“Election” news

13 06 2018

There’s much in the news about the military junta’s “election” campaigning. Just in the Bangkok Post we found four stories of the junta on the campaign trail.

The first Bangkok Post story reports that instead of dealing with political parties as it said it would, The Dictator’s legal whipping boy Wissanu Krea-ngam – he always the one sent to deal with legal news and bad news – “will meet the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) and the Election Commission (EC) Thursday evening to discuss preparations for the general election.”

Screw the parties that are meant to participate in the general election unless, of course, the junta like you and feeds you information.

Wissanu and that other anti-democrat since the 1970s, Meechai Ruchupan, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, seem to be the junta’s finger pointers.

Even so, Meechai “said that an agenda for the talks has not yet been set.” That seems to mean that he and Wissanu have yet been given their orders.

Meechai did say that the Election Commission “will specify the date from when, legally, an election can be held,” but that’s untrue because the process of approving legislation has maximum dates but also elastic periods in it as well.

Meechai dismissed the idea that parties should be able to communicate with the public – voters – saying they should be “sending the information electronically.” The idea of prospective politicians – other than the junta – talking to voters is off limits.

Getting in on the “election” act, National Legislative Assembly president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said: “Everything will happen next year as set out in the roadmap…”. He was “referring to the premier’s earlier statement regarding a poll next February.”

Even Wissanu doesn’t buy that claim.

The second Bangkok Post story is a bit of a re-run with the Puea Thai Party accusing “people in power” – the junta and its military minions – of “increasing their efforts to lure its politicians into their fold, asking whether this behind-doors approach is the best four years of political reform has to offer.”

The junta’s people have invited “some former Pheu Thai MPs … to meet authoritative figures to talk about switching parties in the lead-up to a general election next year.” As lures and bait, they were offered “positions, budgets and financial help during the election…”.

While some complain that this is “Thai politics is still trapped in the old cycle,” it is exactly what the junta intended by its “reform” efforts.

The junta’s vacuuming up of politicians makes James Dyson look like an amateur.

A third Bangkok Post story is about the junta’s “populist” policies. The junta is reacting to potential negative electoral impacts from rising fuel prices by subsidizing them.For gas, they’ve been doing it for some time already.

When previous “bad” elected governments did this there was considerable criticism, not least from the those campaigning against “populism” at the Thailand Development Research Institute. We await their market-friendly criticism of the junta. We won’t hold out breath.

The Energy Policy Administration Committee “will only be able to subsidise the cap until mid-July, assuming additional resources are not channelled into the fund.” That’s another junta decision to be made. It comes on top of diesel subsidies.

Almost 8 million households and vendors will benefit.That’s a lot of voters being influenced by what was called “policy corruption” when elected governments were involved.

But its not just using state funds but making huge promises almost everywhere The Dictator campaigns.

The last Bangkok Post story involves the money trail through the near north. There, the junta’s “cabinet accepted in principle Tuesday a proposal to construct a double-track railway linking Tak and Nakhon Phanom as part of the transport routes under the East-West Economic Corridor.”

That proposal goes back to the 1980s!

Junta spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd “said the proposed 902km railway development” would begin in Mae Sot and go to Nakhon Sawan on the Lao border. Presumably, scenic carriages will be used as the train runs through the mountains around Mae Sot.

No funds have been promised. Maybe in the 2019 budget, when The Dictator is still premier, “election” or not. Feasibility? Economic, environmental and social impacts? No news. It’s just an “election” pitch.

There’s also a “26.8-billion-baht road expansion proposal covering 486km for the same cluster” of towns on the route.

Another pitch was a “a proposal to build an airport in Nakhon Sawan” that would be “considered”even with so-called high-speed railway scheduled to zoom through that city. Even the junta knows this but promised some kind of airport to voters.

We are sure the “election” news will continue to mount as the junta seeks to rig the “election.”





Further updated: Pots and kettles I

11 12 2017

There’s an English saying about the “pot calling the kettle black.” It means something like people should not criticize someone else for a fault that they have themselves. In Thailand, when discussing current politics, it is sometimes difficult to determine which is a pot and which is a kettle, and the blackness seems equally deep and sooty.

So when we read the Bangkok Post: and discover one confirmed and frequent liar being called out by another of similar ilk we do get to wondering.

Government spokesman Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd and (anti)Democrat Party rich leader and Korn Chatikavanij have been going at each other.

According to this report, by Veera Prateepchaikul, a former editor of the Bangkok Post sides with Korn:

Lt Gen Sansern, who is also acting director-general of the Public Relations Department, accused former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij, without naming him, of being an opportunist craving media space with an intention to lead the public into believing the government has not been doing anything.

The publicity which appeared to upset the spokesman was just Mr Korn’s recommendations to the government on how it could help rice farmers shore up rice prices during the months of November and December when the main crops were to be harvested.

We can understand criticism of Korn on rice policy; after all, he’s never been assigned any work in a rural area, although he now claims “four years” of work on a rich kid botique rice marketing scheme (read about it here, which begins with an incorrect assertion about what Thais think of rice. We think he means his rich brethren).

What was more interesting, though, was Korn’s licking of the pot:

Korn said the government should be more open-minded and receptive to divergent opinions as several policies could help farmers.

He lectured the spokesman and urged him to distinguish friend from foe and not to sow the seed of conflict.

He also reminded the lieutenant-general that there are people outside the government who are loyal and have good intentions toward the country.

Korn is reminding the dictatorship to be nice to its political allies, which includes the coup-loving and coup-provoking Democrat Party.

Apparently Korn has “discovered” and recommended a variant on the long-standing rice pledging scheme that pays a guaranteed minimum price for rice (a plan implemented by others in the past).

Even if Korn is recycling policy, he’s also telling the junta to be gentle with friends.

Seemingly to emphasize this, former Democrat Party leader and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai has demanded that party members not be “persistent” in “asking the regime to lift its ban on political activities…”.

Chuan and “other party executives agreed party members should not keep demanding political restrictions be lifted.” He stressed that if there are delays, the junta should be blamed. But he is also wary of poking his bear-like friends in the junta.

Chuan, who supported to military coups and judicial activism to bring down elected governments then banged on about “democracy.” The “real obstacle” to “democracy” is “people who do not uphold democracy…”.

As far as we can tell, the Democrat Party is chock full of people who do not uphold democracy, including Chuan himself. The Democrat Party has a long history of supporting royalist anti-democracy. Indeed, that was the reason the party was formed.

Update 1: Interestingly, Chuan seems keen to advise the junta on its political base (shared with the Democrat Party). Worried about that base, Chuan “appealed to premier [General] Prayut Chan-o-cha to address falling household income in the South.” Chuan showed that under the junta, average incomes had fallen substantially in several southern provinces.

His advice has been taken up, at least according to the report: “Based on Mr Chuan’s petition, the government had announced a policy of boosting people’s income in a bid to pull the country out of the so-called middle-income trap.”

Chuan worries that the junta makes the Democrat Party look bad as they are seen as political allies.

Update 2: In another political reminder to the junta, anti-democrat leader and “former” Democrat Party deputy leader Suthep Thaugsuban has re-emerged to announced “that he would release a video clip showing the group’s fight during 2013-2014 ‘to commemorate the fight that we fought together’.”

While he did not explain who the “we” were, his latest move suggested to some commentators that he wanted to address the junta. His group supported the junta and allegedly invited them to take office during the months-long protests.

Observers “believe Suthep wanted to remind the junta of their fight and the purpose of their fight” and to oppose the junta’s plan to establish its own political party, which is said to “contradict the PDRC’s initial purpose.” He’s also worried that the junta is “losing” the south.





Fakery and quakery

2 12 2017

The military dictatorship’s recent claims about “fake news” have been taken up by their bossy and yellow-hued acolytes in the Ministry of Public Health

An AP report says the MOPH has announced the launch of a trial period for a smartphone app called Media Watch “that will allow users to flag media content they find ‘inappropriate’ so it can be forwarded to government authorities.”

The snitch app will “help guard, observe, investigate and support the process of having safe and positive media to benefit our youth, families and society in general…”. The MOPH seems to be into quackery.

This appears one more step in making lese majeste snitching even easier for the cyber vigilantes. It will also allow pro-junta anti-democrats to report any critical commentary on the military regime.

(As an aside, PPT has noticed intense blocking in recent days. Interestingly, the heaviest censorship of PPT is now on our posts about the regime rather than anything we post on lese majeste or the monarchy. It seems that the censors are less interested in the monarchy.)

We can’t help wondering if wags won’t use the app to report the junta’s mouthpieces who regularly concoct the information they release.

For example, The Nation reports that junta spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd was assigned to denigrate one of the anti-coal protest leaders who was, for a time, out of communication with his family.

He decided that a personal attack was the “news” to be manufactured. Sansern referred to “a man who ran away with a woman.” He said:

There was one key protester named Mustarseedeen Waba. There is a photo of him being escorted by police or military officers that is being circulated online, saying that he has not returned home yet…. I’ve asked the 4th Army Area commander and provincial police commander. Neither of the authorities said that they had caught him.

He then added that Mustarseedeen’s disappearance probably involved a tryst with a woman who wasn’t his wife.

Sansern was heavily criticized. His response was junta-esque: “We need to speak the truth today. The government always talks rationally…”.

That’s another lie. “Government spokesman” seems to mean “official liar.” Or maybe he’s the regime clown.





Naughty Democrat Party and rubber rats

18 11 2017

The military regime has has warned the Democrat Party to behave itself.

The dictatorship considers that its (former?) political allies has been using “the plight of rubber planters, who are facing hard times given falling prices of the commodity, for political gain.”

Government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd warned against “lambasting” the regime, and declared the “Democrat Party could have helped by giving useful advice on how to help rubber farmers.”

The farmers are from the Democrat Party’s stronghold in the south, and the Party has complained about the regime’s failure “to shore up rubber prices, and for violating freedom of expression by summoning leaders of a rubber farmer network for ‘attitude adjustment’ at military camps last weekend” when the farm leaders threatened a demonstration.

The junta’s spokesman lied when he “insisted the government [he means junta] has never barred people from expressing opinions or voicing proposals about the issue.” He said those detained faced “no threats or abuses…”. They were simply detained for “re-education.”

It prevented “a large group of rubber farmers from travelling from the southern provinces to Bangkok…”.

He was absolutely truthful when he stated: “No rallies or gatherings should be carried out…”.

The Democrat Party is usually supportive of the military regime, but fearing a military political party and needing to shore up its political base, “deputy spokeswoman Mallika Boonmeetrakul said that summoning leaders to military camps was not the right approach.”

She declared the junta ineffective “in dealing with crop prices. It should stop sweeping the rubbish under the carpet because it is not constructive to do so…”.

Former Democrat MP Watchara Petthong said the junta’s “penchant to summon critics for attitude adjustment in military camps was a threat to people’s rights and freedom of expression.” Of course, when it is red shirts or anti-coup activists he tends to ignore the repression. We call that double standards.





Prayuth’s pants on fire

16 11 2017

Children will often taunt, “liar, liar, pants on fire” when they are sure someone is lying. As we read the Bangkok Post reporting The Dictator’s spokesman we could hear this chant.

In a story about The Dictator’s recent “six questions,” one the junta’s most seasoned liars, “spokesman” Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said General Prayuth Chan-ocha asked his questions “merely [because he] wanted to show how the work undertaken by the regime over the past three years will benefit the nation, and that the questions aim to determine whether the public agrees.”

This is buffalo manure, plain and simple. The Dictator asked the questions because he craves power and wants to hold it for as long as possible. Sansern is lying on behalf of his lying boss.

This is patently obvious when “Lt Gen Sansern said Gen Prayut is keen to know whether the public would be disappointed if politicians who come to power after the next general election ignore all the work and measures initiated by the current regime.”

Sansern revealed that The Dictator “would definitely find it regrettable if all the work he has initiated does not pan out as planned. When he [staged the coup], he did not want all the subsequent effort to be wasted…”.

So he wants to stay on. Keep Prayuth and you keep all of the repression, oppression and corruption of the military dictatorship.

Sansern, like his boss, consider Thais fools and gullible. They think that lying is manipulation. They manipulate to maintain military dominance. Their pants are burned to a cinder.





Buddhism, military regimes and new reigns

24 10 2017

There have been a couple of recent stories that deserve some attention. Both relate to the nature of Buddhism.

A first story at the Bangkok Post is classic dictatorship double-speak. High-ranking government mouthpiece Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, who is usually wheeled out to babble about the things the dictatorship thinks is important stuff, denied that his string-pullers had issued “an instruction to Buddhist temples to destroy non-Buddhist sacred objects, including statues or images of Hindu gods…”.

Pious Prayuth

He said The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, “was aware [of] the actions occurring at several temples across the country but had not issued any instructions regarding the matter.”

“It isn’t true” he opined, declaring that the destruction was “being carried out by the monastic community which has thoroughly examined what items are and are not appropriate…”.

Yet the order for the destruction has come from the Sangha Supreme Council, which has been tightly controlled by the military junta. They say this is a campaign “to prevent misunderstandings about Buddhism.”

Then, the propaganda chief blurted out that General Prayuth “stressed that each temple will use its own judgement when removing the statutes or banning the sale of sacred items…”.

This is a part of the junta’s ongoing cleansing of (official) Buddhism. One of its highest risk cleansings was the attempt to destroy the Dhammakaya sect with threats of violence and several arrests.

This followed the then new king’s agreement that the law on the selection of the Supreme Patriarch be changed so that those considered “too close” to Dhammakaya be bypassed. This meant that the king and the dictatorship got their man in the top (Buddhist) spot.

Pious king

For the junta, Dhammakaya was believed to be “too close” to Thaksin Shinawatra.

A second Bangkok Post story has The Dictator seeking to dictate to the country’s two Buddhist universities. He wants the universities to concentrate on Buddhist teaching, taught by monks.

The link in the two stories is the notion that The Dictator is cleansing the religion:

… Santisukh Sobhanasiri, a Buddhism expert, told the Bangkok Post that he has much respect for Gen Prayut over his “brave” role in supporting the Sangha body in its fight against over-commercialisation, such as the sale of amulets from temples.

Pious Sarit

“It’s extraordinary for the PM to dare to deal with this issue,” said Mr Santisukh, adding that amulets produced in ancient times were intended as keepsakes to remind people of the importance of practicing Buddhanusati.

Actually, we do not consider it extraordinary. We also have some doubt that it is just Prayuth at work here. In many new reigns, there is a cleansing of Buddhism as the new monarch establishes his control over the religious hierarchy. That said, other dictators have also cleansed for control. The prime example being General Sarit Thanarat.

We have the feeling that both king and dictatorship are “cleansing” Buddhism as a feudal right of settling in for the long term.





Updated: Yet another anti-monarchy “plot”

3 10 2017

Thailand’s recent politics has been awash with rightist and royalist claims of “plots” against the monarchy. The military dictatorship claims to have “discovered” another such “plot.” This time the plot is claimed to be a plan to disrupt the funeral for the dead king.

PPT can only express disdain for this political ploy and we can only wonder if anyone still believes such nonsense. As much as we’d like to see an an anti-monarchy plot in Thailand, we haven’t seen any evidence that there is one in the works now.

One of the first “plots” was the entirely concocted “Finland Plot.” The claim peddled by many associated with the People’s Alliance for Democracy and fabricated by notorious royalist ideologue Chai-anan Samudavanija and others. It claimed that Thaksin Shinawatra and former left-wing student leaders had met in Finland and come up with a plan to overthrow the monarchy and establish a communist state. These inventions were published in the Sondhi Limthongkul-owned newspapers and repeated many times by PAD.

As bizarre as this nonsense was, Wikipedia notes that the allegations had an “impact on the popularity of Thaksin and his government, despite the fact that no evidence was ever produced to verify the existence of a plot. Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai party vehemently denied the accusations and sued the accusers. The leaders of the 2006 military coup claimed Thaksin’s alleged disloyalty as one of their rationales for seizing power.”

Back in 2015, even the politicized courts held that ultra-royalist Pramote Nakornthap had defamed Thaksin with these concoctions. Not surprisingly, many ultra-royalists continue to believe this nonsense.

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

Equally notorious was the anti-monarchy “plot,” replete with a diagram, that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government concocted when faced with a red shirt challenge in April 2010.

The government’s Centre for the Resolution to Emergency Situations claimed to have uncovered a plot to overthrow the monarchy and said “intelligence” confirmed the “plot.” Indeed, the bitter Thawil Pliensri, the former secretary-general of the National Security Council “confirmed” the “plot.” The map included key leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, members of the Puea Thai Party and former banned politicians, academics and hosts of community radio programs. Then Prime Minister Abhisit welcomed the uncovering of the “plot.”

CRES spokesman and then Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, who just happens to be the current dictatorship’s chief propagandist, repeatedly declared this plot a red shirt effort to bring down the monarchy.

We could go on, but let’s look at the current “plot,” which not coincidentally comes from the same military leaders who were in place in when the above “mapping” of a republican plot was invented. It is the same coterie of coup plotters (and that was a real plot) that repeatedly accused Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul of various anti-monarchy plots and he was “disappeared” from Laos, presumably by the junta’s henchmen-murderers.

In the new “plot,” Deputy Dictator General Wongsuwan has declared:

Anti-monarchy cells are conspiring to disrupt the funeral of His Majesty the Late King this month, deputy junta chairman Prawit Wongsuwan said Monday.

Gen. Prawit described the alleged agitators as those who “have ill intentions toward the monarchy.” Although he gave no details, he said full-scale security measures would be implemented throughout the rites to place over several days culminating with the Oct. 26 cremation.

Prawit added that “[a]uthorities have learned of threats inside and outside the country, especially from those who oppose and have negative thoughts about ‘the [royal] institution’…”. He put “security forces” on “full alert.”

Careful readers will have noticed that the first mention of this “plot” came from The Dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha almost two weeks ago.

Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart “refused to elaborate in detail on the supposed threat in the latest intelligence report” but still declared that “[t]hose involved were among the ‘regular faces’ abroad wanted on lese majeste charges, but who still incite negative feelings towards the monarchy among supporters through social media.”

The fingerprints on this concoction are those who have regularly invented plots for political purposes. That’s the military. They read all kinds of social media and put 1 and 1 together and come up with anti-monarchy plot.

We tend to agree with Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who is reported as saying:

The cremation provides an opportunity for the security forces to strengthen their position politically using critics of the monarchy as an excuse to increase the state’s heavy handed policy to control society more tightly…. Critics of the monarchy hardly pose a threat considering how much they have been suppressed since the coup….

The cremation and the coronation that will follow are critical political events for the military dictatorship. They want to be seen to be ensuring that everything runs smoothly for both events as the junta moves to stay in power, “election” or “no election.”  Finding a “plot” can make them look even more like the “protectors” of the monarchy.

Update: We don’t know why, but Khaosod’s most recent report on this “plot” seems to be supportive of the the junta’s claims. The claims this report makes amount to little more than reporting chatter. Similar chatter has been around for some time, encouraging individual acts that do not amount to anything like rebellion or disruption.

Some of the material that has been circulated may well derive from the state’s intelligence operatives seeking to disrupt and identify red shirts.  The thing about concocting a plot as a way to discredit your opponents is that there has to be elements in it that seem, at least on a initial view, feasible and believable. That was the point of the diagram produced above, naming persons known to be anti-monarchy. Putting them in a plot is something quite different.