After an “election”

14 07 2018

The Klong Dan convictions provide a timely reminder of what politics under the junta’s constitutional arrangements might look like following the junta’s rigged election.

In the linked story, readers are reminded that the saga began in 1995 under a Democrat Party-led coalition:

Suwat Liptapanlop, who served as science minister in the Democrat government headed by Chuan Leekpai, first proposed the wastewater treatment project in 1995. Prayoonvisavat Karnchang, one of the companies convicted in the case, was founded by Mr Suwat’s father Visava.

One of the other companies convicted, Seesaeng Karn Yotha, was founded by Banharn Silpa-archa, whose party at the time was a coalition partner with the Democrats.

Other cabinet-level supporters of the project were Vatana, who was then the deputy interior minister, and Yingphan Manasikarn, then minister of natural resources and environment, who died in 2003.

Like other rich persons who feel they are unable to negotiate a comfortable legal outcome, Vatana fled the country and has been “gone” for a decade, although we guess he arranges long periods at home.

The saga was so long that some readers may not have been born when it began. For background and for a reminder of how weak coalition governments worked under rules introduced by the military following the 1991 military coup, we provide a Bangkok Post investigative report from 2000 and a link to a Focus on the Global South Report from 2002.

Democrat Party standards

1 08 2010

A report in The Nation prompts PPT to once more direct attention to double standards as standard operating procedure in regime and ruling party.

The report state s that the father of Democrat Party double standards and spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks has “slammed Chaturon Chaisaeng, a banned executive from the disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party, for interfering in the justice process in relation to the court hearing of the party dissolution case – by saying that if the Democrats were not dissolved, it would be hard for the country to achieve reconciliation.” Of course, Buranaj was joyous when the Department of Special Investigation intervened and interfered.

But what about the political involvement of other banned executives of disbanded political parties? From this government’s nativity with military midwives, it has dealt repeatedly with such politicians. Banharn Silpa-Archa is regularly consulted and feted at Government House. Recent reports had the Democrat Party dealing with exiled convicted criminal and chief of the Matuphum Party Vatana Asavaheme. That party is nominally led by 2006 coup leader General SonthiBoonyaratkalin.

More directly, the regime includes, from birth, the banned political turncoat, vote-buyer and local mafia-like figure from Buriram, Newin Chidchob. Turncoat is probably the wrong term as Newin has a chameleon-like capacity to change color.

Most recently, the Bangkok Post: reports that Newin “does not like to lose…. The Buri Ram politician is preparing the [governing coalition member] Bhumjaithai Party for the next general election. He believes his party has a chance to overtake Puea Thai as the new champion of the Northeast, the region with the most seats and the popularity base of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.” The story is mainly about Newin’s expensively-purchased Buri Ram PEA football club, and at a recent game, reports that “[e]xtra officials from the Interior Ministry had been deployed at the stadium [that Newin visited] amid concerns that Mr Newin could be the target of a security threat.”

The Abhisit Vejjajiva government and the Democrat Party deals with Newin on a daily basis. Chaturon, who has recently been quiet, makes a comment and he is criticized and his banned status emphasized. Glass houses stuff as well as blatant double standards.

Where the Democrat Party seems to maintain a standard is in its elitist perception of “the people.” The Nation reports that Prime Minister Abhisit has told his party’s MPs to “focus more on solving people’s problems than politicking. They must also help clarify and publicise the government’s policies.” He added: “If we ask what’s on people’s minds, the problems of expensive consumer goods, low prices for crops, and debts rank first among people’s problems…”.

Sounding reasonable as long as one ignores the premier’s self-selected concerns, but then he reveals his elitist position: “The PM said his government had effective policies to help people solve such problems, but people lacked knowledge and understanding about them.” He added: “People don’t know many things…”. This has been a standard line from the Democrat Party in describing why people don’t support it in past 2-3 elections and for the continued support garnered by pro-Thaksin parties. That standard, at least, has been maintained.

Democrat Party dissolution case

15 07 2010

PPT hasn’t been ignoring the dissolution case against the ruling Democrat Party. There’s just not much to say about it. However, this Chinese report is worth a read as background. It is, like most Chinese reports, derivative of others accounts and essentially pro-government, but this also allows an insight into events from the Democrat Party supporters.

One interesting point has to do with Abhisit Vejjajiva’s “calmness” which is said to be “justified as this is not the first time that a Thai political party faced a crisis of disbandment and the precedents had proved ‘disbanding did not bring about major change’.” Of course, this is simply not true, and the last dissolution case against the People’s Power Party brought down the government and allowed military and palace fixers to put the Democrat Party and its craven coalition in place.

At the same time, it seems that those who have faced dissolution and even 5-year bans get on okay, so long as they abandon Thaksin Shinawatra and sign up with the military-palace coalition of the willing elite. Think of the execrable Newin Chidchob. He was banned for 5 years, and remains the only politician ever caught on tape engaged in illegal electoral practices. But he jumped sides and brought money and members of parliament to the Democrat Party coalition. This allows him to daily engage in politics, meeting the premier regularly, running his own party on a daily basis and so on. He’s “calm.” So is Banharn Silpa-Archa, also banned, but now a government crony and running his party on a daily basis. The Democrat Party even deals with some politicians found guilty of corruption, in exile and banned – think Vatana Asavaheme.

As the Democrat Party already has its “back-up” party in place – most say it is the newly registered Thai Khem Kaeng Party – maybe they don’t need to worry. The only “problem,” as the report says, is: “is the bruising of some egos for the failure to sustain the oldest political party in Thai history.” But staying in power would probably be a soothing salve.

A general metamorphosis

19 11 2009

In yet another throwback to the past, a coup maker has entered “democratic” politics via an unknown political party associated with dinosaur and criminal politicians (Bangkok Post, 19 November 2009, here and here).

2006 coup leader General SonthiBoonyaratkalin never convinced anybody that he was much more than another  military duffer who was able to be used by those who wanted to oust Thaksin Shinawatra’s government in 2006. Now  Sonthi wants to convince voters that he has undergone a miraculous metamorphosis from a not too bright tool of the palace to a bright and shining light for Thailand’s democratic future.

Is PPT being too harsh on the general? We don’t think so. Thai generals are brought up on a diet of monarchical nationalism and hierarchy which means that few of them make an easy transition into the hurly-burly of Thailand’s electoral politics. They are used to being believed when they make dumb statements and aren’t used to being challenged in any way. In the military they get ahead by bonding to other “risers,” by not doing much wrong, parroting the shibboleths of the military and the monarchy and, if possible, acquiring some wealth.

Why did he join the  Matuphum Party associated with Vatana Asavahame? Partly because it is made up of Muslim politicians of the Wadah faction but the general also says: “because it had a politically neutral stand. It had set a goal to promote national reconciliation, a mission he intended to achieve.” It is good to know that political parties can be politically neutral. But then proving that  he doesn’t know what he said, he attacks Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and the Peua Thai Party on the South. Not that Sonthi achieved much when he was army chief.

On the 2006 coup, Sonthi says that he did it because things were bad. “If there had not been that coup, I can’t imagine what the situation would be like today…” . A truism if there ever was one.

Another dumb general thinking he knows something about politics and that the electorate is equally dumb and will forget his anti-democratic past.

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