.

Back to the General: “The government has not backed down and everything has been carried out according to procedural and legal steps…”. He seems to mean that a new environmental and health impact assessment will be completed.

As an op-ed at the Bangkok Post observes: “What is the point of having the EHIA redone when the decision that the project will go ahead has apparently been made?”

As that op-ed points out, the coal-fired plan had “not been approved by the responsible agency, the Office of Natural Resources and Environment Policy and Planning (ONREP).”

Further, it states that “ONREP said the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) which is in charge of the Krabi power plant project, withdrew its EHIA from consideration by the ONREP’s panel of experts two years ago.”

Despite the “health and environmental impacts study still pending, the National Energy Policy Committee (NEPC) chaired by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, however, gave the project the go-ahead last week.”

Meanwhile, “Egat has also gone ahead and awarded a contract to build the 32-billion-baht plant to a consortium of Power Construction of China and Italian-Thai Development…”.

The conclusion in the op-ed is: “If the project is pre-determined to proceed as stated by the Gen Prawit, it should be presumed that whatever the public has to say about it will not make any difference.”

We wrote about double standards but we can now see we should have discussed the political double-cross. The junta may still be in trouble with its natural political allies.

(As a footnote, we can’t help but think about Rolls Royce, Diageo, Tyco, General Cable, and more.)





Money for nothing II

17 02 2017

In a post a little while ago, PPT had the story of puppet legislators missing in inaction at the National Legislative Assembly. We mentioned Prachatai’s report of an iLaw study of the apparently unconstitutionality of some members of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly. We used the word “apparently” because the details of “leaves” taken are considered “secret.”

At the end of that post we speculated that because “leaves” from the puppet NLA are “secret,” and because The Dictator’s brother is one of those involved, and because the junta’s work is at stake, we expected an announcement that the non-attendees were “on leave.”

Clean hands?

Clean hands?

Sure enough, we already have that statement. The Nation reports that Deputy Dictator and Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has declared that “it is not a problem that General Preecha Chan-o-cha, the former Defence permanent secretary and brother of the prime minister, takes frequent leave from legislative meetings…”. Oddly, he also stated that “a committee is being set up to examine the case.”

And just in case you wondered, General Prawit declared that “Preecha took leave under normal regulations of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)…”.

Of course he did. And, if he didn’t, you can probably bet he has applied now and been approved.

As we understand it, even on leave – for almost all the six months he missed almost all meetings – he still draws his NLA salary that is in excess of 100,000 baht a month.

Money for nothing.

Prawit explained the “situation.” He speculated “that as Preecha also served as the defence permanent secretary he might need to take leave sometimes.”

In any case, the NLA is just a rubber stamp for the junta so missing meetings is hardly an issue for The Dictator and his dictatorship. Demonstrating its puppet status, “Prawit said he had already talked to NLA president Pornpetch Vichitcholchai. Prawit said they found no problems…”.

Still, to launder the record, General Prawit “told Pornpetch to go ahead with setting up a committee to examine the case.”

That will result in a finding that there’s no issue. Junta-led “investigations” of themselves always reach this conclusion.

Naturally enough, General Prawit was loyally supported by “Army Commander General Chalermchai Sittisart also defended the absence of NLA members from legislative meetings, including the PM’s brother.” Chalermchai did admit that the NLA “is far different from a normal House, as it draws members from various professions, many of whom are civil servants, meaning they also have their own work to take care of.” He means its a puppet, rubber stamping hoax legislature.

General Preecha’s record displays considerable evidence of corruption and nepotism. His protection by his brother and the regime is simply one more case of gross double standards.





Quote of the day

10 02 2017

prawitDeputy Dictator, General Prawit Wongsuwan, also junta member, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and coup plotter in 2014, quoted in the Bangkok Post:

Gen Prawit said that since there will never be another coup….

That word he has used is NEVER.

We can hear belly laughs at yet another ridiculous lie.

The capacity of the royalist military for the dumbest of claims is breathtaking.





“Reconciliation” by military committee I

9 02 2017

We assume a report yesterday in The Nation is accurate when it reports that the junta has appointed a “reconciliation committee” composed almost entirely of “military officers and state officials…”.

It states that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “signed an order to appoint members of four committees under one umbrella covering reform, reconciliation, and national strategy.” Prayuth and the junta retain total control of the committees and their process:

Each of the four committees – the national strategy preparation committee, reform preparation committee, reconciliation preparation committee and strategic administration committee – will be chaired by Prayut, with one or two deputy PMs as vice chairman. Most members of the four committees are ministers, state officials, and the president and vice president of [puppet] National Legislative Assembly and [puppet] National Reform Steering Assembly.

We were stunned by The Nation’s wrongheadedness in referring to “outsiders” who “will sit on the reconciliation preparation committee which is the biggest with 33 members.”In fact, the committee will be under Deputy Dictator, General Prawit Wongsuwan, “and includes military top-brass and chiefs of security agencies.”

The alleged “outsiders” are “former charter writers Sujit Boonbongkarn and Anek Laothamatas; Panitan Wattanayagorn, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of political science and an adviser to Prawit; Suthibhand Chirathivat, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of economics, and former Supreme Commander General Boonsang Niampradit.”

Suchit is a determined royalist, one of the grand old men who has served both post coup governments since 2006. Anek has hawked himself to the regime for some time. General Boonsang is, well, a general. The Nation doesn’t say it, but he is an ardent royalist and was a second tier leader of the 2006 coup. Certainly the People’s Alliance for Democracy favored him.

Most bizarrely, the idea that (pseudo)academic-for-hire Panitan is an “outsider” is like calling his boss, General Prawit, an “outsider.” No one is further inside than the disreputable Panitan.

In other words, “reconciliation” is just like an “election” and the “constitution.” It’s all rigged by the generals.





As we said… a junta ruse

7 02 2017

Just a couple of days ago PPT posted on the sudden revelations of “death threats” to The Dictator and Deputy Dictator and their claims that the “assassination” social media posts came from red shirt, republicans “overseas.”

We speculated that the claims were whiffy and suggested to us a plot by the junta to go to the Lao government with “crimes” against the anti-monarchists that did allow extradition. (Lese majeste is not covered by the current extradition treaty.)

As the Bangkok Post reports, that speculation turns out to be pretty accurate.

The junta has determined that “Thai people who fled to Laos to escape lese majeste changes have issued the death threats against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon…”,

That’s according to National Security Council chief General Thawip Netniyom.

We can add at this point in the discussion that General Thawip was appointed only a little over a week ago “to seek a meeting with Laotian officials and work out a deal, which could include the exchange of people sought by each country.”So we can assume, if our speculation is good, that it is General Thawip who has come up with this “brilliant” plot.

So it is no surprise that Thawip says “up to six” Thais in Laos are involved. That’s probably the six he was told to get.

And, of course, “Gen Thawip plans to visit Laos to follow up on the government’s extradition request…”. He adds, “[d]eath threats against important people could lead to another criminal charge.”

Of course they are, whether real or concocted.