The political double-cross

21 02 2017

In discussing the “resolution” of the stand-off between the military junta and its “friends” protesting a proposed coal-fired power station for the south, PPT had the feeling that the junta had managed to get its political ducks in a row.

It seems not.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has denied that the junta has backed down “from the planned construction of a coal-fired power plant in Krabi but only ‘slowed down’ its implementation.” As he “explained,” the junta was “slowing it down in order to proceed…”. He said the only option was to “build the coal-fired power plant…”. Then he said that perhaps the plant will use “other fuels such as palm oil to replace coal is another topic. In any case, we must build it.”

The first suggestion we recall for palm oil-fired power station in the south came from the Democrat Party. It seemed to want two plants, one with palm oil and the other with natural gas.

On palm oil-fired power stations, read The Guardian (“the maddest energy scheme the world has seen”) and Friends of the Earth’s 2006 position paper. Denuding what remains of the southern forests, adding to the haze and planting palms all over the place is unlikely to do wonders for the environment and tourism.

Back to the General: “The government has not backed down and everything has been carried out according to procedural and legal steps…”. He seems to mean that a new environmental and health impact assessment will be completed.

As an op-ed at the Bangkok Post observes: “What is the point of having the EHIA redone when the decision that the project will go ahead has apparently been made?”

As that op-ed points out, the coal-fired plan had “not been approved by the responsible agency, the Office of Natural Resources and Environment Policy and Planning (ONREP).”

Further, it states that “ONREP said the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) which is in charge of the Krabi power plant project, withdrew its EHIA from consideration by the ONREP’s panel of experts two years ago.”

Despite the “health and environmental impacts study still pending, the National Energy Policy Committee (NEPC) chaired by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, however, gave the project the go-ahead last week.”

Meanwhile, “Egat has also gone ahead and awarded a contract to build the 32-billion-baht plant to a consortium of Power Construction of China and Italian-Thai Development…”.

The conclusion in the op-ed is: “If the project is pre-determined to proceed as stated by the Gen Prawit, it should be presumed that whatever the public has to say about it will not make any difference.”

We wrote about double standards but we can now see we should have discussed the political double-cross. The junta may still be in trouble with its natural political allies.

(As a footnote, we can’t help but think about Rolls Royce, Diageo, Tyco, General Cable, and more.)





With 3 updates: Arresting protesters

18 02 2017

Several reports say that the military junta has moved against anti-coal-fired power station protest leaders.

Khaosod reports that the junta’s thugs arrested “three activists who led an overnight protest in front of the Government House against the regime’s plan to build a coal power plant in the south.”

At least “100 protesters from Krabi province demanded the government scrap the project, citing fears of environmental and health damages, only to be told by junta chairman [General] Prayuth Chan-ocha on Friday the construction will go ahead as planned.”

They rallied at Government House overnight and in the morning, police “moved in and arrested three protest leaders and took them into custody.”

The police arrested Prasitthichai Nunual, Akaradej Chakjinda and Mom Luang Rungkhun Kitiyakara. Yes, that’s a princely Kritayakara.

Later, another two were arrested.

The Dictator had warned them not to rally. They rallied. He had them arrested. Like anti-junta protesters, they were all taken to the 11th Military Circle military base. They are charged with “violating the military government’s order against gatherings of five people or more after they refused to end the rally…”. They will be dragged before a “civilian court on Monday.”

As might be expected when southerners and members of the elite are arrested, immediately, a “network of southern academics and communities urged the government to release the detainees and reconsider the plan to build the 780-megawatt power plant.” These academics and “communities” declared that the “arrest of the key leaders to put pressure on the rally to end is against basic rights and humanitarian acts…”.

We don’t like coal-fired power stations. Even so, we have to ask: Where were this network when the student anti-coup activists have been arrested, abducted and charged?

Then the “Thai Labour Solidarity Committee pledged to stay behind the protesters to block the project. It called for an end to government attempts to end the rally as it could lead to more confrontations and conflict.”

Where were they when the student anti-coup activists have been arrested, abducted and charged?

Oh, yes, those arrested are among those who might have supported the coup.

And there’s the rub. The junta is going after its own supporters because they are behaving “badly.” We expect that even the dullards who inhabit the junta will quickly work out that this might not be a great political move. If they don’t, maybe some of the current protesters will get a lesson in junta politics.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post reports that a further 12 protesters were taken away but later released. Some “100 Krabi residents were staying near to Government House” and the Post suggests that “the number is expected to swell considerably after news that representatives from Save the Andaman from Coal’s 51 allies are going to join are going to join the group in Bangkok.”

The detained protesters got a visit from national human rights commissioner Angkana Neelapaijit. Remarkably, given that it is generally silent, she suggested that the National Human Rights Commission “is considering making a statement about reminding the government it needs to understand people’s rights and the freedom to hold a peaceful protest.”

In fact, this protest has been no less peaceful than those held by student activists and and anti-coup activists.

Junta mouthpieces were active, seemingly seeking to downplay notions that there is any political conflict.

Colonel Winthai Suvaree “said the leaders were taken for talks to find a solution to the issue. Police have not yet pressed any charges against them…”. Meanwhile Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the “arrests were made because the protesters failed to disperse or move to a designated protest area set aside by authorities, who were trying to negotiate with the group.”

Update 2: The Nation reports that 16 protesters were arrested. It also reports that “[l]egal experts condemned the move, saying it was a severe violation of the protesters’ rights and demanded that they be released immediately.” The lawyers stated that the arrests “violated basic human rights and it was a misuse of power.”

Where were they when student activists and anti-coup activists were repeatedly arrested? Exercising their double standards?

This doesn’t apply to Chainarong Sretthachau, a lecturer at Mahasarakham University, who has supported students in the northeast in environmental protest. He made the good point that the “use of absolute power to crack down on peaceful protesters was a violation of human rights, because the Thai government had ratified international agreements.”

Update 3: The junta has sorted things out, solving its apparent political contradiction. The Bangkok Post reports that the detained “[f]ive leaders of the protest … have been released and demonstrators dispersed after the government agreed to renew the project’s environmental impact assessment and the environmental health impact assessment.” Sansern said this resulted from “talks between representatives of the government and core leaders and coordinators of the Save the Andaman from Coal group who had submitted a proposal to the government.”

We guess the realization that they were feuding with allies was a consideration. As the mouthpiece explained, “It should be made clear that the government is concerned about the people.” Its people.

This seems important as the Save the Andaman from Coal group declared “talks with the government representatives went smoothly. The protest leaders had been well looked after and the government had agreed to their proposals.” The group ended the protest and said that “protesters were set to return to their home province on Sunday. He said police would provide them with transport as well as food and water.” How nice.

The political nature of the agreement was emphasized when the five protest leaders who had been arrested “were brought to the protest site by Government House … and released…. They were accompanied by Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong, commander of the 1st Army, and Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, the police chief.” How politically nice.





Money for nothing II

17 02 2017

In a post a little while ago, PPT had the story of puppet legislators missing in inaction at the National Legislative Assembly. We mentioned Prachatai’s report of an iLaw study of the apparently unconstitutionality of some members of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly. We used the word “apparently” because the details of “leaves” taken are considered “secret.”

At the end of that post we speculated that because “leaves” from the puppet NLA are “secret,” and because The Dictator’s brother is one of those involved, and because the junta’s work is at stake, we expected an announcement that the non-attendees were “on leave.”

Clean hands?

Clean hands?

Sure enough, we already have that statement. The Nation reports that Deputy Dictator and Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has declared that “it is not a problem that General Preecha Chan-o-cha, the former Defence permanent secretary and brother of the prime minister, takes frequent leave from legislative meetings…”. Oddly, he also stated that “a committee is being set up to examine the case.”

And just in case you wondered, General Prawit declared that “Preecha took leave under normal regulations of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)…”.

Of course he did. And, if he didn’t, you can probably bet he has applied now and been approved.

As we understand it, even on leave – for almost all the six months he missed almost all meetings – he still draws his NLA salary that is in excess of 100,000 baht a month.

Money for nothing.

Prawit explained the “situation.” He speculated “that as Preecha also served as the defence permanent secretary he might need to take leave sometimes.”

In any case, the NLA is just a rubber stamp for the junta so missing meetings is hardly an issue for The Dictator and his dictatorship. Demonstrating its puppet status, “Prawit said he had already talked to NLA president Pornpetch Vichitcholchai. Prawit said they found no problems…”.

Still, to launder the record, General Prawit “told Pornpetch to go ahead with setting up a committee to examine the case.”

That will result in a finding that there’s no issue. Junta-led “investigations” of themselves always reach this conclusion.

Naturally enough, General Prawit was loyally supported by “Army Commander General Chalermchai Sittisart also defended the absence of NLA members from legislative meetings, including the PM’s brother.” Chalermchai did admit that the NLA “is far different from a normal House, as it draws members from various professions, many of whom are civil servants, meaning they also have their own work to take care of.” He means its a puppet, rubber stamping hoax legislature.

General Preecha’s record displays considerable evidence of corruption and nepotism. His protection by his brother and the regime is simply one more case of gross double standards.





Money for nothing I

16 02 2017

Many readers will have already seen Prachatai’s report on the iLaw study of the apparently unconstitutionality of some members of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly. We say “apparently” because the details of “leaves” taken are considered “secret.”

The point made by iLaw – Prachatai’s report doesn’t seem to get it quite right – is that the stipulated requirements of the Assembly are that in order to receive the substantial salaries they receive, the puppets are mandated to attend one-third of voting sessions in the Assembly. The requirement to attend a stipulated number of voting sessions is mandated by the military’s interim constitution at Article 9(5).

Clipped from iLaw

Clipped from iLaw

The big noise in all of this is that, yet again, The Dictator’s brother, General Preecha Chan-ocha, features. Preecha appears to play by his own “rules,” engaging in all kinds of nepotism, while pocketing the loot of his relationships and his military position, with impunity. Preecha is included in the graphic above, with 4 + 1 attendances.

We can also extrapolate a little on these findings. By not attending for the stipulated proportion of voting meetings, prima facie, membership of the Assembly is ended. Thus, by continuing to receive a salary for doing nothing or very little, such members are potentially engaging in an act of corruption. It can also be suggested that any Assembly actions they take are also unconstitutional. In essence, decisions the Assembly has taken, that these members have been involved in – when they managed to attend – may also be deemed unconstitutional.

We can surmise that, because “leaves” are secret, because The Dictator’s brother is involved, and because the junta’s work is at stake, that an announcement will be made that the non-attendees were “on leave.”





The corruption glacier II

14 02 2017

In our previous post we stated that there were two stories today that emphasize how the National Anti-Corruption Commission is politicized, biased and just plain slow. Glacially slow. This post also illustrates some of those issues.

Khaosod reports that an NACC “[i]nvestigation into accusations of cronyism within the ranks of the ruling junta was suspended along with other cases due to a legal technicality…”.

Read the story as political bias, read it as the glacier having stopped inching forward or read it as both.

SchultzThis story seems to say that all inquiries and investigations, “including that over a construction company run by junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha’s nephew, can not move forward until officials implement the changes in recent amendments to anti-graft laws…”.

NACC Secretary-General Sansern Poljiak said: “we halted all cases.”

Oops, sorry, that’s Sgt Schultz in the picture, not General Preecha…. Still, it seems to fit this story. A lot of people seem to know nothing.

So all that guff about Rolls Royce investigations was, for the moment, horse manure? It seems so. But back to “investigations” of nepotism.

Then Sansern told reporters, no, not halted: “It’s the same for every case that we have to slow down for only two months so we can fix internal regulations and make them comply with the bigger laws.”

And if anyone was confused, halted means “working as usual”: “… our works are not being halted. Our officials are still working as usual.”

Sansern declared: “I insist that we have not halted only the fact-finding in the case of Gen. Preecha’s son…”. So that’s the NACC not investigating nepotism, but “fact finding.”

The it turns out that the “halt”-cum-“working as usual” of two months has almost finished. Yes, we know, it is confusing. But, then, think about this post and wonder if “halted” is exactly the same as “working as usual.”

Whatever is (not) happening, we are sure those in the broad elite who do and who have benefited from a corruption network in Thailand can continue to sleep easily at night.





Prayuth as the king’s voice

12 02 2017

PrayuthPPT is wondering why The Dictator is speaking for the king. We don’t recall other premiers or military bosses speaking for the king. But maybe our collective memory is faulty.

We have now heard General Prayuth Chan-ocha convey his version of the king’s words to the public several times now, beginning with the delayed accession to the throne after the previous king died.

This time, the Bangkok Post reports that Prayuth claims the king “has asked everyone involved to work together to ensure that upcoming important events, including the investiture of the new supreme patriarch…”.

The Dictator went further, saying the king said this to “him at an event which they were both attending on Thursday evening as the monarch presided over the opening ceremony of an exhibition organised in honour of the royal institution.”

According to the self-appointed prime minister, the king wanted the “investiture of the new supreme patriarch …[to] proceed without hitches…”. We assume that is some kind of threat to anyone who is ticked off that the king regained the power to appoint the patriarch so that untrusted and politically dubious senior monks could be seen off.

The Dictator went even further, declaring that the king “also complimented those involved in organising the exhibition, and said it will provide people with information on the royal institution, particularly the late King …, who made substantial contributions to the development of the country.”

No one knew that…. duh. But is this Prayuth or the king? And why is The Dictator the king’s mouthpiece?

As a footnote, another ventriloquist act is reported when Prime Minister’s Office Minister Ormsin Chivapruck says that the about to be new supreme patriarch, Phra Maha Muniwong “asked me to pass on his best regards to the prime minister and wished Gen Prayut success in his work…”.

We just looked at the calendar and we can confirm it is 2017, not 1957.





The Dictator on rights, liberties and democracy

11 02 2017

PrayuthThe self-appointed premier and The Dictator of Thailand, who heads a military dictatorship that jails political opponents on trumped up charges, and who launched an illegal coup and led troops in a murderous crackdown on protesters, while granting impunity to family and friends, has advice on rights, liberties and democracy.

Of course, The Dictator has no knowledge of such principles. And we would be laughing out loud if this situation wasn’t indicative of The Dictator’s desire to push his country into a monochrome and dark political “future.”

In another apparently angry retort, General Prayuth Chan-ocha demanded that the “general public not to be obsessed with democracy, rights and liberties, saying a preoccupation with this could lead to anarchy.”

He said he preferred “the people should take into consideration other principles, especially existing laws, to find proper logic.”

“Proper logic” is something that Thailand’s military probably thinks is found on a golf course or in a bag of “commissions.”

A clearly determined Prayuth warned people that they should not get “carried away with thoughts about rights, liberties and democracy in every issue…”.

What he intends is that the public should understand and accept that his regime has no plans to provide and rights, liberties and democracy.

The Dictator, seeming to speak to the 300 and more who signed a letter for the release of Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa and others beginning to gripe under the military boot, declared that his junta will “find a way to achieve its goals of reforms and national unity.”

In case anyone was confused, Prayuth added that his junta and its nearly identical government “cannot be swayed by the public’s feelings.”

Clearly the military junta’s political agenda is far more important than trifling notions of rights, liberties and democracy.