Crony senate

14 05 2019

As simply everyone expected, a Senate has been unveiled by the military junta that is packed full of junta supporters, backers and lackeys:

Khaosod reports: “Military top brass and the junta’s inner circle dominate the full list of 250 appointed senators unveiled to the public on Monday, ending months of secrecy.”

The Nation states: “Many of the newly appointed senators are from the ruling junta and people close to its key figures.”

The Bangkok Post: “The Royal Gazette on Tuesday published an announcement on the royally-approved list of 250 senators, including 66 army generals…. The Senate list includes the names of 105 people with ranks in the military or police….

None of this is a surprise. Perhaps some hoped that the members of the junta might demonstrate at least a pinch of political decorum, but that is misplaced as the military junta has repeatedly demonstrated that is has no shame at all.

Some other quotes from the reporting linked above are worth preserving here, demonstrating that the junta is a chip off the 1991 coup group and operates as a representative of yellow-shirt interests. (Those who imagined that the red-yellow divide was gone should look more carefully at the manner of the junta’s operations.):

The list – mostly handpicked by junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha – includes generals, loyal government technocrats, 15 ex-ministers who served under Prayuth until their resignation last week, and even a younger brother of the junta leader.

Hardline critics of ex-leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who remains a popular figure among opposition voters, also made it to the final cut. They include poet and activist Nawarat Pongpaiboon, former anti-corruption chief Klanarong Chanthik, and royalist law scholar Kamnoon Sitthisamarn….

The announcement dated on Saturday included Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha, younger brother of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Adm Sitthawat Wongsuwon, younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, Klanarong Chantik, former secretary-general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), former deputy prime minister Chatchai Sarikulya, former national reform member Khamnoon Sitthisaman, former foreign trade director-general Duangporn Rodphaya, and former national security council secretary-general Thawil Pliensri.

Among other senators were Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, former president of the National Legislative Assembly, former NACC chairman Panthep Klanarongran, forensic expert Khunying Porntip Rojanasunan, former deputy agriculture minister Luck Wajananawat, and former tourism and sports minister Weerasak Kowsurat.

More than a third of  the newly appointed senators have military or police backgrounds….

But one surprise is this for the conflict of interest and nepotism it involves:

Some of the new Senate’s members sat in the committee tasked with nominating senatorial candidates to be selected by the National Council for Peace and Order.

More than 100 of them are retired or active high-ranking officers from the armed forces and the police, including 70 from the Army, 12 from the Navy, eight from the Air Force and 12 from the Royal Thai Police.

Many new senators are family members of people in power.

These include General Preecha Chan-o-cha, who is the younger brother of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha; Air Vice Marshal Chalermchai Krea-ngam, who is the younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam; Admiral Sitsawat Wongsuwan, who is the younger brother of Deputy Premier and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan; and Som Jatusripitak, who is the elder brother of Deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak.

Nothing more or less can be expected from the military junta. Be prepared for this kind of cronyism to breed deeper corruption. After all, that’s the pattern of past military-dominated regimes.





Abject nepotism

12 05 2019

The military junta has demonstrated that it is determined to monopolize political power; it is the way of military dictatorships.

PPT is full of posts about its political repression, martial law, use of military courts, nepotism and corruption. The junta has filled the bureaucracy, “independent” organizations, courts and appointed bodies with junta puppets and flunkies.

This is why a story in the Bangkok Post, where Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has defended The Dictator’s nepotism, is now “normalized” for Thailand.

Gen Prawit, himself having been accused and never properly investigated for corruption, “defended the appointment of ex-permanent secretary for defence [Gen.] Preecha Chan-o-cha, the younger brother of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, as a senator, saying the retired officer has experience as a lawmaker.”

He means the experience of seldom attending the puppet National Legislative Assembly. His brother appointed him to that and several other posts as well. See what we mean by “normalized.” Of course, there are a long string of complaints about Gen Preecha, big brother and nepotism, none of them adequately “investigated” by the puppet anti-corruption authorities, all of them staffed and headed by junta lackeys.

The list of 250 senators handpicked by The Dictator and the junta has been sent off to the king in Germany, a bunch of junta members, government ministers, NLA members and other junta associates have resigned from posts in order to constitute the unelected swill of the Senate.

Nepots: clipped from the Bangkok Post

Gen Preecha was reported to be “among 60 members of the … NLA … who resigned from their posts this week ahead of taking up roles as senators. At least 15 cabinet ministers also stepped down for the same reason.”

This cartoon, from The Nation is about the state of politics in the country and seems accurate enough:

It is from 1992 and pretty much still relevant today. With the military and its men still controlling politics, bootlicking is rewarded and nepotism and corruption will deepen.





The unelected swill

9 05 2019

The unelected swill that will compose the dead weight of the royalist elite and the military junta on the future – the senate – will shortly be announced.

The Bangkok Post correctly observes that the junta’s senate will be marked by cronyism and nepotism. As it also notes, this was expected of The Dictator and his band of election-rigging cheats.

It notices that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “has picked his brother, cabinet members and current lawmakers to serve in the Upper House…”. Their “service” is to the ruling class and the junta. As so many agencies have been made puppets, so it will be with the senate.

At present, these observations of who is a new senator comes from moves by those selected resigning elsewhere. Young brother, Gen Preecha Chan-ocha, “confirmed to the media that he had resigned from the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to assume a new role as one of the senators.”

Preecha hardly ever showed up for the NLA and has been the subject of numerous corruption and nepotism allegations. He has brazenly stared down critics – his brother is the boss, so he can do what he likes – and the puppet anti-corruption agencies have averted their eyes. He’s a crook, but he’s loyal to big brother.

NLA vice president Peerasak Porjit has “revealed” that “at least 60 people would quit their jobs at the NLA …[to] be eligible to take up posts at the Senate.” They are being rewarded for their loyalty to The Dictator and the junta. And, “at least 15 cabinet ministers have tendered their resignations with the same goal in mind.”

It is clear that, as expected, Gen Prayuth’s selection of senators is “to be dominated by people from his personal circle and political allies.”

While the senate is crucial for the selection of the next premier – still looking like The Dictator – it is unlikely to be anything other than a rubber stamp for the junta’s Palang Pracharath government. As the Post says, it will be like the NLA, a puppet, “serving the agenda of the government without the proper checks on its power.”

Perhaps for the first time, the Post also calls out the “National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), the Election Commission (EC), the Constitutional Court, the State Audit Office, and the Office of the Auditor General” as puppets of the junta.

For the ruling class, you get what you pay for: justice for sale, parliament for sale, and a buddy regime.





One year of the luxury watch non-investigation

3 12 2018

The Bangkok Post has to be applauded for its editorial that observes the anniversary of the day “Deputy Prime Minister [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwon showed off his diamonds and a costly watch…” that became more than a score of luxury watches.

The Post points out that the Deputy Dictator had never declared the watches in his assets lists.

He says he borrowed the watches, worth millions each, from a friend who is now dead. Lucky that, for Gen Prawit.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission was meant to “investigate” their boss. The NACC is also headed by a Prawit ally. So, the “investigation” has gone nowhere. The Post observes:

The watch scandal has continued until today. Every couple of months, Mr Worawit issues a statement that the probe will be wrapped up “soon”. Social media users have quickly grown cynical and openly deride the NACC for alleged incompetence.

In fact, the NACC is not incompetent at all. It is corrupt. It is deliberately corrupt, covering up for the junta’s deputy.

The editorial concludes:

Gen Prawit is the highest-ranking regime member caught in corruption suspicion. But other friends of Gen Prayut, including his brother Gen Preecha, also have been excused from the rule of law. It is inexcusable that the NACC refuses timely investigation and release of information to the public. It is far worse when the government allows such conduct.

What we can’t help thinking is how many corruption cases have simply been hushed up? Imagine what it is going to be like if this regime continues for another four or more years. How corrupt will it become when The Dictator has to cover up for his political party as it eats its fill at the taxpayer’s trough?





No nepotism, just a strong odor

18 08 2018

Nepotism has been a recurring issue for the military junta. Most usually, this nepotism has been associated with Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his brother Gen Preecha.

Nothing ever came of non-investigations and the “explanations” were insipid.

Interestingly, Thai PBS has reported that former Army boss and the junta’s Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda has defended his son “after the latter’s name appeared on a list of appointments with the Phuket governor to discuss garbage management deals.”

Gen Anupong declared that his son could not have done anything wrong.

Indeed, Gen Anupong “explained” that “he had asked his son, Yutthapong, about the reported appointment with the Phuket governor and was told that his son had never met the governor.”

Going further, Gen Anupong said “he had checked with the governor who said he had already deleted Yutthapong’s appointment from the list.”

Gen Anupong then announced: “I can guarantee that my family has never get involved in this vested interest.  My son said he had never met the governor, didn’t know him (governor) and was not involved in the business (garbage management)…”.

But there’s a very fishy odor about this because Gen Anupong’s own words make it clear that his son’s name was on an appointment list to meet the governor to discuss a business deal. His  name was only deleted when the issue became public.

Seeking to silence critics, the disingenuous Gen Anupong “said he would sue anyone who defamed his reputation.” But getting rid of that odor might be more difficult.





The puppet NACC

7 08 2018

The Bangkok Post has yet another editorial criticizing the National Anti-Corruption Commission. It begins:

[The NACC] has reached a crucial fork in the road. Soon, it will have to provide the public with the facts it has uncovered in the probe of the undocumented luxury watches worn by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon. Alternatively, it will continue to stonewall. This choice will inform the public that the NACC is a weak organisation, completely unwilling to speak truth to power and lacking the fortitude even to bring about the promise that brought Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to the premiership.

In fact, the “fork in the road” was passed long ago. It passed that point from the moment it was appointed by the junta. It sped further down the puppet road when NACC president Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit was made NACC puppet president and, after public pressure “recused” himself from the actual “investigation,” but continued in his job when “investigations” of Prawit “continued.” Watcharapol “has personal ties with Gen Prawit, and with Gen Prawit’s brother, former national police chief Pol Gen Patcharawat, who also has faced NACC graft allegations without result.”

The “recusal” was fake: Watcharapol “has stayed directly informed, as evidenced by his press conference on July 20 that gave information about the investigation.”

The NACC is a fake anti-corruption agency. It works as the junta demands. It ignores cases the junta wants ignored. As the Post points out, The Dictator’s anti-corruption drive is compromised:

One of the first high-ranking people to be accused of corruption was a four-star army general. But Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha [Prayuth’s brother] was never prosecuted. Former army chief and former deputy defence minister, Gen Udomdej Sitabutr [a Prayuth supporter], was responsible for the construction of the extremely controversial Rajabhakti Park but there were no consequences.

The Post recognizes that the NACC is a puppet institution, observing:

Pol Gen Watcharapol’s NACC decided not to pursue blatant, obvious and even admitted nepotism by many members of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly.

On Prawit’s case,

What it [the NACC] has been able to do to this point, more than eight months later, is to stonewall the corruption accusation. The public and opinion writers believe that the anti-graft agency is trying to make the country forget that the first deputy prime minister and closest associate of Prime Minister Prayut faces hard questions of how he got access to more than 40 million baht worth of watches.

In the end, the Post admits that the “fork in the road” is long passed, declaring that the NACC looks remarkably like “an agency far more interested in protecting bad actors of the regime than in doing its assigned job.”

That’s true. The sad thing for Thailand is that it is but one of the puppet institutions. Even regular bureaucratic agencies have suffered purges under the junta and been infiltrated by junta cronies.

Usually, the public learns little of the corruption of military regimes until they are gone. In the case of this junta, we may never know because it isn’t planning to go away for many, many years.





Many micro-parties = The Dictator

8 04 2018

The “election” strategy that the military dictatorship seems to be favoring revolves around the formation and/or co-opting of as many parties as possible. The strategy seems to be based on a thought that the many parties will come together to support the only likely “outsider.” The use of this term signifies an “election”-shy candidate.

This strategy appears to have driven the push for provisions in the junta’s constitution that allow an outsider and those that encourage micro-parties. All very 1980s.

As the likely micro-parties are formed and register, they are announcing their support (or lack of it) for either Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha or an “outsider” for post-“election” boss of Thailand.

The latest party to do this presented no surprise at all. The Bangkok Post reports that the misnamed “People Reform Party” (it is a party but has nothing to do with reform or people), owned by ultra-yellowist Paiboon Nititawan, “has declared its full support for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as an outsider prime minister at its first meeting.”

The party, only “the second allowed by the junta to meet after New Alternative party first met two weeks ago, is the first to openly declare full support for Gen Prayut and announced it would vote in line with appointed senators.” Well, that’s only partly true. Plenty of others have more or less said they’d support him or an “outsider.” Others have been coy while their membership makes it clear who they are supporting.

The junta “allowed it to hold the meeting to decide on the party’s name abbreviation, logo, manifesto, policies and regulations. They also elected Mr Paiboon as party leader.” Given that he established the party and is the only name associated with it, nothing else could be contemplated.

Paiboon said: “Backing Gen Prayut is our secondary policy, which is to support a nonpartisan prime minister. In my view, Gen Prayut has all the qualifications, competence and integrity. Up until now, there has been no corruption scandals involving him or his family members so he’s our best choice…”. No surprise. Paiboon has been supporting Gen Prayuth since before the coup. But Paiboon is also lying. Nepotism has been rife. Ask Gen Preecha Chan-ocha about that.

Just to be clear on how the junta has positions “Paiboon’s party,” Paiboon declared that if “other parties draw enough votes to support someone else as the PM, People Reform would vote along the line of senators…”. Prayuth and the junta appoint the senators.

But that should be unnecessary: “I believe we and other parties can garner more than 125 votes. When combined with the votes from 250 senators, we can throw out any party-list PM candidate proposed by another party…”. The Dictator’s strategy is the clearest it has ever been.

Paiboon even made it crystal clear that his party is not even considering winning more than a few seats: “In any case, while the number of MPs is not our main goal, we predict we would win a satisfactory number of MPs.” By satisfactory he means sufficient to join with other faux parties to get Prayuth’s job for him.

Meanwhile, Paiboon’s buddy and political conservative twin, Suthep Thaugsuban has decided to “back a political party in the upcoming election…”. While this was never in doubt, the Bangkok Post reports that he will support (or establish) “a political party that will serve the people’s needs, not its own.” But it will support Suthep’s reactionary anti-politics.

Like Paiboon, “Suthep had previously stated that he would back Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to resume the premiership after the election.” So the party he supports will have its nose firmly positioned in Prayuth’s … corner.

Prayuth calls his anti-democrat position “political innovation” and like Paiboon reckons that the party he supports will be a “party of the people.” Paiboon and Suthep are the ugly twins in a very ugly political system spawned by anti-democrats, royalists and the military.

The easily forgotten military-backed party Bhum Jai Thai Party has begun re-registering its members. The Dictator will be spoiled for choice. The parties won’t be. They’ll be told who to support. Even so, much fun, games and heartburn seem sure to come.