Welcome to the past

11 01 2022

A couple of days ago, Thai Newsroom had a story that propelled PPT back to an era when elections were about political games known as Thai-style Democracy. Then, policies and local people counted for not much at all. In large part, the 2014 military coup and the 2017 constitution was about winding back to those times.

Former six-time Democrat Party MP for Chumphon Sirisak Onlamai is campaigning in the by-election in Chumphon’s Constituency 1 for Palang Pracharath’s . Sirisak has dumped the Democrat Party and “defected” to the regime’s party. That kind of party horsetrading was common back then, funded by huge corruption.

The malleable Sirisak is complaining that some other party is manipulating village healthcare volunteers as vote canvassers. Sirisak says they “have been quietly helping the unnamed candidate … despite the fact they are not legally allowed to do so in the first place. In the 2019 election it was Palang Pracharath that was using state and military to gather votes.

Sirisak reckons “some of these village-based healthcare volunteers had been coaxed and cajoled into unlawfully helping the candidate in question by recommending villagers that they should vote for him and others had taken kickbacks from his head canvassers.”

Vote buying was a mantra for anti-Thaksin groups, although in recent years the big vote buyers are likely to have been Palang Pracharath and Bhum Jai Thai.

Sirisak says the volunteers have been “pitifully turned into tools to serve such selfish desires of the rogue candidate…” and “called on the authorities in charge of the village-based healthcare volunteers to take a close look at the allegedly unbecoming situation currently prevalent throughout the constituency.”

Welcome to the past.

Reactionary anti-democrats

22 04 2019

Because the military regime’s five years of political manipulation seems to have been unsuccessful in convincing voters, anti-democrats are becoming panicked.

Those anti-democrats who populate the elite are exasperated at having tried again and again since 2006 to turn Thailand on the royalist path to Thai-style democracy and failed.The junta’s “election” is just the latest refusal to follow the royalist elite.

However, it seems pretty clear that the king and a military that is increasingly his are continuing to push and shove Thailand into the political dark ages.

A  recent effort has been calls for a “national government.” In a royalist twist, Khaosod reports that “[s]even minor political parties … called for a national unity government and for … the King to handpick the upper house.”

These also-rans called a “news conference … at the Election Commission [and] … proposed that a national unity government … to break the state of political stalemate, in which no side has formed a functioning government nearly a month after the March 24 elections.”

Of course, this is a tad nonsensical as the results of the election are not yet known and no government can be formed until after 9 May.  In fact, this is just another ploy to promote a junta-backed government. You know this when their third “proposal” is for seats to be removed from Puea Thai and allocated to small parties (like them).

But is is the other proposal that is most regressive. The group “urged junta chairman [Gen] Prayuth Chan-ocha to refrain from selecting the 250 Senators, as is specified in the current constitution. Instead, they said … the King should pick them.”

In fact, it is widely rumored that King Vajiralongkorn is already engaged in pressuring the junta to appoint his own unelected swill senators.

We suspect the proposal for the king to select senators is reflective of the palace’s views and may even represent prodding from that direction.

The junta’s political crisis is becoming a critical juncture for the nation that may see a further propelling of politics institutions and practice into the past. But, then, that’s been the basis of Thai-style democracy since the 1960s and reflected the political reaction of royals and royalists following 1932.

Blame junta, Meechai and the EC for crisis

20 04 2019

Wasant Techawongtham is a former news editor at the Bangkok Post. His op-ed today, summing up the Election Commission’s and military dictatorship’s finagling of the “election” result is worth a read.

That there are much bigger countries running huge elections without all of the screw ups Thailand has seen is a point made by Wasant and several others. Its also a running theme on social media. That’s not to say that elections in Indonesia and India have been free of problems. But those problems seem to be handled by EC’s that have shown better skills, more transparency and a deal more independence than Thailand’s puppet agency.

In Thailand, the election held a month ago, Wasant says, “will undoubtedly go down as Thailand’s messiest — some would say dirtiest — in its political history.”

nearly a month since Thai voters cast their ballots, Thailand is stilled mired in controversies, many of which emerged even before counting at polling stations was completed.”

As well as all of its bungling and failures, Wasant considers the “most astounding aspect has to be the EC’s admission that it has not yet decided on what formula to use to calculate the number of party-list MPs for each party.”

What has led to this mes? He has the answer: “This is clearly a direct result of the machination set in motion by the military regime to prolong its grip on power through a disguised transition from a military dictatorship to a form of ‘Thai-style democracy’.”

Wasant points to the overly complicated 2017 constitution, “approved in a sham referendum.” As we at PPT have noted, that constitution “design” was so determined to keep out the Thaksinites that it is now widely spoken of as a disaster and in need of immediate rewriting.

He adds that everyone knows that the charter was designed for the junta’s party. As he says, a mouthpiece for the “military-proxy Palang Pracharat Party” has publicly stated of the constitution: “It was designed for us.”

EC performing seals

On the EC, he observes:

The EC’s refusal to make a definitive ruling on how to apportion party-list MPs is seen as a transparent attempt to finagle a way to increase the number of MPs on the pro-junta side.

But with everyone looking on, it doesn’t have the guts to ram through its apportionment formula. Instead, it has passed the hot potato to the Constitutional Court, hoping for an unsavoury ruling in its favour.

As we at PPT have long said, Wasant states, “the EC is merely a tool and vehicle to deliver an electoral victory to the junta.”

And this is where he names names: “The mastermind behind this shameful political theatre, meanwhile, has gone missing…. Meechai Ruchupan is the man. He is said to be a legal wizard who has loyally served several military and military-backed regimes.” It was Meechai “who was able to satisfy the military’s specifications for a new charter.”

Wasant wonders why the military’s “constitution drafting genius” is MIA or AWOL. Meechai did much to satisfy the junta and they are responsible for “this political quagmire…”.

We at PPT have no idea where he’s gone into hiding, but we’d prefer never to have to see this interfering old man again. A “genius” he isn’t. A handy and complicit tool to be sure, but after yet another screw-up for the military he admires, let him fade from his inglorious history of anti-democratic destruction.

We also have more than a sneaking suspicion that crisis and delay is useful for the junta. Delaying has been a defining element of its dictatorship. Maybe it just goes on and on.

Updated: Battle lines drawn

2 04 2019

In our last post we at PPT worried about a “silent coup.” That coup just got very bellicose.

The Bangkok Post reports that Army chief and junta secretary-general Gen Apirat Kongsompong has gone nuclear in attacking just about everyone the junta fears and hates.

Clipped from Khaosod

First, sounding like a throwback to the Cold War, Gen Apirat rants about “leftists.” He singled out those students and lecturers who had studied overseas as threats to national security and the monarchy:

Those who studied democracy abroad and read other countries’ textbooks must consider how they should be adapted instead of trying to change the constitutional monarchy. Do not introduce the left-wing policies you learned and try to pretend. Other countries do not do so….

Clearly, this is an attack on Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, who studied in France, and Future Forward.

He went further:

To the students, lecturers and officials who studied abroad, some of whom received scholarships from the palace, I’d like to stress that no matter what kind of democracy you have studied, democracy has been adapted to suit different cultures around the world… In the world of democracy, there are many forms of democracy….

Apirat being “democratic”

What he means is the Thai-style democracy or royal democracy, while not democratic at all, is the only kind of “democracy” that will be permitted by the Army.

In fact, that is the (non)democracy established by the junta’s constitution. The problem is that people seem to still want to elect anti-junta/anti-military parties and Gen Apirat is livid.

He warned that “politicians, lecturers and students” must obey the rules. He warned that any “refusal to follow rules would only create problems…”.

Second, Gen Apirat barked at political parties that were, he claimed, “dividing Thai people by referring to ‘democratic’ and ‘dictatorial’ camps.” In his warped world, the junta is not dictatorial. No sane person agrees with him.

He threatened another “civil war” if these people didn’t follow the rules. Some part of these “rules” seems to involve accepting that the Election Commission is doing a good job and that the “parliament” should be accepted. He seemed to imply that the parliament would be controlled by the junta’s devils aided by cobras.

Third, while acknowledging that the Army uses social media, he blasted those who use it for purposes other than for promoting the Army, the junta and the monarchy.

Fourth, he excoriated the Svengali of Hong Kong or Dubai or somewhere else whose name may not be spoken:

Some rich people did not flee although they were prosecuted and sentenced to jail. They accept the justice system, unlike someone who does not or cannot accept it and is making moves abroad…

Suffering his usual political schizophrenia, Gen Apirat then somehow managed to imagine that the “armed forces were free from politics and were professional.”

We are not exactly sure where Gen Apirat’s head is when he comes up with such lies. In this instance, he makes this ludicrous claim when he is making a political speech meant to spin lies while damning his political opponents.

But here’s a hint on the location of his location: he says the murderous military “adhered to the duty to protect the nation, religions and the monarch and followed the instructions of His Majesty the King…”.

Clipped from Khaosod

So, while channeling the Cold War, his politics has nothing to do with democracy and his head is somewhere in the early twentieth century before the 1932 revolution.

When a military thug with a record of murderous, lawless and anti-democratic interventions talks, barks and threatens in this way, we get concerned. What next? Another coup?

Update: A reader sent us a link to a link to a brief account of Gen Apirat’s meeting with the foreign media. In English, it seems less maniacal than his reported comments in Thai on roughly the same topic. The interesting addition to the above reports is his recycling of yellow-shirt narratives about the ignorant, deluded and/or uneducated masses in the countryside.

With a major update: The king “votes” again I

24 03 2019

“Vote early and vote often” is a phrase used in relation to elections and the voting process that encourages corrupt electoral activity.

King Vajiralongkorn “voted” once already when he forbade his older sister and Thaksin Shinawatra’s significant other, resulting in the dissolution of yet another pro-Thaksin party. His second “vote” came last night, at 8.44 pm, 2 hours and 44 minutes after campaigning was meant to cease.

As the Bangkok Post has it:

the King had the Lord Chamberlain deliver a part of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s message 30 years ago urging the promotion of good people to govern so they can prevent bad people from creating trouble.

It cites the dead king:

Maintaining national peace and order is … not about making everyone good; it’s about supporting good people so they can govern and prevent bad people from grabbing power and creating trouble and unrest.

According to the announcement, the king expressed hope that:

all citizens and government officials, including civil servants, the military and the police who are duty-bound to ensure national security and people’s happiness, to consider the royal message.

The announcement stated that the king

is concerned about national security and the feelings and happiness of citizens. The reference to the royal message is aimed at giving moral support and encouraging the performance of duties for the sake of unity, national security and people’s happiness. It is also a reminder of the great contributions of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty the Queen of King Rama IX, the announcement read.

It seems likely that this “vote” was and absentee vote as it seems the king had already left Thailand for his home in Tutzing, near Munich.

Channeling his father, this message will give great heart to the junta and its devil party, Palang Pracharath. The announcement’s message is an extended version of that party’s campaign slogan and mirrors The Dictator’s campaign message.

It may also be a response to his sister’s most recent personal political intervention.

What was that about a constitutional monarchy?

Update 1: Prachatai has a fine and brave discussion of the king’s statement and related events. It makes the point – one we neglected – that the term “good people” is “not neutral in Thai political lexicon.” Indeed, it is a terminology used by royalists and anti-democrats for several decades as a defining characteristic of “Thai-style democracy,” a royalist-inspired notion that promotes anti-democracy. It notes that in the battle with Thaksin, the “military junta and non-elected institutions have been using this word to justify their actions, and oftentimes at the expense of democracy.”

Update 2: For those interested in democracy, the Election Commission has had yet one more massive failure. Spineless EC chief Ittiporn Boonpracong supported the king’s unconstitutional intervention, saying:

I call on all Thais as well as officials to be mindful of King Rama X, who expressed his concerns about the election and choose good people to manage and move the country forward. I want everybody to exercise their voting rights while keeping the Royal announcement in mind….

In other words, vote for pro-junta parties! And this is the agency supervising the “election” and will have responsibility for dealing with perhaps hundreds of complaints. It’s pretty easy to see that the EC will do all it can to support pro-junta parties.

Update 3: It is beginning to look like the king’s announcement may have been a coordinated effort to change voting intentions with the EC boss, military brass and senior officials reinforcing the king’s “advice when electing their representative…”.

In a supposed constitutional monarchy, this kind of intervention should be unthinkable.

Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong was primed and “urged voters … to consider [the king’s]… advice, saying that following this advice will keep the country peaceful.” He clearly believes that this is a win-win intervention; he can support the king and the junta’s devil parties.

Armed forces supreme commander Gen Ponpipat Benyasri joined in, mimicking Gen Apirat, “saying the military has called on voters to elect ‘good people’ to become their MPs.” Military and monarchy! He stated: “The military adheres to the Royal advice and relevant regulations and orders…”. The orders come from the junta and Apirat.

Kanchanaburi Governor Jirakiat Phumsawat “also called on voters to consider …[the king’s] advice,” adding “I believe Kanchanaburi people will vote for ‘good people’ to run the country.”

One thing is clear in all of this unconstitutional interference: the monarchy remains deeply involved in Thailand’s politics.

Never trust an Army boss I

25 02 2019

About three days ago, Tan Hui Yee at The Straits Times published a recent interview with Thai army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong.

Speaking of the junta’s election, Gen Apirat “warned against stirring resentment against the men in green.” At the same time he “pledged … that the army will remain neutral in this election…”.

PPT choked on Gen Apirat’s blatant lie. The most basic fact is that Gen Apirat is the secretary-general to the junta. With Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha making himself the prime ministerial candidate for the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, Gen Apirat simply cannot be “neutral” and as commander of the Army it is beyond anyone’s imagination that the military coup leaders and the Army can ever be “neutral.” It is a complete fabrication.

Gen Apirat was “neutral” for one sentence, roaring:

the opposition, especially the politicians, believe that if they can make the Thai people dislike or distrust the army, then the army may collapse. As a result, our country will be weakened and then what will happen to the monarchy, which lies at the heart of Thai society?”

If the junta does not “win” its election, “politicians” will have to deal with a commander who already sees them as “opponents.”

Like Gen Prayuth in 2011, Apirat wants people to “select the right people and the right party.”

Gen Apirat also made the usual declaration: “The Thai army is “the most able pillar that supports the country and also the monarchy…”. The Army has long fostered the alliance with the monarchy. The alliance is built on several massacres of Thai citizens.

Describing Gen Apirat as a “fiercely royalist general,”  the story makes it clear that Apirat believes that “politicians” are nit sufficiently royalist and loyalist: “… people are attacking the army without understanding our position and duties to the country and our monarch.”

Reflecting on his recent call for an extremist anthem, Gen Apirat declared: The song is about people who try to manipulate the situation and cause confusion and conflict in our nation.”

He does not mean the murderous and scheming Army.

One element of military scheming for decades has been to define Thai-style democracy. Gen Apirat has been born, bred and now “protects” this non-democracy: “Each country has its own style of democracy, and so does Thailand, which has its own deep-rooted culture and a monarchy…”.

Never trust an Army commander involved in Thailand’s politics. They lie, murder and oppress in the name of the monarchy.

The “educate” on democracy

2 12 2018

We already knew it, but recent World Bank data briefly reported at The Nation confirms it. Thailand’s most highly “educated” – those with tertiary education – are less supportive of democratic politics than those of primary school education levels. More than 62% of the lower educated strongly support democracy while only 53% of “educated” university graduates feel the same.

That will worry the military junta for several reasons. First, like the rest of the anti-democrats, it considers the poor as uneducated, ignorant and gullible. After all, the junta’s current “electoral” strategy is based on this idea, so if those of lower education are more likely to support democracy, then that electoral strategy may be flawed. Second, the junta has sought to promote a notion of Thai-style democracy that is no democracy at all, and it may be that this spurious “democracy” will be rejected. Third, the result suggests that those of lower education levels may reject all of the anti-democratic rigging and fixing the junta has done over its several years of dictatorship.


Junta “democracy”

26 11 2018

A short story at the regime’s official “news” bureau is ostensibly about the junta’s mud map being on track, despite repeated changes to that “map” over more than four years of military dictatorship.

What we found more interesting were The Dictator’s musings on “democracy.”

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha let it be known that “the people [should]… be aware that true democracy is to ensure peace in society, maintain public benefits, and protect the nation, religion, and monarchy.”  The Dictator was also claimed to have said that

… some people might have understood democracy is a limitless state where anyone can do anything freely, but the truth remains all actions must stay within limits of the law, with acceptance to the majority and respects to the minority, and not using any group of people as tools to perpetrate conflicts or violence.

Clearly, he’s defining Thai-style democracy, eschewing notions of representation, free and fair elections, constitutionalism including a truly constitutional monarchy, basic freedoms (assembly, speech, etc.) and a depoliticized military.


After the stolen “election”

7 05 2018

The military junta and The Dictator seem increasingly confident that their “election” is in the bag. They give every indication that the process of stealing the “election” has been a success. This means that the junta is now looking beyond the “election,” even if the actual date for that plebiscite for the junta has yet to be confirmed. (Of course, we don’t rule out the possibility of a change to junta plans.)

We think this confidence is why Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is now talking of the changes needed for a new less-than-democratic legislature. The Bangkok Post reports that Gen Prayuth wants the opposition parties to be more loyal to the government.

There’s a long history of calling for “national government” in Thailand, usually by conservative types, and this proposal smells a little like the notion of a “united” government working for the “national good.” Naturally enough, that “national good” is always defined in narrow terms beneficial to the ruling elite and other conservatives and anti-democrats.

The Dictator has called for the term “opposition” associated with parties not of the government to be changed to “opposition and support.” That is, these not-in-government parties have to cooperate and support the government in the “national interest.”

The Dictator defines the “national interest” as the junta’s interests:

… in the matters concerning national strategy and reform agendas, the opposition should give its support and cooperation otherwise the country will not be able to achieve anything and will not be able to develop in a sustainable manner….

Gen Prayuth also demanded that the opposition serve the government by being “constructive” in their opposition.

In this report, the criticism of Prayuth’s demands came from a member of the Democrat Party, long known for their ant-democrat stand, but which now finds itself in a political wilderness as the military dictatorship manages its own “election” to power.

The Democrat Party’s Watchara Petthong rightly observed that The Dictator is “addicted to power” and that he “does not understand the democratic system…”. True, and neither does the Democrat Party.

Yet Watchara also misunderstands The Dictator’s intent, which is anything but a democratic system; he plans an extension of authoritarianism, with “legitimacy” granted by a rigged “election.”

Supporting the junta’s political agenda

3 03 2018

New political parties are emerging from the junta’s primeval electoral rules slime.We apologize for all the square brackets and inverted commas that follow, but these are necessary to indicate the contrived nature of politics arranged by the military dictatorship.

According to a Bangkok Post source at the Election Commission, several parties “want their party names to include the words ‘Pracharath’ (people-state partnership) or ‘Thai Niyom’ (Thai-ism) — from the government’s [they mean the junta’s] key [populist-electoral] development schemes which are now becoming popular catchphrases among the people [sic.].”

In other words, following the junta’s lead and its rules, a bunch of parties look like forming to support the junta and its dismal political objective of maintaining “Thai-style democracy” – i.e. no democracy at all – into the future.

These “parties” – really just junta factions and political opportunists – reckon that the junta’s dishing out of populist-electoral cash will have an “impact on voters as there are many who benefit from these projects.” The “parties” also want voters “to believe that the newly-registered parties have the backing of the government…”. Some do and others are hoping that they can suck up the loot that might result from a military-backed coalition government following an “election.”

The EC source particularly pointed to survey “parties” set up with the “clear intention of supporting the National and Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta]…”. These are the devil or Satan parties.

One is the Pracharath Party “which is speculated to include key figures from the government [junta + a few trusted anti-democrat civilians] and the NCPO [the junta – those civilians]. Speculation is rife that Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatursripitak, who is the head of the government’s economic team, will be the party leader.” Somkid is one of those +/- civilians.

Then there’s the “Muan Maha Pracha Chon Party pushed by Suthep Thaugsuban, former leader of the defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee is also meant to back Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha [The Dictator] to return as an outsider prime minister after the general election…”. Recall Suthep’s faux denial but remember his long alliance with the junta and the military coupsters.

Former senator and extreme yellow shirt Paiboon Nititawan is establishing a devil party to be “registered as the People Reform Party and will also support Gen Prayut making a comeback as premier.”

Then there are a bunch of hope-to-be-Satan-parties. These are micro-parties that have a hope of “joining an NCPO-sponsored government after the election.” They are presumably setting up money-laundering arrangements as we write this. One is the “Pheu Chart Thai Party. The group is led by Amphaphan Thanetdejsunthorn, former wife of the late military strongman Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong, who led a coup that seized power from the Chatichai Choonhavan government in 1991.”

Then there’s the New Palang Dhamma Party (NPDP), inaugurated on Thursday. Apparently a self-proclaimed devil party, it seems likely to throw its support to Gen Prayuth “if he bids to become an unelected, outside premier.” The party vows to fight corruption. It isn’t clear how supporting Prayuth and fighting corruption fit together. But, hey, this is the junta’s Thailand.

The real link between the junta and the reconstituted party is anti-Thaksinism:

[Rawee] … played an active role in bringing down two Shinawatra governments. Most recently in 2013 with the People’s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King as Head of State, or PCAD, aka the People’s Democratic Reform Council. Before that, Rawee was once a member of the former People’s Alliance for Democracy, the Yellowshirt party which played an instrumental role in opposing both Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra.

In summary, the formation of a myriad of minor parties supportive of The Dictator is in line with the junta’s script for post-“election” politics.

Yellow shirted “academic” Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, rector of Walailak University, observed “there is nothing new to expect and the next election will not bring any change.” Sombat’s own role in creating this neanderthal political system is not mentioned.

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