Election (probably) delayed III

5 01 2019

The Bangkok Post states that this is the “timeline set out at a joint meeting between the National Council for Peace and Order and [some] political parties on Dec 7 last year”:

  • Jan 2: Government announces royal decree for election to be held. Parties officially start campaigns. (This did not happen)
  • Jan 4: EC [Election Commission] announces the election date, number of MPs, constituencies and MP application locations.
  • Jan 14-18: MP applications take place. Parties release names of their prime ministerial candidates.
  • Jan 25: Qualified party-list and constituency MP candidates announced
  • Feb 4-16: Overseas voting held
  • Feb 17: Advanced voting held
  • Feb 24: General election held
  • April 25: Last day official voting results must be announced (not less than 95%)
  • May 9: Parliament convenes. Prime minister elected, cabinet formed, existing cabinet and NCPO relieved of duty, new government delivers policy statement within 15 days

In response to the military junta’s plan to delay the election without taking responsibility for the delay, the EC says “it will set the election date only after the government formally issues the royal decree on elections.”

The royal decree, scheduled for 2 January, is still not out.

Wissanu Krea-ngam said “the government had asked the EC to reconsider the election date by taking into account the royal ceremony.” He means coronation.

Shawn Crispin at Asia Times states:

The government was expected to issue a royal decree on January 2 that would have effectively made the February 24 date official, but hesitated when the royal palace announced on New Year’s Day that the coronation would be staged between May 4-6.

Like PPT, Crispin tends to blame the junta for yet another delay, seeing this as an outcome of fear that its devil party, Palang Pracharath, will not do well enough in a poll:

… one military insider with connections at the Internal Security Operation Command, a military spy agency, claims its polling has consistently showed, including as recently as two months ago, that Peua Thai will resoundingly win any free and fair election.

Not that a junta election can be free or fair.

But if the coronation really is a problem, why does the commentary not criticize the monarch for choosing a date that screws up elections?Why can’t the “constitutional monarch” be told to change the date of his coronation?

Well, we know why. It is because not a word of criticism or direction is permitted.

But really, the king has had plenty of time to choose a date and he and his Royal Household Bureau have known the proposed election schedule for a while, having had the draft royal decree on the election in hand for some time.

So why choose a date that screws all that up?

The answer might be that his astrologers just couldn’t find another auspicious date. But that seems as unlikely. Or it could be that he is working with the junta to delay the “election.”

Whatever the reason, this shamozzle of choosing of a date and announcing it just one day before the royal decree on the election was due tells us quite a lot about the king and his reign.

The king is egotistical. He’s chosen a coronation date that suits him and he cares little for anything or anyone else, least of all the Thai people. Of course, he’d think he’s the center of the Thai universe. That’s what he’s been told by  royalists and his family since for decades.

It also tells us that he cares little for constitutions and constitutional constraints on the monarchy. His aggrandizement of himself as monarch, as explained by The Economist, points to this.

So if the EC is growing something that might look a little like a spine, it must face down junta and monarch. That seems unlikely.





Judiciary hopeless on royals

2 01 2019

Prachatai reports on a lese majeste case that began life in 2012 and where a final decision has been handed down by the Supreme Court.

It was claimed that on 26 October 2012 Anan (family name withheld), now aged 70, defamed Princess Sirindhorn and Princess Soamsawali in Pathum Thani Province. He was eventually charged under Article 112. The defendant denied the accusations.

When the accusation was investigated in 2012, no charge was filed. However, following the 2014 coup, prosecutors were ordered to trawl over previous 112 cases, and Anan’s was taken to court after a “committee of the Royal Thai Police ordered that the case be prosecuted and the officer who did not file charges be subject to disciplinary punishment.”

The first verdict was given on 29 September 2016. It was complicated. The court found Anan committed the acts he was prosecuted for. However, the court, having advice from the Royal Household Bureau, ruled that Article 112 did not cover Sirindhorn and Soamsawali.

Thus, unable to convict Anan under the lese majeste verdict, the court itself cobbled together a conviction, reasoning that the defendant defamed Sirindhorn and Soamsawali. Despite the fact that neither of the two royals had lodged a defamation complaint, the court “found the defendant guilty of violating of Article 326 of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to 1 year in prison for each offence, totalling 2 years.”

In other words, Anan was convicted of a crime for which he had not been charged, which had not been investigated and for which he was not tried.

An Appeals Court considered Anan’s appeal and issued its verdict on 20 May 2017. The article doesn’t clearly state the outcome but it appears that it found for the defendant, presumably leading to a prosecution appeal to the Supreme Court.

On 27 December 2018, the Thanyaburi Provincial Court read the Supreme Court’s verdict. It “found Anan guilty on 2 charges of personal defamation, and sentenced him to 1 year in prison for each offence, suspended for 3 years, and a fine of 20,000 baht for each offence.”

Defense lawyer Thitiphong Sisaen made the following observations:

1) The Supreme Court has set a standard for defamation cases (Article 326). Even if the victim does not file a complaint, if there is an investigation into the offence, the prosecutor may file a lawsuit….

2) The Supreme Court referred to the 2017 Constitution as the criterion for the legitimacy of the investigation (the state has the duty to protect and preserve the monarchy and national security), but this case occurred in 2012 and the charges were filed in 2015. This means the Supreme Court has set down a new legal principle, stating that laws are effective retrospectively in order to punish the accused.

When it comes to royals, the judiciary is simply hopeless, makes stuff up and promotes injustice.





Updated: Things that make you go, hmm

15 12 2018

There’s a lot going on, so this is a catch-up on a few media stories worth considering. And these are all from the Bangkok Post!:

Watana gets off: The Criminal Court has found Puea Thai politician and junta critic Watana Muangsook not guilty in a quite ridiculous charge related to comments he made about the vandalism associated with the stealing of the 1932 plaque from the Royal Plaza.

The court said Watana’s comments:

were opinions that could not be deemed a computer crime. They posed no threat to security…. The court said his messages could be considered in the context of academic freedom and his criticism of authorities did not reflect ill intent.

The ridiculousness of the charge is that the junta has never done anything to find those responsible for stealing the plaque and replacing it with a royalist plaque that could easily have been composed in the palace. Of course, the authorities have done nothing because they know exactly who ordered its removal and replacement.

EC makes false promises: By now readers know that we think the Election Commission is totally compromised. So a promise to be clear about the election is simply impossible. Where it is closer to the truth it is in stating: “This is all about establishing credibility by generating information that is reliable and correct for the international community.” What EC president Ittiporn Boonpracong might have said was that the EC’s job is establishing credibility for the junta’s election by generating information that obfuscates. After all, that’s its track record to date. That impression of the EC’s bias is reinforced when Ittiporn mumbles that “foreign envoys did not appear to have any concerns about predictions by some critics of that the poll would be ‘less than free and fair’.” Of course, no one expects a free or fair election. Even the Bangkok Post has been forced to question the EC’s “independence” and “credibility.” Is the EC’s task just to give “credibility” to the junta’s rigged election?

Parliament has no home: The parliament building has been closed and will be given to the king. So the bureaucracy of the parliament and the puppet National Legislative Assembly is homeless. Why the Royal Household Bureau can’t wait for a few months is never explained by the fearful Thai media. Consider the fact that the NLA seems to have been caught unaware by this move and has only just begun to look for a expensive, temporary home. Why’s that?

The Eel jailed: The exceptionally slippery Tharit Pengdit and Suthep Thaugsuban used to be tight, at least when Suthep was managing the crushing of the red shirts. They later fell out and became enemies as DSI led investigations into Suthep’s role in the gunning down of protesters. The enmity was further deepened when Suthep accused Tharit of defamation in February 2013. This had to do with corruption over police buildings under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. In two court cases in 2015 and 2016, Tarit was found not guilty. Suthep appealed to the Supreme Court. So the question is why Tarit suddenly decided to plead “guilty” before the case was concluded and why is he now jailed for a year. That makes you think.

Guess who?: In a two horse race between consortia of some of the biggest and best-connected Sino-Thai tycoons for the contract to build a high-speed railway connecting three major airports, the one led by CP has won. As well as winning, they get a state subsidy of almost 120 billion baht. Makes you wonder how rich the richest non-royals can get.

Update: The authorities have assured Thailand that CP didn’t “win” the bid for the HSR. They just had the lowest bid and negotiations are now needed with the CP consortium in order to determine whether they will win. Funny way to do tendering, but we are willing to bet on the outcome, as we were before the two bids were opened.





More land for the king’s pleasure

6 12 2018

Khaosod reported that the “House of Parliament will close its doors for good New Year’s Eve as part of a plan to relocate the legislative seat of power to a new riverside location,…”.

This claim was made by deputy National Legislative Assembly speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai and it is, frankly, very short on truth. We say this because it is simply ludicrous to think that anyone, even in the junta’s dumbed down administration, would plan to close the parliament building before the new building is completed. But that is what the disingenuous Surachai would have people believe.

We did think that this move shows the disdain the military junta has for parliament. After all, it populates it with puppets, so who really needs a parliament house.

But then, when it is considered that the NLA  must now “rent conference halls for sessions to be held after the current building shutters,” we got to wondering when it was stated:

The parliament in Dusit district opened in 1974 as Thailand’s second legislative assembly building. Parliament meetings were previously held in Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall and, very briefly, at the Royal Turf Club Racecourse.

Future plans for the location of the old building have yet to be announced.

We know that the former Throne Hall, the racecourse and the zoo have been accumulated by the palace, so we assumed that this was another land grab by the palace.

And so it has been. The Bangkok Post reports that “the land where the current Parliament House is situated is scheduled to be returned to the Royal Household Bureau by the end of this year…”. Apparently the palace is so desperately keen to regain the site that no extension can be considered.

This move shows the disdain the monarchy has for parliament, anything connected with 1932, and its desperation to grab back huge swathes valuable property, creating an enormous palace precinct. While the palace’s plans for the property are unknown, we suspect a huge palace will eventually be constructed.

It seems no one in Thailand is brave enough to challenge these royal land grabs.





Royal bike ride bigger than Ben Hur

30 11 2018

It is getting bigger than Ben Hur. The royal “warmth” and “love” bike ride is now having its second rehearsal, following the “opening” of the route around the airport earlier this month, with the arrangements for getting the royal free stuff are highly complex.

We guess this might be a way of avoiding the Bike for Dad problems, including an alleged assassination plot and two deaths in custody.

The news is coming thick and fast on this royal event, which must also be an event the junta wants to see go well as any problem could be seen as an ill omen for the upcoming “election.”

The king recently ordered a ceremony where he “graciously bestowed t-shirts and drinking water for the benefit of participants in the upcoming Bike Un Ai Rak event.” That means his minions arranged the distribution of the stuff into the government hierarchy and it will presumably be handed to lower ranks until it eventually gets to the participants at the bottom of the feeding chain.

The reporting reflects an anal retentive atmosphere at the palace, noting that the “ceremony was held at the 606 Building of the Royal Household Bureau in Sanam Suea Pa.” The king’s most important minion, ACM Satitpong Sukvimol, the Director-General of the Crown Property Bureau and Lord Chamberlain “presided” over a “dedication ceremony on behalf of … the King…”.

Reflecting how much of a big deal this is, the “Supreme Commander, Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office and Governors from all 76 provinces of the Kingdom received the t-shirts, which will be distributed to the participants in the nation-wide biking event…”. The shirts are significant because the king “personally designed the t-shirt,” which come with his cartoons on them. These look a lot like the stick figures that once became common as stickers on the backs of SUVs.

Dozens of roads are to be closed for 7 hours, for both rehearsal and event, causing major traffic problems and the deployment of tens of thousands of police, bureaucrats and soldiers. Rehearsals also have to be held in all provinces.

The military has had separate security rehearsals:

Army Region 1 Commander Lt Gen Narongphan Jitkaeotae has conducted a rehearsal of security detail for … the King as well as protection of riders in the Bike Un Ai Rak event. The rehearsal included congestion, 20 risk spots, hard turns, inclines, narrow passes and steep roads. Soldiers have installed signs to warn riders where they need to slow down to between 15 and 20 kph, and placed special warnings 200 and 50 meters ahead of risk spots. More personnel will be stationed on the day to advise participants on safety.

The expense for all of this lauding of the king and polishing his image is huge.





King changes graduation ceremonies

21 09 2018

Graduation ceremonies in Thailand are important for more than those who celebrate their years of studying. For one thing, since the 1960s, the palace propagandists has recognized that having a royal hand out the certificates is a great way of having the then increasingly Sino-Thai middle-class graduates tied to the monarchy in a ceremony that was a kind of graduation into Thai-ness. As the higher education sector opened up, and graduation ceremonies got ever larger, the task of royal bonding was doled out to more royals. A financial benefit also accrues to the royal as each graduate is expected to pay amounts from 400 to 600 baht each which goes into the royal spare change purse.

When he was Crown Prince, Vajiralongkorn usually presided at Thammasat University and the Rajabhats.

A couple of days ago, The Nation reported, in an account reflecting the fear of king and monarchy, that:

King Maha Vajiralongkorn has accepted an invitation to bestow degrees on the newest batch of graduates at Thammasat University (TU) next April, the TU Graduate Committee’s social media page (facebook.com/TUgraduate60/) announced on Tuesday…. The dates for the Graduation Ceremony for the 2017-18 academic year were selected by … the King for April 7-8, 2019. The ceremony will be held at the Grand Auditorium, Thammasat University, Tha Phrachan Campus…. The announcement post received more than 12,000 ‘likes’ and was shared by 26,000 Facebook users.”

This is odd in the sense that graduation ceremonies have for years been at a particular time for each institution – indeed, there has been a graduation season – and most haven’t changed much over the years. Why the change? Why is the king deciding? And why to a hot period?

A day later, Khaosod reported that Thammasat and 39 Rajabhats all announced that “their year-end graduation ceremonies … have been postponed to April.” The changes were said to have been made to “accommodate a new schedule set by the palace.”

Thammasat vice rector Chalie Charoenlarpnopparut is reported: “The Royal Household Bureau stated that His Majesty the King has set the date to hand out diplomas for April 7-8, so we will hold the ceremonies on those days…” rather than November-December.

Some of the dates for the Rajabhats “have yet to be set by the palace.” It is reported that the “palace postponed the ceremonies … [but] no reason was given.”

There is much social media speculation: astrology and auspicious dates, the king will be skiing in Europe in winter, his coronation is to be announced for November/December.

Whatever the reason, one things is clear: this king does what he wants when he wants. It is all rather feudal.





Two strange lese majeste acquittals

23 02 2018

Prachatai reports that on 22 February 2018, “the Kamphaengphet Provincial Court ruled Atsadaphon and Noppharit (surnames withheld due to privacy concerns) not guilty of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, citing weak evidence.”

Sirindhorn

This unusual acquittal refers to a case that began on or about 20 August 2015, when the Kamphaeng Phet provincial court issued arrest warrants for Kittiphop Sitthirat, 23, Atsadaphon Sitthirat, 45, and Wiset Phutthasa, 30, on lese majeste charges. Later, a fourth name was added, Noppharit (surname not known), 28. Some of the suspects were arrested on 21 August 2015. They were all accused of “making false claims about Princess Sirindhorn in a scam.” Police arrested “charged them with lèse majesté, falsifying public documents, fraud, and impersonating officers from the Bureau of the Royal Household.”

The court reportedly gave “the suspects the benefit of the doubt, ruling that the evidence fail to prove that the suspects had actually made the false claims…”.

In part, this verdict is a way of avoiding a critical and contradictory issue.

From the beginning, two of the four challenged the use of Article 112. Lawyers for Noppharit asked the court to consider whether the case falls under Article 112 since that law does not apply to Princess Sirindhorn. The court attempted to prevent consideration of this issue, blocking information and access to it.

In handing down the acquittal, the court completely avoided this issue. It did not rule on Sirindhorn and lese majeste. We gather the judges were petrified that making a decision that followed the law and excluded her could have caused them to face lese majeste accusations.

Even stranger, though, is the fact that the two other suspects already succumbed to pressure to plead guilty and have been sentenced to three years and eights months in prison.

We wonder – but doubt – that there will be any revisiting of their cases. To do so would embarrass the court and would again raise the issue that no one wants or dares to touch – that Sirindhorn is not covered by lese majeste. We would also point out that there have been several other lese majeste cases involving her.