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.

Updated: Shaky regime III

20 06 2019

As the junta’s post-junta regime is put together, its foundations are already being undermined, and its moving to shore up those foundations, mainly be preventing scrutiny. That is a strategy that can’t hold for long.

A day or so ago, opposition politicians gave notice that they “plan to file a motion urging the House Speaker to scrutinize the criteria used by the junta to select the 250 senators.” Puea Thai MP Suthin Klangsaeng wants “Parliament to convene a special house committee tasked with looking into the selection procedure, which they fear could have been fraught with favoritism.” He added: ““So far, the process hasn’t been revealed…”.

Almost immediately, it was reported that Senate Speaker and junta puppet Pornpetch Wichitcholchai “insisted on Wednesday the House of Representatives has no authority to probe the qualifications of senators.” As far as we can tell, that’s not the issue; rather it’s the process. But you get the picture.

Taking another tack, “Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a former member of the dissolved Thai Raksa Chart Party, on Wednesday lodged a petition with the Office of Attorney-General (OAG) asking it to seek a Constitutional Court ruling on the Senate selection process.” We’d expect both the A-G and the Constitutional Court to back the junta.

Meanwhile, trying to protect its shaky foundations, the puppet Palang Pracharath Party “will next week lodge a petition with the Constitutional Court asking it not to temporarily suspend its MPs accused of violating media share-holding rules.” Of course, the Court has already disqualified a Future Forward candidate before the election for the same “crime,” not even allowing him to stand. Expect the Court to drag its feet.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that the junta proxy party has “asked the Constitutional Court to drop a case against its 27 MPs for allegedly holding media shares on a technicality.” Grasping for all legal straws, Palang Pracharath’s “lawyer Tossapol Pengsom said on Thursday the 66 FFP [Future Forward] MPs who signed the document submitted it as a letter, not as a petition as prescribed by law.” He said: “We view the submission was not done correctly so the case should be dropped…”.

Updated: On stealing the election IX

18 04 2019

Our series on stealing the election began with a post on Future Forward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and the military junta’s rabid attack, concocting a sedition charge.

Our ninth post in the series is about the other rabid effort to alter the election outcome. That is, charging Future Forward’s Piyabutr Saengkanokkul with computer crimes and contempt of court, the latter meaning the puppet Constitutional Court.

The charges relate to “a video clip of him reading a party statement on the Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve the Thai Raksa Chart Party in March.”

His appearance was observed by Angkana Neelapaiji of the National Human Rights Commission and two representatives of the UN Human Rights Office.

Piyabutr has rejected the charges and has been given until 25 April to submit a written statement.

Interestingly, both Piyabutr and Thanathorn have expressed confidence in the legal system.

This may seem to be asking for trouble, but it throws the charges back at the prosecutors and courts. Pushing false charges will do huge damage to the junta, its election and the prosecutors and courts.

Update: There’s more on Piyabutr’s appearance at Prachatai.

On the EC’s failures

18 04 2019

The Election Commission is a festering sore on the junta’s “election.” It has failed to convince no one that it is independent. Worse, it has not shown any capacity for administering a competent election process, even an election rigged by the junta.

There have been several actions taken to protest the EC’s failures. One of the most eye-catching has been that by “student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who arranged dozens of pairs of shoes outside the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, spelling out the Thai initials of the Election Commission.” The association of the EC with feet is damning of the agency.

Meanwhile, at New Mandala, legal scholar Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang of the Faculty of Law at Chulalongkorn University concludes that “Thailand’s 2019 general election is a spectacular disaster.” He adds that “the integrity of this election is irreparably damaged,” and heaps blame on the EC. In doing this, Khemthong looks at the EC’s history of anti-democratic behavior.

On the current EC, he observes:

The fifth and current Election Commission (2018–present) was installed by the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA). Its appointment history underpinned suspicions prior to the 2019 election that the body would collude with the NCPO. Those suspicions were confirmed when the Commission refused to investigate a campaign finance scandal involving the NCPO’s proxy, the Phalang Pracharath Party, but swiftly dissolved Thai Raksa Chart, one of Thaksin [Shinawatra]’s proxies.

Khemthong states that “there is broad consensus that the Election Commission is unfit to fulfil its assignment.” But for all of its failures, this EC remains largely unaccountable – except to its puppet masters in the junta.

How electoral commissioning works

12 04 2019

The ongoing controversy about how to select party list “winners” from the recent “election” is a fake controversy. We don’t mean that the military junta’s effort to steal the election is fake; that’s very real. Nor do we mean that the theft isn’t of concern to the anti-junta parties; they are watching the election being stolen.

What we mean is that the Election Commission is manufacturing a controversy in order to achieve the outcome the junta wants. Only concerted opposition can stop this.

The EC’s political feint seems to run like this. First, the EC seemed to say it didn’t know how to calculate the party list. Remember the infamous “I don’t have a calculator” comment by EC boss Ittiporn Boonpracong. Then it seemed easy enough, right? Wrong.

As the possibility of an anti-junta coalition emerged, EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma claimed that his EC wasn’t sure how it is going to calculate party list seats. He revealed that there were at least two formulas, each based on a different “interpretation” of the law.

Then the “controversy” was underway, with the junta’s puppets emerging to say that the only way to allocate the seats was by a formula that favored their bosses. This caused the “controversy” to escalate.

As noted, several parties objected. But the point of the controversy was to find a way to “legalize” this aspect of the theft of the election.

As the Bangkok Post reports the “controversy” allows the EC to look stunned and stumped, and to send the “issue” to the Constitutional Court for it “to rule on the legality of its [chosen] method of calculating and allocating party-list seats.” That is, the way that suits the pro-junta position.

Now, we don’t know how the Court will rule, and it might surprise us, but we can make a pretty good guess based on its previous rulings. It has pretty much a 100% record of supporting the anti-democrat/pro-junta positions, most recently and hastily dissolved the Thai Raksa Chart Party on dubious grounds.

This means that the Court is likely to agree with the EC and thus “legalize” this aspect of stealing the election.

That’s how election commissioning works. As Reuters puts it: “The move raises the prospect of further delay after a lack of clarity over the election outcome fuelled concerns over alleged manipulation by the military government…”.

That’s how the “system” works, “legalizing” all that is illegal (from coup to dissolving parties and much more).

Only concerted opposition can prevent the EC and the Constitutional Court from supporting the military junta’s theft of party list seats.

Updated: EC votes for the junta

13 03 2019

We at PPT have been pointing out for some time that the Election Commission is a puppet of the military junta. Its recent press announcements have been so junta biased that they border on the loony.

This now means that the election commissioners now need the junta more than the junta needs them. We say this because so bad, incompetent, devious and biased has it been that should the junta not retain government, then the commissioners are likely to find themselves in the court.

This position means the EC is now throwing caution to the wind and its now bizarre decisions and rulings are its vote for the junta.

Two reports today indicate this pattern of brazen junta bias.

One is a Bangkok Post report that the EC is investigating a “plan by politicians from the disbanded Thai Raksa Chart party to shift supporters’ votes to another party and their call for ‘no’ votes, deeming the tactic illegal.”

Chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong said the EC has begun this quite preposterous fit-up without even receiving a complaint.

Ittiporn acknowledges that the dissolution of Thai Raksa Chart means that “[m]ost electoral laws therefore no longer applied to them,” but reckons they can be fitted-up under other laws.

EC (left) votes for The Dictator (right)

He reckons that campaigning “for ‘no’ votes and for eligible voters to vote for another party are prohibited.” Ittiporn babbles on that the law says that “voters must make their choice by themselves, without being led or influenced…”.

We have to admit that we have not heard of the laws Ittiporn contends exist, but we can’t fathom the notion that voters can’t be “influenced.” If that were true, no party could be campaigning.

Ittiporn goes fully mental declaring that both the “campaigners” and “the candidates who receive the votes” can be face the EC’s wrath, including bans and disqualification.

Then this absurd EC chairman “denied any intention to have any political party dissolved through this latest intervention.” But, of course, this was an inane proposition, for as everyone in the country knows, the target is Future Forward. It may also include Puea Thai as some in Thai Raksa Chart have urged votes for that party.

The EC has voted and its a rigged vote for the junta and its party. The situation is now beyond farcical.

Update: Can it get worse for the EC? Yes, it can. A report at The Nation also cites Ittiporn who seems to be playing “catch-up” on the Palang Pracharath banquet “investigation.” Despite EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma having said something else, Ittiporn has stated that the “investigation” is not complete. He doesn’t say why the EC “investigated” something that was not in the complaints and petitions. Sounds like posterior covering.

Ittiporn then declares that the “Thai Raksa Chart members might be violating the law that prohibits attempts to influence voters. The law clearly says voters must make a decision independently and without any outside influence…”. As noted above, this is simply bonkers.

Flustered and desperate I

12 03 2019

The military junta is officially flustered and desperate, seemingly recognizing that the pro-military parties are – despite years of its efforts and poll rigging – not likely to do quite as well as the junta had planned in the upcoming election.

The desperation is palpable and seen in efforts by the junta to tangle opponents in legal cases. But with the Democrat Party “withdrawing” support for Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister, the junta and its Palang Pracharath Party is looking isolated and electorally rancid (we have more of the Democrat Party in an upcoming post).

The surprise package has been Future Forward, which is polling well and drawing very large campaign crowds. This makes them a target for the junta.

Prachatai reports that the latest of several cases the junta has brought against Future Forward is a complaint to the police’s Technology Crime Suppression Division against the party’s website administrator and others for contempt of court. The complaint was lodged by the junta’s legal officer, Col Burin Thongprapai.

The complaint refers to a press conference following the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart Party on 7 March where party Secretary-General Piyabutr Saengkanokkul read the Party’s statement on the Constitutional Court’s ruling. Earlier it remained unclear exactly what the junta’s complaint was.

The details are at Prachatai, but it remains crystal clear that the junta is panicked.

Defending the Constitutional Court as farce

11 03 2019

Little things sometimes matter. For example, we noticed that the state’s propaganda arm did not officially report the king’s objection to (Princess) Ubolratana’s nomination by the Thai Raksa Chart Party until 9 March. Our quick search of its English-language website turned up a report of her nomination but no reporting of the king’s response (at least not as a headlined story). A quick search of the Thai-language part of the site produced nothing about the king’s response.

We may be over-reading this, but it seems to us that this lack of reporting until after the Constitutional Court’s decision is a remarkable piece of self-censorship and the now-required deference born of fear.

Meanwhile, in an effort to limit the damage of the whole affair to the monarchy, and especially for an international audience, hoary royalist and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra campaigner, Veera Prateepchaikul has been wheeled out.

Veera is a former editor of the Bangkok Post. His task in his most recent op-ed is to “explain” why the Court was right and “foreigners” are wrong to criticize the verdict.

He views it as no “surprise that most foreign media and human rights advocacy organisations” got the decision all wrong. He particularly ticked off by Amnesty International. He’s miffed that these “foreigners” see the Court’s decision as politicized.

He reckons the “foreigners” got it “wrong.” As “evidence” for getting it “wrong,” failing to consider “the role of the monarchy in society dating back to 1932 and its status of being above politics and being the symbolic soul of the nation…”. Of course, this is the usual blarney that royalists spew out when considering their beloved monarchy, ignoring the facts of history.

Veera relies on a written statement from one of the nine Constitutional Court judges who just happens to be his yellow-shirted buddy Nakarin Mektrairat. Now, Nakarin should know better as he wrote a history of 1932. But he sold his historian’s soul to the anti-democrats quite some time ago. A yellow-shirted historian, a 2014 coup supporter and constitution drafter and supporter of the lese majeste law, there seems little to assure “foreigners” that Nakarin is anything other than a junta quisling.

Still, Veera reckons Nakarin’s “enlightened explanation about how the court viewed the TRC’s nomination of Princess Ubolratana as its prime ministerial candidate and the possible repercussions towards the monarchy if this ‘highly inappropriate’ act was not nipped in the bud.”

Oddly, Nakarin apparently recognizes that Ubonratana was unencumbered by being a member of the monarchy but was still “undermin[ing] the basis and value of the constitution,” by her status as a member of the royal family and that it is the royal family that is “above politics” and this was “mandated in the first constitution of Thailand and enshrined in following charters.”

Indeed, Article 11 of the 1932 constitution did declare members of the royal family with status of Serene Highness and above were not to be involved in politics. However, by the time of most recent constitutions, this provision is not evident, having first been revised in 1946.

It is unclear which article of the constitution she was undermining or which law she was bending. In fact, even the Court relied on a half-baked notion of “culturalism” rather than law aand, of course, the king’s own pronouncement.

The real problem for Veera is that the person “dragging” this “member of the royal family into politics” is Thaksin, and therefore the move ” is simply unimaginable.”

It is not “electoral fraud,” that the “real motive” was to win the election. Indeed, this constituted a “wicked idea.”

We agree that the whole idea was daft and evidenced a kind of desperation, but to conclude that the “Constitutional Court’s verdict …has set a precedent … that the institution is politically impartial and above politics” is farcical. Just look at the repeated demonstrations of partiality by monarchs since 1932.

Updated: Media on Thai Raksa Chart and Constitutional Court

8 03 2019

We thought it useful to provide a list of reactions to the dissolution of the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Thai Raksa Chart Party by the Constitutional Court. The dissolution was allegedly based on a series of “cultural” and “legal” reasons. We will probably update the list in about 12 hours:

Prachatai, 7 March 2019: “Constitutional Court rules to dissolve TRC party

The Nation, 7 March 2019: “Court dissolves Thai Raksa Chart, bans party’s executive board for 10 years

Bangkok Post, 7 March 2019: “Constitutional Court disbands Thai Raksa Chart

Thai PBS, 7 March 2019: “Constitutional Court orders Thai Raksa Chart dissolved

Thai PBS, 7 March 2019: “Thai Raksa Chart supporters urged to vote for Pheu Thai

Amnesty International, 7 March 2019: “Thailand: Dissolution of political party highlights authorities’ abuse of power

AFP, 7 March 2019: “Thai Constitutional Court dissolves key Shinawatra party

Reuters, 7 March 2019: “Thai Court Bans Party for Nominating Princess for PM

The Guardian, 7 March 2019: “Thailand court bans party that nominated princess for PM

The Telegraph, 7 March 2019: “Blow for Thai democracy as opposition party is disbanded for nominating princess as prime minister

New York Times, 7 March 2019: “Thai Political Party That Nominated King’s Sister Is Dissolved

CNN, 7 March 2019: “Thai party that nominated a princess for PM has been dissolved

The Washington Post, 7 March 2019: “Thailand’s Constitutional Court dissolves party that presented a princess as its candidate

Khaosod, 7 March 2019: “Thai Net Reacts to Party Dissolution With Pungent Memes

Bangkok Post, 8 March 2019: “Thai Raksa Chart plans ‘Vote No’ strategy

Bangkok Post, 8 March 2019: “SET unfazed by party’s dissolution

Bangkok Post, 8 March 2019: “TRC dissolution turns up political heat

The Nation, 8 March 2019: “Banned party’s supporters urged to vote for ‘democratic camp’

The Nation, 8 March 2019: “‘A threat to monarchy’

Update: We promised to add to this list, and we do so here with some local stories but also a selection that indicates how widely this news has been consumed. Some a wire service reports so duplicate others on the list:

Deutsche Welle, 7 March 2019: “Thai court bans party that nominated princess for PM

France24, 7 March 2019: “Thai court dissolves Shinawatra-linked party over botched princess bid

The Times, London, 7 March 2019: “Thai princess’s party is abolished weeks before poll

CGTN, Beijing, 7 March 2019: “Thai court dissolves party for nominating princess for PM

Taipei Times, 8 March 2019: “Thai court dissolves party that nominated princess

NDTV, New Delhi, 7 March 2019: “Thai Princess Calls Order To Ban Party Linked To Her ‘Sad And Depressing’

The Express Tribune, Karachi, 7 March 2019: “Thailand court bans party that nominated princess for PM

Bloomberg, 7 March 2019: “Thai Court Disbands Thaksin-Linked Party That Chose Princess

Los Angeles Times, 7 March 2019: “Thailand bans political party that nominated ex-princess for prime minister

The Age, Melbourne, 7 March 2019: “Thai court bans party for nominating princess for PM

Al Jazeera video report

National News Bureau, 7 March 2019: “Constitutional Court dissolves Thai Raksa Chart Party

Khaosod, 8 March 2019: “Thais Overseas Kiss Their Thai Raksa Chart Votes Goodbye

Bangkok Post, 8 March 2019: “Ex-TRC execs can help other parties campaign, says EC

Thai PBS, 8 March 2019: “Thai Raksa Chart party members can campaign for other parties

Updated: Thai Raksa Chart dissolved

7 03 2019

As expected, the Constitutional Court has dissolved the Thai Raksa Chart Party for nominating a (non) princess member of the royal family as its prime ministerial candidate.

Khaosod reports a 9-0 decision from the judges who ruled that the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra party “broke the regulations when it nominated a former princess as its premier candidate last month, a move that the party had hoped would help it sail to victory at the poll.”

This is the third time that a pro-Thaksin party has been dissolved by the politicized Court.

The judges apparently “established the nomination amounts to illegally drawing the monarchy into politics under voting regulations.” They had to dig deep for “evidence,” citing dead kings, the Court ruled that the king “and other members of the monarchy must stay above politics and therefore cannot run for office.” In essence, though, the Court simply followed the king’s announcement in February barring his sister.

Of course, Ubolratana is not officially royal but the king declared her as part of the royal family and that meant she had to stay out of politics. In the past, several princes had been involved in politics and served in government as ministers.

The Court revealed its politicized nature, stating that the nomination of Ubolratana was “a ‘devious scheme’ to score political advantage.”

The result for the party is that it is dissolved and “all of its MP candidates removed from the race and its executives barred from politics for 10 years.” If we are not mistaken, some of them previously served an earlier 5 year suspension.

The junta and The Dictator, while expecting this outcome, will still be jubilent and will use “disloyalty” against other pro-Thaksin parties in campaigning.

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