Another step towards the judicial coup

3 04 2014

The “creeping coup” as we dubbed it many months ago, is continuing. The Bangkok Post reports the latest move, which sees the royalist Constitutional Court accepting a case against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra that will have it ruling within about two weeks.

The case accepted by the kangaroo court involves the transfer of then National Security Council head Thawil Pliensri in 2011 and his reinstatement by the Supreme Administrative Court a couple of weeks ago. The court has “affirmed its authority to consider the Thawil case that was submitted by a group of senators led by Paiboon Nititawan.” This unelected senator is a regular petitioner to the Constitutional Court and a member of the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra group of appointed senators with royalist and military ties.

Based on the Supreme Administrative Court’s decision, the petition claims Yingluck “violated Section 266 (2) and (3) and Section 286 when she signed the order transferring Mr Thawil to be prime ministerial adviser in 2011. It asks the court to rule if she must leave her post as stated in Section 182.” The relevant sections are listed below:

Section 266. A member of the House of Representatives and a senator shall not, through the status or position of member of the House of Representatives or senator, interfere or intervene the following matters, directly or indirectly, for the benefit of his own or other persons or of political party:

… (2) the recruitment, appointment, reshuffle, transfer, promotion and elevation of the salary scale of a government official holding a permanent position or receiving salary and not being a political official, an official or employee of a government agency, State agency, State enterprise or local government organisation;

(3) the removal from office of a government official holding a permanent position or receiving salary and not being a political official, an official or employee of a government agency, State agency, State enterprise or local government organisation….

Section 268. The Prime Minister and a Minister shall not perform any act in violation of the provisions of section 266, except the performance of powers and duties for the administration of State affairs as stated to the National Assembly or as provided by law….

Section 182. The ministership of an individual Minister terminates upon:…

(7) having done an act prohibited by section 267, section 268 or section 269;

The Post states that Paiboon’s petition claims “the transfer was not in the public’s best interests, but is an attempt to find a position for ex-national police chief Wichean Potephosree so the government could appoint its own man to the police chief’s job.”

In fact the whole situation over the police chief’s position goes back a considerable way and involves military, police and palace meddling during the period of the Abhisit Vejjajiva government. Abhisit was dead keen to have his man as police chief, and Wichien was selected for his political credentials and to prevent the rise of  Pol Gen Priewphan Damapong, “the elder brother of Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra, Thaksin Shinawatra’s ex-wife.”

In other words, the political decisions by the Abhisit regime, which were never really challenged or taken up by the biased judiciary and “independent” agencies or royalist-military senators, and which were overturned by the incoming and elected government, are now challenged.

The Supreme Administrative Court “said the prime minister’s judgement [PPT guesses the signing of the transfer] was unlawful and ordered Mr Thawil reinstated. The transfer orders were not in line with government policies announced in parliament.”

Yingluck “will have 15 days to lodge her defence after getting a copy of the petition.”

The Constitutional Court route to bringing down the government is considered by royalists as the best route. It is certainly faster than the National Anti-Corruption Commission rice-pledging scheme kangaroo court and is more likely than an impeachment in the Senate that requires a two-thirds majority.

Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng noted that this route was the one the royalist preferred, observing that “the Constitutional Court has so far ruled as it pleases, rather than going by the charter.” He’s right on that. And, he sees a ruling likely this month.

Royalist Senator Paiboon claimed that he “expects the court to make a decision in two weeks because the case is not complicated and there is no need to hold further hearings.” Another case in the developing tradition of royalist court decisions where evidence and witnesses count for nothing.

Lese majeste in the south

28 02 2013

Prachatai has a post on a mysterious case of lese majeste being conducted in Pattani province. PPT had basic details of this case posted previously.

It is now reported that the “Pattani Provincial Court is proceeding with an in camera lèse majesté trial against a Malayu Muslim man, who is accused of putting up banners about the country’s conflict with a picture of Her Majesty the Queen in 2009.” This is alleged to have involved a number of banners being put up in public areas such as pedestrian bridges in the province on 12 August 2009, the queen’s birthday and “Mother’s Day.”

Prachatai states that the defendant has asked that his name not be revealed.

This man was “arrested without charge under special laws in late August 2009. He claimed that he was hit by army officers and was threatened to force a confession to charges he wasn’t aware of. After he confessed, the military later informed him that he was being investigated on a lèse majesté charge. Later the defendant was able to get bail with a 300,000 baht guarantee.”

Prosecution witnesses are reported to include “forensic expert” and GT200-loving “Pornthip Rojanasunand and former national police chief Priewpan Damapong” who are said to have “already testified in the case, which began in December 2011.” There are slated to be 109 witnesses appearing in the secret trial.

Prachatai reports that further “hearings will take place on February 28, March 1 and March 6, 2013.”

As noted in the report, the only previously known in-camera lese majeste trial was that of Darunee Charnchoensilpakul. In that case, the court “gave national security as the reason for the closed-door [trial].” An appeal was made to the Constitutional Court on the constitutionality of this trial in secret. A ruling was sought on whether the prosecutors’ request for the trial to be held in camera under Section 177 of the Criminal Procedures Code contravenes Sections 29 and 40 of the constitution. In a remarkable demonstration of the injustice inherent in the Thai courts on lese majeste, the Constitutional Court’s contorted verdict was that Darunee’s secret trial was constitutional!

Prem is now “revered”

20 04 2012

The Bangkok Post gives its readers one of the most syrupy of stories we have seen for a while. This time, though, it is not about an idle royal doing something mundane, but about the near-royal nonagenarian General Prem Tinsulanonda, president of the old guys at the Privy Council.

A Bangkok Post photo

Prem seems to be feeling like his world is being put back in place after he and his co-conspirators screwed things up for themselves and their class by plotting the 2006 coup. Ironically, it is the Shinawatra clan, whether by design, choice, political necessity or something else, that seems to be pasting the pieces back together for Prem and the other monarchists.

Hence, Prem is back to his old style and feeling good about having his posterior polished publicly by underlings who should really be more powerful than Prem is as an old general, old prime minister and old plotter. Of course, the belief that he is the right hand of the monarchy is what makes him ever so significant.

Sounding a bit like the king calling for unity in the nation, Prem “called for unity among the Royal Thai Armed Forces and asked them to remain steadfast in their loyalty to the monarchy and the nation.” The latter is significant for it makes the conjoined twins of monarchy and nation more significant than, say, elected governments. Significantly, that hierarchy of significance is a no-brainer for Prem and royalists.

Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat led the bosses of the armed forces to perform a water-pouring rite, and said “the armed forces had the greatest respect for Gen Prem as always because of his good deeds and contributions to the nation.” The Post states: “Gen Prem has long been considered a revered figure by the armed forces…”.

Most of all, while Sukumpol didn’t mention it, every senior officer owes his position to Prem, for Prem has, since the late 1970s, ensured that his allies get all top spots. He’s been able to do this even after he was forced out of the premiership in 1988 because of his palace location.

Prem responds to these kinds of ego-polishing and displays of elite unity, backed by the military, with talk of love as well as unity: “ACM Sukumpol is a senior military official who is well aware of how we love each other. We will continue to love one another like this forever…”.

The police have been on the outside of this elite bonding for they are supposed to be Thaksin Shinawatra supporters. This year, in a significant symbolic display, they are back, led by national police boss Police General Priewphan Damapong. The coppers showed up after the military, showing their location in the love-and-unity elite pecking order. The significance of this is in the report:

That was the first time Pol Gen Priewphan, who is an elder brother of Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra, the former wife of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had met Gen Prem since his appointment as national police chief.

The report goes on to explain: “Pol Gen Priewphan looked excited and barely looked Gen Prem in the eyes while conversing with him.” Could that be a message of reconciliation or of mutual suspicion?

Meanwhile, Prem continues to meddle in politics, even if things seem to be moving in his direction. Perhaps because things are moving in his direction.

Lese majeste and limiting democracy

9 02 2012

Yesterday PPT posted on the arguably unconstitutional approach to a legal petition on the reform of the lese majeste law by the speaker of the House.

Now Police boss Priewphan Damapong has told the Nitirat group that “the authorities were keeping a close watch over its activities…”.  He added: “We will arrest [you] for any wrongful moves and any illegal activities will face prosecution…”.

Priewphan essentially makes the Nitirat group’s point. Using the law to protect a draconian law, not from abolition but from the possibility of reform.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung was reportedly preparing a Cabinet resolution against any attempts to amend Article 112 on lese majeste.

What is it about a call to amend a law by a few academic lawyers that throws the royalist elite into such a spin? Why is it that the royalist elite’s response is simply reaction? Why is it that the royalist elite must resort to censorship and repression whenever it is challenged? What, exactly, does it defend?

The response of Nitirat aligned persons is interesting. Yukti Mukdavichit from Thammasat University said Chalerm’s idea is “hilarious”. He added: “Our campaign is based on constitutional right.”

Yukti continued to criticize Chalerm:

“It also means that people in the government do not understand human rights and liberty under a democratic system. [Such an idea] is also unconstitutional,” said Yukti, warning that Chalerm and even the Cabinet could be charged with restricting the constitutional right to amend law by citizens.

Labour activist Jitra Kotchadej said:

Chalerm has shown himself to not be respectful of people’s constitutional rights and reflects a lack of respect for the democratic process. “I’m surprised because Chalerm was elected… It’s horrible.”

As much as it might be both hilarious and horrible, this is the response of the royalist elite when challenged. Of course it has no respect for constitutional rights or democracy for they are the ideas that challenge it political hegemony and economic stranglehold.

Prayuth fumes and froths on Nitirat

26 01 2012

PPT is unsure whether this story in the Bangkok Post (we also cited it in an earlier post) is referring to new comments by Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha or whether the Post is making a point by repeating and elaborating an earlier report. Clearly the Post thinks Prayuth is telling Nitirat to “Shut up!” as the internet version of the story is headlined at the Post’s front page.

Prayuth seems decidedly put out by the notion that anyone should suggest amending the lese majeste law. His spiraling blood pressure suggests that the law is of deep significance for the royalist regime that is rapidly coming together to attack, denigrate and threaten Nitirat.

Prayuth is quoted as declaring:

Law professors who demand amendments to the lese majeste law must realise the great contribution which the royal institution has made to the country and learn to help their motherland….

While PPT doesn’t recall Nitirat saying anything that challenges this royalist position, it seems that calling for a reform of the draconian lese majeste law is considered to negate the royalist trope.

Then Prayuth makes a claim for hierarchy based on age:

They [Nitirat] must realise His Majesty the King has reigned for so long that he is 84 years old, and ask whether academics who are 30 or 40 years old and have only furthered their own studies have done any good for the land….

We are sure everyone is aware that the king has reigned since his brother’s unexplained death in 1946. But here Prayuth is trying to denigrate Nitirat as a group of youngsters challenging a very old man. In fact, though, Nitirat are not attaching the king but calling for reform of a law that royalists repeatedly claim the king doesn’t like. Prayuth might do well to also recall the challenge of youth in 1973.

It seems that Prayuth has convinced himself that Nitirat are attacking the king for he feels the need to defend the monarch:

But if you speak negatively of the monarchy, then I must speak negatively of you, because you refuse to see the good in Thailand

Of course, Nitirat are not speaking negatively of the monarchy but of a law. The distinction seems lost on Prayuth and those of his ilk.

He said Thailand owes its presence on the world stage and the respect it commands within the global community to the role of the monarchy. His Majesty the King has done nothing to harm the nation and everything to help it.

This is Prayuth seeming to believe the never-ending royalist propaganda. That might seem rather too North Korean but it does suggest a dangerous turn of mind for Prayuth that is confirmed when he rages:

Today, I do not know where some people come from, or if their ancestors were even born in Thailand.

Where do you go from there? Racist nationalism and monarchism spiraling down into fascism? And wasn’t the king born outside Thailand? Prayuth’s mouth seems ahead of his thought processes here, spitting fury and hatred with little forethought.

His final comment seems tame compared with this when he says that Nitirat “is hurting people’s feelings.” But recall that this from a man who commanded troops in murderous attacks on protesters.

Meanwhile, police chief General Priewphan Damapong has “vowed to take action against those who violate Section 112” as special branch police are said to be “monitoring comments by academics and would take swift action if anyone breaks the law.”

Yet another threat to Nitirat. Readers may recall that even under the horrendous censorship regime led by Abhisit Vejjajiva there were statements that claimed legitimate criticism of the monarchy by academics was tolerable. As we have pointed out several times, the Nitirat academics aren’t even criticizing the king but are calling for legal and constitutional processes to amend a law.

Why is that point so difficult for royalists to comprehend? Is it because the law is critical for the prestige of a monarchy? Is the law the keystone of the royalist regime that will bring the whole structure down if removed? PPT would have thought that the response by royalists to both questions should be negative. That it isn’t suggests that the foundations of the system are considered weaker than we would have guessed.

As a footnote to this post, we add a link to Asia Update TV’s report on Prayuth’s claims, which includes responses from Nitirat (in Thai/ไทย):

Royalist adviser declares there is an anti-monarchy plot

19 01 2012

Thawil (a Bangkok Post photo)

In a recent post, PPT mentioned Thawil Pliensri, the former secretary-general of the National Security Council who is now an adviser to the prime minister. There we noted his opposition to proposed amendments to the lese majeste law.

Remarkably, the Bangkok Post now writes that Thawil is one of those who believes there is an “organised movement in the country is trying to overthrow the monarchy…”. This is from a person who is “advising” Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. It should be recalled that the very center of the “map” of the imagined plot is Thaksin Shinawatra (see below).

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

Thawil apparently made the claim “during three hours of testimony to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) about a chart…, drawn up by state agencies, which purportedly shows how the movement works.” DSI is said to want to “know who exactly was responsible for the chart naming people said to be involved in the anti-monarchy movement.”

The chart was presented to the public as part of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation’s claims that the red shirt protests in 2010 were part of a republican plot.

Thawil, who should know, “told them many state agencies had helped create the chart and there was evidence and witnesses to prove some of those mentioned had broken the law and offended the monarchy.” He added that some of these alleged plotters “have been prosecuted and some have escaped…”. He did admit that “some people included in the chart were not proven to be wrongdoers.”

Thawil deduced that the alleged

offences against the royal institution were numerous and conducted through many channels in such a way that it could be assumed there was an organised anti-monarchy movement.

None of this sounds any different from the claims at the time by the Abhisit regime. Indeed, the DSI say that “Thawil’s testimony was similar to that of CRES spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd.”

In this context, what are we to make of the fact that Thawil is an adviser to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra? In fact, not too much. Readers might recall that Thawil was part of the government’s shuffle of police to allow Police General Priewphan Damapong to become police chief. This required the transfer of Abhisit favorite Wichien Potposri from police chief to head of the National Security Council. That saw a very unhappy Thawil shifted to the “adviser” position. At the time the very bitter Thawil said:

“I am sorry the position of NSC secretary-general, which is highly prestigious, has been used only to serve the purpose of the political sector. From the very beginning of this move, a political postition holder full of prejudice and abuse of power has spoken about me in a sarcastic   and scornful manner.

“But the prime minister, who is my direct supervisor, has not come out to protect me, her direct subordinate,” Mr Thawil said.

Hence, his current statements confirm that he probably has a “difficult” relationship with the current government and that his views when NSC boss, fighting the “disloyal” Thaksin, Puea Thai and red shirts, are essentially unchanged. They are a statement of a disgruntled royalist official.

Of course, he should be sacked. That may be more easily said than done, but anything less would indicate an even more remarkable political shift by the Yingluck government than anyone has seen to date. Doing nothing and implicitly accepting Thawil’s royalist nonsense would seriously challenge the increasingly shaky link between the government and its supporters.

Further updated: Wichien runs to Prem

30 08 2011

The Bangkok Post has an interesting account of the troubles facing national police chief Police General Wichien Potposri. According to the Post, Wichien was appointed less than a year ago. That’s a little misleading, for then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva first appointed Wichien as acting police chief in August 2009, for a short time, but he remained the most powerful cop as the incumbent just served out his time for a further year.

Wichien’s appointment by Abhisit was full of controversy. PPT’s first post was here, and there were others. A useful summary is provided at Bangkok Pundit where the Class 12 links between Wichien and now Army boss Prayuth Chan-ocha are noted.

As Bangkok Pundit notes, Wichien was previously head of the Office of the Royal Court Security Police. Also, under the junta-backed government of privy councilor-cum-prime minister Surayud Chulanond, Wichien was responsible for security and in particular for working with provincial governors to “curb possible violence throughout Thailand.” In other words, he worked with the junta – the Council for National Security – to crack down on potential demonstrations opposing the military-backed government, including limiting the freedom of movement of rural people. During the 2007 general election, he was “in charge of advance balloting.” Under Abhisit he was given responsibility for security and “special operations.”

Back then, Wichien made clear he was a royalist. As reported in The Nation, he said “his top priorities included safeguarding the monarchy, ensuring the job performance of the police service, and developing the police forces to become worthy of the public trust.”

With a new government in place and, as the Post has it (who didn’t know?), “Chuvit Kamolvisit’s exposure of illegal casinos in Bangkok and other complaints that the police have been unable to contain rampant drug abuse and gambling in the city,” he’s in trouble. Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung has called for a reshuffle of the police.

Wichien’s first public move to protect himself is to run to see chief of the royalist faction, Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda. Wichien claimed that Prem “offered him moral support during the meeting.” He added:

“[Gen Prem] said he is glad I’m the police chief and he acknowledged that I have tried my best and have sacrificed a lot, and he asked me to continue to do good…”.

Adding to the impression that Wichien’s replacement is going to stir up a royalist hornet’s nest, former Democrat Party Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said he “opposed any replacement of Pol Gen Wichean. He said Pol Gen Wichean was capable and good, and illegal casinos and drug abuse alone were not enough to justify his replacement.” Interestingly, Suthep made the good point that if drugs and gambling were reasons for removal, “no successor could stay in office either.” He’s right. Thailand’s police are hopelessly corrupt to the top. However, the battle over Wichien is really about loyalty to the elected government. It is absolutely clear that the royalist Wichien owes his position to Abhisit.

Going to visit Prem is unlikely to have been without Prem’s instigation. This marks a significant point in the relationship between Yingluck Shinawatra’s government and the anti-Thaksin palace.

In an interview conducted after he met Prem and carried in the Bangkok Post, Wichien stakes out his royalist political ground:

I have said it before: I have never considered resigning from the position….

As the national police chief, when I make decisions I think about the country, the people and especially the institution of the monarchy….

He [Prem] gave me blessings. It is a delight to receive blessings from a respected person. Gen Prem reiterated the importance of loyalty and how the police are obligated to provide protection to Their Majesties. He has also talked about the police’s duty to safeguard the general public….

… He talked about His Majesty’s concern for the people. It is the police’s job to protect the people and look after them. It is the service we are obliged to perform for His Majesty.

He told me it is good to have me as chief of police. He told me he has heard a lot of good things about me. He encouraged me to keep up the good work and be a role model for the police. He told me that I should be proud of myself and happy that I have devoted myself to the job and sacrificed myself for others.

Asked if Prem wants him to stay as police chief, Wichien was clear: “Yes.”

Prem is a master of the political game and his meeting with Wichien makes it clear the palace is heavily involved in politicking on this case. It would also seem that the palace has a lot to protect. The Abhisit government placed plenty of loyal royalists in senior positions. The new government knows that the loyalty of these people is always going to be to their real political masters and not the elected government. Moving them is going to pose real challenges and will be a point of conflict between the government and palace.

Update 1: Pressure on Wichien to leave has increased and The Nation reports that he seems to have decided to go. So does the Bangkok Post, noting that he has agreed to leave “under pressure.” Yellow-shirted media are unhappy.

Update 2: It seems the yellow multi-colors shirts led by Tul Sitthisomwong are unhappy about Wichien’s ouster. They are to rally at police headquarters. Tul states: “The rally is not meant for protect Wichean Potephosee but to safeguard the police service from the political meddling…”. That’s odd, PPT doesn’t recall them rallying when Abhisit was trying to hoist his preferred candidate for police chief into place in a vociferously political manner…. While political meddling in the police is to be frowned upon, the control the Democrat Party sought is now to be rolled back. What the police really need is a complete clean-up. It is a hopelessly corrupt agency. It seems unlikely that such a needed process can take place in a highly politicized environment. The promotion of Priewphan Damapong to the chief’s job will see continued political action around the police (readers might like to search our blog for Priewphan to see his links to Thaksin Shinawatra.

Democrat meddling emphasizes political loyalty

6 08 2009

The police chief saga continues. The Bangkok Post (6 August 2009: “Police reshuffle can still be changed”) has a report regarding the police reshuffle list already completed by police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwon.

Council of State Secretary-General Porntip Jala is reported as saying that the list can still be changed “as it has not yet received royal approval.”

The Police Commission is due for an apparently special meeting on Friday to discuss the list while the police chief is absent. That would seem exceptionally convenient. Even better for the government, the “Council of State chief said [acting chief] Pol Gen Wichien [Potposri] had the authority to arrange another police reshuffle in the absence of the commander.”

Patcharawat is said to have warned against politicians changing the reshuffle list, and rumours are flying that a Democrat has been involved. Meanwhile, “some retired senior police leaders called for a legal amendment to prevent politicians from intervening in personnel management at the Royal Thai Police Office.”

Meanwhile, according to the Bangkok Post (6 August 2009: “Priewphan to seek court justice over acting police chief’s job”) the man passed over for acting police chief, Deputy national police chief Priewphan Damapong (see our earlier post here) has vowed to “seek justice in the courts.”

Priewphan said “that he believed he was not entrusted with the responsibility because he is a relative of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.” He added that “he has already served as acting national police chief 22 times.”

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva “responded to Pol Gen Priewphan’s claims a few hours later. He insisted the appointment of Pol Gen Wichien was appropriate and legal. He had taken into consideration seniority and suitability to do the job in the current situation, the prime minister said. The appointment of Pol Gen Wichien was in line with Article 72 of the Police Act.”

Then there is a neat tidbit: “Responding to the suggestion that Pol Gen Wichien might not be suitable for the post since the Royal Aide-de-Camp Department and Police Office attached to the Royal Household Bureau had earlier each issued an order prohibiting him from entering the palace, Mr Abhisit said he had checked and found that the orders had been revoked.” If any reader knows what this is about, PPT would be pleased to hear more.

Keeping the meddling to ensure loyalty to the government going, the Bangkok Post (6 August 2009: “Prawit fears meddling in lists”) has another, potentially more important story, if the reporting is accurate.

Apparently Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon (the on-leave police chief’s brother) skipped a cabinet meeting yesterday. At the same time, an army source has said that Prawit has urged “armed forces leaders to finalise their annual reshuffle lists by the middle of this month to prevent political interference…”.

Prawit is reportedly “concerned about the political situation and … is also worried about political pressure to have him removed.”

The Sondhi Limthongkul assassination case is considered to be putting Prawit under pressure and it is reported that “PAD leader Mr Sondhi and the ruling Democrat Party are looking for candidates to fill the defence minister’s post…”. It is said that “Potential candidates include former coup leaders who toppled Thaksin … such as Gen Saprang Kalayanamitr, Gen Boonsrang Niampradit and Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin.”

The source is also reported to have said that the “army officers involved in the crackdown on the Songkran riots are also poised to be promoted. They include Maj Gen Paiboon Khumchaya, commander of the 1st Division of the King’s Guard, who is expected to be made deputy commander of the 1st Army, and Maj Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, commander of the 9th Infantry Regiment, who will be made another deputy commander of the 1st Army. Maj Gen Kampanat Ruddit, commander of the Phetchaburi-based 15th Military Circle, will be made commander of the 1st Division of the King’s Guard.”

Wasn’t it Thaksin who was accused of meddling in the transfers and promotions, putting the military leadership off-side? The Democrat Party seems intent on rewarding loyalty and establishing its control over the forces of repression in Thailand.

%d bloggers like this: