On (no) elections

11 08 2018

Alan Dawson at the Bangkok Post on an important milestone for The Dictator and his “election” (no) plans:

… in Thailand, there is no election date, a lame duck Election Commission, a harshly stressed ban on all political activity even by the coup-enabling friend Suthep Thaugsuban, open harassment of loyal opposition, a system of election monitors in uproar and total lack of voter-education on completely new proportional voting while the general prime minister campaigns relentlessly with carefully picked, adoring crowds….

Anek ditched by ACT

5 08 2018

Suthep Thaugsuban, still claiming to have nothing official to do with his rightist Action Coalition for Thailand Party, has dumped ACT’s first puppet frontman Anek Laothamatas and had long-time anti-Thaksin Shinawatra activist and minor royal, the aged MR Chatumongol Sonakul “elected” leader of the party.

Anek was always a bit of a long shot, He’s been a kind of politician-cum-adviser for hire for a considerable time and has little real political experience.

Chatumongkol fits the mold for throwback parties, not only being an old man, but a royal and a former permanent secretary of the Finance Ministry and former governor of the Bank of Thailand. Exactly the kind of man needed in the 1980s.

Suthep, having no official position in ACT “chaired the meeting to elect the leader and executive committee members of the party…”.

The kamnan from the south went into political babble mode, saying “he will be steadfast in standing by the people and serving His Majesty the King and the nation,” but “vowed he will not take any position in the party, but only work with the people to build up the ACT Party.”

That seems to include running the party’s meetings, nominating the party leader, nominating all of its executive committee, ditching Anek and doing whatever he likes as “a party founder to make speeches at party forums throughout the country.” Everyone seemed to agree with Suthep.

That’s how parties ran in the 1980s – local influentials controlled everything and traded MPs for influence and money.

Living on the junta’s scraps

30 07 2018

As PPT has said several times, one of the basic conceptions held by the junta was that Thailand needed to regress to a political location somewhere in the 1980s when elections counted for little but produced multi-party coalitions. These coalitions encouraged vote-buying because they were weak and elections were frequent, requiring ministers to gouge lots from their brief stints as money grubbers – it was a vicious cycle. In the end, though, a palace-preferred general remained premier and the coalitions came and went.

The array of pro-junta parties that are currently falling over themselves to polish The Dictator’s fleshy posterior are no different from those of the past; they are chomping at the bit to get at the junta’s dregs.

Suthep Thaugsuban has explained his Action Coalition for Thailand (ACT) is aiming to be a (minor) part of a future coalition government. He “said no party would win a landslide victory in a election, which would lead to the formation of a coalition government.”

A godfather like Suthep knows how to make money from such arrangements. There will be plenty of others hoping to get some of the scraps from the junta-military table if the junta’s “election” plans come off.

Lese majeste used by the junta to silence a witness

22 07 2018

When she was arrested, Nattatida Meewangpla was a 36 year-old volunteer nurse, accused by the military dictatorship of terrorism and lese majeste. She was abducted by the military on 17 March 2015 and held incommunicado for six days, then charged with “terrorism,” and was later with lese majeste.

Not so uncommon you might think. Especially since the 2014 coup, as the military wanted to crush all anti-monarchy speech and thought, lese majeste victims were usually dragged off by the junta’s uniformed thugs.

But the arrest and continued jailing of Nattathida was unusual. The lese majeste complaint was made by Internal Security Operation Command Col Wicharn Joddaeng, who claims Nattatida copied a text that insulted the monarchy from one Line chat room and posted it in two other chat groups.

Who knows if she did anything of the kind, but this charge was devised to have her jailed as quickly as possible as a threat to the military dictatorship. The threat she posed was as a witness to the murder of six individuals at Wat Pathum Wanaram Temple by soldiers during the crackdown on red shirts on 19 May 2010.

More than three years later, still in jail and never allowed bail, Nattathida’s trial has begun. On 20 July 2018, a “first witness hearing was held behind closed door[s]…”.

Secret trials are not unusual for lese majeste, where laws and constitutions are regularly ignored, but in this case, the military wants nothing said in court to be public for fear that it may incriminate them.

The Bangkok Post’s editorial on her cases is a useful effort to get some media attention to this case of cruel incarceration and the military junta’s efforts to suppress evidence of its murderous work in 2010 under the direction of then military-backed premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, Army boss Gen Anupong Paojinda and the commander of troops Gen Prayudh Chan-ocha.

The Post describes Nattathida as “a key witness in the deaths of six people killed during the military’s dispersal of red-shirt protests in 2010…”.

The Post seems to get the date of her 2015 lese majeste charging wrong, but these charges and their details are murky, and meant to be. It reports:

Ms Nathathida was in March 2015 charged as a suspect linked to the blast and had been held in prison until July 24 last year when she was finally granted bail. But the police filed a lese majeste charge, an offence under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, against her on the same day resulting in immediate custody without bail.

The editorial notes that her “trial for another case involving a 2015 bombing at the Criminal Court is also moving at a snail’s pace,” describing the slow pace as “questionable.” It thinks the deliberate foot-dragging suggests the charges are based on shaky grounds. It adds:

The cases yet again raise doubts about the legitimacy of the prosecution of many politically-driven cases in the post-2014 coup era, especially lese majeste cases.

Her lawyer Winyat Chartmontri has told the media that “many witnesses, who are government officials, in the blast case had postponed court hearings several times resulting in the case being delayed.”

As the editorial noted, these “two cases not only kept her in jail but may also have reduced the credibility of her as a witness in court over the six deaths at Wat Pathum Wanaram near Ratchaprasong intersection.” More though, they prevent her testimony being heard.

Why is the military so concerned? As the Post observes:

In 2012, she testified at the South Bangkok Criminal Court as a paramedic volunteer stationed at the temple, giving a vivid account of how she saw from close range gunshots being fired from the Skytrain tracks where soldiers were on guard. She did not hear gunshots fired back by protesters, she said.

The editorial makes the mistake of believing that “criminal prosecution requires solid proof of both motive and the scale of damage their act could have caused,” but that is never the case when it comes to lese majeste. And, under the military dictatorship, the courts have generally acted as a tool of the regime, often ignoring law.

The Post knows this, limply proclaiming that “[l]aw enforcement officers should not overlook … universal legal rules when handling cases that could send someone to prison.” Yet in “politically motivated” cases under the military junta, law and procedure goes out the window.

In concluding, the editorial also mentions “that tragic day at Wat Pathum Wanaram,” noting that the courts are “supposed to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

The problem with puppet law courts is that they work for the perpetrators.

Rightists lined up

17 07 2018

For Thailand’s rightists, keeping The Dictator in place is bringing them together. The military junta’s rigging of Thailand’s future in ways that more or less align with the efforts of anti-democrats and they fear that anything other than a military-backed, more civilized region will see backsliding on electoral democracy and “reform.”

The junta’s rules, seen in the constitution and associated laws, mean that the anti-democrat agenda depends on a rigged election that produces MPs for a group of pro-junta parties in addition to the junta’s own Palang Pracharath Party.

As a report in the Bangkok Post observes, “the current Constitution setting out a new mechanism likely to hinder any single party from securing a parliamentary majority, but giving emerging parties such as the ACT [Action Coalition of Thailand] a chance to gain a scattering of MP seats.”

Suthep and friends

This is one reason why the rightist anti-democrats who have come together as ACT “is willing to join hands with ‘all parties with the same ideology’ ahead of the next general election…”. That’s anti-democrat leader and ACT co-founder Suthep Thaugsuban saying this.

This was never in doubt, but Suthep saying it amounts to a campaign promise.

Suthep said that the coalition of anti-democrat parties “… will give us the ability to reform the country and bring about full democracy.”

“Full democracy” mean no democracy at all but aligns with the military junta’s notion of “democracy” as a guided democracy, with rightists, royalists and military (all overlapping categories) doing the guiding.

Suthep is positioning ACT as “parties and politicians, most displaying support for the ruling junta, begin gathering voices with an eye to the election…”.

The report also notes that “ACT has said little about its policies or whom it would support as the next prime minister.” In one sense, under the junta’s rules, such things are no longer necessary. They weren’t necessary before the 1997 constitution changed political rules. Some parties made campaign promises but seldom did much about them.

That said, we can expect ACT to babble about “reform” and offer support to The Dictator as premier. That support will be conditional on ACT bosses getting cabinet slots. It is all so 1980s and 1990s.

All that is old is new again

19 06 2018

“New” is a relative term. What is new for a 10 year-old may be old for a 70 year-old. For those now piloting Suthep Thaugsuban’s Action Coalition of Thailand Party the really old conservative ploy of calling for a “national government” is promoted as if a new idea, not one recycled from previous conservatives and fascists.

Whenever such a call is launched it usually suggests that Thailand’s politics is deeply conflicted. And so it is again.

Party puppet leader Anek Laothamatas made an “appeal” to his party’s arch-enemies in Puea Thai. If the report at Khaosod is to be believed, Anek called on the “political rivals [to] bury the hatchet and form a ‘unity government’ after the next election.”

Worryingly, this former “scholar” – in Khaosod’s reporting he is transformed into a “veteran law scholar”- made his call based “inspiration” drawn from “last week’s historic meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un…” as his inspiration.

Anek is said to have told reporters: “Even North Koreans and South Koreans – they fought till millions were dead – managed to reconcile. Even Mr. Donald Trump and Mr. Kim Jong Un managed to reconcile.”

It seems Anek is a seer rather than a scholar of any sort, concocting a conclusion to recent events. That unused train station at the DMZ must be suddenly busy!

For the anti-democrat vision of “reconciliation,” the ACT’s fortuneteller “called on all key political parties to form a government in which they will share power and work for the good of the country.” For him, there should be “no opposition elements.”

He mimics dictators of the present and the past.

Suthep’s big lie

4 06 2018

We at PPT are bemused by some of the media commentary regarding Suthep Thaugsuban’s political resurrection over the past few days.

Our bemusement is regarding the fact that some commentators expected the Democrat Party’s former bagman and godfather to keep his word when he said he was finished with politics.

Suthep and friends

Few of Thailand’s politicians make promises and keep them. That’s one reason why Thaksin Shinawatra remains so popular – he made campaign promises to the electorate and pretty much kept them. He may have been sneaky and shady too, but he kept the big promises. Or at least the ones the electorate appreciated.

But renege on his promise he did. From never being involved in politics again, he’s back in thick of it.

His excuse for his return in lamentable. He says he has to defend the junta’s constitution. He added that his party – that’s the Action Coalition for Thailand – “will protect the 2017 constitution – arguing support for the charter was reflected when it cruised through the referendum…”. As an anti-democrat it must be remembered that he is content with the unfair and unfree referendum where the junta allowed only one outcome.

He also bellowed: “There will be no pardon for any political prisoners…”. We are not sure if it is the reporting or its his words, but Suthep is acknowledging that the junta has jails full of political prisoners. After all, it is only those arrested and charged sin mid-2014 that are the subject of any proposal for “pardons.”

In his old kit as “a recruiter and fund-raiser for the ACT” – something he did for the Democrat Party using all kinds of dark influences – he declared that he couldn’t just do that: “when brothers and sisters who share the same ideology approached me and told me they were establishing a people’s political party, I had to join…”. He went on with populist rhetoric: “I will not run for the election [we can check on that one later!]. I volunteer to be a slave for the people and serve the people. I will use my 40 years of experience in politics to push and accomplish the establishment of the people’s party.”

It is a minority party, with its organizers who sit in Suthep’s shadow hoping for just 30 seats.

Explaining his big lie, Suthep explained that he was a “good” person, so his lies don’t count. He then added more populist blarney.

Party jumper Anek Laothamatas, who also can’t be trusted on anything political as his spots change daily, said ACT would be “governed by religious ethics and truly owned by the people, is a coalition of citizens that respects and aims to safeguard the monarchy.”

It sounds a bit like Tea Party Thailand, and that’s dangerous stuff, not least for keeping the monarchy at the top of a political agenda. Explanation: using the monarchy for political purposes is okay for “good” people, including former Communists.

In case anyone wasn’t quite convinced of CPT-cum-Democrat-cum-Mahachon-cum-Puea Thai-cum-ACT Anek’s royalism, he added that ACT would be “reducing inequality using the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s approach to development…”. We assume that’s the sufficiency economy nonsense.

We understand that Anek has now resigned from the junta’s puppet work and the handsome salary he received there. We guess that ACT moneybags like Suthep and others who supported Suthep in the past, like the Rangsit University proprietor, will stump up the funds for Anek’s services as figurehead leader of ACT.

While ACT wants to “reform in police and justice system by ensuring that the institutions involved will not become tools of politics,” he very pointedly accepts the military’s murderous political role. We can’t recall the last time the police led a coup in Thailand.

Of course, ACT is likely to want to support The Dictator as premier after the junta’s election.