The authoritarian future II

23 06 2017

While we have long said that The Dictator craved being in power for longer and longer, it is useful when our perspective is confirmed, even if that confirmation appears to have been loose blabbing by a general who forgot he’s supposed to keep this quiet.

The blabber was 2nd Army Region commander Lt Gen Wichai Chaejorhor who declared that there’s “widespread support in the Northeast for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to stay in power…”.

Lt Gen Wichai then went on to express blatantly racist – i.e., widely held Bangkok yellow-shirted – attitudes towards people in the northeast. He stated that “Isan people easily believe others. They love sincerely and they are loyal to those they love. They are also grateful…”.

Forget that the northeast has long been one of the most politically progressive regions of the country. But remember that the Bangkok royalist elite has looked down on these people. The anti-democrats in over the past 15 years have – and continue – to look down on those in the northeast as “buffaloes” but this is just the most recent contempt for northeastern progressives, democrats and politicians.

After looking down on northeasterners, the dopey general then claimed “many people in the region have expressed their desire to have Gen Prayut … continue guiding the country forward as it chases national reconciliation and development.”

The general said the bigger general had real support: “They spoke their mind, saying they ‘want Uncle Tu to stay on’. And they meant it, I can reassure you of that…”.

Buffaloes they are: “On many occasions I have had to help them understand the truth and not believe the distorted information being spread in some areas,” but he “convinced” them of his “truth.”

Or, this particular dopey general convinced himself of his “truth.” In all of this, he’s made it clear that the military’s plan is to have The Dictator continue as The “elected” Dictator.

The Dictator’s campaigning is likely to continue in other regions as the junta feels it has stumbled on a strategy for getting “votes.” They are to revive “mobile” cabinet meetings. Thaksin Shinawatra had those and so did Chatichai Choonhavan, but both were elected prime ministers.

We imagine that a political strategy from the late 1980s is considered an innovation by these knuckle-draggers. We know they plan to stay on in power. We have been able to watch them prepare for it for three years.





Rich refugee from military-monarchy gang

19 06 2017

The very wealthy Nopporn Suppipat was accused of lese majeste after he was named in a family-based purge of persons associated with then Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s estranged wife Srirasmi and her relatives in early December 2014.

The Bangkok Military Court issued an arrest warrant for Nopporn on 2 December 2014  allegedly he hiried two criminal suspects connected to former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayapan, the then princess’s uncle. Nopporn is accused of defaming the monarchy by using royal influence to hire others to physically assault and threaten.

Forbes lists Nopporn as a rich lister, worth US$800 million. His rise has been startling after several unsuccessful enterprises in the past. He is boss of Wind Energy Holding Co.

Nopporn fled the country and declared his innocence.

He apparently fled to Cambodia on 30 November 2014 after he found that he would be charged under the lese majeste law. He says: “I knew ‘112’ would mean I wouldn’t get bail… I couldn’t take that risk…”.

Nopporn denied any connection to the princess’s relatives. He says he was engaged in a lengthy court dispute over money with the businessman, eventually enlisting the help of a senior army officer to help negotiate a final settlement. Nopporn said the officer hired Srirasmi’s brothers, without his knowledge.

The tycoon also explained that he believed he was being targeted because he was perceived as being close to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, which he denies. He says the “police believed I was close to Thaksin, and with that I knew I had to run…”.

Nopporn said he has no intention of returning to Thailand any time soon because he would be unable to get a fair hearing in the junta-strangled nation. He denies all of the charges.

All of this is background for a story in the Business Insider on Nopporn’s exile in France. He has now lived in Paris for two years “as a political refugee, and has dabbled in France’s burgeoning tech scene. He is the lead investor in Blade, a Paris-based cloud computing firm which has just raised €51 million (£45 million)…”.

He said he doesn’t plan to return to Thailand and has sold his company there:

Suppipat, for legal reasons, can’t comment on where his money is. Having fled Thailand, he was forced to sell WEH in 2016 in what he describes as a bad deal to another prominent Thai businessman, Nop Narongdej. “He shafted me….

No one is safe in Thailand under the military-monarchy gang.





Still working against universal health care

19 06 2017

Since its coup, the military dictatorship has continually tried to convince people that the Thaksin Shinawatra-inspired universal health care program should be ditched or modified. We have we have posted on some of these royalist-inspired efforts to roll back the universal health care program. We have also mentioned independent assessments of the success of that program.

The junta ha, each time it floated the idea, backed off when it was clear that the program has wide public support. That hasn’t stopped it sniping at he program as a part of the Thaksin regime that has to be uprooted. The regime has also ensured that the program suffers budget problems.

Along with the big hospital owners and the doctors who make a fortune from private clinics, the junta would prefer a privatized system (think America’s Republicans).

Its latest efforts to gut the program are being pushed with more determination this time, seemingly going ahead despite opposition. As The Nation puts it, “the National Health Security Bill is set to sail ahead despite its four public hearings utterly failing to appease opponents.”

Not only will the puppet National Legislative Assembly vote almost unanimously for whatever its bosses want, but it is made up of anti-democrats who consider universal health care a Thaksin plot to win votes. They call it policy corruption and grumble about populism.

The measure of the dictatorship’s renewed determination is shown by the efforts now being made to intimidate opponents of this dismantling.

The saving of the program will only be if the junta believes that changing the program will be “electorally” damaging when they decide it is time they win an election.





Bored witless

15 06 2017

Forgive us, we are bored by the military dictatorship. It is so, so predictable and so pathetic that we are considering banning it using Article 44.

How predictable? Its like putting a sexy dancer in front of a sexy young dancer. You know how he will behave. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.)

How about the things that are hidden under nothing happening here-ness?

What about that poor kid shot by soldiers in the north. Nothing. Keep quiet and it won’t go anywhere.

How about the Rolls Royce and related corruption? Ignore it and the media will forget it.

What about police generals being paid by the richest guys in the country to smooth things for them. That isn’t even illegal!

And what about all those unusually wealthy members of the puppet assembly? Not even worth mentioning. That’s just normal corruption and the great and good harvesting their due.

We could go on and on. This regime is corrupt, like many of those regimes before it. But because they are rightist royalists, they are just fine for Thailand’s elite and middle classes.

Well, let’s go on a bit more.

Lese majeste? Hundreds of cases to both shut the activists up and to launder the king’s dirty underwear.

The junta reckons most Thais are stupid, and treats them as such, assessing that they haven’t a clue about democracy and are easily pushed around. A few threats can easily shut them up.

How about those pesky politicians? You know, the bad ones (because they are associated with that devil Thaksin Shinawatra). How many ways can they be repressed. Like all murderous, torturing military regime, the possibilities are many. How about charging them with corruption? That should gag that Watana guy from the Puea Thai Party who keeps saying nasty things about the middle-class cuddly dictatorship.

It irks The Dictator that Puea Thai types are still popping up. Ban them, ban their books, silence them. No debate with these guys.

While the junta is in power, its is almost genetically programmed to buy military toys from Chinese submarines to Chinese armored personal carriers (with the white sidewalls option, they should look stunning running over civilian protesters).

And while talking of Chinese, why not use Article 44 so that all of the land near the proposed railway tracks to link Thailand with China can be taken off poor farmers and become the accumulated wealth of Sino-Thai tycoons and their military allies. Money will fall line rain in the wet season into the already overflowing coffers of the rich and powerful.

It is so predictable it is now boring. What next? The Dictator campaigning for “election”? Yes, that’s already happening.

What about fixing the “election”? That’s a check. Even that anti-election Election Commission can’t be trusted, probably because they are all so thick and need ordering around, so replace them with people who can work out what needs to be corrupted without having to be ordered.

How many more years of this boring nothingness? We reckon the record is about 16 years. The current junta is aiming for 20. Only 16 and a few months to go.

And, an “election” won’t change all of this. It is embedded deeply into the fabric of administration.

It will take a lot of careful undoing when the people get a chance or take a chance.





When the military is on top VII

12 06 2017

Prachatai’s opening paragraph says a lot about the military dictatorship when it comments on budget:

Despite a growing deficit, Thailand’s junta-appointed parliament has voted unanimously in favour of a draft government budget that allocates an extra 8.8 billion baht to the Defence Ministry in 2018.

That’s what happens when the military is on top. The report adds:

The draft budget allocates 220 billion baht to the Ministry of Defence, an increase in 8.8 billion baht from last year. This continues a trend where, ever since the 2014 coup, the Defence Ministry’s budget has expanded yearly. The Ministry was allocated 190 billion baht in 2015, and 200 billion baht in 2016.

That’s a 30 billion baht increase since 2015.

If one looks at SIPRI data, in current baht, the military budget has doubled since the 2006 military coup. That followed only marginal increases under the Thaksin Shinawatra regime.

Other areas of the draft budget, especially social sectors, see declines.

Budget increases for the military mean that the commanders can become wealthier than ever before as they drain money to their accounts through commissions and other forms of corruption essentially approved by the junta.





Updated: Lese majeste barbarity deepens

9 06 2017

A strange mood emerged sometime during the 2010s that saw red shirts considering then Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn as a political ally. We are not sure why this view developed. Some of it drew on the position that the prince was close to Thaksin Shinawatra. That position drew on a partial reading of Wikileaks and the successionist argument that the royalist elite was seeking to prevent Thaksin being involved in that event, supporting the prince.

Whatever the reasons, this also led to an odd claim that the prince as king could be more “democratic” and could wind back the “damaging” (mis)use of the lese majeste law.

Nothing in the prince’s life story justified such political optimism.

When it comes to lese majeste, recent years suggest that the then prince used lese majeste as a means to rid himself of those he considered personal enemies, had crossed him or found themselves on the wrong side of his “divorce” from wife no. 3, Srirasmi.

The record of the first six months of Vajiralongkorn’s reign suggests that the reign of lese majeste terror is to deepen. This is confirmed in the most recent sentencing by a military court.

On 9 June 2017, a military court sentenced Wichai Thepphong to 70 years jail on lese majeste. The previous “record” for lese majeste repression was a sentence of 60 years.

Wichai’s sentence was reduced to 35 years when he agreed to plead guilty.

He was convicted of 10 lese majeste offences in “creating a copycat Facebook profile and posting lèse majesté messages on it to take revenge on his [former] friend.”

Wichai was “arrested in December 2015 and has remained in custody since.” That lengthy stay in jail apparently convinced him to change his not guilty plea.

Three basic points can be made. First, because the lese majeste law is draconian and allows anyone to make a complaint, it is subject to abuse by anyone, including the authorities. It isn’t even clear why this case amounted to lese majeste.

Second, it is a remarkable testament to the state of authoritarianism, that this case has been the responsibility of a military court.

Third, there’s no reason for false optimism about he new reign.

Update: We fixed an incorrect link.





Corrected: The tycoons and the junta

3 06 2017

This is a corrected post. We became aware that the search function we used at Forbes to list Thailand’s tycoons returned something other than a full list. We have now located a more reliable list at Forbes and have rewritten the post based on the correct data. Thanks to a reader for questioning us about the data, causing us to go back to the source.

At the same time, we remain cautious about the data given that the totals in the global list do not exactly match those in the Thailand list.

There’s been a lot of talk about the military dictatorship having done little for the economy. One group is benefiting. That’s the junta and its allies in state enterprises, those on the take, those raking in commissions and the various puppet appointments. But their takings, while huge by the standards of the average Thai, are not the measure of how the tycoons are doing.

That group are the richest Thais, mostly the Sino-Thai tycoons and a couple of foreigners who have made their fortune in Thailand.When we had the wrong data, we indicated that the wealth of the top 10 had decreased. This is corrected in the table below, showing a very large increase in wealth.

We know this from the listing in Forbes of the world’s US dollar billionaires and, now, from the list of Thailand’s billionaires. Over the years, we have listed the top 10, so we are sticking with that so that a comparison can be made.

The table compares 2014 wealth (Forbes 2015) and the year of the coup and the 2016 figures (Forbes 2017).

The totals for the top 10 show that their combined wealth has increased by almost $16 billion. The top two families have increased by more than $9billion.

When we had the data wrong we asked: How long will these economic whales put up with a military dictatorship that delivers economic decline? Now that the data has reversed the position, we can only imagine that the tycoons are loving the junta.