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.





Updated: Double standards and lawlessness in the justice system

1 10 2017

PPT has regularly been posting on the gross failures of the justice system. Thailand’s justice system has long been pretty awful, but since the 2006 military coup that awfulness has been compounded by the fact that particular courts have become little more than political tools for the royalist elite and, in recent years, the military dictatorship’s instrument.

For this reason Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey’s op-ed “Hypocrisy of double standards” is an important statement on a defining failure of the justice system.

Writing after the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions decision to imprison former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, where “[t]he court’s verdict did not state whether the rice pledging policy implemented by Yingluck and her government was wrong but only stated that she neglected her duty in curtailing corruption in the scheme.”

If this is the courts definition of malfeasance, then PPT can’t think of a premier for several decades who wouldn’t be held guilty, including the current military one. But this use of the law is reserved for Yingluck as the military dictatorship wanted to be rid of her.

As Umesh observes,

The verdict left some room for appeal but less than 24 hours after it was handed down, the military government that overthrew the Pheu Thai-led government of which the Shinawatras were the key backers came out with new rules that force any appeal to be lodged by the convicted person and not through lawyers. To make matters worse, the statutory limit on the case, which is usually about a decade or so, is a lifetime.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

He adds that in most jurisdictions, “new rules are effective only after they are put in place, but this is Thailand and in Yingluck’s case the rules were effective retroactively.”

Of course, applying rules and laws retroactively has been a hallmark of military juntas. For example, juntas regularly absolve themselves of criminality when they overthrow governments and constitutions. A more egregious example was the use of Announcement No. 27 (2006) of the then junta  to dissolve Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party in 2007 using the junta’s Announcement retroactively. It was the junta’s Constitutional Tribunal – its Constitutional Court – that concocted this decision (while at the same time acquitting the parties that supported the coup).

On the current retrospective use of rules and laws, naturally enough it is royalist-military stooge Meechai Ruchupan, head of the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee, who said the new law, which was only published in the Royal Gazette on 28 September and took effect the next day, applied in Yingluck’s case. As Umesh states, this “basically closes the door on any appeal by Yingluck against the verdict and leaves no room for her to return to Thailand in the foreseeable future unless she’s willing to be behind bars.”

Umesh continues:

The case has raised more questions than it has answered. Many on the street believe that all these rules being put in place by those in power have a single aim of trying to curtail the power and marginalise the once powerful Pheu Thai Party. And to further cement this possible misconception [PPT: we can’t possibly imagine that this is a misconception] is the fact that other political parties are being left to do what they like and their party members and leaders are not being prosecuted even when they are in breach of the law.

To illustrate the double standards at work, Umesh points to the case of anti-democrat leader, coup plotter and “former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who has been accused of violation of Section 157 of the Criminal Code by committing misconduct or dereliction of duty for his handling of the 6.67 billion baht project to build 396 police stations under the Abhisit Vejjajiva government…”.

As he notes, that case began before Yingluck’s case, and had dragged on and on:

Little has been heard about it since May 2015 when Mr Suthep was still a monk and once after that when the anti-Pheu Thai “independent” National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) decided to change one of its outside members because Mr Suthep claimed he was biased against him.

This outside member was none other than Vicha Mahakhun, the NACC subcommittee chairman in charge of investigating Mr Suthep’s misconduct. Mr Vicha was hired as an outside member after he retired from the chair of the subcommittee in which he had implicated Mr Suthep.

But here’s double standards twist: Why is there no related case against Abhisit? After all, he was the premier when the alleged malfeasance took place.

While this dereliction of duty case continues to drag on, Democrat Party leader Mr Abhisit, who was Mr Suthep’s immediate boss, is basically left off the hook. There is no such case because Thailand’s judicial system is rigged, politicized and subject to the whims and desires of the military junta.

Umesh concludes:

All this gives the impression that those in power are trying to come up with a million explanations for their snail’s pace of investigation into those aligned to the people in power, but to the general public this kind of move is nothing more than what has been repeated a million times over the past decade — the implementation of double standards.

The blatant breach and different interpretation of rules for different sides makes one wonder how this country can achieve its goal of reconciliation and move on.

The junta’s answer is probably something like: “Just give us a few more years to embed double standards so deeply that they will be the only standards.”

Update: We hit the publish button a little too quickly as we wanted to write more about lawlessness. The best example of the courts acting against the law is lese majeste. There have been several cases where persons have been charged with lese majeste against royals, dead and alive, who are simply not covered by the law. The most recent case of this legal ridiculousness was just last month where courts and the Office of the Attorney General have agreed to proceed with a case involving Princess Sirindhorn who is not covered under Article 112.





More retroactive “law”

14 07 2017

One of the most significant acts by the military-backed regime put in place following the 2006 military coup was the dissolving of the Thai Rak Thai Party through the application of a “law” applied retrospectively.

That application of a junta decree indicated and demonstrated double standards in the judicial system and promoted the further politicization of the judiciary. Today, almost all arms of the judiciary are politicized and biased. In lese majeste cases, the law is not even considered important in gaining convictions.

We are not saying that the judicial system in Thailand was ever independent, unbiased and fair, but the deterioration under the influence of military regimes and their civilian clones has been precipitous.

Whatever one thinks of Thaksin Shinawatra, the Bangkok Post’s report that several court cases against the former prime minister “are expected to be resumed in absentia following a new organic law endorsed by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)” is another example of the manipulation of the law and the politicization of the judicial system.

It is no surprise that the reduced puppet NLA “voted unanimously … to pass the controversial draft organic law on criminal procedures for holders of a political position.” (The NLA is reduced as several puppets resigned to prepare for the junta’s “election,” suggesting that the NLA has been tipped off on the date of the election, while the public is kept in the dark.)

While the change to the law to allow for trials in absentia may be considered a useful change, it is clear that this is “Thaksin’s Law,” meant to banish him from Thailand forever. (Of course, he is not the first “enemy” of the monarchy to be banished from Thailand for life.)

As the Post report notes: “Cases which have gone to the court before the enactment of this law will also be affected, meaning the law will be retroactive….  In general, rule of law forbids prosecutions under laws passed after the alleged crimes were committed.”

The anti-democrats will cheer this. Yet they are complicit in the undermining of the rule of law in Thailand.





“Everyone must adhere to the law”

27 06 2017

Knuckle-draggers, knuckle-heads and other anti-democrats have gotten pretty darn agitated by Yingluck Shinawatra’s recent tears. We don’t imagine that any of them can see past their hatred of a popular politician and her troubles as concocted by the military dictatorship.

But one line by Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan caught our eye. In dismissing Yingluck, he reportedly stated that “everyone must adhere to the law.”

Prawit is the nitwit with the tongue

If that were true, he wouldn’t be Deputy Dictator and illegal coup-makers would be jailed.

If that were true, the popcorn gunman wouldn’t have been acquitted.

If that were true, the Thai Rak Thai Party would not have been dissolved using law retrospectively.

If that were true, the military dictatorship would have 3,000 people awaiting trial for reposting a BBC Thai story on King Vajiralongkorn.

If that were true, there would have been an investigation of the theft of the 1932 plaque.

If that were true, all those committing torture, disappearances and so on, would be jailed.

If that were true, military murders would be jailed.

If that were true, the Red Bull killer would be in jail.

If that were true…. We don’t need to go on. This general is a nasty nitwit.





The corruption glacier I

14 02 2017

In a recent post, PPT commented on the many failures of the National Anti-Corruption Commission: it is politicized, biased and just plain slow. Glacially slow.

Two stories today emphasize these points. The first seems like a story of stalling, inertia and perhaps incompetence. Yet is also illustrates the politicization of corruption and bias. We only cover that story in this post and will follow up with a second but related post on the other story.

At the Bangkok Post, former academic and former NACC commissioner Medhi Krongkaew raised questions “over the slow progress of the investigation into alleged bribery payments made by a British alcoholic beverage giant [Diageo] to Thai officials in 2011.” Back then, Diageo “agreed to pay the US Securities and Exchange Commission more than US$16 million (561 million baht) to resolve Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act offences involving bribes to foreign officials in India, Thailand, and South Korea between 2003 and 2009.”

In this case, the official/political figure is pretty well identified, but not in the Bangkok Post story, which kind of fades away. Medhi lets himself off the hook by saying “he was not responsible for probing the case, all he could do was forward the information received from the US to the other NACC members who were directly responsible for the investigation…”. He said, “I don’t know what has been hindering them…”.

It’s not a bad question for both Medhi and the NACC are anti-Thaksin Shinawatra, and this case is about people close to him. Part of the story is here. But the more detailed account is a PDF. This is a bit long, but worth reading through:

From April 2004 through July 2008, DT [Diageo Thailand], retained the services of a Thai government and foreign political party official … to lobby other Thai officials to adopt Diageo’s position in several multi-million dollar tax and customs disputes. For this … DT paid approximately … $599,322. DT compensated the Thai Official through 49 direct payments to a political consulting firm … for which the Thai Official acted as a principal. Most, if not all, of the $599,322 paid to the Consulting Firm was for the Thai Official’s services and accrued to his benefit.

The Thai Official served as a Thai government and/or political party official throughout the relevant period…. At various times the Thai Official served as Deputy Secretary to the Prime Minister, Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, and Advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. The Thai Official also served on a committee of the ruling Thai Rak Thai political party, and as a member and/or advisor to several state-owned or state-controlled industrial and utility boards.… The Thai Official was the brother of one of DT’s senior officers at that time. Several members of Diageo’s global and regional management attended meetings with the Thai Official and senior members of the Thai government.

The Thai Official provided extensive lobbying services on behalf of Diageo and DT in connection with several important tax and customs disputes that were pending between Diageo and the Thai government. For example, with respect to excise taxes, the Thai Official coordinated and attended numerous meetings between senior Thai government officials and senior Diageo and DT management, including two meetings in April and May 2005 with Thailand’s then Prime Minister. In May 2005, shortly following the meetings arranged by the Thai Official, the Prime Minister made a radio address publicly endorsing Diageo’s position in … calculating excise taxes.

On Diageo’s behalf, the Thai Official also met repeatedly with senior commerce, finance, and customs authorities in charge of the transfer pricing and import tax disputes, as well as with members of the Thai parliament. The Thai Official’s services contributed to Diageo’s successful resolution of several components of these disputes…. Based in part on the Thai Official’s lobbying efforts, the Thai government accepted important aspects of DT’s transfer pricing method and released over $7 million in bank guarantees that DT had been required to post while the tax dispute was pending.

DT improperly accounted for the monthly retainer that it paid to the Thai Official through his Consulting Firm….

Diageo essentially made “improper payments to government officials…”.

Anyone familiar with the NACC and the political nature of its work would think this is a home run. They can get the easily identified TRT official and send some barbs Thaksin’s way as well.

Or can they? After all, back in December, it was revealed that metropolitan police chief Pol. Lt. Gen. Sanit Mahathavorn was on the payroll of the giant alcohol and beverage producer Thai Beverage Plc. The top cop was, and we assume, still is getting 600,000 baht a year as an “adviser” to the alcohol firm.

That seemed like a conflict of interest to many, but not to the police force. The Bangkok Post reported that the Royal Thai Police “confirmed that metropolitan police chief … is not violating police rules by holding an advisory role with a major alcohol conglomerate.”

If it’s “good” enough for the police, then presumably an official/adviser/deputy secretary to a premier/committee member of a political party/member and/or adviser to state-owned/state-controlled boards/consultant is in the clear as well?

Medhi’s raising an opportunity for political point scoring. Why hasn’t it and isn’t it being hit out of the park? Corruption Park?

We say more in our next post.