Devils circle

17 03 2019

The junta’s devil party is Palang Pracharath. It was formed by the junta as a vehicle for The Dictator and the junta to continue in power beyond their rigged election.

With voting now on – overseas and advance domestic – other opportunistic rightist parties are lining up to ally with Palang Pracharath and its junta bosses.

Anutin Charnvirakul at the head of the Bhum Jai Thai Party has announced that his party is:

ready to work with parties that are loyal to … the monarchy, can make the country thrive and do not lead the country into conflict. If a party meets our conditions, we will support it and its prime ministerial candidate….

That should be no surprise. After all, the party was essentially created to represent the military’s electoral interests back at the time of the 2007 election. The party splashed loot about and did badly back then and was punished by pro-Thaksin voters for fielding turncoat candidates. It did poorly again in 2011 and now is only relevant as a mini-devil party supporting the junta.

More interesting is the Democrat Party and Abhisit Vejjajiva. He’s writhing and slithering like a wounded snake.

The headline for his interview with the Bangkok Post is as damning as it gets: “Abhisit OK working with military.” Of course, despite his denials, Abhisit has been with the military for years and supported both the 2006 and 2014 military interventions. For reminders, look here and here.

He groveled further to the junta, saying that he would only “join a no-confidence motion against a future [unelected] Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha if there were ‘good reasons’…”. So while saying he’d rather he was premier and would not support Gen Prayuth, Abhisit does not reject him as premier.

Abhisit also says that he “categorically rules out supporting any future coups,” which would be a huge change from his previous support for them as a means to remove elected governments.

And, he reaffirms that the Democrat Party is willing to join the devil parties: “he’s open to working with pro-military Palang Pracharath Party…”.

As for the anti-democratic, military-backed, appointed, senate, Abhisit can only waffle about maybe doing something or other about its undemocratic nature.

At this point, we at PPT would be willing to bet that the main devil parties will be Palang Pracharath, Bhum Jai Thai and the Democrat Party, and that this alliance, together with the senate, is very likely to deliver The Dictator as premier. Only a massive reaction against devil parties at the polls has a chance to prevent that.

Flustered and desperate III

13 03 2019

The junta seems to be admitting that its devil party Palang Pracharath is not going to do well at all its election, despite massive rigging and enormous state spending on projects linked to its electoral campaigning. Of course, this junta may be so desperate that it engages in old-fashioned vote fraud at the time of the election.

The latest to let this electoral cat out of the cardboard voting booth is Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

Brushing aside questions about his junta’s chances in the lower house, via Palang Pracharath, Gen Prawit said “he did not think it would be difficult to form the next government.” He explained why: “it would not be difficult to form the new government after the general election as the appointed senate would be ‘controllable’.”

The appointed senate

Gen Prawit is in charge of selecting the senators, so when he says they will be “controllable” it means he’s selecting relatives and friends.

In being forced to admit that his devil party is probably not going to do as well as they had been rigging for, Gen Prawit relies on the most anti-democratic elements of the “new” political system. If he, The Dictator-prime ministerial candidate and the rest of the junta have to do that, the period following the election is likely to be unstable and dangerous.

Updated: Secretly selecting the senate

10 03 2019

One of the biggest scams changes made to election rules was to return to the oldest military trick in the book, rigging the Senate by stuffing it full of junta puppets. In the past, the trick has been to fill the Senate with retired and serving military thugs senators.

The Nation reports that the secretive selection process continues, with 400 names shortlisted for the unnamed committee headed by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the Deputy Dictator, about to choose, with an anonymous “Army source saying a significant number of them are military officers.”

Of the 400, the anonymous committee will choose 194, with six seats reserved for serving military or police commanders. Another 50 are selected from lists approved by the junta in a process that was riddled with claims of corruption and rigging.

Just in case you’d forgotten, this “selection of senators is proceeding in line with the [junta’s] Constitution…”. As we said, its a rigged system.

Update: Thai PBS also reports that the “194 senators to be handpicked by the Thailand’s military junta … are expected to be dominated by active and retired generals with close links to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda.” It went on to report that:

Well-informed sources have told Thai PBS that, of the 400 shortlisted candidates, about 50 are close to General Prawit and were either his classmates at the armed forces preparatory school or used to work with him at the Defence Ministry or at the foundation to protect forests.

The report even names names, indicating not just picking trusted allies but nepotism likely at work.

What did you expect?

9 03 2019

A couple of days ago, in a Bangkok Post editorial, it is lamented that there is a “stark contrast to the race for Lower House seats in the March 24 general election, the ongoing process of selecting a majority of senators has fallen under the public radar.”

A model senator

It goes on to refer to the selection of unelected senators as “a secretive recruitment process for Upper House members who will be granted unprecedented power to join parliamentary votes for a prime minister.” These selectees are expected to be pro-military, pro-monarchy, pro-junta and pro-Prayuth Chan-ocha.

It adds that “the process of selecting these senators has taken place behind closed doors” led by Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

Junta boss, coup leader, self-appointed Prime Minister and prime ministerial candidate Gen Prayuth “has refused to reveal who is on the special committee.”

The Post huffily declares: “By keeping it secret, Gen Prayut has made a mockery of the selection process, which many suspect is set up to further his own aims.”

What did the editorial writer think? That a process meant to select a puppet Senate was going to be fair and transparent? Give us a break! Even if The Dictator did name his committee, it’d make no difference to the selection of the future-proofing puppets.

The process is meant to be a junta process, for the junta and by the junta. How could the Post expect anything else?

The junta’s senate

1 03 2019

The process of shortlisting senators by a military regime panel will not be difficult. That’s according to Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.

He says that’s because “[t]hey are likely to be recruited from members of various bodies who were appointed by the junta and from specialists in various professions…”. Wissanu added that those considered will be “drawn from the National Legislative Assembly as well as defunct bodies such as the National Reform Council and National Reform Steering Council.”

Wissanu revealed that “400 Senate candidates will be shortlisted by the recently established panel headed by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.” The Deputy Dictator will then pass these names to the junta. Yes, that’s right, the junta presents the names to the junta.

After the junta gets the names from the junta, it then chooses 194 unelected senators and 50 “reserve” candidates. And, of course, six seats are given to the bosses of each of the armed forces leaders, the supreme commander, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defense the national police chief. All of these are junta supporters, appointed by the junta.

The remaining 50 senators are also selected by the junta “from among 200 candidates who have already been shortlisted in a process supervised by the [puppet] Election Commission.”

In other words, the senate will be the junta’s people and will do the junta’s bidding.

Fake neutrality

26 02 2019

It seems that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is seeking to give a false impression that he is “neutral” on the junta’s selection of senators. The Dictator-prime minister-candidate-general has appointed his deputy and allyhas appointed his deputy and ally, the watchman, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, to head the selection committee of senators. No other members of the “selection committee” were named.

Gen Prawit said the 194 senators they would pick would “not include active military officers or those who are close to retirement…”. However, Gen Prawit “did not rule out retired military officers from the choice.”

Gen Prawit did not comment when asked about the obvious conflict of interest, where the junta’s rules and constitution give the junta the power to select “the senators who would, in turn, pick a prime minister and Gen Prayut is one of the PM candidates…”.

Gen Prayuth, who has previously spoken in support of the yet to be appointed senators, claimed a “democratic” mandate for the conflict of interest, pointing to the flawed and undemocratic constitutional referendum.

Handing over the task of picking the senators is a way for Gen Prayuth, who expects to be selected premier after the vote, to appear “neutral.” But this is an illusion. Prayuth and his junta established the rules as a way for Prayuth and his junta to maintain power.

EC crashed and burning II

29 12 2018

The Election Commission is meant to enforce the various laws associated with elections and to investigate candidates and parties that do not follow the law. So far, the new EC hasn’t done anything like that.

The most recent debacle involves the Senate selection-election. Several media outlets report that several “candidates” for that (s)election have spoken of vote buying and vote swapping.

At least two candidate’s in the senator selection, both from the “functional group” of “small farmers,” claimed vote dealing was common.

Boonyuen Khaopakchong, from Chumphon province, “claimed he had received a call offering him 20,000 baht…”. Kesak Sudsawad, from Yasothon province, “also suspected a foul play.” He “admitted receiving calls asking for an exchange of votes…”. He seemed to think the whole process was an expensive farce.

Another candidate, Worapol Bamrungsilp, from Bangkok, “said a fellow candidate called him and offered to pay for his travel expenses to the voting venue in return for a vote for that candidate.”

Even an anonymous EC source reportedly stated that illegal collusion was “detected in the intra-voting within some farmer groups…”, claiming that this was “influenced by politicians.” That latter claim is a kind of standard mantra that might be expected of the junta.

In a second report, Kamthorn Laosaphan, who lost out, complained of EC failures and another said that:

on the night before the vote, a group of candidates met in hotels on the outskirts of Bangkok to lobby for votes. Some were planning to swap votes while others came together to design a method to increase votes for themselves and for fellow candidates they knew personally.

In addition, more than 70 of those supposed to participate in the selection”vote” didn’t even show up. In some “functional groups” a lottery-like drawing was required “to pick the winners in several groups where the votes were tied.”

Despite all this, EC chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong triumphantly declared the junta’s “Senate candidate selection process at the national level finished early and smoothly…”.

Ittiporn grumbled that “[c]omplaints will be considered later…”. Maybe he is the “EC source” mentioned above as he claimed these were only made by the “small farmers’ group and [he] said their points were taken and would be considered later.” It seems that “later” means that “complaints” must be made within three days and that there are another two days for “investigation” as the 200 selected names must be forwarded to the junta within five days.

The whole senate selection process was conceived as a way for the junta to control parliament following an “election,” so we don;t expect the EC to trouble the junta and its planning.

Scam senate selection

27 11 2018

Both the Bangkok Post and The Nation report on the scam Senate and its first day of seeking “applications.” Each report says that with Election Commission officials eagerly awaiting self-nominations, it was an exceptionally quiet day, with little interest from just about everyone.

Self-applications close on Friday afternoon.

No doubt, some readers will be asking what this is about. Under the military junta’s rigging of the whole process of creating a Thaksin Shinawatra-proof electoral and constitutional system, the current sham process is for those who wish to nominate as and “an independent candidate” for the new Senate and for those who want to “represent” one of the junta-selected functional constituencies.

How is this being done? In case readers have forgotten (as we had), go to Article 269 of the junta’s 2017 constitution, one of the so-called transitory provisions, which for five years increases the size of the Senate from 200 to 250 and makes every single senator a junta selection.

It is a complicated process that involves a “Senator Selection Committee consisting of not fewer than nine but not exceeding twelve persons appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order.” That junta committee nominates “no more than four hundred persons … and … present the list of names to the National Council for Peace and Order.”

The names to the junta’s vetting committee come from the current nomination process, covered by Article 107 of the constitution:

The division of groups shall be made in a way which enables every person having the right to apply for selection to belong to any one group. The division of groups, number of groups, and qualifications of a person in each group, the application and acceptance of application, the rules and procedures for selection among themselves, the acceptance of the selection, the number of Senators selected from each group, the listing of reserve candidates, the elevation of persons from the reserve list to fill the vacancy, and any other measures necessary to enable the selection among themselves to proceed honestly and justly, shall be in accordance with the Organic Act on Installation of Senators.

Let’s skip the reciting of the Organic Law for the moment, for in the end, The junta selects 50 and another 50 as “reserves” or “alternates.” This same junta then selects another 194 from the list of 400 names and then adds:

the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, the Supreme Commander, the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Navy, the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Air Force and the Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, totaling two hundred and fifty persons.

If you are still with us, the junta has thereby selected 250 of the total of, well, 250. The wrinkle in this is the current process of nomination and self-nomination for the original list of 400, of whom 244 get a Senate position. The process after nomination  – for which there’s a long list of exclusions and requirements – begins at the amphur level and has vetting and selection at provincial and national level, all controlled by officials, before being considered by the junta’s selection committee.

In other words, the whole process is contrived, controlled and rigged by the junta so that it fills the Senate with its own people. For all of the complications involved in not electing senators, the outcome is going to be a chamber that reflects the junta and its desires and that will behave exactly like the puppet National Legislative Assembly. That is, as a chamber of mechanical Japanese lucky cats, all sticking their paws up at the same time, with the time being dictated by the junta.

Lucky for the junta but unlucky for the country.

Snoozing snaps beget screams for media “reform”

10 06 2018

We are late getting to the story of sleeping puppets at the National Legislative Assembly.

In truth, photos of snoozing members of parliament in Thailand and elsewhere is not all that remarkable. But the response of one junta-appointed legislator is worthy of attention for its raucous defense of fellow puppets in the face of criticism.

Somchai Sawaengkarn reportedly “raged at the media for showing his fellow legislators sleeping in a session deliberating the Bt3-trillion national budget…”. Parroting his funders in the junta, he jumped up and down, stamped his feet and spat that the media “distorted the work of our five rivers of power…”.

Essentially this drip is saying that there can be no criticism of the military junta nor of the useless marionettes of the junta’s “four … branches of government.” The NLA is one of those rubber-stamp branches.

Somchai’s tantrum continued: “They showed photos of NLA members sleeping via social media.” They also printed them in newspapers. How dare they! Somchai thinks that the media should fall in line with the dictatorship: “Throughout four years, I think the media is the area which never reforms itself.” He seems to want the dissidents weeded out: “Over 90 per cent are good [being junta puppets] but the rest create distortion and conflict…”. How dare they!

Who is Somchai? He is a former unelected senator, dedicated anti-democrat, anti-Thaksin campaigner for more than a decade, hard core royalist and prone to accuse opponents of lese majeste. His rant is as expected.

Updated: Moving from military dictatorship to military domination

5 04 2017

The Bangkok Post quotes the junta and its minions in saying that a “general election will be held in November next year [2018] at the latest now that the date has been set for the promulgation of Thailand’s 20th constitution, according to the roadmap set by the National Council for Peace and Order[they mean military junta].”

That calculation is based on a “schedule announced in the Royal Gazette on Monday,” which has the king finally and with great pomposity, signing the junta’s much amended and still secret constitution tomorrow.

By that calculation, an “election,” under the junta’s rules and direction, must be held “19 months from that date or no later than Nov 6, 2018.”

Frankly, given that the junta promised “elections” 12 months after it illegally seized power in May 2014, we will believe it when it happens.

But as we have said before, the “elections” will change very little. A few countries like the USA will accept a military-backed but formalistic “elected government,” and that will be seen by some as a plus.

In fact, as planned at the moment, the military and junta will remain the power in Thailand, much as it was through the 1980s. But back then it was General Prem Tinsulanonda ruling with strong palace-backing and a military-dominated senate. This time it will be whoever the junta wants in the premier’s seat backed by the junta’s constitution and its multiple unelected bodies, including the unelected junta.

The Dictator seems reasonably sure that the constitution will be signed tomorrow: “As far as I know, [the king] will sign the constitution on April 6 and I will countersign it as prime minister…”.

Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan appeared somewhat disoriented in his comments. Acknowledging that Article 44 powers will continue, he babbled that the “power cannot be used in violation of the core principles of the constitution. Nor can it change the new charter itself.” Of course, that would depend on interpretations by the Constitutional Court and other bodies developed by and beholden to the junta.

Then on the ban on political party activity, Meechai seemed befuddled, saying he “believes it will be eased after the political party bill is enacted” and then adding: “In any case, they can run their normal operation.” We are not sure what “normal” is and we are sure that the parties don’t know either.

Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesman of The Dictator, noted that:

Members of the cabinet, NCPO [junta], NLA [puppet assembly] and NRSA [puppet National Reform Steering Assembly] who want to run for MPs must resign within 90 days after the new charter comes into effect. The rule applies only to MPs, not senators or cabinet ministers.

He added: “Once the constitution comes into effect, enacting a law will be more complicated and public hearings and opinions of related government agencies must be taken into consideration…”.

It will be “more complicated” for the junta even if the “complications” were designed by the junta. But Article 44 doesn’t get complicated at all. It just stays and its use is legal before and after “elections.”

In the end, the junta’s road map is a representation of how to move from military dictatorship to continued military domination of politics. That’s the plan, the road map. We retain some hope that the people will reject the dons of the military mafia.

Update: Meechai was certainly addled on political parties, so the junta has made things clear. Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan said “restrictions on political parties’ activities will not be eased even after the enactment of the new constitution.” He added: “Please wait until things become orderly. There is still about one year left [before the poll is held]…”. About a year? Or about two years? The Nation reckons the election date remains unclear.