Conspiracists (denied)

23 09 2020

With the royalist Thai Pakdee claiming to have 130,000 signatures from people opposing any changes to the junta’s 2017 constitution and delivering these to parliament, we are reminded of their conspiracy claims by royalists.

They don’t deserve repeating as they are mad, but we note that a collection of them has recently been published by a long-serving journalist at the Asia Times Online. Exactly how many plots and “theories” can be squeezed into one longish article is mind-boggling. Thankfully, Thai Enquirer gives these claims little time and ridicules several of them.





Rulers and the Future Forward threat

18 03 2020

Shawn Crispin at Asia Times has a long story that revolves around the challenge that the now dissolved Future Forward Party posed to Thailand’s conservative ruling class.

We won’t repeat all of the story, but will emphasize a couple points that mirror commentary at PPT and elsewhere on “The Threat.”

(Again, we should point out that Crispin maintains a ludicrous definition of Thailand as “democratic” when refers to the rigged 2019 election as “democracy-restoring.” That’s just dumb.)

In discussing Future Forward’s dissolution and the banning of its leaders from politics for 10 years, Crispin does allow that this was perceived “as a highly politicized Constitutional Court decision.” And, he’s right to note that replacement party and associated movement remains “on a collision course with ex-coup-maker Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut[h] Chan-ocha’s military-aligned coalition government.”

(We are not sure how a coup-maker becomes an ex-coup-maker? Just sloppy writing perhaps.)

And, as we recently posted, the “collision” could come soon now that the puppet Election Commission has filed “criminal charges that threaten to land Thanathorn [Juangroongruangkit], banned secretary general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and ex-spokeswoman Pannika Wanich, widely seen as the ex-party’s progressive triumvirate, in prison.”

Crispin observes that some analysts think that the “slew of other pending legal threats aim to drive Thanathorn, Piyabutr and Pannika into exile from the kingdom, extinguishing their promised new movement’s threat to Prayut[h] before it has a chance to fully coalesce.”

In fact, Gen Prayuth is expendable. What is being “protected” is the broader ruling class. Prayuth is merely its servant.

The Threat is clear, explained by Thanathorn:

The people against the military, the rest against the rich, hope against fear, the future against the past…. If we win the battle of ideas, we will win all other battles…. At it’s core, at the heart of this political crisis, is this question: in Thailand who does the power belong to?

It is noted that, “[w]hile in Parliament, Future Forward took hard aim at the military and its top brass, calling for constitutional reforms and accountability…”. Perhaps even more threatening was that Future Forward targeted the big Sino-Thai tycoons and their enormous and sprawling conglomerates:

including the ThaiBev and Charoen Pokphand Group, that arguably benefitted the most from Prayut’s junta government while poverty rates rose and donated generously to bankroll his rise as an elected leader via the military-backed Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP).

And then the biggest threat of all:

in October, the party voted against the Prayut government’s surprise declaration of an emergency decree that gave a legal basis for King Vajiralongkorn to take personal control of two elite infantry divisions, the 1st and 11th, nominally to provide better security for the royal family.

It seems – based on anonymous sources – that Thanathorn and Piyabutr were warned by the king but ignored this:

Clipped from Khaosod

That perceived challenge of royal power, two well-placed sources claim, happened despite Thanathorn and Piyabutr speaking with the monarch by telephone from Germany during a September meeting with army commander General Apirat Kongsompong, a palace loyalist and son of a coup-maker.

As Crispin explains, it was soon after this that Gen Apirat “launched his now notorious speech, replete with slides of Vajiralongkorn in military garbs during his communist-fighting days in the 1970’s, labeling Future Forward as a ‘leftist’ threat.”

He then makes an important observation:

That raises questions about whether a broad conservative coalition of military, big business and royalists may have been behind the Election Commission’s push and Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve Future Forward and ban Thanathorn from politics, as well as the follow-up threat to imprison the party’s former executives.

Citing a “government advisor, who requested anonymity” – probably the odious Panitan Wattanayagorn – the regime seems to believe that The Threat  may have been seen off:

“They moved too fast and now they’re gone…. It will be nearly impossible for them to come back through the streets,” he added, noting the army’s stern warnings against staging protests in public spaces.





Is the regime in trouble?

24 02 2020

Shawn Crispin at Asia Times had a few things to say before the Future Forward dissolution that deserve some attention. He was writing of the military and its regime after the Korat massacre.

He says the “killings have cast the military’s persistent overarching role – including over ex-coup-maker [Gen] Prayut[h Chan-ocha]’s elected coalition government – in a new dim light as critics blast the brass for being more engaged in politics and business than overseeing their barracks and ensuring security.” He adds:

If that criticism gains momentum while the economy tanks and the government’s big business backers visibly thrive, a new era of political confrontation pitting the conservative forces now propping Prayut and new genuinely progressive ones coalescing in the political opposition could break into the open sooner than most expect.

While a political crisis might be seen off in the usual repressive ways, an economic decline would test the resolve of the big businesses that prospered under the junta. Thailand’s big banks “are unevenly exposed to a handful of big borrowers, namely the ‘five family’ corporations that contributed generously to Prayut’s Palang Pracharat Party’s (PPRP) election campaign…”. At the time of writing, Crispin argued that:

Those corporate links will come under scrutiny if the opposition Peua Thai and Future Forward parties deliver as avowed at an upcoming no-confidence debate that will target PPRP ministers, including Prayut, while looking past other parties’ ministers who, with a shift in political winds, could jump to join a future anti-PPRP government.

That might be less likely now that the Constitutional Court has done its job, but the threat remains that deals done with the Sino-Thai tycoons could be revealed.

Matching Ties: Prayuth and CP Group chairman Dhanin Chearavanont (2nd R) and ThaiBev founder billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi (L). Photo: AFP Forum/Chanat Katanyu (clipped from Asia Times)

Some of the deals included “a land deal involving an alleged subsidiary of ThaiBev created just a day before it purchased Bangkok land from Prayut’s family for 600 million baht ($19.2 million), a sum [that] … far exceeds the land’s underlying market value.”

The Sirivadhanabhakdi family’s investments include “One Bangkok” an “integrated development being built in league with the Crown Property Bureau…. The 120 billion baht ($3.5 billion) development … is the largest ever undertaken in the kingdom.” The Sino-Thai tycoons, the military and the monarchy have dominated politics and business for decades.

Meanwhile, at The Nation, economist Anusorn Tamajai, the director of the Economic and Business Research Centre for Reform at Rangsit University’s Institute of Economics, commented on the dissolution of Future Forward:

He said that the case “showed that Thailand’s semi-democracy is being interrupted by anti-democracy elite.” He observed that “most democratic countries did not dissolve political parties because they were institutions of citizens that maintained the stability of the country’s democracy.” In Thailand, however, “[t]he anti-democracy elite’s attempt to maintain its authority shows that this country does not have the rule of law…”. He reckoned this “has caused a heavy impact on the economy and will cause more impact in the future, especially on investment.”

He further explained that “[t]he Constitution, laws, regulations, and independent organisations arose from the coup d’etat, so the legal form has been always questioned in terms of justice…”, adding:

If the Constitutional Court is able to rule based on justice and treats all parties equally, the conflict will be resolved. But if it is not, the dissolution of political parties and the revocation of political rights will occur continuously, resulting in conflict in society.

How much trouble is the regime in? Much depends a lot on the reaction of Future Forward’s supporters.





With two updates: “Law” and repression II

8 10 2019

It gets worse.

Khaosod reports that police on Tuesday (or it may have been Monday evening) arrested Karn Pongpraphapan, 25, a pro-democracy campaigner who they accused of spreading “hatred” toward the monarchy in an online post.

Karn was taken into custody “at his home last night and taken to a police station where he was charged with violating the cybercrime law. Karn now faces up to five years in jail.

As is often the case in the lawlessness associated with rule by law and acts said to involve the monarchy, the “police statement did not specify what Karn wrote, but described it as an ‘inappropriate content on Facebook spreading hatred’ which ‘upset a number of people’ after it was widely shared.”

As usual, Karn is charged under a section of the Computer Crime Act banning content that “pose a threat to national security.”

His lawyer, Winyat Chatmontree denied the charge and said:

the message in question was a public Facebook post Karn wrote on Oct. 2, which asked “How do you want it to end?”

Karn then went on to reference historical events involving past foreign monarchies, such as “shooting like the Russians,” “beheading by guillotine like the French,” and “exiled like the Germans.”

Winyat stressed that “Karn’s writing did not mention the Thai monarchy in any way. He also disputed speculation on social media that Karn was criticizing the recent traffic woes allegedly caused by royal motorcade in Bangkok.” He said: “He was talking about the history of other nations.” He says that it was others who distorted his client’s writing.

The report adds that “[t]he arrest came several days after digital economy minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta announced that the police were on the verge of ‘purging’ anti-monarchy figures on social media.”

It is no coincidence that, at the same time that Karn languished in jail, Minister for Digital Censorship Buddhipongse issued a directive that “cafe and restaurant operators with free wifi service must collect internet traffic data used by their customers up to 90 days, or face punishment.” He “explained” that “officials may need to request for the information under Article 26 of the Computer Crimes Act…”.

It is also no coincidence that this follows that mass outbreak of complaints about the monarchy.

Update 1: Khaosod reports that the watchman, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, wants five people arrested on these (disguised) lese majeste charges of making “inappropriate” online comments about the monarchy.

In an attempt to deflect criticism from the throne, the king has arranged it with the regime that charges other than lese majeste are now used for those considered to have insulted the monarchy. (The regime has also taken to enforced disappearance, torture and murder in dealing with anti-monarchists.)

Prawit babbled “we’ll have to prosecute them, because their wrongdoing involves attacking the monarchy.”

Minister for Digitial Censorship Buddhipongse said Karn was not targeted “for his political beliefs.” He’s fibbing. He invoked rule by law, claiming that Karn’s nighttime arrest was a matter for the courts.

Buddhipongseis an anti-democrat from the People’s Democratic Reform Committee who became a junta spokesman, then a member of the junta’s front party and is now a minister.

(We should add that it was only a couple of weeks ago that Shawn Crispin at Asia Times trumpeted Thailand as being post-authoritarian, erroneously claiming: “Political scores are being aired and contested in the open, not through late-night police state knocks on the door…”. We remain confused how a journalist can whitewash the current regime’s political repression.)

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that Karn was granted bail late on Tuesday.





Updated: Royalist plotting

19 09 2019

Among others, Khaosod noted the “report” that was “seen on PM [Gen] Prayuth Chan-ocha’s desk during a parliament session on Wednesday” when he did not respond to his unconstitutional oath.

That official document is apparently titled “Network Plotting to Destroy the Nation…”. Initially, “Government spokeswoman Naruemon Pinyosinwat said the report was compiled by officials who work on ‘national security issues,’ but declined to elaborate, saying the content is ‘classified’.”

Khaosod observed that the “report’s cover photo appears to show the aftermath of a recent bomb attack in Bangkok.”

The Bangkok Post has more detail, translating the report’s title as “network of elements sabotaging the nation…”. Its anonymous “source within the government” disclosed that the report was “prepared for a briefing by intelligence and security agencies,” with “the elements” claimed to be “sabotaging the nation” are “political figures whose acts are deemed to offend the high institution of the monarchy.”

In other words, as has been since the period leading up to the 2006 military coup, the royalist military and its supporters are concocting yet another “plot” against the monarchy. This follows concoctions like the Finland Plot and the infamous anti-monarchy “plot” and “diagram” under the royalist military-backed Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has confirmed that it “has information about a network…”.

As the Post observes, no names have been mentioned, but Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong “had previously mentioned some groups which he believed intended to harm the country…” and referred to “a movement which was trying to provoke a civil war between ‘pro-democracy’ and ‘pro-junta’ factions.” He was essentially attacking the Future Forward Party.

And it was only a few days ago that the Criminal Court ruled that ultra-royalist prince Chulcherm Yugala, who declared the Future Forward Party dangerous republicans “seeking to overthrow the monarchy,” had not libeled that party.

Quite obviously, the military, its ISOC – an “intelligence” agency – and the regime is going to use the monarchy against democratic and parliamentary opposition.

Such plotting by the regime may be dismissed as the musings of old generals who crave power and serve the ruling class.

However, such maniacal plotting in the military and probably in the palace has real and terrible consequences such as military coups, lese majeste, jailings, bashing of opponents, enforced disappearance and torture and murder.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

Even in recent days, the family of victims of such accusations have been harassed by the regime thought police. Kanya Theerawut, the mother of missing political refugee Siam Theerawut, disclosed “that the Rights and Liberties Protection Department [a useless part of the Ministry of Justice] … told her not to take her son’s case to the UN, as it could ruin the country’s image.” We think the regime has done plenty to ruin Thailand’s image. She was also “visited and questioned by Special Branch officers…”, which is a standard regime means of intimidation.

It is the royalist plotting that is most intense and most deranged. It is also hugely expensive. This regime plotting is far more dangerous than anti-monarchists.

Update: A reader points out that the report on the political harassment of Kanya came just a couple of days after Shawn Crispin at Asia Times erroneously claimed: “Political scores are being aired and contested in the open, not through late-night police state knocks on the door…”. Like the reader, we are confused as to why a journalist would want to whitewash the current regime’s political repression.





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.





On the lese majeste regime

17 10 2018

Shawn Crispin at Asia Times has a longish piece on lese majeste. He’s making a point about a seeming change to the lese majeste regime that has been noted by several analysts for several weeks, but still has some points worth considering.

He focuses on the controversial dropping of Sulak Sirivaksa’s Article 112 case when he “appealed to monarch [King] … Vajiralongkorn for a royal reprieve.”

Sulak “claims the case was stopped after King Vajiralongkorn advised Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha on the situation.”

Readers should note that this claim runs contrary to the palace’s long-held propaganda claim that the monarchy does not interfere in lese majeste cases. (There were several instances where the previous king and his palace did intervene, but the propaganda has been otherwise.)

Sulak is quoted as stating: “If the case went to the military tribunal, they were bound to put me in jail without any law, because the law doesn’t mean anything to them…”. Sulak is partly correct in this guess, but, then, no lese majeste case has ever stuck for him.

He says The Dictator was uninterested until the king intervened: “… when the King told him to drop the case, obviously it was royal advice that worked.”

Crispin suggests that the huge lese majeste “clampdown has come against the backdrop of what was once seen as an uncertain royal succession…”, ignoring the fact that the rise in the use of lese majeste predates the 2014 coup. PPT sees the use of Article 112 as a part of political efforts to rid Thailand of republicanism and to defeat the red shirts.

How Crispin concludes that the “military top brass [is]… now seemingly poised to relinquish power at democracy-restoring polls early next year…” is beyond our comprehension. However, he is right to see “signs that the fearsome law will be used less frequently, if at all, under the new reign,” although he does not note that the crown prince-cum-king was fearsome himself in the use of lese majeste against persons he saw as personal enemies. This included deaths in custody.

Sulak is then cited on his discussions with the king. He “says King Vajiralongkorn recognized the law’s past abuse for political purposes in a recent personal audience he had with the King where he offered his royally sought advice on myriad issues.”

Presumably Sulak has been given royal permission to say these things; that is, he is the king’s messenger. He does this by adhering to palace propaganda about the dead king: “I told the King his father said that clearly – it’s on record – that anybody that makes the case of lese majeste harms him personally and undermines the monarchy…”.

He then says that in his own case, “you can say publicly the king wrote personally to the Supreme Court and Attorney General, and since then there have been no new cases under [Article] 112.”

Sulak, adding to the new royalist discourse on the new monarchy, says that the recent dropping of 112 charges “are indicative of the new King’s ‘mercy’.” As with all royalist discourse, this involves untruths: “[King Bhumibol] regarded himself as a constitutional monarch, so he would not interfere,” but of course he did.  Sulak says of the previous king: “He used an indirect way, the Siamese way, he talked to the judges, he talked to the public prosecutor, but then many ignored his advice.” Of course, this is nonsense.

Interestingly, Sulak claims: “it is clear now that future cases will only be accepted for investigation and prosecution with the royal household’s consent. That, he says, marks a change from father to son.”

That is good news, perhaps. There remain about 60 cases of lese majeste still under the purview of prosecutors and the judiciary. But is is not such good news to have it confirmed that Vajiralongkorn is a determined interventionist, likely to ignore law, parliament and judiciary. Sulak states: “… the present King, unlike his father, he not only advises, he instructs…”.

As Crispin notes:

King Vajiralongkorn has moved with an alacrity and purpose in consolidating his reign that few diplomatic and other observers anticipated or foresaw upon his acceptance of the throne in late 2016. That’s entailed a recentralization of royal power….

Sulak seems to revel in his new role as royal spokesman. But beware the royalist who speaks for royal power.





Delusion and reality

10 08 2018

A report in the Bangkok Post suggests that the military junta is delusional. But we don’t think they are, at least not on this one. Rather, the junta’s minions at the National Legislative Assembly, are exceeding themselves in fabricating news, piling buffalo excrement mountain high. As we posted yesterday, the NLA, in doing the junta’s bidding and scrapping the (old) Election Commission’s selections for poll inspectors. It is clear that the junta, after falling out with the (old) EC, wants these appointments to be of their men and women.

As this move has been controversial, the dolts at the NLA’s Secretariat claim to have conducted an online poll on the move. Guess what? It “shows 100% of respondents support a bid by some NLA members to seek legal amendments to nullify the selection of poll inspectors — a move which could further delay the general election expected early next year.”

By Thursday, every single one of about 6,800 people who went to the site “voiced support for the proposed amendments which will effectively scrap the entire process…”. We actually believe this because we’d think the junta and the NLA mobilized soldiers, their cyber-snoops and other supporters to go to the site and “vote.”

Such stuffing of the “ballot box” may be a last ditch strategy for the junta when it comes to the “election” that may be held some time in the future. In making this prediction, we were reminded of some comments in a recent story by Shawn Crispin at the Asia Times Online, who was also betting on a “May election.”

Crispin points to “local media … awash with reports that the newly formed, pro-junta Palang Pracharat Party has poached politicians from both Peua Thai and the Democrats, with some local papers suggesting that either party could collapse under the weight of the supposed defections.” The Palang Pracharath lot reckon they have the “election” sown up under the junta’s rules. The report cites “Suchart Chanataramanee, the party’s co-founder and [Gen] Prayut[h Chan-ocha]’s military academy classmate, [who] has boldly predicted Palang Pracharat will win the next polls, though not with a majority. If no party wins an outright majority, the military-appointed Senate lends its vote to picking the next premier, a scenario that favors Prayut.”

But Crispin questions whether “the junta believes it is luring enough vote-winning politicians, as well as its own propaganda touting Prayut’s supposedly strong grass roots popularity, to finally hold long-delayed elections…”. He adds that “most independent analysts believe it will resoundingly lose.” He cites some statistics:

Reasons abound to doubt recent rosy pro-junta projections. Suan Dusit, a local pollster, showed in June that 55% of respondents saw Peua Thai as the country’s top party, with the Democrats at 34% and Palang Pracharat at a mere 17%. A National Institute of Development Administration survey in May also showed Peua Thai outpacing Palang Pracharat, though by a narrower 32% to 25% margin.

Polls conducted by the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), a military spy agency, have consistently shown that Peua Thai would resoundingly win new polls, a person familiar with the surveys told Asia Times. Those results haven’t changed even with Prayut’s recent populist-style forays upcountry, the same source says.

Crispin then wonders whether there will be an election, saying the junta “still has election escape routes…”.

One is the king’s coronation, and that hasn’t been announced.

Another is that the king could ask for amendments to the election laws.

Then there’s the unnamed “official close to the premier [who] says some in the junta remain reluctant to hold elections that could tilt towards instability while Thailand holds next year’s rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), a statesman role Prayut would apparently relish as a prestigious capstone to his tenure.”

And there are others not mentioned: the junta may just decide to stay on; the junta could create instability so it can stay on; the election inspector fiasco could delay the poll; the queen might die and require a military-managed funeral; the junta could hold an election and cheat and manipulate to win it (the Cambodia model); and so on.

Whatever excuse, with Thaksin Shinawatra criticizing the junta and declaring his forces will win the long struggle, the junta will be considering all its anti-democratic options.





Thaksin is still the opponent

3 06 2018

Asia Times commentator Shawn Crispin writes about what is obvious to all but the military junta dare not express in words.

His account is a bit too junta-esque in other ways. For example, he or perhaps an editor states: “Thailand’s politics are percolating again with legal clearance for democracy-restoring polls in February 2019. But will they be free and fair?”

The answer to the question is a resounding NO. It isn’t even a question worth asking. It seems to us that the junta’s “election” will only be in February if The Dictator and his cronies believe they have a better chance to get their favored lot elected then. Otherwise, expect more delays and more repression.

The claim that the military “overthrew a Peua Thai-led elected government … [after] months of anti-government street protests sparked by a Peua Thai bid to pass … an amnesty that may have allowed the criminally convicted Thaksin to return to the kingdom as a free man” is only partly correct.

It should not be forgotten that many red shirts opposed the blanket amnesty. And, as important, it should not be forgotten that Suthep Thaugsuban and the Democrat Party were just the last of a series of military-backed efforts to undermine the Yingluck Shinawatra government. In 2011, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha had publicly announced that people should not vote for Puea Thai. There were then all kinds of efforts to (re)create a street movement. The amnesty bungle provided a spark that gave the anti-democrats more traction on the streets.

The notion that The Dictator and his junta “has endeavored since to uproot Thaksin’s and his younger sister ex-premier Yingluck[’s]… populist legacies … in the name of curbing corruption, restoring finances and political reform” is nonsense. Time and again, the junta has implemented policies plagiarized from those administrations.

But Crispin is right to observe that the junta “despite [the]… regime’s best blunt efforts, will be hard-pressed to erase Shinawatra family memories from voters’ minds.” Military surveys have shown this. Crispin knows this. He states:

One source with access to high-level junta officials says that the military’s own internal forecasting, conducted by its all-seeing Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), has consistently shown Peua Thai will win resoundingly, even with Prayut’s more recent efforts to put a more human, pro-poor face on his militaristic regime.

But that’s not the junta’s task. That is to splinter parties and have several devil parties that will “united” in coalition to allow for Prayuth to continue as premier.

He’s also right to observe that it is clear that the junta “intends to manage the elections on its own strict terms, including likely bans on acceptable and unacceptable political discourse on the campaign trail.”

Crispin later states correctly that:

…the junta’s ideal scenario, no single party will win an outright majority – a near but not 100% certainty under election rules put in deliberate place to prevent a landslide Peua Thai victory – and with a deadlock the military’s appointed Senate lends its numbers to select Prayut atop a coalition of parties in a military-friendly “national unity” government.

When he cites analysts as believing “the regime aims to stage the elections in the same repressed vein as the 2016 referendum…” is a point we have made many times.

It is very clear that Gen Prayuth will be loathe to tolerate an “election” that does not have him as boss.





“Election,” king and politics in 2018

3 01 2018

For the start of 2018, three academic commentators and a journalist have had a go at crystal-balling Thailand’s political future.

Academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun continues his recent lauding the dead king. We at PPT find this quite odd, but it seems Pavin feels that a good king-bad king scenario makes the bad king look badder still. We think he’s wrong to gild the previous reign.

He is right when he says: “Some analysts predicted that Vajiralongkorn would be a weak king dominated by a strong army due to his lack of moral authority and divinity. But the new King has proved these pundits wrong.” This assessment also seems correct:

King Vajiralongkorn has embarked on consolidating his power with the backing of the military. It appears that Thailand’s two most prominent institutions — the monarchy and the military — have attempted to establish a constructive working relationship in order to entrench their respective political standings (at least during this critical royal transition period).

The military king

That relationship has seen the “military … work[ing] towards achieving two goals: eliminating its political enemies and legitimising itself as a political actor.”

He concludes that “the future of Thailand is undefined. 2018 will test the longevity of the interdependent relations between Vajiralongkorn and the military. If such longevity is guaranteed, Thai democracy will be shouldered with another setback.”

Michael Montesano, also an academic, seems sure of a couple of things for 2018: a coronation and the junta’s “election.” But he backtracks on the latter, suggesting it may again be pushed back. He also gets into a bit of good king-bad king stuff, and like Pavin sees Vajiralongkorn as activist/interventionist:

Since the demise of his father, King Vajiralongkorn has been far from passive. But he has devoted his attention above all to matters relating to the management and reordering of royal affairs and to the relationship of the monarchy to the government…. He has not yet begun publicly to define an overarching mission for his reign.

His musings on the future of the monarchy are not particularly convincing to us. But his discussion of the military junta’s role is. He refers to “an ideological orientation” that has the military and junta seeking “to integrate Thai citizens into national affairs without reference to political parties and elections.” On the junta’s “elections,” Montesano sees them as a test of the military regime’s “effort to introduce a political order of lasting quiescence in Thailand.”

Academic Duncan McCargo, acknowledging that The Dictator is “always seems to be trying to wriggle out of it [the junta’s election],” is also unsure about the political future, suggesting five post-election “scenarios.” For all the rumors about new parties – the junta’s and splits from the Democrat Party – and the junta’s more than three years of attacks and repression, McCargo reckons the Puea Thai Party vote could hold up. Even so, “[t]he dice could be loaded the against a pro-Thaksin victory in 2018.” Strikingly, McCargo says almost nothing about the monarchy.

Journalist Shawn Crispin thinks that military regimes that try to stay on tend to be unstable and face civilian uprisings. While he tends to ignore military and military-backed regimes that have had considerable longevity in Thailand, he is the only commentator in this group who considers a civilian uprising against the military a possibility.

He is right that “Thailand’s enterprising but repressed media” seems prepared to “to press the current generation of military coup-makers to hold elections as promised in late 2018 and for coup leader cum premier General Prayuth Chan-ocha to refrain from clinging to power after the polls.”

Crispin notes that “while the media has exposed [the junta’s] massive irregularities” – corruption – the relatively united regime has been able to cover-up using repressive measures:

… the junta’s ironfisted grip on power, underwritten by a hard ban on political association that deems any meeting of more than five people illegal. Invasive state surveillance has also ferreted out and suppressed potential anti-junta agitators before they can mobilize and take to the streets.

He also sees “Thaksin is circling again” as an “election” is anticipated:

Prayuth and Prawit [Wongsuwan] clearly sense an electoral scenario where Thaksin’s coup-ousted Peua Thai is resoundingly restored at the ballot box and their plans to sustain a political role for the military are challenged as illegitimate.

While he says precious little about the monarchy, Crispin does foresee scenarios that involve the king in further delays to an election if the regime feels threatened.

2018 will be interesting.








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