8 years is too long

1 07 2022

Yesterday, we mentioned that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha seemed to be expressing doubts about continuing in office.

Now there’s another expression of doubt.

Deputy Prime Minister and usually the general’s reliable legal backers, Wissanu Krea-ngam saying he has doubts regarding his boss’s tenure and premier. He reportedly included himself among the “doubters” on the general’s 8-year term when he “encouraged those who may wonder whether … Prayut … will have spent a maximum of eight years in power by the upcoming August to call on the Constitutional Court for judgement.”

The court spins in the wind following the ruling elite’s wishes and usually supports the status quo. all members of which were handpicked by a coup junta under leadership of Prayut as army chief who then named himself prime minister. The report observes: “all members [of the court] … were handpicked by a coup junta under leadership of Prayut as army chief who then named himself prime minister.”

But, is the elite turning against the general?

Wissanu reportedly said that “Prayut’s eight-year tenure as maximally provided by law will almost certainly raise a bone of contention, thus prompting those who may have doubts about it to file a petition to the Constitutional Court to judge.”

He also said that “government agencies including the Council of State and the Secretariat to the Prime Minister as well as public attorneys may be told by the premier to find out an answer to this question so that he could get himself well-prepared.”

Prayut’s 8 years is up in August.

The constitution’s section 158 states: “The Prime Minister shall not hold office for more than eight years in total, whether or not holding consecutive term.” Seems clear enough.





“Unity” through massive security

1 07 2022

The Bangkok Post reports on Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha talking to the Federation of Thai Industries in Chiang Mai, where he compared the country to a (functionalist) vehicle. He stated:

“Thailand is like a massive car that moves 70 million people forward to the global stage. The government’s job is to keep the engines running smoothly to ensure convenience for the passengers.

I am listening but can’t hear

“We’re in the same vehicle. We need to push it along even when it’s in bad shape. But who will lead it is another story.

Is he saying he’s gone?

“He said the country needed greater unity and that he was committed to working for everyone’s interests while ramping up its competitiveness.”

If he’s pessimistic about his future, perhaps he’s reflecting the fact that to visit Chiang Mai, he required a security force of some 2,000. That’s how “unity” is achieved! But, “the sheer force of both uniform and plainclothes officers failed to stop the protests.” They dogged him at every stop on his itinerary.





Updated: 90 years after 1932

24 06 2022

On this day, like may others, PPT remembers 24 June 1932. On that day, the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) executed a well-planned Revolution to end the absolute power of the monarchy.

The inspiration of 1932 for the monarchy reform movement of recent years is crystal clear.

The palace, royalists and military have worked long and hard to erase it from the national historical memory. Indeed, much of the 9th reign was about erasing this memory and Vajiralongkorn and his regime cronies have obliterated statues, changed names, and more in an effort to bury memory of a time when monarchy wasn’t paramount.

Back in 2009 on 24 June, PPT marked the 1932 Revolution by reprinting the first announcement of the khana ratsadon or People’s Party. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Banomyong. We have done it on most anniversaries since then. We won’t today, but readers can click the link above to see it.

That proclamation recalls the thirst for democracy that is the essence of today’s anti-monarchism.

The 24 June used to be celebrated. Now, the event is barely noticed in any official way. After all, democracy is the antithesis of the monarchy in Thailand.

This point is made by social critic and intellectual Sulak Sivaraksa in an interview with BenarNews. He states: “Before 1932, the monarch was above the law, and he was the only one. After the 1932 [revolution], everybody became equal, everybody was under the law, and that was the first victory…”.

But, looking back, Sulak is despondent: “In these 90 years, we are currently [at] the lowest point…”. He adds: “Gen. Prayuth [Chan-ocha] claims this is a democracy, but it’s a sham democracy…”.

He points to the military takeover in 1947 as an inflection point, where Thailand turned back towards monarchism: “the coup leader praised the monarch, who was until then still under the constitution. They turned the monarch to God-like and above the constitution because they thought only the monarch could fight against the communists…”.

Any hope Sulak has is with the young: “I’m only an old man, looking forward to young generations. I’ve seen young generations who are so brave to fight against dictatorship…. I hope that Thailand, while celebrating 100 years of democracy, will go forward and not backward as is happening nowadays.”

One of those associated with the contemporary monarchy reform movement is Arnon Nampa. He affirms that the 1932 revolution “was the beginning of the call for democracy and the start of the fight for democracy. It was precarious because those involved in the 1932 revolution risked their lives…”. Today it is Arnon and other activists and thousands of sympathizers  who “are willing, too, to risk losing their freedom or lives…” in the struggle for democracy and the reform of the monarchy.

Update: A reader writes about expanding authoritarianism in the West, noting examples of censorship of social media and harassing Julian Assange for showing the US state as murderers – and worries for his daughter’s future.





Updated: Lazada madness

17 06 2022

Back in May, royalists went berserk over a TikTok advertisement produced for the Chinese firm Lazada, screaming lese majeste.

On 16 June 2022, the police arrested Aniwat Prathumthin, aka “Nara Crepe Katoey”, Thidaporn Chaokuwiang, aka “Nurat”, and Kittikhun Thamkittirath, aka “Mom Dew,” and charged all three with Article 112 offenses. Aniwat has also been charged under the computer crimes law.

The three were arrested by Technology Crime Suppression Division police, Thidaporn in Ayutthaya, Aniwat at Don Muang airport, and Kittikhun in Bangkok’s Wang Thong Lang district. Each was released on bail of 90,000 baht.

The charges stemmed from a “Lazada clothes shopping clip features Thidaporn in traditional Thai costume and sitting in a wheelchair, while Aniwat was seen accusing Thidaporn, who plays her aristocratic mother, of stealing her clothes.”

The video immediately drew criticism from ultra-royalists who claimed the video mimicked royals, including Princess Chulabhorn who is sometimes seen in a wheelchair. The royalists also reckoned the advertisement mocked the disabled, but that was a smokescreen for their real complaint based on their own hypersensitivity on things royal. Their immediate reaction led to a hashtag campaign on Twitter to boycott Lazada, a call taken up by the Royal Thai Army, Royal projects and foundations, among others.

Clipped from Thai PBS

Lazada issued an apology, as did “Intersect Design Factory, the company which hired the influencers to promote the Lazada sales campaign…”. It was serial campaigner and royalist activist Srisuwan Janya who lodged a complaint with the Technology Crime Suppression Division police, “accusing Aniwat of offending a member of the royal family.”

Aniwat refused to “issue a public apology or show regret has only added fuel to fire.” Quite correctly, but further angering ultra-royalists, in a television interview, Aniwat said that “anyone has the right to wear a traditional costume,” and that “the so-called reference to a Royal was imagined by the netizens.”

Army chief Gen Narongpan Jitkaewtha quickly announced “that he has banned members of all military units to stop buying goods from Lazada. He also banned all Lazada delivery trucks and motorbikes from entering Army compounds.”

Joining the royalist pile-on, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha expressed his “concern about the clip on May 7 and noting that Thais love and respect the monarchy.” Meanwhile, the “Digital Economy and the Society Ministry also instructed the Police Technology Crime Suppression Division to check if the TikTok clip violated any laws.”

Aniwat had earlier gained online followers “among youngsters fed up with General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s style of governance. She has openly pushed for the PM’s resignation and often criticized his supporters.”

Of course, Princess Chulabhorn is not covered by Article 112 but that has never stopped bizarre lese majeste cases in the past.

Update: Coconuts Bangkok reports on the arrest of Kittikhun “a transgender blogger and  model known as Mom Dew, [who] was being held Thursday afternoon at the Technology Crime Supression Division in Bangkok’s Lak Si over a complaint that she impersonated the Queen Mother Sirikit in an ad campaign that was quickly pulled after it aired last month.”

Like Chulabhorn, Sirikit is not covered in Article 112. To refresh memories, Article112 of the Criminal Code states, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”





Further updated: Pavlov and Srisuwan

5 06 2022

For those who don’t recall, Pavlov trained – conditioned – animals. When referring to Pavlov’s dogs it is a nod to the experiments Pavlov did in conditioning dogs to salivate through a learning process that results from this pairing, through which the neutral stimulus comes to elicit a salivation response that usually provoked by the potent stimulus of food.

From SimplyPsychology

PPT has referred to Pavlovian political responses in several posts over the years (see here). But today’s report that the forever complaining Srisuwan Janya has made yet another complaint takes the cake.

In the parliamentary debate on the 2023 Budget Bill on Thursday, Move Forward MP Jirat Thongsuwan raised a question regarding the “Defence Ministry spent as much as THB7.57 million to hire the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) to examine 757 GT200 devices, or THB10,000 per device.”

The GT200 is “a fraudulent ‘remote substance detector’ that was claimed by its manufacturer, UK-based Global Technical Ltd, to be able to detect, from a distance, various substances including explosives and drugs…. [T]he device has been described as little more than ‘divining rods’ which lack any scientific explanation for why they should work.”

The controversy over these money-making devices for the heads of agencies that purchased almost 1300 of them in Thailand has gone on for more than a decade. As Jessada Denduangboripant, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Science, pointed out, the “GT200 is amazing. It can waste the state budget all the time. The devices have been locked up for 14 years, but they are still moved out to waste the budget. It’s really a tool to make money.”

What’s remarkable in the story on Srisuwan’s salivating response. Raised by an opposition politician – Srisuwan hates them – the serial complainer made PR by stealing the limelight:

Activist Srisuwan Janya said he will petition the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to look into the army’s hiring of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) for 7.5 million baht to examine fraudulent bomb detectors purchased years ago.

Mr Srisuwan, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Thai Constitution, on Saturday on Facebook said the procurement of GT200 detectors reflects poor budget planning that lacked proper scrutiny.

This additional case involving the GT200 warants investigation, but so does the procurement by some who remain in power – think Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha who when Army boss in 2012 stated that not only was the device still used, he defended it: “I affirm that the device is still effective. Other armed forces are also using it…”. In fact, with”four army commanders in a row spoke glowingly and positively of their effectiveness.” That’s Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who led the 2006 coup and Gen Anupong Paojinda, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan who all led the 2014 coup and now lead the military junta.

So Srisuwan now puts the spotlight on himself, and we’d expect that, like thousands of other complaints he’s made, that this is nothing more than a PR stunt. Why isn’t he following up on the “investigations” on the GT200 that go back more than 10 years. Which of the military bosses has been charged for this massive fraud? Where’s Srisuwan on those cases?

Frankly, we think Srisuwan’s complaints costs the taxpayer a huge amount of money for little good. He promotes himself but not much else. Maybe someone should investigate his serial complaining?

Update 1: It is reported that the “Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) has said that the army does not need to examine fraudulent GT200 bomb detectors as a lawsuit seeking compensation from the distributor has been finalised.”

Update 2: The Army has now “stopped conducting expensive tests on the bogus GT200 bomb detectors after the issue sparked an uproar about taxpayers’ money being wasted.”

 





Silk and shaky royal power II

31 05 2022

Following up on our last post, the media has been reporting that the state has been especially energetic in promoting silk royalist ideology.

Thailand is not at all short of royalist celebration days, but yet another has been added. According to The Nation, August 12 has been declared “Thai Fabric Day,” in another posterior polish for the Queen Mother, Sirikit.

On Tuesday, a Cabinet meeting was brought forward to approve Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome’s proposal “to declare the birthday of … Queen Sirikit as ‘Thai National Fabric Day’ to mark the 90th of birthday of the Queen Mother…”.

Clipped from The Nation

Itthiphol also revealed that “the Cabinet also instructed government agencies to carry out PR campaigns on the royal activities of the Queen Mother so that Thai children and people would learn from various royal projects.” In another report, he claimed the old queen played a “role in boosting the country’s prosperity and raising people’s standard of living.”

Prime Minister and one of the old queen’s acolytes, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha chimed in, blathering about “her tireless promotion of Thai textiles [and]… the revival of the domestic industry.” He claimed that Sirikit had “advised local weavers on ways to improve their skills as well as the quality of their fabrics…”. In essence, it is the great, the good, and the all-knowing who tell the lower classes how to do the things they’ve done for centuries.

All of the time, effort, and taxpayer funds expended on this event was “rewarded” with an appearance by the king and queen, suggesting that the palace has been heavily involved in yet another propaganda event.

There were some seriously weird “fashions” on show. None more weird than the king’s suit. While the king has repeatedly demonstrated a strange fashion sense, this fashion travesty resulted from his daughter’s design “skills.” Sadly, as bad as the suit is, we can only assume that it will now be taken up by the sycophants in government and in the higher reaches of the business community.

Clipped from The Nation





Further updated: The 2014 political disaster

22 05 2022

It is now 8 long years since Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda colluded with rightists to seize power from an elected government.

The 2014 military coup was not unexpected. After all, the military brass had been planning it and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee had been demonstrating for months in support of a military intervention. The generals knew they had palace support.

Three army generals in 2019. Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Here we recall some of our posts at the time of the coup, with some editing, to recall yet another dark day in Thailand’s political history.

The story of how it happened, from the Bangkok Post is worth recalling:

At 2pm on Thursday, representatives of seven groups began the second day of peace talks hosted by army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The general began by asking all sides what they could do about the five issues he had asked them to consider on the previous day, a source at the closed-door meeting told Matichon Online.

Armed soldiers stand guard during a coup at the Army Club where the army chief held a meeting with all rival factions in central Bangkok on May 22. (Reuters photo)

Wan Muhamad Nor Matha of the Pheu Thai Party said the best his party could do was to ask ministers to take leave of absence or vacation.

Chaikasem Nitisiri of the caretaker government insisted cabinet members would be breaking the law and could be sued later if they resigned.

Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party disagreed, citing as a precedent Visanu Krue-ngam, who had previously resigned as acting deputy prime minister, but Mr Chaikasem stood his ground.

Veerakarn Musikapong of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) said this debate was useless and a person would need a mattress and a pillow if they were to continue with it.

This was like discussing a religious faith in which everyone was firm in his belief. The army chief had a lot on his shoulders now because he came when the water was already waist-high.

If he continued, Mr Veerakarn said, he would be drowned. The army chief should walk away and announced there would be election. That way, his name would be untarnished.

At this point, Gen Prayuth snapped back: “Stop it. Religious issues I don’t know much about. What I do know is I’ll hunt down each and every one of those ‘infidels’. Don’t worry about me drowning. I’m a good swimmer and I’ve studied the situation for three years.

“Back in 2010, I didn’t have absolute power. So don’t fight me. I was accused of accepting six billion baht in exchange of doing nothing. I insist I didn’t get even one baht.”

At this point, Jatuporn Prompan of the UDD appeared more appeasing, saying since an election could not be held now anyway, the best solution was to hold a referendum on whether national reform should come before or after the next election.

The debate went on for a while before Suthep Thaugsuban of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee said political parties were not involved in this.

“This was a problem between the UDD and the PDRC,” he declared.

He proposed the two groups meet in a separate session.

Mr Abhisit said the government should also join in, but Mr Suthep insisted on only the people’s groups.

Gen Prayuth allowed the two groups to meet separately.

In the meantime, Mr Abhisit suggested other participants should go home now that the two sides were in talks, but Gen Prayuth insisted on everyone staying where they were until a conclusion was reached.

The UDD and PDRC sides talked for 30 minutes.

After that, Gen Prayuth led them back to the meeting, saying he would announce the results of the talks.

At that point, Mr Suthep asked for a minute and walked over to say something with Gen Prayuth, with Mr Jatuporn present.

When they were done, Gen Prayuth said: “It’s nothing. We talked about how the restrooms are not in order.”

After that, the army chief asked the government side whether it insisted on not resigning.

Mr Chaikasem said:” We won’t resign”.

Gen Prayuth then declared: “If that’s the case, the Election Commission need not talk about the polls and the Senate need not talk about Section 7.”

He then stood up and spoke in a loud voice: “I’m sorry. I have to seize the ruling power.”

It was 4.32pm.

At that point some of the attendees still thought he was joking.

They changed their minds when the general walked to the exit and turned back to tell them in a stern voice: “You all stay here. Don’t go anywhere.”

He then left the room.

After that armed soldiers came to detain the participants in groups. Notably, Prompong Nopparit who came in the government’s quota was detained with the UDD group in a separate room.

Mr Veerakarn had a smile on his face and forgot his cane.

Mr Abhisit told Varathep Rattanakorn and Chadchart Sittipunt of the government: “I told you so”.

A pale-faced Chadchart snapped:”So what? What’s the point of saying it now?”

The military put the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties in the same room while the rest were put in different rooms.

The senators and election commissioners were let out first.

The rest is history.

The mainstream media essentially welcomed the coup. We observed that the controlled media dutifully announced the junta’s work – arresting people, grabbing control of even more of the media, implementing a curfew and the usual things these military leaders do when they take over.

Supreme Commander Gen Thanasak Pratimaprakorn, Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, Navy chef Adm Narong Pipattanasai, Police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew became Prayuth’s deputies in the junta, but it was the Army that was in control.

Weng

The establishment Bangkok Post published two op-eds supportive of military intervention. One was by Voranai Vanijaka, who congratulated the generals:

Voranai

The other op-ed was by a died-in-the-wool anti-democrat at the Post who declared felling safer:

Dopey shit

Following these two cheering op-eds for the military and its form of fascism, the Bangkok Post managed an  editorial that polished Prayuth’s ego and posterior and justified military intentions. It concluded with this: “The sad thing is it’s the very act of a military takeover that is likely to stir up stiff resistance, provoke acts of violence and possibly cause more loss of life. This coup is not the solution.” Well, of course it is not the solution, but the Post has been part of the problem, failing to clearly stand for democratic process.

Kasit Piromya, former foreign minister under a fully anti-democratic Democrat Party, propagandized and defended the coup at the BBC. He noted the anti-democrat call for the military to intervene “for quite some time.” He lied that the caches of arms found “amongst the red shirts” meant there was going to be great violence. It has to be said that the Army suddenly finding caches of weapons is a propaganda device they have regularly used in the past. He was fully on board with the military.

His comment on the “problem” of democracy is that his side can’t win, and the majority always win. That’s our interpretation of his anti-democrat tripe. He reckons this is the military resetting democracy. He sounds like he’s still in the yellow of 2006; it was the same story then.

Some of these commentators took years to learn that the military intervention was a huge disaster. Others continue to support military, monarchy and fascism. But really, looking back, no one could possibly have thought that this set of military dinosaurs was going to be interested in anyone other than themselves and the monarchy.

The past 8 years are lost years. For us, the only positive is the widespread questioning of the monarchy and its political, economic and social role.

Update 1: The massive Bangkok electoral victory by former Puea Thai minister Chadchart Sittipunt, with a 60% turnout, Chadchart receiving 1,386,215 votes, ahead of the Democrat Party’s Suchatvee Suwansawat with a paltry 240,884 votes. Some of the early commentary refers to the lost years since the 2014 coup – see here and here. It seems clear that the Chadchart landslide marks a rejection of Gen Prayuth and his regime. It is also a rejection of yellow-hued rightists, no more so than the abject failure of the PAD/PDRC eccentric and toxic Rosana Tositrakul with a minuscule 78,919 votes. Sadly, we might predict that the radical royalists and their military allies will interpret the results as a prompt for more vote rigging and even coup planning.

Update 2: Chadchart’s election was no fluke. As Thai PBS reports, the Bangkok assembly election delivered an emphatic vote for the Puea Thai (19 seats) and Move Forward (14 seats) parties. The hopelessly flawed Democrat Party got 9, while the regime’s fracturing Palang Pracharath won just 2 seats. That’s a landslide for the opposition.





12 years ago

19 05 2022

It was 12 years ago that then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban cooperated with General Anupong Paojinda and General Prayuth Chan-ocha to crush the several months long red shirt protests in Bangkok.

Abhisit is now toxic, although there are efforts by the mainstream media to ignore this and make him a “statesman.” Suthep lurks, while Prayuth and Anupong remain at the country’s helm, fixing, rigging, and conniving.

Crackdown 2

The 2010 crackdown, extending over some six weeks, was concluded with a bloody crackdown at Rajaprasong that resulted in numerous deaths and injuries, including several murders at Wat Pathum Wanaram, known to have been perpetrated by soldiers.

In the weeks after the crackdown, PPT produced several posts that linked to accounts of witnesses. We called these accounts of the dead (I, II, III, IV, V).

In memory of these bloody events and the lack of justice for those killed and injured, we think that readers may find it useful to revisit some links from that time, some of which are no longer working. These photos are a sad reminder of those events.





Clowns and “leaders”

7 02 2022

The Bangkok Post recently reported that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, already Thailand’s boss since May 2014, reckons he’s not holding onto power. He seems to have convinced himself  of this, although everyone else knows he’s joking around. He wants to stay for as long as possible.

If there were real elections, he’d already be gone. If the military was “professional,” instead of a bunch of clowns craving power and money, all in the name of protecting a mad monarch, Gen Prayuth would have been out to pasture years ago. If he wasn’t a royalist posterior polisher, he’d never have been heard of.

But, the clown that he is, Gen Prayuth blathers that “he will serve in the role as long as he is allowed to by law…”.

He went on:

I have no intention of keeping the post of prime minister for myself forever. Don’t worry that I will cling on to power. I have had no vested interests during the past seven or eight years….

The problem is that he’s clung to the job for 8 years already, never having been properly elected to anything.

But here’s the rub. Is he now saying he’ll follow the constitutional requirement for him to go after 8 years? Wouldn’t that be a relief! But, just think, one of his cronies might make things worse, and you can bet the king will be manipulating to get his preferred prime minister.

Nasty clowns create nasty messes.





Tenure trouble

4 01 2022

Bubbling away in the background of recent politics has been the very large question mark hanging over the regime’s plan to keep Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha in the premier’s seat for another 4 years following the next “election,” which the military-backed rulers think is already in the bag.

Yesterday the Bangkok Post had an editorial on the matter, observing that “a legal team [sic] from the House of Representatives claimed that he is entitled to serve as premier until 2027.”

That team reckons “Gen Prayut’s term technically began when his premiership received royal endorsement under the 2017 constitution on June 9, 2019.” They say this means his constitutionally-limited term could run another 4 years. How convenient!

This bunch “rejected the views of those who argue that Gen Prayut’s tenure began in 2014, when he took over in a coup as the head of the National Council for Peace and Order. Under this interpretation, his term would end in August this year.”

The 2017 constitution bars an individual from remaining in office for more than eight years: “The Prime Minister shall not hold office for more than eight years in total, whether or not holding consecutive term., regardless of whether the four-year terms are served back-to-back or not.”

The 2007 constitution simply stated: “The Prime Minister shall not serve in office more than eight years.”

There’s considerable guff in the editorial for it is perfectly clear that both constitutions limit the premiership to 8 years.

It seems likely that the question will go to the partisan Constitutional Court. Based on its previous capacity for fudging the constitution and supporting the regime, we can expect the coup master to be around until 2027.








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