Coup learning

22 09 2017

PPT wishes to draw attention to two retrospective articles published by Prachatai. Both can be considered the 2014 military coup and the period of military dictatorship in a context of the “failures” of the 2006 coup to demolish the “Thaksin regime.”

The first, by Kornkritch Somjittranukit, claims that “[f]orming political alliances, securing military influence, creating extra-parliamentary mechanisms and establishing dominant ideology are things that the ruling junta has learnt from the 2006 wasted coup…”. The article details these “lessons,” learned by the current junta.

In our view, the regime and its anti-democratic supporters measure the junta’s “success” by its ability to destroy the Thaksin regime – its party, its red shirt support, its influence in the police, military and bureaucracy, its wealth and even individuals considered important to that “evil regime.” The current junta’s main key performance indicator is preventing the re-election of any Shinawatra, whether that is by “postponing” elections or rigging them.

The second, by Khon Kaen academic Siwach Sripokangkul, can be read as an account of the junta’s “reconciliation” as a means to exclude, discipline and destroy those considered oppositional. It highlights the broad double standards at work in a militarized Thai society.

Of course, The Dictator looms large: “In [General] Prayuth [Chan-ocha]’s view, if someone does not think or see the world as he does, he or she lacks Thainess and is a danger to Thai society; he, Prayuth, is right and the other person is wrong.”





“Public” discussion

26 07 2017

How does the junta handle “public” discussion? The linked report explains.

The military headed up the military junta’s main “reconciliation” effort by coming up with something various called a “social contract” or a “national harmony pact.” In fact, this was a set of military junta musings about how to keep a lit on Thailand’s sometimes raucous politics by banning and repressing the junta’s political opponents.

Following its release, the military junta then ordered what it called “final public hearings to introduce the draft of the so-called social contract, and seek opinions on it…”.

These meetings “were held at four regional military barracks around the country from Monday to Thursday beginning 17 July.

The report states that “[h]undreds of people joined in…”. Who were they? Apparently, almost all “seats were reserved mostly for those enlisted or invited.” Further, the report states that “[m]ost participants were civil servants called up by Interior agencies.”

It is unclear how many “outsiders” made it to the meetings. It was reported that “[d]espite it being a top national agenda item, only one well-known figure, red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, attended the seminar on Monday at the First Army Area command in Bangkok.” Hours later, he was sentenced to a year in jail.

The report goes on to explain that in a “two-hour long presentation by the military, less than 30 minutes were spent on the introduction of the draft social contract…”. The rest of the presentation by the military “involved officers emphasising the military’s dedication to recreating national harmony and the inclusive, non-dictatorial approach they had adopted in the scheme.” In other words, the officers shoveled buffalo manure.

That’s how the military arranges reconciliation for the military and by the military.





Reconciliation plan ticked off

20 06 2017

A report at he Bangkok Post tells us the military dictatorship’s reconciliation plan is about finished. Tick that off.

This “planning” began back in February. Then in April it was reported that the the various groups and committees, all dominated by the military, had wrapped up two months of work “gathering public opinion,” and that the junta’s minions would draft “a unity agreement” by June. Sure enough, they have.

It’s been a propaganda exercise and still has a way to go in serving junta interests.

The propaganda includes claims of public participation. Defence spokesman Maj Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich “expressed confidence that the efforts to build national reconciliation will come to fruition as the unity agreement has been drawn up from public input and past lessons.” He added:

It may only be a piece of paper, but it’s the people’s will. It is the people who have provided this framework for living in a peaceful society. I’m confident we will succeed this time because we have drawn on lessons from the past….

Nice try General, but its a lie.

In any case, the document, already amended by General Prawit Wongsuwan, who also approved it, is only three pages long. That’s less than the documentation or agreement for a laptop or tablet or for online banking. But we are talking about military men, and they all have multiple jobs and the longest document they can concentrate on is a bank statement.

But now the draft “agreement”will be kept secret until it is “unveiled” at public hearings in late June and early July and “public opinion will be considered in fine-tuning the draft.”

Those “public hearings” will be carefully controlled and will be subject to heavy security to prevent any “politics” entering the process.We can be sure of this because the military domination of the process so far has been 100%.





Unreal “reconciliation”

28 04 2017

We are slow to this post as a series of posts jumped ahead of it. Yet it remains significant.

The Bangkok Post recently reported that a “military-led panel on national unity … wrapped up two months of work gathering public opinion, paving the way for the drafting of a unity agreement which will be publicised in June.”

Now this is all a bit of a word puzzle. In fact, the panel is military-dominated, not military-led, the notion of national unity is the military junta’s idea of what “unity” looks like, and there was no gathering of public opinion. It was groups the military considered worth consulting and telling them what they should do.

To emphasize this, when the dictatorship’s minions held a the wrap-up meeting, it “was the first time participants” in the military’s “unity building process had met face to face since the opinion gathering process started on Feb 14.”

The anti-democrats let the meeting go by probably because they know that Army boss General Chalermchai Sitthisat will draft the “unity agreement” and that this will fundamentally be anti-democratic, just like the “constitution.”

Interestingly, after the meeting, official red shirt advocate Nattawut Saikua “proposed a new constitution be drafted following a general election and be put up for a national referendum.” What a fine idea. Get rid of the anti-democratic charter.

(We continue to think that the notion of a referendum is daft, and note that it is only anti-democratic military and military-backed regimes that have used this idea.)

He also suggested “that a committee be set up to review and scrap the coup’s orders and announcements, saying laws should be be passed by parliament if any of those orders are necessary.”

Another good idea.

We are betting that neither of these make it into the Army and junta’s “agreement” (that is only subject to their “agreement.”





New military “hero” organizing “reconciliation”

6 03 2017

It has been recognized that Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong is flying towards the top. When a military regime is seeking to embed authoritarianism, it often happens that the lure of running things, having lots of power and the chance to acquire great wealth causes aspiring green shirts to take a shot of becoming the next military political “hero.”

Most regimes see upstarts pushing the bigger bosses. For example, Field Marshal Phibun had to watch out for not only royalists but also for General Sarit Thanarat and Pol Gen Phao Sriyanon. General Prem Tinsulanonda had the palace on side, but had to see off “Young Turks” uppity generals like Arthit Kamlang-ek.

Now it is General Apirat’s chance.

apirat

The Bangkok Post has been reporting on Lt Gen Apirat rather too consistently than his bosses might like. The latest has him arranging for the “governors of 21 provinces in the Central Plain [to]… team up with officers from the 1st Army to gather views of people in their provinces on national reconciliation as the government expands its push for forging unity upcountry.”

“People” has an odd, junta-friendly, definition, generally meaning “groups” like bureaucrats, academics and business people. The lower rungs of society only rarely get defined as “people” worthy of having “views.”

To kick off the (real) people-free “reconciliation” PR exercise, “governors were invited to have a talk with 1st Army commander Apirat Kongsompong on Friday…”. Somewhat garbled, the report goes on to write of “their joint move” in a “meeting of the chiefs of all units under the 1st Army and representatives from the Internal Security Operations Command.”

It all sounds rather like something arranged in the 1970s about counterinsurgency. Back then, the governors were the key link between the military and civilian bureaucrats. The arrangement meant the military dominated civilian administration.

Lt Gen Apirat has a similar view today, saying “the governors will be the ‘key men’ in this initial stage to gather useful opinions from people from all walks of life.” As it was several decades ago, it is the “military chiefs [who] will serve as supporters and coordinators to invite target groups to air their views at the roundtable meetings…”. And they will have to listen and learn to junta propaganda.

Which groups? They will be “local politicians, scholars, state officials and business persons in the provinces and community leaders and non-governmental organisations.” The real people still can’t be trusted.

The report states that they “will be encouraged to talk on 10 topics, set by the panel appointed to work on a process to restore national unity, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon…”. That is, the selected “trainees” will “discuss” only junta-approved stuff.

In case readers wondered, “national unity” was destroyed by Thaksin Shinawatra being a “divisive” figure. The military is not “divisive” despite its penchant for gunning down protesters.

Lt Gen Apirat declared that he wanted “all participants to adopt impartial attitudes…”. We doubt he understands the meaning of “impartial.”

He also “revealed” that there was an extra topic: “referring to a question raised by [The Dictator] … who wants to know how all parties view the ongoing problems facing the country and how they can help solve them bringing back a peaceful atmosphere.”

Um. Ah. Huh? The other issues in a reconciliation meeting don’t to this? Yes, we get it, Apirat is posterior polishing. When making a run for the top, ensure that current incumbents don’t feel they are in trouble or being destabilized. Butter them up and appear “loyal.”

All this faux “opinion gathering” at the provincial level has “to be completed within this month.” We guess that the military already has the required “opinions” on its lists.

These “opinions” will be processed by – you guessed it – the military: “Once the governors finish their work, the opinions will be sent to a sub-panel led by permanent secretary for defence, [General] Chaicharn Changmongkol.”

This might be good PR for the junta. It is also keeping Apirat in the limelight, where he prefers to be.





“Reconciliation” by military committee II

9 02 2017

The degree of military control of this flawed “reconciliation” soap opera has been seen in a military press conference on the contrived process. This picture, snipped from the Bangkok Post, tells much.

military-in-charge

The report states: “The military will start discussions on national reconciliation with politicians on Valentine’s Day and plans to produce a reconciliation pact in three months.”

We can surmise that the “pact” is already crafted. Claims that the document will come after the talks are unbelievable as this junta is had more than two years to prepare its agenda.

“The Defence Ministry will arrange roundtable discussions where military officers talk with 10 representatives from each political party on weekdays…. At the roundtable, 10 soldiers would discuss 10 reconciliation-related topics with the 10 political representatives from each party.”

Ten isn’t usually a lucky number, but it is the 10th reign…. Only 10 issues need discussing? And reconciliation is being steered by the soldiers and the parties are being kept separate.

Why only political parties? We gather that this is because the purpose is to ensure that an “election” produces the result desired by the military dictatorship. “Reconciliation” means the existing political parties will acknowledge and accept the domination of the military junta.

When the military’s document is “approved,” it is will be by a “committee headed by army chief Chalermchai Sittisat…. The panel would include Somkid Lertpaitoon, president of Thammasat University and member of the National Legislative Assembly.”

Somkid is a notorious royalist and handmaiden to the military junta. We guess he’s already in on the military’s “agreement” that will be put before the political parties.

Then, following tactics used in the constitutional “referendum,”  the “draft” will “go to public hearings that the military would organise in all regions.” That means no real discussion and certainly no debate is expected.

The military adds that “[r]epresentatives of farmers would also be invited to comment on the draft,” presumably chosen by the military.

The junta expects that its “reconciliation pact” would be “accepted” as “a consensus from political parties and general people.”

Like the junta’s “constitution,” the “reconciliation pact” is a military plan for junta political longevity and for military political domination into the future.





“Reconciliation” by military committee I

9 02 2017

We assume a report yesterday in The Nation is accurate when it reports that the junta has appointed a “reconciliation committee” composed almost entirely of “military officers and state officials…”.

It states that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “signed an order to appoint members of four committees under one umbrella covering reform, reconciliation, and national strategy.” Prayuth and the junta retain total control of the committees and their process:

Each of the four committees – the national strategy preparation committee, reform preparation committee, reconciliation preparation committee and strategic administration committee – will be chaired by Prayut, with one or two deputy PMs as vice chairman. Most members of the four committees are ministers, state officials, and the president and vice president of [puppet] National Legislative Assembly and [puppet] National Reform Steering Assembly.

We were stunned by The Nation’s wrongheadedness in referring to “outsiders” who “will sit on the reconciliation preparation committee which is the biggest with 33 members.”In fact, the committee will be under Deputy Dictator, General Prawit Wongsuwan, “and includes military top-brass and chiefs of security agencies.”

The alleged “outsiders” are “former charter writers Sujit Boonbongkarn and Anek Laothamatas; Panitan Wattanayagorn, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of political science and an adviser to Prawit; Suthibhand Chirathivat, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of economics, and former Supreme Commander General Boonsang Niampradit.”

Suchit is a determined royalist, one of the grand old men who has served both post coup governments since 2006. Anek has hawked himself to the regime for some time. General Boonsang is, well, a general. The Nation doesn’t say it, but he is an ardent royalist and was a second tier leader of the 2006 coup. Certainly the People’s Alliance for Democracy favored him.

Most bizarrely, the idea that (pseudo)academic-for-hire Panitan is an “outsider” is like calling his boss, General Prawit, an “outsider.” No one is further inside than the disreputable Panitan.

In other words, “reconciliation” is just like an “election” and the “constitution.” It’s all rigged by the generals.