Speaking truth to those with power

2 10 2020

Clipped from Khaosod

When Gen Apirat Kongsompong retired and mumbled something about all the good work he’d done reforming the Army, activist Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit was among the few who disputed this. The former Future Forward leader stated that Gen Apirat had not reformed the Army. He promised to. That was after the dozens of murders and injuries in Korat by a soldier. But Apirat did nothing.

He promised to “reform the army within 100 days,” but as Thanathorn correctly observes:

“More than 236 days have passed since the Korat shooting incident that disturbed the whole nation,” Thanathorn wrote. “Under social pressure to reform the army, Mr. Apirat promised to the people to reform the army but until today, those reforms did not take place.”

The politician went on, “Mr. Apirat is part of the elite, and the armed forces are an instrument for these people to maintain their power. The fact that Mr. Apirat did not do what he said may show the intention of the elite – that they do not want to adjust themselves to changes.”

Of course, Apirat has been rewarded by the king for his loyalty to the ruling class and his personal favors for the king.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

 





Leechs on the taxpayer

9 09 2020

The Nation has an interesting report on royal leeching on the taxpayer – those are our words.

It reports on Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Progressive Movement, and his call for “more transparency and scrutiny of the budget allocated to support the monarchy…”.

Thanathorn has posted comments on Facebook, following up on his earlier reported comments.

It is stated that the “proposed budget allocation for the highest institution amounts to Bt37.23 billion, up 25 per cent from fiscal year 2020…”. This is about $1.2 billion. And we are thinking that this is not adding up all the leeches suck from the taxpayer.

It “includes a direct budget of Bt20.21 billion and indirect budget allocated via other state agencies of Bt16.92 billion.” Almost 9 billion baht is “allocated to agencies under Palace supervision…”.

One item Thanathorn mentioned was the budget for “maintenance and repair of 38 aircraft and helicopters of the Royal Family in fiscal year 2021” which he said “amounted to Bt1.97 billion, compared with Bt1.58 billion, Bt1.46 billion and Bt1.29 billion in fiscal 2020, 2019 and 2018 respectively.” 38 aircraft! Wow. How many royals get to flit about in these aircraft?

Thanathorn complains that the funds allocated to the “monarchy was least scrutinised…”. As far as we are aware, there has been no scrutiny at all for several decades.

He made the sensible suggestion that “Palace agencies follow budget procedures just like other state agencies.”





Students rising

6 09 2020

There have been some very useful commentaries on students rising, including at New Mandala and in The Economist. The latter mentions that the students currently demonstrating are children of some who supported the royalist anti-democrats in 2013-14.

If the military and its royalist regime were hoping that arresting outspoken student and activists and waiting out the students would see rallies end, they were misguided.

The arrests and charges continue. The jailed activists Arnon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok have been a focus of rallies, with student protesters using white ribbons tied on the Bangkok Remand Prison gate and calling for their release. The rally was not just for them: “there are others who face injustice and there are many who are being charged just for speaking the truth.”

The students were joined by Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Pannika Wanich, formerly of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, “urging officials to release two pro-democracy activists…”.

Including those jailed, those arrested are expressing defiance. Dechatorn “Hockhacker” Bamrungmuang of Rap Against Dictatorship has restated his support for the student’s demands:

I agree with the original three demands; stop harassing the people, dissolve the parliament, and rewrite the constitution. And I also support the 10 demands [on the monarchy] of Thammasat (University) students to reform the monarchy. It must be reformed to fit with the times.

The largest rally in recent days has been the Bad Student demonstration at the Ministry of Education, when “[h]undreds of high school students demonstrated … on Saturday to demand reform of an education system…”.

Clipped from Bangkok Post

Pannika also showed up for the students at the Ministry: “She said she wanted to encourage students to express their opinions freely because they have the liberty to do so.” Others supporting the students were: Juthathip Sirikan, president of the Student Union of Thailand, singer Chaiamorn “Ammy” Kaewwiboonpan and democracy activist Nutta Mahattana.

The students made political statements, “sport[ing] white ribbons that have become a symbol of the broader youth-led protest movement…. They also blew whistles — mocking Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, a former co-leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee…”.

Meanwhile, others are pushing the protest envelope further, preparing for the next big rally, planned for 19 September. Parit Chiwarak vowed that protest speakers would “continue to discus reform of the monarchy at the rally…”.





With several updates: Royalists, recycling and ratbag rightists

31 08 2020

Watching the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee group “rally” on Sunday was reminiscent of some of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee events. There was some yellow, some whistles, old head and arm bands, and the white, flag-themed t-shirts all seemed recycled from Suthep Thaugsuban’s efforts to overthrow an elected government and/or provide the political space for a military coup.

Thai PBS reports that mostly aged royalists rallied in support of the absent monarch and the junta’s constitution and to demand strong legal measures against student and pro-democracy activists. It was a full bag of rightist demands, recycled from earlier movements going back to the People’s Alliance for Democracy and the military-backed rightists of earlier decades.

Former Democrat Party member, former Action Coalition for Thailand member, and long-term yellow shirt Warong Dechgitvigrom led the rally, and denied he planned and “confrontation” with rallying students and other pro-democracy groups. He did not say that his assigned task is to rally support from the right and royalists and to provide a potential base for further military-backed intervention, should that be deemed necessary by the powers that watch over him and his ilk.

Like his predecessors, Warong blamed all of Thailand’s “troubles” on “politicians,” accusing them of “plunging Thailand into deeper political divide, separating the old and new generations.”

His claim was that his ragtag ratbags had:

come together to protect the [m]onarchy, to retain the Thai identity, to do away with all forms of monopoly, to attain career equality for all Thai people, through the application of technology, and to enhance national prosperity via a sufficiency economy.

He also called for the “Education Minister and all university rectors” repress the student-based activism by not allowing space for rallies and to stop “lecturers, who may harbor anti-[m]onarchy leanings, from ‘brainwashing’ their students.” In this, he is recycling rightism from the 1970s.

In addition, Thai Pakdee planned to recycle rightist demands on the Japanese Embassy to stop Pavin Chachavalpongpun criticizing the monarchy.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship’s Jatuporn Promphan, who has sounded rather royalist of late, said Thai Pakdee had “an extreme right-wing agenda, similar to a combination of the former Nawaphol, Red Guard and Village Scout groups.” We are not sure how Red Guards get into the mix, but his reference to Thai rightist heritage is apt.

The recycling of rightists and their rhetoric is dangerous, often leading to the unexplained/uninvestigated bashing of regime critics, probably by rightists working with the authorities.

It is dangerous also for regime and monarchy critics who live in exile. Rightist rhetoric gives cover and justification for the several enforced disappearances in Laos and Cambodia. These are very likely black ops by the Thai military operating on orders from the regime and the palace.

These acts of violence have been meant as “warnings” to anti-regime and anti-monarchists, to instill fear and to silence them.

Getting away with abduction, torture and murder in “brother authoritarian” regimes is relatively easily arranged, often a quid pro quo for similar operations by those regimes in Thailand.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

But it seems that this is not enough. The regime’s panic about anti-monarchy exiles in Japan, the USA and Europe is heightened, probably provoked by recent activism targeting the king in Germany.

The Nation reports on recent efforts to threaten those overseas based critics. Jom Petpradap, a “journalist living in exile in the United States has accused the Thai government of making veiled threats to his life and safety.” He has received a “package sent to him from Thailand [that] contained threatening materials” that made it clear that he is under surveillance and being followed.

Other exiles and outspoken monarchy critic Andrew MacGregor Marshall have reported similar packages and/or stalking.

Rightists in Thailand are also recycling Alt-Right inspired propaganda.

Thisrupt has a limited report on this development, noting that these conspiracy-based “revelations” of “plots” against the right’s Thailand mirror efforts in the 1970s to link student movements to international communism and efforts to overthrow the monarchy.

Something called “Thailand Vision” has been claiming a “plot,” backed by the USA – claimed to be promoting a “color revolution” in Thailand – and funded by Thai and international billionaires and capitalists. Like racists and rightists elsewhere, George Soros is identified as one of the culprit. Soros is remembered by Thai rightists as a culprit in the 1997 economic crisis. But his real “crime” is support for liberal causes.

In an elaborate concoction, Thailand Vision actually recycles claims made in earlier years by a self-exiled American, yellow-shirted conspiracy theorist who has been writing for one of Russia’s propaganda outfit, the New Eastern Outlook, which provides links to a range of alternative media sites, some of them anti-Semitic, others climate change deniers and many libertarian. Some of the co-authors have links to the extreme right in the U.S., including Lyndon LeRouche. and with connections to Alex Jones and much of the anti-imperialist alt-right.

In earlier times, it was Thaksin Shinawatra who was the “culprit” in motivating the international liberal/globalist conspiracy to bring down the monarchy. Now it is Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and international capitalists “behind” NGOs and international “co-conspirators” like the German newspaper Bild (for its tabloid journalism n the king in Germany), Business Insider, PixelHELPER, Freedom House, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and even Netflix!

In Thailand, “co-conspirators” include almost all of the NGOs and other organizations that are not rightist and sufficiently royalist, including the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, Thai Volunteer Service, Asian Network for Free Elections Foundation (ANFREL), Union for Civil Liberty, Prachatai, 101.world and The Isaan Record.

This might all sound bizarre, but in the recent past, such conspiracy nonsense has gained traction among former leftist yellow shirts like the late Kraisak Choonhavan and the regime/junta.

Recycling propaganda is about promoting notions of “threat” and mobilizing rightist reaction.

Update 1: We missed a Khaosod story about the ultras on Sunday. As well as one rally speaker – the youngest – seeming to incite violence and, later, calling for military dictatorship, coupled with a “Down with Democracy” screech, “speakers dish[ed] out conspiracy theories that implicate the governments of the United States and other Western countries in the ongoing anti-government protests.” Celebrity Hatai Muangboonsri said onstage: “Western powers want us to be divided. They encouraged a mindset that hates the pillars of our country…”. The reaction from the US Embassy was predictable. There’s also a strain of pro-China agitation from the ultras, who have mostly opposed Hong Kong democracy protesters.

Update 2: Two stories at The Nation deserve some attention. The first is about a street sweeper attacked outside the Thai Pakdee rally at the Thai-Japanese Stadium in Din Daeng. He was allegedly beaten up “because he was wearing a red shirt.” The story states: “It is assumed that the guard of Thai Pakdee royalist group may have assumed that Sukhon [the man beaten] had worn red to show he was associated with the anti-coup red-shirt movement.” The second story is a most unconvincing “denial” by Warong. Yellow social media is denigrating the cleaner as a “red buffalo” who got what he deserved as a Thaksin supporter. Fascism is on the march.

Update 3: In another story at The Nation, Student Union of Thailand spokesperson Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul insisted that the only people “behind” the student protests were the students themselves. She was logical in pointing out that the use of social media to raise political awareness among students and the young generation means that the students have a lot of supporters: “It wakes up many people. There are a lot of people who think like us.” She added: “It is human nature that if we know that many people share our views, then we have the courage to speak out … our fear is lessened…”. She added that she doesn’t even know all of the groups who associate themselves with Free People. Unlike Russian-paid trolls and yellow-shirted dolts, she’s brave, smart and appears (rather too) innocent.

Update 4: We added a link to Update 1 and corrected a point there.

Update 5: The Nation reports that Warong has “denied that the 15-year-old who posted a message on Facebook Live encouraging dictatorship was a member of his group.” He declared:  “he is not our member. I don’t know. Go ask him. He’s just a kid”.

Clipped from Khaosod

As the above picture shows, Warong is dissembling. He’s shown pulling a Thai Pakdee shirt over the lad’s yellow shirt. He’s applauded and lauded. Warong is trying to mislead people because he doesn’t want Thai Pakdee portrayed as it really is: an undemocratic, pro-military, pro monarchy mob that promotes the dictatorship.





With 3 updates: Media, students and monarchy I

22 08 2020

The mainstream media has lost touch with political events. Some say this is due to political censorship/owners’ censorship and the rightist political alignment of many outlets. Others say that it has to do with the lack of resources and skilled journalists. Whatever the reason, it is mainly social media that is carrying the news.

The missing news is even greater in the English-language media, despite efforts by Khaosod English, Thisrupt and Thai Enquirer.

Look in vain for workers protesting in solidarity with students, for those protesting workers being threatened by thugs dressed in black and with military-style haircuts, for Parina Kraikup essentially calling for state violence against school kids and for continuing critical discussion of the monarchy.

One story that promises to rile ultra-royalists has appeared in the rightist media is Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s questioning of the Budget Bureau on the huge and growing flow of taxpayer funds to the palace. He pointed out that even in a declining economy, the palace was getting almost 17% additional funding.

As far as PPT knows, this is the first time for decades that anyone has raised questions in an official forum about the funds flowing to the palace.

Update 1: A reader pointed out that we had posted nothing from the Khon Kaen rally a few days ago. That reader recommended Isaan Record and this video:

Update 2: While not reporting on the rally, Thai PBS now reports that the black-attired thugs shown above were “contracted” to “Thawatchawin Kopatta, a former candidate for the Kao Klai Party,” who “admitted that he had taken the two men to the protest to make sure that speakers did not touch on the Thai Monarchy, as he had promised the Superintendent of Samrong Nua police station he would do.” Thawatchawin added:

Thawatchawin said the incident was a misunderstanding by the two men in black shirts, who thought the speaker, Ms. Chuthatip Sirikhan, president of the Student Union of Thailand, was referring to the Monarchy, when she talked about the budget of the Office of the Royal Household, and they tried to stop her by seizing her microphone.

The question of who the thugs are has not been made clear. Police? Military?

Update 3: Better late than never, Thai PBS has also reported Thanathorn’s questioning of the Budget Burea. We reproduce most of the report below:

Thanathorn did something unprecedented on Thursday as an advisor of the House committee scrutinizing the 2021 budget bill.

He questioned the justification for an increase in the budget for agencies under the Royal Office – the organization directly under His Majesty the King. Thanathorn described the increase as “alarming” given the current economic situation and wanted an answer….

Normally, budgets for royal agencies are approved with little or no deliberation out of respect for the monarchy. But not this time — with Thanathorn’s presence in the budget committee.

Thanathorn is known for his strong stand on the monarchy which he believes should be more accountable.

Thanathorn noted in his Facebook post on Thursday that normally, top executives of government agencies would be required to be present to defend their budget before the House committee. But traditionally, no administrators of the Royal Office have ever appeared before the committee. And in line with past practice, the Royal Office was on Thursday represented by officials of the Budget Bureau.

Thanathorn said the budget allocated for the Royal Office for 2021 is 8.9 billion baht which he noted would be a significant jump of 16.8 per cent from the 7.6 billion baht for this year.

He described the increase as “alarming”, considering the fact that the overall national budget for 2021 represents an increase of only 3.1 per cent. He noted that the Budget Bureau officials spent only two minutes presenting the budget and without giving any details.

And looking back over the years, the outspoken politician said budgets for the Royal Office have been increasing at startling rates, outstripping those of inflation and economic growth.

Thanathorn said he questioned the officials of the Budget Bureau whether such increases would be appropriate. And whether they would in any way diminish the honour of the monarchy.

“As the people are still suffering from economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic, such a sharp increase in the budget for the Royal Office would only have a negative impact on the honour of the monarchy,” he said.

Thanathorn said he recommended that an increase in budget for the Royal Office be limited to 3.1 per cent – the same increase rate for the overall national budget.

“My intention is to help make the royal institution to continue to be held in high esteem by the people,” he explained.

He said by agreeing to cut down the budget for the Royal Office, the royal institution would be seen as sharing the suffering of the people – and that would further enhance the honour of the monarchy.

Among the major agencies within the Royal Office are Office of His Majesty’s Privy Council, Bureau of the Royal Household and Royal Security.

However, despite his plea, Thanathorn said the House committee endorsed the budget for the Royal Office without any changes.





Bovine military

23 05 2020

The military once delighted in comparing red shirt protesters to buffalo, implying they were stupid and led around by the nose. In fact, though, as two reports at The Nation demonstrate, it is the military brass that lacks intelligence and insight.

One report is pretty much standard fare for the military. In it, yet another dinosaur officer is wheeled out to “explain” that the Royal Thai Army can stand tall on its hind legs because of its role in “saving” the nation. General Chettha Thanajaro, a former Army chief and minister of defense under Thaksin Shinawatra “commented on the sixth anniversary of the 2014 coup.”

He lied that “political issues were not the Army’s responsibility” – that’s why military bosses have grabbed the prime ministership so often and for so long – and that the Army’s “duty” is the “protection of the country.” This role usually means defending the country’s borders not, as is the role of the Royal Thai Army in murdering citizens it considers threatening to monarchy and ruling class.

The aged general says:

The Army does not need to be polite [hadn’t noticed this trait] in taking political action because it has to prevent conflicts in the country…. I believe the Army must carry Thailand and when conflicts occur, it must intervene and leave when the country returns to peace.

Of course, this is nonsense, concocted by military types to justify never-ending authoritarianism and exploitation.

Naturally enough – the herd sticks together – he went on to praise current Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong for “doing a great job in national matters.”

Apirat defending his nation

Emphasizing a different perspective, Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit reminded Gen Apirat “of his promise to reform the armed forces within 90 days in the wake of the Korat shootout in February” that “claimed up to 20 lives.”

We wonder about the call for Apirat to take responsibility for the virus cluster at the Army’s boxing stadium.

For many Thais, protection from the Army is more salient that the Army’s self-appointed role as “protector.”





Rulers and the Future Forward threat

18 03 2020

Shawn Crispin at Asia Times has a long story that revolves around the challenge that the now dissolved Future Forward Party posed to Thailand’s conservative ruling class.

We won’t repeat all of the story, but will emphasize a couple points that mirror commentary at PPT and elsewhere on “The Threat.”

(Again, we should point out that Crispin maintains a ludicrous definition of Thailand as “democratic” when refers to the rigged 2019 election as “democracy-restoring.” That’s just dumb.)

In discussing Future Forward’s dissolution and the banning of its leaders from politics for 10 years, Crispin does allow that this was perceived “as a highly politicized Constitutional Court decision.” And, he’s right to note that replacement party and associated movement remains “on a collision course with ex-coup-maker Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut[h] Chan-ocha’s military-aligned coalition government.”

(We are not sure how a coup-maker becomes an ex-coup-maker? Just sloppy writing perhaps.)

And, as we recently posted, the “collision” could come soon now that the puppet Election Commission has filed “criminal charges that threaten to land Thanathorn [Juangroongruangkit], banned secretary general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and ex-spokeswoman Pannika Wanich, widely seen as the ex-party’s progressive triumvirate, in prison.”

Crispin observes that some analysts think that the “slew of other pending legal threats aim to drive Thanathorn, Piyabutr and Pannika into exile from the kingdom, extinguishing their promised new movement’s threat to Prayut[h] before it has a chance to fully coalesce.”

In fact, Gen Prayuth is expendable. What is being “protected” is the broader ruling class. Prayuth is merely its servant.

The Threat is clear, explained by Thanathorn:

The people against the military, the rest against the rich, hope against fear, the future against the past…. If we win the battle of ideas, we will win all other battles…. At it’s core, at the heart of this political crisis, is this question: in Thailand who does the power belong to?

It is noted that, “[w]hile in Parliament, Future Forward took hard aim at the military and its top brass, calling for constitutional reforms and accountability…”. Perhaps even more threatening was that Future Forward targeted the big Sino-Thai tycoons and their enormous and sprawling conglomerates:

including the ThaiBev and Charoen Pokphand Group, that arguably benefitted the most from Prayut’s junta government while poverty rates rose and donated generously to bankroll his rise as an elected leader via the military-backed Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP).

And then the biggest threat of all:

in October, the party voted against the Prayut government’s surprise declaration of an emergency decree that gave a legal basis for King Vajiralongkorn to take personal control of two elite infantry divisions, the 1st and 11th, nominally to provide better security for the royal family.

It seems – based on anonymous sources – that Thanathorn and Piyabutr were warned by the king but ignored this:

Clipped from Khaosod

That perceived challenge of royal power, two well-placed sources claim, happened despite Thanathorn and Piyabutr speaking with the monarch by telephone from Germany during a September meeting with army commander General Apirat Kongsompong, a palace loyalist and son of a coup-maker.

As Crispin explains, it was soon after this that Gen Apirat “launched his now notorious speech, replete with slides of Vajiralongkorn in military garbs during his communist-fighting days in the 1970’s, labeling Future Forward as a ‘leftist’ threat.”

He then makes an important observation:

That raises questions about whether a broad conservative coalition of military, big business and royalists may have been behind the Election Commission’s push and Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve Future Forward and ban Thanathorn from politics, as well as the follow-up threat to imprison the party’s former executives.

Citing a “government advisor, who requested anonymity” – probably the odious Panitan Wattanayagorn – the regime seems to believe that The Threat  may have been seen off:

“They moved too fast and now they’re gone…. It will be nearly impossible for them to come back through the streets,” he added, noting the army’s stern warnings against staging protests in public spaces.





Updated: More Future Forward charges

11 03 2020

Thailand’s great and good want to obliterate the leadership of Future Forward. These upstarts are considered threats to the status quo who must be destroyed.

A few days ago it was reported that Future Forward’s former spokesperson Pannika Wanich, hated by the elite, is to be hit with lese majeste-like computer crimes law.

Last Friday she fronted inspectors of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, “accused of violating Section 14 (2) of the Computer Crime Act, which prohibits the publication of false information that could affect national security.” In other words, the monarchy.

The ludicrous accusation “stems from a 2013 Facebook post about ‘the national institution’, a common euphemism for the monarchy.”

Meanwhile, junta puppet and tool of the military-backed regime the Election Commission has decided to lay criminal charges against former Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

Thanathorn “may face a jail term up to 10 years and a 20-year ban from politics over his media shareholding…”.

The EC accuses him of “applying to be an MP candidate knowing he was not qualified” under Section 151 of the 2018 MP Election Act.” This is the ludicrous case over buffalo manure “media” ownership.

Both cases are, like everything else judicial under the junta/post-junta regime, a political stitch-up. How much more of this manure can they pile up? This nonsense has been going on for years now. It’s corrupt and it has made the judiciary a processing terminal for the ruling elite.

Update: In an op-ed, deputy editor at the Bangkok Post, Surasak Glahan expresses the frustration of many:

With the Election Commission (EC)’s decision on Tuesday to pursue criminal charges against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit over a much-disputed media share transfer case, many observers may have stopped questioning how Thailand’s law-enforcement system could have come this far, and started wondering whether the worst of things is yet to come.

The poll agency’s move against the leader of the disbanded opposition Future Forward Party (FFP) comes at a time when public mistrust of Thailand’s justice system has already reached its peak…

He points out the dire consequences of this politicization of the judiciary and points out the gross double standards involved.





Students rising, EC responds

5 03 2020

As expected, as responses to the Constitutional Court’s contorted dissolution of the Future Forward Party have continued with large student rallies, and with targets beyond the Court, the post-junta, junta-like regime is responding.

The Court’s politicized judgement opened the way for the junta’s Electoral Commission to lay criminal charges against the party’s leadership, which could see people locked up for up to 10 years.

The EC is reportedly “seeking the filing of more charges against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the former leader of the dissolved Future Forward Party, including two criminal cases involving his alleged shareholding in V-Luck media and a loan extension.” On 3 March it announced that “Thanathorn’s shareholding in V-Luck media violated Section 151 of the election law, which stipulates that a person who was knowingly not qualified shall be fined Bt20,000 to Bt200,000 or face one to 10 years of imprisonment if he applied to become a member of Parliament.”

Meanwhile, the EC is considering “the ruling of the Constitutional Court that resulted in the dissolution of the party.” Charges are likely there as well.

The ruling elite plays hard ball in politics and upstarts like Thanathorn and Future Forward must be put in their place. For some, that may be prison.





Updated: Dangerous military

4 12 2019

The Bangkok Post reports on Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan”defending” all the off-budget money the Ministry of Defense following criticism from Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

Gen Prawit said the “off-budget money was used to provide welfare benefits for its troops, low-income state employees and the general public and its disbursement was transparent and under scrutiny at all levels.”

So why is it off-budget? No answer.

The corrupt general, best known for his luxury watch collection that was “borrowed” claimed there was no need to explain the billion in off-budget funds.

As usual for this regime, Gen Prawit turned on the questioner, “question[ing] the motive behind the criticism of the off-budget spending, saying the move was simply to cause misunderstanding among members of the public.”

There is no misunderstanding as the public knows the military is corrupt.

Future Forward is also pressing for an end to conscription, and Gen Prawit seemed to threaten Thanathorn when he declared “the FFP leader should abide by the law” when campaigning against the military.

The Defense Ministry said scrapping of conscription … was unlikely to happen soon because there are not enough volunteers signing up for military service.”In addition, the Ministry spokesman warned that it was necessary to “consider the impact on national security among other aspects.”

Of course, it is already known that the Ministry sees no external threat and wants conscripts as servants for senior military figures who use them both for personal service and for making money.

The Bangkok Post also reports on a speech Thanathorn made to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand that will have caused the regime heart trouble.

He’s convinced that the military and the “establishment” see him and his party as dangerous and seems convinced the Constitutional Court will soon dissolve the party. Thanathorn accused the regime of “undermining parliamentary democracy…”. This regime has been doing that since the coup in 2014.

He observed that the establishment “consistently use fake news and misinformation to discredit opposition.” He added: “They are branding us as traitors, branding us as anti-monarchy, installing hatred that divides the people of this country…”.

The Post report has “Colonel Artcha Boongrapu, a member of the Committee to Return Happiness to the People at the Royal Armed Forces HQ” who “accused Mr Thanathorn of hypocrisy and troublemaking.”

The military-constructed and backed Palang Pracharath Party attacked Thanathorn.

By attacking the “establishment” and doing so by pointing to military corruption and capitalist monopolies, Thanathorn is defined as “dangerous.” In fact, it is the military and its allies who are dangerous.

As many before Thanathorn have said for years, it is the military that is dangerous. It has the guns and a track record of anti-democratic interventions, arming thugs and forming gangs to maim and murder.

The military will stop at nothing to ensure the status quo.

Update: The Bangkok Post’s editorial on this topic is worth considering. It observes that Gen Prawit and the Defense Ministry provided “explanations” were “arguments [that] lack any real substance.” It adds that “off-budget spending” is not “subject to external audit and public disclosure…”. The corruption is clear.