Color coding royal pardons?

4 05 2019

As is usual around supposedly auspicious royal events, “pardons” – a kind of amnesty – have been granted to prisoners and others serving sentences. They include commuted jail terms for serious offenses.

The latest, for the coronation, includes some interesting “pardons.”

Five leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy will be released. They were only convicted a few weeks ago. They are: Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, Pipop Dhongchai, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Somsak Kosaisuk, and Suriyasai Katasila. Sondhi Limthongkul’s position remains unclear, although he may have benefited by having his fraud sentence reduced.

Interestingly, PAD seem to have designed the kit for the king’s royal volunteer “army.”

What of red shirts serving sentences? We haven’t seen any news yet.

Anti-junta critic, sentenced on lese majeste for sharing a BBC Thai report, student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, also known as Pai, has benefited, but not by much. He was due to be released on 19 June.

We might be missing something, but it might be that royal pardons are now color coded.





Heroes and villains

14 02 2019

The Supreme Court has finally upheld finally upheld the sentencing of six leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy to eight months in jail for actions during its occupation of Government House in 2008 may be seen as a late but appropriate judicial recognition of PAD’s illegal actions.

Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pibhop Dhongchai, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Somsak Kosaisuk and Suriyasai Katasila were charged with “breaking into Government House and damaging property there during the protests they led against the Samak Sundaravej government from May to December 2008.”

But the process involved shows how the sentences have been reduced through the judicial process. Originally they were sentenced “to two years’ jail each, commuted from three years due to their useful testimony.” That was reduced by the Appeals Court “to eight months in jail, commuted from one year.”

However, the “Supreme Court ruled that their demonstration was not peaceful, as they claimed, because their supporters broke into Government House.” Apparently, this means that occupying Government House grounds for seven months, seeking to prevent an elected government from operating is okay.

A Bangkok Post editorial is closer to the mark, noting that PAD’s leaders “resorted to extremism and violence, sexed up by hate speech.” It also observes that PAD “set up armed and unarmed forces who mingled among protesters … and used tens of thousands of their protesters as human shields against the police crackdown.”

That PAD’s “ruthless operations” served as a model for red shirts and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee cannot be disputed.

The Post’s history of support for the yellow-shirted and PDRC movements seems forgotten. So too are the double standards of the judiciary in the sentencing of red shirts versus the treatment of yellow shirts.

This should remind us that, in the current political climate that emphasizes “loyalty,” the PAD leaders going to jail means they become heroes and martyrs in the renewed battle against the villainous Thaksin Shinawatra and for the monarchy.





Justice system a politicized tatters

1 02 2019

Thailand’s judiciary is in tatters. Politicized for years, conscripted into judicial activism and royalist to the core, the judiciary is unable to work independently or even to maintain rule of law.

The most recent example involves the Appeals Court upheld an earlier court ruling “that dismissed a trial against nine yellow-shirt leaders who demonstrations against late prime minister Samak Sundaravej in 2008.”

The court decided, against all evidence, that Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pipob Thongchai, Somkiat Pongpaiboon, Somsak Kosaisuk, Suriyasai Katasila, Chaiwat Sinsuwongse, Amorn Amornrattanond and Therdpoum Jaidee:

were … not guilty … [when] the Appeals Court …ruled that their protests under the now-defunct People’s Alliance for Democracy … were conducted peacefully and according to democratic principles.

They had stood accused of “attempting to use force to change the government and instigating chaos in the country.” This related to their extended protests in Bangkok and the seizure of government offices. Other charges relates to possessing weapons such as baseball bats, iron bars, axes and catapults.

The Appeals Court dismissed the weapons charges saying they may not have belonged to the protesters. The court then “found that the defendants were not guilty when they obstructed the authorities’ attempts to demolish their tents, saying that the incident did not start from the defendants’ side,” despite the fact that they occupied these buildings and their grounds.

The court then “ruled that the protests led by the nine defendants in 2008 were conducted peacefully, in a manner which was allowed in a democracy and under the Constitution.”

Of course, similar manufactured dismissals were manufactured as convictions for red shirts.

The justice system has brought itself into disrepute.





Updated: Scurrilous scoundrels

15 10 2018

Two scoundrels appear in separate stories at Thai PBS. One is on The Dictator and the other is another anti-democrat, Suriyasai Katasila. We won’t waste much space on them except to point out their untruths.

We can begin with Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. As big boss at the military junta, he has banned “politicians” and political parties from using social media. So what’s the deal with The Dictator’s deputy secretary-general for political affairs announcing that The Dictator “and his aides would administer the [boss’s Facebook] page, IG [Instagram] and Twitter accounts as well as the website of the prime minister.” Everyone knows that The Dictator is campaigning and now he’s the only politician permitted to campaign in public and with social media. Double standards? Of course. Crooked? Of course. Rigging the election? Naturally.

Then there’s the yellow ideologue and pretend academic Suriyasai. His self-assigned role is to speak for “the people.” The problem is that the people ignore him and the things he says about them are nonsense. He said “people have more expectations on the next election than the previous ones because they want politics to help solve problems the country is facing.” He means yellow shirts. Sensible people know that the outcome of the elections, when held, will be more military domination (see above). He added that “people are fed up with politics and do not trust politicians…”. This is nonsense. The evidence of voter turnout is that the last two elections had turnouts at record rates of 80-88%. Of course, Suriyasai and his ilk prefer the military’s voice to voter voice and rigged elections to free and fair elections.

Both anti-democrats are scurrilous scoundrels.

Update: A reader chastises us for being too eager to criticize The Dictator. After all, that reader says, many other politicians have Facebook and other social media accounts. That’s true, but those politicians didn’t establish them all in one day in anticipation of winning an election (whenever it is decided it will be held) and after almost five years after seizing power in a military coup. Nor are they permitted to use these accounts for election campaigning. Indeed, some have been charged for doing this.





The beginning of the end of Puea Thai?

26 06 2018

The military dictatorship has worked determinedly to destroy the political base of the Shinawatra clan and the Puea Thai Party. Crushing support for them has been an important element of the dictatorship’s “election” plans.

The regime has been having some success. While the electorate in key areas seems to still favor Puea Thai over other parties, the junta has seemingly been more successful in undermining the party by luring politicians to support junta-associated parties.

Yet this may not be enough to guarantee an “election victory” for the junta and its supporters. The “nuclear option” has always been to dissolve Puea Thai. It seems that the junta may have pushed that button.

It was only late last week that former People’s Alliance for Democracy leader Suriyasai Katasila demanded an “investigation” into Thaksin Shinawatra’s recent conference call with some Puea Thai members.

Suriyasai demanded that “the Election Commission (EC) to set a precedent for political parties to follow by ruling on whether former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has violated the Political Party Act – something that could lead to the dissolution of the Pheu Thai Party.”

He alleged that Thaksin’s call and Yingluck’s recent birthday party in London both constituted violations of the 2017 Political Party Act.

With lightening speed, the EC launched a probe. Its secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma seemed to have the investigation finished as soon as it had begun. He was quoted in the linked story as saying he “expects it will take two weeks to establish whether a video call made by ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra to Pheu Thai Party members likely broke the law on political parties…”.

The outcome of the quick “investigation” – being reported to the EC today – is probably going to be a “larger probe,” which is the second step in dissolving the party.

That the “investigation” is politically biased is not in doubt. The EC has not even discussed the “case” with the Puea Thai Party.

Jarungvith said “the EC was reviewing what Thaksin discussed with the Pheu Thai members and was also keeping a close eye on whether the former premier’s words were being adopted as part of the party’s guidelines or policy.” He added that the EC “would check to see if the party was toeing Thaksin’s line.”

Official red shirt leader and former Puea Thai MP Nattawut Saikua made the obvious point that the EC should also monitor “other” parties as “a rival party urge … [Puea Thai] former MPs to defect.” He observed that the Palang Pracharath Party was under the influence of “outsiders.”

He’s right. Palang Pracharath is controlled by the junta. But he’s wrong to expect even-handedness  from any agency associated with the junta and its “election.” It is all rigged.

Whether the EC “investigation” leads to the dissolution of Puea Thai or not, in the junta’s warped view of the political world, this is a win-win case. If the party is dissolved, its parties do better in the “election.” If the case is dropped, Thaksin and Puea Thai will have been warned and are likely to have to campaign exceptionally carefully and quietly, while the junta’s parties will be unconstrained. It is all rigged.





Updated: Suthep’s political party

2 06 2018

Readers will probably remember that the military junta was grateful to the Democrat Party’s Suthep Thaugsuban for plowing the ground for its military coup in 2014 through his formation and manipulation of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee.

Readers might also recall that the junta got agitated when Suthep claimed a role in planning the coup and that it was also concerned by Suthep’s capacity for political mobilization. They seem to have threatened him and sent him off to the monkhood.

Since then, Suthep has been careful in his political steps, clearly not wanting to become a target for military assassination, as was yellow-shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul.

Finally, though, a new political party has been formed as a political vehicle for Suthep and some of his PDRC colleagues. It is called Action Coalition for Thailand (ACT).

It keeps Suthep as a “member” while the frontman Anek Laothamatas is said to be a founder. He’s failed politician who took funds from corrupt politicians and also from the current junta. He was also with the deeply yellow Thailand Reform Institute that brought royalists and anti-democrats together at Rangsit University. Many appear associated with Suthep’s Party.

Anek has been with the Democrat Party, once worked for Thaksin Shinawatra and is a former Communist. For a time he paraded himself as an “academic.” That he now appears as a “Bhumibolist” should be no surprise for someone who can change his political spots as easily as he changes his ties to a clownish bow-tie for his media appearances.

Clarifications. We say he’s a Bhumibolist referring to a clipped image from The Nation, below, where he wears a Bhumibol election pin and has books on the dead king carefully arranged for the photo op. We say he’s fronting Suthep’s Party because that is what he calls it:

Suthep will be just an ordinary party member, with no executive position in the party and no positions in the future, according to Anek. He also said that having Suthep as a member, the ACT could be viewed as “Suthep’s party”.

Unlike other parties, ACT  “will not elect its leader and other party executives at its maiden meeting.” They will do it later, knowing that the junta’s “election” is months away. The party also needs 500 members and Anek says it is short of that.

Some 250 members will meet at their political alma mater, Rangsit University, owned by yellow-shirt moneybags Arthit Ourairat today:

In addition to Anek, those attending the meeting will be former Democrat Party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban, who headed the PDRC until its demise following the 2014 coup, Rangsit University deputy dean Suriyasai Katasila and former National Reform Assembly member Prasan Marukapitak, according to Thani Thaugsuban, a former Democrat MP and Suthep’s younger brother.

Suriyasai, Prasan and Thani are formerly key figures in the PDRC, which led massive street protests between November 2013 and May 2014 against the government led by the Pheu Thai Party. The rally culminated in a military coup in May 2014 that overthrew the administration.

Many were previously involved with the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

Anek was generous to say that “he was going to resign from the current positions, before working at the new party.“ At present, Anek is still in the pay of the military dictatorship. He is “serving as chairman of the committee on political reform, which is part of the junta-appointed National Reform Steering Assembly, in addition to being a member and an adviser in other committees.” He gets a very handy income from the junta.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that, despite all of his previous statements that he had “left” politics, the former Democrat Party godfather Suthep is to be a “co-founder” of ACT. He’s fortunate the T in ACT doesn’t mean Truth.





2014 military coup: assessing and forgetting

21 05 2018

There’s currently a plethora of stories and op-eds that assess the results of the 2014 military coup.

Despite limited resources, Khaosod is usually a news outlet that is better than others at reporting the events of the day and in trying to be critical of military rule. However, one of its assessment stories is rather too forgetful.

Teeranai Charuvastra is the author and begins with the sad statistic that The Dictator Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has been directing the state since he seized it 1,641 days on Tuesday. In fact, he effectively seized power a couple of days earlier and the official coup announcement then followed.

That long four years is, Teeranai observes, “longer than any other coup leader since the Cold War.”

We are not exactly sure when the Cold War ended. Perhaps its late 1991 when the Soviet Union itself dissolved into its all those republics. Perhaps it is the fall of the Berlin Wall two years earlier. It matters only because if it is December 1991, then there’s only been two military coups in Thailand in that period, both involving roughly the same military crew as is in power now. If it is 1989, then add one more coup.

Two or three coups in Thailand’s long history of military seizures of the state doesn’t necessarily amount to establishing a pattern, although Teeranai’s thinks it does. The claim is that:

Every ‘successful’ military takeover of the last four decades has followed the same script: The generals who led the putsch quickly install a civilian prime minister, ostensibly to give the appearance of democratic rule, before retreating into the shadows. Typically, general elections have been organized within a year.

For one thing, that time period takes us back to about 1978, when Gen Kriangsak Chomanan was in the premier’s seat, having seized power in late 1977 from the ultra-royalist/ultra-rightist regime of civilian and palace favorite Thanin Kraivixien.

But back to Gen Prayuth, who is claimed to have gone off-script. Military junkie/journalist Wassana Nanuam is quoted in support of this claim: “He tore to pieces the rules of the coup.”

Back to the dates. Is there a script. In our view there is, but it isn’t the version proclaimed by Wasana. Rather, the script for the military is in seizing and holding power. When Gen Sarit Thanarat seized power in 1957, he put a civilian in place but in 1958 took power himself. He and his successors held power until 1973. When the military again seized power in 1976, it reluctantly accepted the king’s demand for Thanin to head a government. He failed and Kriangsak seized power in late 1977. Kriangsak held the premiership until 1980, when the military leadership convinced him to handover to palace favorite Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, who stayed until 1988.

Now there’s a pattern. We think its the pattern that Prayuth’s dictatorial junta has had in mind since they decided that the 2006 coup had failed to adequately expunge Thaksin Shinawatra’s appeal and corral the rise of electoral politics.

So Wassana’s triumphalism about The Dictator “breaking a mold” is simply wrong. The military regime is, like its predecessors in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, about embedding the military and throttling electoral politics.

Wassana’s other claim is that Prayuth’s coup and plan to hold power was risky. We think that’s wrong too.

In fact, after 2006 was declared a failure, Prayuth and his former bosses, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda, had worked with various rightist and royalist agents to undermine the likely opponents of another military political victory: red shirts and politicians of the elected variety.

ISOC was an important part of that as it systematically destroyed red shirt operations and networks.

In addition, the courts and “independent” agencies had all been co-opted by the military and its royalist and anti-democrat allies.

There was never any chance that Prayuth would hand over to an appointee.

Teeranai’s piece also asks; “So how did Prayuth’s National Council for Peace and Order, or NCPO, manage to stay this long?”

The response is: “The reasons are many, … [that] range from the junta’s use of brute force to Prayuth’s personal influence.” But a “common thread has to do with what the junta is not. The regime’s success, according to most people interviewed, lies in convincing people it is a better alternative to the color-coded feuds and churning upheaval that have plagued the nation.”

We think this is only true for some people and certainly not all. And the people who were convinced are the anti-democrats. Those interviewed are mostly yellow shirts who define “the people” as people like them.

When Suriyasai Katasila says that “The people felt there was only instability… So people accept the NCPO’s [junta] intervention, even though it cost them certain rights,” he speaks for some of Bangkok’s middle class and the anti-democrats.

Other anti-democrats are cited: “people don’t see the point of calling for elections, because they think things will just be the same after the election. People are sick and tired.” Again, these are words for the anti-democrats and by the anti-democrats.

If elections were rejected, one would expect low turnouts for them. If we look just at 2011 and 2007, we see voter turnout in excess of 80%. The anti-democrats propagandize against elections and speak of “the people” but represent a minority.

We’ve said enough. The aims of the current military junta are clear. And the anti-democrats are self-serving and frightened that the people may be empowered by the ballot box. That’s why the junta is rigging any future vote.