The military on top

24 04 2017

A couple of days ago, we commented on yellow shirt commentators who see military dictatorship as “normal” for Thailand. Many yellow shirts believe that the military is the only thing standing between them, an election and the hated Thaksin Shinawatra.

Naturally enough, the military junta plays on this relationship, seeing the anti-democrats as its best political ally, so long as they know their place as supporters, not leaders. The military considers that it is uniquely qualified to rule Thailand. That is why the 2017 constitution is as it is.

The Nation reports that Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has expressed the junta’s view that the military must remain on top.

Making the argument that Thailand is “unique,” he says this means “it is necessary to have military commanders oversee a long-term national strategy…”. That “strategy” is to remain in place for 20 years.

The proposed committee to oversee the “strategy” will include “the prime minister, his deputy or another minister, the presidents of the Upper and Lower houses, experts, as well as five military commanders and a permanent secretary of the Defence Ministry.”

Let’s add that up. We don’t know how many “experts” will be appointed, but they will likely reflect a military view of the political world. The prime minister is likely to be military, but suited up as civilian. It is possible that “his deputy” will be military similarly suited. The president of the mostly unelected upper house will almost certainly be military. Then there will be five serving military and the permanent secretary.

Any civilian politician will be lucky to get a word in.

Prawit can babble about “[n]ational strategy need[ing] to be driven by all parties, whether the military, people or academics…”, but the dominance of the military is clear.

What is “unique” about Thailand is its capacity for military authoritarianism.





Another “plot” against the junta

9 04 2017

In an earlier post citing Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan on why the constitution did not mean that political parties could again become active, he said there was too much “trouble” still going on.

We wondered if he meant a tiny but convenient bomb? Or that “assassination plot” for which no evidence has been produced? Or the rusty bunch of weapons claimed “seized” from red shirts that became a sparkling bunch of newer weapons after the military had the “suspects” and “evidence” for a while? Or the Wat Dhammakaya debacle?

What we missed was another dastardly plot by the nebulous “opposition.” The junta’s spokesman, Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd revealed a wicked conspiracy involving a supposedly bogus “set of nine restrictions for the Songkran holiday…”. These restrictions “prohibited Songkran revellers from wearing tight and revealing clothes and using high-pressure water guns and hoses…”.

Lt Gen Sansern cried that “groups with ill intentions were capitalising on the controversial traffic rules to undermine the administration.”

He added: “Some groups want to discredit the government by linking these [alleged nine restrictions] with the new traffic regulations and a ban on water throwing on [main] roads.”

Let’s get this right…. The junta issued new traffic rules that were then modified, delayed or something like that. Then a plot has developed, circulating bogus rules to make the junta look even worse. Got it?

Well, not quite. “Lt Gen Sansern said that some of the bogus restrictions were ‘guidelines’ made by the cabinet during previous years of the Songkran festival.”

Confused? You bet. Anyway, his point is that, no matter what things the junta has actually done, there’s a conspiracy to make it look bad. Perhaps he should look in the mirror.





Nothing changed II

7 04 2017

And how’s that promised “election” coming along?

The Nation reports that “Deputy Prime Minister [Deputy Dictator] and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said the controls [on political parties] might stay in place because the country’s political situation has not yet settled down.”

There’s a novel idea: “elections” without parties or their campaigning. Maybe voting can be done with blindfolds on and throwing darts at a giant target with “junta” written on it.

Prawit reflected that: “Things are still not alright now. We want more time and we want all the parties to help. Do not make trouble or it will be more difficult for us to make a decision…”.

We wonder if he’s thinking about that tiny but convenient bomb? Or perhaps that “assassination plot” for which no substantive evidence has been produced? Or the rusty bunch of weapons “seized” from red shirts that became a sparkling bunch of newer weapons after the military had the “suspects” and “evidence” for a while? Or maybe Wat Dhammakaya, although that all seems back to “junta normal.”

Prawit declared: “I’m responsible for security issues. I need time to work on this and everyone should cooperate with us too…. It’s not going to work if things are stirred up like this.”

Translated that means the junta will decided when to hold its “election” and who will “win.” That’s the way it has been since the coup.





Updated: Moving from military dictatorship to military domination

5 04 2017

The Bangkok Post quotes the junta and its minions in saying that a “general election will be held in November next year [2018] at the latest now that the date has been set for the promulgation of Thailand’s 20th constitution, according to the roadmap set by the National Council for Peace and Order[they mean military junta].”

That calculation is based on a “schedule announced in the Royal Gazette on Monday,” which has the king finally and with great pomposity, signing the junta’s much amended and still secret constitution tomorrow.

By that calculation, an “election,” under the junta’s rules and direction, must be held “19 months from that date or no later than Nov 6, 2018.”

Frankly, given that the junta promised “elections” 12 months after it illegally seized power in May 2014, we will believe it when it happens.

But as we have said before, the “elections” will change very little. A few countries like the USA will accept a military-backed but formalistic “elected government,” and that will be seen by some as a plus.

In fact, as planned at the moment, the military and junta will remain the power in Thailand, much as it was through the 1980s. But back then it was General Prem Tinsulanonda ruling with strong palace-backing and a military-dominated senate. This time it will be whoever the junta wants in the premier’s seat backed by the junta’s constitution and its multiple unelected bodies, including the unelected junta.

The Dictator seems reasonably sure that the constitution will be signed tomorrow: “As far as I know, [the king] will sign the constitution on April 6 and I will countersign it as prime minister…”.

Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan appeared somewhat disoriented in his comments. Acknowledging that Article 44 powers will continue, he babbled that the “power cannot be used in violation of the core principles of the constitution. Nor can it change the new charter itself.” Of course, that would depend on interpretations by the Constitutional Court and other bodies developed by and beholden to the junta.

Then on the ban on political party activity, Meechai seemed befuddled, saying he “believes it will be eased after the political party bill is enacted” and then adding: “In any case, they can run their normal operation.” We are not sure what “normal” is and we are sure that the parties don’t know either.

Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesman of The Dictator, noted that:

Members of the cabinet, NCPO [junta], NLA [puppet assembly] and NRSA [puppet National Reform Steering Assembly] who want to run for MPs must resign within 90 days after the new charter comes into effect. The rule applies only to MPs, not senators or cabinet ministers.

He added: “Once the constitution comes into effect, enacting a law will be more complicated and public hearings and opinions of related government agencies must be taken into consideration…”.

It will be “more complicated” for the junta even if the “complications” were designed by the junta. But Article 44 doesn’t get complicated at all. It just stays and its use is legal before and after “elections.”

In the end, the junta’s road map is a representation of how to move from military dictatorship to continued military domination of politics. That’s the plan, the road map. We retain some hope that the people will reject the dons of the military mafia.

Update: Meechai was certainly addled on political parties, so the junta has made things clear. Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan said “restrictions on political parties’ activities will not be eased even after the enactment of the new constitution.” He added: “Please wait until things become orderly. There is still about one year left [before the poll is held]…”. About a year? Or about two years? The Nation reckons the election date remains unclear.





Updated: More corruption allegations

28 03 2017

While there is no news to report regarding Rolls Royce and other related corruption cases, there are more allegations of corruption facing the junta. These are not charges of fabricating plots and murders, but about state action and inaction.

The first story is about wealthy minor prince and former junta minion (two juntas, in fact, the one resulting from the 2006coup and from the 2014 coup).

Former deputy prime minister Pridiyathorn Devakula has very publicly complained about an “irregular move by the military” to “form a national oil corporation that he said would have unrestrained power.”

The National Legislative Assembly has rejigged a Petroleum Bill “in its second and third readings” to “centralise all authority in the management and allocation of national energy in one organisation.” Pridiyathorn says a “group of military officers was behind the addition…”.

He adds that they tried it before, when he was deputy prime minister. He says they were “six former high-ranking military officers in the NLA…”.

He asks: “Why does it emerge in the second reading, and why does the cabinet let it happen?” The answer is that the corrupt military men want to further enrich themselves.

Pridiyathorn explains: “Such a corporation with rights to all petroleum sources in the country could do more than one may imagine. It could organise bidding contests, or even form subsidiaries.” He adds: “When regulation and operation rest within one organisation, who will do the scrutiny? Finally, we cannot control it.” Then as a “good” person of high birth, he adds the bogey: “If politicians later influence it, you will be sorry…”.

Right. But for the moment, it is a bunch of military politicians who will make more money than they thought possible.

The second story is from the anti-corruption activist Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution. He focuses on borders and the Cambodian border in particular. He claims that “Deputy Prime Minister [General] Prawit Wongsuwon and 2nd Army commander Lt Gen Wichai Saejorhor of neglect of duty in allowing a casino to be built by Cambodian investors in a disputed border area was filed with the Ombudsman on Monday.”

Borders are the preserve of the corrupt military, allowing considerable wealth accumulation. Borders are, as shown during the past few governments, politically important in Thailand. Srisuwan claims that by “allowing private individuals to invest in a gambling business in the area, the agencies responsible had committed malfeasance, causing damage to society and the country…”.

Both are potentially explosive claims. However, the junta will ambiguate and threaten the media that reports any news that they think destabilize their grip on power.

Update: The Dictator blinked on oil, sort of. He “has rejected the idea of having the Defence Energy Department initially run the national oil corporation if it is to be set up.” He acknowledged that the “idea” for a national company came from “the Thai Energy Reform group led by Rossana Tositrakul, ML Kornkasiwat Kasemsri and Panthep Puapongphan.” All are paid-up yellow shirts and ultra-nationalists. Prayuth kept the idea of a national company open, but not run by the military, at least not for this moment.

On a casino in a disputed border area, the claim has been denied, as expected, but ultra-nationalists are at work again.





Lies and impunity

22 03 2017

The story about the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae gets more unlikely by the day. Of course, it was never a “likely” story, we are just emphasizing that its getting ragged and ridiculous. Ragged and ridiculous is a standard strategy used by the police and military when they murder citizens and need a cover story, no matter how ridiculous.

In our last post, we quoted some dopey police spokesman claiming that Chaiyapoom “was shot dead by a soldier in Chiang Mai last Friday as he tried to attack him with a hand grenade.” That spokesman “insisted” there “was no foul play behind Chaiyapoom’s death.” This official version of the story was supported by a junta spokesman.

The story has now changed as the military dissembles. Reacting to massive criticism on social media, The Dictator has ordered a “probe” into the death. By whom, we are just not sure, but we would guess its those with impunity seeking to grant impunity to their minion murderers.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan weighed in. He knows what happened:

… he had received a report from Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart, which said officials had to protect themselves as the suspect had intended to throw a grenade that was found at the scene.

“What can they do? The officials also fear dying,” Prawit said, when told the suspect was a youth activist.

That’s pretty clear. Meanwhile,

Army spokesman Winthai Suvaree said the case would be handled in accordance with legal procedures, adding that officials involved in the operation had to give testimony justifying their actions and police would proceed with their investigation, he said.

As we have said many times recently, there is no justice in Thailand and legal procedures are ways to grant impunity.

Winthai knows what happened:

“If the relatives [of Chaiyapoom] have doubts over the investigation and the case, they can have lawyers raise inquiries during the investigation and court trial,” Winthai said. “The army is ready to make the case clear and give justice to all.”

If only the poor in Thailand could afford to buy the “justice” the rich purchase. If only the poor had an institutional system that worked for them rather than the murderous thugs working for the military dictatorship.

The military’s report states a soldier is charged with something or other, but there are no details. The report says this:

Soldiers stopped, searched and found 2,800 methamphetamine pills in a car in which Chaiyapoom and his friend were riding. The soldiers took the two into custody, but Chaiyapoom broke away and was about to throw a grenade at the troops, prompting the soldier to shoot.

According to Col Winthai in an earlier report on Monday, the soldier fired a single shot to kill Chaiyapoom, and no other troops fired.

Col Winthai, who knows what happened, “told reporters the shooting was in self-defence.”

This is different from the original claims. The boy did not throw a grenade.

But there’s more. Prachatai reports that there are other witnesses:

in an interview that Thai PBS broadcasted on 21 March 2017, an anonymous source said several other civilians saw the incident, adding that three gunshots were heard before Chaiyapoom was killed. “Many villagers saw that he was dragged out of the car and beaten. [A soldier] put a foot on his face and fired two shots to intimidate him. When [Chaiyapoom] broke free from the beating and ran, the soldier shot him. They did not allow the villagers to approach the site,” the Thai PBS quoted the anonymous witness as saying.

Based on previous experience, it is likely that the military thugs will be hunting down these witnesses to silence them or, perhaps, charge them with something.

This is how military dictatorships operate.





“Evidence” for an “assassination” plot

22 03 2017

The assassination story, already remarkable, is becoming increasingly stunning for its contradictions.

The Bangkok Post reports: that the junta has now “found” a “movement” working against it and called it “Red Radio.” It claims it has been “for several months been planning to assassinate Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his deputy, Gen Prawit Wongsuwon…”.

Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said “Red Radio” had also been “working to stifle the authorities’ efforts to investigate Wat Phra Dhammakaya by causing unrest there…”.

No one could possibly believe that the junta’s own efforts at Wat Dhammakaya could have caused any unrest there.

Pol Gen Srivara said his lot are “now seeking arrest warrants for six people who are suspected of being involved in the group including red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun, who goes by the alias Kotee and is believed to have taken refuge in neighbouring Laos.”

That seems to be six in addition to the nine already arrested. (We are surprised that they have not been paraded yet, although that usually awaits the passing of seven days in military custody somewhere secret.

Then a claim that it is “not clear whether the group has ties to the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)…”.

The police claim is that “Red Radio” “aims to kill Gen Prayut and Gen Prawit and had been told to attack military, police and other officials during the authorities’ raids on the temple, according to the police investigation.”

And the evidence is….

Our investigation has shown that several of the suspects, detained previously, were spotted at Wat Phra Dhammakaya and nearby Khlong Luang central market, for reasons unknown….

As police investigators have found no link between Mr Wuthipong or Red Radio and the temple, they believe the group’s main goal has been to stir up unrest during the authorities’ operations there….

Yes, that’s “no links,” none, zilch.

The temple itself has “denied any involvement with Mr Wuthipong or the group.”

And, The Dictator is playing down the Wat Dhammakaya link: “Gen Prayut said he was more concerned about the alleged assassination plots and the seizure of weapons of war.” He’s also playing down the size of the “plot,” saying it was small.

Previous reports stated that police said “some of the seized weapons had been taken from soldiers during the violent red-shirt political rallies in mid-town Bangkok in 2010.”

Now, Justice Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana said just one “M16 rifle seized at the weekend has been confirmed to be among the state weapons stolen during the red-shirt protest … in April 2010.”

The story is changing and the evidence is flimsy, but the junta seems rattled.