Junta punked

17 05 2018

We are late getting to this story, but the recent brief detention and semi-charging of punks at a concert, where the band The Blood Soaked Street Of Social Decay performed, deserves attention.

Khaosod reports that four members of the band and six other punks “were taken into custody … after singing songs berating Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha and Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan” at the concert. Headlined as the Almost Four Years, You Motherfucker concert was to commemorate “four years of military rule.”

The band “also set an image of Prayuth aflame.”

While the 10 detained punks were released from a police station after having their names recorded, concert organizer Yuttajak Dumsuwan criticized the authorities:

Soldiers and police said it crossed the line. They thought it was defamation…. But we have no law against defamation of leaders of state or against burning pictures. It’s not [Article] 112. It’s berating the prime minister and government that uses our taxes. Of course citizens can do that.

The story informs us that the punk scene is highly political.





Political impunity challenged

15 05 2018

One of the factors that encourage generals to overthrow governments is that the perpetrators of successful putsches always declare their actions (retrospectively) legal. Once the coup leaders are finally seen off, that immunity and impunity is never challenged.

Watana Muangsook, a Puea Thai Party politician, is challenging this.

On Monday Watana called for “the prosecution of coup-makers after the next election.”

Saying the 2014 military coup led by Generals Prayuth Chan-ocha and Prawit Wongsuwan had caused “severe damage to the country and wasted a lot of state budget while causing the most suffering to the people.”

Watana blamed the damage on “inefficient management by retired military officers who want to have power but lack intelligence.”

None of that sounds exactly like holding them responsible for the coup itself, until Watana adds: “The goal is to prevent anyone from using the armed forces to destroy democracy again. More importantly, coup-makers must be punished for causing damage to the country…”.

This is the beginning of a discussion that needs to be held. Such discussions, however, will be muted for fear that they will cause the generals to hold on and prevent any challenge to their impunity.

Watana is right when he states that: “Dictators must be brought to court…”.





Did The Dictator blink?

13 05 2018

After a barrage of criticism about his electoral campaign visit to Buriram and the Newin-Dome, candidate/The Dictator/General/Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has postponed a trip to another potential devil party lair in Sa Kaeo, at least that’s the Bangkok Post’s reporting.

It had already been reported that “veteran politician Sanoh Thienthong, whose stronghold is in the province, had told media he would greet the premier during the visit.” Naturally. And, The Dictator knows the rapacious political chameleon from his time on the border when the Army’s and Sanoh’s business interests coincided.

Some critics slammed the visit because the junta chief is campaigning while all others are banned. Well, sort of, for when The Dictator showed up in Buriram, Newin Chidchob and Anutin Charnvirakul got campaign style coverage for Bhum Jai Thai. But, then, BJT is a pro-military party.

A “government source” says the campaign stop visit is postponed because “Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is not available to attend on the proposed date” for a border shindig.

Did the Boss blink? Did the criticism bite?

Probably not. The Dictator’s skin is as thick as a whale’s and he has “another provincial trip on May 23…” to canvas for votes and political alliances with local mafia capofamiglia and associated thugs.

Staying power for years to come means Gen Prayuth must stay on the campaign trail and hammer together a coalition of minor parties so that he can get the call to be the “outsider” premier.





Campaigning with the devils

10 05 2018

As all media outlets have reported, The Dictator’s “election” campaigning has been expansive and expensive. At the same time, pro-election/anti-junta campaigners are restricted and threatened.

The Bangkok Post reports that the junta’s “massive injection of development funds into the lower Northeast is not a political quid pro quo for the regime to return to power after the next election,” at least according to chief campaigner, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. After a Bhum Jai Thai Party-Newin Chidchob arranged mass rally, he promised 121 projects worth “more than 20 billion baht proposed by the private sector.”

That “private sector” is dominated by Sino-Thai tycoon companies and Newin’s family and allies (rather like the BJT itself). Newin himself had proposed “as much as 10 billion baht…” for his own backyard in Buriram.

It was Newin who “announced before a crowd of about 30,000 people who gathered to welcome the prime minister at his Chang Arena football stadium that at least 10 billion baht would be allocated to Buri Ram after Gen Prayut visited the province.”

That’s a pretty good indication of how government will proceed after the junta decides to hold its “election.” Power brokers – many involved in activities at the fringes of legality – manage small groups of MPs who deliver benefits and loot to the local area, patronage and paternalism are entrenched and enforced, and democratic and participatory politics undermined and made weak (even redundant).





Power and politics

8 05 2018

An AFP report reproduced by The Nation notices:

The sons of a convicted murderer, a rural “don” who has spun a fortune from football and gun-loving provincial bigwigs — as elections near, Thai junta leader [Gen] Prayut[h] Chan-o-cha is cosying up to “influential figures”, a group he vowed to expunge from politics with his coup four years ago.

Throughout his rule Prayut, the gruff ex-general whose army seized power in May 2014, has maintained one key refrain: politicians and their cronies are the cause of the country’s political instability.

Nothing brings generals and dark influences closer than the craving for power and wealth. Like an addiction, these cravings mean that truth is replaced by lies and “principles” plasticize.

Commentator Paul Chambers is cited saying “Prayut has become the ultimate hypocrite…”. After continuous politician-bashing, “now Prayut and the (junta) are using many of these same corrupt politicians to build a political party.”

Gen Prayuth and sundry minions have repeatedly lied that his campaign trip to Buriram was “normal” and “not politicking.” Everyone – and we mean every single person in the country – knows such claims amount to mountains of buffalo manure. Some of them probably realize too that Prayuth and his buddies are treating Thailand’s people and (potential) electors as blind morons, incapable of seeing the obvious.

When they see Gen Prayuth lavishing expensive promises on his hosts from the Bhum Jai Thai Party, everyone knows this is a political and electoral campaign as Prayuth prepares for a rigged “election” where he demands his political supporters get elected and then make him premier.

This is a blatant grab for power as clear as if Prayuth was having a military coup, like the one he had in 2014.

Bhum Jai Thai, led by local dark influence Newin Chidchob and billionaire Anutin Charnvirakul did their bit by delivering more than 30,000 bodies to welcome The Dictator, making him feel like a great man, and indicating that they can deliver votes when they are needed, at least in Buriram and nearby provinces.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Niran Kultanan, a lecturer at Buriram Rajabhat University, stated the obvious:

that the aim of the cabinet trip was to build political alliances to support Gen Prayut, as was the case during previous trips to other regions….

It [the trip] is intended to seek political gains. They know that at least 25 House seats in the lower northeastern provinces, which are the support bases of medium-sized parties, will be crucial in nominating a prime minister. And in this region, Bhumjaithai and Newin Chidchob are key….

Newin was at The Dictator’s side in Buriram. He cheered The Dictator. And why not, he will benefit enormously from The Dictator’s promises to “the people of Buriram.” After all, the promises mostly involve Newin’s projects and businesses.

Mutual back scratching, hypocrisy, lies and money are revealing of a politics that has reverted to the “good old days” of dark influences, political bidding wars, corrupt cabinets, and – Newin’s forte – massive vote buying. All of this for a rigged junta “election.”





Power

7 05 2018

Voranai Vanijaka is a columnist, Bangkok Post. He was once with The Nation and has a reputation for biting op-eds. His most recent outing deserves some attention.

He observes that there have been a series of scandals for the military regime over the last six months. We think there have been far more and over a longer period, but let’s go with his six months of troubles, “starting from November of last year. It began with junta leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha berating a fisherman down south for daring to matter-of-factly ask him tough questions. Next came deputy junta leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwon flashing his posh taste for luxury watches, which supposedly were borrowed from generous friends.”

What has happened about those watches? The National Anti-Corruption Commission has gone very quiet since Gen Prawit told them their case was over. We assume the NACC has done as it was ordered and there’s no case for the boss to answer.

Voranai then mentions “former national police chief Somyot Poompunmuang, who ‘borrowed’ 300 million baht from a massage parlour tycoon…”.

Somyos and some of his loot

What has happened there? As far as we can tell, the wealthy cop is off the hook. His sloshing about in other people’s money is a bit like the watch saga; it is just normal behavior for the powerful.

And so on.

Voranai observes, as we do, that “[n]one of these gentlemen [sic.] think they have done anything wrong.”

Of course they don’t. They are powerful, entitled and deserving.

He adds:

These aren’t isolated incidents to be treated separately, mind you. Here the common theme is that the rich and powerful, the elders or phu yai, who are leaders of society, do whatever they want, however they want — as has been done for decades and centuries before. The sense of entitlement is of medieval proportions.

But these men are not behaving simply as feudal lords did. This is a Thailand dominated by market capitalism dominated by “whales” who reward their political fixers. The entitlements of these whales far outweigh those of the police chiefs and political flunkies who do their bidding and put them on boards or pay them retainers for services to be rendered.

 

Where we distance ourselves from Voranai is when he makes claims that we are all to blame, that it’s cultural. It isn’t. It is a system of political and economic power that needs to be smashed.





After the stolen “election”

7 05 2018

The military junta and The Dictator seem increasingly confident that their “election” is in the bag. They give every indication that the process of stealing the “election” has been a success. This means that the junta is now looking beyond the “election,” even if the actual date for that plebiscite for the junta has yet to be confirmed. (Of course, we don’t rule out the possibility of a change to junta plans.)

We think this confidence is why Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is now talking of the changes needed for a new less-than-democratic legislature. The Bangkok Post reports that Gen Prayuth wants the opposition parties to be more loyal to the government.

There’s a long history of calling for “national government” in Thailand, usually by conservative types, and this proposal smells a little like the notion of a “united” government working for the “national good.” Naturally enough, that “national good” is always defined in narrow terms beneficial to the ruling elite and other conservatives and anti-democrats.

The Dictator has called for the term “opposition” associated with parties not of the government to be changed to “opposition and support.” That is, these not-in-government parties have to cooperate and support the government in the “national interest.”

The Dictator defines the “national interest” as the junta’s interests:

… in the matters concerning national strategy and reform agendas, the opposition should give its support and cooperation otherwise the country will not be able to achieve anything and will not be able to develop in a sustainable manner….

Gen Prayuth also demanded that the opposition serve the government by being “constructive” in their opposition.

In this report, the criticism of Prayuth’s demands came from a member of the Democrat Party, long known for their ant-democrat stand, but which now finds itself in a political wilderness as the military dictatorship manages its own “election” to power.

The Democrat Party’s Watchara Petthong rightly observed that The Dictator is “addicted to power” and that he “does not understand the democratic system…”. True, and neither does the Democrat Party.

Yet Watchara also misunderstands The Dictator’s intent, which is anything but a democratic system; he plans an extension of authoritarianism, with “legitimacy” granted by a rigged “election.”