Elbowing Abhisit

15 04 2018

The Democrat Party has been in trouble for years. We could go back to its founding as a royalist party founded by an alliance of disgruntled, restorationist princes determined to undo the political reforms of the People’s Party. But let’s just look at its time under current leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Abhisit, a scion of an elite royalist family, became leader of the party in 2005, following two crushing losses to Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party. The party hierarchy believed the ambitious Abhisit could bring the party some better election results. There were elections in 2006, 2011 and 2014, with Abhisit losing badly in 2011 and boycotting elections in the other two years. In both boycotts, Abhisit aligned his party with radically royalist street movements. Despite never winning an election, Abhisit became prime minister in late 2008. He managed this with the help of the military and judiciary, which engineered the ouster of an elected government and its replacement by a hastily cobbled together Democrat Party-led coalition. In addition, Abhisit supported two coups against elected governments in 2006 and 2014.

If that record isn’t bad enough, while resisting calls for elections in 2009 and 2010, Abhisit was premier when the military fired on demonstrators from the red shirts, killing dozens and injuring thousands. Because he was the military’s loyal ally in this murderous politics, he has not been held responsible.

That record makes Abhisit politically toxic for many Thais who prefer to vote in elections for the government they prefer.

The Nation reports that aged former party leader and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai has revealed that “there is an attempt within the party to replace current leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and that he and Supachai Panichpakdi were being considered” as replacements.

Chuan, who is about to turn 80, has led two governments. The first followed the 13 September 1992 election where the Democrat Party won 79 of the 360 seats and led a coalition. The second time in power came from an election defeat but the fall of a government beset by  economic crisis. Backroom deals saw Chuan becomes premier leading a hastily cobbled together Democrat Party-led coalition.

Supachai Panitchpakdi is almost 72. He has limited political experience, having been appointed as Deputy Minister of Finance in 1986-88, before becoming president of the Thai Military Bank. He briefly returned to politics in 1992 and became Deputy Prime Minister until 1995. In November 1997 he became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce, implementing IMF policies that were widely despised. He then went off to become head of the WTO and the of UNCTAD. In both positions, despite his claims to the contrary, he was more or less inactive and invisible.

So the Democrat Party looks to has-beens for a new leader in an upcoming (?) “election” where the big issue is how to get The Dictator back in the premier’s chair. We do not doubt that any of these three quislings can cooperate with the military. However, Abhisit is seen as both an electoral liability and too ambitious for the premier’s seat.

Chuan says the party needs “to pave the way for new people.” The problem for the party in “election” terms is that the “new blood” is anti-democratic and military supporting. Such an electoral profile is also likely to further stain the party.

Once the military junta’s ban on the activities of established political parties is lifted, “Chuan said that the party had to vote for a new leader following the new rules imposed by the [junta’s] new organic laws.”

As usual, the Democrat Party is in a political mess and will be as opportunistic as ever. An alliance with the military seems most likely (again).

Thirayudh’s tattlings and the anti-democrat agenda

7 03 2017

We at PPT have to be honest and admit that we have never felt much interest in (faux) academic Thirayudh Boonmee or his mental meanderings. The feelings are probably mutual.

That said, we do acknowledge that, as an Octoberist, there remain people willing to listen to his rambling “advice” to Thailand’s elite. Most significantly, he tends to reflect the musings of the deeply yellow gaggle of anti-democrats.

A couple of days ago, at The Nation Thirayudh was described mischievously, as a “[p]olitical expert and independent scholar,” rather than retiree and political pundit. For the anti-democrat crowd, he “criticised the post-coup regime for what he viewed as its failure to undertake national reforms, warning of a possible decline in public faith in the government.”

That is likely to bother the military junta mostly because Thirayud speaks to the junta’s civilian constituency, despite the fact that his “briefing” sponsored by the Election Commission and was “at the Government Complex in Bangkok’s Chaeng Wattana area.”

He is urging the junta to maintain its anti-democrat “mandate” and push it further. This is why he wants the military “to stick to its promised ‘road map’ for a return to democracy.” Thirayudh knows that the “return to democracy” means the restoration of elite models of “guided democracy” that is no democracy at all.

This is why Thirayudh “expressed support over the use of absolute power under Article 44 of the interim charter, saying that it was in tune with the nature of Thais who are prone to accept authoritarianism.”

More than this, he demanded that the regime use Article 44 more. He argues the regime “should exploit it to its best use, but not abuse it.” His point is to push back against those “liberals” who are wavering on the regime’s authoritarianism.

You get the picture. The elite rules and exploits because the “nature” of Thais is to accept exploitation, murderous military regimes and repression. He ignores the long history of Thai rejection of these rulers and their schemes.

Thirayudh is worried that “the direction of politics currently leaned towards conservatism and there was little hope of reforming the power structure.” He is worried that the “present powers were civil servants [sic.] who would lose power once the reform was implemented.”

He believes the military regime has won and that those who lost just need to accept this and Thailand will be just right. But the regime needs to move to its guided democracy:

They [those supporting The Dictator] seem to have some accomplishments, but still there is no hope in the reform…. Moreover, they show the intention to support [General Prayut] to stay in power so they can, too. But things will get more difficult and the whole thing may collapse if they stay in power longer than [they promised] in the road map.

Thirayuth warns The Dictator and his regime that “the public’s confidence in the government had been shaken. Hence, it must do the right thing and keep its vow to hold an election as well as be prepared for issues to come after the poll by focusing on reform of the power structure and fighting graft.”

He worries that if The Dictator and his regime hang on, that a new 1992 may emerge, again unleashing the masses in politics.

In another Bangkok Post story, the (anti-)Democrat Party is reported to have backed Thirayudh, “saying the social critic pinpointed the problems and highlighted the failure of the government’s approach to them.”

Democrat deputy leader Ong-art Klampaibul “said the government needed to listen to Mr Thirayuth, no matter how harsh his opinions might be.”

Regarding reform, Ong-art declared “the people so far have not experienced any tangible outcomes…”. He added that after “three years in power, the government has only just started its bid for national reconciliation…”.

Junta spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd has already “rejected” Thirayudh’s “criticism,” asking for the critic to be “useful” by providing “practical solutions to the problems rather than preach about theories and principles.”

In fact, the point of Thirayudh’s intervention is to push the junta to increased “reform.” Like them, he is an anti-democrat, but he is opposed the embedding of military dictatorship. He wants guided democracy.

Increasingly, as Sansern expresses it, the junta wants more and more time for “reform.” He says: “It was not easy to achieve its desired results in such a short period because many of the country’s problems had been left unresolved for a long time.”

They have been supported by others from the Democrat Party. Supachai Panitchpakdi is a  politician who failed to gain top spot in his party and has led an undistinguished career in high-profile international organizations.

His name often comes up when “national governments” are discussed and we can’t help wondering if the ever-eager for top position Supachai sees another opportunity if the military is to get itself a party for an “election.”

He’s now serving the junta, and its members will feel happy that Supachai has supported them against Thirayudh’s mild criticisms. We guess that’s why they hired him.

The Democrat Party unable to change

28 10 2013

There have been several reports over several months that the Democrat Party is “reforming.” Many of these reports actually report a split in the party as its egoist leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and his supporters seek to maintain their control of the party.

Tainted by his hoisting to power by the military and Buriram chao pho Newin Chidchob and the murderous military attacks on red shirt protesters, Abhisit’s party was crushed in the 2011 general election.

It would have been normal for a badly defeated and tainted leader to step down following an electoral disaster. Not Abhisit. He apparently thinks he deserves to be party leader.

A report at The Nation begins:

THE DEMOCRAT PARTY’S ultimate goal is to bring an end to 21 years of election defeats. The party’s last defeat was in the 2011 election, when party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was PM.

In fact, the 21 years makes the party look better than it should. While it is only since 2001 that a more-or-less two-party system has emerged, the party has never been particularly successful. The “21 years” seems to refer to September 1992, when the Democrat Party headed a government coalition but only won 22% of seats in parliament.

The 2011 loss was particularly embarrassing as many in the party felt that, with the support of the establishment and military, it should have done better.

The report states:

[the] loss spurred the 67-year-old party to review itself and consider a revamp of its policies, structure and personnel so it has a better chance of leading the government again.

But it seems that it is not Abhisit who is embarrassed by his regular defeats, but deputy leader Alongkorn Ponlaboot. He seems to believe the novel idea that the party should actually win an election.

In order to do this , “Alongkorn says the party requires drastic changes so it can convince voters…” to vote for it. PPT thinks this could only be possible if the party also dumped the widely despised Abhisit. Naturally, that idea is being opposed by Abhisit and his supporters who seek to control party “reform.”

Alongkorn tells us this when he states that:

previous efforts to introduce changes led to serious conflicts as several party members insisted on sticking by individual and factional ideas, but said this attitude would have to change.

The dissatisfaction with Abhisit is seen in continuing claims that “outsiders would be brought in to add freshness to the party.”

Even here, though, the “reformers” seem lost in the past. The names doing the rounds include party seniors who are hardly outsider: Supachai Panitchpakdi and Surin Pitsuwan. “Outsider” seems to mean outside the clique supporting Abhisit.

Abhisit’s minions have responded to Alongkorn. The Abhisit sycophant Sathit Wongnongtaey declared that “election defeats were not the main reason for the reform.” We guess this is because the Abhisit clique doesn’t think that elections are important.

No new leaders for him, but the seniors – and he includes Tarrin Nimmanahaeminda with Supachai and Surin – can form a “central committee.” That is one way of ensuring that they will have no power.

Oh, and by the way, there’s no “internal conflict” because “reform had not been initiated by Alongkorn but by Abhisit himself…”! Talk of a “conflict” was a “misunderstanding.”

If the Abhisit faction sees off this challenge, the immediate political future for the party revolves around street politics, disruption of parliament and the denigration of voters. All of this is dangerous for Thailand’s democratic development.

Advancing royalism

18 02 2012

Every so often, especially when they feel somehow threatened or they feel the need to promote royalism, officials, royalists and various posterior polishers sit around and ask, “What can we do to remind the plebians about how great they have to think the monarch is?”

Often the answer is to reinvigorate the promotion of the homily called sufficiency economy. This time, however, the parroting of sufficiency economy comes at a time when ultra-royalists are reinventing “Thai-style democracy” as “sufficiency democracy.”

Of course, wiser heads than us at PPT have always cautioned that hyphens and prefixes linked to democracy usually mean no democracy at all. That’s very true in this case.

At the Bangkok Post, the most recent effort to put a bit of spit on the sufficiency economy claptrap and buff it is reported. This time the posterior shiners wheeled out are a mix of aged royal knee-walkers, an yellow-shirted senator and the star of the show is former Democrat Party politician Supachai Panitchpakdi.

Supachai is remarkable for being boss of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), an organization that was once exceptional but has fallen into virtual oblivion under his uninspired leadership and bureaucratic style. He’s usually brought to Thailand when the Democrat Party is thinking about a new leader.

The Post begins its account with a remarkable bit of nonsense that poses sufficiency economy as an alternative “system that can replace a capitalist democracy…”. This is attributed to Supachai who seems to see sufficiency economy as addressing “imbalances include economic inequalities, global warming and food security.”

Recall that the place most likely to be interested in this “theory” is Thailand, with the highest inequality in Asia and relatively high levels of greenhouse gases, along with agriculture that has long struggled to improve productivity.

Supachai was speaking at a two-day “international conference” on “The Meaning of the Sufficiency Economy”. If they don’t know by now….

He came up with unremarkable notions about “shifting the emphasis to a household perspective, the informal economy and personal values such as a a sense of self-support, compassion and community spirit.” Along with “prudence” and “moderation,” the latter values are common to most of the world’s religions, so nothing definitive for sufficiency economy there. Thailand’s informal sector is huge, and that’s one reason why incomes are relatively low and inequality is high.

Then Supachai forgets himself and the wrap he is meant to be giving sufficiency economy and speaks of a “new ideology which values global trade and investment, allowing a flourishing middle class and is more accommodating to the masses, is also in the making…”. We wonder if he means social democracy? That would have little to do with the anti-democratic ideas about sufficiency economy and sufficiency democracy.

Other polishers of the royal “theory” included none other than the president of the fabulously rich Crown Property Bureau, Chirayu Isarangkun, who spoke of the “value of moderation has to be upheld.” We guess that having $37 billion in the CPB kitty speaks to that.

Another participant was privy councilor General Surayud Chulanont, who has large collections of houses, millionaire watches and a penchant for expensive  cars. Also there was Paiboon Wattanasiritham, a minister in the junta-appointed government of aged men in 2006 and the yellow-hued Rosana Tositrakul.

The last time sufficiency economy was in the news and paired with sufficiency democracy was when Abhisit Vejjajiva bleated about it at the U.N. That soon faded from memory and we assume that this current effort will follow the same path.

Abhisit’s reconciliation is about dealing with friends and allies

14 06 2010

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has talked a lot about reconciliation and this has been met by considerable skepticism. There’s good reason for that. Mostly, he rejects opposition and speaks only to his buddies and yellow-shirted supporters.

There are three recent examples of this. Two are included in a Bangkok Post story. The headline is that Abhisit is calling in the UN and ASEAN. That headline would seem out of place given the government’s consistent rejection of outside mediation in Thailand’s continuing political conflict. So what’s happening?

He’s dealing with his Democrat Party buddies. It’s as simple as that. Abhisit “has asked United Nations Conference on Trade and Development secretary-general Supachai Panitchpakdi and Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan to help promote his road map to national reconciliation.” Both are former Democrat Party ministers and Supachai was touted as a potential leader of the party.

The “prime minister said during his weekly radio and television address yesterday he has told Mr Supachai and Mr Surin about his government’s efforts to bring about reconciliation.” Well, of course he has. Both men have been close to the government and Surin in particular seems to see little difference between being ASEAN secretary-general and traveling the world on Abhisit’s coat tail.

Abhisit wants these two officials of international organizations to “help explain the government’s efforts to the world.” PPT would think that the UN and ASEAN should be agog at the idea of these international leaders using their organizations for a partisan, single-country propaganda exercise.

That Abhisit says that “both Mr Supachai and Mr Surin have agreed to explain the government’s road map to reconciliation internationally” should be cause for concern and reprimand of the two men, if Abhisit has got this right.

The third instance relates to Abhisit’s appointment of National Institute of Development Administration rector Sombat Thamrongthanyawong to head a constitutional review panel, as “one of the organs of the national reconciliation road map programme.” Sombat is one of the most compromised of academics, having been harshly critical of red shirts, supportive of all post-coup governments and supportive of yellow shirts. Sure, he’s made some critical comments, but he has been solidly conservative, even rallying his fellow academics at NIDA to oppose those he sees as pro-Thaksin Shinawatra.

In sum, as PPT has observed before, Abhisit’s notion of reconciliation is simply political nonsense. Actually, it is probably worse than this, for he’s stitching up the opposition, ignoring them and will then claim they are obstacles to reconciliation as he pushes for further repression of all opposition.

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