2006 as royalist coup

19 09 2018

2006 coup

It is 12 years since the military, wearing yellow tags, rolled its tanks into Bangkok to oust Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai Rak Thai Party government and to wind back the Thaksin revolution.

Thaksin had a lot of faults and made many mistakes. His War on Drugs was a murderous unleashing of the thugs in the police and military that should not be forgiven.

But his big mistake was being “too popular” among the “wrong people.” TRT’s huge election victory in February 2005 was an existential threat to the powers that be. Their final response, after destabilizing the elected government, was to arrange for the military to throw out the most popular post-war prime minister Thailand had known. And, the palace joined the coup party.

2006 coup

But getting rid of the so-called Thaksin regime and his popularity was too much for the somewhat dull guys at the top of the military and the palace’s man as prime minister was typically aloof and hopeless. He appointed a cabinet full of aged and lazy royalists who misjudged the extent of Thaksin’s popularity. The 2007 election proved how wrong the royalists were about the Thaksin regime being based on vote-buying and “policy corruption.”

So they ditched out another prime minister and then another elected government, this time relying on the judiciary. Then they killed red shirts.

But still Thaksin held electoral sway, this time via his sister Yingluck. And she had to go too, replaced by the knuckle-draggers of the current military dictatorship.

Meeting the junta

12 years on, PPT felt that our best way of observing the anniversary of the military-palace power grab is to re-link to the Wikileaks cables that reflect most directly on that coup. Here they are:

There are more cables. As a collection, they provide a useful insight as to how the royalist elite behaved and what they wanted the embassy to know.





Shoveling money into the electorate

28 08 2018

The military dictatorship’s electoral campaigning has hit high gear in a frenzied shoveling out of money “seemingly aimed at winning the hearts of voters at the grassroots.” That’s according to an account at The Nation.

As it looks increasingly like the junta and The Dictator have the confidence to hold their rigged election, they are pouring money into “projects” meant to turn voters to the junta’s party/ies.

Senior junta figures are associating themselves with those projects. Of course, these are state-funded projects or, more correctly, taxpayer-funded.

There’s nothing wrong with a government promising and then delivering on projects that benefit the poor. However, it has to be recalled that various pro-Thaksin Shinawatra governments were lambasted for such schemes – albeit that they were put to the test of elections.

Worse, many of these schemes were criticized as policy corruption by opponents and ended up in cases before courts that even brought down governments. Those critics have thrown their support behind two coups and the junta’s government.

As we understand them, these critics blasted Thaksin-allied governments for policy corruption because they saw those governments enriching ministers and Thaksin himself. They now say the junta is not enriching itself, so this may be vote-buying but is not policy corruption….

The junta’s targets for the spending are explicitly those considered likely to have voted for the Puea Thai Party: “farmers, low-income people and rural residents.” The aim being to turn their attention to junta-supporting parties.

The efforts include “a three-year moratorium on farmers’ debts, continuing through July 2021.” Recall that back when Thaksin first came to power with Thai Rak Thai? That costs Bt2.7 billion in “debt-interest compensation to the BAAC due to the suspension of debt repayments.”

Another important effort has involved the military’s Mafia-cum-Robin Hood seizing of assets from those it identifies as “loan sharks,” returning assets like cars and land titles to those who took loans. While we don’t condone illegal lending, the actions of the military in “applying pressure” seem as illegal as the loans. The targets are red shirt areas in Khon Kaen and Udonthani .

The junta has also ordered the BAAC to consider restructuring “debt that farmers have owed to the BAAC since 2000. This project involves combined debt topping Bt6 billion and interest of Bt4 billion.”

The junta “has made it a policy to hand out money to needy people every month. In the second phase of this undertaking this year, monthly handouts increased from Bt300 to Bt500 for individuals earning less than Bt30,000 a year and from Bt200 to Bt300 for people on annual incomes of less than Bt100,000.”

In addition, the junta is “injecting Bt200,000 each into more than 82,000 communities throughout the country.” Remember the Thaksin government’s scheme?

Then there’s “a Bt40-billion project to offer cheap loans to homebuyers on low incomes.” Recall the Ua Arthon projects under Thaksin?

The National Legislative Assembly is supporting the junta’s vote-buying efforts. The Bangkok Post reports that the “40-billion-baht budget for the Pracharat scheme has been spared from being trimmed…”. Originally scheduled for cuts, those cuts have been “redistributed … to other agencies instead.”

It’s all hands on deck to shovel the money out before any election. The pay-off is is expected in votes for the junta.





Democrat Party lying to itself

31 07 2018

Bringing down Yingluck

The Democrat Party has been kidding about itself and to the public for years about its political history. The latest in this long line of myth makers is deputy spokesman Churith Laksanavisit, who has been in a social media contest with red shirt/Puea Thai’s Nattawut Saikua.

Thai PBS reports that Nattawut made the obvious point that the Democrat Party “was involved in the overthrow of Thai Rak Thai-led Thaksin government and the Pheu Thai-led government of Ms Yingluck Shinawatra by the military.”

The good old days at the Army Club

A pretty basic point you’d think. But for some reason “Churith insisted that the Democrat [P]arty had never supported or conspired with any group of people to seize power from a legitimate government…”. He added: “the party is definitely not a democratic turncoat that supports power seizure…”.

Where to begin? There’s just so much evidence of the Democrat Party’s efforts to bring down legitimate governments that it hardly needs saying.

Who is the puppet?

The Democrat Party vandalized parliament in 2013, boycotted two elections, and supported the military and was supported by the military.  Then there was the military-brokered coalition that brought Abhisit to the premier’s chair in 2008.

Newin and Abhisit

Of course, the Democrat Party has a long history of bringing down legitimate governments. The Party has a long history of political hypocrisy. For most of its history, it has been conservative, royalist and cooperative with military regimes. There have been brief periods where it has attempted to be a democratic Democrat Party, but these periods appear as aberrations.

We could add that the Democrat Party has supported military-led lese majeste campaigns, which also destabilized elected government, and as well as presiding over a government that ordered the military to shoot demonstrators, easing power to the military.

We could go on and on, but in everything it has done since 2005, the Democrat Party has pretty much been in cahoots with the military. It might be regretting that now that the junta is dismissing the failed party and going its own way, but watch the Democrat Party return to form as time and elections pass. Because the junta’s party is likely to undermine the Democrat Party as much as Puea Thai, the former will fall in with any future junta-led and arranged regime.





All about The Dictator

29 06 2018

Last week the Deputy Dictator met with some political parties about the junta’s “election.”We understand that it is the first official meeting between the military junta and political parties since the day that it illegally seized power, ironically at the very same place it met the political parties back in 2014.

At the end of that meeting, a smiling Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who seems to enjoy legal impunity for all of his deeds, declared that the next meeting would be chaired by The Dictator himself. Apparently Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha will find time for a sham meeting on the path to a rigged election.

Now, however, the Bangkok Post reports that the “next meeting between party politicians and the regime to discuss poll preparations will probably take place in September…”. “Preparations” seems to mean getting arrangements in place for the junta to have its party or parties to “win” the rigged election.

Gen Prayuth has said that not having another meeting for 2-3 months because the junta needs “time to study issues raised by the parties at the first meeting.” In fact, the junta needs more time and more work to ensure its preferred election outcome.

It seems Gen Prayuth also felt the need to again lie to the Thai people when he “gave his assurance the next election will be free, fair and proceed smoothly…”. A free and fair election is impossible under the rules concocted by the military dictatorship.

At the same time, Gen Prayuth warned of future delays to the highly elastic election “roadmap.” He said the junta is “monitoring the security situation and making the political climate conducive for organising the election,” adding: “We’re moving the country forward together. The situation must be stable…”.

He wasn’t explicit but he is saying that any “instability” would mean further delay. As we know, the military is the most likely source in creating political instability, usually using ISOC.

The military dictatorship appears ever more confident that it can get its preferred electoral outcome. So confident, in fact. that the Deputy Dictator has detailed that result.

Gen Prawit declared: “I have confidence Gen Prayut will be able to carry on [after the election]. I always support him…”. Even if Prayuth himself won’t confirm this, it has been the junta’s main objective in having The Dictator hit the campaign trail and in pumping funds into various constituencies.

Prawit let this cat out of the leaky bag as he “welcomed” defectors from the Puea Thai Party, from the so-called Three Allies. It remains unclear what promises were made to the defectors, but we can guess that it has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of baht.

The defector’s group has “pledge[d] to join the Phalang Pracharat Party…”. That’s the junta’s party. Gen Prawit “said it was a good sign that the group was joining Phalang Pracharat and backing Gen Prayut.”

That’s a second euphoric statement of Prayuth’s future as outside PM following the rigged election.

Those named as defectors are “former transport minister, Suriya Jungrungreangkij, former industry minister, Somsak Thepsuthin, as well as former deputy education minister, Chalong Krudkhunthod, ex-MP for Chai Nat, Anucha Nakasai, and former Nakhon Ratchasima MP, Pirom Polwiset.” Others include “Suporn Atthawong, a former key figure of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, and former Pheu Thai member Somchai Phetprasert.”

That Suporn is included among junta supporters is a clear indication of how the military dictatorship is prepared to go in bribing and gobbling up political partners. Back in 2011, then Army chief Gen Prayuth accused Suporn of lese majeste and laid a complaint with police.  Suporn had filed counter-charges against Prayuth. Now they are political allies. Opportunism and rigging the election? You bet. Opportunism and double standards are the rule.

It is revealing that the traitor’s group can hold a “group gathering at the Pinehurst Golf & Country Club on Wednesday,” reportedly “attended by about 50 former MPs.” It is also reported that the group included former members of the Thai Rak Thai and People’s Power parties, some from the Puea Thai Party and the doubly traitorous Bhum Jai Thai parties.

At hat political meeting, “Suriya told group members that he was throwing his support behind Gen Prayut to return as prime minister.” He also revealed that he had “contacted key government figures including Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong and Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana to say he was willing to help Gen Prayut, although he disliked the military coup.” The latter is errant nonsense. No one with an ounce of self-worth would proclaim himself a coup opponent and then join the coup makers.

Under the rules the Election Commission is applying to Puea Thai and Thaksin Shinawatra, Suriya named all of these ministers as “outsiders” influencing the Palang Pracharath. That Palang Pracharath is also the tool of Prayuth, Prawit and Somkid is also widely known. We don’t expect the puppet EC to enforce any law other than selectively and in the interests of Prayuth, Prawit and Somkid.

It is a rigged election with the election “umpire” being the junta’s puppet.





The “election” strategy

29 04 2018

Bangkok Post Editor Umesh Pandey argues that The Dictator’s collection of various dark influences and other various political operatives to a party that remains unidentified but which will be a military party, to link with other devil parties, is using Puea Thai Party techniques against it.

While we get his point we are not sure it clarifies much about the current political shopping trips by The Dictator and his allied devil party promoters.

Sure, Thaksin Shinawatra was able to suck up a bunch of minor parties and build a powerful party – Thai Rak Thai. He was also able to offer places for various dark influences in TRT.

But – and it does matter – Thaksin was operating under the 1997 constitution and the logic of party organization and the party consolidation it required. Thaksin and his minions did not write that charter.

Likewise, in hoovering up various provincial notables, at least in 2000, Thaksin was able to operate from a position of strength. Many of the provincial chao phor had come through the economic crisis in very poor shape, and they were on their knees when dealing with Thaksin.

What’s different now is that The Dictator has written the rules. His junta’s charter doesn’t demand big parties but has fragmented parties. So the hoovering is to get as many minor parties as possible in the “election” and then get them to congeal around the “outsider” premier.

When dealing with local notables, these men and women are now in a political position of relative strength they haven’t known since the 1980s and 1990s. Thus The Dictator’s shopping bill is large, in terms of promises, handouts and positions.

Minor points? Not really. The political/electoral system matter in how any future government can operate, and the generals are just beginning to realize how expensive elections were in the earlier era of unstable coalitions.

So The Dictator is right when he says that “that the ‘Sucking’ of former MPs into a political party has been in practice long before the establishment of the National Council for Peace and Order [the military junta] and it is a part and parcel of ‘Thai Democracy’.” The point is that the junta has reintroduced this system of (probably, potentially) weak coalition governments.

As with so much, the junta looks to the neanderthal past of semi-democracy for a political “future.”





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).





Worried by the new

8 03 2018

We at PPT might be revealing our collective greying but we haven’t paid too much attention to the young phenoms threatening to enter politics and to shake up the system.

We were watching the reporting about the party-to-be (maybe) associated with businessman Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and law professor Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and thinking about the new parties associated with political newcomers.

We thought of the enthusiasm for business people considering political campaigns following the military-perpetrated massacre of May 1992. They looked at existing parties and the Palang Dharma Party was often mentioned as attractive for “new-style” politicians. Interestingly, Thaksin Shinawatra was mentioned in the Bangkok Post (1 July 1992) as “reportedly preparing to run in the election for the Democrat Party.” We also thought of Thai Rak Thai in 2001. Then it was the new party, with new ideas. It also had enormous backing from business and operated under new rules set by the 1997 constitution. And we thought of the short-lived Mahachon Party led by Anek Laothamatas, said to draw on civil society and new ideas.

So new parties come and go.

But the thing that has caught our attention with Thanathorn’s recent efforts is the way his PR has quickly gotten under the skin of The Dictator and his military regime.

The Bangkok Post reports that Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has revealed that the military junta he obediently serves is warning and watching “new-generation politicians.”The junta is keen to limit their operations, threatening them with charges if they engage in “political activities and election campaigns.”

The military bootlicker was specifically threatening Thanathorn who “gave an interview aired on The101.world’s Facebook Live account on Monday.”

Because the junta is full of political troglodytes who fetishize hierarchy, it naturally feels challenged by young upstarts. It also has a knee-jerk reaction against Thanathorn that constructs him pro-Thaksin. This is because he is a nephew of former transport minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit, a former member of the defunct Thai Rak Thai Party…”.

But most worrying for the junta is that “Thanathorn’s interview drew more than 100,000 views and was shared more than 3,000 times, with viewers making comments and asking him questions.” Questions! Wow, that’s challenging for the trogs. When he says that an “election can no longer be delayed and the Pheu Thai Party would likely win…” the regime must be getting angry and vindictive.

That Thanathorn seems to be thinking of an alternative to Puea Thai is ignored because the junta’s own strategy is to set up and/or support a swathe of pro-junta proxy parties because it knows that its own new political rules mean that a coalition is the mostly likely outcome of the junta’s “election.”

When Thanathorn says “the military should now stop meddling with politics” and that “[c]oups did not benefit the country’s future…” he’s marked as a junta opponent.

The junta will work assiduously to undermine any group or party it views as oppositional. We might expect a roll out of treason, sedition and even lese majeste accusations.