Military party, Junta’s Senate

24 07 2019

Everyone knows that the appointed Senate is a creation of the military junta and that it will do the military-backed government’s bidding.

But even so, it is a bit rich for the Senate to be publicizing the coaching senators are receiving for their role during the “debate” on the “new” regime’s policy statement.

It is called a “seminar,” so we guess the senators, all appointed by the junta, get a meeting allowance. In other words, the taxpayer is funding the coaching.

Showing its position, the Senate is reported to have “called on legislators to debate issues related to the policies, not individuals.” That means the junta’s Senate does not want its boss, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha or any of the junta’s former members now “new” ministers being grilled. The report states:

The Secretariat of the Senate organized the seminar for the senators to receive information about the guidelines of the cabinet ministers to ensure that the policy debates are held smoothly and yield optimal benefits [PPT: for the government].

The Senate

Showing that the Senate is really the regime’s house and its parliamentary policeman and enforcer, the report states that:

The Senate and the government will each have five hours of debate, while the opposition will be given 13 hours and 30 minutes. However, this does not cover the delivery of the policy statement by the Prime Minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, as well as issues to be raised by legislators during the meeting. The senators will make sure that the opposition only debates issues related to the policies of the government.

Meanwhile, appointed senator Gen. Worapong Sanganet, a former supreme commander and junta tool reckons that the opposition can’t complain about anything. He says”the draft policy statement is beneficial since it covers all issues.” Done and dusted!

It is a farce.





Updated: Shaky regime III

20 06 2019

As the junta’s post-junta regime is put together, its foundations are already being undermined, and its moving to shore up those foundations, mainly be preventing scrutiny. That is a strategy that can’t hold for long.

A day or so ago, opposition politicians gave notice that they “plan to file a motion urging the House Speaker to scrutinize the criteria used by the junta to select the 250 senators.” Puea Thai MP Suthin Klangsaeng wants “Parliament to convene a special house committee tasked with looking into the selection procedure, which they fear could have been fraught with favoritism.” He added: ““So far, the process hasn’t been revealed…”.

Almost immediately, it was reported that Senate Speaker and junta puppet Pornpetch Wichitcholchai “insisted on Wednesday the House of Representatives has no authority to probe the qualifications of senators.” As far as we can tell, that’s not the issue; rather it’s the process. But you get the picture.

Taking another tack, “Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a former member of the dissolved Thai Raksa Chart Party, on Wednesday lodged a petition with the Office of Attorney-General (OAG) asking it to seek a Constitutional Court ruling on the Senate selection process.” We’d expect both the A-G and the Constitutional Court to back the junta.

Meanwhile, trying to protect its shaky foundations, the puppet Palang Pracharath Party “will next week lodge a petition with the Constitutional Court asking it not to temporarily suspend its MPs accused of violating media share-holding rules.” Of course, the Court has already disqualified a Future Forward candidate before the election for the same “crime,” not even allowing him to stand. Expect the Court to drag its feet.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that the junta proxy party has “asked the Constitutional Court to drop a case against its 27 MPs for allegedly holding media shares on a technicality.” Grasping for all legal straws, Palang Pracharath’s “lawyer Tossapol Pengsom said on Thursday the 66 FFP [Future Forward] MPs who signed the document submitted it as a letter, not as a petition as prescribed by law.” He said: “We view the submission was not done correctly so the case should be dropped…”.





A game of chance

16 06 2019

Readers may have noticed that some 10 days ago, Thaksin Shinawatra was sentenced to two years in prison “over his handling of a state lottery scheme he launched while in office more than a decade ago.”

It was in 2008 that a body of post-2006 coup, army-appointed “graftbusters filed … charges against Thaksin, accusing him and 46 cabinet ministers and other top officials of illegal use of funds from a state lottery, wrongly approving and operating the lottery from 2003 to 2006.”

In sentencing Thaksin, the court stated:

government lotteries were aimed at generating income for the country and the digit lotteries put the country at risk.

Despite opposition, Thaksin ordered a then deputy finance minister and director of the Government Lottery Office to launch the two- and three-digit lotteries without a law supporting it or measure to prevent financial risks of the state as the GLO [Government Lottery Office] usually did.

While the lottery scheme brought 123.34 billion baht to state coffers, not all draws were profitable, with seven incurring losses totalling 1.67 billion baht, according to the ruling….

Despite the large flow of funds to the state, Patanapong Chanpetpul, director of the NACC’s Bureau of Legal Affairs, said [that]… by law the Finance Ministry, which supervised the GLO, could demand compensation for the damage.” Work that one out.

Fast forward to the 2014 coup. When Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha used Article 44 to put now Army commander Apirat Kongsompong in charge of the GLO. His task was “to solve chronic problems of overpriced tickets.”This move was seen as a quick-win move that would “return happiness to the people”, as the junta had promised. A Bangkok Post report continues:

The board fixed the price of lottery ticket pairs at 80 baht apiece, revised quotas for vendor groups, banned bundled sales by popular numbers and increased printing of tickets to 90 million each fortnight from 37 million in 2014.

Five years on, lottery tickets are still selling at 90-100 baht, just as they did before the coup, and tickets are still bundled to fetch higher prices.

So Gen Apirat failed on that, with no return of happiness to the people, and overpricing remains a problem.He left the GLO to become an appointed member of the Senate.

Gen Apirat, now the army chief, stepped down from the GLO last month to join the Senate.

In his term, he probably kept the junta happy for it is reported that “the GLO has emerged as the largest contributor to state coffers, bringing in 40.8 billion baht in fiscal 2018, up from 15.3 billion in fiscal 2014.” We think “largest contributor” means from state organizations. After all, VAT brings in far, far more. Even so, you see that Gen Apirat has done a job for the junta. Thaksin got two years in jail for raising that kind of revenue for the state.





Cheating cheats II

14 06 2019

Following the announcement of the cheating cheats Senator Selection Committee, the Bangkok Post reports the “Pheu Thai Party is seeking a legal channel to challenge the senator selection process, saying the selection committee’s members were not politically neutral.” Well, they never were going to be but that point of requiring “neutrality” is a requirement. But before getting to that, there’s a little more of interest. Section 107 has this:

The Senate consists of two hundred members installed from a selection by and among persons having the knowledge, expertise, experience, profession, or characteristics or common interests or working or having worked in varied areas of the society.

It later uses words like “honestly and justly,” while section 113 states: “A Senator shall not align with or yield to the mandate of any political party.” Section 114 states: “Members of the House of Representatives and Senators are representatives of the Thai people and free from any mandate, commitment, or control.”

Any reasonable person would consider that the current Senate voids most of those principles. But then section 269 requires:

During the initial period, the Senate shall consist of two hundred and fifty members appointed by the King upon the advice of the National Council for Peace and Order.

And then has this:

There shall be one Senator Selection Committee consisting of not fewer than nine but not exceeding twelve persons, appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order from persons with knowledge and experience in various areas who are politically impartial, having the duties of nominating suitable persons for appointment as Senators.

It seems improbable that the junta’s Senator Selection Committee meets this requirement or any of the other requirements listed or the “spirit” of the junta’s own constitution. The sad thing is that the bodies that would oversee these requirements are all controlled by the junta, meaning that the improbable is often run-of-the-mill for the junta’s Thailand.





Updated: The Dictator continues II

6 06 2019

As the dictatorial steamroller lumbered on to “elect” Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, some of the reporting of the parliamentary debate was problematic, even from usually reliable sources.

For example, it is inexplicable that Khaosod should headline the long debate as: “Parliament’s PM Session Descends Into Prayuth Censure Debate.” Why “descends”? What else could be expected? Neither “candidate” was in parliament. The “opposition’s” Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit was legally prevented from attending. The Dictator wasn’t about to attend and “lower” himself. Of course, the “opposition” was going to attach Gen Prayuth as a usurper of power and the perpetrator of an illegal coup. And, equally, his proxies from the appointed Senate and the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party were going to defend him.

What is more interesting in the Khaosod report is some of the bizarre nonsense sprouted by the junta’s puppets:

“I was accused of supporting dictatorship. I am for democratic dictatorship, not for fake democracy,” said junta-appointed Senator Seri Suwanpanond in a bizarre remark widely discussed online….

“Farmers are starving!” Phalang Pracharath MP Veerakorn Kamprakob summed up his case for Prayuth’s second term.

Some of the puppets couldn’t bring themselves to mention Thanathorn’s name!

Other puppets, with straight face, claimed that the vote for Palang Pracharath in the 2019 “election” represented a democratic triumph for Gen Prayuth. That’s the Prayuth who would not stand for election and nor would attend parliament, and depended on a puppet Senate for his second term as prime minister.

There were peels of laughter at some of the “defenses” of Gen Prayuth.

As far as we can tell from the reporting of the “vote,” Thanathorn received 244 votes and Gen Prayuth received 500. That suggests that every single appointed senator voted for the junta leader as well as 250 MPs. Three MPs abstained from voting and one was on a sick leave. Thanathorn did not vote because he’s suspended and neither did Abhisit Vejjajiva, who had resigned his seat.

That’s pretty much as expected.

Update: Prachatai has better details on the voting. It says that “ 249 out of 250 unelected senators have voted for Prayut Chan-o-cha. The only one of senator who voted for abstention is Pornpetch Vichitchonchai, the Speaker of the Senate and the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament.” It adds that among House voters, it was 251-244 for The Dictator, with House Speaker Chuan Leekpai abstaining. It adds that the only “defection in the House …[was] Siripong Angkasakulkiet of Bhumjaithai Party…”. Siripong abstained. It adds: “#RIPThailand tops the twitter in Thailand after Prayut’s continuation of power.”





Updated: Disdain for parliament

4 06 2019

An Army engineer

Following five years of rolling back electoral politics and election rigging, not everything went the way the Army’s political engineers imagined. Yes, they came up with a less democratic constitution in 2017. Less democratic than the previous not so democratic one engineered after the 2006 military coup. Yes, they came up with a bunch of laws that connected to the undemocratic constitution that made it virtually impossible to prevent military political interference or even dominance for years to come.

Where this came unstuck was on 24 March when constituency voters chose parties that were anti-junta. It was only the puppet Election Commission, supported by the biased Constitutional Court that the junta even gained a hope of bargaining its way to a lower house majority by cobbling together up to 20 parties into a Palang Pracharath-led coalition. But not even that is in place, less than 24 hours before parliament selects a “new” prime minister.

The bloody hands of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha are set to grab premiership (again), thanks to the junta’s Army engineering that allows for a junta-picked and appointed Senate being likely to vote as a block for The Dictator, along with his Palang Pracharath Party. This despite various pleading for the Senate to not act as the junta’s puppets.

The Democrat Party and Bhum Jai Thai Party may come on board with the junta – as they are desperate to do – but only after all of the bargaining for cabinet posts has been completed. It is looking likely that the selection of the PM will go ahead with a government having been concocted by the junta and its puppet party.

This means that six weeks after the election, Thailand continues to be administered by the junta. It hardly has a “government” in place as so many of its ministers scurried off to Palang Pracharath and the Senate. For The Dictator, his face will be saved, but only momentarily.

Remarkably, but defining of the whole process of coup to election charade, this political theater of a joint parliamentary sitting choosing a PM will likely take place without Gen Prayuth even showing up, let alone saying something to parliament.

According to Khaosod, Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam has stated that “there’s no need for junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha to show up tomorrow when parliament convenes to elect a new prime minister.”

We suspect that the prickly, arrogant premier-in-waiting is doing a Prem (again). He hardly ever showed up for parliament, treating it like a junior school where politicians squabbled and fought and he floated above it, buoyed by royal barami. Like Gen Prem, Gen Prayuth exhibits nothing but disdain for parliamentary politics.

With “lower house speaker Chuan Leekpai [having] promised on Monday to allow MPs ample time to debate the qualifications of PM candidates before going to the vote,” we are sure that Gen Prayuth sees this as several levels below his exalted status. He had hoped that parliament would be a bunch of yes-men and -woman and that he would be able to ignore them for a few years, leaving them to squabble and fight over the leftovers from the junta’s plate.

But the voters have thrown that plan into disarray, and Gen Prayuth, if he gets up tomorrow as expected, he can expect criticism. And that’s something that he has never learned to deal with.

And just in case you were wondering, “Deputy PM Wissanu also specified to the media Tuesday that Prayuth and the rest of the junta will remain in their positions until a new cabinet formally reports to its first day of work.”

So whatever happens tomorrow, it is Prayuth in the premier’s seat for the near term. If he gets his way tomorrow, we don’t expect that he will enjoy the medium term. Bookmakers are taking bets on the date of the next coup. He’ll hate the idea of parliament even more than he does now.

Update: According to a report in Post Today, about half of the Democrat Party’s more extreme MPs have decided to screw their party and bed down with the junta’s party. This is either a threat to the rest of the MPs to come on board with the junta and The Dictator or its another large nail in the coffin of this hopeless party.





Keeping it junta

19 05 2019

As the junta’s Palang Pracharath party maneuvers stealthily toward establishing a “new” government there are several indications that very little is going to change.

We have already seen how the Senate has been packed with junta cronies, including relatives, generals and flunkies from the last junta-selected puppet National Legislative Assembly. Nepotism and cronyism were characteristics of the military dictatorship up until now. That’s only going to deepen and extend.

The senate

Part of the “negotiations” among junta-loving parties has to do with the allocation of cabinet slots. That’s because, as in the past, before the 1997 constitution, coalition governments were a grand buffet, with prime cabinet spots meaning a party could make cartloads of money to prepare for the next election or pay MPs to stay in line or both. That’s happening now.

As that happens, we read that The Dictator, who still hopes to be made premier by all his flunkies in the Senate, wants “the Defence and Interior ministries in the next government to ensure national progress…” to remain with junta figures. So it could well be that the aged watch-man Gen Prawit Wongsuwan remains in that post, to repress and sanction at will, and to use all the military’s resources to ensure the “new” government looks pretty much like the military dictatorship.

But don’t be surprised if its Gen Anupong Paojinda in that slot as the Deputy Dictator is struggling with health. If not defense, then Anupong probably stays at Interior where he’s been responsible for neutralizing the red shirts and helping out with election rigging.

And the repression, opacity and secretiveness of the regime is likely to continue.