Further updated: The 2014 political disaster

22 05 2022

It is now 8 long years since Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda colluded with rightists to seize power from an elected government.

The 2014 military coup was not unexpected. After all, the military brass had been planning it and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee had been demonstrating for months in support of a military intervention. The generals knew they had palace support.

Three army generals in 2019. Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Here we recall some of our posts at the time of the coup, with some editing, to recall yet another dark day in Thailand’s political history.

The story of how it happened, from the Bangkok Post is worth recalling:

At 2pm on Thursday, representatives of seven groups began the second day of peace talks hosted by army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The general began by asking all sides what they could do about the five issues he had asked them to consider on the previous day, a source at the closed-door meeting told Matichon Online.

Armed soldiers stand guard during a coup at the Army Club where the army chief held a meeting with all rival factions in central Bangkok on May 22. (Reuters photo)

Wan Muhamad Nor Matha of the Pheu Thai Party said the best his party could do was to ask ministers to take leave of absence or vacation.

Chaikasem Nitisiri of the caretaker government insisted cabinet members would be breaking the law and could be sued later if they resigned.

Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party disagreed, citing as a precedent Visanu Krue-ngam, who had previously resigned as acting deputy prime minister, but Mr Chaikasem stood his ground.

Veerakarn Musikapong of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) said this debate was useless and a person would need a mattress and a pillow if they were to continue with it.

This was like discussing a religious faith in which everyone was firm in his belief. The army chief had a lot on his shoulders now because he came when the water was already waist-high.

If he continued, Mr Veerakarn said, he would be drowned. The army chief should walk away and announced there would be election. That way, his name would be untarnished.

At this point, Gen Prayuth snapped back: “Stop it. Religious issues I don’t know much about. What I do know is I’ll hunt down each and every one of those ‘infidels’. Don’t worry about me drowning. I’m a good swimmer and I’ve studied the situation for three years.

“Back in 2010, I didn’t have absolute power. So don’t fight me. I was accused of accepting six billion baht in exchange of doing nothing. I insist I didn’t get even one baht.”

At this point, Jatuporn Prompan of the UDD appeared more appeasing, saying since an election could not be held now anyway, the best solution was to hold a referendum on whether national reform should come before or after the next election.

The debate went on for a while before Suthep Thaugsuban of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee said political parties were not involved in this.

“This was a problem between the UDD and the PDRC,” he declared.

He proposed the two groups meet in a separate session.

Mr Abhisit said the government should also join in, but Mr Suthep insisted on only the people’s groups.

Gen Prayuth allowed the two groups to meet separately.

In the meantime, Mr Abhisit suggested other participants should go home now that the two sides were in talks, but Gen Prayuth insisted on everyone staying where they were until a conclusion was reached.

The UDD and PDRC sides talked for 30 minutes.

After that, Gen Prayuth led them back to the meeting, saying he would announce the results of the talks.

At that point, Mr Suthep asked for a minute and walked over to say something with Gen Prayuth, with Mr Jatuporn present.

When they were done, Gen Prayuth said: “It’s nothing. We talked about how the restrooms are not in order.”

After that, the army chief asked the government side whether it insisted on not resigning.

Mr Chaikasem said:” We won’t resign”.

Gen Prayuth then declared: “If that’s the case, the Election Commission need not talk about the polls and the Senate need not talk about Section 7.”

He then stood up and spoke in a loud voice: “I’m sorry. I have to seize the ruling power.”

It was 4.32pm.

At that point some of the attendees still thought he was joking.

They changed their minds when the general walked to the exit and turned back to tell them in a stern voice: “You all stay here. Don’t go anywhere.”

He then left the room.

After that armed soldiers came to detain the participants in groups. Notably, Prompong Nopparit who came in the government’s quota was detained with the UDD group in a separate room.

Mr Veerakarn had a smile on his face and forgot his cane.

Mr Abhisit told Varathep Rattanakorn and Chadchart Sittipunt of the government: “I told you so”.

A pale-faced Chadchart snapped:”So what? What’s the point of saying it now?”

The military put the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties in the same room while the rest were put in different rooms.

The senators and election commissioners were let out first.

The rest is history.

The mainstream media essentially welcomed the coup. We observed that the controlled media dutifully announced the junta’s work – arresting people, grabbing control of even more of the media, implementing a curfew and the usual things these military leaders do when they take over.

Supreme Commander Gen Thanasak Pratimaprakorn, Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, Navy chef Adm Narong Pipattanasai, Police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew became Prayuth’s deputies in the junta, but it was the Army that was in control.

Weng

The establishment Bangkok Post published two op-eds supportive of military intervention. One was by Voranai Vanijaka, who congratulated the generals:

Voranai

The other op-ed was by a died-in-the-wool anti-democrat at the Post who declared felling safer:

Dopey shit

Following these two cheering op-eds for the military and its form of fascism, the Bangkok Post managed an  editorial that polished Prayuth’s ego and posterior and justified military intentions. It concluded with this: “The sad thing is it’s the very act of a military takeover that is likely to stir up stiff resistance, provoke acts of violence and possibly cause more loss of life. This coup is not the solution.” Well, of course it is not the solution, but the Post has been part of the problem, failing to clearly stand for democratic process.

Kasit Piromya, former foreign minister under a fully anti-democratic Democrat Party, propagandized and defended the coup at the BBC. He noted the anti-democrat call for the military to intervene “for quite some time.” He lied that the caches of arms found “amongst the red shirts” meant there was going to be great violence. It has to be said that the Army suddenly finding caches of weapons is a propaganda device they have regularly used in the past. He was fully on board with the military.

His comment on the “problem” of democracy is that his side can’t win, and the majority always win. That’s our interpretation of his anti-democrat tripe. He reckons this is the military resetting democracy. He sounds like he’s still in the yellow of 2006; it was the same story then.

Some of these commentators took years to learn that the military intervention was a huge disaster. Others continue to support military, monarchy and fascism. But really, looking back, no one could possibly have thought that this set of military dinosaurs was going to be interested in anyone other than themselves and the monarchy.

The past 8 years are lost years. For us, the only positive is the widespread questioning of the monarchy and its political, economic and social role.

Update 1: The massive Bangkok electoral victory by former Puea Thai minister Chadchart Sittipunt, with a 60% turnout, Chadchart receiving 1,386,215 votes, ahead of the Democrat Party’s Suchatvee Suwansawat with a paltry 240,884 votes. Some of the early commentary refers to the lost years since the 2014 coup – see here and here. It seems clear that the Chadchart landslide marks a rejection of Gen Prayuth and his regime. It is also a rejection of yellow-hued rightists, no more so than the abject failure of the PAD/PDRC eccentric and toxic Rosana Tositrakul with a minuscule 78,919 votes. Sadly, we might predict that the radical royalists and their military allies will interpret the results as a prompt for more vote rigging and even coup planning.

Update 2: Chadchart’s election was no fluke. As Thai PBS reports, the Bangkok assembly election delivered an emphatic vote for the Puea Thai (19 seats) and Move Forward (14 seats) parties. The hopelessly flawed Democrat Party got 9, while the regime’s fracturing Palang Pracharath won just 2 seats. That’s a landslide for the opposition.





State-sponsored attackers

28 11 2021

Prachatai reports that “[s]everal pro-democracy activists and academics have reported receiving an email from Apple warning them that ‘state-sponsored attackers’ are [or may be] targeting their devices.”

The activists have “received an email from Apple saying that it believes that he is being targeted by state-sponsored attackers who are ‘trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with [his] Apple ID’ and that, if the device is compromised, these attackers may have access to ‘sensitive data, communications, or even the camera and microphone’.”

Most of those who received the message are anti-regime activists but also included were several academics, including Puangthong Pawakapan, a lecturer at the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University, Prajak Kongkirati, a lecturer at the Faculty of Political Science at Thammasat University, and independent researcher Sarinee Achavanuntakul.

Worryingly, those targeted included Yingcheep Atchanont from the legal monitor group, iLaw. It seems clear that the regime is now angling to destroy or limit one of the few groups monitoring the regime’s lawfare.

The spyware used is probably Pegasus, made by the Israeli NSO Group and mostly used by governments, armed forces, and intelligence agencies. Last week, Apple issued a press release “stating that it has filed a lawsuit against the NSO Group and its parent company ‘to hold it accountable for the surveillance and targeting of Apple users’ and is seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using Apple products.” The press release also stated “that Apple is notifying the targeted users and that it will continue to do so whenever it discovers activities likely to be state-sponsored attacks.” Apple had also updated its operating system to limit these attacks.

Thai Enquirer reports that opposition parties, including Puea Thai and Move Forward had made the reasonable accusation that the regime is “behind the latest wave of cyber-attacks targeting activists and critics.”

The regime confirmed this by declaring “that there is no evidence to back their allegations.” It doubled down on this confirmation through a blatant lie, with a spokesperson declaring: ““We insist this is untrue, the government respects individual liberties…”. Everyone knows this is buffalo poo.

Move Forward logically concluded that it is “the military’s secret budget [that] was used to fund such attacks.”

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reports that Dechathorn “Hockhacker” Bamrungmuang, from Rap Against Dictatorship, “vowed not to be silenced … after he and at least five other government critics received messages from Apple warning that state-sponsored hackers could be targeting their phones.”

Ominously, he added: “I think the state won’t stop at this.”





Down the royalist rathole

12 11 2021

With the king having decamped back to Germany, the judiciary has stepped up. Some saw this as the deep state at work. However, the judiciary is both obvious and shallow. That said, it is certainly playing the role allocated to it by the regime and its masters.

At Thai Enquirer, Sunai Phasuk from Human Rights Watch is quoted: “The ruling today is essentially a judicial coup that replaces constitutional monarchy in Thailand with absolute monarchy…”. That’s exactly what regime and palace have been working for since the mid-2010s.

On the Constitutional Court’s decision, the same paper quotes academic Tyrell Haberkorn on “a fundamentally dangerous moment”:

“The Constitutional Court’s sleight of hand in equating the activist’s call for reform with revolt — defined in Article 113 of the Criminal Code and punishable with up to life imprisonment or the death penalty — is legally and politically dangerous,” she said.

“To put this in the starkest terms, if the Office of the Attorney General were to bring charges on the basis of this ruling, [the pro-] democracy activists could face the death penalty for the peaceful expression of opinion. That the Constitutional Court has made this ruling with the stated goal of the preservation of democracy is both cynical and incorrect. Democracy and criminalization of peaceful expression of opinion are not compatible.”

What is clear is that with all discussion of the monarchy now made illegal – apart from royalist honey and tripe – the most ultra of royalists are buoyant and calling for more. More repression, more charges, more jailings, less bail, longer sentences and more.

Thai PBS reports that ultra-royalist stooge Paiboon Nititawan, currently with the junta-invented Palang Pracharat Party is jubilant, declaring that the “Constitutional Court’s ruling will strengthen the monarchy [as if it needed it!] and is legally binding on the police, prosecutors and courts, as well as the Election Commission in taking legal action against individuals or political parties whose activities or conduct are deemed to be a threat to the constitutional monarchy.”

Expect, he implies, more charges and the dissolving of opposition parties. The first targets will be the Move Forward Party and Puea Thai (again).

Meanwhile, Senator Somjet Boonthanom “warned any legislator advocating amendments to lèse majesté law or reform of the monarchy to exercise extreme caution as they may now be accused of attempting to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.” He added that “amending the lèse majesté law in parliament … is doomed as a consequence of the court’s ruling.”

Jade Donavanik, said to be a legal scholar, told Thai Enquirer “that if a political party is found guilty of supporting an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy system, they could be dissolved and the Constitutional Court’s ruling could be used to support a petition for the dissolution.”

In the Bangkok Post, Deputy Prime Ministers Wissanu Krea-ngam and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan warned student protesters. They were “warned … to be careful as they can no longer cite their rights and liberties for their actions as they did previously because the court ruled that such actions were not an exercise in rights and freedom under the constitution.”

The police are now hard at work and it is expected that more lese majeste, sedition and treason charges will follow.

It is pretty clear where this is all going: down the royalist rathole.

The response from students has been to firmly reject the court. Let’s see where that leads. Royalists tend to react in nasty ways and the students are now left with few avenues for peaceful and legal protest into the future.

 





Updated: Another lese majeste debate

10 11 2021

The king seems to think the threat to his throne has been seen off. According to reports from Andrew MacGregor Marshall at Facebook, the king and his extensive entourage of women, servants, minions, and other hangers-on, he’s back in Germany.

Yet, it is reported that, in under a week, more than 120,000 people have signed a petition to parliament calling for the repeal the infamous and draconian lese majeste law (see also a Prachatai story on this petition).

That will cause consternation among the military leadership and the former military leaders leading the regime but we suspect that they also feel that their lawfare approach has worked, with several leaders of the protests jailed without bail and thousands of others, arrested, harassed and repressed.

But an ongoing debate on lese majeste strikes at the heart of the regime’s political ideology.

Khaosod’s Pravit Rojanaphruk writes that last week’s “unprecedented flurry of reactions both in support and opposition to amending the controversial lese majeste law” means it is likely to “turn the next general elections into a de facto referendum on the law…”. That’s the last thing the palace wants – as Thaksin Shinawatra quickly determined – and it isn’t what the regime and its shaky party want.

Despite facing multiple lese majeste charges, Thaksin has always sucked up to royals; it seems in the genes of big shots brought up during the last reign. That’s why it was a surprise when, “just hours after the renewed major protest by monarchy-reform groups [to] reiterate their year-long call and started a signature drive for the abolition of the law … the opposition Pheu Thai Party’s chief of strategic committee Chaikasem Nitisiri issued a statement … saying the party supports pushing for the proposal to be debated in parliament.”

Thaksin nixed that. Regime and its associated parties were suitably unimpressed, standing up for the status quo.

The royalist Democrat Party declared Article 112 unproblematic, blaming the students and other protesters for the debate that is not needed. It is what is expected of a party founded by vindictive royalists and populated by royalists today. One of them babbled:

The lese-majeste law is not problematic as distorted and claimed by those calling for the amendment by the parliament… If it’s tabled for the parliament we shall fight. We support strict enforcement of the law….

The opposition parties, like Move Forward talk amendment rather than abolition, but the activist fire under them wants the law gone.

Pravit is enthusiastic about the debate:

To amend or not amend the lese majeste law, or even to abolish it, is a much needed debate and we can start on the right foot by trying to be more honest about where the different groups stand. The perpetuation of a state of self-denial will not do Thailand any good.

Royalists are livid and want no debate, no changes, no nothing (as usual).

The Bangkok Post reported that Suwit Thongprasert, better known as the fascist former monk and political activist Buddha Isara, has “submitted a petition to the parliament president to oppose any moves to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law.”

He and representatives of the so-called People’s Army Protecting the Monarchy claim 222,928 signatures supporting their ultra-royalism. They also oppose amending Article 116, the sedition law. Articles 112 and 116, along with computer crimes laws are the main lawfare statutes used by the regime to stifle political dissent.

Like all royalists and the regime itself, the fascist former monk “insisted that the monarchy has been one of the main pillars of the country, a source of Thai culture and tradition, and a unifying force for the Thai people.” Blah, blah, blah palace and rightist propaganda.

The royalists face off against the Progressive Movement which is campaigning “for people to sign an online petition seeking to amend Section 112.”

According to Thai PBS, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is predictably opposed to any amendment:

Deputy Government Spokesperson Rachada Dhnadirek said today (Thursday) that the prime minister told his cabinet that his government will not amend the law and will run the country by upholding the three main pillars, namely the Nation, the Religion and the Monarchy.

She said that the prime minister would like to assure the Thai people that this is the administration’s position.

He was quoted to have said about this controversial issue yesterday, “Every country has longstanding cultures and traditions. No one thinks all the good in our past should be erased in favour of the new, created without rules. We shouldn’t be destroying what all Thais hold in high regard.”

The regime’s party is uniting against change. The Bangkok Post reports that Thipanan Sirichana, who is attached to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat Office says it is “impossible to repeal Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law, both in technicality and spirit, and doing so runs counter to the constitution…”. Thipanan insists that Section 6, “that the monarch holds a position of reverence which is inviolable” translates to an impossibility of amending or ditching the law.

That’s looney, but in this atmosphere being mad is a credential for ultra-royalism.

Interestingly, though Thipanan sees campaigning against the law as a campaign tool, suggesting that she knows there’s considerable support for change and reform.

Bangkok Post’s Chairith Yonpiam, an assistant news editor, writes that:

Right-wing conservative factions will have to learn, albeit with a sense of disappointment, that demands to change Section 112 will remain a key point in the drive to reform the monarchy, in what appears to be a long-haul political endeavour.

The calls to modify Section 112 are nothing new. They surfaced in the latter period of King Rama IX’s reign, and have now become predominant.

Sensibly, Chairith reminds readers of earlier efforts to reform or abolish 112, focusing on Nitirat which also had a lese majeste reform petition to parliament back in 2012. Back then, dark forces were unleashed against the university lawyers. One of the major voices denouncing Nitirat and threatening reformists was, of course, Gen Prayuth, then army commander.

Charith is correct to observe that:

The abuse of democratic rule with the launch of the military-sponsored 2017 charter by Gen Prayut and conservative elites, who branded themselves as staunch royalists, propelled calls for the reform of the monarchy, which have become louder in parliament and on the street.

He notes that “politics as we used to know it has changed, as it is no longer dominated by politicians. This is because people are aware that political conflicts have affected all elements in society and reform is necessary.”

His view is that: “Amending Section 112 is absolutely necessary to prevent the abuse of this draconian law.”

Amending this feudal law is not enough. Too many have suffered. Get rid of it. Vajiralongkorn and his mad monarchists are facing determined and growing opposition. Intimidation will be the royalist response, but that is likely to further expand the opposition to royalism and the regime.

Update: Thaksin has said more on lese majeste, seemingly contradicting his earlier position that 112 was “problem-free.” Now he’s saying “the 15-year maximum jail sentence for violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code is too harsh. The law must be amended to lower the punishment as a matter of urgency.” He stated: “We need to figure out how to keep the punishment from being too heavy,” adding that those detained under the law “must be granted the right to bail.”





Reflecting the regime IV

10 09 2021

Beyond the headlines, what does Wednesday’s sacking of Deputy Minister for Agriculture Thammanat Prompao tell us about the regime’s rotten political system?

He was sacked as deputy minister, along with Deputy Labor Minister Narumon Pinyosinwat, via an announcement in the Royal Gazette on Thursday following a “royal command” issued on Wednesday, that “stated that the prime minister said it would be appropriate if some ministers were removed for the sake of government.”

When asked, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said “he had his own reasons for the changes.” Thammanat remains, for the moment, secretary-general of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party, but that is unlikely to last long.

Thammanat released a “resignation” letter just before the official announcement that he’d been sacked.

Was he booted because of his shady background as a convicted heroin trafficker. Nor for his unusual wealth. Nor for lying about his education credentials. Nor for his underworld links via the lottery. Nor for links with a murder.

No, Thammanat was sacked for insufficient loyalty to Gen Prayuth:

Speculation is rife that the sackings have something to do with the alleged campaign to challenge the prime minister’s power. The campaign’s aim was said to replace Gen Prayut and rebuild a government that would result in a cabinet reshuffle, where certain key politicians in the PPRP, who are now deputy ministers, would be elevated to full ministers of A-grade ministries.

As one of those ministers, Thammanat “stands accused of manoeuvring the ouster campaign which allegedly involved a number of PPRP heavyweights and renegade members of micro-coalition partners and politicians in the main opposition Pheu Thai Party.” Thammanat wanted to be Minister of the Interior, which carries immense power and handsome rewards.

Clipped from Khaosod

It seems that Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan is another target as the two sacked ministers were close to Prawit. A party source said that Prawit’s position “hangs in balance following the dismissal of the pair who are his close aides.”

This is exactly the kind of party system that the military junta designed. This is how it works. Multi-party coalition governments mean there is always maneuvering for position and fortune. Allies fall out and become opponents. Money and power make the cement that holds coalitions together. Leaders must always watch their back, wondering whether friend or foe will stab them; usually the former.

Political instability in such a rotten system defaults power to the military chief and palace.

The system is corrupted and encourages criminals and other “dark influences” to seek power for the funds that inevitably flow from ministerial position.

This is the junta’s legacy for Thailand’s political system.





Reflecting the regime I

24 08 2021

Some recent reports would be funny if they weren’t serious. These reports shed light on the nature of the regime.

Thai Enquirer reports on a turncoat politician. This time it is not the execrable Suporn/Seksakol Atthawong but “Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a former party-list MP for the Pheu Thai Party turned member of the pro-junta and ruling Palang Pracharath Party, is not the brightest bulb in parliament.”

It may be that Ruangkrai is a complete lug nut or he might just be reflecting the level of impunity afforded the regime and its members when he is “telling everyone that he received two Mercedes from ‘kind adults’ since he switched sides.”

Clipped from Thai Enquirer

Author Erich Parpart is right to wonder “what is the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) doing?” He might have added the National Anti-Corruption Commission, but we all know that they are hopeless accessories of the regime.

Like Suporn, Ruangkrai is a useful political stooge. He has recently petitioned the “Election Commission (EC) to investigate the Move Forward Party (MFP) for bringing up the palace bureau during budget debate” and wants the party dissolved by the Constitutional Court. Both organizations are also regime accessories.

While mentioning the hopeless NACC, let’s nod to the story that the agency needs another “16 months to complete its investigation into alleged mishandling, by 15 officials, of the controversial hit-and-run case against Red Bull heir, Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya, including both retired and active high-ranking police officers and senior prosecutors.” No one who has followed this story of the escaped but very rich (alleged) cop killer would be at all surprised. After all, the cases against Vorayuth have gone on and on since 2012, with many of them expired and the rest of them buried, delayed and forgotten.

Both Ruangkrai and Vorayuth show how the legal system in Thailand is not just corrupt but provides a means to escape justice. Under the junta-cum-military-backed regime, what we used to call double standards in the judicial system has been transformed into a sytem of political repression with limited attention to anything resembling justice.





Secret money

24 06 2021

A recent story in Thai PBS reveals the secret funds used mainly by the military. Of course, the existence of secret funds has been known and controversial for many years, but this report seeks to remind us of the corruption of parliamentary and budgetary processes by the power of the military.

Vaji's bahtBudget papers are voluminous and the budget vetting committee has limited time to scrutinize it. Even so, the opposition reckons it has found secret budgets worth more than Bt1 billion in the 2022 budget. These are funds allocated to state offices with no stated use. That is, their use is secret.

The budget vetting committee can cut some budget items but cabinet can reinstate them, and the committee can agree or not, but the budget still goes back to parliament. One way the committee can get some action is by drawing attention to some items members consider problematic. That seems to be what’s happening here.

In this case, it is reported that the budget bill “was criticized by both opposition and some government MPs for allocating large unexplained funds for national security and military purchases at a time when COVID-19 is crippling the economy.”

Puea Thai Party deputy leader Yuttapong Charasathien “cited the lack of details available for the budget allocated to several state agencies.” Mostly he refers to the military. The report states:

The Thai Army set Bt290 million for its secret operations, with Bt62 million going to the Navy, Bt30 million to the Air Force, Bt32 million to the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence, and Bt55million to the Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, said Yuttapong who is also a member of the budget vetting committee.

Military money

Add in the 20 million baht allocated to the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre, and the security operations account for a secret 427 million baht.

But that’s not all: “Also unexplained is the Bt558 million of spending for the Prime Minister’s Office, which supervises the National Intelligence Agency and National Security Council, who are set to receive cloaked budgets worth Bt232 and Bt50 million respectively.”

That’s at least 750 million baht for secret operations.

Yuttapong asked: “What is the purpose of the secret spending? Is it for information operations [IO] and to monitor opposition activities?” We take that as a rhetorical question.

Other unexplained secret funds go to the Foreign Ministry and Labour Ministry. No one seems to know why these ministries need secret funds.

Yuttapong states: “If agencies cannot explain their need for such funding, it should be cut…”.

Overall, the “national security budget worth Bt387.9 billion, or 12.5 percent of the total budget.” Meanwhile, spending for public health is 306.7 billion baht.





Silence on monarchy

4 02 2021

We have been trying to get to this post for a week or so. In the meantime, as we have collected news stories, it has grown and grown.

Among the demands of the democracy movement were constitutional reform and monarchy reform. When they come together, it is in parliament, where constitutional reform, law reform and lese majeste reform is meant to be considered.

On monarchy reform and especially reform of Article 112, the usual royalist rancor and “opposition” spinelessness has been on display. Khaosod reported a while ago that “[o]nly one opposition party is planning to raise the issue of the excessive use of the royal defamation offense when the Parliament reconvenes for a censure debate…”.

That is Move Forward, and a couple of their MPs have expressed reservations and fears. Move Forward plans to criticize the use of the draconian law to intimidate political dissidents. The party plans to “push for reforms of libel laws, including lese majeste…”.

Spineless politicians

Other opposition parties panicked, and even walked back on their censure debate which mentioned the political use of the monarchy. Puea Thai stated that while the “formal motion of the no-confidence debate accused PM Prayut Chan-o-cha of ‘using the monarchy as an excuse to deepen the division in the society,’ … the party has no plan to raise the issue of the lese majeste during the censure debate or support the law’s amendment.” A spokesperson added “We didn’t include monarchy reforms in the motion either. We only wrote it broadly, that PM Prayut damages the confidence in democratic regime with the King as Head of State.”

That sounds remarkably like backpedaling with a political spine gone to jelly. Former political prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk observed: “… Pheu Thai still lacks moral courage. It will only worsen and prolong the problem of political divisions.”

Acknowledging the status quo of decades, it was observed that “discussions about the monarchy during a parliamentary session are generally discouraged,” adding: “There are restrictions … we cannot mention His Majesty the King unnecessarily…”.

Khaosod reports that there’s a parliamentary regulation that “bans … ‘referencing … the King or any other person without due cause’.”

The Seri Ruam Thai Party also ran from the lese majeste law and monarchy reform. Thai PBS reported opposition chief whip Suthin Klangsaeng as saying they are “fully aware of the sensitivity surrounding the [m]onarchy, but he insisted that the opposition will refer to the [m]onarchy during the debate while trying to be very discreet and referring to the institution only if necessary.”

The part of the motion causing all the royalist angst states that Gen Prayuth has not been “…upholding nor having faith in a democratic system with the King as the head of state; undermining and opposing democratic governance; destroying the good relationship between the monarchy and the people; using the monarchy as an excuse to divide the people and using the monarchy as a shield to deflect its failures in national administration.”

Of course, the regime’s supporting parties are opposing any discussion of the monarchy and lese majeste. These parties announced they will “protest if the opposition makes any reference to the [m]onarchy during the censure debate…”. Government chief whip Wirat Rattanaseth said “he would feel uncomfortable with any reference to the Monarchy in the opposition’s censure motion which, in essence, says that the prime minister referred to the Monarchy to deflect accusations of gross mismanagement and failures in national administration.”

In the military’s Palang Pracharath Party royalist fascist Paiboon Nititawan emphasized that the pro-military/royalist parties will invoke parliamentary rules to silence any MP discussing the monarchy. He was especially keen to silence critics of the lese majeste law. He declared: “Our party’s policy is to defend the monarchy.” On the broader issue of constitutional reform, the Bangkok Post reports that Paiboon demands that “any provision related to the royal prerogative should not be changed at all, regardless of which chapters they were in.” No change to anything related to the monarchy. We recall that the last changes made to the king’s prerogatives were made on the king’s demand and considered in parliament in secret.

Democrat Party spokesman Ramet Rattanachaweng said MPs had to toe the royalist line: “Everyone knows what their duty is, because we’re all committed to the institutions of Nation, Religions, and Monarchy.” He said his party will oppose amendment of the lese majeste law. Why? “…[O]ur party has no policy to amend it, because we are not affected or damaged by it directly…”.

The parliamentary royalists were cheered on by mad monarchist and royal favorite Warong Dechgitvigrom who declared “he would regard attacks on lese majeste law – or any move to amend it – as an attempt to overthrow the monarchy.”

Soon after this pressure – and plenty more behind the scenes – the opposition buckled. Thai PBS reported that they “agreed to remove a reference to the monarchy, which the government may find provocative, from its censure motion to avoid protests from coalition MPs.” This came after a meeting  to resolve the conflict over the motion. The meeting was chaired by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.

Puea Thai leader Sompong Amornvivat was reported as pedaling backwards and was reported to have promised “that he will withdraw the motion and rewrite it.” He later denied that he had made this promise and the opposition pushed on with the motion.

Back at the debate about parliamentary (non)debate, Thai PBS had a story about royalist allegations that Sompong had broken his promise to delete the reference to the monarchy in the censure motion. Palang Pracharat MP Sira Jenjakha “threatened to file a lèse majesté charge with the police against opposition MPs who sign in support of a censure motion…”.

Government chief whip Wirat Rattanaseth “warned today that the opposition‘s refusal to delete the offending reference may lead to protests in parliament, to the extent that the debate may be disrupted and end prematurely.”

The last time the royalists disrupted parliament. A Bangkok Post photo showing a Democrat Party member grabbing a policeman’s throat.

Thai PBS took sides, declaring that “Thailand is bracing for unprecedented chaos [not really, see above] in Parliament later this month when the opposition shatters a deep-seated taboo by citing the monarchy in its censure motion against the prime minister.” It asserts: “Involving the monarchy in the no-confidence motion has sparked angry accusations from the government camp that this constitutes a grave insult to the revered institution.”

In response, the Bangkok Post reports that the regime “has formed a legal team to monitor the upcoming censure debate for inappropriate references to the monarchy…”. The person in charge of this is quisling former red shirt Suporn Atthawong, a vice minister to the PM’s Office whose own 112 case sems to have been forgotten. The regime’s legal team will “gather false allegations made during the debate against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and cabinet ministers and lodge complaints with police.”

The threats have come thick and fast. The regime is furious. Presumably the palace is too. What they want is to roll back politics to the golden era when the king was never discussed, by anyone, except the seditious.





Updated: Jatuporn’s meltdown

13 01 2021

One of the not very well hidden tasks of the regime, sometimes supported by the mainstream media, has been to nitpick at the protest movement and exacerbate divisions and differences.

That follows a tested junta tactic of trying to divide and conquer former opponents in Puea Thai and among red shirts. This involved buying off red shirt leaders like the detestable Suporn Atthawong, who has been rewarded with legal cases dropped and lucrative positions. Those turncoats have assisted the military junta to transform into the current post-junta regime.

A more activist Jatuporn

Over the past couple of months we have watched United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, leader Jatuporn Promphan say some odd things and, finally, have a meltdown. His story is told by a seemingly gleeful Thai PBS.

Jatuporn’s role as a red shirt protest leader resulted in numerous criminal charges and several arrests, and he eventually served 19 months in jail when a court found him guilty of defaming the reprehensible former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who led the regime that murdered red shirts. Jatuporn’s defamation was to call Abhisit “a murderer” who “order[ed] the shooting dead of the protesters.”

He was also seen court orders for 100 million baht “in civil rulings stemming from riots and arson attacks by red-shirt protesters.” We won’t go back over the details of these false charges. In addition, he faces charges of “terrorism, illegal phone-tapping, and provoking public disorder, as well as other libel offences.”

Many activists looked differently at Jatuporn when, in July 2020, he “warned student activists not to cross a line, by infringing upon the [m]onarchy…”.  Some took this as a warning that the students should be wary of yet another murderous military attack on protesters. Others, however, wondered why Jatuporn appeared to be defending the monarchy. Many red shirts who joined with the student demonstrators calling for monarchy reform were stunned by Jatuporn’s statements.

In September 2020, his commentary was taken up in an op-ed by the notorious anti-democrat journalist Tulsathit Taptim who used Jatuporn’s “advice” to demonstrators to call for them to back down. Referring to campaigns against royalists, it was stated:

According to Jatuporn, it is all right for dictators to seek to destroy or suppress opposite or different opinions because it’s what they do. But it’s not democratic, he says, if minority or unpopular opinions are condemned, insulted or forced to undergo changes.

Oddly, in 2010 and during the Yingluck Shinawatra government, it was Jatuporn who was accused by yellow shirts of supporting “majoritarianism” – in this case, supporting an elected government.

Two further outbursts by Jatuporn suggest that he has had a political meltdown. He has seen increasing opposition from former comrades, with accusations that he is a “traitor” and “lackey of the military.”

Staggeringly, Jatuporn has called for the UDD “to disband and pass the baton on to the young-generation protesters now battling for democracy. That push drew another barrage of criticism – this time that he was betraying fellow red shirts.” Some wondered aloud about Jatuporn’s motives and asked why, in 2014, the red shirts went off stage with a whimper. Was Jatuporn complicit in demobilizing red shirts? Some disgruntled observers suggested that Jatuporn’s paymaster had changed.

Then, he drew more criticism when he campaigned for the re-election of Chiang Mai’s provincial administrative organisation (PAO) chief, Boonlert Buranupakorn, himself considered a turncoat. Boonlert lost to a Puea Thai candidate who also had Thaksin Shinawatra’s support. Even other red shirt leaders spoke out against Jatuporn.

Just a few days ago, Jatuporn’s meltdown and slide to the other side was illustrated when he filed “a police complaint against some 200 netizens he accused of posting false information and defamatory abuse against him” during the [PAO] election campaign.”

Jatuporn said the “online attacks part of a concerted attempt to destroy his reputation,” something he seems to be doing for himself. Sounding like the regime’s nastiest of lying, cheating politicans, he vowed “many hundred more cases.” He seems to be taking a leaf out of Thammanat Prompao’s playbook.

We can understand that all those legal cases and the threat of more jail must weigh heavily, but it does seem that Jatuporn is doing the regime’s work.

Update: Khaosod has more on the UDD. It concludes with comments by red shirt activist Anurak Jeantawanich, saying “he would oppose any attempt to dissolve the UDD.” He correctly points out that “the large number of Redshirt protesters at anti-government rallies in 2020 prove that the movement is still a force to reckon with, and what the UDD needs is a new leadership with new strategies.” He adds: “Redshirts are against the dissolution of the UDD,” he said, citing an informal online survey that he conducted. “

As for Jatuporn, Anurak states: “I don’t want to use the word fired, but I’d like to ask him to leave.”





A junta win

28 12 2020

One of the main aims of the long period of junta rule was to produce rules and manage politics in a manner that wound back the clock to a pre-1997 era of electoral politics.

Their efforts meant that the post-junta regime could finagle a national election “victory” and make use of the junta-appointed Senate to ensure that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha could continue as prime minister. At the same time, the regime had delayed and delayed local elections so that it could ensure that it had measures in place that prevented national election-like “surprises.” Of course, it also used the Army and ISOC to control civilian administration and arranged for the Future Forward Party to be dissolved.

When the post-junta regime got around to local elections, the result provided evidence that the electoral wind back had been successful.

While initial commentary focused on the “failure” of Move Forward. In fact, while the party didn’t win any Provincial Administrative Organization chair positions, its candidates took more then 50 PAO seats and received 2.67 million votes.  This was on a voter turnout of just over 62% – low compared to the national election.

As time has gone on, commentators have become more incisive in assessing the results. Thai Enquirer wrote of a return to old-style politics, with political dynasties controlling local politics. A Bangkok Post editorial also focused on these factors, commenting: “About 40% of the winners of the PAO elections, Thailand’s first local elections in some seven years, are old faces, with the ruling Palang Pracharath Party making a big sweep in more than 20 provinces, followed by Bhumjaithai, almost 10, and Pheu Thai, nine.”

Recently, Peerasit Kamnuansilpa is Dean, College of Local Administration, Khon Kaen University writing at the Bangkok Post, has explained the big picture. He asks: “Are these elections really meaningful?” He concludes: “The net result is business as usual for PAOs, and Thailand will still be the prisoner of a highly centralised local administration.”

Helpfully, Peerasit lists the reasons for the failure of local democracy, all of them focused on junta/post-junta efforts to turn the clock back. He observes that the junta/post-junta has co-opted “local governments to become agents of the central government…”. He explains:

Following the 2014 coup, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), under then-army chief Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha upended a foundation of Thai democracy by issuing an order to suspend local elections. The politically powerful junta then began to co-opt all locally elected politicians and local government officials to become centrally appointed representatives of the central government.

This process began with NCPO’s Order Number 1/2557, in which one prescribed role of the locally elected leaders was to become partners of the military junta in restoring peace and order to the country. This made them complicit in undermining local governments in exchange for being able to legitimately keep their positions for an unspecified period of time without having to undergo the process of competing with other local candidates to secure the consent of the local citizens to allow them to serve. In other words, if they played ball with the junta, they would not need to face elections.

This “co-optation was then delegated to the Interior Ministry. This change obligated the leaders and the executives of all local governments to be accountable to the central government, thus becoming de facto representatives of the central government. Consequently, local leaders then had an allegiance to the powers in the central government.”

His view is that a promising decentralization has been destroyed: “In effect, the central government is — and has been — committed to failure from the beginning, by creating weak local government organisations.”

The people are not fooled and he reports data that “revealed that, when compared to other types of local governments, the PAOs were perceived as less beneficial than all other types of local governments within the surveyed provinces.” PAO level government is a processing terminal for the regime:

… PAO’s primary function has remained: serving as a conduit of budget allocation to be “authorised” by the provincial governor. This budgetary control by the governor is actually a smokescreen for influence by the central government of 76 provincial budgets, accounting for a very large amount of funding.

While yet another decline in Thailand’s democracy can be lamented, the fact remains that this is exactly what the junta wanted when it seized power in 2014.

 








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