Promising the royal decree

22 01 2019

The Bangkok Post reports:

A highly placed source in the EC said Monday the commission was under immense pressure to set an election date. The most viable options for holding the ballot are now either March 10 or March 24.

Without the royal decree calling for the election, the Election Commission (EC) cannot set the date for the poll, said the source.

And, again, The Dictator has declared that the “royal decree calling the election will soon be published in the Royal Gazette.” Previously, 23 January was the new predicted date for the delayed decree for the long-delayed election.

Army commander, Gen Apirat Kongsompong, said to be close to the king, “believes the royal decree announcing the polls will be published soon as required by the constitution…” The comment on constitution seems to refer to the general 150-day deadline set for holding the election after the final organic law.

Let’s see what happens tomorrow, but many are pessimistic.

Political scientist Prajak Kongkiarti “said it will not bode well if the Royal Decree is not issued this week…”. If the decree is not issued, then Prajak predicts the junta’s election “will likely be held after May 9…”. That’s unconstitutional but Prajak predicts the use of Article 44: “However, that would mean we enter a political black hole where the Constitution is meaningless and no rules are the norm other than Article 44.”

Updated: Whistling in the wind

19 01 2019

Human Rights Watch has released a call  – likely to fall on deaf ears – for the military junta to “fully restore democratic freedoms so that all political parties can fully and fairly participate in the electoral process…. But so far the junta just keeps persecuting critics, banning peaceful protests, and censoring the media.”

This call comes as HRW releases its annual World Report 2019. This one has the subtitle “Reversing Autocrats’ Attacks on Rights,” which has remarkable resonance for Thailand.

HRW may be whistling in the wind as their press release notes that “[i]n December, Thai authorities blocked access to the Human Rights Watch’s Thailand web page.” That additional effort at blocking has been noted by us as well.

While whistling in the wind, we should have been astonished to read that the Election Commission secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma has said “his office has yet to look into a fund-raising report from the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), which held a Chinese-style fund-raising banquet on Dec 19 last year.”

No surprise there. After all, despite a little arm wrestling over the royal decree, the EC remains a puppet agency.

This view of the EC as a sham seems confirmed in the same report, where secretary-general Jarungvith Phummais quoted (presumably accurately) saying the agency will “investigate” claims by “Democrat Party deputy leader Nipit Intarasombat that some politicians, with the aid of local authorities, are inducing voters to release their ID cards in exchange for 500 baht.”

This old-fashioned caper is “suspected” (really!!) of using the “citizenship cards to commit fraud in the general election.” But then Jarungvith is quoted as making a truly breathtaking claim: “the EC does not have enough information at this stage to say if the practice is considered an offence under election-related laws.”

If it isn’t, then renting ID cards will become standard practice. Who needs voters when you can rent their ID cards and vote for them.

And, finally – and this is all in a single report – Jarungvith

… declined to comment as to whether [The Dictator] Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha] and [government spokesman and Palang Pracharath Party member] Mr Buddhipongse [Punnakanta] should be allowed to continue to appear on weekly television shows in the run-up to the general election after complaints that the platform may give an advantage to certain parties.

The EC at work

It seems that any backbone that might have existed at the EC is now a gooey sludge at the bottom of a rancid canal.

But never fear, the EC is planning some real work. It says it is “prepared to launch a six-week campaign to raise awareness of the need for a free and fair election at more than 430 schools…” in Bangkok.

We are not at all sure which election they mean to promote as free and fair, but it won’t be the junta’s election, whenever that is held. And we can’t help wondering how many school children in those schools will be voting or renting out their ID cards.

Update: Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Thai Constitution Protection Organisation, has added to the problems the EC has in covering up for the junta’s election cheats. The Palang Pracharath Party now claims its big fundraising dinner didn’t raise 650 million baht. The Party “posted the list of donors at its head office on Friday,” showing a “total at 90 million baht…”.

Srisuwan went further, observing that “donations from three companies under the King Power group totalling 24 million baht might violate the political party law, which prohibits anyone from donating more than 10 million baht a year to a party and any juristic person from giving more than 5 million.” The companies are: King Power Suvarnabhumi Co Ltd and King Power Duty Free Co Ltd giving 9 million baht each and King Power International Co Ltd with a 6 million donation.

According to the Bangkok Post, its individual donors included: “Pongkavin Jungrungreangkij, a son of former transport minister Suriya Jungrungreangkij … with 5 million baht.” On the list of 24 companies donating were: Mitr Phol Co Ltd (6 million baht), Saijo Denki International Co Ltd (6 million), Sky ICT (5 million), TPI Polene (3 million), TPI Polene Power (3 million), Loxley (3 million), Khon Kaen Sugar (3 million ) and the Thai Cement Manufacturers Association (3 million).

Guessing game

17 01 2019

The guessing game about the junta’s “election” continues, although The Nation reports that The Dictator has finally actually stated that the 24 February date is off. Now everyone and his buffalo knew this, but Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has been reluctant to say it, fearing the palace and/or loss of face.

Then he babbled before stating something potentially rather significant. The babble was this: “We’re going towards full democracy.” That’s buffalo manure. For an analysis of why this is buffalo manure, see the op-ed by Zachary Abuza a couple of days ago.

The Dictator then said: “There will be an election no matter what…. [The election date] will be changed but still it will be by May 9.” We are interested in the “no matter what” bit. We are guessing that there’s pressure to delay everything until after the coronation. At the same time, with no royal decree, the junta seems to be grasping at rice straw and defining the constitution in a manner that gives it the most possible time in scheduling a rigged election.

Another report has Gen Prayuth declaring: “There will be an election before coronation…. We have to organize both things together, but we must give time to the coronation preparation first…”. Royalism trumps elections, even a rigged election.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post is reporting on a quiet arm wrestle between the Election Commission, the junta and the palace.

Before writing more, though, we have a response to a reader who asks whether it is the king or the junta holding things up. That reader wonders if a royal decree has been signed but that it is being withheld from publication in the Royal Gazette. Like everyone else outside the upper reaches of the dictatorship and the palace, we don’t know. However, it would seem that withholding the decree would both damage the junta and would amount to an act of lese majeste. So our guess is that the delaying is in the palace and that the junta’s bosses are fuming but hamstrung by their own royalism.

Back at the EC, it is reported that it “is highly likely to select March 10 as the election date as it has agreed that the 150-day deadline for the general election to be completed as set by the charter should include the poll results endorsement.” Of course, that would seem to contradict The Dictator’s assessment, so there’s a tussle going on, with the EC trying to get some clarity.

Another version, reportedly from a senior EC official talking to Reuters, is: “There are now two possible dates … March 10 or March 24…”.

EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma stated that EC “commissioners had agreed that the completion of the election process mentioned in the charter must include the poll results endorsement. This is the first time the EC has spelt out its stance on the issue.” It’s likely putting the EC in conflict with The Dictator.

Jarungvith, however, reconfirmed that “while the EC is authorised to set the poll date, the government is responsible for announcing the election. The EC is required to set the date within five days of the decree being published in the Royal Gazette.”

There’s no decree, so the arm wrestle continues.

The Dictator advances his electoral cheating

15 01 2019

The Dictator is also self-appointed prime minister. He’s also the de facto leader of his junta-created and nurtured Palang Pracharath Party.

As might be expected of an arrogant military boss who has commanded troops ordered to shoot down protesters and has led an illegal military putsch, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has no compunction about using state power in his campaigning for his junta’s rigged election.

No one knows when this election will be held, although the fact that The Dictator continues with his cheating campaign suggests it will be this year, maybe.

In Chiang Mai, campaigning with his cabinet  – which includes several leaders of his devil party – Prayuth demonstrated his infinite capacity for cheating.

The Dictator told potential voters to listen only to pro-junta parties and himself: “Don’t listen to people who used to cause damage to the country. I hope you’ll get a decent government after the election…”. He means a pro-junta puppet regime.

He went further, attacking the campaign policies of anti-junta parties, describing them as “unrealistic.” This is where the very thin and barely visible line between “government” and devil party was obliterated, declaring: “the government [meaning the military  junta] has to clarify whether it can deliver those promises.”

He continued to deliver “the government’s” verdict: “They are liars. Don’t let them deceive you… They are not telling the truth. Everyone likes these promises, but are they even feasible?…”.

At the same time, Gen Prayuth “defended his government’s record.”That means that he’s urging votes for pro-junta parties.

There is no difference between the junta and the devil parties. The term “conflict of interest” is insufficient in describing this outright cheating.

Junta punts again

10 01 2019

The military junta is desperately trying to drop the election football like it is a hot potato. It keeps trying to punt the most recent “election” delay to every body other than itself.

The Dictator is reported as urging “relevant authorities [he means the Election Commission] to seek opinions from the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) when determining the poll date…”. He adds that he “expects all those responsible for organising the general election, previously scheduled for Feb 24, to ensure it proceeds smoothly before, during and after the ballots are cast.”

Yes, right. That all sounds good, but where’s the royal decree? That’s the issue and problem.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam promised “that a clearer picture of the poll timing would emerge today…. He said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha would today be meeting with the committee in charge of coronation preparations to discuss scheduling requirements.”

So nothing has changed since the shock of no royal decree on 2 January. That’s the initial roadblock.

“Election” date unknown I

9 01 2019

There’s very heavy blocking going on in Thailand at present, suggesting that the confusion over the “election” is raising angst within the junta and its puppet agencies.

The Nation points out the all too obvious: the “much-anticipated Royal Decree on the election, which will allow the Election Commission to fix the poll date, has yet to be issued…”.  It was promised by the junta for 2 January. So far, nothing.

The junta has been mumbling about the need not to interfere with the king’s coronation, which was suddenly announced on 1 January.

What is The Dictator’s position on delaying his “election”? When asked, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said “he did not know when it [royal decree] would be published in the Royal Gazette.” He added: “It will be when it will be…. I haven’t said anything about a delay or no delay.” He has no idea. He’s stuck between a rock and the palace.

He then got irritated, saying: “All the countries I have visited, they understand [about coronation]. So, what do you want from me?” We weren’t aware that he had visited any countries since 1 January. Or is it that he already told foreign leaders about a poll delay before he told the Thai people? We doubt this and don’t think Gen Prayuth knows what’s going on in the palace or, if he does, he’s not going to say anything.

While the Deputy Dictator and serial luxury watch “borrower” Gen Prawit Wongsuwan “guaranteed” that his junta’s “election” would be held by 9 May, he hid the cause of the delay – lack of a royal decree – Gen Prawit hid behind the EC: “He … said that the authority to set the poll date rests with the EC.”

Catch-22: EC can’t do anything until there’s a royal decree. Why there is no royal decree? It seems that neo-feudal Thailand prevents the question and cannot allow an answer, at least in public.

The EC is at least maintaining a public image of pressuring for a royal decree to be issued. EC president Ittiporn Boonpracong made the position clear: “We don’t have any election date model and we’re waiting for the royal decree…”. No royal decree, no election date, and no election.

And around and around we go.

Elections, winners

7 01 2019

Still no news on an election date and no sign of a royal decree on the election.

Meanwhile, there’s quite a lot of seemingly sudden recognition that the outcome is likely to less than optimal.

The Bangkok Post reports that most politicians, including those from the junta’s devil party, are predicting an outcome that will be potentially messy.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva covered all bases:

a party winning more than half of the 500 MP seats at stake and governing solo; parties huddling together to form a government with a House majority; and parties left locked in disagreement while a few of them attempt to set up a minority coalition administration … [and] a government with a parliamentary minority is not totally out of the question, but it would suffer from enormous internal instability.

Meanwhile, “figures with the pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) … agree that a post-election government may not last for very long as the administration might be made up of several medium-sized parties prone to bickering and disunity.”

Most analysts still predict that Puea Thai and its allied parties will likely win most seats, but not sufficient to form government.

Back to the early 1990…? But as another article in the Bangkok Post reports, the miltiary will win no matter what the “election” outcome. It states: “The military will continue to play an important role in Thai politics this year, regardless of whether or not Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha returns as premier after the general election.”

The military will campaign hard for The Dictator, but this role also puts it in every community and village in the country, embedding the power it has grabbed since the 2014 coup.

Its relationship with the king also increases its power and prestige. Its role in the now notorious coronation will increase its profile, along with that of the military leader Gen Apirat Kongsompong.

He’s already threatening (for his boss, The Dictator): “The poll results must be accepted, no matter who wins or loses…”. He’s got two years more to serve as army boss, so his support for The Dictator following an “election” is pretty much set.

And if all else fails, as Gen Apirat has warned, another coup is possible.