Updated: The election splurge I

2 12 2018

A couple of days ago PPT quoted Chaturon Chaisang who complained that the military junta was “going to take advantage over others until the last minute.” His comment was not just about electoral boundaries.

On cue, after splurging on rubber planters, the junta has come up with yet another way to use taxpayer money to improve the electoral appeal of its devil party.

Yesterday it was reported that the Ministry of Finance announced that the military government approved a “value-added tax (VAT) refund to shoppers who spend up to 20,000 baht … next year in a bid to boost domestic spending amid murky economic prospects.”

This decision is “expected to cost the government 6-7 billion baht in forgone revenue…”.

That comes following the junta’s 40 billion on its eponymous Palang Pracharath scheme for the current financial year, and the now “86.9-billion-baht splurge on low-income earners, the elderly and retirees” that was originally reported as 63 billion. And that’s just a fraction of the funds that the junta has poured out (for little economic impact).

Is anyone keeping track of this huge spending?

But back to the VAT handout.

When can shopping occur? 1-15 February.

When is the current most likely date for the junta’s rigged election? About a week after the shopping blitz.

Who is targeted? Sino-Thais who will spend for Chinese New Year.

Remarkably, it is reported that the puppet Election Commission “has insisted it needs to examine the law to see if the government’s proposed value-added tax (VAT) refund for next year’s Chinese New Year shopping gives a pro-government party undue political advantage ahead of the next election.”

Indeed, that sentence says it all. The suspicions are the charges.

Critics have pointed out the obvious: “that the programme is likely to allow the pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) to capitalise on the popularity of the refund and gain an unfair advantage over rival parties at the poll.”

Of course, similar rebate schemes and tax deductions have been offered before, but we do not recall any such scheme being scheduled a week prior to an election (while noting the date has not been officially set).

EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma said the “commission would take a look at the law to see if claims of an unfair advantage have substance.”

Let’s see if the puppet can cut the strings. We are not optimistic.

Update: In a remarkable state effort to pile buffalo manure as high as a Bangkok condo, Revenue Department spokesman Pinsai Suraswadi has come up with one of the smelliest piles in a while. He has stated that the so-called Shop for the Country tax deduction – that’s the now “regular” deduction allowed to shoppers, not the VAT scam mentioned above – is not meant to boost “big retailers” but rather “is largely designed to help farmers…”. This surprising claim is made because “purchases of eligible items will directly help farmers facing the low prices of their products, including tires made from domestic rubber, books, e-books, and OTOP items purchased directly from certified OTOP sellers.” All those farmers producing e-books and regular books…. Really, this and other fabrications emanating from the seemingly desperate military junta are no better than an average 4-year-old could come up with.





Junta shenanigans II

21 11 2018

The Dictator is pulling the nation’s collective leg. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha claims to be still looking for the right party to come along and make the right offer for him to continue as prime minister without being troubled by an election, even a rigged one.

Of course, the Palang Pracharath Party was set up by the junta for The Dictator.

Gen Prayuth mumbled that “he has not been approached by any party to stand as their candidate, so it would be pointless to speak about it in the media.”

He’s a clown and a dope who seems to think everyone in the country is as thick as he is. No one believes this drivel.

Meanwhile, Gen Prayuth poured more money into election campaigning. The junta announced another “63 billion baht into cash handout packages aimed at assisting low-income earners, the elderly and retired officers…”.

The Dictator immediately denied that his regime was engaging in “a populist move aimed at shoring up support ahead of the election.”

No one believes such claims.

While the poor deserve assistance, this is mostly helicopter cash that has no monetary policy embedded; it is simply meant to push the poor away from pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties and vote for pro-junta devil parties.

The helicopter cash is “a 500-baht cash handout that will be given as a New Year’s gift to almost 15 million people worth a total of 7.25 billion baht.” When’s the “election” being rigged?

Yes, the cash will boost the economy, but given that growth has stalled, the junta knows it needs an economic boost if it wants too “win” the “election” without having to steal it outright.

If anyone doubted that this is a bid to buy votes, consider that the “Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said the measure is being presented as a New Year’s gift.”

Yep, a gift.

Other “gifts” meant to buy votes included measures doling out cash that will only be in place for from one to nine months. There’s no policy involved. There’s no notion of a welfare or safety net. This is naked vote buying.

The junta has doled out hundreds of billions of baht seeking to bolster its support. This is just more taxpayer funding for the junta’s “election” campaign.





Goldilocks and the junta’s “election”

8 09 2018

As some parties express reservations about 60 days of “election” campaigning, junta lackey Wissanu Krea-ngam got testy.

It needs to be recalled that the 60 days has to also include a lot of party and policy development, not least because parties are “required to submit their policy plans to the Election Commission for approval before they could start campaigning.” With no political meetings allowed by the junta, as a Future Forward Party spokesman observed, “the limited time for policy discussions would also impact voters, not just the parties.”He made the good point that “if voters were to also participate in electoral politics, including reflecting on different parties’ policies and understanding them, they would definitely need more than 60 days…”.

Of course, the junta is counting on the parties that support it to be modeled on the parties of yore, when vote buying ruled and policies were non-existent.

The EC doesn’t even have guidelines on how it will vet party policies. We guess the junta will tell them which policies and which parties will pass muster. (The EC also doesn’t have boundaries decided and doesn;t have its election monitors/supervisors selected.)

Wissanu’s response was that “during the government of former prime minister M.R. Kukrit Pramoj when parties were given only 20 days for electioneering.” Perhaps he might have added that Kukrit’s government was chaotic and only his Social Action Party only won 18 seats and was an unstable coalition government; you might say, exactly what the junta wants.

Wissanu “warned politicians that the election might be postponed from next February to May if they think that the 70-day [or 60 day] period permissible for election campaigning is not enough.” But, then again, he declared “for the time being, nothing has been fixed yet,” and got all Goldilocks by saying “the period for election campaigning should not be too short or too long…”. Presumably he means the period should be “just right” (for the junta).





Don’t vote Thaksin

8 09 2018

The Dictator remains on the “election” campaign trail.

As has been his mantra, going back to at least 2011, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha told “200 people, including community leaders, who greeted him during his visit to Lop Buri” to vote for “good” people (like him and his thuggish military buddies).

He essentially rants against Puea Thai and the Shinawatra clan by urging people to vote for a different party: “If you vote the same way like in the past, you will get the same thing. There must be a change…”. He reckoned voting for his kind of politicians would “help make sure that the country would get a government with good governance after the next general election…”.

And, repeating the yellow shirt hymn, he warned against vote-buying. Of course, the electoral system his government has cobbled together is designed to encourage the vote buying that was seen in the 1980s and 1990s.

Gen Prayuth is saying these things while the junta and its related parties are buying up politicians with all manner of promises, so it is clear that he means only the little people he commands should behave themselves. He droned on: “Don’t let yourselves be bought. You have the right to vote for any person and any party you like. But if you vote for people who give you money, in the future they will try to get the money back. Nobody gives you free stuff. Don’t accept it. Promise me.”

Don’t forget that Prayuth is a political buddy with the notorious Newin Chidchob, one of the undisputed vote buying experts.

Interestingly, when he “asked local residents what help they wanted from his government, they replied they wanted rice subsidies.” Essentially they seemed to say “Bring back Yingluck!” The Dictator declined.

Equally interesting was his linking of elections to the monarchy and the reign as he “urged people not to stage street protests after the election.” He explained: “The election must lead to peace. Don’t stage protests again…. This reign must be the most peaceful.” We don’t recall this language before, but maybe we just missed it.

We are reminded of a vaguely apposite statement several years ago by Chang Noi: “When you try to qualify democracy by rigging the rules, when you obstruct the freedom of information with too many repressive laws, when you allow politics to be enveloped by fear, then the fog rolls in, the mirrors change perceptions as in an illusionist’s show, and darkness descends.”





The Dictator’s (s)election campaigning continues

20 08 2018

As discussions, denials and promises about the military junta’s “election” have warmed up, so The Dictator extends his (s)”election” campaigning.

The latest provincial campaign trip has it that the junta “is expected to try to appease the southern region by approving a 200 billion baht budget during mobile cabinet meetings in Ranong and Chumphon province[s]…”.

The provinces targeted for the loot/policy corruption* are “Phangnga, Phuket, Krabi, Trang and Satun, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung, Surat Thani, Songkhla, Ranong and Chumphon…”.

The two-day cabinet meeting/vote buying/policy corruption* exercise began today and continues tomorrow.

According to the linked report, “this southern mobile cabinet had not originally been on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s agenda.” He is said have previously been “confident he would gain huge support from people in this region if [sic.] he decides to return to the premiership after a general election next year…”.

However, this has all changed. The Dictator is worried that “low rubber prices have undermined the military government’s popularity in the southern region which has typically been supportive of the military government.”

He also knows that blowing (taxpayer) loot in the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra regions and leaving the south lootless is not likely to go unchallenged. Taking the south for granted is likely to lead to a backlash.

It is also reported that the junta is likely to be MP poaching in the south, targeting the Democrat Party. That requires promises of more loot.

*Policy corruption is a term invented by yellow shirts to attack Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra for making electoral promises and then implementing them. As in so many other economic and political arenas, the junta plagiarizes the Shinawatras.





Power and politics

8 05 2018

An AFP report reproduced by The Nation notices:

The sons of a convicted murderer, a rural “don” who has spun a fortune from football and gun-loving provincial bigwigs — as elections near, Thai junta leader [Gen] Prayut[h] Chan-o-cha is cosying up to “influential figures”, a group he vowed to expunge from politics with his coup four years ago.

Throughout his rule Prayut, the gruff ex-general whose army seized power in May 2014, has maintained one key refrain: politicians and their cronies are the cause of the country’s political instability.

Nothing brings generals and dark influences closer than the craving for power and wealth. Like an addiction, these cravings mean that truth is replaced by lies and “principles” plasticize.

Commentator Paul Chambers is cited saying “Prayut has become the ultimate hypocrite…”. After continuous politician-bashing, “now Prayut and the (junta) are using many of these same corrupt politicians to build a political party.”

Gen Prayuth and sundry minions have repeatedly lied that his campaign trip to Buriram was “normal” and “not politicking.” Everyone – and we mean every single person in the country – knows such claims amount to mountains of buffalo manure. Some of them probably realize too that Prayuth and his buddies are treating Thailand’s people and (potential) electors as blind morons, incapable of seeing the obvious.

When they see Gen Prayuth lavishing expensive promises on his hosts from the Bhum Jai Thai Party, everyone knows this is a political and electoral campaign as Prayuth prepares for a rigged “election” where he demands his political supporters get elected and then make him premier.

This is a blatant grab for power as clear as if Prayuth was having a military coup, like the one he had in 2014.

Bhum Jai Thai, led by local dark influence Newin Chidchob and billionaire Anutin Charnvirakul did their bit by delivering more than 30,000 bodies to welcome The Dictator, making him feel like a great man, and indicating that they can deliver votes when they are needed, at least in Buriram and nearby provinces.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Niran Kultanan, a lecturer at Buriram Rajabhat University, stated the obvious:

that the aim of the cabinet trip was to build political alliances to support Gen Prayut, as was the case during previous trips to other regions….

It [the trip] is intended to seek political gains. They know that at least 25 House seats in the lower northeastern provinces, which are the support bases of medium-sized parties, will be crucial in nominating a prime minister. And in this region, Bhumjaithai and Newin Chidchob are key….

Newin was at The Dictator’s side in Buriram. He cheered The Dictator. And why not, he will benefit enormously from The Dictator’s promises to “the people of Buriram.” After all, the promises mostly involve Newin’s projects and businesses.

Mutual back scratching, hypocrisy, lies and money are revealing of a politics that has reverted to the “good old days” of dark influences, political bidding wars, corrupt cabinets, and – Newin’s forte – massive vote buying. All of this for a rigged junta “election.”





Party pilfering I

4 05 2018

Pilfering politicians has a long history in Thailand. Interestingly, as the junta seeks to peel politicians away from the major parties, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, while a “technocrat” rather than a political mastermind, gets it right when he says pilfering is a “very outdated” approach.

The Bangkok Post reports the unlikely party manipulator for the junta and his boss Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, has “slammed political parties for criticising the government for allegedly trying to poach their members, saying they should focus instead on formulating better policies…”.

In this context, Somkid “denied that the regime would try to lure veteran politician Newin Chidchob into its fold during next week’s mobile cabinet meeting in Buri Ram…”. Somkid stated: “[d]on’t just think that this or that political camp is out to [poach politicians] to bolster its power…”.

For his part, Newin “said he is ready to receive Gen Prayut and his ministers at Chang Arena, the stadium of the football club he owns. They will reportedly be joined by up to 30,000 people.”

The report states that many are suspicious that “the regime is out to court the Bhumjaithai Party.”

Somkid denied it all, including the efforts being made to “lure Suchart Tancharoen, chief of the Ban Rim Nam group within the Bhumjaithai Party, into working with the regime.”

Newin and Bhum Jai Thai need little convincing. For example, Newin is one of the country’s most experienced vote buyers and a local dark influence, joined with the military and judiciary to overthrow an elected government in late 2008 which brought Bhum Jai Thai into the ministry. He was also an enforcer for the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime when it needed “blue shirts” to oppose red shirts in 2009. Later, Bhum Jai Thai was a proxy military party in the 2011 election.

So Somkid is right. Bhum Jai Thai, with its history as military opportunists will likely sign up with The Dictator, so there’s no pilfering. The only issue to be worked out is how much its support for Gen Prayuth will cost.





The junta’s destruction of electoral politics

12 02 2018

The clamor for an “election” under the junta’s rules might be good politics but it is also a recipe for a post-election politics that is likely to be unstable. This is because the junta’s constitution and all of the related laws it has put in place are deeply flawed. The junta’s rules, put together by advocates of Thai-style democracy, is meant to limit popular sovereignty. As every anti-democrat and military leader knows, the people can’t be trusted.

An example of such flaws is seen in how political parties – both extant and in formation – are reacting to the junta’s laws.

Several groups have shown interest in setting up new political parties. In fact, more than a hundred have expressed “interest.” The reason for this has to do with the junta winding back the political clock to a period where strong governments were not the likely outcome of an election. Rather, coalitions of multiple parties were the rule and these government coalition parties fought over cabinet seats and the spoils of these positions to be doled out to keep the party going and MPs on side. Funds were also needed for vote-buying and MP-buying.

Meanwhile, an “outsider” premier would do what he wanted, relatively insulated from the parties and their squabbling. When the outsider PM was a military man, there were pro- and anti-military parties, but what mattered most was where the military leadership and palace stood.

When the Election Commission (EC) held meeting last Friday to provide guidelines for potential party founders, we gained an insight into the future of political parties as 291 people from 114 groups registered for the meeting. We don’t expect all of these groups to form a party that contests junta “elections,” but the nature of party entrepreneurs is revealed. Some of these were existing parties that preferred to set up new ones as this was easier than tracking down their “existing members.”

Some parties are angling to be part of the junta’s group of parties. One was reported to be Ampapan Thanate-dejsunthorn, a former mistress of 1991 coup leader and friend to dark influences the unusually wealthy Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong who died some years ago. Known as Big George, his son is Gen Apirat Kongsompong, Assistant Commander in Chief of the Army, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Government Lottery Office, director at Bangchak Petroleum and member of the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly. He shot to fame and up the military hierarchy after he took pot shots at red shirts back in 2010.

Ampapan said she would set up the Pheu Chart Thai party, promoting junta-style “reconciliation,” supporting delayed elections and an outsider premier.

Vichit Dittaprasop, leader of National Progressive Democracy Party, said that setting up a new party was “easy,” adding “[a]ll that is required is a 1-million-baht seed fund and 500 founding members.” Presumably the military could assist with that. He said his party would look to winning party-list seats.

Fragmentation was also seen in existing parties; this is something the junta has worked on. “Samphan Lertnuwat, a former Pheu Thai party MP, said he was forming a new party called People’s Power Party [Phalang Phonlamuang] with 10 former MPs.” He also bid for pro-military alliance saying “his new party had no objection to an outsider prime minister so long as he was a good man.”

“Good” men are almost all anti-democrats.





All about the law I

29 03 2017

The media is awash with stories about law. How the rich use it for their benefit or avoid it. How the junta uses it. How the police and military manipulate it. We will just link with some of these, grab some quotes and make some comments.

Law for the rich: It is all about Red Bull heir and cop killer Vorayudh “Boss” Yoovidhya. This story and his “hiding in plain sight” avoidance of responsibility for his drug and booze addled killing of a cop has been around since 2012. In the time since, he’s ignored the cops, probably paid some of them off, paid off the cop’s family with meager “compensation” (also known as blood money) and lived what AP called “the high life” in the resorts of the world. He’s partied with the same crowd he has always been with, the rich, the “good” and the famous. His 400+ photos of his good and expensive life are at Facebook.

We can only wonder why it took AP to do the work of finding him. Not the cops (who lost one of their own). Not the prosecutors. Not even Thailand’s media. Why is that? Money, huge influence and power are, like a military regime, threatening. Hired thugs often do the dirty work for Thailand’s Sino-Thai tycoons, so few are prepared to challenge any of them.

And, oh yes, he is due to “appear” before prosecutors. As the Bangkok Post states, this spoiled rich untouchable “has been repeatedly summoned to face authorities but he avoided it each time, claiming [that should read “lying”] through his lawyer that he was sick or out of the country on business.”

Law and the junta I: Thaksin Shinawatra is not short of a baht. In fact, a previous court decision extracted about $1.4 billion from him in 2010, representing more than half of the assets the state had frozen. No matter what one thinks of that decision, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this decision made sure that the state got back what it thought necessary.

It seems not, for the junta has decided to suck back more of Thaksin’s money. In fact, another $510 million in “tax.” Of course, this is a part of the junta’s paranoia about Thaksin and political opposition. It is also meant to scratch the junta’s anti-election itch about voting being about money paid for each vote received.

Law and the junta II: While on Thaksin and hobbling the Shinawatra clan, the junta’s minions have closed Voice TV for a few days for daring to report on things that make the military dictatorship uncomfortable. The Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association have generally been dominated by yellow-shirted journalists and media entrepreneurs, but even they feel the threat from the junta.

Two media associations have “called on the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission … to review its committee’s order to black out Voice TV’s broadcasts for seven days, saying it harms media freedom.” They also determined that the NBTC’s decision “conflicts with both the 1997 and 2006 constitutions, which safeguard those in the media who deliver news or opinions in compliance with their career ethics.”

Such calls have no impact on the military dictatorship because it has “law” in its holster.

Law for the politically connected: Anti-democrat and military junta-supporting Suthep Thaugsuban leads a charmed legal life, at least under the junta. He’s broken more laws than anyone could keep count of and gotten off  every  charge he’s faced (that we can recall) under the military junta he worked with and helped bring to power (or never even been charged). Having something in common with the Red Bull fugitive, he even got away with murder. But that’s not unusual in Thailand…

This time, in a case where he was accused of defaming leading members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship who were standing for election, accusing them of arson and other crimes, a politicized court ruled “Suthep had not made false accusations against the three UDD leaders as alleged, and dismissed the case against him.” Thailand’s judiciary simply fails to dispense anything resembling justice when it comes to the politically-connected and powerful.

Then there’s the case of ultra-nationalist and anti-democrat Veera Somkwamkid who toddled off to the Thailand-Cambodia birder to check on casino graft. Locals blocked his visit yet PPT couldn’t help but recall that it was only about two weeks ago that The Nation reported that “[p]olice are launching a manhunt for well-known political activist Veera … after he published an opinion survey’s result on his Facebook wall, saying the majority people lack confidence in the Prayut administration.” So there he was, ath the border, surrounded by cops and troops and … well, nothing.

Law, police and military: We saved the grossest and nastiest stories. These are the reports surrounding the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae, struck down with a single shot by the Army. The stories from the authorities on this case have been banal. Accused of drug dealing, being armed with a knife and a grenade, the dead boy is now accused of somehow having a gun because the police chief says Chaiyapoom could have shot officers.

A slip of the tongue perhaps, but this is what happens when the authorities manufacture excuses for their own crimes.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

Convinced that the lad was a drug dealer and claiming that the CCTV footage backs up the official story, the cops refuse to release the footage because … wait for it … “the controversial evidence does not ‘answer all problems’.” In addition, “[r]eleasing the footage might lead to a mess to the investigation process and arguments among the society.”

What next?

The law has never been particularly impartial and judges have never been much good in Thailand. However, under the influence of the monarchy and under this military dictatorship the law has been ransacked, killed and buried.





Policy corruption, vote buying and double standards

13 12 2016

The Constitution Drafting Committee has been hard at work hamstringing political parties to prevent them from ever “ruling.” Apart from simply being anti-Thaksin Shinawatra, the law is based on beliefs that there is rampant vote buying and that “policy corruption”/populism needs to be eliminated or even made illegal.

At the very same time, the CDC’s puppet masters, the military junta, is engaged in exactly these processes as it prepares to “win” an “election” that it plans to hold at sometime in the future.

Meanwhile, the junta keeps railing against the rice pledging scheme by the previous Yingluck Shinawatra government as “massive” corruption-cum-policy-corruption.

The anti-democrats continue to bleat about vote buying and policy corruption as the evils introduced by Thaksin to justify their love of military dictatorship and authoritarian politics.

To be honest, we haven’t been keeping a tally of all the measures introduced by the dictatorship. We recall the subsidies to rubber growers and rice growers. Then there are the electricity and water subsidies for low income families. Another scheme was cash handouts to low income earners costing 15 billion baht.

More recently, the Bangkok Post reports that the military junta has approved another iteration of a “shopping tax break allowing consumers an income tax deduction of up to 15,000 baht on receipted domestic purchases of goods and services from Dec 14-31.” This is aimed at the anti-democrat middle class, providing a potential year-long deduction of 45,000 baht per taxpayer. The figures on this scheme aren’t entirely clear but seem to total about 4 billion baht.

The junta is clearly in campaign mode.

But where are the screams about vote buying and policy corruption? There seem none. The anti-democrats have standards … double standards.