Further updated: Don’t ask The Dictator about his “elections”

4 10 2017

During his U.S. visit, General Prayuth Chan-ocha got testy with reporters again.

In commenting on his meeting with President Donald Trump, The Dictator declared that he had, unprompted, promised Trump that “his government [the junta] will announce an election date next year.” He boasted: “Indeed it was me who initiated the discussion and assured him that Thailand will abide by its roadmap to return to democracy…”.

The thing is, the junta has not followed its roadmap. It has strung out holding its “election” time and again. So we wonder why anyone would believe him now.

But he went on: “Next year, we will definitely announce and election date…”. We highlighted the word used twice in the report: announce.

We are not at all sure what that means. Announcing an election and actually holding one are not the same.

Perhaps it was this obvious point that then caused The Dictator to lie:

“I did not mislead anyone or cover anything up,” he said referring to critics’ accusations that the junta was being ambiguous about the election time frame. “I have always reiterated [that the election will take place]. I don’t want anyone asking me about it anymore.”

While we don’t think a junta managed, monitored and devised election is anything much at all, Prayuth seems to be getting closer to the idea that he’ll decide to grant one, so long as he can ensure an outcome.

Bottom lime? Nothing new, but just don’t ask him.

Update 1: Someone did ask Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan about an election date. He said “the election date would be set after a completion of the relevant organic laws plus 150 days for election preparations.” He “clarified” what The Dictator had meant: “It’s not that he said the election will be held next year… When the election date will be is up to the completion of the organic laws.” It seems what is promised is that an election date may be set in 2018.

Remarkably, a Joint Statement between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Thailand included this:

Recognizing Thailand’s strategic importance to the United States and the region, President Trump welcomed Thailand’s commitment to the Roadmap, which, upon completion of relevant organic laws as stipulated by the Constitution, will lead to free and fair elections in 2018.

We already know that any “election” will not be fair as the rules have been rigged. We can also surmise that any “election” is unlikely to be free. We can guess this from looking at the way the military dictatorship “managed” the referendum.

Update 2: As noted above, the joint statement did state “elections in 2018.” But just in case anyone was confused, the military dictatorship has reaffirmed that The Dictator “did not say the general election would be held next year…”. As we noted above, all that was promised by General Prayuth was that a date for an “election” would be announced in 2018. It may be that he an his entourage missed the statement’s bit on “elections” in the statement.

The linked report worries that Prayuth has “promised” Trump an “election,” and that it is reneging. What else is new? Such “promises”-cum-lies have been made several times before. The longer the junta can spin out its rule, the better as far as the regime is concerned.

What is clear is that the anti-democrats are urging the junta to delay elections. While the report refers to Suchit Bunbongkarn as a “political scientist,” he’s really a royalist and fascist-anti-democrat ideologue. He declares that “he was not sure if the public really wanted an early election because many people were not interested in elections.” He adds: “Some were concerned that the same politicians would return after the polls and the political mess that preceded the May 22, 2014 coup would happen all over again…”.

He’s a lying dipstick, fabricating views of the “public” and “many people” but clearly stating the anti-democratic notions that drive the royalists, anti-democrats and military. One can only wonder about the use of the word “early.” After all the military junta mumbled promises about an election within a year of its coup. By 2018, “early” mean somewhere from four to five years of the coup. “Early” for Suchit and his ilk will be “late” for many, even if the the “election” is rigged in their favor.

The regime needs little prompting from aristocrats, plutocrats and fascists. It seeks and even creates reasons for transitioning “promises” to lies. Even chatter about “disruption” to the cremation of the dead king or the coronation of the playboy king is elevated to a “plot” that suggests “unrest,” allowing another junta “excuse” for extending its dictatorship. The death of the queen would also allow more dictatorship.

“Reconciliation” by military committee I

9 02 2017

We assume a report yesterday in The Nation is accurate when it reports that the junta has appointed a “reconciliation committee” composed almost entirely of “military officers and state officials…”.

It states that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “signed an order to appoint members of four committees under one umbrella covering reform, reconciliation, and national strategy.” Prayuth and the junta retain total control of the committees and their process:

Each of the four committees – the national strategy preparation committee, reform preparation committee, reconciliation preparation committee and strategic administration committee – will be chaired by Prayut, with one or two deputy PMs as vice chairman. Most members of the four committees are ministers, state officials, and the president and vice president of [puppet] National Legislative Assembly and [puppet] National Reform Steering Assembly.

We were stunned by The Nation’s wrongheadedness in referring to “outsiders” who “will sit on the reconciliation preparation committee which is the biggest with 33 members.”In fact, the committee will be under Deputy Dictator, General Prawit Wongsuwan, “and includes military top-brass and chiefs of security agencies.”

The alleged “outsiders” are “former charter writers Sujit Boonbongkarn and Anek Laothamatas; Panitan Wattanayagorn, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of political science and an adviser to Prawit; Suthibhand Chirathivat, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of economics, and former Supreme Commander General Boonsang Niampradit.”

Suchit is a determined royalist, one of the grand old men who has served both post coup governments since 2006. Anek has hawked himself to the regime for some time. General Boonsang is, well, a general. The Nation doesn’t say it, but he is an ardent royalist and was a second tier leader of the 2006 coup. Certainly the People’s Alliance for Democracy favored him.

Most bizarrely, the idea that (pseudo)academic-for-hire Panitan is an “outsider” is like calling his boss, General Prawit, an “outsider.” No one is further inside than the disreputable Panitan.

In other words, “reconciliation” is just like an “election” and the “constitution.” It’s all rigged by the generals.

Old men and old ideas

13 09 2015

A couple of days ago we again pointed out that Thailand is a country where very old men remain powerful and influential.

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that aged legal expert Meechai Ruchupan has indeed been invited by The Dictator “to lead a new charter-drafting body that is expected to be formed by next week…”.

Meechai as a rabid royalist ideologue associated with the 2006 military coup and junta and with several anti-democratic movements, including the movement that sought to bring down the Yingluck Shinawatra elected government. He has been fully prepared to defend the lese majeste law, even making stuff up to support the draconian law.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha is said to be “interested in Mr Meechai” because of his experience “at the helm of legislative bodies, both as Senate chairman and chairman of a national legislative assembly…”.

In fact, this experience is telling. According to a brief entry at Wikipedia:

He was the acting Prime Minister of Thailand following a military takeover of the government that took place in February 1991. He served only seventeen days, from May 24, 1992 to June 10, 1992, and was succeeded by Anand Panyarachun. He had been appointed by Royal Command to take over after highly unpopular General Suchinda Kraprayoon resigned under public and state pressure.

Meechai served as President of the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly of Thailand after the coup d’état in 2006. After another coup d’état in 2014, Meechai—as one of two civilians—was appointed as a member of the junta which calls itself the National Council for Peace and Order.

The picture of a royalist who serves the military is clear.

Prayuth thinks this is the right man to again serve the military-monarchy alliance as it represses popular will and seeks to cement its rule.

Others reportedly being sought for the military dictatorship’s “fix” of the political system include royalists and military backers like the conservative Sujit Boonbongkarn, former 2006 junta appointee Kanjanarat Leewiroj, Banthoon Sethasiroj, anti-Thaksin Shinawatra lawyer Banjerd Singkhaneti, who fronted the ultra-royalist and neo-fascist Sayam Prachapiwat, Preecha Watcharaphai, who worked with the 2006 military junta and former unelected senator and anti-Thaksin activist Surachai Liangboonlertchai, who once tried to use the Senate to bring down the elected government.

The picture is pretty clear: conservatives, royalists, yellow shirts, anti-Thaksin activists and military backers.

The pattern is also seen in a recent appointment to the Constitutional Court of yellow-shirted historian, 2014 coup supporter and constitution drafter and supporter of the lese majeste law, Nakarin Mektrairat.

This may all seem like more of the same under the military dictatorship. Yet it is clear that the junta and its supporters and backers have decided that Thailand requires more “reform.” This means a deeply conservative and royalist return to an authoritarian and intolerant past.

Updated: The Economist on the threat from lese majeste

27 01 2015

PPT noticed an article in The Economist  on lese majeste that is only available on its website.

Titled “The royal road to ruin,” it argues that the “strict lèse-majesté laws pose the gravest threat to free expression.”

The article doesn’t have much that is new, but might be compared with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ propaganda page on the monarchy that includes several “academics” like Bowornsak Uwanno and Suchit Bunbongkarn writing in support of this draconian law and feudal politics.

Update: The full article:

The royal road to ruin
In Thailand, strict lèse-majesté laws pose the gravest threat to free expression

ALTHOUGH lèse-majesté laws remain on the books in many constitutional monarchies, prosecutions are rare. Thailand is an exception: it enforces them far more assiduously than any other country since Japan canned rules protecting its emperor after the second world war. Anyone who “defames, insults or threatens” the King, his heir, the Queen or a regent risks between three and 15 years in jail. For decades, the number of cases averaged around ten a year, but since 2004, they have soared to several hundred each year, as friction between Thailand’s populist governments and its traditional ruling establishment has erupted into conflict.

Lèse-majesté complaints are a common way of harassing political rivals. A surge of new cases followed last May’s military coup. Anyone can report an offence, and it is not only speech that breaks the rules. In 2011 a 61-year-old received a 20-year sentence for sending four offensive text messages; he denied the charges and died in prison the following year. People who fail to stand for the royal anthem, still played before most film screenings, or deface banknotes, which bear the King’s image, have fallen foul of the law. In December complaints of lèse-majesté were made against a woman who wore black clothes on the eve of the King’s birthday. In 2008 a series of charges against the BBC included the complaint that its website had allowed the King’s image to appear below that of a politician.

Foreigners who break the lèse-majesté law are often swiftly deported, but in recent years more of them have served jail terms. In 2007 Oliver Jufer, a Swiss national, received a ten-year sentence for defacing pictures of the King while drunk (he was pardoned after a month). Shortly afterwards an Australian, Harry Nicolaides, spent more than a year behind bars because one paragraph in a self-published novel contained an unflattering description of the crown prince. In 2012 Joe Gordon, a Thai American, spent 13 months* in prison for translating excerpts of “The King Never Smiles”, an English-language biography of the King that is banned in Thailand.

In 2005 King Bhumibol warned supporters that over-zealous implementation of lèse-majesté laws could create problems for the monarchy. The palace regularly issues pardons, particularly if cases are well-publicised and miscreants apologetic, but the volume of prosecutions is moving upwards, all the same. Hard-liners argue that criticism of lèse-majesté laws is itself a crime, which is one reason the plague is so difficult to stop. And cases are poorly covered in the media, for fear of repeating the offence.

In theory the death of King Bhumibol, who is 87 years old, could provide a window for reform. It is more likely that fears about the monarchy’s future will prompt the courts to crack down even harder.

*Correction: This article originally stated that Joe Gordon spent seven months in jail. Mr Gordon has been in touch to say that he was jailed on 24 May 2011 and released on 11 July 2012. He adds: “The Thai kangaroo court never allowed bail for me to fight the case. I had only one chance to plead guilty in order to get pardon from King Bhumibol. Otherwise, I could get 20 years imprisonment.”

Preserving the government and monarchy is core mission

26 02 2010

Television is wall-to-wall coverage regarding the Thaksin Shinawatra and family assets case. The print media is full of huge headlines. The government is stating again and again that it is prepared. The middle class are feeling a little more secure. Some see the case as the big showdown, with former Assets Scrutiny Committee members coming out demanding that the courts take all of money that is frozen. It is as if this case is the big turning point. As one correspondent put it, “we’ll be able to exhale.”

Others are looking more to the medium and long terms and are less focused on the decision. The Bangkok Post (25 February 2010) reports on comments by former academic economist, former commerce minister, spectacularly failed businessman, and advisor to various governments Narongchai Akrasanee, now chairman of MFC Asset Management (even if you fail in this industry and lose millions of baht in other people’s money it seems you can be reincarnated).

He begins by noting that “major political changes are unlikely no matter how the Supreme Court rules tomorrow in the Thaksin assets case…”. Narongchai said the balance of power was unlikely to change…” as the “Democrat-led coalition government under premier Abhisit Vejjajiva remains the best option for all involved…”. His reasons for favoring the Democrat Party was because it is the “strongest in terms of leadership, authority, military support and resources…”.

This seems to be a common perspective amongst the Bangkok-based ruling elite and high society types.

For example, in the Bangkok Post (26 April 2010) it is reported that several analysts agree that the “protracted political crisis is here to stay regardless of how the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions rules…”.

Woothisarn Tanchai, who is deputy secretary-general of the royalist bastion at the King Prajadhipok’s Institute, said the assets case was “unlikely to be a critical turning point in Thai politics.” He added that the red shirts “would press on with its rally to bring down the coalition government and discredit the amataya thipatai system…”. Woothisarn, however, “doubted the red shirts would succeed.” Targeting the amat system “will bring together other forces in society including the military to fight them.”

Not surprisingly, Woothisarn was supported in his views by government security authorities.” One such unnamed source said “the activities to discredit the government, the Privy Council and independent organisations were likely to continue. They might also intensify because the red shirts’ ultimate goal was a state of social anarchy, which they hoped would force Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve parliament.” They would be unsuccessful in this “battle” because of the “strong alliance made up of the government and the military led by army commander Anupong Paojinda.

This view was supported by a cabinet member from the Ruam Jai Chart Pattana Party who said the full support of the military meant the government was likely to last.The minister added that: “Military leaders have intervened and mediated between the Democrat Party and its partners when conflicts have risen.The military needs to keep the Democrat Party-led coalition in power for as long as possible in order to preserve the monarchy.

The earlier cited security source believes that as long as the “red shirts have set their sights on the country’s core institutions,” meaning the monarchy and privy council, the military will continue to support the government…”. The agreed core mission of the government and military is said to be “to save the country and core institutions…”.

Adding to the chorus of opinion that the government remains in place because it is the military’s preferred government is Chairman of the Political Development Council and former academic Suchit Bunbongkarn, who “said he could not see how the red shirts could bring down the government.

If it wasn’t clear already, these statements from government-aligned sources spell it out: the Abhisit government remains the military’s government, put in place and maintained by military support. December 2008 was the military’s solution to its failure to get the Democrats elected in December 2007. Protecting the monarchy is its core mission. The political choice is clear.

No more coups!

2 09 2009

Readers will be pleased to know that a group of academic commentators have apparently agreed that there can be no more coups (Bangkok Post, 2 September 2009: “Another coup by military unlikely, say academics”).

Why? Two reasons:

(i) Political Development Council president Suchit Bunbongkarn said: “Launching a coup is one thing; governing a country is another.”  PPT doesn’t find this convincing because of the next reason; and

(ii) according to political scientist Paul Chambers, the “armed forces have already created themselves a niche in the current civilian government.” PPT finds this more convincing. As the military found in 1991 (until they got too ambitious) and has found with the failure of the Surayud government but now the great success of the Abhisit government, having civilians run government while the military shapes it and protects it is more efficient. And, the military gets to control its own resources. In fact, as Chambers points out, the Abhisit government needs and relies on the military for support and its power.

Missing, though, seems to be any discussion of the monarchy and palace. They played a critical role in putting the 2006 coup into action and in the formation of the Surayud government. Perhaps this is what is meant by Chris Baker’s comment that “the decline of Thai democracy did not start with the Thaksin administration. It had been continuing for decades…”. He adds, “We might also have to look at why support for the coup has been institutionalised,” for “Thaksin’s premiership challenged the consensus on the military’s role, which was one reason he was ousted in the 2006 putsch…”.

It seems that the military would continue to run coups if the palace demands it, at least while Prem and the king continue to have the barami necessary  for  such interventions.

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