Updated: Held, supported and undefeated

24 05 2018

As we write this post, those anti-junta activists arrested at and near Thammasat University are thought due for release after being held longer than expected. The police say they intend to hold them longer. The courts are due to decide.

Meanwhile, as The Nation reports, there has been an outpouring of support for the detainees.

Local and international organizations calling on authorities to release the anti-junta/pro-election protesters arrested on Tuesday:

[a] dozen activists, led by the Democratic Restoration Group (DRG), were arrested and charged with sedition which carries a maximum seven-year prison term, and with violating the military junta’s ban on political gatherings of more than five people.

Several activists and politicians visited them in detention. They included “Thanathorn Juangroongruan-gkit of Future Forward Party, former police commissioner Pol General Seripisut Temiyavet, and representatives of the Pheu Thai Party.”

The former top policeman offered bail for all the detainees. However, “they had not been granted bail at press time last night.”

Updated: The 15 detainees were released on bail after police requested further detention from the court. As one declared: “Down the dictatorship. Long live democracy.”





Selectivity in the judicial system

22 05 2018

“Selectivity in the judicial system” is another way of expressing the notion of double standards. Several recent stories in the Bangkok Post highlight the junta’s continued emphasis on legal mechanisms to selectively repress its political opponents.

The first Bangkok Post story is about a civil court having “temporarily disposed of a civil case against Suthep Thaugsuban and 39 others for impeding the 2014 general election, pending the outcome of a criminal case against them.” Essentially, the court decided to ease the pressure on Suthep while other criminal cases are ever so slowly sorted out.

One of the oddities of this case is that it is brought by the EC which itself managed to impede the election through the decisions and actions of its then members.

A second Bangkok Post story tells of Puea Thai’s Watana Muangsook, Chaturon Chaisang and Chusak Sirinil being “charged on Monday with sedition for holding a press conference” that criticized the military dictatorship. It is the military that filed the case.

The notion that rights that even appear in the junta’s own constitution are ignored by the junta to claim sedition for relatively mild criticism is yet another example of double standards.

Five other party leaders were charged with violating the ban on gatherings for attending the press conference.

Pheu Thai’s secretary general Phumtham Wechayachai was mild in his response to the charges: “This government abuses the laws. They use laws to prevent people from investigating (them)…”. He added that none of those charged had broken the law.

But that’s the point. Under a military dictatorship the law is whatever the junta decides it will be.

Phumtham asked why it was that speaking “about the government’s performance for the last four years and how unsuccessful they are” should constitute an attempt to overthrow the regime or to incite insurrection.

Well, again, the dictatorship can decide what it wants. There’s no “legality” involved, just the whim of The Dictator. In this instance, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, campaigning vigorously to defeat parties that may not campaign, sees a chance to stick yet another dagger into the country’s most successful political party.

And finally for this account of double standards, the third Bangkok Post story is of three junior officials being charged by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) “the illegal purchase of Alpha 6 narcotics detectors 10 years ago.”

In fact, these devices are more or less the same at the GT200. Both are devices shown to have failed and to be scams, but widely purchased by official agencies including the military. Some 1,358 GT200 and Alpha 6 detectors worth 1.137 billion baht were bought by various agencies. Their use was vigorously defended by senior Army officers, including Gen Prayuth, and Army spokesmen

Five years ago, following convictions in the UK on these scam devices, PPT asked: will the Thai military brass and bosses of other agencies that purchased – often at inflated prices – will also be held accountable. The answer seems clear: not when the military runs the show.

Double standards and legal selectivity rule. Ask Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. One of his “borrowed” luxury watches costs more than an Alpha 6 at inflated prices. Maybe there’s a connection?





Banning Puea Thai?

17 05 2018

Is the military junta seeking to ban the Puea Thai Party before it allows its “election”? It seems possible.

The junta knows that its one real challenge in an “election” is from the Puea Thai Party. Over the past four years, as well as changing electoral rules and party rules, has gone out of its way to prosecute and jail Puea Thai people. It has also sought to undermine the party’s grassroots organizing. We could go on, but its clear that the junta has been trying to defeat the Puea Thai Party before an “election” even takes place.

Despite all of this undermining, the military’s polling tells the junta that Puea Thai, while weakened, remains strong enough to threaten the junta’s “election” plans.

The latest possibility is the banning of the party. When Puea Thai held a press conference on the junta’s failures, the dictatorship sprang into legal action.

Col Burin Thongpraphai, NCPO legal affairs chief, has ordered the police’s Crime Suppression Division to press four charges against Puea Thai for:

  • violating NCPO order 57/2557 banning existing political parties from conducting a meeting or a political activity;
  • violating NCPO order 3/2558 banning a political gathering of at least five people;
  • violating the computer crime law; and
  • violating Section 116 of the Criminal Code for sedition.

The cumulative prison sentence if found guilty is, we think, something like 20 years in prison. We guess that the junta may go after the party rather than just its members, suggesting the idea of dissolving yet another pro-Thaksin party.





Grazing among the opportunists

16 05 2018

A leading former Puea Thai MP has revealed how “former party MPs, especially those in the Northeast, the party’s main political stronghold, were being approached and urged to defect” to the junta’s preferred parties.

Yutthapong Charasatien, former MP for Mahasarakham, felt the need to “warn” potential defectors that Puea Thai remains widely popular in the northeast and that abandoning the party for the junta’s support bases was likely to cause voter disaffection.

The junta’s efforts to peel former MPS away from Puea Thai have been ongoing for several months.

Meanwhile, the junta’s party recruiting among those devil parties that already support military authoritarianism is easier. Sources in the Bhum Jai Thai Party are reported as saying “about 24 former MPs and senators, mainly in the Northeast but also in the North, had expressed their intention to defect to Phalang Pracharat,” a junta proxy party.

Warawut Silpa-archa, a core member of the Chart Thai Pattana Party, “said some former MPs from his party, were also being lured away” to the junta.

None of this comes as a surprise given that the rules the junta established for party politics mandate that it return to an era when cashed-up parties grazed among political opportunists-cum-MPs.





Political impunity challenged

15 05 2018

One of the factors that encourage generals to overthrow governments is that the perpetrators of successful putsches always declare their actions (retrospectively) legal. Once the coup leaders are finally seen off, that immunity and impunity is never challenged.

Watana Muangsook, a Puea Thai Party politician, is challenging this.

On Monday Watana called for “the prosecution of coup-makers after the next election.”

Saying the 2014 military coup led by Generals Prayuth Chan-ocha and Prawit Wongsuwan had caused “severe damage to the country and wasted a lot of state budget while causing the most suffering to the people.”

Watana blamed the damage on “inefficient management by retired military officers who want to have power but lack intelligence.”

None of that sounds exactly like holding them responsible for the coup itself, until Watana adds: “The goal is to prevent anyone from using the armed forces to destroy democracy again. More importantly, coup-makers must be punished for causing damage to the country…”.

This is the beginning of a discussion that needs to be held. Such discussions, however, will be muted for fear that they will cause the generals to hold on and prevent any challenge to their impunity.

Watana is right when he states that: “Dictators must be brought to court…”.





Stealing an election VII

6 05 2018

While the military junta runs wild, collecting support, campaigning vigorously and throwing funds at the electorate, its dependent institutions are working for it.

The Bangkok Post reports that “Pheu Thai Party caretaker secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai warned the Election Commission (EC) it should not assume that former leader Thaksin Shinawatra still dominates the party’s activity.”

While Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan declared that there was no breaking of any law if Puea Thai politicians met Thaksin and sister Yingluck in Singapore, his Election Commission chairman Supachai Somcharoen warned that “party members should be cautious when meeting party outsiders — those who fall outside official member or executive status.” He “they must not let outsiders influence the party’s agenda or accept their money to finance activity.”

No one doubts that Thaksin still wields great influence but the potential for the EC to dissolve the party is real. The notion of precluding “external” influence is a junta law that is designed to trump Puea Thai should the junta party/parties look weak in the junta’s “election.”

Screwing with Thaksin/red shirt parties is going to be a strategy for the junta going forward, so that even a minor party like Sombat Boonngamanong’s proposed Grin Party (or Krian Party) is to be expected. The EC has rejected his request to register his part, objecting to its name.

It is all about paving the road to “election” for The Dictator and his allies.





Updated: Party pilfering II

5 05 2018

The claimed non-political/apolitical/not headhunting/not seeking support campaign cabinet/junta visit to Buriram, home of the masters of the Bhum Jai Thai Party is upon us.

Newin Chidchob and Anutin Charnvirakul are beside themselves with anticipation and preparation for the non-political/apolitical/not headhunting/not seeking support campaign cabinet/junta visit.

The Bangkok Post reports that they have arranged for 30,000 people to greet The Dictator and his junta’s cabinet on Monday. Where? Of course, in Newin’s football stadium in the town Newin essentially owns before toddling off to the motor racing circuit Newin owns.

Both stadium and circuit are sponsored by Chang Beer, meaning that the Sino-Thai monster tycoons of the Sirivadhanabhakdi family get free advertising across Thailand during the visit and their name back The Dictator.

The ridiculous claims that the visit is non-political/apolitical/not headhunting/not seeking support campaign cabinet continued, as if every Thai is considered some kind of automaton unable to recognize the theft of an “election” that is underway.

Bhum Jai Thai’s Sanong Thep-aksornnarong led the way in feigned claim that “there was nothing unusual about the mobile cabinet visit on Monday.” He lied added: “I assure you there’s no special instruction from our party leader and Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha] wants to check the progress after a state budget of 100 million baht was approved for Thailand to hold the MotoGP here.”

Any question about why those funds were approved? Helping Newin and BJT? No, couldn’t be. Could it?

Sanong babbled on: “We don’t want to hear about MP-luring rumours because it’s not going to be easy here. We have dignity and was set up long before the new [military] party…”. True enough on timing, but its always been a party of the military and the military is rumored to have poured millions into it in 2011 in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the election of the Puea Thai Party.

Update: The lies (the practice of communicating lies is called lying, and a person who communicates a lie may be termed a liar) associated with the the sucking sound enveloping Buriram have become infectious. Gen Prayuth has joined the chorus of obvious deception. He trumpeted these disingenuous claims:

“There is nothing special. I am not going to strike a deal with anyone. I don’t want to meet politicians,” Prayut told reporters.

“But I don’t want to prohibit politicians from welcoming me either. If you want to, do it. Do you think I can bar people from greeting me?” he added.

Presumably he doesn’t think piling money into Newin’s ventures and visiting them to be “greeted” by 30,000 of Newin’s “people” is a problem either. Perhaps The Dictator feels this is what he deserves, and Newin sure knows how to spread on the political honey.

It is as if none of these men – and so far they are all men we’ve been hearing – has an ounce of truthfulness or dignity. In fact, though, they are displaying their utter contempt and disdain for the ability of the Thai people to discern fact and fiction.