Updated: Reds for the junta

17 07 2018

When the military ran its coup in 2014 one of its immediate goals was, along with the Puea Thai Party, to neuter the red shirts. The red shirts were seen as an existential threat having established themselves throughout the country and especially in the Central, Northeast and Northern regions. The red shirt ideology was in support of electoral democracy and its supporters included groups considered willing to oppose the military’s violence with violence of their own.

More than any other group, the military identified the red shirts as political enemies and it put considerable efforts into de-fanging, disrupting and disorganizing them.

Recent media reports suggest that the junta may be congratulating itself on its anti-red shirt efforts and has caused the official red shirts to react.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) “have slammed suspected efforts by the Sam Mitr Group (Three Allies) to poach their members to support Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha returning as premier after the next election.”

They were reacting to rumors, now confirmed, that Surin’s Theppanom Namlee, described as “a key member of the … Surin red-shirt group…”.

While Nattawut Saikua and other key UDD figures panned the Three Traitors and damned them for underhanded tactics, it does appear that the junta and its allies associated with the hastily manufactured Palang Pracharath Party, with massive state funds and human resources, are having some success in fracturing the coalition that has held through years of political repression and legal harassment.

If the junta is having this kind of (negative) success, no one should be too surprised. After all, the state is skilled at such tactics and has used them for decades to splinter opposition.

What is a fly in the political ointment is the junta’s realization that it can only “win” its own rigged election by allying with people it previously despised as republicans and Thaksinites.

Update: See more on this story here and read about the junta’s planned use of Puea Thai and red shirt defectors in campaigning here.





More junta election campaigning

16 07 2018

The Dictator is campaigning hard. He seems to feel that he needs to hold an “election” sooner or later but knows he still can’t be guaranteed the victory he desires. Along with destabilizing the Puea Thai Party, jailing opponents, using the “law” against them and building pro-junta parties, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is using the military, the bureaucracy and taxpayer’s funds in seeking to tip the “election” even more in his favor.

Much of that spending has come during high-profile “mobile cabinet meetings” in areas where Puea Thai has been strong since 2001. All funded by the public purse and taxpayer sweat.

The next cabinet circus is scheduled for 23-24 July in the northeast. Money is going to be promised in the provinces of Ubol Ratchathani and Amnat Charoen.

A big part of the campaign trip is to meet former MPs in the two provinces and convince and cajole them into signing up for for the Palang Pracharat Party, the junta’s party. The target in Ubol is said to be up to “seven former Pheu Thai MPs…”.

Some have already been turned and will provide the avenues through which the junta will make peace with former MPs. That’s not as easy as it may seem, for the junta and the military has been harassing them for years. But piles of loot and the promise of more to come soothes many losses of face and other insults.

Naturally enough, the junta’s spokespersons have lied and said that there’s nothing “political” in the visit, denying the main reason for the whole show.





Traitors and others

9 07 2018

The Puea Thai Party has asked its supporters and members to tone down the criticism being made of defectors and the “three friends” who are using state and other resources to lure them to the pro-military party.

The party’s acting secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai said that “criticism against defectors should be avoided, and it would be best for all sides to try and maintain their friendships with colleagues to chose to step across the floor.” He added: “It’s essential that we respect the politicians’ decisions…”.

Huh? Really? Reading that we thought that this was a declaration of support for the military junta by the acting secretary-general. However, reading further, we might revise that judgement but still refer to the defectors and the “three friends” as traitors.

He says the defectors will have to face the electors and he seems to think that the electorate will spurn the defectors and traitors.

More positively, Phumtham believes that those leaving leave space for “Pheu Thai to empower a younger generation of issue-led rather than career-driven politicians for whom integrity rather than personal reward is the priority.” Okay, he has the benefit of doubt and of saying something useful.

Meanwhile, another Puea Thai politician alleged that the the junta is using not just carrots but also sticks to lure Puea Thai politicians to the junta’s camp. Worawat Ua-apinyakul “alleged some politicians facing criminal investigations were being ‘pushed’ to quit their parties due to threats to expedite proceedings against them.”

While Puea Thai worries and mulls the impacts, the “three friends” group plans to “make its [public] debut with a bang…”. That’s according to one of the traitors, now the “group’s secretary Pirom Polwiset, the former Pheu Thai MP for Nakhon Ratchasima.” Pirom declared that his new group of friends “has not decided when it will make a formal bow on the political scene although he insisted it will be soon.”

Where’s the Election Commission? Not only is the group poaching MPs and offering illegal incentives while acting for “outsiders,” including ministers, The Dictator and the Deputy Dictator, but it has a secretary-general and plans a public political bash.

Under the military dictatorship, there can never be a “level playing field” and notions of free and fair elections are long ago burned and buried.





Can the Election Commission enforce the law?

3 07 2018

Just yesterday we noted that the dictatorship’s Palang Pracharath Party’s flagrant flouting of the junta’s own electoral law is simply ignored by the puppet Electoral Commission.

The Bangkok Post reports that a “former Pheu Thai MP has asked the Election Commission to scrap the application of Palang Pracharat Party on the ground its founders might have been offering cash and non-cash benefits to poach politicians of other parties and using state resources to finance the group’s policies.”

Suchart Lai-namngern, an ex-Lop Buri MP, “also asked the EC to launch an investigation into two deputy prime ministers – Prawit Wongsuwon and Somkid Jatusripitak, as well as Industry minister Uttama Savanayana, Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong and the group known as the Three Allies, who might have collaborated in activities in breach of the constitution and the Political Parties Act.”

Also cited was “Section 169 (4) of the [junta’s] charter which prohibits cabinet ministers from using state resources in any activity that may affect a poll…”. That refers to Gen Prawit and Somkid.

It was added: “There have been reports Mr Somkid used Government House to draft Palang Pracharat party’s policies. He also met some former politicians at InterContinental Bangkok Hotel on May 11 to lure them to join the party by offering benefits in exchange.”

The best that the puppet EC could do was send out a statement by its deputy secretary general Sawang Boonmee “saying the EC was closely monitoring activities of politicians and gathering evidence.”

As the Post report says, the statement “did not refer to any specific activities…”, quite unlike its response to claims that Thaksin Shinawatra was violating the same laws. Then, EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma seemed to have the investigation into Puea Thai finished as soon as it had begun. He was quoted as saying he “expects it will take two weeks to establish whether a video call made by ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra to Pheu Thai Party members likely broke the law on political parties…”.

In any case, the Post considered that statement to really be about “a [virtual] meeting between some former Pheu Thai MPs and former party leader Thaksin Shinawatra, not to the Palang Pracharat group’s activities.”

Another Bangkok Post report makes it clear that Palang Pracharat “is a vehicle for securing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s return as prime minister after the next election…” whenever the junta decides to hold it.

In response to these calls, Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit resorted to further lies. He “denied the regime was biased in favour of Sam Mitr [the three traitors] by not acting against the group for organising a political gathering last week in Pathum Thani to announce it was joining the Palang Pracharat Party.”

He did not seem to comment on how his fellow ministers were breaking the junta’s own laws.





When the military is on top XXII

2 07 2018

When the military is on top it sets the rules for politics and seeks to ensure it wins its “election” whenever it decides to hold them.

Of course, that decision on elections means having all of its political repression and political pieces in place. Those processes have taken more than four years (and counting). The main tasks of the military dictatorship have been to concoct a legal and constitutional structure that disadvantages notions of popular sovereignty and keeps the military on top. A related and critical task has been to crush and atomize the red shirts and its leaders and to undermine the Puea Thai Party and most of its leadership.

A recent report in the Bangkok Post, while highly influenced by the junta’s perspective, suggests that the dictatorship feels it is finally successful, or nearly so.

The Pheu Thai Party has been thrown into disarray as it wrestles with a political group seeking to poach the party’s members to join a pro-regime party and support the return of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to power.

A gathering of dozens of political bigwigs last Wednesday at the Pinehurst Golf & Country Club hosted by the so-called Sam Mitr group, or Three Allies, has confirmed the speculation. This grouping is run by former transport minister Suriya Jungrungreangkij, former industry minister Somsak Thepsuthin and and the other one believed to be Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.

The Pinehurst event, which was brought forward from June 30, was attended by about 50 former MPs many of whom were formally with the Thai Rak Thai Party and the People’s Power Party. Those parties were dissolved by the Constitutional Court for electoral fraud. Others were from the Pheu Thai and Bhumjaithai parties.

However, political insiders claim the group led by Mr Suriya has a major announcement to make later this week. The announcement is believed to involve the inclusion of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), aka the red shirts, a staunch opponent of the regime, into the bloc.

Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has been coordinating these campaigns. That’s why little things like a luxury watch scandal is ignored by the puppet National Anti-Corruption Commission.

The dictatorship’s Palang Pracharath Party, ignored by the puppet Electoral Commission, has been hoovering up former Thaksin Shinawatra associated politicians and its associated groups have been holding “campaign rallies” with The Dictator in attendance and him splashing about state funds as MP buying and “policy corruption” takes hold of the junta and its party.

The latest political meeting – also ignored by the puppet EC – brought dozens of former MPs together at the Pinehurst Golf Club.

More interesting is that the defector’s group leaders Suriya Juangroongruangkit, Somsak Thepsuthin, Chalong Krudkhunthod, Anucha Nakasai and Pirom Polwiset have worked with military commanders locally in co-opting former red shirts.

According to Post source, “mid-level leaders of the UDD in several provinces [have been asked] to join the pro-regime party.” Revealing is the view that the “switching of allegiances is not a surprise because local red-shirt leaders have been ‘inactive’ since the 2014 coup and those who remain critical of the regime are hard-core UDD leaders such as Natthawut Saikuar and Worachai Hema.” Of course, Jatuporn Promphan remains jailed as the junta fears his appeal to red shirts and voters.

In this view, “the UDD is collapsing and those in power have been working to dismantle the Pheu Thai Party’s power base.” See above.

One aim is to siphon off some 80% of Puea Thai’s former MPs. The source at the Post states: “It’s every man for himself. The UDD is no longer here. The group failed to launch a political party so they came around to hook up with the Phalang Pracharat Party.” Why? Money and power and the promise of more: “One of the former Pheu Thai politicians who joined the Sam Mitr [Suriya, Somsak, et al.] group said he decided to defect because the group has a clear strategy and resources at its disposal.”

As we have long pointed out: “The regime and its allies are expected to go all-out to reduce competition including recruiting veteran politicians and using state mechanisms in their favour…”. The source added:

A lot of work has been going behind the scenes and several politicians have defected to the party. But Mr Suriya and Mr Somsak are the ones who show to the public that the UDD is disintegrating.

That the military leaders considered the red shirts an existential threat is clear. That’s one of the reasons why there was a coup in 2014.





All about The Dictator

29 06 2018

Last week the Deputy Dictator met with some political parties about the junta’s “election.”We understand that it is the first official meeting between the military junta and political parties since the day that it illegally seized power, ironically at the very same place it met the political parties back in 2014.

At the end of that meeting, a smiling Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who seems to enjoy legal impunity for all of his deeds, declared that the next meeting would be chaired by The Dictator himself. Apparently Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha will find time for a sham meeting on the path to a rigged election.

Now, however, the Bangkok Post reports that the “next meeting between party politicians and the regime to discuss poll preparations will probably take place in September…”. “Preparations” seems to mean getting arrangements in place for the junta to have its party or parties to “win” the rigged election.

Gen Prayuth has said that not having another meeting for 2-3 months because the junta needs “time to study issues raised by the parties at the first meeting.” In fact, the junta needs more time and more work to ensure its preferred election outcome.

It seems Gen Prayuth also felt the need to again lie to the Thai people when he “gave his assurance the next election will be free, fair and proceed smoothly…”. A free and fair election is impossible under the rules concocted by the military dictatorship.

At the same time, Gen Prayuth warned of future delays to the highly elastic election “roadmap.” He said the junta is “monitoring the security situation and making the political climate conducive for organising the election,” adding: “We’re moving the country forward together. The situation must be stable…”.

He wasn’t explicit but he is saying that any “instability” would mean further delay. As we know, the military is the most likely source in creating political instability, usually using ISOC.

The military dictatorship appears ever more confident that it can get its preferred electoral outcome. So confident, in fact. that the Deputy Dictator has detailed that result.

Gen Prawit declared: “I have confidence Gen Prayut will be able to carry on [after the election]. I always support him…”. Even if Prayuth himself won’t confirm this, it has been the junta’s main objective in having The Dictator hit the campaign trail and in pumping funds into various constituencies.

Prawit let this cat out of the leaky bag as he “welcomed” defectors from the Puea Thai Party, from the so-called Three Allies. It remains unclear what promises were made to the defectors, but we can guess that it has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of baht.

The defector’s group has “pledge[d] to join the Phalang Pracharat Party…”. That’s the junta’s party. Gen Prawit “said it was a good sign that the group was joining Phalang Pracharat and backing Gen Prayut.”

That’s a second euphoric statement of Prayuth’s future as outside PM following the rigged election.

Those named as defectors are “former transport minister, Suriya Jungrungreangkij, former industry minister, Somsak Thepsuthin, as well as former deputy education minister, Chalong Krudkhunthod, ex-MP for Chai Nat, Anucha Nakasai, and former Nakhon Ratchasima MP, Pirom Polwiset.” Others include “Suporn Atthawong, a former key figure of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, and former Pheu Thai member Somchai Phetprasert.”

That Suporn is included among junta supporters is a clear indication of how the military dictatorship is prepared to go in bribing and gobbling up political partners. Back in 2011, then Army chief Gen Prayuth accused Suporn of lese majeste and laid a complaint with police.  Suporn had filed counter-charges against Prayuth. Now they are political allies. Opportunism and rigging the election? You bet. Opportunism and double standards are the rule.

It is revealing that the traitor’s group can hold a “group gathering at the Pinehurst Golf & Country Club on Wednesday,” reportedly “attended by about 50 former MPs.” It is also reported that the group included former members of the Thai Rak Thai and People’s Power parties, some from the Puea Thai Party and the doubly traitorous Bhum Jai Thai parties.

At hat political meeting, “Suriya told group members that he was throwing his support behind Gen Prayut to return as prime minister.” He also revealed that he had “contacted key government figures including Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong and Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana to say he was willing to help Gen Prayut, although he disliked the military coup.” The latter is errant nonsense. No one with an ounce of self-worth would proclaim himself a coup opponent and then join the coup makers.

Under the rules the Election Commission is applying to Puea Thai and Thaksin Shinawatra, Suriya named all of these ministers as “outsiders” influencing the Palang Pracharath. That Palang Pracharath is also the tool of Prayuth, Prawit and Somkid is also widely known. We don’t expect the puppet EC to enforce any law other than selectively and in the interests of Prayuth, Prawit and Somkid.

It is a rigged election with the election “umpire” being the junta’s puppet.





The beginning of the end of Puea Thai?

26 06 2018

The military dictatorship has worked determinedly to destroy the political base of the Shinawatra clan and the Puea Thai Party. Crushing support for them has been an important element of the dictatorship’s “election” plans.

The regime has been having some success. While the electorate in key areas seems to still favor Puea Thai over other parties, the junta has seemingly been more successful in undermining the party by luring politicians to support junta-associated parties.

Yet this may not be enough to guarantee an “election victory” for the junta and its supporters. The “nuclear option” has always been to dissolve Puea Thai. It seems that the junta may have pushed that button.

It was only late last week that former People’s Alliance for Democracy leader Suriyasai Katasila demanded an “investigation” into Thaksin Shinawatra’s recent conference call with some Puea Thai members.

Suriyasai demanded that “the Election Commission (EC) to set a precedent for political parties to follow by ruling on whether former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has violated the Political Party Act – something that could lead to the dissolution of the Pheu Thai Party.”

He alleged that Thaksin’s call and Yingluck’s recent birthday party in London both constituted violations of the 2017 Political Party Act.

With lightening speed, the EC launched a probe. Its secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma seemed to have the investigation finished as soon as it had begun. He was quoted in the linked story as saying he “expects it will take two weeks to establish whether a video call made by ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra to Pheu Thai Party members likely broke the law on political parties…”.

The outcome of the quick “investigation” – being reported to the EC today – is probably going to be a “larger probe,” which is the second step in dissolving the party.

That the “investigation” is politically biased is not in doubt. The EC has not even discussed the “case” with the Puea Thai Party.

Jarungvith said “the EC was reviewing what Thaksin discussed with the Pheu Thai members and was also keeping a close eye on whether the former premier’s words were being adopted as part of the party’s guidelines or policy.” He added that the EC “would check to see if the party was toeing Thaksin’s line.”

Official red shirt leader and former Puea Thai MP Nattawut Saikua made the obvious point that the EC should also monitor “other” parties as “a rival party urge … [Puea Thai] former MPs to defect.” He observed that the Palang Pracharath Party was under the influence of “outsiders.”

He’s right. Palang Pracharath is controlled by the junta. But he’s wrong to expect even-handedness  from any agency associated with the junta and its “election.” It is all rigged.

Whether the EC “investigation” leads to the dissolution of Puea Thai or not, in the junta’s warped view of the political world, this is a win-win case. If the party is dissolved, its parties do better in the “election.” If the case is dropped, Thaksin and Puea Thai will have been warned and are likely to have to campaign exceptionally carefully and quietly, while the junta’s parties will be unconstrained. It is all rigged.