Junta shenanigans II

21 11 2018

The Dictator is pulling the nation’s collective leg. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha claims to be still looking for the right party to come along and make the right offer for him to continue as prime minister without being troubled by an election, even a rigged one.

Of course, the Palang Pracharath Party was set up by the junta for The Dictator.

Gen Prayuth mumbled that “he has not been approached by any party to stand as their candidate, so it would be pointless to speak about it in the media.”

He’s a clown and a dope who seems to think everyone in the country is as thick as he is. No one believes this drivel.

Meanwhile, Gen Prayuth poured more money into election campaigning. The junta announced another “63 billion baht into cash handout packages aimed at assisting low-income earners, the elderly and retired officers…”.

The Dictator immediately denied that his regime was engaging in “a populist move aimed at shoring up support ahead of the election.”

No one believes such claims.

While the poor deserve assistance, this is mostly helicopter cash that has no monetary policy embedded; it is simply meant to push the poor away from pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties and vote for pro-junta devil parties.

The helicopter cash is “a 500-baht cash handout that will be given as a New Year’s gift to almost 15 million people worth a total of 7.25 billion baht.” When’s the “election” being rigged?

Yes, the cash will boost the economy, but given that growth has stalled, the junta knows it needs an economic boost if it wants too “win” the “election” without having to steal it outright.

If anyone doubted that this is a bid to buy votes, consider that the “Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said the measure is being presented as a New Year’s gift.”

Yep, a gift.

Other “gifts” meant to buy votes included measures doling out cash that will only be in place for from one to nine months. There’s no policy involved. There’s no notion of a welfare or safety net. This is naked vote buying.

The junta has doled out hundreds of billions of baht seeking to bolster its support. This is just more taxpayer funding for the junta’s “election” campaign.

Dull, lawless and Mafia-like

10 11 2018

Readers will recall the dastardly Shinawatra plot to “buy votes” with 1-page paper calendars. This was an existential threat for the junta, despite the fact that it has poured trillions of baht into “buying votes” and completely dominates the political scene.

While junta thugs admitted that these terribly threatening calendars were not illegal, according to a report in Khaosod, “[s]oldiers briefly detained and questioned two Redshirt activists about calendars showing faces of former leaders Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra…”.

As we have long said, this is an essentially lawless regime while masquerading as something else.

The report states that “Pornpitak Chantadee and his wife Ratthawee Puiprom were taken to the 22nd Army Circle base in Ubon Ratchathani province after security forces discovered piles of the at their home there province…”.

To appear lawful, the junta has dug deep into archaic laws designed by previous dictatorial regimes and come up with a legal excuse for their Mafia-like actions.

The calendars are now said to infringe the “Publishing Act,” as the calendars do not have “clear information about publishers.”

The thug-authorities took a week to come up with this law.

The two people involved, who seem not to be the publishers of the exceedingly dangerous calendar, were “brought to the base and interrogated about the calendars before they were later released.” As usual in the junta’s Thailand, it seems the pair were essentially abducted and held incommunicado, unable to contact lawyers.

Their “crime” seems to be that they are red shirts.

The military leader of this operation to snuff out the incendiary calendars then showed his loyalty by pointing a crooked political finger at the real “culprits”:

Base commander Lt. Gen. Ath Singhatsathit could not be reached for comment. Adithep said the two Redshirts maintained they didn’t know who made the calendars.

“I think they knew,” the police colonel said. “Our intel also knows.”

He declined to identify the people responsible. When a reporter asked whether it was Pheu Thai Party, founded by Thaksin and later led by Yingluck, Adithep replied, “Everyone knows the answer to that. There is no mystery.”

The regime is staggeringly dull and blunt, as well as lawless and Mafia-like.

All used up

8 11 2018

When the royalist establishment deemed it crucial that it oppose elected governments, it supported the creation of “movements” with allegedly “charismatic” leaders, using “civil society” to bring down those governments. Backing them were royalists from business, including the giant conglomerates, and the military.

First there was Sondhi Limthongkul and the People’s Alliance for Democracy. It drew on considerable middle class discontent with Thaksin Shinawatra and his regime but was driven by royalist ideology.

After a series of false starts, the second great “movement” was the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, led by the royalist anti-democrats of the Democrat Party and fronted by Suthep Thaugsuban.

Of course, neither movement was able to bring down the elected governments. That required military coups in 2006 and 2014.

When they had done their work, the fact of their invention by the royalist strategists of the military, business and palace was seen in the manner in which the “movements” vaporized once their usefulness was over.

And, look at the leaders. Both had a capacity to mobilize supporters and this worried many in the military. At the same time, the military knew that it “deserved” to be on top and that the upstarts they created had to know their place.

Sondhi was targeted for what was either an assassination bid or a brutal warning to know his place. No one was ever charged, but it is interesting that the media at the time suggested that both Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda were considered “suspects” in the Sondhi shooting.

Suthep thought he was a “star” and “popular,” but the military put him in his place following the 2014 coup, having to enter the monkhood. While Suthep is back and campaigning for his Action Coalition for Thailand (ACT) Party, it seems his “movement” has evaporated and his capacity for garnering the political limelight has been lost under the military junta. Interestingly, this return is a backflip and, according to one op-ed, not popular with his former PDRC supporters (and presumably its backers).

The op-ed continues: “… Suthep seems to have overestimated his popularity, thinking it could be on par with the backing he received from PDRC supporters during the time he led the street protests.” He was disappointed: “his recent jaunts in several areas to recruit members for the party have apparently received a cold response.” This caused “core PDRC supporter Arthit Ourairat … calling for Mr Suthep and other PDRC leaders who have joined ACT to stop their political activities.” Arthit might have poured money into the PDRC but is an ardent anti-democrat and probably is 100% behind The Dictator’s bid for extended power. Tellingly, the man who funded and funneled money to Suthep and PDRC reckons that “people ‘no longer believed them’.”

Anti-democrats want a military-dominated regime and Suthep’s usefulness, like Sondhi’s before him, is over. Suthep’s response will be interesting as his face, position and wealth depend on state links.

Shocking calendars threaten regime stability

6 11 2018

It was only a bit over a week ago that the junta’s automaton deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul got upset about a rap song that attacked his brothers in the military dictatorship and all they stood for. He declared that the rappers had probably broken the law and threatened them and those sharing the popular video. He soon backed down, acknowledging that he was making this up. No law had been broken.

The point about this approach is to threaten political opponents. It has nothing at all to do with the law.

So the same tactic is used in dealing with another danger to The Dictator and his band of dull men: calendars. But not just any calendars. These calendars come with pictures of Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra.

One report states:

A deputy police commissioner said he’s ordered police to investigate whether anyone violated the law by handing out calendars bearing images of former prime ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra.

Any guesses on who the cop might be? Of course, it is the very same junta-slave Pol Gen Srivara.

Probably poked by his flustered junta bosses, the deputy top cop “told reporters the calendars had been distributed in Bangkok at Thammasat University, the Constitutional Court and the northeastern provinces of Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani.” Soldiers had already descended  on “the home of a woman who had distributed the calendars.”

The woman distributing the calendars fired back at the military goons:

They came to visit me since morning. They asked me about the calendars, where I got them from and from who…. So I asked them back, what’s wrong about it? They are for telling dates and months.

They told her to remove advertising for the calendars and asked for details about the calendars. She told them to go away. As it turns out, no law had been broken.

But not to be deterred, the military is “uncovering” a calendar plot. The military and police swooped on an “an air-conditioner shop in Ubon Ratchathani and seized some 5,000 copies of the calendar bearing the photos of Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra.”

The “law” they used had to be concocted and the thugs claimed they “acted on the junta’s order on the prevention and suppression of threats to peace and order.” This is a complete concoction, but the junta order means the junta ordered this illegal confiscation.

The military’s goons counted each box of calendars – 10 – and quickly calculated 5,553 calendars, meaning 447 had been distributed.

The owner of the shop then poked fun at the authorities via social media.

Pol Gen Srivara reckons there are “2 million copies of the calendar were being distributed to people in Bangkok, the Northeast and the North.” It’s a revolution! It is a slap in the junta’s pudgy face. Sivara is reported to have been greatly disturbed, opining: “We have yet to find out who made it…”.

Shock! Horror! The regime is under threat! The calendar features dangerously revolutionary messages:

Thaksin: “I love and miss everyone. I wish I could join and support you all. I wish [you all] happiness and success and hope you get out of the problems plaguing you now. Let 2019 be the year of Thais…”.

Yingluck: “I hope my fellow people are happy and have a good life and your businesses become more prosperous…”.

Expect what you’ve got

1 11 2018

The former Thaksinista who has become the leading light and ideas man for the dullards leading the military junta, Somkid Jatusripitak, has told the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Bangkok to expect The Dictator prime minister to be the (s)elected prime minister Dictator following the junta’s rigged election.

The Deputy Prime Minister, known as leader of the Sam Mitr/Three Friends political group that has been organizing the election for The Dictator and the junta, told business people: “Don’t worry [about inconsistency], I have a hunch that the face of the next prime minister will look similar to the current one…”.

Despite its own surveying showing that the pro-junta parties may not win even with the extensive rigging of the rules of the election and the election itself, Somkid seems to think the deal has been done and that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha will prevail.

More rigging? The dissolution of the Puea Thai Party? Ballot box stuffing? He seems to be saying that the junta is going to do everything necessary to “win” the rigged election.

Vichai’s political location

30 10 2018

The Nation was quickly off the blocks with a eulogy for Vichai Raksriaksorn-cum-Srivaddhanaprabha. It lauds him as a “master of the big deal.” What, exactly, does this mean?

The articles observes that Vichai was “the key figure behind the huge success of King Power International, Thailand’s duty-free shopping giant,” adding that he “bagged many big deals … including their latest acquisition – the MahaNakorn development project, Thailand’s tallest mixed-use tower – at Bt14 billion.”

The Nation says that Vichai was “a son of Wiwat and Prapasorn Raksriaksorn. He graduated high school from Woodlawn High School, US, and did his bachelor’s from the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Ramkamhaeng University, and got a degree from Northrop University’s Business Administration Faculty in the US.”

There’s a couple of Woodlawn schools in the US. However, Northrop University is known for having been de-registered in early 1992 for an array of corrupt activities, poor administration and low standards.

The report claims “Vichai became a vastly experienced businessman, both from his own and jointly-managed companies,” but the companies pale into minuscule insignificance when compared with King Power, which was founded in 1989. He had some experience with Downtown DFS (Thailand), but King Power eclipsed and pushed aside Downtown/DFS and all other competitors for concessions at the airports.

Vichai’s move into duty free began with “the country’s first downtown duty-free shop as a joint venture with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, before expanding the business to Cambodia, Macau and China, as well as Thailand’s international airports.” The company’s own history is brief but worth a look while wondering how it all happened. It states that it received the airport monopoly concessions in 2006, whereas an AP report states: “The granting of King Power’s monopoly status at Thailand’s airports — set in motion in 2004 by the government of since-ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra — caused some controversy.” PPT looked through standard references and at our newspaper clippings, but could not confirm the AP account. (Readers can let us know.)

Exactly how King Power achieved its monopoly remains opaque for us. What we do know is that duty free shopping creates all kinds of advantages, one of which is huge cash flow, which has grown by leaps and bounds as tourism has expanded to enormous growth. The report states that “Vichai controls and chairs $3.3 billion (revenues)” from King Power in a private company with a board studded with children and other relatives.

The report notes Vichai’s close link with Newin Chidchob and also mentions a close connection to the Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. It doesn’t mention his links with Bhum Jai Thai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul.

His “passion for sport, especially polo and football” is also listed.

Exactly how Vichai came to be “ranked by Forbes as the fifth richest person in Thailand in 2018 with US$4.9 billion” remains something of a mystery. His wealth is huge but he also pays 2 billion baht a year for the Suvarnabhumi airport concession.

But then there’s the fact that in 2012 “the family was bestowed the new family surname Srivaddhanaprabha by … the late King Bhumibol – the name means ‘light of progressive glory’.”

Like many Sino-Thai tycoons, Vichai was an extraordinary royalist and supported many royal causes. He has credits for the yellow wristband for the king.

Political backstopping, royalism, and opaque deals and bureaucratic linking seem to be a pattern for fabulous wealth for a well-connected few.

Orders issued to the Election Commission

23 10 2018

Reflecting a developing view that the Puea Thai Party might just snatch the largest number of seats in the junta’s rigged election, Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has “urged the Election Commission (EC) to look into whether fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has control over the affairs of the Pheu Thai Party from abroad…”.

The report in the Bangkok Post observes that if found “guilty,” this “could result in the party’s dissolution for violating the law on political parties.”

Gen Prawit was unsettled by “Thaksin’s interview with Kyodo News during a visit to Hong Kong on Oct 18, where he made several remarks about Thailand’s upcoming general election.” While saying he thought the “media should prod [the EC into action] because the remarks have something to do with his party,” Gen Prawit was clearly telling the puppet EC to do its assigned work for the junta.

The Post reports that “Pheu Thai’s fate is said to hang in the balance as it is under investigation by the EC…”. This was confirmed by EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma who said the “EC is looking for evidence suggesting Thaksin still has control over Pheu Thai.” However, he added that the EC has “found no evidence the party is under Thaksin’s control…”.

That may be putting himself in a difficult position with the junta. Watch that space and see if the story changes or the secretary-general changes.