Updated: “New” government

11 07 2019

King Vajiralongkorn has endorsed The Dictator’s cabinet list.

One of the “stories” is how, as expected, many of the junta’s henchman have transitioned into the “new” government:

Prayut will also double as Defence Minister, a key position currently held by General Prawit Wongsuwan, his deputy in the outgoing government.

Prawit will retain his position as a deputy prime minister and is expected to also be in charge of security affairs.

The new Cabinet also has eight other ministers who have worked with Prayut and Prawit in the current post-coup government: Somkid Jatusripitak, Wissanu Krea-ngam, General Chaichan Changmongkol, Uttama Savanayana, Don Pramudwinai, Suvit Maesincee, Sontirat Sontijirawong and General Anupong Paojinda.

But the biggest story is undoubtedly going to be about an army man and mafia figure, reported by AFP, 9 Sep 1998, and now being circulated in Thailand:

BANGKOK, Sept 9 (AFP) – Eighteen middle-ranking Thai military officers are being investigated for links to an international heroin trafficking operation, the supreme commander of Thailand’s armed forces said Wednesday.

General Mongkol Ampornpisit said the officers had been re-admitted into the military in the past two years and the scandal, the latest in a series to rock the Thai military, had prompted him to order that all recently re-admitted officers have their backgrounds checked.

“I have submitted the names of all re-admitted officers for the last two years to have their criminal backgrounds checked with the police,” General Mongkol told reporters, without elaborating on the heroin trafficking allegations.

He said he hoped the move to vet officers would help contain one of the biggest scandals to hit the Thai military establishment in many years.

The revelation of the heroin investigation follows another scandal involving an army captain at the centre of a murder probe, who had previously served a jail term in Australia for drug trafficking.

Mongkol conceded the military had been lax when re-admitting Captain Patchara Prompao into the armed forces after he was fired twice and convicted of narcotics trafficking.

Patchara is now in detention awaiting trial in a civilian court after he surrendered to police on Monday to face charges that he raped and then beat a male academic to death.

In June, amid a drive was to make the armed forces more accountable, the government demanded the military disclose the contents of secret bank accounts they had been allowed to keep.

Earlier this year the armed forces were accused by opposition politicians of involvement in vast illegal logging operations in northern Thailand.

It is also Thammanat who was reported in 2016 as being among more than 6,000 “influential criminal figures” being targeted by the junta in a nationwide crackdown. Back then it was Gen Prawit who stated that “[s]tate officials, police and military officers found to be involved with ‘dark influences’ must also be dealt with…”. Gen Prawit was reportedly in charge of “suppressing influential criminal figures.”

At the time it was considered that the regime’s political opponents were being targeted, a claim Prawit denied. When asked about specific individuals on the list – “former army specialist Gen Trairong Intaratat, better known as Seh Ice, and Capt Thammanat Prompao, a former close aide to Gen Trairong…” – Gen Prawit said “police will explain the offences they have allegedly committed.” He added that the two “might have done nothing wrong, but their aides might have…”. The report continued:

Gen Trairong, said to have close ties to ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was among four people mentioned in a leaked document from the 1st Division, King’s Guard.

The three others named in the document are Karun Hosakul, a former Pheu Thai Party MP for Bangkok’s Don Muang district; Capt Thammanat Prompao, said to be involved in several enterprises including lottery ticket distribution; and Chaisit Ngamsap, alleged to be connected to illegal activities in the Mor Chit area of Bangkok.

Gen Trairong and Capt Thammarat have denied the allegations.

In the same report, Gen Prayudh is reported as saying:

… those who break the law must be punished…. In the future, these people may support politicians. They must not be allowed to break the law and use weapons against people. Today, we must help to clear up the mess to make our country safe….

It seems that the once pro-Thaksin Thammanat has metamorphosed into a pro-junta man and the politicians he’s supporting are Prayuth’s and he’s now so trusted that he’s a deputy minister!





New government promised

4 07 2019

Now more than 100 days since the junta’s rigging of its election and result, things haven’t gone smoothly for the military junta. Because the “election” result wasn’t exactly as the junta had hoped, and because the multi-party coalition is so large and because the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party is such a motley concoction of old-style politicians, “negotiations” over who scores what benefit and position have been endless and publicly messy.

The most recent glitch involved what the Bangkok Post calls the “Sam Mitr faction of the Palang Pracharath Party…”. In fact, it was this small group of mostly former pro-Thaksin Shinawatra politicians who formed the party, funded it and went around hoovering up the old-style politicians as candidates for the junta’s party.

Suddenly, however, the three friend group has appeared contrite. Moneybags and former Thaksin minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit said his “group will not cause problems for the prime minister, so he will have time to work for the country. After communicating with seniors yesterday, whatever positions the group now receives will be the decision of the prime minister…”.

Did those “seniors” threaten or did they make concessions? Was it Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s coup threat? Being the junta, the tea leaves may remain unreadable, although the cabinet list will be revealing of the dozens of deals done.

Gen Prayuth, scaffolded by constitutional rigging into a further term as prime minister, now reckons he will have a cabinet sworn in by the end of the month. That depends on the king being in Thailand. He says he’s made all the decisions, but in a bit of royalist nonsense that evolved in recent years, the cabinet will not be announced until approved by the monarch.

Within hours, Gen Prayuth was then saying he could “confirm the new government will be formed and will swear the oath of office [before King Rama X] by the middle of July for sure…”. That cabinet is rumored to be junta-heavy and includes self-confessed mafia figures:

They included his three deputies — Somkid Jatusripitak, Wissanu Krea-ngam and the embattled Gen Prawit Wongsuwon — who are penciled in to retain their current posts.

Gen Anupong Paochinda — Gen Prayut’s other brother-in-arms — also looks set to retain his position at the Interior Ministry.

Meanwhile, Capt Thammanat Prompao, who is close to Gen Prawit and was once seen as an influential figure, is to become the next labour minister.

It is said that it has again been Gen Prawit pulling the strings and “played a major role in arranging the cabinet line-up…”.





Somkid still campaigning

19 03 2019

A month ago, PPT displayed a clip from the Bangkok Post, quoting Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak as saying his regime would be back after the junta’s “election” under the leadership of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. On the left is the clip from that post.

He’s been at it again. Here’s another clip (right) from the Bangkok Post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, the reference to “stupid people” is likely to be yet another statement about the so-called red buffalo who have repeatedly and enthusiastically elected pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties in every election since 2000.

Pro-Thaksin parties remain hopeful that they will again do well in this election, despite all the pro-junta election rules, the rigging and the junta’s campaigning and use of taxpayer money meant to turn back the electoral tide to loyalists, royalists and the pro-junta anti-democrats. Even so, the task of “winning” the “election” is almost impossible under the junta’s rules.

Interestingly, the changing tone of Somkid’s remarks suggest that he’s aware that his party, Palang Pracharath, is not doing as well as he expected when he was its midwife.





Updated: Cynical recycling

16 03 2019

We are sure readers recall when Thaksin Shinawatra was damned as a “populist.” And then there was Yingluck Shinawatra. When she campaigned in Thailand’s last completed election in 2011, she was also labeled a populist and was prosecuted for one of the policies she took to the electorate. Anti-populism has been a pillar of anti-Thaksinism.

When the military junta seized power, there is a plan to outlaw “populist” policies. That anti-populism soon became an embrace of the policies that the junta had previously damned. This turn to economic policies previously damned was an effort to claw back political ground from the Shinawatra clan, led by Thaksin turncoat Somkid Jatusripitak.

Not surprisingly, it was Somkid who was behind the manufacture of the Palang Pracharat Party as the junta’s devil party.

Now, desperate to gain the electoral traction it has been lacking, Palang Pracharath has released a range of so-called populist policies, apparently hurriedly concocted in recent days.

Increasing the minimum wage by a third, cutting income tax (including for the wealthiest), raising the graduate minimum wage 10% and waving their income tax for 5 years, loans and exemptions for businesses, and promised guaranteed minimum prices for six crops.

Remember Yingluck’s travails for her rice pledging policy?

Palang Pracharath deputy party leader Suvit Maesincee said “Pracha Rath state welfare cards would be given to more people, from 14.5 million low-income earners currently.” He added that “[d]ebt suspension will be allowed for village funds and more funds will be added.” And he promised a welfare state to “take care of children from womb to old age…”.

Can the junta/Palang Pracharath afford these promises when it is already running a substantial “fiscal deficit of 450 billion baht…”? The Bangkok Post notes that the regime has abandoned “plans to balance the budget within the next few years…”.

Sounding Thaksinesque, Palang Pracharath’s Uttama Savanayana declared: “Thais shall be rich in peace, happiness and hope…”.

Even more Thaksin-like were the measures proposed to  fund “Thais being rich.” The measures for making administration more efficient are exactly those used by Thaksin and Thai Rak Thai back in 2001-06.

Policy plagiarism has been a hallmark of the junta. It continues. The only “original” contribution by Palang Pracharath/junta is to promise “order.”

The Palang Pracharath/junta twin is banking on voters being “uneducate” and that by offering Thaksinesque policies that they can lure pro-Thaksin voters to support a failing junta party.

Update: Less than a day after his devil party released the policies discussed above, The Dictator has “issued a statement saying all governments must abide by financial discipline and good governance.” Maybe he should have thought about that several years ago before his own government began its vote-buying splurges. Or maybe before his party promised to extend the splurge further.





With 3 updates: The junta, The Dictator and campaign cheating

5 03 2019

The Bangkok Post made interesting reading today, with a string of stories about the junta, The Dictator and campaign cheating.

First we had the godfather of Palang Pracharat, Somkid Jatusripitak campaigning for General Prayuth Chan-ocha. As a minister and state official, we think this is against the law. We don’t expect the tame and junta-appointed Election Commission to lift a finger to put Somkid in his place.

Campaigning, Somkid declared, as he has previously, that “I am very confident Gen Prayut will [return to power] to continue the mission, and you [investors] will be able to participate in shaping Thailand’s future…”. He went on to describe the government’s performance as “outstanding.” That’s the government he serves. Perhaps he doesn’t mean the two stalled rail projects (here and here).

Going full campaign mode, Somkid attacked other parties: “Amid all the daydreams [of other parties’ political campaigns], the government’s achievements are real and concrete…”, and called for votes for the junta’s party: “Thai people are not stupid. They saw what happened over time so I’m confident Gen Prayut will certainly make a comeback.”

He campaigned at a state-funded event organized by the Board of Investment.

While Somkid crashed through the rules and laws his own junta established, another Deputy PM, Wissanu Krea-ngam babbled that The Dictator-PM “will have to be neutral” when he campaigns for Palang Pracharath and himself. This is utterly nonsensical because it is an impossibility, as demonstrated already by the junta’s pouring of funds into campaigning.

It was Wissanu who, not that many days ago, declared Gen Prayuth ready to run, stating that the PM-junta head “is not considered a state official…”. He said that because the junta’s own charter “bars state officials from running in the election.” As a Post journalists observes, “[r]ight after the comment by Mr Wissanu, the PM’s Facebook page changed his profession from ‘state official’ to ‘public figure’.” We recall that the junta’s EC was “investigating” this, but we don’t expect to hear any more as its master has spoken.

Then we found two articles about further moves to neuter the Future Forward Party. It seems that the junta and associated royalists have become very worried that the party may do much better than they had anticipated in the upcoming junta election. Indeed, the junta seems petrified.

So it is that the performing seal called the EC has heard royalist activist Srisuwan Janya’s petition that Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. Unlike cases against Palang Pracharath, “Manoon Wichiannit, the director of EC’s investigation office, issued an urgent letter to Mr Srisuwan inviting him to testify in the case at the EC headquarters…”.

At the same time, Immigration Bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn also known as Big Joke, and a confidante of Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, “in his capacity as deputy director of Thailand’s Action Task Force for Information Technology Crime Suppression (Tactics),” summoned Future Forward’s deputy leader Lt Gen Phongsakon Rotchomphu “to meet police investigators over his role in sharing fake news about Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon on Facebook.” It was the junta that filed the police complaint.

Clearly, the junta and The Dictator are not going to allow Future Forward to do well at the polls. Harrasment of this nature is pretty much standard procedure for the junta.

It is for the military as well. Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong is on the hunt for anti-military and anti-junta words from election campaigners. He is sending out hundreds of soldiers to intimidate and spy on anti-junta parties. That command was issued by the junta.

Remember when he said he was going to be neutral? That lasted about 3 seconds. We don’t expect the EC will do a thing to insist that state officials remain neutral.

The spying on parties quickly came to a head when former national police chief Seripisut Temiyavet “produced a photo of a soldier he said was stalking him on the campaign trail.” He lambasted the Army boss, saying “it is not the job of soldiers to follow politicians or other citizens.”

“This has nothing to do with national defence,” he said adding that military “commanders should be acting to protect the country, not concerning themselves with the people.”

Gen Apirat, as is his penchant, went ballistic. As secretary-general of the junta, he ordered “staff to file [several] … complaint[s] against Pol Gen Seripisuth, leader of the Seri Ruam Thai Party.” One for insulting the “military decorations on Gen Apirat’s uniform during a recent exclusive interview with a newspaper…”. Apirat then, like other royalist scoundrels, upped the ante on this by saying that some of the decorations were “royally-bestowed.”

Apirat also order the junta “legal team to file a complaint against Pol Gen Sereepisuth for alleged violation of the computer crime law by posting the remarks made during the interview on his Facebook page.” And just to round things out, Gen Apirat ordered the “legal team … to file a third complaint, this time for allegedly defaming a soldier assigned to ‘observe and ensure his safety’ [that is, spy] while Pol Gen Sereepisuth was campaigning … on March 4.”

It is clear that Gen Apirat is waging a political campaign that is going beyond anything seen from the military for several decades.

In a related report, linked above, the police in Khon Kaen have said that they are “working closely together with the provincial office of the Election Commission (EC) to ensure security in all 2,637 polling stations in the province during the run-up to, and casting of ballots in, the election.” So far, so good, but then the cat was expelled from the police kit bag:

the local police and the local EC office are jointly conducting a surveillance programme to watch out for any violations of the election laws…. We are also keeping an eye on certain groups who may be plotting to stir up unrest during the election period.

No prizes for guessing which parties and people are being watched and spied on.

Quite a series of reports. Free and fair elections. Ha!

Update 1: The Dictator and his devil party have had second thoughts about Gen Prayuth appearing in Korat. A Palang Pracharath source said: “After we discussed the pros and cons, we came to the conclusion that it might not be worth it. So we [the party leadership] will stick to presenting our policies to voters…”. Gen Prayuth said he feared “being targeted by his opponents.” They would have sought to disqualify him for exploiting his position for his devil party. Indeed, they already are. Prayuth doesn’t want to allow them to force the EC’s hand.

Update 2: Future Forward has responded to recent attacks, including some not mentioned above. Pretty well everyone knows that several groups, including the junta itself, are seeking to reduce the party’s appeal and set it up for dissolution.

Update 3: Further to state agencies and officials engaging in politics, Chiang Mai provincial police have been found “conduct[ing] politically related surveys…”. We can be pretty sure that officials, getting people’s names and other identifying information under the guise of “surveying” are doing this to intimidate.





Controlling media

19 02 2019

It seems that “fake news” is news that someone influential doesn’t like. A report on the military junta and “fake news” caught our attention.

The junta is reported as ordering “state agencies to issue immediate clarifications to counter distorted news in the run-up to the March 24 election.”

Deputy junta spokeswoman, Col Sirichan Ngathong said “[c]ertain pieces of information made available to people were embellished to give certain political camps the upper hand over their rivals…”.

The junta will use state agencies and its media resources to “prevent or curb distortion.” That sounds a heck of a lot like controlling the news for the junta’s party, Palang Pracharath.

With its own party running in the election and its head, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha as that party’s candidate, having the junta and “government agencies are working together to maintain peace and order and related authorities will meet people to disseminate correct and accurate information” sounds a lot like manipulating the media and using state resources for political advantage. This manipulation is made clearer still when it is candidate-prime minister-dictator-general-prime minister Gen Prayuth who is issuing the instructions.

The Election Commission should be investigating. It won’t because it mostly acts on the junta’s instructions.

While on the EC, a reader wondered if the silent partner in Palang Pracharath, Somkid Jatusripitak hadn’t said just a little too much about the political manipulation of the junta when he was quoted in a recent Bangkok Post story (see the clip on right).

We guess the EC won’t be interested in that either.





Rigging, lying for Palang Pracharath’s advantage

31 01 2019

It may seem a political age ago, but it was only on Tuesday that The Dictator was reported in the Bangkok Post as having “insisted … he will not resign and will remain in power until a new government is sworn in.”

The Dictator claimed he was irreplaceable: “I won’t quit. If I quit, who can take my place?”

He might have added that staying in place while the Palang Pracharath  Party campaigns for him to be premier also means he can control funds and use them as he wishes to benefit his party. He will also be able to use dictatorial Article 44 whenever he wants.

His position on not resigning seems unchanged despite the fact that he is now officially the main Palang Pracharath candidate for prime minister.

Speaking about his political future, Gen Prayuth said he would “accept a party’s invitation to be nominated as a candidate for prime minister.”

One of his deputies, Somkid Jatusripitak, is also a Palang Pracharath nominee and a strategist for the party while still in place as a junta cabinet member.

It is pretty clear that Palang Pracharat is the junta.

When asked about its nomination of two junta members and a cabinet member who resigned as minister a day earlier, party secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong, who was Commerce Minister until a couple of days ago, decided to stick to form and lie.

He “denied that proposing Gen Prayut as prime minister was an attempt to extend the power of the junta beyond the election.” He went further into a dissembling swamp claiming his party “was founded in line with the democratic process and was not the political party of the National Council for Peace and Order [the military junta]…”.

Every single person in Thailand knows that Sontirat is lying. The party is nothing more than a junta device for staying in power, underpinned by its rigged constitution and electoral laws.

Another liar is Deputy Prime Minister Somkid who just a day or so ago “denied that he would be among the PPRP’s three potential candidates for prime minister.” That lie lasted about 24 hours.

But there’s a pattern here. The party is dominated by liars and cheats.

Meanwhile, there are other neglected parts of the junta’s regime that will continue to “work” right up until there’s an “election.” This is unusual, and even under the junta’s constitution, a caretaker administration is meant to be in place. But that doesn’t apply to the junta’s regime.

The National News Bureau reports that the National Legislative Assembly has been busy unanimously passing laws that will constrain normal political activity long into the future.

The most recent unanimous “vote” in the NLA was to pass a “draft Municipal Act into law on Friday.”

The law, endorsed without any objection, restricts the operations of local governance and decentralization. That’s been the junta’s aim since its coup, seeking to roll back local democracy.

The National News Bureau also reports that the NLA will only end its “meetings one week prior to the national poll.” After that, as far as we can tell from the junta’s constitution, the NLA continues in place until the day before the new parliament is convened. But if it is not meeting, then it is The Dictator and his junta who will be in control until a new government is formed, and that would be for up to two months.

So the junta has a party. That party has a government that is working for it as the junta and The Dictator control all of government for all of the “election” campaign and after the election. And, it has Article 44. That’s a huge advantage even in a situation where the junta has already rigged the rules.