Military-led “reconciliation”

23 01 2017

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post reported: on the junta’s plan and bureaucracy for military-led “reconciliation.” It is seemingly a part of the broader 20 year plan that the junta has for the on-going domination of Thailand’s politics it now seems to label as “rounded democratisation.”

We imagine that a “rounded democracy” is something like “Thai-style democracy” or “guided democracy.”

In its highly complex system of committees, super-committees, buzzwords and hocus pocus, the matter of “reconciliation” will, according to General Prawit  Wonsuwan, involve “plans to compile opinions from all sides over three months on what should be done to bring about national reconciliation.”

The “brainstorming period” will lead to a report and then “the next step to improve national unity,” involving an MOU, or as The Dictator put it, “a truthful social contract, under which you do what you say.”

This MOU notion has already rejected by the anti-democrats and military allies like Suthep Thaugsuban. Others of his ilk, like Kasit Piromya seem to want the military to sign up to the MOU. His position is supported by others from pro-Thaksin Shinawatra groups who want the military to pledge no more coups and, in some versions, never overthrow a constitution ever again.

Prawit’s response was lame:

“There is no need for the military to sign it. I can assure you that nobody wants to stage a coup, except when the country is mired in conflict and lack of understanding. No soldier wants to do this…. Nobody wants to do this (stage a coup), except when the country is in a stalemate…. I’ll tell you what. Without the people’s support, nobody can stage a coup. There is no need to fear a coup if there is no support for it from the people….

There are several problems with this coup. Leaving aside Prawit’s nonsense self-justification, we know from Thailand’s history that plenty of officers are willing to seize power.

But the broader problem is the notion that “no more coups” is paired with a view that there should be no more overthrowing of the constitution. That’s dumb, now, when Thailand has a terrible draft constitution that is the military’s constitution. In fact, when Prawit says he doesn’t want another coup is because the current junta has set rules that allow only a “rounded democracy” that is no democracy at all and gives all power to the military and monarchy.

The proof of this is the dominance of military brass on the “reconciliation” control committees.

In response to criticism of that from many quarters, Prawit got lamer still, saying “that should not be a problem because the armed forces are politically neutral and they don’t have conflicts with any side.”

We’d be laughing if that wasn’t such buffalo manure. What the senior brass will do is manipulate and manage to get the outcome The Dictator wants.

And what’s that? Two articles in The Nation are virtually advertorials for the junta. In one of them (the other is linked above), PM’s Office Minister Suvit Maesincee, formerly Director of Sasin Institute for Global Affairs at Chulalongkorn University and one of Thaksin’s and Somkid Jatusripitak’s proteges gives a “hint.”

Suvit and Somkid  have collaborated in developing the junta’s 20-year strategy, and Suvit states: “Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s leadership was also a crucial factor in supporting the implementation of the Thailand 4.0 vision.”

We get the message. Thailand’s future is The Dictator’s future and he’s going to be around for some time to come.





Depressing and familiar

17 01 2017

Reading the Bangkok Post this morning seemed like a trip back in time.

One story at the Post has the The Judge Advocate-General’s Department “seeking a further extension to a deadline to challenge a court ruling that revoked the dismissal of former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva from the army reserve.” He allegedly used “fake documents when applying to join the army as a lecturer at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in 1987. The job exempted him from military conscription and gave him the rank of acting sub-lieutenant.”

That story has been around for years now, and Abhisit has been cashiered once in 2012 and then the “Civil Court … ruled in 2015 that … Abhisit had used false documents when he applied for the job and that the Democrat [Party] leader had lacked the necessary qualifications.” An Appeals Court overturned the ruling last year and reinstated Abhisit.

It is a rather simple case that is important to Abhisit because it involves face and status. It is important to his opponents as an example of double standards.

Another Post story has General Prayuth Chan-ocha denying “a report stating the government will revamp the selection system of provincial governors by seeking experts, including those outside the Interior Ministry, to serve in the positions.”

This proposal was apparently recommended by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. Somkid reckoned he wanted “governors who have vision …, expertise, strength, … and initiative.”

As a former Thaksin Shinawatra minister, when CEO governors were promoted, it is easy to see why The Dictator has had to quickly respond to a wildfire of yellow-tinged alarm, denying any plan to change the time-honored, elite-supported manner for controlling local populations.  No “vision” or “initiative” required when repressing and managing the dangerous masses.

A third Bangkok Post story is of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) “investigation” of Thawatchai Anukul’s mysterious death in custody on 29 August 2016. This is the former official said to have worked with members of the elite to acquire land – an “normal” enough thing in Thailand. He somehow ended up being investigated and taken into jail. He then died. A first “investigation” concluded “Thawatchai strangled himself by wrapping his socks around his neck and attaching them to a door hinge.” The problem was that the police’s Institute of Forensic Medicine “reported in its initial autopsy result that Thawatchai died of abdominal haemorrhaging and a ruptured liver from being hit with a solid, blunt object together with asphyxiation from hanging…”.

Now the family says it can’t get an autopsy report because “the findings could not be revealed now as they might affect people involved in the case.” Perhaps results will be available for a court hearing in a month or so.

You get the picture. Impunity, cover-ups and complete incompetence are “normal.”

Yet another Post report is of “reconciliation.” General Prawit Wongsuwan has decided that “political parties and pressure groups will be asked to sign ‘a memorandum of understanding on national reconciliation’ as part of government efforts to heal the political divide…”. At the same time, he scotched discussion of an amnesty.

“Reconciliation” has been on the political agenda since the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. The problem has been that “reconciliation” has not involved justice. This time around, Prawit wants ideas from “representatives from all political parties and groups will be invited to contribute ideas, including academics, legal experts, senior military soldiers, and police officers.” After this the junta will “establish a set of guidelines that will promote unity.”

That sounds like what might be expected for “reconciliation” run by a military junta. As Prawit “explained,” the military can play a role in “reconciliation” processes because the military is not viewed as a party to political conflict! Gen Prawit said: “The military never has enemies. It has no conflict with anyone.”

Democrat Party leader Abhisit declared “there was a need to determine the truth behind political unrest” before reconciliation. He means a truth that suits him.

Perhaps surprisingly, Puea Thai Party and official red shirts were sounding enthusiastic. But, then, they desperately need an election as soon as possible.

Interestingly Puea Thai’s Sudarat Keyuraphan, observed that “success in fostering unity rests on the sincerity of those in power.” She added: “Those in power must show sincerity and maintain impartiality, and must avoid getting themselves involved in conflict themselves. They must listen to all sides equally, rather than invited parties involved in conflict only as a token gesture as before…”.

Related, and at the Bangkok Post, former Thaksin aide Suranand Vejjajiva observes that the military “regime will find it hard to achieve meaningful reconciliation if it is not committed to a return to full democracy and applying the rule of law.” He points out that the military’s “reconciliation” is embedded in the authoritarian “roadmap to democracy” and “its true authoritarian agenda to manipulate political outcomes after a new general election is held either this year or the next.”

Nothing will change the roadmap to authoritarian tutoring over a further 20 years. He says the junta “has to realise that only democracy can pave the way for political reconciliation.”

Suranand’s democracy is not one the military comprehends. It is establishing a 1950s version of Thai-style democracy.

He predicts that “[a]ny future meetings on national reconciliation that Gen Prawit expects to call will end up as a series of shows for the media, if representatives of political parties show up at all.”

That’s been the pattern: impunity, PR and repression. It is depressingly all too familiar.





Regression and the consolidation of military power

5 01 2017

Generals are saying there will be an “election” in 2017, contradicting all the flunkies they’ve hired to get all the laws in place to allow and “election.” It matters little, for as the military junta has planned, an “election” won’t change anything. The military’s Thai-style democracy is not democratic in any way and leaves real decision-making to the royalist elite.

A story at Scoop Media, based in New Zealand tells some of the story, mixed with a little royalist nonsense. We quote some of the insightful bits and ignore the royalist tripe.

[General] Prayuth [Chan-ocha]’s post-coup policies are also defending Thailand’s “old money” elite against social climbing “nouveau riche” rivals.

Those quashed rivals are led by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who Prayuth helped topple in a 2006 coup, and by Thaksin’s sister former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra who was ousted by Prayuth’s 2014 coup….

During the past two years, his regime moved supporters into top positions within the military, police, bureaucracy, judiciary and legislature, to ensure the military’s leverage over future policies and governments….

Prayuth … continues to strengthen his forces against his two biggest enemies, the Shinawatra siblings.

Former Prime Minister Yingluck is being prosecuted for her alleged “negligence” while administering rice subsidies during 2012-14.

She must pay $1 billion in compensation to the government for financial “losses”….

The royalists, the “old money” elite, Sino-Thai tycoons and the frightened middle class in Bangkok are backing Prayuth. They are backing King Vajiralongkorn, even if they did have had doubts about him. They have little choice. They know their wealth and privilege requires a continuation of the conservative military-monarchy coalition.





The Dictator and “security”

5 06 2016

Readers might wish to speculate on why the International Institute for Strategic Studies  and its host and sponsors in the Singapore government would invite The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha to present a Keynote Speech to its 15th Shangri-la Dialogue. Sorry, but this is a long post.

For those who wish to watch and read The Dictator’s speech, the ISIS has provided a “provisional” transcript (in English) and a video of his speech (delivered in Thai and here with a voice-over). In fact, if a PDF of the speech is downloaded, it is a “draft,” produced by The Dictator’s staff.

Interestingly, Prayuth’s moniker on the speech is: “GENERAL (RETD) PRAYUT CHAN-O-CHA.” The “retired” bit is perhaps an attempt to appear civilianized, perhaps  not wanting to scare the Europeans? Later in the speech The Dictator says he is “an ex-military officer…”. Perhaps he’s thinking about a “political” career in the next “administration”?

The introduction of Prayuth begins about 5.40 mins into the video. It begins with a claim that The Dictator “came to politics late in his career.” Nonsense, of course, for Thailand’s generals are political animals who covet political status and they regularly engage in political actions, almost always in support of the royalist elite of the ruling class.

That said, the introduction of Prayuth is pretty much factual, although the claim that the draft constitution, if approved in a referendum, “will provide a framework for a return to democracy” is ludicrous. The introduction also seems to acknowledge that the IISS is the first to provide Thailand’s military dictator with a stage.

Prayuth was asked to provide Thailand’s “outlook” on regional security. That Prayuth spoke in Thai is interesting, not least because anti-democrats repeatedly ridiculed Yingluck Shinawatra for her less than fluent English. Prayuth is not a leader with any great international experience, education or knowledge. Hence, we doubt that Prayuth has an “outlook” on much at all – his view is inward – and we guess that the speech is not his own work but rather that of the hirelings, albeit reflective of the regime’s positions.

Prayuth’s speech begins around 8:30 mins into the video. Most of what he says about security is basic, at about the level one might expect from undergraduate studying security and international relations. Some readers may find his comments on China of interest.

Thailand’s military dictator begins his speech by saying that it is an “honour for me to have been invited by the Prime Minister of Singapore and the Director-General of the IISS to give the keynote speech…”.

In an early report, Khaosod picked up agency accounts of the speech, and concentrated on The Dictator’s defense of military rule in Thailand, again raising his well-known junta shibboleths, here using our words as well as Prayuth’s: that repression represents a transition to “a strong and sustainable democracy;” that the junta will eventually handover to another “administration;”and so on (readers know the drill).

Prayuth was big on defending his military regime. He begins in the 4th of 47 paragraphs in his speech. About a quarter of the speech is given over to Thailand’s domestic politics with The Dictator essentially pleading for understanding of the “need” for repression, censorship and more in the name of stability, security and something he calls “equilibrium.”

In his first mention of Thailand, the General (Retd) bemoans the difficulties of “maintaining security equilibrium” and claims “Thailand is an example of a country that has perhaps lost its equilibrium in the past several years…”. What he seems to means is that the ruling class’s control was upset by upstart elected politicians. He “explains” that Thailand had previously “been successful in maintaining a good balance and equilibrium in the past, even during periods of war and crisis.” Of course, most of that period was under a military leadership or military backed government.

Prayuth declares that “Thailand is increasingly getting back on track even though a number of challenges remain to be addressed…”. Oddly, he claims this is “through cooperation between many sides both within Thailand and internationally…”.

Of course, as a good royalist, Prayuth has to mention the king. He does this when linking security, development and the failed and ignored “sufficiency economy” notion:

Thailand … places importance on addressing the root causes and focusing on development from within. The Thai Government [he means his junta] has laid down a secure and sustainable foundations, whether in terms of politics, economics and society, and initiated the “Pracharat 4Ps” policy (Public-Private-People Partnership) so that all sectors of society are involved in the country’s development. In all this, we are guided by His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, which is based on His Majesty’s development experiences accumulated over the course of 40 years and which places the people at the core. This year, in fact, is the 10th anniversary of His Majesty’s being awarded the ‘UNDP Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award,’ in 2006, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, which is in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Agenda.

Probably only royalists would recall and celebrate an award anniversary. But that award is a part of palace propaganda that The Dictator upholds.

The sixth part of his speech focuses on Thailand and is headed “Thailand in Transition,” followed by a seventh section, ” Solving Thailand’s Problems.”

The Dictator’s aide’s and advisers develop a line to justify a military dictatorship by harping on about the “security of every country and the region is intertwined.” Prayuth seems to imply that previously, elected governments somehow threatened regional security. The advisers seem to have had a light bulb moment on this, for they repeat it: “Thailand’s stability will have an effect on ASEAN and regional stability.”

This daft claim is a lead in to the usual elitist and paternalist and, no matter how many times we hear it, the junta’s preposterous justification of political repression cast as Thailand’s “transition towards a strong and sustainable democracy.”

The Dictator’s justification is initially couched in terms of “national security” where he mentions a litany of travails and failures that have beset the junta: “poverty, social disparities, the middle income trap, a fall in agricultural output as a result of  drought, and falling commodity prices brought on by the global economic slump.” He adds: “unrest in the southern border provinces,” hastening to add that this is “an internal problem and not a conflict stemming from religious tensions or one with foreign involvement.” For good measure he throws in “difficulties that have come with irregular migration and the need for foreign migrant workers who number in millions and this has led to  many social problems…”.

But he then gets to his point, essentially repeating the laundry list of anti-democrat claims about electoral politics in Thailand:

… our key problem recently has been political conflict and unprecedented divisiveness in the country.  This has stemmed from a political setting that has produced democracy only in form but not in function, thus resulting in national administration that lacked good governance. The public budget was used for political gain. There was ineffective populism and rampant corruption, which then led to political conflicts that could not be addressed through democratic process. There were legal deadlocks and the rallying of opposing sides in clashes. There was manipulation of the media to take sides, the escalation of violence, the breakdown of the rule of law and ultimately, the use of weapons in conflict.

As an ally of the anti-democrats and an ideological fellow-traveler, The Dictator seems to have convinced himself of this story. He goes on:

There was no order in society, which was increasingly characterized by demands for unlimited rights and freedoms that violated communal peace and the rights of other members of the public.

Readers will recognize the claims as a justification for military intervention and two years of unremitting oppression. And here’s that intervention justified in terms we have heard countless times, presented to an international audience:

This required an intervention to end hostilities, prevent further conflict, and bring the country towards a new era of reform.  If left unattended, Thailand would lose its equilibrium and head towards unprecedented civil unrest and perhaps even civil war.  There was no other way other than to intervene and restore peace and order in society and rebuild our democracy so that is stronger and sustainable.  I add that to this day, there are still politically motivated Thai individuals in and outside the country who abuse social media to distort the facts.

That last sentence actually sounds like Prayuth using his own voice.

More blarney is then pedaled, justifying repression again and again, this time trotting out a series of lies:

We do not have any intentions to violate human rights, or to restrict basic rights and freedoms, but that it was necessary for the military to take control the situation to prevent the escalation of violence and conflict, and to restore the rule of law and social order only for a while.  Given this, all our measures have been based on the rule of law, the equal application of the law and law enforcement. We have enforced the law only in situations when laws have been broken. Taking action in these stances should not be considered as in violation of  any human rights, even though they are separated only by a very thin line.

We have already commented on this list of lies, last presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council. No need to go there again. However, Prayuth’s forked tongue continues to flap, presenting the junta’s position in a way that his audience could not possibly understand:

The Royal Thai Government is currently committed to maintaining peacefulness and orderliness, addressing political problems through strengthening our democracy, fostering reconciliation, addressing economic problems, restoring confidence for investors and the international community, combating corruption, reforming and modernizing our laws, reforming our civil administration, instituting social orderliness, reducing disparities, developing the country to have a deep-rooted resilience through the adoption of His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy in national administration, with the Pracharat approach to cooperation to reduce social disparities and progress the country towards a Thailand 4.0 status through supporting modernisation of 5 existing industries and supporting capacity-building for 5 new industries of Thailand.

Democracy = the non-democracy of Thai-style democracy. Thailand 4.0 = no audience member could know. 5 exiting industries = who knows. 5 new industries of Thailand = who knows. It is as though the aides ran out of material and shook a couple of recent speeches, shook them and picked up the meaningless phrases that dropped from them.

Then there is the “20-Year National Strategic Plan and a Roadmap including phase one, two, and three…”. And the promise, long delayed as the “roadmap” has been altered and neglected: “I can assure you that Thailand will return to democracy in accordance with the Roadmap…”.

He means his and his junta’s plans for a regime that will come from token elections and that will be dominated for 20 years by the military.





Go back, way back II

14 10 2015

The Dictator is getting what he wants, at least from the new Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chairman Meechai Ruchupan. As we noted yesterday, Meechai apparently has the new, draft constitution pretty much done, after only a couple of days on the job. Not bad for an old codger, but then he has a records for copying drafts from old military constitutions used in the past.

The Bangkok Post has helpfully summarized what can be expected.Meechai's horrible joke

Democracy is essentially a thing of the past for Thailand. Meechai declared that only “some” so-called democratic features “will still be retained in the new charter such as elections, elected MPs and an elected government…”. On the bright side, at least this means Thailand is not reverting to an absolute monarchy.

Meechai gave assurances that the CDC will aim to “design a democracy that is best suited to the country and to the Thai people and insist they will not copy models of democracy from other countries…”. On the dark side, this means “Thai-style democracy.” As we have noted many times, this means no democracy at all.

For Meechai, Thai-style democracy means “a non-elected outsider will be allowed to become prime minister under the new constitution.” He argues that parliament will be able to nominate a premier who is not a member of parliament, observing that “the constitutions of more than 60 democratic countries do not require a prime minister to be an elected MP, whereas the charters of about 20 democratic countries stipulate a premier must be an elected MP.” This is more or less true, but parliament must operate under appropriate democratic principles, not as some kind of deformed club designed by a military cabal.

The elitist in Meechai worries about parliament picking what he calls a “nobody” MP to lead government: “What if the House chooses an MP who is a chauffeur and a nominee acting on behalf of someone to become a prime minister…”. The idea of a non-elected PM is essentially an anti-Thaksin Shinawatra clause to be added to the military dictatorship’s constitution.

In other unrepresentative plans, Meechai declares that the Senate is unlikely to be elected.

He also indicated that the parliament may not be permitted to change this junta’s constitution once it is promulgated.

Meechai said “the new constitution [will be] short and ‘dynamic’ without too much detail.” It looks like he plans to go back to earlier military constitutions for his old ideas revived.

Thailand is going back, way back.





Undemocratic Bowornsak

27 08 2015

It is appropriate that the chief hired lawyer and constitution mangler for the military dictatorship, Bowornsak Uwanno,  also heads up the King Prajadhipok Institute, which is a front organization for “Thai-style” (non-)democracy.

One may peruse the recently revised KPI fairy tale history to learn that the royalist construction of “parliamentary democracy with the King as the head of state” came into existence in 1932 rather than when royalist and military ideologues hit on this mangled description in recent years. One might also note that under the misapprehension that the deposed king “granted” political change rather than having it forced on him and a coterie of princes.

Most significantly, KPI is claimed to have been “established specifically to promote democracy…”. In fact, it was established by royalists to subvert democracy, and Bowornsak is the perfect and trustworthy patron of that mangling of democratic politics.

That neither Bowornsak or his royalist organization has nothing to do with the promotion of democracy is shown by the linking of the last absolute monarch with the Institute. If it were even necessary, Bowornsak is reported in The Nation in a manner that makes this crystal clear.

The draft charter is aimed, Bowornsak asserts, “at getting Thailand back on its feet with a five-year ‘transitional’ democracy, rather than trying to inflict another ‘mature’ democracy on the country…”.

Conveniently forgetting that it is boss who most recently trashed the electoral system and the constitution, neglecting that it has been his royalist and military allies who have trashed every effort to establish electoral politics, Bowornsak blames everyone else for the way “… things fell apart…”. Mimicking his boss, The Dictator, Bowornsak crows: “I would like to ask if we still want it – a Western-style full-fledged democracy?”

BootlickerHis answer, demonstrated in his boot-licking of military fascists, is clear.

He reckons the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee “tried … to find a democratic model that fits the country’s situation…”.

Bowornsak says this “search” was because the “country has been facing the plague of corruption as well as a deep division that finds no end, significantly because of a Western full-fledged democracy.” It is that “democracy,” he fantasizes, that has caused the “the government fall under a military regime.”

 

Like his bosses, he thinks the Thai people are infantile, and need a “transitional democracy” before allowing “it grow into an adult one when the time was right.”

Like his military boss, Bowornsak criticizes “politicians” for daring to express a view on his draft (military) charter. He attacks their “tone of voice” when he means they should shut up and accept military-royalist dictatorship, paternalism and hierarchy.

Fascists will be fascists.





Stunt or failure? II

26 08 2015

Now that the draft constitution is available, some opinions are now being expressed. Few seem very satisfied.

Some of the anti-democrats oppose it, preferring “reform” before constitutional change.

Yingluck Shinawatra has made her concerns clear. At the Bangkok Post, Yingluck is quoted as saying “she found the new constitution unacceptable because it is not linked to the people.”

Leader of the (anti-)Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva has “called for the National Reform Council to vote down the draft constitution on Sept 6, saying the proposed establishment of an all-powerful ‘crisis committee’ is unacceptable.”

The Nation has an editorial that slams the draft:

The new constitution would turn back the clock to the authoritarian rule of the late 1970s and ’80s….

The draft constitution, if passed by the National Reform Council (NRC) and then a public vote, would be a serious setback for democracy in Thailand.

Rather than ushering in “Thai-style democracy”, as claimed by Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chief Borwornsak Uwanno, the proposed national blueprint reflects the undemocratic way in which it was created.

In response, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has been predictable in his response to criticism; he’s rejected it: “Prayut called on the media not to cover remarks made by these politicians, saying they had failed to solve the country’s problems but insulted his military-led regime, which he said was not fair.” Presumably, leading an illegal coup and overthrowing an elected government and the constitution is somehow “fair” in Prayuth’s jaundiced view of the world.

He went further, threatening: “They should not have been allowed to make such verbal attacks. Many have court cases and have spoken out without fear. If they hit out at me, I must hit back. When they face legal action, do not scream that they do not receive justice…”. The idea that criticizing the draft constitution is an attack on Prayuth indicates how much he has tutored the drafters, to the extent that Prayuth feels the constitution is owned by The Dictator.

Dictators will be dictators.