A lawless and lying junta

11 10 2017

PPT has been busy posting about other things – the absurdity of lese majeste, junta political gymnastics – and so we neglected to mention an important op-ed by Umesh Pandey is Editor of the Bangkok Post. Earlier we posted on another commentary by Umesh on the basis of the junta’s rule in illegality and lies.

This op-ed may be seen as somewhat dated, given recent “changes” (see below), but we think his comments deserve consideration for the broader points made about what defines the military dictatorship, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Umesh’s latest commentary begins thus: “Bending the law and going back on words seems to have become the norm ever since the coup that ousted the elected government in 2014.”

In other words, the regime is built on lies and the manipulation of law.

The Post’s editor is particularly upset that The Dictator told US President Trump that there would be “free and fair elections in 2018,” only to renege. (We actually think that General Prayuth and his team of flunkies simply didn’t comprehend the statement they signed. They are not all that intelligent.)

Umesh also worries that the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee, led by serial constitution buster and military minion Meechai Ruchupan, “is defending delays in polls is something that should go down in history books as being one of its kind in the world.” He comments that the CDC “is a body that supposedly comprises some of the smartest people, who are supposed to look at the country’s future and its long-term well-being, and they are protecting the never-ending delays that this military regime is trying to undertake.”

Smartest? Really? As far as we can tell from their record, the CDC is composed of puppets with no more intelligence than their wooden counterparts.

And, this is certainly not the first time that the CDC has supported the junta’s delays. In fact, we have lost count. But this is nothing other than a collection of puppets with the junta pulling all the strings.

Umesh observes that:

The regime’s initial promise to hold elections was within a year of the coup, so 2015, then it turned out to be 2016, then 2017 and finally Gen Prayut announced at the United Nations that it would be 2018.

Then it was 2019, although in recent days The Dictator has changed this back to 2018 (maybe). We still don’t know why Prayuth back-flipped.

Umesh continues:

While democracy is being kicked around a football, the players are gradually being red-carded one after another. The latest headlines in yesterday’s papers suggest that there is an all-out effort to go for the final kill.

After having prosecuted the Pheu Thai and its predecessor parties for the past decade, efforts are being made to charge its backer, Thaksin [Shinawatra], with the feared Section 112. Newly appointed Attorney-General Khemchai Chutiwongs said 112 can be applied for video footage in which Thaksin reportedly blamed members of the Privy Council for the May 22, 2014 coup that ousted Pheu Thai government.

Of course, no election held under the junta’s rules will be “free” or “fair” or “democratic.”

Bravely, Umesh ponders the lese majeste law: “As far as most of the population of this country is aware, the lese majeste law clearly states that it applies to only members of the royal family.”

Well, sort of, apart from the cases related to Princess Sirindhorn, royal pets, dead kings, historical figures and mythical queens. But we get the point.

He asks:

So, what is the section of the 112 law that the attorney-general is going to use to prosecute Thaksin? Or is it the case that this law was changed over the course of time and people are not aware of it?

In fact, lese majeste is used however the junta (and palace) wants it to be used. There’s no rule of law in Thailand, just rule by junta.





Updated: Disorganized, disorganizing and an election date

10 10 2017

We were just about to post the story that was to appear below when breaking news stated this:

Thailand will hold a general election in November 2018, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Tuesday, the most precise date he has given yet for the vote since taking power in a 2014 military coup.

Prayuth, head of the ruling junta or National Council for Peace and Order, said the exact election date would be announced in June 2018. The junta has repeatedly delayed elections, citing concerns such as changes to the constitution and security issues.

“Around June we will announce the date for the next election,” Prayuth told reporters at Bangkok’s Government House.

“In November we will have an election.”

Update: The junta has actually blinked or it has come under sustained pressure. It was only a few days ago that military dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha signed a Joint Statement between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Thailand that vowed: “Thailand’s commitment to the Roadmap, which, upon completion of relevant organic laws as stipulated by the Constitution, will lead to free and fair elections in 2018.”

Within hours, General Prayuth had corrected “misconceptions” declaring that 2018 really meant 2019. Other members of the junta supported him. Now, there a back-flip and, as noted above, The Dictator has changed his mind and 2018 from now on will mean 2018. But why the back-flip? We don’t know. Some suggest it is because of pressure from political parties. Others say the army is split. Some others say that royalists are convinced that an election under the junta’s rules will produce a pro-junta regime, and having a rigged election will satisfy the “democratic” demands in Europe and the US and that Thailand will look better once it can ditch the military dictatorship moniker.

In making this back-flip, Prayuth loses considerable face, so expect outbursts against opponents. Perhaps even more regime repression and jailings.

The Bangkok Post earlier reported some of the consternation. Constitution Drafting Committee Chairman Meechai Ruchupan, who is a regime lackey, said he believed the time was right “to revoke the ban [on political parties] this week so parties could resume their political activities.” This recommendation to the junta, which met just prior to a cabinet meeting, seems to have reflected pressure being applied in other quarters for a transition away from military dictatorship.

The junta certainly appears disorganized. At the same time, if the ban on political parties remains, “election” delays will continue. In this sense, the junta is disorganizing those who may compete against its candidates (however it decides to manage its “election”).

On top of all of this, Prayuth, if he is feeling more powerful than he is today, could always postpone again.





Updated: Will it be 2019?

6 10 2017

Thailand’s military dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, presumably understood that in the U.S. he was signing a Joint Statement between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Thailand that stated “Thailand’s commitment to the Roadmap, which, upon completion of relevant organic laws as stipulated by the Constitution, will lead to free and fair elections in 2018.”

Lying is a bit like eating and sleeping for The Dictator; it comes naturally. In any case, within days, General Prayuth has corrected “misconceptions” that using the date “2018” actually meant the year 2018 in the Gregorian calendar.

We didn’t believe the statement on this point – neither Trump nor Prayuth fully understand “truth” – and the latter has now, magician-like, revealed that 2018 means 2019.

This election rabbit has been pulled from a hat when meeting with junta-worshiping, posterior polishing Thais in the United States “that the election should take place in 2019,” with the report adding that this is “many months later than the junta-appointed legislators had predicted.”

Remember all the times that Prayuth promised and the reneged? Recall all the times he has said he’s sticking by the roadmap and then changed it? Now, the earliest Prayuth’s election can be held is probably April 2019. But he could easily change his mind again.

Perhaps the junta feels that this date is appropriate and it reckons its iron grip will be tight enough by then to allow its people to dominate the “election.” After all, five years after the coup (in 2019), the dinosaur coup-makers probably assume there won’t be much left of the Shinawatras and theirassociated political party and red shirts. Pesky pro-democracy activists have been more or less cowed. And, following a royal funeral and coronation, the military thugs probably think they’ll have the country tied up.

If The Dictator remains unsure of his “electoral” victory, expect further delays. The rabbit can go back in the hat to be revealed again. Prayuth has repeatedly babbled about not wanting to be premier but he sure seems to crave the power and prestige.

Update: The Bangkok Post headlines a story: “Meechai unravels Prayut’s poll quote.” The story is about one of Thailand’s most destructive of conservatives, Meechai Ruchupan. This old man has meddled in the writing of Thailand’s most conservative constitutions and laws. For his role in 1991 when he was also serving military putchists, we have a post. It seems this geriatric is somehow in a time warp – 1968.

Meechai is, quite simply, the military’s man, responsible for multiple illiberal reversions over several decades. He currently chairs the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee. The sub-heading is “Says premier only speculating on delay.” We doubt The Dictator will fancy being told he’s “speculating.” The Dictator is more likely to be telling Meechai what to do. In fact, baring some kind of uprising from within the military or from society, it is General Prayuth who will decide when he wants to hold his “election”; Meechai, as a pawn, will do what he’s told.





Further updated: Don’t ask The Dictator about his “elections”

4 10 2017

During his U.S. visit, General Prayuth Chan-ocha got testy with reporters again.

In commenting on his meeting with President Donald Trump, The Dictator declared that he had, unprompted, promised Trump that “his government [the junta] will announce an election date next year.” He boasted: “Indeed it was me who initiated the discussion and assured him that Thailand will abide by its roadmap to return to democracy…”.

The thing is, the junta has not followed its roadmap. It has strung out holding its “election” time and again. So we wonder why anyone would believe him now.

But he went on: “Next year, we will definitely announce and election date…”. We highlighted the word used twice in the report: announce.

We are not at all sure what that means. Announcing an election and actually holding one are not the same.

Perhaps it was this obvious point that then caused The Dictator to lie:

“I did not mislead anyone or cover anything up,” he said referring to critics’ accusations that the junta was being ambiguous about the election time frame. “I have always reiterated [that the election will take place]. I don’t want anyone asking me about it anymore.”

While we don’t think a junta managed, monitored and devised election is anything much at all, Prayuth seems to be getting closer to the idea that he’ll decide to grant one, so long as he can ensure an outcome.

Bottom lime? Nothing new, but just don’t ask him.

Update 1: Someone did ask Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan about an election date. He said “the election date would be set after a completion of the relevant organic laws plus 150 days for election preparations.” He “clarified” what The Dictator had meant: “It’s not that he said the election will be held next year… When the election date will be is up to the completion of the organic laws.” It seems what is promised is that an election date may be set in 2018.

Remarkably, a Joint Statement between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Thailand included this:

Recognizing Thailand’s strategic importance to the United States and the region, President Trump welcomed Thailand’s commitment to the Roadmap, which, upon completion of relevant organic laws as stipulated by the Constitution, will lead to free and fair elections in 2018.

We already know that any “election” will not be fair as the rules have been rigged. We can also surmise that any “election” is unlikely to be free. We can guess this from looking at the way the military dictatorship “managed” the referendum.

Update 2: As noted above, the joint statement did state “elections in 2018.” But just in case anyone was confused, the military dictatorship has reaffirmed that The Dictator “did not say the general election would be held next year…”. As we noted above, all that was promised by General Prayuth was that a date for an “election” would be announced in 2018. It may be that he an his entourage missed the statement’s bit on “elections” in the statement.

The linked report worries that Prayuth has “promised” Trump an “election,” and that it is reneging. What else is new? Such “promises”-cum-lies have been made several times before. The longer the junta can spin out its rule, the better as far as the regime is concerned.

What is clear is that the anti-democrats are urging the junta to delay elections. While the report refers to Suchit Bunbongkarn as a “political scientist,” he’s really a royalist and fascist-anti-democrat ideologue. He declares that “he was not sure if the public really wanted an early election because many people were not interested in elections.” He adds: “Some were concerned that the same politicians would return after the polls and the political mess that preceded the May 22, 2014 coup would happen all over again…”.

He’s a lying dipstick, fabricating views of the “public” and “many people” but clearly stating the anti-democratic notions that drive the royalists, anti-democrats and military. One can only wonder about the use of the word “early.” After all the military junta mumbled promises about an election within a year of its coup. By 2018, “early” mean somewhere from four to five years of the coup. “Early” for Suchit and his ilk will be “late” for many, even if the the “election” is rigged in their favor.

The regime needs little prompting from aristocrats, plutocrats and fascists. It seeks and even creates reasons for transitioning “promises” to lies. Even chatter about “disruption” to the cremation of the dead king or the coronation of the playboy king is elevated to a “plot” that suggests “unrest,” allowing another junta “excuse” for extending its dictatorship. The death of the queen would also allow more dictatorship.





The Dictator and Trump

3 10 2017

The Dictator met with President Donald Trump, described as a “a rare instance of a military ruler being feted in Washington before even a nominal return to civilian rule.” The report adds: “It’s not that unusual for US presidents to meet autocrats in the Oval Office, but coup leaders are more contentious.”

According to the Bangkok Post, The Dictator was prepped on “democracy.” The Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai, General Prayuth Chan-ocha was ready to “answer any questions or objections to his regime’s stance on democracy and elections.”

Photo clipped from The Nation

Don said “he was not worried if Mr Trump asked Gen Prayut about Thailand’s political situation, saying it is improving and the general election is in sight.” Don’s sight is the super-improved vision that seems to bend and become black passing through the junta’s prism.

Ever the sycophant, “Don claimed Thai people are satisfied with the political situation and other countries also accept it and have taken a friendly position towards the kingdom.” We guess he means China, Cambodia, Russia and other authoritarian states.

Inexpertly, Don also revealed the warped and almost child-like “thinking” of the military dictatorship: “If we [the military dictatorship] are not really good, they would not have invited us. Unless we have positive development, they would not have tried to increase trade. It is clearly a friendly stance…”.

The official transcript from the White House reveals some of the disconnect between it and Thailand, using Prayuth’s family name but his personal name when referring to his wife. This reflects the White House’s own disorganization. Other reasons for this may have to do with the terrible events in Las Vegas and the domestic spat Trump has decided to have with Puerto Rico. Here it is, in full:

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP AND PRIME MINISTER PRAYUT CHAN-O-CHA OF THAILAND BEFORE BILATERAL MEETING

Oval Office,  12:33 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you very much.  It’s a great honor to have Prime Minister Prayut of Thailand and Mrs. Prayut.  This is a very great honor for us.

We’ve had a long and very storied history with Thailand.  In fact, we were just mentioning that Andrew Jackson, who is on the wall, was the president when we first developed the big relationship.

So we have a very strong relationship right now, as of this moment, and it’s getting stronger in the last nine months.  We’ve done a lot of things together, and it is a tremendous — it’s really very good to have you with us.

This has been a rough day for us because of what took place in Las Vegas, but this was a long-scheduled meeting and it is a great honor.  Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER CHAN-O-CHA:  (As interpreted.)  As the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand and on behalf of the people of Thailand, I am very delighted and it is a great honor for me to be here to meet Mr. President and, of course, the First Lady.

Mr. President has mentioned about the relationship between our two countries.  We are longstanding allies.  Of course, Thailand would like to take this opportunity to express my condolences to those victims and family of the shooting incident in Las Vegas last night.  And I wish to express our solidarity with the American people.

Moreover, I would also like to express my condolences to those victims and their family in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico who are affected by hurricane.  The government of Thailand and our private sector have also pledged for financial assistance.

We wish all the best for all success to Mr. President to tackle all these problems.

Coming to meet Mr. President today is a good opportunity for me and for the Thai government and the people of Thailand to work closely to further strengthen the cooperation between our two countries.

We work, of course, in hand on our security defense cooperation to help ensure that our citizens are safeguarded from terrorism and other threats.  Of course, we will work closely in order we solve the regional issue of concern, of course.

I am confident that, with President’s leadership, we will be able to tackle all the problems and work together in order to further strengthen the cooperation between our two countries, which we already mentioned that we have a long history of relationship — 200 years.

I also would like to commend the First Lady on playing such a vital role in looking after those who have less opportunity.  Of course, your daughter also worked very closely in order to tackle the problem.  I know that she developed the interest to solve the issues of women and children.  So therefore, Thailand stands ready to work closely with the First Lady and with Mr. President of course.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I do want to say that our relationship on trade — and we’ve been negotiating very long and hard, and we’re meeting with our representatives in a little while to go further.  But our relationship on trade is becoming more and more important.  And it’s a great country to trade with; they make product and different things that are really very important to us, and we likewise sell to you.

I think we’re going to try and sell a little bit more to you now, make that a little bit better if that’s possible.  But we have a big, full period of time scheduled with our two staffs.

Tomorrow morning, early, I’ll be leaving for Puerto Rico with the First Lady.  We are going to be seeing all of the first responders, the military, FEMA, and, frankly, most importantly, we’re going to be seeing the people of Puerto Rico.

We’ve been very — I mean, I think we’ve been — it’s been amazing what’s been done in a very short period of time on Puerto Rico.  There’s never been a piece of land that we’ve known that was so devastated.  The bridges are down, the telecommunications was nonexistent, and it’s in very, very bad shape.  The electrical grid, as you know, was totally destroyed.

But we’ve gotten tremendous amounts of food and water, and lots of other things — supplies — generally speaking, on the island.  So we’re going to be going tomorrow morning, first thing, very early.

We’re also going to be meeting with Governor Mapp of the U.S. Virgin Islands.  He’s going to probably — because of the difficulty in getting in to the Virgin Islands, he’s probably going to meet us in Puerto Rico.

And then, very importantly also, on Wednesday morning, very early, we’re going to be leaving for Las Vegas, where we’re going to be seeing the governor, who I just spoke to; the mayor — governor of the state — the mayor of Las Vegas, who I just spoke to; the sheriff, who has done such a great job; the police department has done such a fantastic job, in terms of the speed, and we all very much appreciate it.

So we’ll be going to Puerto Rico tomorrow.  And on Wednesday, we will be going to, as you know, as I just said, we’ll be going to Las Vegas on a very, very sad — it’s a very sad moment for me, for everybody.  For everybody, no matter where you are, no matter what your thought process, this is a very, very sad day.

So we’re going to be doing that on Wednesday.  And we’ll be spending the full day there, and maybe longer than that.

So thank you very much everybody.  Appreciate it.  Thank you.





Craving Trumps embrace

2 10 2017

Few sensible world leaders crave U.S. President Donald Trump’s imprimatur. Thailand’s General Prayuth Chan-ocha does. The Dictator heads the world’s only military dictatorship and the royalist elite he “represents” has been flummoxed by previous U.S. criticism of military rule.

Trump, far less attuned and attached to the trimmings of democratic rule, has no apparent moral issue in dealing with dictators (unless he takes a dislike to them). We imagine that this lack of a moral compass is a product of his own mini-dictatorship over various property development firms and other business dealings.

For The Dictator of Thailand, meeting Trump will, as a Reuters headlines it, “seal Thai-US normalisation.” It has been a “normalization” that has been unfolding since Trump’s election.

As the report puts it, citing human rights groups, “Monday’s White House meeting will underscore Mr Trump’s willingness to embrace authoritarian leaders and regimes at the expense of human rights concerns…”. (We should not ignore the Obama administration’s capacity for dealing with dictators too, like Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.)

In other words, for The Dictator and his military dictatorship, they will be anointed as “legitimate” by the United States administration.  The meeting “gives the outspoken former army chief [General Prayuth] a chance to burnish his leadership credentials amid signs he may be seeking to stay in power after an election tentatively scheduled for next year.”

With the Shinawatras exiled or facing more charges, with the red shirts corralled and with democracy activists hobbled by surveillance, charges and jailings, General Prayuth seems to be cementing his control and can decide how long he wants to be premier.

Trumps embrace matters for the military rulers.





The junta’s large royalist boot

28 09 2017

Comprehending the repressive compaction of Thai society under the military dictatorship look to the widespread reports on the junta’s latest “voluntary” direction to the media to “tone down.”

Khaosod reports that for the ritual incineration of the dead king, the “military government on Tuesday told news agencies to refrain from airing entertainment content all through October in the run-up to the royal funeral.” This led to bandwagoning, with “media and advertising associations … suggesting an advertising blackout to show respect for the late monarch.”

Expressed as “voluntary,” the dictatorship has demanded “uniform shows of respect.” The military junta knows that, with feudal laws like lese majeste having been vigorously implemented, that no media group is likely to defy its “voluntary” order.

The report predicts that there “will be no entertainment and a lot less advertising online and over the airwaves next month as websites and broadcasts go monochrome and things are toned down on all platforms” for the royal funeral.

That means, says on junta minister, that “all TV stations to refrain from showing entertaining, ‘inappropriate’ or ‘humorous’ programming from Sunday onward.”

Following the monochromization of Thailand, for the “following 10 days [television] must be dedicated to showing documentaries honoring the late king and coverage of the cremation ceremony…”. That means wall-to-wall royalism.

There’s more:

The Digital Advertising Association of Thailand suggests ads run 40 percent desaturated of color between Oct. 13 – the anniversary of King Bhumibol’s death – and Oct. 24.

For the period of Oct. 25 to Oct. 27, at the finale of the cremation ritual, the association advises no visible ads at all. The only acceptable form of advertising will be somber messages of condolence to King Bhumibol on behalf of brands and corporations.

But a guideline published by Society of Online News Providers advises against placing any ads Oct. 13 or Oct. 21 to Oct. 29, except for paid condolences.

Of course, the cremation and the succession that is expected to follow are critical for the junta and for The Dictator’s political plans. Ensuring that these two events go smoothly is meant to provide General Prayuth Chan-ocha with an important platform for promoting the continuation of his regime and to position The Dictator for more years on his throne.