Further updated: Cat among the pigeons

22 03 2019

Matichon Sutsapda has an “interesting” story on a wedding in Hong Kong.

It is likely to set the cat among the political pigeons just a couple of days prior to the junta’s election.

Clipped from Matichon

Update 1: While social media has this story everywhere, the mainstream news outlets have been just a little more self-censorial. Even so, the Bangkok Post reports that “Princess Ubolratana on Friday presided over the wedding reception of Thaksin Shinawatra’s youngest daughter in Hong Kong.” Yingluck Shinawatra was there as well.

The story adds: “Other Thai guests were former members of the disbanded Thai Raksa Chart Party — former leader Lt Preechapol Pongpanich, co-leader Sunee Luangvichit, and MP candidate Khattiya Sawatdiphol. The Thaksin-affiliated party was disbanded by an order of the Constitutional Court for nominating Princess Ubolratana as its prime ministerial candidate…. Tida Tavornseth, a red-shirt leader, was also present at the Hong Kong reception.”

There’s none of the obvious questions: What does the king think of this? Is Ubolratana in open revolt against her brother and/or family? Is this her payback for the previous month’s embarrassment? What next?

Update 2: More photos are emerging in the mainstream media and on social media that suggest further questions awaiting answers. At the risk of appearing Hello-like, here are some of them, in this instance, both clipped from Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Facebook page:


Defending the Constitutional Court as farce

11 03 2019

Little things sometimes matter. For example, we noticed that the state’s propaganda arm did not officially report the king’s objection to (Princess) Ubolratana’s nomination by the Thai Raksa Chart Party until 9 March. Our quick search of its English-language website turned up a report of her nomination but no reporting of the king’s response (at least not as a headlined story). A quick search of the Thai-language part of the site produced nothing about the king’s response.

We may be over-reading this, but it seems to us that this lack of reporting until after the Constitutional Court’s decision is a remarkable piece of self-censorship and the now-required deference born of fear.

Meanwhile, in an effort to limit the damage of the whole affair to the monarchy, and especially for an international audience, hoary royalist and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra campaigner, Veera Prateepchaikul has been wheeled out.

Veera is a former editor of the Bangkok Post. His task in his most recent op-ed is to “explain” why the Court was right and “foreigners” are wrong to criticize the verdict.

He views it as no “surprise that most foreign media and human rights advocacy organisations” got the decision all wrong. He particularly ticked off by Amnesty International. He’s miffed that these “foreigners” see the Court’s decision as politicized.

He reckons the “foreigners” got it “wrong.” As “evidence” for getting it “wrong,” failing to consider “the role of the monarchy in society dating back to 1932 and its status of being above politics and being the symbolic soul of the nation…”. Of course, this is the usual blarney that royalists spew out when considering their beloved monarchy, ignoring the facts of history.

Veera relies on a written statement from one of the nine Constitutional Court judges who just happens to be his yellow-shirted buddy Nakarin Mektrairat. Now, Nakarin should know better as he wrote a history of 1932. But he sold his historian’s soul to the anti-democrats quite some time ago. A yellow-shirted historian, a 2014 coup supporter and constitution drafter and supporter of the lese majeste law, there seems little to assure “foreigners” that Nakarin is anything other than a junta quisling.

Still, Veera reckons Nakarin’s “enlightened explanation about how the court viewed the TRC’s nomination of Princess Ubolratana as its prime ministerial candidate and the possible repercussions towards the monarchy if this ‘highly inappropriate’ act was not nipped in the bud.”

Oddly, Nakarin apparently recognizes that Ubonratana was unencumbered by being a member of the monarchy but was still “undermin[ing] the basis and value of the constitution,” by her status as a member of the royal family and that it is the royal family that is “above politics” and this was “mandated in the first constitution of Thailand and enshrined in following charters.”

Indeed, Article 11 of the 1932 constitution did declare members of the royal family with status of Serene Highness and above were not to be involved in politics. However, by the time of most recent constitutions, this provision is not evident, having first been revised in 1946.

It is unclear which article of the constitution she was undermining or which law she was bending. In fact, even the Court relied on a half-baked notion of “culturalism” rather than law aand, of course, the king’s own pronouncement.

The real problem for Veera is that the person “dragging” this “member of the royal family into politics” is Thaksin, and therefore the move ” is simply unimaginable.”

It is not “electoral fraud,” that the “real motive” was to win the election. Indeed, this constituted a “wicked idea.”

We agree that the whole idea was daft and evidenced a kind of desperation, but to conclude that the “Constitutional Court’s verdict …has set a precedent … that the institution is politically impartial and above politics” is farcical. Just look at the repeated demonstrations of partiality by monarchs since 1932.

Updated: Media on Thai Raksa Chart and Constitutional Court

8 03 2019

We thought it useful to provide a list of reactions to the dissolution of the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Thai Raksa Chart Party by the Constitutional Court. The dissolution was allegedly based on a series of “cultural” and “legal” reasons. We will probably update the list in about 12 hours:

Prachatai, 7 March 2019: “Constitutional Court rules to dissolve TRC party

The Nation, 7 March 2019: “Court dissolves Thai Raksa Chart, bans party’s executive board for 10 years

Bangkok Post, 7 March 2019: “Constitutional Court disbands Thai Raksa Chart

Thai PBS, 7 March 2019: “Constitutional Court orders Thai Raksa Chart dissolved

Thai PBS, 7 March 2019: “Thai Raksa Chart supporters urged to vote for Pheu Thai

Amnesty International, 7 March 2019: “Thailand: Dissolution of political party highlights authorities’ abuse of power

AFP, 7 March 2019: “Thai Constitutional Court dissolves key Shinawatra party

Reuters, 7 March 2019: “Thai Court Bans Party for Nominating Princess for PM

The Guardian, 7 March 2019: “Thailand court bans party that nominated princess for PM

The Telegraph, 7 March 2019: “Blow for Thai democracy as opposition party is disbanded for nominating princess as prime minister

New York Times, 7 March 2019: “Thai Political Party That Nominated King’s Sister Is Dissolved

CNN, 7 March 2019: “Thai party that nominated a princess for PM has been dissolved

The Washington Post, 7 March 2019: “Thailand’s Constitutional Court dissolves party that presented a princess as its candidate

Khaosod, 7 March 2019: “Thai Net Reacts to Party Dissolution With Pungent Memes

Bangkok Post, 8 March 2019: “Thai Raksa Chart plans ‘Vote No’ strategy

Bangkok Post, 8 March 2019: “SET unfazed by party’s dissolution

Bangkok Post, 8 March 2019: “TRC dissolution turns up political heat

The Nation, 8 March 2019: “Banned party’s supporters urged to vote for ‘democratic camp’

The Nation, 8 March 2019: “‘A threat to monarchy’

Update: We promised to add to this list, and we do so here with some local stories but also a selection that indicates how widely this news has been consumed. Some a wire service reports so duplicate others on the list:

Deutsche Welle, 7 March 2019: “Thai court bans party that nominated princess for PM

France24, 7 March 2019: “Thai court dissolves Shinawatra-linked party over botched princess bid

The Times, London, 7 March 2019: “Thai princess’s party is abolished weeks before poll

CGTN, Beijing, 7 March 2019: “Thai court dissolves party for nominating princess for PM

Taipei Times, 8 March 2019: “Thai court dissolves party that nominated princess

NDTV, New Delhi, 7 March 2019: “Thai Princess Calls Order To Ban Party Linked To Her ‘Sad And Depressing’

The Express Tribune, Karachi, 7 March 2019: “Thailand court bans party that nominated princess for PM

Bloomberg, 7 March 2019: “Thai Court Disbands Thaksin-Linked Party That Chose Princess

Los Angeles Times, 7 March 2019: “Thailand bans political party that nominated ex-princess for prime minister

The Age, Melbourne, 7 March 2019: “Thai court bans party for nominating princess for PM

Al Jazeera video report

National News Bureau, 7 March 2019: “Constitutional Court dissolves Thai Raksa Chart Party

Khaosod, 8 March 2019: “Thais Overseas Kiss Their Thai Raksa Chart Votes Goodbye

Bangkok Post, 8 March 2019: “Ex-TRC execs can help other parties campaign, says EC

Thai PBS, 8 March 2019: “Thai Raksa Chart party members can campaign for other parties

Updated: Thai Raksa Chart dissolved

7 03 2019

As expected, the Constitutional Court has dissolved the Thai Raksa Chart Party for nominating a (non) princess member of the royal family as its prime ministerial candidate.

Khaosod reports a 9-0 decision from the judges who ruled that the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra party “broke the regulations when it nominated a former princess as its premier candidate last month, a move that the party had hoped would help it sail to victory at the poll.”

This is the third time that a pro-Thaksin party has been dissolved by the politicized Court.

The judges apparently “established the nomination amounts to illegally drawing the monarchy into politics under voting regulations.” They had to dig deep for “evidence,” citing dead kings, the Court ruled that the king “and other members of the monarchy must stay above politics and therefore cannot run for office.” In essence, though, the Court simply followed the king’s announcement in February barring his sister.

Of course, Ubolratana is not officially royal but the king declared her as part of the royal family and that meant she had to stay out of politics. In the past, several princes had been involved in politics and served in government as ministers.

The Court revealed its politicized nature, stating that the nomination of Ubolratana was “a ‘devious scheme’ to score political advantage.”

The result for the party is that it is dissolved and “all of its MP candidates removed from the race and its executives barred from politics for 10 years.” If we are not mistaken, some of them previously served an earlier 5 year suspension.

The junta and The Dictator, while expecting this outcome, will still be jubilent and will use “disloyalty” against other pro-Thaksin parties in campaigning.

An anti-democrat defines the junta’s “election”

3 03 2019

We at PPT earlier posted on how the abysmal notion of nominating a member of the royal family as a prime ministerial candidate for a pro-Thaksin Shinawatra party meant the anti-Thaksin lot could campaign for the “election” around imagined notions of loyalty.

Thai PBS reports on campaigning by Suthep Thuagsuban, founder of the pro-junta Ruam Palang Prachachart Thai Party or the Action Coalition for Thailand Party, former deputy leader of the Democrat Party when he ordered red shirts shot down and also proud leader of the anti-democratic People’s Democratic Reform Committee. Suthep has declared that the junta’s election “is not a vote between democracy and military dictatorship, but a vote between Thailand and fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra…”.

Suthep said “he saw the need to remind the Thai public of the misdeeds allegedly committed by the Thaksin regime.” That means he also sees that the pro-Thaksin parties are looking very strong in campaigning. Hence his response is to emphasize Thaksin as the disloyal criminal.

He says there’s a “straightforward question for the Thai people:  Which side they will choose?  Should we allow the Thaksin regime to stage a comeback?” The question carries with it an implied threat: re-elect a pro-Thaksin government and face the consequences. In the period since 2001, the consequences have been street demonstrations and violence leading to two military coups.

Updated: Election and legal activism

27 02 2019

A week or so ago academics Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang and Björn Dressel wrote at New Mandala about the rise of the courts as the junta’s election approaches.

Their comments were mainly about the Constitutional Court and royal family member and (happy to use the title) Princess Ubolratana’s ill-fated 12-hour effort to become prime minister.

On that case, due in Constitutional Court today, if the court rules to disband the Thai Raksa Chart Party, the proceedings will end. However, if the court goes to an extended trial, then the Election Commission will have prosecutors from the Attorney General prosecuting its case.

In the latter case, the decision will take weeks to months to be decided, presenting an opportunity for the court to change the election outcome.

For the Future Forward Party, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and two other party officials appeared at the prosecutor’s office over a case brought by the junta under the Computer Crimes Act. Prosecutors decided that they will not again meet until 26 March to consider whether to indict the Future Forward folks. Just two days after the election date, this also allows the judicial process to change election outcomes.

Watch these judicial interventions as politics by another means.

Update: It seems the Constitutional Court has decided to avoid weeks to months and will drop its decision on Thai Raksa Chart in just a week. That is presumably not good news for the party. Indeed, the court stated “that it will base its decision on documents submitted by the EC and the party without having to call in witnesses.”

Law and the challenge for the Constitutional Court

21 02 2019

The fallout from Thaksin Shinawatra’s ill-fated attempt to have Ubolratana nominated as the Thai Raksa Chart Party prime ministerial candidate continues.

The Bangkok Post reports that the party’s defense before the Constitutional Court has three parts:

First, the party has no hidden agenda and its nomination received consent from Princess Ubolratana to stand as the TRC’s prime ministerial candidate.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

Secondly, the party will show the term “hostile” does not cover the party’s actions. In their view, the term covers communism and rebellions under Section 113 of the Criminal Code.

Lastly, the EC’s complaint is unlawful because the agency failed to follow a due process by conducting a probe into the issue….

To understand the “charges,” it should be recalled that the puppet Election Commission unanimously and very rapidly decided to recommend the dissolution of Thai Raksa Chart based on “evidence” that included:

the Feb 8 royal announcement, the party’s letter notifying the person it proposed as the prime ministerial candidate and the party’s letter allowing Parliament to consider approving its candidate as PM.

In this context, Prachatai’s interview with Sawatree Suksri, a law lecturer with the Faculty of Law at Thammasat University “on the legal status of the Royal Command and its interpretation” is important reading.

She is adamant that the so-called Royal Command or Proclamation is not law, despite its use as such by the EC and anti-Thaksin forces. She states:

If anything is to become law, it has to follow the country’s legislative system. Thailand has a codified system of laws issued by the legislative branch, or the executive branch in the case of a royal ordinance, or the administration in cases of secondary laws where this is allowed by the fundamental laws. Because of this, the royal command is not a law, because it did not go through legislative procedures.

Sawatree adds: “the content of the Royal Command is not an order, but a recommendation.”

In other words, the use of King Vajirlongkorn’s royal proclamation on his elder sister is now a test of the judiciary. If the Constitutional Court acts appropriately and legally, it would reject the EC’s use of the king’s proclamation. If it stays true to it royalism, it will change the very meaning of law in Thailand, taking the country even further towards a neo-absolutist regime.

Updated: Nothing seems to change

19 02 2019

The reporting over the last few days seems to suggest little has changed in over a decade of military coups, elected governments illegally thrown out, scores of deaths and mass street demonstrations.

In observing this, we are leaving aside the continuing speculation regarding Thaksin Shinawatra’s failed bid to make a (semi-) royal fruitcake a prime minister. Those guesses range on a spectrum from the events were out of the box to ordinary, that they weakened the king or made him stronger, that the king knew what was going on or he didn’t, and even resurrect some perspectives from the 1950s to try to explain various scenarios. And there’s still the misleading view that Thailand is somewhere on a road to democracy. And that’s all from the same source in several articles.

But back to the nothing-much-changes idea.

First, we see The Dictator showing himself for his Palang Pracharath Party and the party using his picture on campaign posters while he remains deeply engaged in all kinds of state activities, spending and so on.

Meanwhile, his former boss, brother-in-arms and Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda has “defended his [now] boss … by insisting that junta leader-cum-Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha should not step down before the royal coronation takes place in two months.”

Here the point being made to the electorate is that only The Dictator and the military can be “trusted” as loyalists. It was the anti-democrats of the People’s Alliance fro Democracy that proclaimed loyalty as a political issue of the era by donning royal yellow.

Second, to make the point about loyalty, none other than anti-democrat Suthep Thaugsuban is quoted as declaring that only a vote for his party (and pro-junta parties) “can prevent Thaksin Shinawatra from returning to power through its proxy parties…”. That’s a refrain widely heard from the anti-democrats for over a decade. And, Suthep appears to be admitting the electoral strength of the pro-Thaksin parties, something seen in every election from 2000 to 2011, when elections were free and fair.

Suthep’s claims that the anti-democrats could keep Thaksin’s “proxies” out saw him drawing on the experience of the repressive actions of the junta in forcing through its 2016 constitution draft in a “referendum.” Perhaps he expects/hopes for similar cheating in the junta’s “election.”

And third, Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong, who himself wielded war weapons against red shirt protesters in 2010, and who refuses to rule out another coup, has again declared that he will not be controlled by “evil” politicians.

After the military budget increasing 24% under the junta, the notion that it might be cut by an elected government prompted the evil but loyal Gen Apirat to order the “ultra-rightist song ‘Nak Phaendin’ [Scum of the land] to be aired every day on 160 Army radio stations across the country…”. This anti-communist song from the 1970s – another period when the military murdered hundreds in the name of the monarchy – was to be played twice a day. It was also to be played at the Ministry of Defense and and in all Army barracks:

The Army chief reasoned [PPT thinks that word is incorrect] earlier that the anthem broadcast was aimed at encouraging everyone to be aware of their duties and responsibilities towards the country.

The “duties” he means are to protect the monarchy and murder opponents of the military-monarchy alliance.

He was supported by Deputy Dictator, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who supported the notion that politicians are “eveil” and deserve death at the hands of murderous loyalists. He said: “Listen to the song that the Army chief mentioned. Listen to it.”

Apirat partially revoked the order later, with the song continuing to be broadcast inside the Army Command at noon. As former Thammasat rector and historian Charnvit Kasetsiri expressed it,

Other than calling for a return to absolute monarchy, they’re now rehearsing ‘Scum of the Earth,’ too? History will repeat itself if we don’t learn from it. And where will that path take us? Better or worse?

It leaves Thailand in its ultra-conservative, ultra-royalist time warp.

Clearly, the Army commander and the Defense Minister are campaigning against pro-Thaksin parties and for The Dictator and the party of the rightists, Palang Pracharat.

That’s not new. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, then head of the Army, demanded that voters reject Thaksin parties in 2011. However, this time, the threat is louder, nastier and very, very threatening.

Nothing much changes.

Update: PPT noticed that the Election Commission has issued a warning that “posting text, sharing or commenting on messages that defame political candidates violates the Computer Crime Act.” So how will the EC respond to Gen Apirat’s condemnation of Puea Thai and other pro-Thaksin parties as “scum” and actively campaigning against them? As a puppet agency our guess is that it will do nothing.

Further updated: Doubling down on Thaksin I

13 02 2019

With Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Raksa Chart Party in danger of dissolution for nominating Ubolratana as its PM candidate, the party and other Thaksin parties are well and truly on the defensive.

In an election that is now about loyalty, it is no surprise to see more royalist action against the party.

Khaosod reports that the party now stands accused of “inappropriately displaying” the king’s portrait as it tried to apologize for its previous “error.” So powerful is royalism in Thailand that this caused the police to rush to the party’s headquarters.

The police were hot on the trail of the party for displaying “a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn displayed with krueang thong noi, a flower arrangement only used to memorialize … royals.”

A senior officer and several policemen went to “Thai Raksa Chart headquarters to make sure the portrait was being displayed correctly.”

Who knew this was the job of the police?!? Drugs, murder, slaughter on the roads and making sure everyone displays the royal portrait with the correct flowers.

For royalists, this was just further evidence that the party must be destroyed as inappropriately pro-royal.

Update 1: The Nation reports that the Election Commission has already sent its case to the Constitutional Court, calling for the dissolution of Thai Raksa Chart.

Update 2: Reporting the same move by the EC, the Bangkok Post cites EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma as stating that: “The act [nominating Ubolratana] is deemed hostile to the constitutional monarchy…”. This statement will echo through the junta’s election. Whatever one thinks of the failed move by Thai Raksa Chart, the notion that the party can be dissolved without knowing the exact charges against it is weird, even for royalist Thailand. Party leader Preechaphol Pongpanit stated: ‘We still don’t have the details of the allegations or what’s being submitted to the court…. I still stand by our position that we’re innocent.” The EC did not even meet with the party leadership before making its recommendation.

More fallout news

12 02 2019

It is reported that the Election Commission had:

recommended on Tuesday afternoon that the Thai Raksa Chart (TRC) Party be dissolved for allegedly drawing the monarchy into politics, but at 6pm the EC president told the Bangkok Post that the decision was yet to be finalised.

As in much that it has done and decided not to do, the EC seems to be making it up as it goes along and/or doing what it is told.

Apparently, the “evidence” it is using to decide “on the proper punishment” for Thai Raksa Chart includes:

the Feb 8 royal announcement, the party’s letter notifying the person it proposed as the prime ministerial candidate and the party’s letter allowing Parliament to consider approving its candidate as PM.

The dissolution of the party would mean:

that none of its candidates can run in the upcoming election. The election law requires a candidate to belong to a party for at least 90 days before the election, leaving them with no time to switch.

Meanwhile, Princess Ubolratana has commented (she can’t possibly be sanctioned, except by her brother):

I’m sorry that the sincere intention to work to help the country and our Thai people had caused problems that had seemed unlikely to occur in this day and age….

We are not sure what day and age she means. Perhaps a neo-absolutist military dictatorship?

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