Military termites

8 07 2019

While it is right and appropriate that anti-junta activists should target the junta’s constitution for “reform” – it would be even better to trash it – two things need to be considered.

First, constitutional “reform” has been a flashpoint for royalists and other anti-democrats who oppose people’s representation and sovereignty. Those wanting to erase the junta’s rigging of the rules of the political landscape need to be aware that they will face considerable and (likely) vicious opposition from royalists and anti-democrats.

In addition, as reformers note:

changing the charter would be an uphill task as it was written in such a way that amending it is almost impossible by following the normal process…. The only way to successfully amend the charter is to raise awareness and gain people support to change it….

Second, constitutional reform is likely to be insufficient for eliminating the military termites. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s junta has done far more than any recent military regime to embed the military at all levels of administration. These military administrators and its parallel administration have undermined and now dominate civil administration.

A story at the Bangkok Post emphasizes this:

Since the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) seized power in 2014, several military top-brass officers have been appointed to head several key ministries. And changes have also been observed in many agencies whose work deals with national security, particularly organisations under the Justice Ministry.

The story focuses on changes at the Justice Ministry that amount to a politicization of the Ministry that can be used to undermine political opponents. If the opposition in parliament gets too uppity, think of the damage that this Ministry could inflict on them, neutering them.





Updated: Reporting on cowardly attack

30 06 2019

While yellow shirts on social media continue to cheer the vicious and cowardly attack on Sirawith Seritiwat, the reporting of the attack, the patterns it reveals and the future it portends, reporting has been extensive. We felt readers may finding a linked list of some use:

Reuters, 28 June: “Thai anti-junta activist attacked, latest in ‘pattern’ of violence.”

La voi dumond, 28 June: “Thaïlande: un militant pro-démocratie passé à tabac en pleine rue.”

Bangkok Post, 29 June: “Prawit orders police to speed up ‘Ja New’ case.” While some politicians on the right made statements against violence, the reprehensible Pareena Kraikupt of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party voiced a concoction that also circulates on yellow-shirt social media, claimed that the assault was probably by supporters of the Future Forward Party in order to gain support. If neither the junta nor her party doesn’t condemn her bizarre statement, then we may assume she’s speaking their collective mind. Pareena mimicks the fascists of 1976.

Political cartoon by @stephffart in support of activist Sirawith Serithiwat

Bangkok Post, 29 June: “Future Forward MP has ‘Ja New’ attack clip.” The clip is widely available on social media and its publication preempts any attempt to claim that CCTV was inoperable and prevents the media “disappearing.”

Daily Wiews, 29 June: “Thai anti-militare attivista attaccato e lasciato inconscio.”

News.com.au, 29 June: “Shocking pictures show brutal bashing of political activist in Thailand.”

Thai PBS, 29 June: “Thammasat U professor suspects Ja New’s assailants used blackjack batons.”

The Nation, 29 June: “Former senator calls for public donations for Sirawith.” Interestingly and symbolically, Jon Ungpakorn called for 247.5 baht donation, channeling the 1932 Revolution.

Thai PBS, 29 June: “Fund-raising campaign to help cover Ja New’s medical bills.”

Korn

The Nation, 29 June: “Korn condemns assault on anti-junta activist.” Democrat Party deputy leader and plutocrat Korn Chatikavanij managed to (sort of) condemn the attack on Sirawith, only by referring to alleged attacks on his “subordinates” at some unstated time. Korn was complicit in the Abhisit government and cabinet that presided over a period where dozens were killed by the murderous military and hundreds were injured. Korn blamed others.

The Nation, 29 June: “Pheu Thai MP raises Bt103,000 to support assaulted anti-junta activist

The Nation, 29 June: “‘Ja New’ needs eye socket operation, say human rights lawyers.” This report has stills from CCTV showing attackers and lists the damage done to the young activist in the brutal attack.

The Nation, 29 June: “Concert held to support Ja New after anti-junta activist assaulted again.” In fact, Sirawith “helped organise the concert, named ‘Democracy 24 June: What’s day?’, to mark the 87th anniversary of the Siamese Revolution of 1932 that overthrew absolute monarchy…”, suggesting that thugs involved in the attack may be ultra-royalist hirelings or acting for the military, which has a record of creating and managing such rightist thugs.

Bangkok Post, 30 June: “Activist assaults go unpunished.”

Update: Khaosod reports on CCTV footage being available, while the police are already saying such footage is “unclear.” No one can expect justice from this junta (except the rich and powerful friends of the junta).





Another cowardly attack II

28 06 2019

This is how Thailand looks today. Anti-junta political activist Sirawith Serithiwat was attacked and seriously injured “by four unidentified men in front in the Bang Chan area of Bangkok on Friday morning.” As has happened several times and to several activists, Sirawith was attacked by anonymous thugs. This time, they jumped him when he “emerged from the Soi at about 11am, the four men attacked him with wooden clubs until he collapsed and then fled on their motorcycles.”

Police claim to be “investigating.” We suggest they know where the orders for the attack came from. This is what a royalist-military regime looks like.

Royalists cheered the attack.





Reactionary anti-democrats

22 04 2019

Because the military regime’s five years of political manipulation seems to have been unsuccessful in convincing voters, anti-democrats are becoming panicked.

Those anti-democrats who populate the elite are exasperated at having tried again and again since 2006 to turn Thailand on the royalist path to Thai-style democracy and failed.The junta’s “election” is just the latest refusal to follow the royalist elite.

However, it seems pretty clear that the king and a military that is increasingly his are continuing to push and shove Thailand into the political dark ages.

A  recent effort has been calls for a “national government.” In a royalist twist, Khaosod reports that “[s]even minor political parties … called for a national unity government and for … the King to handpick the upper house.”

These also-rans called a “news conference … at the Election Commission [and] … proposed that a national unity government … to break the state of political stalemate, in which no side has formed a functioning government nearly a month after the March 24 elections.”

Of course, this is a tad nonsensical as the results of the election are not yet known and no government can be formed until after 9 May.  In fact, this is just another ploy to promote a junta-backed government. You know this when their third “proposal” is for seats to be removed from Puea Thai and allocated to small parties (like them).

But is is the other proposal that is most regressive. The group “urged junta chairman [Gen] Prayuth Chan-ocha to refrain from selecting the 250 Senators, as is specified in the current constitution. Instead, they said … the King should pick them.”

In fact, it is widely rumored that King Vajiralongkorn is already engaged in pressuring the junta to appoint his own unelected swill senators.

We suspect the proposal for the king to select senators is reflective of the palace’s views and may even represent prodding from that direction.

The junta’s political crisis is becoming a critical juncture for the nation that may see a further propelling of politics institutions and practice into the past. But, then, that’s been the basis of Thai-style democracy since the 1960s and reflected the political reaction of royals and royalists following 1932.





Royalist “cleaning”

18 03 2019

When a succession and coronation comes along, there’s a lot of “cleaning” that takes place.

Some of this is ritual. Some of it is (kind of) personal. Some of it is about wealth and investment. And, some is (kind of) administrative.

We also think it is about clearing out opponents of the monarchy, a task that has been facilitated by the military junta. It is clear that that cleaning out – or at least repressing and quietening – of republicans and other anti-monarchists has been quite successful.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

It now seems pretty clear that the effort has turned its attention to republicans elsewhere, targeting those who have been active on social media.

In this context, we recommend reading an article at The Guardian, assessing this murderous trend, focused on what looks like enforced disappearances and murders along the Mekong, including Surachai Sae Dan.





With 3 updates: The junta, The Dictator and campaign cheating

5 03 2019

The Bangkok Post made interesting reading today, with a string of stories about the junta, The Dictator and campaign cheating.

First we had the godfather of Palang Pracharat, Somkid Jatusripitak campaigning for General Prayuth Chan-ocha. As a minister and state official, we think this is against the law. We don’t expect the tame and junta-appointed Election Commission to lift a finger to put Somkid in his place.

Campaigning, Somkid declared, as he has previously, that “I am very confident Gen Prayut will [return to power] to continue the mission, and you [investors] will be able to participate in shaping Thailand’s future…”. He went on to describe the government’s performance as “outstanding.” That’s the government he serves. Perhaps he doesn’t mean the two stalled rail projects (here and here).

Going full campaign mode, Somkid attacked other parties: “Amid all the daydreams [of other parties’ political campaigns], the government’s achievements are real and concrete…”, and called for votes for the junta’s party: “Thai people are not stupid. They saw what happened over time so I’m confident Gen Prayut will certainly make a comeback.”

He campaigned at a state-funded event organized by the Board of Investment.

While Somkid crashed through the rules and laws his own junta established, another Deputy PM, Wissanu Krea-ngam babbled that The Dictator-PM “will have to be neutral” when he campaigns for Palang Pracharath and himself. This is utterly nonsensical because it is an impossibility, as demonstrated already by the junta’s pouring of funds into campaigning.

It was Wissanu who, not that many days ago, declared Gen Prayuth ready to run, stating that the PM-junta head “is not considered a state official…”. He said that because the junta’s own charter “bars state officials from running in the election.” As a Post journalists observes, “[r]ight after the comment by Mr Wissanu, the PM’s Facebook page changed his profession from ‘state official’ to ‘public figure’.” We recall that the junta’s EC was “investigating” this, but we don’t expect to hear any more as its master has spoken.

Then we found two articles about further moves to neuter the Future Forward Party. It seems that the junta and associated royalists have become very worried that the party may do much better than they had anticipated in the upcoming junta election. Indeed, the junta seems petrified.

So it is that the performing seal called the EC has heard royalist activist Srisuwan Janya’s petition that Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. Unlike cases against Palang Pracharath, “Manoon Wichiannit, the director of EC’s investigation office, issued an urgent letter to Mr Srisuwan inviting him to testify in the case at the EC headquarters…”.

At the same time, Immigration Bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn also known as Big Joke, and a confidante of Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, “in his capacity as deputy director of Thailand’s Action Task Force for Information Technology Crime Suppression (Tactics),” summoned Future Forward’s deputy leader Lt Gen Phongsakon Rotchomphu “to meet police investigators over his role in sharing fake news about Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon on Facebook.” It was the junta that filed the police complaint.

Clearly, the junta and The Dictator are not going to allow Future Forward to do well at the polls. Harrasment of this nature is pretty much standard procedure for the junta.

It is for the military as well. Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong is on the hunt for anti-military and anti-junta words from election campaigners. He is sending out hundreds of soldiers to intimidate and spy on anti-junta parties. That command was issued by the junta.

Remember when he said he was going to be neutral? That lasted about 3 seconds. We don’t expect the EC will do a thing to insist that state officials remain neutral.

The spying on parties quickly came to a head when former national police chief Seripisut Temiyavet “produced a photo of a soldier he said was stalking him on the campaign trail.” He lambasted the Army boss, saying “it is not the job of soldiers to follow politicians or other citizens.”

“This has nothing to do with national defence,” he said adding that military “commanders should be acting to protect the country, not concerning themselves with the people.”

Gen Apirat, as is his penchant, went ballistic. As secretary-general of the junta, he ordered “staff to file [several] … complaint[s] against Pol Gen Seripisuth, leader of the Seri Ruam Thai Party.” One for insulting the “military decorations on Gen Apirat’s uniform during a recent exclusive interview with a newspaper…”. Apirat then, like other royalist scoundrels, upped the ante on this by saying that some of the decorations were “royally-bestowed.”

Apirat also order the junta “legal team to file a complaint against Pol Gen Sereepisuth for alleged violation of the computer crime law by posting the remarks made during the interview on his Facebook page.” And just to round things out, Gen Apirat ordered the “legal team … to file a third complaint, this time for allegedly defaming a soldier assigned to ‘observe and ensure his safety’ [that is, spy] while Pol Gen Sereepisuth was campaigning … on March 4.”

It is clear that Gen Apirat is waging a political campaign that is going beyond anything seen from the military for several decades.

In a related report, linked above, the police in Khon Kaen have said that they are “working closely together with the provincial office of the Election Commission (EC) to ensure security in all 2,637 polling stations in the province during the run-up to, and casting of ballots in, the election.” So far, so good, but then the cat was expelled from the police kit bag:

the local police and the local EC office are jointly conducting a surveillance programme to watch out for any violations of the election laws…. We are also keeping an eye on certain groups who may be plotting to stir up unrest during the election period.

No prizes for guessing which parties and people are being watched and spied on.

Quite a series of reports. Free and fair elections. Ha!

Update 1: The Dictator and his devil party have had second thoughts about Gen Prayuth appearing in Korat. A Palang Pracharath source said: “After we discussed the pros and cons, we came to the conclusion that it might not be worth it. So we [the party leadership] will stick to presenting our policies to voters…”. Gen Prayuth said he feared “being targeted by his opponents.” They would have sought to disqualify him for exploiting his position for his devil party. Indeed, they already are. Prayuth doesn’t want to allow them to force the EC’s hand.

Update 2: Future Forward has responded to recent attacks, including some not mentioned above. Pretty well everyone knows that several groups, including the junta itself, are seeking to reduce the party’s appeal and set it up for dissolution.

Update 3: Further to state agencies and officials engaging in politics, Chiang Mai provincial police have been found “conduct[ing] politically related surveys…”. We can be pretty sure that officials, getting people’s names and other identifying information under the guise of “surveying” are doing this to intimidate.





Analysis of recent events

15 02 2019

PPT has refrained from mentioning much of what passes for analysis of the events of the past week. One reason for this is that most of it has been highly speculative and bound in rumor.

Some self-styled analysts and quite a few academics have produced speculative accounts. Several managed to come up with different interpretations of the same events. Some have seemingly reproduced other accounts. Some of the more careful have come up with possible scenarios, allowing readers to choose the version that suits their perceptions and biases.

Perhaps that’s why PPT found New Mandala’s “Q&A: Supalak Ganjanakhundee on Thailand’s week of chaos” useful. Supalak is editor of The Nation. We highly recommend reading it, and we only present some highlighted bits and pieces here.

Supalak says that both Thai Raksa Chart and Puea Thai are under threat and the former will be dissolved by the Constitutional Court according to the so-called Royal Command:

The court will probably rule against the law, as the courts often do—the appeal to something outside the law, to make judgements on the law. If we are to make a clear argument, there is no legal status to the royal command.

The “election” campaign will now be dominated by the junta’s party attacking the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties as disloyal:

[Palang] Pracharat will try to create a political discourse against the Thaksin camp, by arguing that he brought the royal family into Thai politics—this is a dirty thing in Thai society. It’s not appropriate to have high society running in dirty politics. Now Pheu Thai is in a very awkward position indeed.

It is noted that Thaksin’s gambit was  not supported by many progressives who believe that there’s no place for royals in democratic politics. Supalak doesn’t rule out a pro-royalist alliance between Palang Pracharat and the Democrat Party.

The comment that “Thaksin underestimated the King” seems self-evident:

the royal command on Friday night was not a law. A royal command can only be applied within the [royal] house, not to people outside the house and particularly not in the political sphere. So it was logical for Thaksin. He might have calculated that this outcome was possible, but he underestimated the King. The other possibility is that the King changed his mind—otherwise Prayuth might not have shown his confidence by jumping into the game.

Later Supalak adds:

The royal command is an interpretation of the law…. The royal command has implied that if you’re born into the royal family, you cannot resign. I think that’s a very ambiguous interpretation to establish the monarchy above the law.

Supalak dismisses analysis that has the king commanding the military and opposed to the junta:

I don’t buy the theory that the King is so strong. I understand that he is trying to build the influence of his faction in the military…. His power is not—well, he could not have consolidated his power already. It will take time to have everything under his control. From my understanding, the military wants to have their own voice…. Now we live in a situation where the monarchy and the military are in tension over who will control who. It will take a few years for a clear picture to emerge….

The King commands loyalty from some factions of the military but people like Prawit and Prayuth want to be like people like Prem—middlemen between the palace and the military. They’re building their own regimes but this might also take time as they each hedge their bets.

In moving forward, Supalak is, in our view, making a good point in observing:

If you combine the idea of network monarchy and the deep state together, we might say that the overall effect is the emergence of some new regime that combines the military, the monarchy and capital. Big capital is always willing to support the monarchy, willing to support the military. Pracharat is the perfect model for combining royalty, the military and capital. The difficulty [in consolidating a model] is the unpredictable character of the King.

On the king’s politics:

… the monarch is not interested in institutionalising its power, working through laws, custom, norms and tradition. We cannot simply say—refer to the constitution for the role of the monarchy. Every constitution in recent history has been designed to enhance, not limit, the role of the monarchy. The trend is towards a direct form of rule. The people surrounding the King are not trying to institutionalise the monarchy.

On the future of free and open discussion:

The trend will not be an opening up [of discussion]. It will be a closing. Look at what the King has done since he took the throne—the message has been that he wants the country to be in order, disciplined. Look at the way he dealt with the constitution. He amended the constitution after the referendum—that’s the standard by which he exercises power. It’s not the rule of law. I really have little hope and will be pessimistic that our country will be ruled by the rule of law…. We are living with fear.