Military-led “reconciliation”

23 01 2017

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post reported: on the junta’s plan and bureaucracy for military-led “reconciliation.” It is seemingly a part of the broader 20 year plan that the junta has for the on-going domination of Thailand’s politics it now seems to label as “rounded democratisation.”

We imagine that a “rounded democracy” is something like “Thai-style democracy” or “guided democracy.”

In its highly complex system of committees, super-committees, buzzwords and hocus pocus, the matter of “reconciliation” will, according to General Prawit  Wonsuwan, involve “plans to compile opinions from all sides over three months on what should be done to bring about national reconciliation.”

The “brainstorming period” will lead to a report and then “the next step to improve national unity,” involving an MOU, or as The Dictator put it, “a truthful social contract, under which you do what you say.”

This MOU notion has already rejected by the anti-democrats and military allies like Suthep Thaugsuban. Others of his ilk, like Kasit Piromya seem to want the military to sign up to the MOU. His position is supported by others from pro-Thaksin Shinawatra groups who want the military to pledge no more coups and, in some versions, never overthrow a constitution ever again.

Prawit’s response was lame:

“There is no need for the military to sign it. I can assure you that nobody wants to stage a coup, except when the country is mired in conflict and lack of understanding. No soldier wants to do this…. Nobody wants to do this (stage a coup), except when the country is in a stalemate…. I’ll tell you what. Without the people’s support, nobody can stage a coup. There is no need to fear a coup if there is no support for it from the people….

There are several problems with this coup. Leaving aside Prawit’s nonsense self-justification, we know from Thailand’s history that plenty of officers are willing to seize power.

But the broader problem is the notion that “no more coups” is paired with a view that there should be no more overthrowing of the constitution. That’s dumb, now, when Thailand has a terrible draft constitution that is the military’s constitution. In fact, when Prawit says he doesn’t want another coup is because the current junta has set rules that allow only a “rounded democracy” that is no democracy at all and gives all power to the military and monarchy.

The proof of this is the dominance of military brass on the “reconciliation” control committees.

In response to criticism of that from many quarters, Prawit got lamer still, saying “that should not be a problem because the armed forces are politically neutral and they don’t have conflicts with any side.”

We’d be laughing if that wasn’t such buffalo manure. What the senior brass will do is manipulate and manage to get the outcome The Dictator wants.

And what’s that? Two articles in The Nation are virtually advertorials for the junta. In one of them (the other is linked above), PM’s Office Minister Suvit Maesincee, formerly Director of Sasin Institute for Global Affairs at Chulalongkorn University and one of Thaksin’s and Somkid Jatusripitak’s proteges gives a “hint.”

Suvit and Somkid  have collaborated in developing the junta’s 20-year strategy, and Suvit states: “Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s leadership was also a crucial factor in supporting the implementation of the Thailand 4.0 vision.”

We get the message. Thailand’s future is The Dictator’s future and he’s going to be around for some time to come.





Depressing and familiar

17 01 2017

Reading the Bangkok Post this morning seemed like a trip back in time.

One story at the Post has the The Judge Advocate-General’s Department “seeking a further extension to a deadline to challenge a court ruling that revoked the dismissal of former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva from the army reserve.” He allegedly used “fake documents when applying to join the army as a lecturer at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in 1987. The job exempted him from military conscription and gave him the rank of acting sub-lieutenant.”

That story has been around for years now, and Abhisit has been cashiered once in 2012 and then the “Civil Court … ruled in 2015 that … Abhisit had used false documents when he applied for the job and that the Democrat [Party] leader had lacked the necessary qualifications.” An Appeals Court overturned the ruling last year and reinstated Abhisit.

It is a rather simple case that is important to Abhisit because it involves face and status. It is important to his opponents as an example of double standards.

Another Post story has General Prayuth Chan-ocha denying “a report stating the government will revamp the selection system of provincial governors by seeking experts, including those outside the Interior Ministry, to serve in the positions.”

This proposal was apparently recommended by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. Somkid reckoned he wanted “governors who have vision …, expertise, strength, … and initiative.”

As a former Thaksin Shinawatra minister, when CEO governors were promoted, it is easy to see why The Dictator has had to quickly respond to a wildfire of yellow-tinged alarm, denying any plan to change the time-honored, elite-supported manner for controlling local populations.  No “vision” or “initiative” required when repressing and managing the dangerous masses.

A third Bangkok Post story is of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) “investigation” of Thawatchai Anukul’s mysterious death in custody on 29 August 2016. This is the former official said to have worked with members of the elite to acquire land – an “normal” enough thing in Thailand. He somehow ended up being investigated and taken into jail. He then died. A first “investigation” concluded “Thawatchai strangled himself by wrapping his socks around his neck and attaching them to a door hinge.” The problem was that the police’s Institute of Forensic Medicine “reported in its initial autopsy result that Thawatchai died of abdominal haemorrhaging and a ruptured liver from being hit with a solid, blunt object together with asphyxiation from hanging…”.

Now the family says it can’t get an autopsy report because “the findings could not be revealed now as they might affect people involved in the case.” Perhaps results will be available for a court hearing in a month or so.

You get the picture. Impunity, cover-ups and complete incompetence are “normal.”

Yet another Post report is of “reconciliation.” General Prawit Wongsuwan has decided that “political parties and pressure groups will be asked to sign ‘a memorandum of understanding on national reconciliation’ as part of government efforts to heal the political divide…”. At the same time, he scotched discussion of an amnesty.

“Reconciliation” has been on the political agenda since the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. The problem has been that “reconciliation” has not involved justice. This time around, Prawit wants ideas from “representatives from all political parties and groups will be invited to contribute ideas, including academics, legal experts, senior military soldiers, and police officers.” After this the junta will “establish a set of guidelines that will promote unity.”

That sounds like what might be expected for “reconciliation” run by a military junta. As Prawit “explained,” the military can play a role in “reconciliation” processes because the military is not viewed as a party to political conflict! Gen Prawit said: “The military never has enemies. It has no conflict with anyone.”

Democrat Party leader Abhisit declared “there was a need to determine the truth behind political unrest” before reconciliation. He means a truth that suits him.

Perhaps surprisingly, Puea Thai Party and official red shirts were sounding enthusiastic. But, then, they desperately need an election as soon as possible.

Interestingly Puea Thai’s Sudarat Keyuraphan, observed that “success in fostering unity rests on the sincerity of those in power.” She added: “Those in power must show sincerity and maintain impartiality, and must avoid getting themselves involved in conflict themselves. They must listen to all sides equally, rather than invited parties involved in conflict only as a token gesture as before…”.

Related, and at the Bangkok Post, former Thaksin aide Suranand Vejjajiva observes that the military “regime will find it hard to achieve meaningful reconciliation if it is not committed to a return to full democracy and applying the rule of law.” He points out that the military’s “reconciliation” is embedded in the authoritarian “roadmap to democracy” and “its true authoritarian agenda to manipulate political outcomes after a new general election is held either this year or the next.”

Nothing will change the roadmap to authoritarian tutoring over a further 20 years. He says the junta “has to realise that only democracy can pave the way for political reconciliation.”

Suranand’s democracy is not one the military comprehends. It is establishing a 1950s version of Thai-style democracy.

He predicts that “[a]ny future meetings on national reconciliation that Gen Prawit expects to call will end up as a series of shows for the media, if representatives of political parties show up at all.”

That’s been the pattern: impunity, PR and repression. It is depressingly all too familiar.





Believe it or not

27 12 2016

The military dictatorship’s usual pattern when dealing with “conspiracies” is to quickly “capture,” parade “ringleaders” and declare a “network” of “conspirators.” Usually the “conspirators” are declared to be directed by “leaders” overseas.

Since the 2014 military coup, this has been the standard operating procedure for the police and military. People go to jail and little more is heard of their cases or of the supposed conspiracy or network.

With the the passage of the amended and draconian computer crimes law, there were repeated cyber-attacks on easy targets – usually government, police and military websites or databases – the junta went into a bit of a spin. Military cyber warriors were ordered to capture those responsible.

As expected, within days, they had arrested up to nine perpetrators. The announcement was made by deputy premier General Prawit Wongsuwan who called the press together and paraded one “suspect.” It was the military that “arrested” the “suspects.”

PPT has to admit that these speedy arrests immediately caused us to be skeptical. After all, if the military and junta can’t protect their websites and databases even in the most basic ways, why would we believe that they can quickly capture the hackers?

A second thing that caused skepticism is that the country’s police chief has decided to bring attention to himself by taking charge of the “investigation.” That maneuver is usually a dead giveaway that this is a performance rather than an investigation.

A third reason for being skeptical was provided by the police chief, Police General Chakthip Chaijinda, who stated that 19 year-old Natdanai Khongdee was capable of the attacks, saying, “Natdanai was knowledgeable about technology since he had dropped out of a technical college in Bangkok’s Khlong Sam Wa district.” If accurate, this claim hardly seems credible.

The not so bright police added that Natdanai was not just hacking government websites, but was “allegedly in possession of two pistols, a rifle, two gun frames, ammunition, three compressed bars of marijuana and computer sets and accessories when apprehended.” Such claims seem to paint a picture of a “suspect” who does not fit the usual profile – if there is one – of “public interest” hackers.

We may never know the truth of the matter, but waiting to see if the cases just fade away will be telling of another beat-up by the military dictatorship.





Updated: Surveilling everything

15 12 2016

Since the 2014 military coup, the dictatorship has been seeking to control … well … everything. Most significantly, it has been trying to surveil, control and censor the internet.

At the moment, despite massive opposition, the puppet National Legislative is about to pass amendments to make the Computer Crimes Act even more draconian.

The opposition has been in the form of a petition for no other “opposition” is permitted.

censorshipThe Dictator and his puppets have been dissembling. General Prayuth Chan-ocha has:

denied the bill would lead to a single internet gateway, saying it [the revised bill] would allow authorities to track the sources of any posts that were harmful to society…. Otherwise, such posts could  be used to instigate disorder or violence….

The Bangkok Post reports that serial liar puppet junta spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd has also “denied claims that the bill to amend the Computer Crime Act is linked to the single internet gateway proposal.” Specifically, the never-to-be-believed Sansern stated: “This is not true. The government has never had an idea for a single gateway whatsoever…”.

Not now, not ever he declares! Never.

Sansern “added that the bill is aimed at modernising computer crime law to suit changing technologies.” He babbled,, as he usually does, about “cyber threats that affect national security, sending spam, or spreading doctored images and content.” He means “protecting” the monarchy.

The problem for Sansern is that one of his masters, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan declares “the country needs a single internet gateway to cope with ‘information attacks’ launched from other countries…”. He means information on the monarchy.

Gen Prawit blared that “for the sake of our defence” he wants a single gateway.

The Post states that just one of the “most controversial issues” in the revised bill is “a five-member committee will be set up to screen computer information even if it does not violate any law but is considered a breach of ‘public morals’.” They can then block it.

Another threat is the broad definition of “threats”: “those who enter false information into a computer system deemed to damage national security, public safety, economic security, public services and infrastructure, or cause panic among the public.”

According to one lawyer, so-called threats to national security will allow the junta and succeeding regimes will allow them to “censor opinions” and “sue people who voiced their views…”.

One of the responses by the junta has been to double-down, adding new and broad powers to the bill at the last moment.

Update: While an editorial at the Bangkok Post called on the NLA to “uphold its honour by rejecting the deeply flawed draft amendment to the 2007 Computer Crime Act and send it back for further revision,” it dutifully followed the orders of the junta. The notion that the puppet assembly has any honor is quite bizarre. After all, they are the well-paid minions of the dictators. In the end, the “junta’s hand-picked lawmakers, the majority of them military and police officers, voted 168-0 with five abstentions for changes that could give authorities unchallenged authority to police the web and suppress criticism.”





Military on monarchy

10 12 2016

Thailand’s military dictatorship is reportedly arranging “special events” for the new king. This is a part of the military-palace propaganda exercise meant to hoist the new king into a position where he is “revered” (to use the international media’s favorite term for the dead king).

Deputy Prime Minister, junta leader and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan states: “We are in the process of arranging the events,…”. He added:

All of the military personnel are delighted with His Majesty. And they would like to see Thailand have the monarchy institution forever. We need the monarchy to remain as the country’s major institution. The monarchy has always taken good care of Thailand….

You get the picture. This propaganda exercise will require plenty of investment of public funds, whitewashing a poor past, the increased use of lese majeste and other means of repression.





More of the same II

7 12 2016

The new reign is just like the old reign in terms of lese majeste repression. Indeed, we think the two overlap considerably. If one looks at the lese majeste cases over the last year or so, it is clear that the focus had shifted to the then prince. We fear that the repression is now going to be deeper and darker.

The cases of lese majeste are likely to be many as the palace and junta attempt to erase all critical commentary on the new king.

The Bangkok Post reports that the “government [they mean the military junta] plans to take legal action against the Thai team of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for its recent online report on the profile of … King … Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun.”bbc

General Prawit Wongsuwan said “the target was people behind the report on the BBC Thai website.” This is the report that has caused a lese majeste charge against activist student Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa.

The pudgy royalist general “confirmed he ordered authorities to investigate into the matter.” He also stated that the military junta is “monitoring them [foreign news agencies] and check[ing] the accuracy of such reports” that offer critical commentary on the new and prickly king.

The junta’s minions have been hard at work blocking “stories both in Thai and English on the BBC and BBC Thai websites…”. The BBC Thai Facebook page is still operating.

PPT has also noticed considerable effort to block us.

It is also reported that police goons have been to the “BBC Thai office at Maneeya Building on Phloenchit Road in Bangkok on Tuesday and found it closed.” The Post has an unnamed source saying that “the Technology Crime Suppression Division under the Royal Thai Police said the division was gathering evidence regarding the BBC Thai report, which could be deemed violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law, and the Computer Crime Act.”

It will only get worse.





Making up the story for the new king

1 12 2016

Is it just us or does it seem odd to some others that the journalist writing the Bangkok Post’s “Long Live the King” articles lauding the new king is the Post’s military reporter?

In a series of articles, Wassana Nanuam has been purveying palace and junta propaganda about the crown prince-about-to-be-king. It is so santized that we are not sure she’s writing it or just running it out for the junta and/or palace.

In the latest article at the Bangkok Post she “confides” that “Deputy Prime Minister [General] Prawit Wongsuwon yesterday revealed that … Crown Prince … Vajiralongkorn has agreed to become the new [k]ing, pending an official invitation, as admiration and joy from people greeted the news of the start of the process toward a new reign.”

“Joy.” We guess nothing else is permitted to be said.

She bubbles on as if the prince’s past poor behavior is forgotten: “exhilaration and happiness greeted the news of the start of the process leading to the new reign.”

“Exhilaration and happiness.” We guess nothing else is permitted to be said.

Quoting a punter, Wassana states, and this is the way the junta wants it, the alleged “infinite love and support for the late King will be extended to the next King.”

Forget the strange behavior, naked pictures of consorts, extravagance and violence. The aura of the late king, manufactured over decades is going to be magically transferred to the new king. We guess that lese majeste will ensure that.

So it is that this nonsense continues quoting “average” citizens declaring love, faith, respect and unwavering support for the new king.

The junta is desperate to suck up the dead king’s manufactured hegemonic image for the prince as he becomes king.