Democrat Party or Party Abhisit?

28 04 2013

It is telling that Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva is opposing widespread calls for the reform of his party. That might be expected as calls for reform are usually attached to quieter grumbles that Abhisit is politically tainted by his term as leader, association with the military and his murderous attempts to crush the red shirts in 2009 and 2010. At the same time, his resistance and his control of the party via a few elite, English-educated cronies is indicative of his authoritarian streak and his pompous stubbornness when in government.

Oddly, in one report at the Bangkok Post, Abhisit is declared to have “backed proposals by his deputy to reform the party’s structure ahead of the next general election.” The most recent calls for change have come from deputy party leader Alongkorn Ponlaboot and party stalwart Bhichai Rattakul.

Abhisit downplayed Alongkorn’s suggestions lumping them in with “different ideas for party reform” put forward by “several party MPs.” He has been even more dismissive of Bhichai, having others claim that the senior figure is in bed with the party’s “enemies.”Abhisit

Abhisit demands that reform “remain an internal affair at this stage” and arguing that such change and debate “could be exploited by the party’s opponents to create conflict among members and confusion among the public…”. In other words, Abhisit is trying to squash reform and in doing so threatens his own tenuous position and risks a party split. He is supported by several party members clustered around former leader Chuan Leekpai, who has no track record of reform or change in the royalist party.

Abhisit’s line is that “party members should focus on their role as the opposition to monitor the government…”, suggesting to PPT that he is content to have his party stay in opposition with no new ideas and stifling any alternative voices.

The negativity associated with Abhisit’s stonewalling is highlighted in another report at the Bangkok Post that refers to the Democrat Party having “been pounded from all sides to undergo reform and become more appealing to voters, [but] the Democrat Party is finding that any efforts it makes to instigate change are meeting with resistance.” The resistance from the Party Abhisit cronies.

This report refers to the calls for change being attacked by Chuan, using the same language as Abhisit as he “insists the party’s internal affairs should not be laundered in public.” Heaven forbid that the royalist party should engage in public debate! It seems that the party that provided no democracy in government can not allow democracy in its own structures.

The report states that many in the party:

want party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva to listen to members who are not in his inner circle…. Mr Abhisit’s inner circle consists of young, foreign-educated MPs such as Songkhla’s Sirichoke Sopha and party list-MP Chavanond Intarakomalyasut. Other stalwarts with close ties to Mr Abhisit are members of the so-called ”Gang of Four” _ MP for Trang Sathit Wongnongtoey, party list-MPs Anchalee Wanich Theppabutr and Siriwan Prasajaksatru and MP for Phitsanulok Juti Krairiksh.

This group is the one that stood behind Abhisit in his kowtowing to the military and his government’s murderous attacks on red shirts, demanding that there be no compromise with the “enemy.” This group seems to be the one arguing that:

Only Mr Abhisit, Mr Chuan and former party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban know what the Democrats’ key problems requiring reform are.

Given that these are the opponents of reform, this claim is nothing more than recognition that the Democrat Party, which abandoned democratic ideas, is essentially owned by a coterie of elitists and royalists who run it as a fiefdom.





Democrat Party men in black II

15 10 2012

PPT originally put some of this post as an update to our earlier one on the Democrat Party’s “rally” and repeated claims about so-called men in black. As more news has come out, we have made this a second part of that earlier post.

In the first place, we want to draw attention to Siam Voices and its useful account of the Democrat Party “rally” of supporters. That post mirrors several of the points PPT made in our earlier post and highlights Abhisit’s repeated claims that “men in black” were the cause of all violence. It is noted that the rally was “primarily held to fire up their own supporter base…” and, we would add, probably also to try to combat polling that repeatedly indicates that the Puea Thai government remains well ahead of the Democrat Party. Siam Voices points out: “what is particularly striking is the apparent willingness of the Democrat Party to still overlook the role of the military during the protests…”. In fact. it does more than “overlook;” the party and its leadership repeatedly reject the evidence that the military murdered people.

A second point to note is that Thaksin Shinawatra has gone on the (legal) attack, with the Bangkok Post reporting that he has instructed lawyers to sue Democrat Party leader “Abhisit [Vejjajiva], deputy party leader Korn Chatikavanij, Surat Thani MP Suthep Thaugsuban, Songkhla MP Sirichok Sopha and Rayong MP Sathit Pitutecha” for the claims they made regarding Thaksin’s alleged links to the “men in black.” A complaint was to be made with the Lumpini police.

Puea Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said ‘[t]hese leading members of the Denocrat Party [sic. Deni-ocrat? Democrat?] had accused Thaksin of being behind the men in black…. [and] said it was not true that Thaksin was took command of the men in black with an intention of causing loss of lives and using the people as his tool to return to power. Thaksin had never joined in any meeting or given any order for action.  He did not know who the men in black were…”.





The Democrat Party and red villages

16 05 2012

We read this at the Bangkok Post (time stamped 3:26 PM):

The government is using tax money to help the Pheu Thai Party and the red-shirts open red-shirt villages in the South, a move which could further divide the people, Democrat Party MP for Songkhla Sirichoke Sopha said on Tuesday.

Mr Sirichoke said this was obviously for the government’s own political interests and contrary to its policy to bring about reconciliation.

For example, various activities were organised prior to the opening of a red-shirt village in Chana district of Songkhla province on May 14.

Moreover, a training course was planned for the people in the village on June 2-3 under the “Red All Over the Land” project.  Guest speakers would include United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship chair Tida Thavornseth and Pheu Thai Party list MPs Jatuporn Prompan and Weng Tojirakan….

Mr Sirichok called on the government to clarify the sources of the funds to carry out these activities.

If the government did not want to further divide the people, it must stop supporting the opening of more red-shirt villages, he said….

Then we read this at the Bangkok Post (time stamped 4:57 PM):

A pavilion in a brand new red-shirt village in Songkhla was set on fire and razed to the ground on Tuesday morning.

The arsonist struck only a day after Tida Tavornseth, chairwoman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), presided over the opening ceremony of the red-shirt village in Songkhla’s Chana district.

Police initially suspected the motive was political, because some local people were not happy with the red-shirt movement’s push into the southern province.

The southern region is the traditional political stronghold of the opposition Democrat Party.

However party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut quickly denied his party was in any way involved in the fire or supported arson.

His party was not calling on people in Songkhla and Phuket to protest against the red-shirt movement’s activities in their areas, he said.

The Democrats only told people in the South the truth. They were well aware of the UDD’s hidden agenda….

“It’s just that some red-shirts want to brainwash southern youth and plant wrong ideologies into their minds.”…

By the time the second story was put up, the Post has combined the two stories. It is an interesting placement of the initial stories at the website . Finally, we read this at the Bangkok Post:

… The fire broke out just hours after Tida Tawornseth, chairwoman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), presided over a ceremony celebrating the establishment of the red-shirt village at the same pavilion.

The UDD claimed the aim of establishing the red-shirt village was to promote democracy and people’s participation in government policy.

But the move has angered many people in Songkhla province, where at least 10 villages have been set up in three tambons.

Ms Tida condemned those who started the fire and said she suspected a political party was behind protests against the red-shirt movement in the southern provinces….





Democrat Party and Blue Sky Channel

1 03 2012

A reader sent PPT a link to a story in the Thai-language newspaper Daily News that might be of interest to others. A report is also now in the Bangkok Post.

In the story, it is reported that a group called the Media for Democracy Club has petitioned parliament’s House committee on law, justice and human rights regarding the Democrat Party’s alleged share ownership in the satellite television station Blue Sky Channel. The petitioners claim that the station was founded by former Democrat Party Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and that shares are held by the party. This is said to be in breach of the constitution and reason for dissolving the party.

Article 48 of the constitution states:

No person holding a political position shall be the owner of, or hold shares in, newspaper, radio or television broadcasting or telecommunication business, irrespective of whether he so commits in his name, or through his proxy or nominee, or by other direct or indirect means which enable him to administer such business as if he is the owner of, or hold shares in, such business.

This is not a particularly new story in that when the channel was launched in November 2011, questions were immediately raised about affiliation with the Democrat Party. What is new is the petition to parliament and claims that Democrat Party member Sirichoke Sopha has claimed that he pays the satellite bill for the station.

When the station was launched, The Nation stated that the principal was a “former president of the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association,” Takerng Somthup. He said the satellite television was launched to “provide news and information programmes to support people in rural communities.” The report immediately added that: “Questions have been raised about the channel’s political affiliation due to a variety talk by the leader of the opposition.”

The report went on to note that the first show highlighted was a “a variety talk show” that featured Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. Party members promoted the station and “Abhisit’s programme,” and stated that although “the channel’s identity, colour and theme were akin to that of the Democrat Party,” denied “any link between the station and the party, saying the party would be violating the Constitution if it became involved.”

The channel was essentially set up to be the voice of the Democrat Party and aimed at countering red shirt media in rural areas and promoted anti-Puea Thai and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra shows and commentators.

The claim that the party and members are shareholders has been denied by the party in a story at the Bangkok Post (linked above).





Thaksin, monarchy and the pardon (again)

18 11 2011

Predictably, there is a huge ruckus in the mainstream media and amongst the royalist bloggers and social media activists regarding the still strange story of a “closed door” cabinet meeting that has apparently come up with a draft royal decree that might allow Thaksin Shinawatra to be included in the king’s birthday list of thousands usually released following a pardon, along with about 26,000 others in jail and facing jail.

The story originates from Democrat Party parliamentarian Sirichoke Sopha and is now a rallying call, arguably bigger than alleged mismanagement of floods, for the anti-Thaksin, anti-Red Shirt, anti-Puea Thai Party and pro-royalist opposition.

As important background, PPT urges its readers to consult Bangkok Pundit’s account of the history and process of mass pardons associated with birthday and anniversaries associated with the monarch. Pundit points out that the pardon issue is not exactly new, mentioning earlier posts on discussions of the topic. Interestingly, Pundit observes that: “Last year’s Royal Decree for Royal Pardons [under the Democrat Party-led government] had a provision that it applied to those aged over 60 and have a period of imprisonment not exceeding three years…”.

In addition, vociferous and dogged anti-Thaksin activist Kaewsan Atibhodhi is quoted as having noted that the requirement to have served one-third of a sentence was also removed by that government. Kaewsan stated: “Especially regulations that may be to the advantage of Thaksin is the regulation that those aged over 60 and who have less than 3 years of their sentence for the 2007 pardon there was condition that must have served one-third of sentence, but in 2010 the government removed his condition so for 2011 the Yingluck government has the freedom to choose either the 2007 pardon regulations or the 2010 pardon regulations as they prefer…”.

In short, the current government has indeed chosen the 2010 regulations. Presumably Kaewsan and other activists didn’t jump up and down when the Democrat Party made these changes because they knew that Thaksin would be specifically excluded. Now, however, they have gone ballistic.

In the current struggle, the initial claims by the Democrat Party, taken up by the media, focused on the “secret” nature of the cabinet meeting. But aren’t all cabinet meetings behind closed doors? Apparently not. One Bangkok Post opinion seems to imply they are not: “Unlike the approval of similar decrees by previous governments, this draft to seek a royal pardon for convicts on His Majesty the King’s 84th birthday this Dec 5, was approved in a meeting behind closed doors.” Funny, we don’t recall the Abhisit Vejjajiva government being “transparent” in its decision-making in the cabinet. This is perhaps now a triviality associated with this reporting, but every media endlessly parrots it. None seem to mention the legal changes made by the Democrat Party.

Reading the newspapers now has a decidedly retro feel to it, with all of the anti-Thaksin groups suddenly roused from their focus on alleged floods mismanagement, law suits and rehabilitating the Army. For example, the Bangkok Post has a story that cites the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) that explains “it will meet soon to decide what action to take against the proposed pardon.” Most analysts had written PAD off, but as PPT has argued, this is premature. PAD’s boss, Sondhi Limthongkul is also cited, and is reported to have “deplored the pardon plan which he said has piled pressure on the monarchy.” Sondhi claimed “the Pheu Thai Party was blatantly trying to destroy the rule of law…”. Calling this “despicable,” Sondhi declared that PAD would “not sit idly by.”

Meanwhile, the report states that more than “20,000 people signed up to a Facebook account opened by well-known television news anchor Kanok Ratwongsakul … to voice opposition to the decree.” Kanok is one of the anti-Thaksin and anti-Red Shirt mainstays of the mainstream media and closely associated with the anti-Thaksin Nation Group (see here and here). As can be seen in its annual report (a large PDF), both he and his wife held important positions at the NBC of the Nation Group.

Kaewsan is also reported. He said his “Siam Samakkhi group also protested against the royal decree proposal.” He (now) claims that the “royal decree was unconstitutional because it ran counter to the court’s ruling.” He shouts: “How dare you exercise the limited power of the executive to overpower the judiciary for the interest of one man.” That argument will have political clout, but Kaewsan neglects that the decree is a draft that has yet to be approved – as a first step – by the Council of State who look at issues of constitutionality.

Ignoring that step in the legal process, Kaewsan “called for the whole cabinet to be impeached, saying if it stayed, it would amend the constitution to free Thaksin from many other corruption cases. He also recommended Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra be impeached and said that as the prime minister, she could not deny responsibility for the planned decree.”

Kaewsan’s call was supported by yellow shirt, hard-core royalist and appointed senator Somchai Sawaengkarn who joined with the Siam Samakkhi Group (again). Somchai has been behind lese majeste allegations against several political opponents, including Thaksin. Somchai was supported by yellow-shirted Bangkok Senator Rosana Tositrakul who has a long record of opposing the current administration and its supporters. She was vociferous in not wanting an election in 2011, fearing a loss for the royalist party.

Also roused is Tul Sitthisomwong, a long-time PAD activist who is repeatedly identified in the media as “leader of the multi-coloured shirts.” The Nation reports that Tul has already “lodged a complaint with the Council of State against the draft decree. He said opponents of the decree would hold a rally at Lumpini Park today to air their opposition to pardoning Thaksin.”

Rounding out the reconstitution of royalist and anti-Thaksin oppositions, business and academics are reacting. The Bangkok Post claims: “Business leaders are uncomfortable with the cabinet’s approval of draft royal decree for a royal pardon that could include Thaksin Shinawatra, saying it could add political risk at a time when businesses are already suffering from floods.” It seems that capitalists fear more political instability.

Predictably, the Bangkok Post reports that a “large group of academics has joined the growing chorus opposed to the Pheu Thai-led government’s proposed royal decree to pardon jailed convicts on the King’s birthday.” Apparently “large” is less than 90 academics nationwide. Their attempt to be novel on this issue is to claim that the release of “convicted drug and corruption offenders … would further widen the wedge in society, undermine national security and create chaos.” Of course, their spokesperson is from the royalist political science faculty at Chulalongkorn University, which has been remarkably yellow. They even predict “nationwide chaos next year…”.

Of course, the Democrat Party joined these calls, claiming the draft decree “would undermine the justice system and divide society further.” PPT always finds such claims about social division and rule of law laughable when they come from this party, which perpetuated and enhanced “division” as the tool of royalists and in defending the rules and laws of the military junta. Abhisit “confirmed that his party would fight the proposal to the end as it would bring about national disunity.” What he means is that Thaksin remains the devil incarnate and the “national unity” expressed in votes can be ignored. And, he’d so love to have some outside force lift him back to the position he knows he deserves as premier.

The Democrat Party is already looking at impeachment on this case, along with the alleged flood mismanagement where, as reported at The Nation, it has already “lodged an impeachment motion against Justice Minister Pracha Promnok…” and six other Puea Thai Party parliamentarians, several of them red shirts.

So just as the floods have seen a rehabilitation of the military, the pardon issue promises a reconstitution of the yellow-shirted alliances of 2005-06. And, the legal challenges to yet another elected government begin.

Nowhere is this rounding up of anti-Thaksin elements clearer than in the call by PAD for yellow “civil society” to “wake up” and for royal action. Suwat Aphaiphak, PAD’s long-time lawyer saidd “PAD is likely to turn to the National Anti-Corruption Commission for help, as the royal decree is against several NACC laws. Any opposition to the draft from the NACC will provide enough grounds for the Privy Council not to forward the amnesty decree to His Majesty for endorsement.”

Suwat’s call to the Privy Council was supported by “Preecha Suwannathat, former law dean of Thammasat University and an ex-Democrat MP,” who “said the proposed changes would violate the law” and said “he hoped the Privy Council would exercise good judgement when vetting the draft decree if the government insisted on proposing it to the King.”

Interestingly, Suwat claimed that street demonstrations would not be the way forward as “nobody can match the power of the red shirts who are looking forward to the return of Thaksin.” So, as the lessons of recent years have been digested, the action will shift to judicial areas, where the royalists have considerable support.

Another take on this issue is from the red shirt sympathetic who are scratching their heads as to why the Thaksin issue is raised now. PPT has already posted Ji Ungpakorn’s challenge, much of which we agree with. Somsak Jeamteerasakul has said “the government should exercise laws for the public interest instead of that of an individual. He said many pro-Thaksin red shirt protesters had not been treated fairly. It was not right for the government to draft the decree to help Thaksin…”.

In what now can only be a footnote to the rapidly gathering political action is the question of “why now?” The mainstream media has been saying it is because the government’s popularity is declining, it must act now on Thaksin. PPT doesn’t buy this line. Of course, the government has to have a draft amnesty decree in place by the time of the king’s birthday and this important anniversary. It may have been delayed by the floods, but we are still left to ponder why it is that the Puea Thai government has decided to be deliberately provocative when it knows that this action will re-galvanize its opponents.





Updated: More on Viktor Bout

30 08 2010

The Bout story continues to develop. The New York Times has more background and current information, including a link to Bout’s website.  Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is traipsing about the world in his “war” with Thaksin Shinawatra, he found time to demand that the US and Russia “respect its [Thailand’s] justice system, its integrity and procedures involving the Thai Court’s ruling to extradite Viktor Bout…”. He added that “said that both countries should not have used Thailand as a venue of debates.”

Kasit Piromya

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has also talked of the “independence” of the judicial system and has said that the government cannot intervene or interfere with the Bout case. His claims are now in tatters and the Democrat Party is scrambling to cover up.

Well might they make such claims about fake independence of the judiciary because the Democrat Party must be desperate to cover up its role, through Abhisit’s aide Sirichoke Sopha, in seeking to drag the Bout case into local political vendettas. Worse, the government has threatened its relationship with both major countries for the local vendetta.

The Democrat Party has an extensive wing, including amongst ministers, that is heavily yellow-shirted, and it is these zealots who are responsible for the mess on Bout. Their hatred of Thaksin seems to trump every other consideration as well as logical thought.

Update: The Bangkok Post has a very interesting story that includes more on Sirichoke. He has come to his own defense, insisting “his controversial meeting with the Russian arms dealer would not damage Thailand’s relations with Russia and the United States.” Even if he is supported on this by Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, it seems way too late for that kind of claim!

His view is that: “I met Mr Bout because I needed some facts and I was doing my duty as an MP. The meeting will not affect Mr Bout’s court case…”. Meeting Bout as if he was a jailed constituent? How novel.

He seems in trouble, though, claiming that Suthep “was well aware of the situation,” but also saying he would “clarify his meeting with Mr Bout to all Democrat MPs.” At the same time, Suthep jumped to Abhisit’s defense, saying that: “The prime minister is a politician with clear principles. Whatever his close aides do will not have an impact on Mr Abhisit…”. Yet another rash claim. Abhisit is now deeply embroiled in this dark maneuvering.





With 7 updates: Bout case mystery deepens

27 08 2010

Readers will recall PPT’s recent post on the case of alleged arms dealer, the Russian Viktor Bout. PPT got interested due to references to royals or their “advisers” in a New York Times report. That report raised some curiosities.

The current report fronting the Bangkok Post is making things curiouser still. It seems that some US agency has rushed a jet to Bangkok to get Bout back to the US, but almost no official in Thailand seems to know why or how this has happened or who has authorized Bout’s transfer. The report opens the way for all kinds of speculation. Weird indeed.

Update 1: For more on this increasingly convoluted and strange case, read the excellent post at Bangkok Pundit. That post suggests that the extradition of Bout followed his failure to provide links that would have implicated Thaksin Shinawatra and red shirts in the North Korean arms shipment that was impounded for a time at Don Muang airport. This was the Democrat Party perspective on those arms…. Presumably if Bout had made the claim, then the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime could have made an international case against Thaksin as a “terrorist.” It is all very strange, especially when a personal envoy from the prime minister is apparently involved!

Update 2: Read Democrat MP Sirichoke Sopha’s own account here. Sirichoke is described as “a close aide to Prime Minister Abhisit…”. Read more here about the now delayed extradition.

Update 3: In yet another intriguing report, The Nation has a brief story on the alleged taping of Sirichoke’s meeting with Bout. Corrections Department chief Chartchai Suthiklom discounts this but the claim is that Bout’s wife has a tape. He does say that Sirichoke met and talked with Bout. (See Update 7 below)

Update 4: The satirical – but oh so close to the truth – Not the Nation has a great story on the auction of Viktor Bout. Thanks to the regular reader who pointed this out.

Update 5: Thaksin’s lawyer Robert Amsterdam and his colleagues are also posting, writing and speculating about the Bout case. See these accounts here and here.

Update 6: This story just goes on and on and gets weirder by the day. See this account at New Zealand’s Scoop and also read this revealing story – if one interprets just a bit – in The Nation. The latter story does try to connect the dots to the mysterious arms plane allegedly from North Korea and Sri Lankan arms – the story that kept making the yellow-hued Bangkok media a few months ago.

Update 7: As the Huffington Post has it, “Robert Amsterdam is an international lawyer retained by the former Prime Minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra to advocate on behalf of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).” It is also worth noting that Amsterdam has long experience on Russia. PPT mentioned him above at Update 5. He now has another article that takes the Sirichoke story a little further. And, to further liven this story up – in what may eventually become a Saudi gems-like saga – Bout says in the Bangkok Post that “Sirichoke Sopha, a close aide to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, met him to make inquiries into how ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s plane could be brought down.” He also stated that “He claimed Mr Sirichoke asked him whether Thaksin had paid to have an aircraft smuggle arms from North Korea to Sri Lanka in December of last year, before the shipment was seized in Thailand.” And, just for good measure, “Sirichoke asked him whether Thaksin might have bought the weapons to arm his red shirt supporters.” Finally Bout says that “Sirichoke also allegedly asked Mr Bout about the state of Thaksin’s health and why other countries were uncooperative in helping to arrest and extradite the former prime minister to Thailand.” Now if all this is true, Sirichoke must rank as one of the country’s dumbest politicians. Bout adds that there was no tape recording.