Updated: Junta as Palang Pracharath

26 01 2019

The distinctions between the junta, its cabinet and its Palang Pracharath Party have never been established. Ministers who are also party founders and bosses don’t even change hats as they move from cabinet meeting to corrupt party fundraisers and to campaigning for the party. In fact they often simply campaign for Palang Pracharath as ministers in the junta’s administration. Notions of a caretaker administration simply don’t exist for the military junta.

Recent reports show that the junta’s cabinet is simply becoming the Palang Pracharath Party. One report is of the launch of Palang Pracharath’s campaign policies. Almost all of them mirror junta policies. They were announced by Palang Pracharat leader Uttama Savanayana, who is also the junta’s cabinet minister for industry. He was supported by deputy party leader Suvit Maesincee, the junta’s serving science and technology minister.

A second report has party leader-junta member-cabinet minister Uttama announcing that party backer-silent-founder-junta member-Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak will be one of the party’s nominees for prime minister.

Of course, the devil party also wants The Dictator as one of its prime ministerial nominees.

The junta is now, for all intents and purposes, the Palang Pracharath Party.

Update: The Nation reports “a party source” at Palang Pracharath as saying that the junta party “will name Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as its candidate for prime minister after the March general election…”. Uttama and Somkid would “be named in the list as his deputy and third in command, respectively.”

Campaign troubles amid enormous electoral spending

17 01 2019

One of the interesting aspects of waiting for the royal decree is the knots that the military junta is tying itself in when it comes to the division it has tried to maintain between itself and the devil party, Palang Pracharath.

Somehow or other the puppet party released a policy on land reeking of Somkid Jatusripitak’s influence.

A proposal by Palang Pracharath’s Suchart Tancharoen for restrictions on the the use of Sor Por Kor land be eased to allow for a deeper marketization of this land, allowing economic activities in addition to farming was the cause of a “rift” between military men and the puppet party.

The amount of land potentially marketized and fully commodified was about 35 million rai. Surely a prize for big capitalists.

The Bangkok Post reports the junta and The Dictator were concerned that this proposal deviated from long-held positions within the military on the control of this land, including its efforts to “regain” land from “loan sharks” and “local capitalists” developing land like this into “resorts.”

Suggesting the oddity of the position it is now in, government spokesman Buddhipongse Punnakanta, who is also a member of Palang Pracharath, contorted himself to announce that The Dictator “disagreed with the idea.” It was also reported that “Gen Prayut had ordered his deputy Somkid Jatusripitak, in charge of the economy, to reject the proposal.”

Seemingly unable to dissemble on this, hilariously, “Buddhipongse said he never acknowledged this was a move by the PM and did not understand why Mr Somkid was named.”

Magically, a Palang Pracharath leader said the “party is considering revising it [the proposal].”

This intra-party and intra-junta tiff has not prevented the junta from continuing its use of taxpayer funds as electoral “gifts.” A few days ago, the junta’s cabinet went on a huge spending spree in northern Thailand. Oddly, perhaps ironically, the ostensible excuse for the cabinet’s campaign visit was to “follow up on efforts to eliminate the annual northern haze, as well as address land rights issues.” At the same time, Bangkok choked and the junta was convulsed over land (see above).

But back to the electoral giveaways. The Bangkok Post reported that the cabinet/junta/members of Palang Pracharath “approved in principle 10 infrastructure projects worth a combined 17.7 billion baht for four upper northern provinces.” That budget was for road, rail, airport and other logistics-related spending.

In addition to that, the campaign-cabinet meeting “approved three irrigation development projects in the North with a budget of 559.6 million baht.” With a claimed benefit for 1,168 households, the junta could have bought those families a new house each.

And, on top of all that, the cabinet/junta/members of Palang Pracharath “agreed to extend the second phase of measures designed to improve the lives of welfare card holders by another six months until June of this year.” The cost is 4.37 billion baht.

Is anyone keeping a tally of this “populist” spending? Or is it just open to The Dictator and his cabinet/junta/members of Palang Pracharath to do what they like in garnering votes?

Expect what you’ve got

1 11 2018

The former Thaksinista who has become the leading light and ideas man for the dullards leading the military junta, Somkid Jatusripitak, has told the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Bangkok to expect The Dictator prime minister to be the (s)elected prime minister Dictator following the junta’s rigged election.

The Deputy Prime Minister, known as leader of the Sam Mitr/Three Friends political group that has been organizing the election for The Dictator and the junta, told business people: “Don’t worry [about inconsistency], I have a hunch that the face of the next prime minister will look similar to the current one…”.

Despite its own surveying showing that the pro-junta parties may not win even with the extensive rigging of the rules of the election and the election itself, Somkid seems to think the deal has been done and that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha will prevail.

More rigging? The dissolution of the Puea Thai Party? Ballot box stuffing? He seems to be saying that the junta is going to do everything necessary to “win” the rigged election.

More “populist” spending

13 10 2018

The junta has spent a king’s ransom on its “populist” programs as The Dictator campaigns for his supporters to “win” the rigged election. PPT has posted again and again on the schemes it has implemented in an effort to defeat the Puea Thai Party and to hoover up its former MPs and its supporters. One of the principal authors of these schemes is a former Thaksin Shinawatra minister, Somkid Jatusripitak.

The latest scheme is one targeted at a particular group: motorcycle taxis.

As is well known, motorcycle taxis were strong Thaksin supporters and were also important for the red shirt movement, so dragging them to the junta’s side is a critical mission for the vote strategists around The Dictator.

We also know, thanks to Claudio Sopranzetti and his book Owners of the Map, that military intelligence moved quickly following the 2014 coup to co-opt leaders of motorcycle taxi riders.

All of this means that there’s no surprise in the latest shoveling out of taxpayer funds for electoral gain is directed to each and every rider:

Motorcycle taxis nationwide will receive a discount on gasohol 95 of three baht per litre by December in a bid to manage the effects of higher global oil prices, says Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.

The discount price will be administered through the state-owned oil and gas conglomerate, PTT Plc, whose petrol stations will take part in the programme.

Funding sources could include PTT, the State Oil Fund and the welfare smartcard scheme.

Registered motorcycle taxis nationwide number 200,000, with half of those in Bangkok.

One surprise in this is that PTT is supposed to be a public company. While the state continues to hold 51% of the company, investors probably didn’t put their money into PTT thinking that it would simply respond to the diktats of the military dictatorship.

This adds to other subsidies and schemes that are meant to bolster support for the junta and, in this case, is a lubricant for undoing links between Puea Thai and particular groups of political groups.

The Dictator’s scheming

6 10 2018

A couple of days ago the Bangkok Post commented on Sam Mitr/Three Friends/Three Allies nest of traitors and bought politicians.

It no claims to be “set to bring its 70 members to join the Palang Pracharath Party, which is seen as a political vehicle to support Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha’s return to power” after the junta’s rigged election.

One of the lead traitors and junta supporters, Suriya Juangroongruangkit has confirmed that the group has recruited 70 for the lead devil party.

Suriya recounted that his “return to politics” was orchestrated with another top traitor, Somkid Jatusripitak. Suriya revealed that Somkid, while serving the junta told him “that he will set up a party that is friendly to every party and comes up with policies that will benefit the people…”. Of course, this is buffalo manure because the Somkid’s work is for The Dictator.

Somkid is said to have been planning this for the junta’s boss “back when we did not have a name for the party, and [he] asked how can I bring the Sam Mitr group to join…”. So the junta’s campaigning really was based on building a party and using state funds to do much of the work under the guise of mobile cabinet meetings.

It is claimed that of the 70 recruits, 30 are former MPs, mostly poached from other parties.

A spokesman for Sam Mitr continued the buffalo manure, saying the group “has decided to join Palang Pracharath because the party has offered itself as an alternative for the public. Most importantly, Palang Pracharath has agreed that it will adopt the group’s proposals and integrate them as part of the party’s policy.” What he means is that they are all supporting The Dictator.

The so-called proposals are all “policies” meant to garner votes by forking out taxpayer loot “for village heads, kamnan, health volunteers, disaster prevention volunteers and the elderly,” all of which are meant to garner village-level votes. And then there’s the plagiarized Thaksin Shinawatra initiative reworked: the “One Million Cows” scheme.

The spokesman said admitted that the group had already been campaigning, having “travelled to the provinces to hear people’s problems over the past four months…”. No other major party is allowed to do anything like this.

The Dictator seems to feel he’s got the “election” pretty much where he wants it.

Doubling down on double standards III

2 10 2018

It is reported that “[c]alls are mounting for Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha [The Dictator] and the four cabinet ministers who are at the helm of the Palang Pracharath Party to step down due to a potential conflict of interest in the lead-up to the election.”

“Potential”?? Isn’t that “actual”? And hasn’t this been happening for several months? Even years? In fact, the 2014 coup and, the constitution referendum and all the rules acceded to by a puppet National Legislative Assembly have been a mammoth election rigging scheme.

Prime Minister’s Office Minister Kobsak Pootrakool and his cheating buddies have “claimed the four ministers will not abuse their authority during the campaign.”

Look! Flying pigs!

Even the yellowish former Election Commission activist Sodsri Sattayatham observed that “the cabinet positions afford the four ministers the opportunity to act improperly in their own interests.”

But that’s exactly the point! They expect to be able to do this.

Sodsri says they are not “legally required to step down, it is political etiquette that they should resign from ministerial posts when deciding to step into politics…”.

Huh? “Step into politics”? These guys have been politically engaged forever! A coup and a junta is a very big political intervention. Sodsri is engaging in yellow nonsense about “good” people and “bad” politicians.

And laws? What does the junta care for laws? There are constitutional requirements about standing for election, but none that prevent the junta from rigging the election – something the constitution itself does.

Of course, the junta’s constitution does not prevent any junta member from being prime minister or, as we quickly read it, from being ministers in the next government. There are constitutional requirements about how minister should behave when an election is to be held. But it would seem that the junta’s regime is immune from constitutional requirements. It keeps its NLA, keeps making decisions that bind a future government, etc, all things restricted by the constitution. But double standards apply to the junta.

We did notice that The Dictator should not be able to serve as prime minister because he has violated two requirements of the constitution: he lacks the required integrity and he has failed to comply with ethical standards. By leading a coup, he should be disqualified on these grounds. But this junta is subject to double standards.

We also noted that a prime minister “shall not hold office for more than eight years in total, whether or not holding consecutive term” (section 158). That means supporting The Dictator will likely mean he can serve only about 3 to 3.5 years, depending on when the “election” is held. That will be some relief for many.

Puea Thai’s Chaturon Chaisang is right that “the ministers … must refrain from disbursing money in ways that might seem as though they are attempting to gain political support, as well as stop approving long-term projects and stall transfers of officials.”

That’s what usually applies when an election is pending and is required under the 2017 constitution, but that would require standards other than the junta’s double standards.

Meanwhile, the unrestrained ministers are in full campaign mode declaring double standards apply to them.

The Bangkok Post also reports that one of Palang Pracharath’s still “covert” members, Somkid Jatusripitak “has defended four cabinet ministers who are facing mounting criticism over potential conflicts of interest after taking the helm of the Palang Pracharath Party.”

Somkid and his master

Of course he does. They are his boys. He recruited them and came up with the strategy for the party and how it will seek to maintain The Dictator in place following rigged elections.

Somkid went further, campaigning for his boys and their/his party, saying all four are “deserving of support…” and he implies that they will stand for election. We think they are barred from that, but it may be that he expects and has promised them that they will be unelected ministers under a new junta-based government.

Somkid also explained that the constitution does not apply to the junta, stating that “several government projects cannot be stalled any longer…. They [the four ministers] must speed up their efforts and follow through on those projects, which can serve as a key foundation for the future of the country…”. Section 168 will not be applied to the junta and its men.

But junta legal manipulator Wissanu Krea-ngam seemed less sure than he was and “suggested the four ministers should tread carefully and avoid any actions that could be perceived as a conflict of interest.” He said, “[b]ased on the charter, they must act neutrally.”

This highlights the obvious double standards. If pressure is maintained, we wonder if the truculent Gen Prayuth will eventually have to ditch them for fear of the obvious rigging being rather too obvious and damaging to his campaign for the premiership.

Rather oddly, we see that the Democrat Party’s Abhisit Vejjajiva agrees with PPT when he observes that “the charter indicates those in office need to quit within 90 days of the charter being promulgated if they want to contest the poll. Those who fail to resign are not expected to play a part in the election.”

He’s right to observe that “the Palang Pracharath Party … is … trying to evade the spirit of the charter.” But there’s more. They are trying to avoid the constitutional requirements.

At PPT, we are no supporters of the junta’s constitution, which needs to be thrown out and rewritten as a “people’s constitution,” but it is satisfying to see that those who rigged that charter are now being caught by it.

Junta’s devil party launched

30 09 2018

The junta’s party, the devil party, known as Palang Pracharath, has been launched with all the faux trappings of a proper political party. Of course, it can never be a real political party because it belongs to the military and the junta.

The junta’s selected Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana has been chosen as the leader of the devil party, set to be “the core political party supporting Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as prime minister” after the junta’s rigged election.

The junta’s selected Science and Technology Minister Suvit Maesincee and former Democrat Party MP Nuttapol Teepasuwan were selected as deputy leaders. The junta’s selected Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong was made secretary-general and the junta’s selected Prime Minister’s Office Minister Kobsak Pootralkool was named spokesman and a member of the party executive. The report states that “Uttama, … Sontirat and … Suvit are known as members of Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak’s economic team.”

In addition, “Puttipong Poonakan, a political adviser to the premier, and Sakontee Pattiyakul, a deputy Bangkok governor, were also chosen as party executives.” They were key leaders of the anti-democratic People’s Democratic Reform Committee that paved the way for the coup, working hand-in-glove with Prayuth and his henchmen.

In other words, this is the junta’s party. It is Gen Prayuth’s anti-democrat party. We all knew this but now it is official.

Questions of how several appointed ministers and others can simply flip into party executives while still serving is anyone’s guess. The conflict of interest is huge, not that the devils themselves will notice it or even care.

In fact, “Uttama told the media after the meeting he had no plan to resign as industry minister,” pledging to separate from his official duties. That’s about as likely as separating the devil from his cloven hoofs and tail off.

And just to demonstrate how the planning has been a junta/cabinet-level planning activity, another “member” is Itthipol Khunpluem, “assistant to the Tourism and Sports minister … [who] said he joined Palang Pracharat because he liked its ideology and was convinced it could help Chon Buri province grow through the Eastern Economic Corridor policy.”

Its ideology is military might, repression and anti-democracy. Of course, this is the brother of Sonthaya Khunpluem who The Dictator just appointed mayor of Pattaya. It seems his family party, Phalang Chon will simply be rolled into Palang Pracharath.

Now the junta has its own party, it can campaign openly and enthusiastically until about another 3-4 months while other parties remain suppressed.

Keep on campaigning

20 08 2018

The military dictatorship keeps declaring political campaigning is illegal. It cracks down on some parties, but not so much on its buddies. And, of course, The Dictator campaigns as much as he wants.

But such double standards have caused some grumbling as the junta has allowed the so-called Sam Mitr (Three Traitors/Friends/Allies) to go about its work of gathering up politicians to stand for a junta-backed party.

This caused a “warning” from Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda. But that “warning” amounts to little.

As the Bangkok Post reports, the “trio of political heavyweights,” which includes current minister Somkid Jatusripitak, probably acting illegally, busy “lobbying former MPs to back a new junta-aligned party” hardly missed a step.

Somsak Thepsuthin said he and his allies would continue campaigning, but “away from the public limelight.” He said “we will avoid being in the news and giving press interviews…”. As that was said in an interview, that claim seems daft.

In any case, Gen Anupong’s “warning” was contradicted by Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who said “he saw no problem with Sam Mitr lobbying politicians in northeastern provinces because it was not a political party.”

Remember the “ban” on populism?

15 08 2018

Long-term readers may recall our posts from the year following the 2014 military coup, where the junta and its puppet agencies all but declared “evil populism” illegal.

As the junta struggled with the sluggish economy, the serial failure economic minister Pridiyathorn Devakula tried a little economic stimulus, but declared it “not populism.” He made the important royalist distinction: “This is not populism, because I am not doing it for votes…”. I only want to stimulate the economy…. If we don’t stimulate it this way, what are we supposed to do?” Pridiyathorn essentially “explained” that he couldn’t be a populist because he was appointed by a military dictatorship. For him, a populist can only be elected evil politician.

When Pridiyathorn was dumped and replaced by former Thaksin Shinawatra minister Somkid Jatusripitak, royalists fretted that populism was being reborn under the junta.

As the military dictatorship worked to excise support for Thaksin and became determined to stay on for years and years, populist economic policies multiplied.

In all of this, though, in a report in the Bangkok Post it is was revealed that the junta decided to ban populism whenever there is an elected regime put in place: “The cabinet … approved a draft monetary and fiscal bill which includes controls on spending for populist policies. The move is aimed at preventing future fiscal problems and enhancing transparency in the state fiscal budget.”

As the junta has worked increasingly assiduously to uproot Thaksinism and embed The Dictator and military-backed regimes into the future, so-called populist policies have become the norm.

The Bangkok Post reports that “populist spending is nearing the cap of 30% of the annual budget…”.

What is called “pork-barrel spending” has reached “29.6% of the 2018 annual budget after the cabinet approved debt repayment extension and lower lending rates for small-scale farmers and a price stability scheme for the 2018-19 rice harvest…”.

That’s about 870 billion baht “to finance populist policies through specialised financial institutions or quasi-fiscal activities.”

If we understand the report, that 870  billion is from 900 billion baht budgeted for fiscal 2019…”.

As the Post points out, that one year’s spending is almost double the alleged “losses” by the Yingluck Shinawatra government on rice pledging.

Elections, populism and campaigning

12 07 2018

Current Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak was an important member of Thaksin Shinawatra’s economic team, responsible for the policies labelled “populist” by opponents and “policy corruption” by the People’s Alliance for Democracy. Others considered the policies as examples of vote-buying by using state funds.

As the military junta embedded its rule following the 2014 military coup it looked to extend its time in power, Somkid was brought in as an “economic czar” to engage in policy plagiarism and improve the junta’s economic performance with doses of Thaksin’s policies.

From the Bangkok Post: Somkid and his master

Somkid adapted himself well to the military dictatorship and has now become one of the critical ministers in the junta’s efforts to “win” its rigged election. Somkid may tell himself that he’s just a technocrat but he’s become a willing tool of military dictatorship. This pattern of technocrats supporting authoritarian regimes is not unusual. In Thailand, it was a defining feature of Gen Sarit Thanarat’s regime, put in place in 1958 and extending to 1973 and the long Gen Prem Tinsulanonda regime.

Somkid has now become a junta politician, dealing with two other Thaksin traitors, organizing a political party that intends to have The Dictator continue in power for years to come.

In preparing for the “election,” Somkid’s attention is not just on organizing the Palang Pracharath Party but to ensuring that huge transport infrastructure projects (valued at almost 1 trillion baht) are in place for the Sino-Thai conglomerates to continue using state budgets for enrichment and pouring funds into the poorer parts of the population who make up the majority of voters. (As the poor spend most of the money they receive, this consumption spurs businesses, as Thaksin proved.)

As Somkid showed when he worked for Thaksin, such policies are powerful vote winners.