Cremation crackers

17 10 2017

PPT hasn’t been following all of the comings and goings associated with the very expensive funeral for the dead king. We have noticed remarkable propaganda for the dead king, giving him credit for almost everything other than the sun rising. Some of it is deliberately historically distorting. in order to rewrite that history in ways that make the dead king the hero of events.

There were several stories about a rehearsal that got our attention. Princess Sirindhorn, who looked distinctly uncoordinated and uncomfortable trying to march. But then we noticed a quite long and breathless story about changes recommended by her and her big brother. So “important” were these “suggestions” that they had to be purveyed to The Dictator.

Sirindhorn wants a drum to be more easily heard so that marchers can keep to time.So significant was this royal utterance that the “Supreme Commander [of the armed forces] was assigned to take care of the issue and the next rehearsal on October 21 is expected to see the situation solved so that the rehearsal, the last, will be ‘more perfect’.”

Her brother wants a change to invitation cards for foreign guests at the funeral.” He noticed that The Dictator is only listed as premier. Of course, his far more significant role is “chairman of the Organising Committee” for the funeral.

The Dictator is wanting as much credit as possible from the funeral. Indeed, a “successful” funeral is a part of his political campaigning and no one can else bask in that bright light.

So an effort by Puea Thai Party’s Sudarat Keyuraphan to get a bit of the funeral light by backing a junta call for “people to grow yellow marigold flowers as yellow was the colour of the late king’s birthday…” got her in trouble. She was accused of political campaigning. and will be visited by junta thugs. She’s bad (by definition) but General Prayuth Chan-ocha is good (by definition).

Now who was it who politicized the funeral?





A lawless and lying junta

11 10 2017

PPT has been busy posting about other things – the absurdity of lese majeste, junta political gymnastics – and so we neglected to mention an important op-ed by Umesh Pandey is Editor of the Bangkok Post. Earlier we posted on another commentary by Umesh on the basis of the junta’s rule in illegality and lies.

This op-ed may be seen as somewhat dated, given recent “changes” (see below), but we think his comments deserve consideration for the broader points made about what defines the military dictatorship, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Umesh’s latest commentary begins thus: “Bending the law and going back on words seems to have become the norm ever since the coup that ousted the elected government in 2014.”

In other words, the regime is built on lies and the manipulation of law.

The Post’s editor is particularly upset that The Dictator told US President Trump that there would be “free and fair elections in 2018,” only to renege. (We actually think that General Prayuth and his team of flunkies simply didn’t comprehend the statement they signed. They are not all that intelligent.)

Umesh also worries that the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee, led by serial constitution buster and military minion Meechai Ruchupan, “is defending delays in polls is something that should go down in history books as being one of its kind in the world.” He comments that the CDC “is a body that supposedly comprises some of the smartest people, who are supposed to look at the country’s future and its long-term well-being, and they are protecting the never-ending delays that this military regime is trying to undertake.”

Smartest? Really? As far as we can tell from their record, the CDC is composed of puppets with no more intelligence than their wooden counterparts.

And, this is certainly not the first time that the CDC has supported the junta’s delays. In fact, we have lost count. But this is nothing other than a collection of puppets with the junta pulling all the strings.

Umesh observes that:

The regime’s initial promise to hold elections was within a year of the coup, so 2015, then it turned out to be 2016, then 2017 and finally Gen Prayut announced at the United Nations that it would be 2018.

Then it was 2019, although in recent days The Dictator has changed this back to 2018 (maybe). We still don’t know why Prayuth back-flipped.

Umesh continues:

While democracy is being kicked around a football, the players are gradually being red-carded one after another. The latest headlines in yesterday’s papers suggest that there is an all-out effort to go for the final kill.

After having prosecuted the Pheu Thai and its predecessor parties for the past decade, efforts are being made to charge its backer, Thaksin [Shinawatra], with the feared Section 112. Newly appointed Attorney-General Khemchai Chutiwongs said 112 can be applied for video footage in which Thaksin reportedly blamed members of the Privy Council for the May 22, 2014 coup that ousted Pheu Thai government.

Of course, no election held under the junta’s rules will be “free” or “fair” or “democratic.”

Bravely, Umesh ponders the lese majeste law: “As far as most of the population of this country is aware, the lese majeste law clearly states that it applies to only members of the royal family.”

Well, sort of, apart from the cases related to Princess Sirindhorn, royal pets, dead kings, historical figures and mythical queens. But we get the point.

He asks:

So, what is the section of the 112 law that the attorney-general is going to use to prosecute Thaksin? Or is it the case that this law was changed over the course of time and people are not aware of it?

In fact, lese majeste is used however the junta (and palace) wants it to be used. There’s no rule of law in Thailand, just rule by junta.





The latest Yingluck rumors

5 10 2017

With Yingluck Shinawatra unaccounted for after about two weeks, the junta’s propaganda machine continues to pump out stories alluding to “investigations” and “masterminds.”  Apparently we can now await the naming of a “senior officer”

For a bunch of royalists, you’d think that the royal cremation would occupy the junta’s time. They are spending plenty of taxpayer money on the funeral and then excluding most of them from the area of the cremation. Yet they are also busy coming up with plots.

The latest “plot” that will become huge for the junta revolves around Yingluck. Social media has been speculating about Yingluck being granted political asylum and that she will be establishing a government in exile.

The Puea Thai Party has dismissed the rumors. Phumtham Wechayachai says the “reports are groundless and not true,” adding: “We have not received news from the ex-premier.”

We expect the junta to link anti-royal plots with Yingluck and a government in exile.

Each plot and each “investigation” is used to extend the junta’s power and its ideological pull.





Updated: Double standards and lawlessness in the justice system

1 10 2017

PPT has regularly been posting on the gross failures of the justice system. Thailand’s justice system has long been pretty awful, but since the 2006 military coup that awfulness has been compounded by the fact that particular courts have become little more than political tools for the royalist elite and, in recent years, the military dictatorship’s instrument.

For this reason Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey’s op-ed “Hypocrisy of double standards” is an important statement on a defining failure of the justice system.

Writing after the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions decision to imprison former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, where “[t]he court’s verdict did not state whether the rice pledging policy implemented by Yingluck and her government was wrong but only stated that she neglected her duty in curtailing corruption in the scheme.”

If this is the courts definition of malfeasance, then PPT can’t think of a premier for several decades who wouldn’t be held guilty, including the current military one. But this use of the law is reserved for Yingluck as the military dictatorship wanted to be rid of her.

As Umesh observes,

The verdict left some room for appeal but less than 24 hours after it was handed down, the military government that overthrew the Pheu Thai-led government of which the Shinawatras were the key backers came out with new rules that force any appeal to be lodged by the convicted person and not through lawyers. To make matters worse, the statutory limit on the case, which is usually about a decade or so, is a lifetime.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

He adds that in most jurisdictions, “new rules are effective only after they are put in place, but this is Thailand and in Yingluck’s case the rules were effective retroactively.”

Of course, applying rules and laws retroactively has been a hallmark of military juntas. For example, juntas regularly absolve themselves of criminality when they overthrow governments and constitutions. A more egregious example was the use of Announcement No. 27 (2006) of the then junta  to dissolve Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party in 2007 using the junta’s Announcement retroactively. It was the junta’s Constitutional Tribunal – its Constitutional Court – that concocted this decision (while at the same time acquitting the parties that supported the coup).

On the current retrospective use of rules and laws, naturally enough it is royalist-military stooge Meechai Ruchupan, head of the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee, who said the new law, which was only published in the Royal Gazette on 28 September and took effect the next day, applied in Yingluck’s case. As Umesh states, this “basically closes the door on any appeal by Yingluck against the verdict and leaves no room for her to return to Thailand in the foreseeable future unless she’s willing to be behind bars.”

Umesh continues:

The case has raised more questions than it has answered. Many on the street believe that all these rules being put in place by those in power have a single aim of trying to curtail the power and marginalise the once powerful Pheu Thai Party. And to further cement this possible misconception [PPT: we can’t possibly imagine that this is a misconception] is the fact that other political parties are being left to do what they like and their party members and leaders are not being prosecuted even when they are in breach of the law.

To illustrate the double standards at work, Umesh points to the case of anti-democrat leader, coup plotter and “former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who has been accused of violation of Section 157 of the Criminal Code by committing misconduct or dereliction of duty for his handling of the 6.67 billion baht project to build 396 police stations under the Abhisit Vejjajiva government…”.

As he notes, that case began before Yingluck’s case, and had dragged on and on:

Little has been heard about it since May 2015 when Mr Suthep was still a monk and once after that when the anti-Pheu Thai “independent” National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) decided to change one of its outside members because Mr Suthep claimed he was biased against him.

This outside member was none other than Vicha Mahakhun, the NACC subcommittee chairman in charge of investigating Mr Suthep’s misconduct. Mr Vicha was hired as an outside member after he retired from the chair of the subcommittee in which he had implicated Mr Suthep.

But here’s double standards twist: Why is there no related case against Abhisit? After all, he was the premier when the alleged malfeasance took place.

While this dereliction of duty case continues to drag on, Democrat Party leader Mr Abhisit, who was Mr Suthep’s immediate boss, is basically left off the hook. There is no such case because Thailand’s judicial system is rigged, politicized and subject to the whims and desires of the military junta.

Umesh concludes:

All this gives the impression that those in power are trying to come up with a million explanations for their snail’s pace of investigation into those aligned to the people in power, but to the general public this kind of move is nothing more than what has been repeated a million times over the past decade — the implementation of double standards.

The blatant breach and different interpretation of rules for different sides makes one wonder how this country can achieve its goal of reconciliation and move on.

The junta’s answer is probably something like: “Just give us a few more years to embed double standards so deeply that they will be the only standards.”

Update: We hit the publish button a little too quickly as we wanted to write more about lawlessness. The best example of the courts acting against the law is lese majeste. There have been several cases where persons have been charged with lese majeste against royals, dead and alive, who are simply not covered by the law. The most recent case of this legal ridiculousness was just last month where courts and the Office of the Attorney General have agreed to proceed with a case involving Princess Sirindhorn who is not covered under Article 112.





What the junta gains

28 09 2017

There has been considerable speculation regarding what Yingluck Shinawatra’s “flight” and now her sentencing means for politics.

One commentator at The Nation reckons that yesterday’s court verdict means the military junta is “now able to tighten its grip on the country…”.

For one thing, the verdict, even though fully expected, adds weight to the dictatorship’s claims that elected politicians are corrupt and self-serving. (We are ignoring the junta’s obvious faults that we’ve highlighted for years.)

For Yingluck, the “verdict has put her in the same position as her brother, who fled the country to avoid a charge in a case involving a Ratchadaphisek land deal.” The junta can refer to both as “fugitives.” That cheers the anti-democrats who may be uncomfortable with the junta, but are attached to it as an anti-democratic bastion.

As the article states, Puea Thai continues to look good in polls, especially in the north and northeast. However, without Thaksin, Yingluck and the large number of reds shirts and other Puea Thai leaders who were electorally attractive, and with the junta changing rules and running the show, the dictatorship is hoping that the party’s support will plummet.

There are also some in the junta who hope that, without Yingluck, some of Puea Thai’s senior figures may leave the party and link up with other parties (a throwback to earlier times).

The article speculates that the junta now has the political advantage. That’s no insight, given that the junta has held most of the political cards since its coup. Yet the claim that, with “Yingluck’s guilt declared, military leaders can claim legitimacy and prolong their stay in office,” is likely to be confirmed.

With Yingluck out of the scene, some feel the junta can now “attack her without fearing resistance from her supporters.” The article adds that:

If nothing changes, the junta can take a strong stand in the election under its “roadmap to democracy” and control the situation better than before, while being able to determine the fate at the polls.

There’s a lot of speculation but the claims that the junta will campaign harder and act tougher to ensure its people rule into the future is pretty much assured. It will certainly feel more comfortable with Thailand’s last legitimate prime minister out of the country.





On Democrat Party hypocrisy

24 09 2017

The Democrat Party has a long history of political hypocrisy. For most of its history, it has been conservative, royalist and cooperative with military regimes. There have been brief periods where it has attempted to be a democratic Democrat Party, but these periods appear as aberrations.

(For an official history of the Democrat Party, written as fairy tale, see here.)

Under Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has led the party since March 2005, it has become a raucously anti-democratic party, losing all elections that it did not boycott, damaging parliament, supporting and leading anti-democratic street protesters, happily boostering two military coups and presiding over the gunning down of red shirt protesters.

On the latter, on the 2010 massacre, after getting off murder charges again and again, Abhisit’s ego seems to know no bounds. In a display of narcissistic hubris, Abhisit was reported as miffed that red shirts were pressing on with trying to get the 2010 murders properly dealt with. He “hit back against the red shirts, urging them not to turn the loss of life suffered in the 2010 crackdown under his administration into a ‘political game’.”

A “political game”? As far as we can tell, it is only Abhisit and his ilk who have treated the murders as a political game.

Then, remarkably and unbelievably, Abhisit said “he felt sympathetic towards relatives of the victims who wanted to know the truth in order to see justice…”. Not only does that feel like a blatant lie, but the former prime minister then doubled down with a statement he used intentionally for the purpose of deception.

He declared that these red shirts – those who had lost relatives to military bullets – “had not opposed the controversial blanket amnesty bill when it was tabled by then-Pheu Thai MPs and supported by the Yingluck Shinawatra-led government, even although the proposed measure would have granted amnesty for those who were involved in the crackdown.”

This is what the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship declared at the time:

Speaking on the eve of the final House debate Thursday on the controversial bill, UDD chairwoman Thida Thavornseth on Wednesday reaffirmed the red-shirt movement’s opposition against the blanket amnesty. She said that the UDD did not want the amnesty to cover both Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thuagsuban whom the movement held accountable for the deaths of red-shirt protesters in May 2010.

Mrs Thida said that the Pheu Thai party would have to be responsible for any consequences which follow after the endorsement of the bill by the House….

Abhisit has lied (again).

He’s not the only member of the Democrat Party prone to lies and flights of fantasy.

Ong-art Klampaibul, a deputy leader of the Democrat Party, recently babbled about an “election” held under the military junta. He said: “I hope the people’s voice will be respected this time…”.

Of course, it has been the Democrat Party that has refused to accept each election result since 2005. He probably meant to say that he hopes that his failed party can ride on the military’s coattails to a position in a military-dominated government.





When the military is on top XI

15 09 2017

It’s a while since we had a “When the military is on top” post. This post is prompted by a couple of recent stories reveal more about the military dictatorship and its aims.

First, as we have noted previously, the dictatorship’s core task is uprooting the “Thaksin regime.” That task is deepening and widening. Following thoroughgoing purges and arrests, the attention to the money the dictatorship and its anti-democrat allies mistakenly believe underpins Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra’s electoral popularity. The latest effort has the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) and the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) seeking to bring money laundering charges against Panthongtae “Oak” Shinawatra. This is a ratcheting up of earlier efforts and a precursor to charges being laid.

Second, Prachatai reports that the new junta-written election commission law has been promulgated and means that the new election commissioners will be selected by 250 military junta-appointed senators. That decision means that the Election Commission will essentially be junta-controlled for the next 5 or so years (depending when the junta decides to hold its “election”). Should a new government not be as the junta wants it, it is likely that that government will always be under threat from anti-election election commissioners.

Third, members of “the Pheu Thai Party and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) have slammed a [police reform] committee over its move to invite former protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban to give his opinions on reforming the Thai police.” Suthep, mired in long-standing corruption allegations that go back to the 1990s, when his underhanded actions brought down Chuan Leekpai’s government in 1994, is an anti-democrats as coup planner and supporter.

The “committee on police reform [has] announced it would start seeking opinions from Constitutional Court judges, mass media, former national police chiefs, and the former leader of the now-dissolved People’s Democratic Reform Committee Suthep Thaugsuban, who has also come up with reformist proposals.”

The police are seen as a nest of Thaksinites, so Suthep’s views will be important. After all, he’s been a minister, accused of corruption many times, is an “influential person” in the south, has been in the courts several times, once essentially accused of mass murder. That seems just the kind of advice the junta will want.

Can Thailand sink much deeper into the fascist slime? Under the military dictatorship, it seems it can go much deeper.