Punishment and pleasure

27 09 2020

Ever since the 2006 military coup, various rightist regimes have sought to lock up Thai Rak Thai/Puea Thai politician Watana Muangsook. Several failed attempts have accompanied numerous charges and several short stints in prison, a police cell or a re-education camp.

A couple of days ago the Bangkok Post reported that the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions has now “found him guilty over his role in irregularities in a low-cost housing project.” He was found guilty on “11 counts of corruption, which carry up to 99 years in prison.” In Thailand, that means 50 years as it is the legally maximum jail time.

Watana and Yingluck

The article is pretty opaque on exactly what he did that the court considered illegal, but “abusing power and demanding kickbacks” are mentioned for the time Watana was minister. “Abusing power” seems to mean anything the court wants it to mean. Demanding kickbacks is clearer, but no details are provided.

Several others considered close to Thaksin Shinawatra were also sentenced to jail time and fines. Anti-Thaksinism would seem to be a motivating factor as the original investigation after the 2006 coup, “initiated by the now-defunct Assets Scrutiny Committee…”. That seems to have gone nowhere for some time. It was later taken up by the post-2014 coup “National Anti-Corruption Commission which forwarded its findings to the Office of the Attorney-General in Nov 2016 after deciding to implicate [prosecute?] Watana for alleged violations of the Criminal Code.”

Watana made bail and he can appeal.

At about the same time, the Bangkok Post editorialized that the junta’s Election Commission (EC) decision “to clear 31 political parties of illegal borrowings could cause further confusion regarding the organic law on political parties.” It pointed out the double standards involved when compared to the Constitutional Court’s dissolution of the Future Forward Party on similar charges.

The editorial says the “logic for this [decision] appears fuzzy when looked into in detail.” But “fuzzy” is the EC’s usual mode of operation and any notion of law and logic goes out the window.  The Post reckons the whole deal smells of rotting fish. The editorial has more, and the EC has responded, also reported by the Bangkok Post but it doesn’t satisfy the logic test.

As far as we can see, the vendetta continues, even if the Thaksin clan seems to be engaging in considerable royal posterior polishing as it seeks more control over Puea Thai.





The king and his antics II

11 09 2020

Thailand’s king and his antics in Europe have attracted plenty of unfavorable comment, The most recent is from The Statesman. While we think that most of PPT’s readers will know all of the facts and antics recounted, we consider the article by Francis Pike, with our added illustrations, worth reproducing in full:

The depraved rule of Thailand’s Caligula king
Protestors are risking it all to take on the monarchy

Fu Fu

The Roman emperor Caligula was renowned for his extravagance, capricious cruelty, sexual deviancy and temper bordering on insanity. Most famously, before he was assassinated, he planned to appoint his favourite horse as a consul. This is probably a legend. But King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who ascended the Thai throne in 2016, adopted Caligula’s playbook for real. In 2009 the then crown prince promoted his pet miniature poodle Foo Foo to the post of air chief marshal, in which capacity he served until his death in 2015, aged 17. Foo Foo’s cremation was preceded by four days of formal Buddhist mourning.

The poodle first came to the attention of the general public when a video was released showing him eating cake from the hand of Vajiralongkorn’s third wife, Princess Srirasmi, while she cavorted in a G-string at the dog’s lavish birthday party. At a 2009 gala dinner in honour of Vajiralongkorn, Foo Foo was kitted out head to paw in black-tie dress and, according to a WikiLeaks-revealed account by US ambassador, Ralph Boyce, ‘jumped onto the head table and began lapping from the guests’ water glasses, including my own’.

When on parade the new king wears crisp, snowy-white, gold-braided, Ruritanian military uniforms or elaborate Thai regalia that make him look like a Buddhist temple in human form. In downtime his dress code can at best be described as kinky: trainers and low-hung jeans paired with the skimpiest of crop tops. His back and arms are festooned with possibly fake tattoos.

Vajiralongkorn is famously lecherous. Indeed, in his youth, Thai aristocrats would pack off their daughters to Europe to get them out of his clutches. Happily for Bangkok’s elite, the crown prince’s tastes, after his divorce from his first wife, an aristocratic relative of his mother, were consistently low-rent. His second wife was an aspiring actress, albeit of the soft-porn variety.

Prince, and kids in earlier times

The marriage did not last. After Vajiralongkorn put posters all over the palace accusing her of adultery, she fled to London and later to the US with her children — apart from a daughter who was kidnapped and brought back to Bangkok. The daughter was elevated to the rank of princess, but her mother and brothers had their diplomatic passports and royal titles revoked by the crown prince. The Thai public was left horrified by his treatment of his family.

Another marriage followed in 2001, to the aforementioned Srirasmi, though it was not publicly announced until 2005 when the crown prince, by then in his early fifties, declared it was time to settle down. How-ever, in 2014 he stripped his wife of her royal titles because of her relatives’ corruption. Srirasmi’s parents were jailed for two and a half years each for lèse-majesté.

Sineenat

Five years later, on 1 May last year, and just three days before his official coronation, Vajiralongkorn married for the fourth time, to Suthida Tidjai, a former Thai Airways hostess, giving her the title of Queen Consort. The Thai people were dumbfounded when just two months later, the new king named his mistress, Major General Sineenat Wongvajira-pakdi, as his Royal Noble Consort; it was the first time this form of address had been used for more than 100 years. The new relationship lasted three months. On 21 October, Sineenat was stripped of all her titles and disappeared from public view, supposedly for being disrespectful to the queen.

The king’s extravagance is no less remarkable than his private life. A monarchy that was impoverished in the postwar period had, by some estimates, increased its wealth to between $40 billion and $60 billion by last year. Most of the wealth resides in land; ownership of some four square miles of central Bangkok makes the Thai monarchy the world’s wealthiest by a large margin. Overseas holdings include a major stake in the Kempinski hotel group.* Indeed, for years Vajiralongkorn has spent months on end at the Munich Kempinski with his harem and servants. In addition, he owns a mansion on Lake Starnberg to the southwest of Munich. In spite of his huge allowances as crown prince, affording him ownership of two Boeing 737s, it is thought that he had to resort to begging funds from the then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to cover his gambling debts.

Why do King Vajiralongkorn’s private shenanigans matter? Royal families throughout Europe have long weathered sexual and financial scandals. Juan Carlos may have had to step down as king and go into exile, but the Spanish monarchy has survived. So too has the Belgian monarchy after the former King Albert II admitted to a love child. There is no suggestion that Prince Andrew, cherubic by comparison with King Vajiralongkorn, will bring down the British royals because of the Epstein imbroglio. But the key difference is that, unlike Thailand, all those are constitutional monarchies.

Bhumibol and Ananda

In Thailand the monarchy is integral to the country’s real power structures. This was a 70-year legacy of Vajiralongkorn’s father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Bhumibol’s reign started under a cloud following the killing of his 20-year-old predecessor, King Ananda Mahidol, by a single shot to the head with a Colt .45 pistol. After a questionable trial two servants were executed for the murder, though it is widely suspected that the king was accidently shot by Bhumibol, his brother. For the first decade of his rule King Bhumibol was entirely powerless and lived under the rule of the quasi-dictator Field Marshal Phibunsongkhram, who, during the second world war, had allied Thailand with the Axis powers.

Bhumibol, Sirikit, Prem

But gradually, as Thailand inched towards a democracy, Bhumibol won the adoration of the Thai people thanks to his moderating influence and good works, such as paying for medical facilities for the poor. His political power increased. In 1952 he bravely refused to preside over ceremonies for Phibunsongkhram’s new militaristic constitution.** However, Bhumibol’s finest moment came in 1981 when he faced down the ‘April Fools’ Day’ coup d’état by fleeing Bangkok and raising the Thai royal standard at the military base at Khorat, where General Prem emerged as the new military strongman. There followed what is now known as the ‘Network Monarchy’ era, a coalition of military interests and those of the financial and industrial elite based in Bangkok. As a former American deputy-president at Thailand’s Bank of Asia noted: ‘Thai politics has been about dividing up the pie among the elite.’ At the centre of the web stood the Thai monarchy. Elected democratic institutions remained largely an adornment to this oligarchic structure.

In 2001 a business chancer and mobile phone billionaire, Thaksin Shinawatra, later the owner of Manchester City FC, swept to power with his Thai Rak Thai party promising a populist agenda including reform of health and education. Much to the chagrin of the ‘Network Monarchy’, Thaksin won a sweeping electoral victory again in 2005. Bhumibol, who loathed Thaksin, gave tacit support to the coup that first removed him and then sent him into exile two years later. Until his death in 2016, Bhumibol thwarted, either by military or judicial coup, the democratic will of the Thai people, who since 2001 have consistently voted into power Thaksin-backed parties and their proxy leaders. Bhumibol’s historic reputation, albeit tarnished by his thwarting of the democratic will, became an important pillar of resistance to Thaksin’s outsiders. After Bhumibol’s death in 2016, the critical power of the monarchy was left in the hands of his dissolute playboy son.

Will King Vajiralongkorn redeem his dire youthful reputation and do a ‘Prince Hal’, moving to the path of royal righteousness? The signs so far are not good. Just over a week ago, the Royal Noble Consort Sineenat suddenly re-emerged with no information other than an inventive Royal Gazette announcement that ‘It will be regarded that she was never stripped of the royal consort title, military ranks and royal decorations’.

More important than this saga of extra-judicial fiat, the king intervened in the drafting of a new constitution by the military junta in 2017 to grant himself new powers over the appointment of regents. In addition, the new constitution asserted the king’s rights to ‘manage’ during any constitutional crisis. Given that Thailand has had 17 military coups since 1932, this is not trivial. Two crack regiments have also been put under his direct control. As the political exile and professor at Kyoto University Pavin Chachavalpongpun has noted, the king ‘is basically running the country now, though he’s not doing that like his father did through moral authority. He’s using fear to solidify his position and to take command.’

It is therefore interesting that in the past month, demonstrations of up to 10,000 people have called for the powers of the king to be curtailed. Protestors have defied Thailand’s draconian lèse-majesté laws — which can incur up to 15 years’ imprisonment — to chant ‘Down with feudalism’. It remains to be seen whether the protests are a straw in the wind of future political instability. The new king’s attempt to transition from a monarch with influence within the ‘Network Monarchy’ to a monarch who rules is fraught with danger. But at least Vajiralongkorn is unlikely to come to Caligula’s sticky end; the king has a ready-made home for an exile in his beloved Bavaria.

*For discussions that reflect changes in ownership, see here and here.

**The refusal to attend was a fit of pique and self-interest.





Royalty and rewards

5 05 2020

Being a loyal minion of the palace brings rewards and for some rather grand rewards. At the top of the pile of slithering posterior polishers are privy councilors. Under the previous king, the old princes he initially appointed, their task was to build the monarchy politically and economically. Later, and especially when dedicated crawling former prime minister Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, the major task was ensuring that all that the government did had royal approval. This was seen in Prem’s control of military promotion for decades.

The now dead King Bhumibol was especially keen to develop links and clients in the judiciary. He appointed several legal experts and former judges to the Privy Council, some of who, in the 1970s, he managed to hoist into positions as unelected prime ministers.

The solidly royalist judiciary has been especially useful for the monarchy and the military as it battled Thaksin Shinawatra and his successor who dominated electoral politics. The judiciary has been politically biased, bringing case after case against parties and people seen as enemies of the ruling class.

Now Bhumibol’s son seems to be following in his father’s footsteps. He has issued orders that have essentially told the Constitutional Court how it should operate. And, no doubt, he has smiled on the dissolution of parties he (and the military leadership) sees as anti-monarchy.

This is a long introduction to Vajiralongkorn’s appointment of former President of the Constitutional Court Nurak Mapraneet to the Privy Council.

According to the Bangkok Post, Nurak “previously held many important positions in the judiciary including presiding judge of the Chaiya Provincial Court, presiding judge of the Phuket Provincial Court, deputy chief of the Office of Chief Justices Region 6, chief justice of the Court of Appeal Region 8 and chief of the youth and family cases section at the Court of Appeal Region 7.” As a reliable ally of the military, “[a]fter the Sept 19, 2006 coup, … Nurak was made a member of the Constitutional Drafting Council and later appointed to the Constitutional Court.” He became president of the Constitutional Court on 21 May 2014 and retired on 31 March 2020.

Most recently, Nurak completed his assigned task and as president of the court, oversaw the dissolution of the Future Forward Party and banned its executive from politics for a decade.

As the first linked report has it:

During his tenure as president, Nurak was responsible for dissolving six political parties, including the Future Forward Party in February, the Thai Rak Thai party and the Thai Raksachat Party…. He also voted to remove two prime ministers (Samak Sonntorawej and Yingluck Shinawatra)….

The rewards for royal groveling are now going to flow, so long as Nurak doesn’t annoy the erratic king.





Recalling the 2006 military coup

20 09 2019

The army’s task: coups and repression

19 September was the anniversary of the 2006 military coup. This was the coup that set the path for Thailand’s decline into military-dominated authoritarianism based in ultra-royalist ideology.

Over the past couple of days we didn’t notice a lot of memorializing of the event that illegally removed then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai Party, with tanks on the streets and soldiers decked out in royal yellow.

The military soon hoisted Privy Councilor Gen Surayud Chulanont into the prime ministership.

Anointing the 2006 coup

As we know, the coup did not succeed in its self-assigned task of rooting out the “Thaksin regime,” with Thaksin’s parties having been the most successful over the years that have followed and when the military permitted elections. This is why the 2014 coup was aimed at “putting things right,” through a more thorough political repression and a rigging of the political system for the ruling class. It also unleashed a rabid use of lese majeste to destroy that class’s political opponents.

One effort to recall the 2006 coup was by Ji Ungpakorn. He observes the:

forces behind the 19th September coup were anti-democratic groups in the military and civilian elite, disgruntled business leaders and neo-liberal intellectuals and politicians. The coup was also supported by the monarchy….

2006 coup

And adds:

Most NGOs and large sections of the middle classes also supported the coup. What all these groups had in common was contempt or hatred for the poor. For them, “too much democracy” gave “too much” power to the poor electorate and encouraged governments to “over-spend” on welfare. For them, Thailand is still divided between the “enlightened middle-classes who understand democracy” and the “ignorant rural and urban poor”. In fact, the reverse is the case. It is the poor who understand and are committed to democracy while the so-called middle classes are determined to hang on to their privileges by any means possible.

For a flavor of the times, see reports of the coup by the BBC and The Guardian. For early efforts to understand the 2006 coup, consider Ji’s A Coup for the Rich, Thailand Since the Coup, and Thailand and the “good coup.”

It’s been downhill since 2006: repression, military political domination and ultra-royalism, leading to a form of neo-feudalism in contemporary Thailand.





Anti-democrat doziness

28 11 2018

Soonruth Bunyamanee is editor of the Bangkok Post and he has an op-ed that is a commentary on the fact that an election ain’t changin’ nothin. Not for the junta.

He seems somewhat surprised by this, complaining that the appearance of change for Thai politics is “in fact, just follow[ing] its familiar pattern of putting old wine in new bottles.”

The stimulus for this seems to be the massive party jumping of the past week:

The spotlight has shone on the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), which is said to be a vehicle for the military regime to bring back Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to be prime minister for the second time after the election. Many politicians have switched camp to the PPRP which, by favourable constitutional conditions set by the coup-installed charter drafters, is expected to win a ticket to form a coalition government after the election.

As Soonruth observes, these “defections are obviously driven by a desire to be part of the next government.”

Somewhat disappointed and showing why he’s the editor of the Post, he reckons that The Dictator once offered “hope of change for the better under his and the military regime’s guidance.” Hope for diehard anti-democrats.

Soonruth’s disappointment is that:

the PPRP, as a machine to return Gen Prayut to power, has delivered something we didn’t hope for. Most politicians defecting to the PPRP are “the old faces” and many of them seem to be from the group Gen Prayut called “bad politicians”.

PPRP executives say the party will make changes to the country. I wonder how they can do it with the same old politicians. What they could do is contest the election in the old ways — by campaigning through canvassers appealing to political bases.

Has Soonruth been asleep for more than four years? Did he miss the bit about the junta coming to power to destroy the Thaksin Shinawatra party/parties? Did he doze off when the junta’s constitution wound the political clock back?

He’s in anti-democrat shock:

The PPRP’s political model is not new. It is the same model adopted 20 years ago by the now-dissolved Thai Rak Thai Party, the political establishment from which Pheu Thai was spawned….

He’s wrong. The model is pre-TRT, and that is what the military junta intended from the beginning. Its all about hoovering up all and sundry provincial toughs and thugs and having multi-party coalitions and weak government.

The 1997 constitution changed that and Thaksin grabbed that opportunity and had strong government and much more party discipline. That’s what the constitution gave and what the ‘good people” thought they wanted at the time. Thaksin turned out to be their horror movie and turned them back to the fascist military.

We know Soonruth has been dozing when he claims the “upcoming election should be a time when Thai politics is changed by voters.” He seems not to have been watching what the junta has been doing.





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.”