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.

Everlasting military rule II

3 10 2016

As PPT has been posting for a couple of years, the military dictatorship is not “into” power sharing. The most benign analogy is with a nasty three-year-old child with a bag of candy, gorging itself, unwilling to share with anyone, engaging in tantrums when anyone suggests sharing.

Readers will note that this military dictatorship is not benign. It is gorging, selfish and very nasty. It demands and (so far) gets what it wants. It has kept all the political “candy.”

As the Bangkok Post reports, not only does the military hope for a military party and The Dictator as boss of an “elected” government following its “election,” but it has plans to ensure that the result is owned by them.

It has set the rules through the outcome of the “referendum” and the constitution it designed. It continues to tinker with the draft constitution to make it even more dictatorship-friendly. It has cowed the opposition. It will control the appointed senate. It has arranged for an appointed premier.

But, it seems, nothing can be left to “chance” (or to the people).

Deputy prime minister and military lackey Wissanu Krea-ngam has declared that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has the power to use Article 44 “to dissolve the freshly elected House if the new-PM selection process drags on for months” (and, presumably, doesn’t choose him).

Until there is a premier acceptable to the junta, it seems that the military junta remains in place and can thus do anything it wants, including overturning the “election” result.

The tantrum-prone terrible three-year-olds have all the candy and won’t share.

Autocrats and “democracy”

7 08 2016

The Washington Post has a sharp and critical editorial on the military’s referendum. We reproduce it in full:

THAILAND GOES to the polls Sunday for a referendum on a new constitution that was written by a committee appointed by the military junta that took power in 2014. The voting should fool no one. The process has not been democratic, nor would the constitution guarantee a working democracy. Whether the document is approved or rejected by voters, Thailand badly needs reconciliation of deep divisions in society over ideology, economics and ethnicity, rifts that have driven the political conflict between “red shirts” and “yellow shirts,” as the polarized factions are known. This constitution is, at best, unlikely to help achieve that reconciliation and, at worst, an invitation for continued military rule.

The referendum itself is a good illustration of how autocrats have cloaked themselves in procedures of democracy in order to cling to power. Instead of brute force, triggering protest at home and criticism abroad, 21st-century autocrats preside over referendums, talk of elections, create fake organizations and charters, and very quietly suffocate anyone who stands in opposition.

In Thailand, the drafting process of the constitution was not open. Criticism of the draft is punishable by imprisonment. There is no formal “no” campaign. On July 22, a 30-day blackout was ordered of Peace TV, a television station loyal to the opposition. A few weeks ago, at a university campus, students were detained by police for releasing balloons into the air inscribed with the words “Campaigning is not wrong.” At least 120 people have been prosecuted for voicing opposition to or criticizing the charter. No international monitors were allowed for the vote. This is a constitution born by undemocratic means.

Nor is the document itself very promising. When the military took over, the parliament was abolished. The draft constitution would reconstitute the lower house of 500 members but change the membership toward proportional representation and away from district elections, in order to reduce the power of Thaksin Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party — allies of the “red shirts” — which has won every general election for the past 15 years. Also, the charter would make the upper house, the Senate, an unelected body.

A second question on the ballot, if approved, would give the unelected Senate a role in picking a prime minister, leaving open the possibility of a general. Although the junta has promised to eventually relinquish power, the constitution looks to be written as a road map for the generals to hold on to their influence for a long time, while enjoying the window dressing of a new constitution.

ASEAN parliamentarians on the junta and its charter

26 04 2016

We thought readers might find this media release of interest:

Regional MPs concerned by Thailand’s draft constitution and planned referendum

JAKARTA, 25 April 2016 — Parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia have expressed deep concerns about Thailand’s new draft constitution, as well as a planned referendum on the charter, highlighting an apparent effort by the military government to strengthen and prolong its control over Thai politics and stifle open debate.

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) criticized the decision by the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to outlaw campaigns for or against the charter in advance of the referendum, slated for 7 August, and called on Thailand’s leaders to allow for a robust, public discussion of the draft.

“The Thai people are being asked to vote on the core laws that will determine how they are governed, and they aren’t even allowed to speak about them publicly, under threat of imprisonment. How can they be expected to make an informed decision under this arrangement?” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament.

“If the junta truly believes—as it insists—that this is a matter for the people to decide, then it should allow the people to speak directly to one another about the draft’s merits and drawbacks. Without allowing for such open debate, the Thai junta is effectively attempting to force-feed this constitution to the population.”

The law governing the rules for the referendum, which was approved by the current military-appointed legislature on 7 April, mandates up to 10 years’ imprisonment for anyone convicted of disseminating false information to influence voters or otherwise disrupt the referendum. Junta leaders have also failed to clarify their plan if voters reject the constitution, with some insinuating that a failure to approve the current draft could prolong military rule further.

“People shouldn’t be thrown in jail for simply expressing their opinions. We have already seen individuals who have made comments on the charter subjected to arbitrary detention and so-called ‘re-education,’ and the referendum rules seem designed to stoke fear among the people and stifle debate further,” said APHR Vice Chair Son Chhay, a member of the Cambodian National Assembly.

“The fate of democracy in Thailand has implications for the entire region. It is critical that leaders from around Southeast Asia stand with the Thai people and speak out in support of free expression and informed debate. This draft constitution must be judged on its merits through open discussion. Attempting to gag and intimidate critics is no way to run a country and certainly no way to resolve the political polarization and strife that has characterized Thai politics in recent years,” Son Chhay added.

The draft constitution, which was released publicly on 29 March, includes clauses mandating a fully appointed Senate and enabling the appointment of an unelected prime minister. The charter gives the military broad control over administrative affairs even after an elected government is installed. In addition, clauses of the charter enable the permanent legalization of orders issued unilaterally by NCPO leader Prayuth Chan-ocha under Article 44 of the junta-drafted interim constitution.

Civil society and political parties in Thailand have criticized the draft, highlighting its undemocratic provisions, including the special place reserved for military appointees. These critiques were echoed by regional MPs.

“The fact that the constitution preserves an explicit role for the military indefinitely is particularly concerning,” said APHR Vice Chair Eva Kusuma Sundari, a member of the House of Representatives in Indonesia.

“We have seen the result of a similar setup in Myanmar, where the military controls 25 percent of seats and is able to veto constitutional amendments. It’s the very thing that the people of Myanmar and its new, elected government are now struggling to change. It seems odd that Thailand would want to adopt and adapt elements of this widely criticized model.”

Parliamentarians also highlighted the lack of protections for community rights and the environment, which were present in previous Thai constitutions. The new draft’s assertion that the state is empowered to protect certain rights provides for a sweeping mandate, which is open to abuse by ruling authorities.

“Any trappings of direct democracy, which were preserved in earlier drafts, have been eliminated. The people’s control over their own rights and affairs is severely limited as well, and that sets a dangerous precedent for Thailand’s ability to return to full democracy,” Sundari said.

“This constitution appears to be an attempt by the Thai military to subvert normal democratic processes and strengthen its hold on the political system,” Charles Santiago added. “This is yet another worrying sign for a country that has been backsliding dramatically on its human rights commitments under an unelected military government for nearly two years now.”

More anti-democrat support for the junta

25 04 2016

The anti-democrats associated with the Democrat Party seem to be throwing their support behind the military junta. The pathetic Abhisit Vejjajiva mumbled something about the draft charter having  undemocratic elements but, as usual, didn’t say if he supported the charter. No surprise there.

Also not surprising is the support of Suthep Thaugsuban. He speaks for many in the official Democrat Party and for the broader flock of anti-democrats.Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban answers questions during a news conference in Bangkok

The Bangkok Post reports that Suthep, now chairman of the Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation (the residue of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee), “has declared support for the draft constitution, saying it is suitable for the current situation in the country.”

In other words, Suthep and his followers are fully supportive of the military-dictated constitution, prepared by a puppet drafting body which, if passed in an illegitimate referendum, promises to remove virtually all the hallmarks of a democratic constitution. No surprise there.

Suthep was speaking at a press conference. Yes, we know, such public campaigning is meant to be banned under the junta, but it deals only in double standards.

According to the report, Suthep “was full of praise for the draft charter…”. For Suthep, the draft charter, provides “a way out without requiring another coup if a similar crisis as in the past occurred.” In other words, the charter will embed military supervision and control for years to come, backed up by interventionist and elite institutions such as the judiciary.

In essence, Suthep feels that the Thailand is better under an authoritarian regime. He praised the appointment of senators and the likelihood of an unelected premier.

The junta will be pleased.

They will have it all

8 04 2016

The Bangkok Post had an interesting web-based headline (see the clip below). The point was clear: it is the military wanting control into the future.

The National Legislative Assembly has voted to add a question to the upcoming junta referendum on the junta charter.

The question is to allow the junta appointed Senate to select a prime minister who is acceptable to the junta.Military

The wrinkle in this for the junta is that this question will mean that if it is accepted in the referendum and the charter is also accepted, then the latter will need to be modified to manage the junta’s ongoing interference in who rules Thailand.

That’s because the draft charter gives the House of Representatives or Assembly the task of selecting the premier. That isn’t what the junta wants. They want it all.

Anti-democrats and the junta

22 03 2016

The anti-democrats in Thailand have a long history. They have usually been huddled around the monarchy and the military. There was a time, following the 1992 massacre of civilians, when democrats came into their own, and even some anti-democrats posed as democrats. An excellent example was the grinning mercenary and self-styled religious zealot Chamlong Srimuang.

The remnants of the People’s Alliance for Democracy and various other royalist and military-connected right-wing groups came together to support the People’s Democratic Reform Committee and cheered when the military ran its 22 May 2014 coup.

Since the coup, several of their leaders have been well-paid members of various of the junta’s puppet assemblies and so on.

With the military coming under attack from the middle class, mainly for its determination to stay in power, the anti-democrats have decided to support the junta on its claims that the military staying in power or having a veto over government are necessary for “reform.” That call for “reform” was the the catchphrase of the PDRC.

The Bangkok Post reports that a “pro-regime group has called on the administration to exert its executive powers to ensure reforms are in place before the next election.” Again, that is pure PDRC.

Green group secretary-general Jaturon Boonbenjarat is reported to have declared that “the government” and the junta “should emphasise reform issues over the draft charter, as time was running out.” The Green group was formed out of PAD.

These anti-democrats call for increased use of Article 44 for “reforms before elections without having to wait for completion of the draft charter … adding reforms could encompass police, judicial procedures, administration, to social inequality.”

“Reform” is code for rooting out the “Thaksin regime.” They want more purges of those they consider opponents.

They re not opposed “to the regime’s proposal of a five-year transitional post-election period, which includes an appointed Senate…”. But they are calling on the junta to listen to them: “Civic networks should speak out on what they want reforms to accomplish, and the regime should speed up efforts to put them in place…”.

One of the militant leaders of the PDRC and long-time Thaksin Shinawatra opponent Paiboon Nititawan, a former unelected senator, selected by the military dictatorship as a charter writer appointed by the junta’s puppet National Reform Council, said “he supported the regime’s proposal for an appointed Senate, which he said could help counter-balance the House of Representatives and the cabinet.”

Another junta puppet, Seri Suwannapanon, “chairman of the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA)’s committee in charge of political reforms, threw his support behind the selected senators, saying his panel had proposed the issue before the NCPO [junta] did.” Naturally enough, his “committee also backs the idea of allowing outsiders to become the prime minister and said the practice could help break the political impasse.” Nor did he “oppose the idea that civil servants be allowed to sit in the Upper House, but only if they can ensure the country’s stability and peace.”

The picture is of anti-democrats throwing their political weight behind the military, again.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reports that “Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, chairman of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), said on Monday the proposals were not made by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) alone, in an apparent bid to ease pressure on the junta.” He says it’s a decision of the junta and all its puppet organizations: “the NCPO, NLA, cabinet and National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA).”

He’s clear that these junta puppet organizations do not want a “majority-controlled government” actually governing.

Another 20 years of military bossiness

15 03 2016

The Dictator has log babbled about a 20-year “reform” agenda, beating the previous post-coup record established by the royal favorite Thanin Kraivixien, who set a 12-year time frame.

In the bid to keep the military in power or in a place where it can trump any elected or vaguely constitutional regime, The Dictator has returned to this 20-year “plan” which he calls “Pracha Rat,”  and developed for him by the likes of royalist conservative Prawase Wasi and multiple NGO anti-democrats who remain skeptical of people power and of the capacity of the grassroots to engage in politics. Electoral democracy scares the silk pants off middle class do-gooders and the military.

The Nation reports that General Prayuth Chan-ocha* has declared that 20 years is “essential to ensure sustainable development of the Kingdom…”. In this, “sustainable” is another genuflection to the anti-democrats and an attempt to coax them across to support for ongoing military interference and bossiness.

Prayuth stated that to sustain “Pracha Rat and its goals … there should be an emphasis on judicial assurances, the integrated participation of all sectors of society, the empowerment of state agencies, and continued public support for the national strategy.” All of this is anti-democrat code, telling them that if they do not agree to military oversight, their “reform,” fixing the judiciary, weakening elections and boosting the power of the state’s agencies, then Thaksin Shinawatra, the red shirts and the “uneducate” will be back.

He blamed “politicians” for having made people “colour-blinded and short-sighted,” conveniently forgetting that the yellow shirts – the first of the colors – developed with palace and military connivance, the support of politicians in the senate (all the unelected swill) and in the Democrat Party.

*Oddly The Nation refers to Prayuth as a “retired general.” This is a bit much, given that no general ever retires, keeping their moniker, their uniforms and their position in the hierarchy.

Updated: Constitutional mayhem

24 02 2016

The alliance that was the anti-democrats with the military is coming undone. They are unpicking the alliance themselves as they are unable to agree on what “reform” means and how it will be handled if there is ever an elected government. The draft constitution is the source of the dissension, even if it is already a mess.

That the meaning of “reform” is debated is no surprise given that it has gone from political slogan to the military’s club for beating the country into its preferred shape, and is now being institutionalized.

As happened in 1992, when the military expresses its desire to hold onto power for ever and ever, some of those who think the boys in green are there just to see off those threatening the social order, get the fidgets. The elite and trembling middle class realizes that it may have to put up with these thugs and to keep paying them off with positions and power.

As the Bangkok Post reports, the junta’s demand that there be a “special set of rules to allow the military-led government to maintain security during the transition to civilian rule [and after] is likely to be rejected by charter drafters…”.

Frankly, we doubt that the junta will give way or that the Constitution Drafting Committee would develop a backbone. However, the idea of dissension and a rejection of the junta, from within, is worthy of note.

Described as “an ex-leader of the now-dissolved People’s Democratic Reform Committee” and as a “[f]ormer Democrat MP,” Thaworn Senniam said the “CDC will not include the cabinet proposal in the charter.” He said: “We can’t return to ‘half-democracy’.”

Thaworn has little conception of democracy, but his dissension is worth noting.

More significantly, the old fascist war horse “Sqn Ldr Prasong Soonsiri … is warning the military government against making any moves that reflects a desire to stay in power.” He remembers 1992. Anyway, he says, if the military doesn’t like something after an election it can easily intervene.

As expected, The Dictator is unimpressed.

The Nation reports that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “affirmed the country needs a special mechanism to advance reforms during a five-year transitional period.” That “mechanism” is meant to guide government and is presumably replacing the unofficial and behind the scenes mechanism known as the Privy Council. (Post-Prem/post-present king, it can’t be trusted.)

It seems the junta is also pressing for an unelected senate. This is a favorite of the military as they get to hold many of the seats and have veto powers over government. In this instance “it would ensure the junta will have at least 200 senators supporting the junta after an election…”.

As it has been from the beginning, the junta seeks a throwback semi-democracy combined with an institutionalization of measures to replace the monarchy’s political interventionism.

Update: Former PADster, PRDCer and Democrat Party Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya has joined the splits from the junta. In a story at Matichon, he has slammed the military junta. Among other things, he digs at The Dictator, saying he wants to stay another five years after two years of failed administration. He says there have been no substantial accomplishments. He says there is no good reason for them to stay.

The dictatorship is being challenged. How will the erratic boss respond?

Dismembering the charter

8 02 2016

Is the military dictatorship serious about its second draft charter or is it all an elaborate and expensive ruse to convince average people that a return to an elected government is possible?

A report at the Bangkok Post suggests the latter.

It says there is a “fresh proposal for an appointed Senate…”. It can hardly be “new” because this proposal has been around since the 2006 coup. Since the 2014 coup it has been suggested and considered several times.

But that is beside the real point. The report states that the National Legislative Assembly has been highly critical of the Constitution Drafting Committee’s “proposal for the indirect election of the Senate…”.

That the draft charter was dead on arrival means that the NLA is now dismembering it, making it even more grotesque.

Several NLA members “spoke out against the proposal which calls for the indirect election of 200 senators elected from 20 professional groups, 10 from each group.” We agree that this kind of “functional constituency” is fundamentally flawed and unrepresentative.

Remarkably – well, perhaps not, as the NLA is populated by fascists and other anti-democrats – the members responded by suggesting an even less representative alternative: a fully appointed Senate.

The claim is that “appointed senators performed well in the past and they acted as a counterbalance to elected MPs.” They mean that unelected senators were warriors for anti-democrats.

The report then turns to what it says is a “hidden agenda” in this proposal. “A source” states that this proposal “would likely lead the public to vote down the draft charter in the referendum, which in turn would help the military government stay in power longer…”.

“The source” said the “strange move” is a “reminder of what happened before the now-defunct draft charter by the previous CDC led by Borwornsak Uwanno was rejected by the National Reform Council (NRC).”

The “plan” has seen accusations that this is to “prolong the military regime’s power…”. They seem reasonable accusations. If this is the junta’s plan, then it is one expensive ruse.