Bombs, “elections” and anti-democrats

27 05 2017

No diehard anti-democrat wants the military junta to hold an “election,” even one that is fixed in a way that allows the military to continue to control politics for years to come.

At the Bangkok Post, Surasak Glahan admits to being

mystified by [anti-democrat] Suthep Thaugsuban’s plea last week for Prime Minister and NCPO [junta] head Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to keep the top job for five more years without the need for elections. He must have drunk himself in oblivion, I thought, as critics and even some supporters of the regime started to voice their rebukes over its failure to deliver in key areas, from the economy to so-called national reform, security to happiness-making, as the NCPO marked its third anniversary on Monday.

But then, when trying to wear the hat of either the military or one of its No.1 cheerleaders like Mr Suthep, who led street protests in 2013-2014 that gave the pretext for the coup, I began to realise that the NCPO has delivered numerous achievements.

He goes on to list these “achievements”:

… there has been drastic political reform. A new constitution was drafted by accidental hero jurists, appointed by the military, and smoothly passed in the [rigged] referendum last year.

The new charter will entrench the military power for at least five more years, allowing it to select 250 senators who will be much more powerful than their predecessors.

Decentralisation has been compromised. Elections of local administrators have been frozen.

The charter and several NCPO orders have lurched Thailand backward into a political system applied four decades ago…. If you are nostalgic about the past, now it is your chance to live it.

… military-appointed lawmakers … know best what needs to be drafted to govern the ways we live without having to consult us or seek the nod from our representatives. Notably, they have invented and revised laws to save us from cyber crimes and other security threats. We just have to sacrifice our privacy and risk being branded as criminals.

The most outstanding … victory was its ability to successfully remove all the hurdles put up against the 36-billion-baht submarine procurement plans by previous elected governments.

The list is long and I have to stop here before feeling suffocated.

You get the picture. More and more military rule and political repression.

The prospect of the military staying in power for years also means that military factionalism is assured. Military factionalism is probably linked to recent bombings.

Yet the military is blaming others. So are the anti-democrats who see the bombing as an opportunity to extend military rule. For the military and the anti-democrats, as allied groups, the “natural” enemy is anyone considered Thaksin Shinawatra-related.

So Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul is named. Naturally enough, he denies it and he “condemned those who were involved in the hospital explosion.” He adds that he “would have bombed Government House, not a hospital…”. His view is that the culprits are in the military.

That said, Ko Tee sought another opportunity to anger the bears in green, poking them with a claim that “he is mobilising resistance against the government.” He says these are “civilian warriors” training in the jungle. But, he says, his group is small and not yet ready to attack the “bandits [junta] out of the country…”.

The other targets are a couple of former generals in their 70s and 80s, associated with Thaksin.

Given that neither General Prayuth nor General Prawit Wongsuwan seem to have been involved in discussions and consideration of the bombing. Both have been away from Bangkok. That speaks louder than words.

Bombs might be about army factionalism yet the general interest of the anti-democrats and military is retained: no elections.





Updated: Remembering and anti-remembering

20 05 2017

The military junta tried to prevent all commemorations of deaths and injuries resulting from its murderous 2010 crackdown. The photos below are of Rajaprasong, where the military and police closed off public areas, fearful of commemorations.

Despite this, there were small events, as shown here:

Another commemoration was disrupted by official thugs.

Update: Khaosod also has a story on the junta anti-remembering. But even they have faulty memories, forgetting who was army boss at the time.

The main point is that on 19 May 2010, then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban ordered then-army chief General Anupong Paojinda  to clear out remaining protesters. General Prayuth Chan-ocha led the operation. In it, 41 civilians died on that one day, and one soldier was killed by friendly fire. Another 60 had dies in events leading up to the clearance over April and May. Then, as the report succinctly reports it:

Four years later on May 22, 2014, Prayuth staged a coup to seize power from the elected government and installed himself as prime minister.





Updated: All about the law II

2 04 2017

Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey gives some credit to the judiciary – the Central Administrative Court – for having ruled that “the military junta’s moves to take away the three passports held by the former Education Minister, Chaturon Chaisang, was a ‘serious violation’ of …[Chaturon’s] fundamental rights…”.

But he goes way, way too far when he states that the “judiciary is making great strides in bringing about fairness in society…”.

Thailand’s judiciary and its legal processes are somewhere between a joke and feudal. PPT has spent a considerable amount of space highlighting repeated failures and while we don’t expect Pandey to be a regular reader, surely he reads his own newspaper.

On the same day when he is full of praise for the judiciary and its “strides in bringing about fairness,” his colleague Alan Dawson lambasts elements of the judicial system and its double standards.

You might say that the judges are not the whole system, and that’s true, with Pandey slamming elements of it. However, there are now hundreds of cases that have gone to court in recent years that have seen judges fail all reasonable tests of fairness. Think of the scores of lese majeste cases, several cases we mentioned in a previous post, cases against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban, cases making coups legitimate, a judicial coup, cases against red shirts (and not against yellow shirts), allowing torturers to go free and many, many more.

Being honest, we think the judicial system is now broken beyond repair. We have royalists, the military, the palace and the judges themselves to blame for this sad state of affairs.

Update: A reader puts us onto another Bangkok Post story, where the headline is, NCPO urges Thaksin to stop ‘distorting the truth’. The junta says:

“Mr Thaksin [Shinawatra] should stop harming the country, show restraint and stop distorting information. If Mr Thaksin calls for justice from society, Mr Thaksin should give justice to society, too,” the NCPO spokesman said.

The junta demands that Thaksin stop harming Thailand. Yet it is the junta that distorts truth. It has done so for years now. And, if the junta demands the legal system for Thaksin, how about themselves? Why is it that Section 113 of the Criminal Code doesn’t apply to this bunch of thugs?

Section 113: Whoever, commits an act of violence or threatens to commit an act of violence in order to:

  1. Overthrow or change the Constitution;
  2. Overthrow the legislative power, the executive power or the judicial power of the Constitution, or nullify such power; or
  3. Separate the Kingdom or seize the power of administration in any part of the Kingdom, is said to commit insurrection, and shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.




All about the law I

29 03 2017

The media is awash with stories about law. How the rich use it for their benefit or avoid it. How the junta uses it. How the police and military manipulate it. We will just link with some of these, grab some quotes and make some comments.

Law for the rich: It is all about Red Bull heir and cop killer Vorayudh “Boss” Yoovidhya. This story and his “hiding in plain sight” avoidance of responsibility for his drug and booze addled killing of a cop has been around since 2012. In the time since, he’s ignored the cops, probably paid some of them off, paid off the cop’s family with meager “compensation” (also known as blood money) and lived what AP called “the high life” in the resorts of the world. He’s partied with the same crowd he has always been with, the rich, the “good” and the famous. His 400+ photos of his good and expensive life are at Facebook.

We can only wonder why it took AP to do the work of finding him. Not the cops (who lost one of their own). Not the prosecutors. Not even Thailand’s media. Why is that? Money, huge influence and power are, like a military regime, threatening. Hired thugs often do the dirty work for Thailand’s Sino-Thai tycoons, so few are prepared to challenge any of them.

And, oh yes, he is due to “appear” before prosecutors. As the Bangkok Post states, this spoiled rich untouchable “has been repeatedly summoned to face authorities but he avoided it each time, claiming [that should read “lying”] through his lawyer that he was sick or out of the country on business.”

Law and the junta I: Thaksin Shinawatra is not short of a baht. In fact, a previous court decision extracted about $1.4 billion from him in 2010, representing more than half of the assets the state had frozen. No matter what one thinks of that decision, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this decision made sure that the state got back what it thought necessary.

It seems not, for the junta has decided to suck back more of Thaksin’s money. In fact, another $510 million in “tax.” Of course, this is a part of the junta’s paranoia about Thaksin and political opposition. It is also meant to scratch the junta’s anti-election itch about voting being about money paid for each vote received.

Law and the junta II: While on Thaksin and hobbling the Shinawatra clan, the junta’s minions have closed Voice TV for a few days for daring to report on things that make the military dictatorship uncomfortable. The Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association have generally been dominated by yellow-shirted journalists and media entrepreneurs, but even they feel the threat from the junta.

Two media associations have “called on the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission … to review its committee’s order to black out Voice TV’s broadcasts for seven days, saying it harms media freedom.” They also determined that the NBTC’s decision “conflicts with both the 1997 and 2006 constitutions, which safeguard those in the media who deliver news or opinions in compliance with their career ethics.”

Such calls have no impact on the military dictatorship because it has “law” in its holster.

Law for the politically connected: Anti-democrat and military junta-supporting Suthep Thaugsuban leads a charmed legal life, at least under the junta. He’s broken more laws than anyone could keep count of and gotten off  every  charge he’s faced (that we can recall) under the military junta he worked with and helped bring to power (or never even been charged). Having something in common with the Red Bull fugitive, he even got away with murder. But that’s not unusual in Thailand…

This time, in a case where he was accused of defaming leading members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship who were standing for election, accusing them of arson and other crimes, a politicized court ruled “Suthep had not made false accusations against the three UDD leaders as alleged, and dismissed the case against him.” Thailand’s judiciary simply fails to dispense anything resembling justice when it comes to the politically-connected and powerful.

Then there’s the case of ultra-nationalist and anti-democrat Veera Somkwamkid who toddled off to the Thailand-Cambodia birder to check on casino graft. Locals blocked his visit yet PPT couldn’t help but recall that it was only about two weeks ago that The Nation reported that “[p]olice are launching a manhunt for well-known political activist Veera … after he published an opinion survey’s result on his Facebook wall, saying the majority people lack confidence in the Prayut administration.” So there he was, ath the border, surrounded by cops and troops and … well, nothing.

Law, police and military: We saved the grossest and nastiest stories. These are the reports surrounding the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae, struck down with a single shot by the Army. The stories from the authorities on this case have been banal. Accused of drug dealing, being armed with a knife and a grenade, the dead boy is now accused of somehow having a gun because the police chief says Chaiyapoom could have shot officers.

A slip of the tongue perhaps, but this is what happens when the authorities manufacture excuses for their own crimes.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

Convinced that the lad was a drug dealer and claiming that the CCTV footage backs up the official story, the cops refuse to release the footage because … wait for it … “the controversial evidence does not ‘answer all problems’.” In addition, “[r]eleasing the footage might lead to a mess to the investigation process and arguments among the society.”

What next?

The law has never been particularly impartial and judges have never been much good in Thailand. However, under the influence of the monarchy and under this military dictatorship the law has been ransacked, killed and buried.





A couple of corrections

26 03 2017

On a Sunday, as we read a few stories that continue to keep us glum about Thailand’s prospects for some political progress, as opposed to regression, we came across a couple of stories that appear to us to requires a little corrective attention.

The first is at Prachatai. Kornkritch Somjittranukit has a story on red shirt renegade Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee as public enemy no. 1 for the old guys running the military junta. A couple of things bothered us a bit. One was mention of the 2009 Pattaya events without noting the role played by the Democrat Party’s Suthep Thaugsuban and his then new best friend Newin Chidchob who goaded and challenged red shirts with their own blue shirts, many of them being military and police in different clothes.

PDRC shooter

On the 2014 People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) seizure of the Lak Si District Office to prevent the 2 February election, mention is made of a “violent clash with Ko Tee and his supporters from Pathum Thani. The sound of gunfire came from both sides.” The latter is true but ignores something. After that event it was officially stated:

A police forensics director stated that his team’s investigation showed “39 shots have been fired from the position of PCAD protesters, and 3 shots from the direction of pro-election protesters.”

The second story is at the Bangkok Post. Editor Umesh Pandey briefly recounts the actions taken over the past few years as pro-Thaksin election winners were ditched, missing the important 2008 judicial coup. What bothered us was the headline, “Army needs to learn to be neutral.”

While the article doesn’t exactly amount that, the idea that the military could be neutral is baffling in the extreme. The military is now, after more than half a century of pro-monarchy and pro-elite military is firmly attached to the side of privilege, hierarchy, wealth and repression.





King, junta and politics

21 03 2017

We are not sure if we have ever quoted from StrategyPage previously, but a recent article on their webpage caught some attention.

Their story, titled “Thailand: Actions Have Long Term Consequences,” is the one we mention here. We have no way of judging the veracity of some of its claims when it comes to palace and king, but felt some of them worth quoting.

As is the custom in Thailand, compromise is in the works between the new king, the military government and the democratic majority. Once the new king took the throne at the end of 2016 he apparently made a deal with the military government that would, in theory, benefit both of them in the long run. First, the king wants to be freed from constitutional and parliamentary restrictions that were part of the 1930s deal that turned the absolute monarchy into a constitutional one. The military government is in the process of changing the constitution and that presents a rare opportunity to give the king more power. The generals need the backing of the king because they justified their 2014 coup by insisting they were doing it to protect the monarchy. Last year the military got their new constitution approved in a referendum and the king must approve it by May and apparently will do so as long as his requests are agreed to.

Where’s the “democratic majority in that you might ask. This is the StrategyPage answer:

Meanwhile the king is apparently also trying to negotiate a peace deal with the pro-democracy groups which have demonstrated that they still have the majority of voters with them. In late 2015 pro-democracy leader (and former prime minister) Thaksin Shinawatra called on his followers (the “red shirts”) to “play dead” for the moment and wait for the military government to allow elections. The military has agreed to elections in 2018 but only if some fundamental changes were made in the constitution. The king’s representatives have apparently been seeking a compromise deal that would allow Thaksin Shinawatra and other exiled democracy leaders to come home and abide by the new rules.

If there is any truth in this – it may just be an old story rehashed – then recent events have interesting potential meanings: think Jumpol Manmai as one once said to be close to Thaksin; think of Suthep Thaugsuban’s testy reappearance and emphasis on “democracy under the king”; and then think of the military’s manic obsession with red shirt and firebrand Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee. There’s more:

Since 2014 the troops have been ordered to arrest anyone who appeared to be leading resistance to the coup, but the anti-coup sentiments were so widespread that trying to decapitate the opposition by taking most leaders out of action did not work. The opposition had plenty of competent replacements for lost leaders and those leaders did not call for a civil war.

We do not get that sense of the red shirt opposition and certainly not from the Puea Thai Party. We actually think the military goons have succeeded in cowing much of the opposition, often through nasty but carefully planned example, i.e. capturing leaders and making their life a public misery so as to frighten others.

StrategyPage continues:

The king and the generals recognize that most Thais are fed up with the coups…. The royals have learned to keep their heads down, even though the military has always been staunchly royalist. The army and the king now seek to change this deadlock with “reforms” in the existing constitution.

We don’t think this is all true. The royals’ heads are always visible, scheming, wheedling, getting wealthy and allowing their status to be used against “threats.” Do they recognize that Thais are fed up with coups? Probably, but they can still pull them off whenever they feel the need to.

While the red shirts have lots of popular support, most Thais are more interested in economic issues and the army has not been able to deal with that because of widespread opposition to military rule in Thailand and abroad. The economic problems cannot be ignored…. So the army is paying attention to economic problems and is not doing so well at it.

That’s an understatement! The economy is looking awful and the junta is at a loss as to what to do. Its infrastructure projects are a mess of verbiage and little action. But StrategyPage has an upside (if you buy the “deal” notion):

The new 2017 compromise will restore elections with the king and armed forces believing they now have more power when the country is run by an elected government. The democrats note that long-term the kings and dictators lose. Most royalists recognize that if the king becomes too unpopular the monarchy could be abolished…. Actions have consequences.

Read in total, the article is highly contradictory, but the notion of the “deal” pops up often enough for this page to get a run.





Updated: Suthep demands more dictatorship for longer

18 03 2017

The People’s Democratic Reform Foundation (PDRF) is the legalistic renaming of the anti-democratic People’s Democratic Reform Committee to allow it to keep operating under the junta it helped seize power in 2014.

It is still led by Democrat Party stalwart Suthep Thaugsuban, who “left” the party to arrange his anti-democratic actions opposing elections and the elected government led by Yingluck Shinawatra. Its bosses remain those anti-democratic elite and Democrat Party (former) members, Sathit Wongnongtoey, Akanat Promphan, Chitpas Kridakorn (Bhirombhakdi), Thaworn Senniam, Nattapol Teepsuwan, Chumpol Julsai and Sakoltee Patthippayakul.

It was this group that recently met with representatives of the military junta for “reconciliation talks.”

Readers might be surprised to learn (or maybe not) that, almost three years after he got the coup he wanted, Suthep “remained firm in its stance of ‘reform before election’, saying it did not mind a delay in the holding of the next election.”

Suthep and his clutch of anti-democrats also declared their full support for “absolute power under Article 44 of the interim charter” and claimed it “was not a problem for reform. Suthep said it as an opportunity for the junta to effectively reform the country.” We know he supports the murderous military and we guess he would also support military courts, torture and all manner of draconian measures against his political opponents.

Of course, we also know that Suthep hates elections, not least because his party never won one in its own right, and repeatedly hung off the military and royal coattails.

Likewise, it is no surprise that this group of anti-democrats “admitted to being fans of junta head General Prayut Chan-o-cha and the desire to complete key reforms.” Why wouldn’t they be? It was Suthep who claimed that he had worked since 2010 with General Prayuth on ways and means for preventing a Thaksin Shinawatra-aligned government from getting elected and then, if it did, on bringing it down.

Suthep and his cronies met with the junta’s people for “four hours of reconciliation talks” after which Suthep declared or maybe even threatened: “We’ve made the point in the meeting that the masses expect the National Council for Peace and Order [the junta] and the government led by [Prayuth] to finish the reforms so the country can continue as a democracy with the monarch as the head of state.”

Suthep, who spent many years as a Democrat Party powerbroker and politician chortled about “politics” being a problem: “Politics has to serve the people. In the past, it was [dominated by] politicians and financiers as well as interest groups. It’s never about the people…”. Because his party was resoundingly defeated time and time again, we can understand his reluctance to accept the will of the people.

Remarkably, as if Thailand’s elite is still under threat, he grasps the monarchy shibboleth by the throat and thunders: “Most importantly, political parties must be run by people who support democratic rule with the monarch as the head of state, not a republic.”

That purported danger justifies for Suthep, and his gaggle of anti-democrat scions of the elite, continuing military dictatorship. He reckons “the people” don’t want an election any time soon.

If the message wasn’t clear, Suthep stated: “The PDRF has no concerns over the NCPO staying in power so long as it works to push reforms.” He added that his support for “the military and Gen Prayut … was never hidden…”.

Update: And just in case anyone was wondering, the Bangkok Post reports that Suthep declined “to say whether his group would accept the outcome of the next election in the event that the Pheu Thai Party wins the poll.”