With 3 updates: Gen Prayuth’s court let him off

2 12 2020

In a move that was never in doubt – forget the rumors of the last few days – the politicized Constitutional Court, with double standards in neon lights, let The Dictator off.

The Constitutional Court was never going to find Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha of malfeasance for having violated the constitution by staying on in his Army residence long after he officially retired from the Army.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

The Nation reports that the court “ruled that military regulations allow former officers to remain in their Army residence after retirement.”

The opposition had “accused Prayut of breaching the Constitution by staying on at an official Army residence in the First Infantry Battalion of Royal Guards … after his military retirement at the end of September 2014.”

He stood “accused of violating Sections 184 and 186 of the Constitution that forbid a government minister from ‘receiving any special money or benefit from a government agency, state agency or state enterprise…’.” It is clear that such free accommodation violates these  articles.

But the Constitutional Court has regularly ignored the constitution. We can recall then Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej being ousted by the court for “expenses” totaling about $2,350 for appearing on his long-running television show a “Tasting and Complaining.” Gen Prayuth’s gains far exceed that paltry amount. Free rent, free services, free servants, etc. etc.

The Army “informed the court that the residence was provided to Prayut because he is PM and deserves the honour and security it provides.” It added that “[s]imilar housing has been provided to other former Army chiefs who are members of the Cabinet, the Privy Council and Parliament…”. In other words, the Army rewards its generals who serve as privy councilors, ministers – like Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda – and appointed senators. It is a corrupt cabal, with the Army ensuring its people are never “tainted” by regular society.

The Army, the Constitutional Court and the regime are corrupt.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post failed to produce an editorial on this story. We can only guess that the editor’s desk is having to get their editorials approved by the owners. How else could they have missed this? We’ll look again tomorrow. The story it has on Gen Prayuth’s free pass from his court summarizes the Constitutional Court’s “reasoning,” resulting in a unanimous decision by this sad group of judges:

His occupancy was allowed under a 2005 army regulation, which lets army chiefs stay on base after they retire if they continue to serve the country well, according to the unanimous ruling read out at the court in Bangkok on Wednesday afternoon.

The court said the regulation had come into effect before Gen Prayut was the army chief, and other former army commanders have also received the same benefits.

The court said Gen Prayut served the country well as army chief, and the army regulation allowed its former commanders to use such houses, and subsidised utility bills.

“When he became prime minister on Aug 24, 2014, the complainee [Gen Prayut] was also the army chief in active duty. He was therefore qualified to stay in the house in his capacity as the army chief. When he retired on Sept 30, 2014, he was still qualified to stay as a former army chief. A prime minister who had not been army chief could not have stayed at the house,” the court said in its ruling.

Being a prime minister is an important position and security for him and his family is important. The state must provide appropriate security and an accommodation that is safe and offers privacy enables him to perform his duties for public benefits. It is therefore necessary to prepare accommodation for the country’s leader when Baan Phitsanulok is not ready, the court said.

The free utilities also do not constitute a conflict of interest since they are part of the welfare that comes with the housing.

In other words, the Court accepted every major point made by Gen Prayuth and the Army. It is easy to see who is the master and who is the pet poodle.

Just for interest, this is what Sections 184(3) and 186 of the constitution state:

183. A Member of the House of Representatives and Senator shall not:

… (c) receive any special money or benefit from a government agency, State agency or State enterprise apart from that given by the government agency, State agency or State enterprise to other persons in the ordinary course of business;…

186. The provisions in section 184 shall also apply to Ministers mutatis mutandis, except for the following cases:

1. holding positions or carrying out acts provided by the law to be the duties or powers of the Minister;

2. carrying out acts pursuant to the duties and powers in the administration of State affairs, or pursuant to the policies stated to the National Assembly, or as provided by law….

Compare that to the “reasoning” summarized by the Post and it is easy to see that the court has made yet another political decision for the regime and the social order it maintains.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post has now produced an editorial. It actually says things that could easily have been made a day ago, but we guess lawyers and owners had to have their say. It notes:

Many observers have said the ruling did not surprise them in the least. This is not the first time the court, appointed by the military regime in accordance with the 2017 charter, and endorsed by the military-leaning Senate, has cleared up political trouble for the prime minister. Before this, there was the incomplete oath-taking case and the ruling that Gen Prayut, while serving as premier after the 2014 coup, was not a “state official.”

And on this verdict makes – as others have – the point that should never be forgotten:

In its not-guilty verdict regarding the welfare house, the court judges cited a 2005 army regulation, which lets army chiefs stay on at a base after they retire “if they continue to serve the country well”. The court said the regulation came into effect before Gen Prayut was army chief, and other former army commanders have also received the same benefits.

However, the court stopped short of explaining why a military regulation can overrule the country’s supreme law.

Constitutional Court judges make a ruling

The explanation has to do with the nature of the court – politicized – the nature of “justice” – double standards – and the power of the military (in alignment with the monarchy).

Update 3: As night follows day, the Constitutional Court has assigned Pol Cpl [a corporal? really? why keep that moniker with one’s name?] Montri Daengsri, the director of the Constitutional Court’s litigation office, to file charges with the Technology Crime Suppression Division against Parit Chiwarak for Facebook posts that the court considers “contempt of court.” Parit condemned their ridiculous legal contortions.

Cpl Montri also stated that Parit’s speech at the protest rally after the verdict was “defamatory in nature and violated the Criminal Code…. Police investigators were looking to see what charges would be pressed…”.

The court’s litigation office was also “looking into a stage play allegedly poking fun at the court over its ruling at the rally site.” No sense of humor as well as dullards and sham “judges.”





Royalty and rewards

5 05 2020

Being a loyal minion of the palace brings rewards and for some rather grand rewards. At the top of the pile of slithering posterior polishers are privy councilors. Under the previous king, the old princes he initially appointed, their task was to build the monarchy politically and economically. Later, and especially when dedicated crawling former prime minister Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, the major task was ensuring that all that the government did had royal approval. This was seen in Prem’s control of military promotion for decades.

The now dead King Bhumibol was especially keen to develop links and clients in the judiciary. He appointed several legal experts and former judges to the Privy Council, some of who, in the 1970s, he managed to hoist into positions as unelected prime ministers.

The solidly royalist judiciary has been especially useful for the monarchy and the military as it battled Thaksin Shinawatra and his successor who dominated electoral politics. The judiciary has been politically biased, bringing case after case against parties and people seen as enemies of the ruling class.

Now Bhumibol’s son seems to be following in his father’s footsteps. He has issued orders that have essentially told the Constitutional Court how it should operate. And, no doubt, he has smiled on the dissolution of parties he (and the military leadership) sees as anti-monarchy.

This is a long introduction to Vajiralongkorn’s appointment of former President of the Constitutional Court Nurak Mapraneet to the Privy Council.

According to the Bangkok Post, Nurak “previously held many important positions in the judiciary including presiding judge of the Chaiya Provincial Court, presiding judge of the Phuket Provincial Court, deputy chief of the Office of Chief Justices Region 6, chief justice of the Court of Appeal Region 8 and chief of the youth and family cases section at the Court of Appeal Region 7.” As a reliable ally of the military, “[a]fter the Sept 19, 2006 coup, … Nurak was made a member of the Constitutional Drafting Council and later appointed to the Constitutional Court.” He became president of the Constitutional Court on 21 May 2014 and retired on 31 March 2020.

Most recently, Nurak completed his assigned task and as president of the court, oversaw the dissolution of the Future Forward Party and banned its executive from politics for a decade.

As the first linked report has it:

During his tenure as president, Nurak was responsible for dissolving six political parties, including the Future Forward Party in February, the Thai Rak Thai party and the Thai Raksachat Party…. He also voted to remove two prime ministers (Samak Sonntorawej and Yingluck Shinawatra)….

The rewards for royal groveling are now going to flow, so long as Nurak doesn’t annoy the erratic king.





Heroes and villains

14 02 2019

The Supreme Court has finally upheld finally upheld the sentencing of six leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy to eight months in jail for actions during its occupation of Government House in 2008 may be seen as a late but appropriate judicial recognition of PAD’s illegal actions.

Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pibhop Dhongchai, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Somsak Kosaisuk and Suriyasai Katasila were charged with “breaking into Government House and damaging property there during the protests they led against the Samak Sundaravej government from May to December 2008.”

But the process involved shows how the sentences have been reduced through the judicial process. Originally they were sentenced “to two years’ jail each, commuted from three years due to their useful testimony.” That was reduced by the Appeals Court “to eight months in jail, commuted from one year.”

However, the “Supreme Court ruled that their demonstration was not peaceful, as they claimed, because their supporters broke into Government House.” Apparently, this means that occupying Government House grounds for seven months, seeking to prevent an elected government from operating is okay.

A Bangkok Post editorial is closer to the mark, noting that PAD’s leaders “resorted to extremism and violence, sexed up by hate speech.” It also observes that PAD “set up armed and unarmed forces who mingled among protesters … and used tens of thousands of their protesters as human shields against the police crackdown.”

That PAD’s “ruthless operations” served as a model for red shirts and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee cannot be disputed.

The Post’s history of support for the yellow-shirted and PDRC movements seems forgotten. So too are the double standards of the judiciary in the sentencing of red shirts versus the treatment of yellow shirts.

This should remind us that, in the current political climate that emphasizes “loyalty,” the PAD leaders going to jail means they become heroes and martyrs in the renewed battle against the villainous Thaksin Shinawatra and for the monarchy.





Justice system a politicized tatters

1 02 2019

Thailand’s judiciary is in tatters. Politicized for years, conscripted into judicial activism and royalist to the core, the judiciary is unable to work independently or even to maintain rule of law.

The most recent example involves the Appeals Court upheld an earlier court ruling “that dismissed a trial against nine yellow-shirt leaders who demonstrations against late prime minister Samak Sundaravej in 2008.”

The court decided, against all evidence, that Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pipob Thongchai, Somkiat Pongpaiboon, Somsak Kosaisuk, Suriyasai Katasila, Chaiwat Sinsuwongse, Amorn Amornrattanond and Therdpoum Jaidee:

were … not guilty … [when] the Appeals Court …ruled that their protests under the now-defunct People’s Alliance for Democracy … were conducted peacefully and according to democratic principles.

They had stood accused of “attempting to use force to change the government and instigating chaos in the country.” This related to their extended protests in Bangkok and the seizure of government offices. Other charges relates to possessing weapons such as baseball bats, iron bars, axes and catapults.

The Appeals Court dismissed the weapons charges saying they may not have belonged to the protesters. The court then “found that the defendants were not guilty when they obstructed the authorities’ attempts to demolish their tents, saying that the incident did not start from the defendants’ side,” despite the fact that they occupied these buildings and their grounds.

The court then “ruled that the protests led by the nine defendants in 2008 were conducted peacefully, in a manner which was allowed in a democracy and under the Constitution.”

Of course, similar manufactured dismissals were manufactured as convictions for red shirts.

The justice system has brought itself into disrepute.





2006 as royalist coup

19 09 2018

2006 coup

It is 12 years since the military, wearing yellow tags, rolled its tanks into Bangkok to oust Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai Rak Thai Party government and to wind back the Thaksin revolution.

Thaksin had a lot of faults and made many mistakes. His War on Drugs was a murderous unleashing of the thugs in the police and military that should not be forgiven.

But his big mistake was being “too popular” among the “wrong people.” TRT’s huge election victory in February 2005 was an existential threat to the powers that be. Their final response, after destabilizing the elected government, was to arrange for the military to throw out the most popular post-war prime minister Thailand had known. And, the palace joined the coup party.

2006 coup

But getting rid of the so-called Thaksin regime and his popularity was too much for the somewhat dull guys at the top of the military and the palace’s man as prime minister was typically aloof and hopeless. He appointed a cabinet full of aged and lazy royalists who misjudged the extent of Thaksin’s popularity. The 2007 election proved how wrong the royalists were about the Thaksin regime being based on vote-buying and “policy corruption.”

So they ditched out another prime minister and then another elected government, this time relying on the judiciary. Then they killed red shirts.

But still Thaksin held electoral sway, this time via his sister Yingluck. And she had to go too, replaced by the knuckle-draggers of the current military dictatorship.

Meeting the junta

12 years on, PPT felt that our best way of observing the anniversary of the military-palace power grab is to re-link to the Wikileaks cables that reflect most directly on that coup. Here they are:

There are more cables. As a collection, they provide a useful insight as to how the royalist elite behaved and what they wanted the embassy to know.





10 years later

22 02 2018

A decade after the event, 79 mainly southern members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy have been sentenced to jail terms of a few months each, with some suspended. They were charged with “a variety of charges including property damage, breaking and entering and intimidating others” for their “seizing control of a state broadcaster as part of an anti-government campaign…” as PAD sought to bring down the Samak Sundaravej-led elected government.

The gain made in appeasing anti-coal protesters may be undone by this court decision. Yet there seems some kind of political calculation going on in the junta about who its allies are.

As seen in the photo from social media, one of the leaders of the group flashed an anti-military sign as he was taken to prison.

This act reflects the fact that the junta is finds it opposition has expanded to encompass activists on several sides: red, yellow and pro-election groups.





2006 military coup remembered

19 09 2017

2006 seems a long time ago. So much has happened since the palace, led by General Prem Tinsulanonda, the military and a coterie of royalist anti-democrats (congealed as the People’s Alliance for Democracy) brought down Thaksin Shinawatra’s government on 19 September 2006.

Yet it is remembered as an important milestone in bringing down electoral democracy in Thailand and establishing the royalist-military authoritarianism that has deepened since the 2014 military coup that brought down Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government.

Khaosod reports:

Pro-democracy activists are marking the 11th anniversary of the 2006 coup on Tuesday evening on the skywalk in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Representatives from the police and BTS Skytrain were ordering them to clear the area because it belongs to the rail operator.

The location, frequented by commuters and tourists in a highly visible location, has become a de facto location for protests since the 2014 coup.

“It’s unbelievable how far back we’ve gone for the past 11 years,” said Siriwit Seritiwat, the prominent activist known as Ja New. “The country doesn’t suck by itself, but it sucks because of the wicked cycle.”

The 2006 coup was no surprise given that Thaksin had faced determined opposition from PAD and from General Prem, who reflected palace and royal household dissatisfaction with Thaksin. The coup came after Thaksin had been re-elected in a landslide in February 2005 with about 60% of the vote.

Thaksin had many faults and made many mistakes often as a result of arrogance. The February 2005 election reflected Thaksin’s popularity and this posed a threat to the monstrous egos in the palace. Of course, they also worried about Thaksin’s combination of political and economic power and his efforts to control the military.

Thaksin’s reliance on votes and the fact that he accumulated them as never before was an existential threat to the powers that be. The elite feared for its control of political, economic and social power.

Behind the machinations to tame Thaksin lurked the real power holders in the military brass, the palace and the upper echelons of the bureaucracy who together comprised the royalist state. Some referred to this as the network monarchy and others identified a Deep State. They worried about their power and Thaksin’s efforts to transform Thailand. Others have said there were concerns about managing succession motivating coup masters.

We are sure that there were many motivations, fears and hallucinatory self-serving that led to the coup. Wikileaks has told part of the story of the machinations.

Coup soldiers wearing the king’s yellow, also PAD’s color

A way of observing the anniversary of the military-palace power grab on 19 September 2006 is to look again at Wikileaks cables that reflect most directly on that coup. Here they are:

There are more cables on the figures circling around the coup and the events immediately before and after the coup, giving a pretty good picture of how the royalist elite behaved and what they wanted the U.S. embassy to know.

The royalist elite came to believe that the 2006 coup failed as pro-Thaksin parties managed to continue to win elections. The result was the development of an anti-democracy ideology and movement that paved the way for the 2014 coup and the military dictatorship that is determined to uproot the “Thaksin regime” and to eventually make elections events that have no meaning for governing Thailand.





Learning from the dictatorship

4 02 2017

Some analysts have argued that Thailand’s junta is learning from the authoritarian leaders of China. There’s debates about that, yet we don’t doubt that, among other things, The Dictator would love to control the internet as tightly as his Chinese counterparts.

We now know that other authoritarian leaders are learning from Thailand’s military dictatorship. At The Cambodia Daily, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, reckons “authoritarian ideas ‘spread like the flu among ASEAN leaders’.”

While we get the point, we’d observe that authoritarian ideas have long dominated in ASEAN countries.

The reason for his observation follows Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen promising “sweeping changes to Cambodia’s law governing political parties in a move that could eliminate the CNRP and remove opposition leader Sam Rainsy or any other politician convicted by Cambodia’s courts—from a leadership position.”

His model? He says, “I think that we should follow Thailand, which means anyone committing serious mistakes would cause their party to be dissolved…”. He added:

“The People’s Power Party was dissolved just because Samak Sundaravej appeared as a chef on television,” Mr. Hun Sen said, referring to a side gig that Thai courts deemed a conflict of interest. “He then lost his position as prime minister and they also dissolved his party.”

“So we follow it,” Mr. Hun Sen said of the Thai example, saying he sought to “dissolve parties and then ban the political rights for not just a few leaders, but all the party’s board of directors.”

Authoritarian leaders are always looking for more ways to solidify their hold on power. The Dictator may well have looked at Hun Sen’s ability to manipulate elections and learned from that too.





On dictatorship

27 11 2016

This from the Bangkok Post:

Foreign media and observers continue to regard our present government as a “dictatorship.” They have ignored [the] Prime Minister[‘s] … explanation about the necessity for building a democratic society on a stage-by-stage basis.

The Bangkok Post was supporting a dictatorial regime in an editor’s comment on a story from 25 November 1976. Little would appear to have changed from the period of the dictatorial and palace-picked prime minister and monarchist Thanin Kraivixien to the period of the self-appointed and palace-endorsed prime minister and monarchist General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The story, however, is of the rightist and youthful Interior Minister and palace favorite Samak Sundaravej and his approach to “establishing” what he called “democracy” in Thailand, in line with Thanin’s 12-20 year plan of stage-by-stage political change. There was an appointed assembly and elections were seen as “divisive.”

Prayuth has few youthful types in his military-based “government” but he has plenty of rightists and royalists. And he has a 20-year stage-by-stage plan. Prayuth’s military junta also has a puppet parliament of military appointees and views elections as dangerously divisive.

But there’s a difference. Samak stated (clicking opens a PDF of a 1976 press clipping):

Democracy of the past began at the Ananta Samaggom Throne Hall (traditional site of Parliament). lt then tried to seek roots in the villages. That was why it was unstable…. Democracy has to begin at the village council, then move up to the district council, the provincial assembly and then the House of Representatives.

Samak went on to declare: “We are now building up democracy from the villages.”

That sounds nothing like the current regime under The Dictator. No “bottom-up” democracy for them for they have learned that villagers simply cannot be trusted. Those at the local level don’t know what’s good for them and elect governments associated with Thaksin Shinawatra. These uppity villagers even dare to think that they should have some say in government, which is the preserve of the great and the good (and those of the military brass who don’t happen to fit these categories).

In fact, though, the comparison is false. Samak was no democrat in 1976. Reading the story it is clear that the “democracy” he boosts is, like Prayuth’s, no democracy at all. It remains top-down, with officials involved all along, directing, managing and funding a bureaucratized village planning process that knits neatly into the preferred hierarchical model of Thailand’s administration and politics. Anti-democracy and authoritarianism runs deep among the great, the good and the military brass.





Double standards reinforced

19 11 2014

As red shirts remain in jail and as lese majeste victims are jailed on a weekly basis for long sentences, the judiciary under the military dictatorship demonstrates its double standards, as shown in a report at the Bangkok Post.

Some six years ago, People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) guards invaded the National Broadcasting Services of Thailand (NBT) building during protests against the Samak Sundaravej government. The Appeals Court has now slashed a lower court’s jail sentences handed to the occupiers, who are some of a very few PAD thugs who were ever convicted of anything.

Eighty-five men from the so-called Srivichai Warriors occupied the state-owned NBT building on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road in August 2008, as part of protests to topple Samak’s government. They were armed with “guns and knives [and] they damaged assets worth 600,000 baht and used force to prevent two TV news anchors, and others, from broadcasting and forced them to leave the station.”

They were “charged by public prosecutors with criminal association and the assembly of 10 or more people to commit acts causing unrest, among others,” and in late 2010 got jail terms of 6-30 months each.

The Appeals Court miraculously found that they “did not find them guilty of criminal association, saying they had simply followed the PAD’s orders.” Maybe those orders came from even higher authorities? To make the double standards even sharper, the court “found them guilty of trespassing, although public prosecutors had not filed this charge.”

Miraculously (again), the court reduced their sentences to 3-8 months and they walked free after posting bail so that they can appeal once more.