Pandering to the murderous military II

28 05 2018

This is the second of our two posts on how the military dictatorship and the military itself enjoy impunity and why the junta maintains the military boot on Thailand’s collective throat.

Bangkok Post military groupie-cum-reporter Wassana Nanuam writes about Third Region Army commander Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop. It begins with a discussion of this loudmouth general’s querulous and insensitive comments about the extrajudicial murder of young Lahu rights activist Chaiyaphum Pasae.

Yet the way this is handled is, frankly, disgusting.

The idiot general reckons he “had no idea he would still be answering questions … a full year after the incident occurred on March 17 last year.” Saying that he would have killed the kid with a weapon set to automatic fire says much about this thug.

But never mind, Lt Gen Vijak is a big deal in drug trafficking in the north. Wassana says he “leads active suppression squads against the heavy proliferation of drug smuggling…”, implying that killing alleged drug smugglers is to be applauded.

Wassana repeats all of the military’s unverified, unlikely and unbelievable claims about the murder of Chaiyaphum. She says nary a word about the fact that the military has suppressed evidence, harassed witnesses and threatened witnesses. She can use quotation marks and say “alleged,” but she’s effectively speaking for them when she’s silent on facts about the case.

This likely encourages the military to kill more people.

When she concludes with anecdotes about the Vijak opening restaurants (is that legal when he’s a serving officer?) and dishing up food for friends, she’s bleaching his and the military’s dirty laundry. The journalistic ethics of such stuff must surely be questioned.





2014 military coup: assessing and forgetting

21 05 2018

There’s currently a plethora of stories and op-eds that assess the results of the 2014 military coup.

Despite limited resources, Khaosod is usually a news outlet that is better than others at reporting the events of the day and in trying to be critical of military rule. However, one of its assessment stories is rather too forgetful.

Teeranai Charuvastra is the author and begins with the sad statistic that The Dictator Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has been directing the state since he seized it 1,641 days on Tuesday. In fact, he effectively seized power a couple of days earlier and the official coup announcement then followed.

That long four years is, Teeranai observes, “longer than any other coup leader since the Cold War.”

We are not exactly sure when the Cold War ended. Perhaps its late 1991 when the Soviet Union itself dissolved into its all those republics. Perhaps it is the fall of the Berlin Wall two years earlier. It matters only because if it is December 1991, then there’s only been two military coups in Thailand in that period, both involving roughly the same military crew as is in power now. If it is 1989, then add one more coup.

Two or three coups in Thailand’s long history of military seizures of the state doesn’t necessarily amount to establishing a pattern, although Teeranai’s thinks it does. The claim is that:

Every ‘successful’ military takeover of the last four decades has followed the same script: The generals who led the putsch quickly install a civilian prime minister, ostensibly to give the appearance of democratic rule, before retreating into the shadows. Typically, general elections have been organized within a year.

For one thing, that time period takes us back to about 1978, when Gen Kriangsak Chomanan was in the premier’s seat, having seized power in late 1977 from the ultra-royalist/ultra-rightist regime of civilian and palace favorite Thanin Kraivixien.

But back to Gen Prayuth, who is claimed to have gone off-script. Military junkie/journalist Wassana Nanuam is quoted in support of this claim: “He tore to pieces the rules of the coup.”

Back to the dates. Is there a script. In our view there is, but it isn’t the version proclaimed by Wasana. Rather, the script for the military is in seizing and holding power. When Gen Sarit Thanarat seized power in 1957, he put a civilian in place but in 1958 took power himself. He and his successors held power until 1973. When the military again seized power in 1976, it reluctantly accepted the king’s demand for Thanin to head a government. He failed and Kriangsak seized power in late 1977. Kriangsak held the premiership until 1980, when the military leadership convinced him to handover to palace favorite Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, who stayed until 1988.

Now there’s a pattern. We think its the pattern that Prayuth’s dictatorial junta has had in mind since they decided that the 2006 coup had failed to adequately expunge Thaksin Shinawatra’s appeal and corral the rise of electoral politics.

So Wassana’s triumphalism about The Dictator “breaking a mold” is simply wrong. The military regime is, like its predecessors in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, about embedding the military and throttling electoral politics.

Wassana’s other claim is that Prayuth’s coup and plan to hold power was risky. We think that’s wrong too.

In fact, after 2006 was declared a failure, Prayuth and his former bosses, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda, had worked with various rightist and royalist agents to undermine the likely opponents of another military political victory: red shirts and politicians of the elected variety.

ISOC was an important part of that as it systematically destroyed red shirt operations and networks.

In addition, the courts and “independent” agencies had all been co-opted by the military and its royalist and anti-democrat allies.

There was never any chance that Prayuth would hand over to an appointee.

Teeranai’s piece also asks; “So how did Prayuth’s National Council for Peace and Order, or NCPO, manage to stay this long?”

The response is: “The reasons are many, … [that] range from the junta’s use of brute force to Prayuth’s personal influence.” But a “common thread has to do with what the junta is not. The regime’s success, according to most people interviewed, lies in convincing people it is a better alternative to the color-coded feuds and churning upheaval that have plagued the nation.”

We think this is only true for some people and certainly not all. And the people who were convinced are the anti-democrats. Those interviewed are mostly yellow shirts who define “the people” as people like them.

When Suriyasai Katasila says that “The people felt there was only instability… So people accept the NCPO’s [junta] intervention, even though it cost them certain rights,” he speaks for some of Bangkok’s middle class and the anti-democrats.

Other anti-democrats are cited: “people don’t see the point of calling for elections, because they think things will just be the same after the election. People are sick and tired.” Again, these are words for the anti-democrats and by the anti-democrats.

If elections were rejected, one would expect low turnouts for them. If we look just at 2011 and 2007, we see voter turnout in excess of 80%. The anti-democrats propagandize against elections and speak of “the people” but represent a minority.

We’ve said enough. The aims of the current military junta are clear. And the anti-democrats are self-serving and frightened that the people may be empowered by the ballot box. That’s why the junta is rigging any future vote.





More on the digital Panopticon

18 05 2018

Yesterday we posted on the construct a digital Panopticon. The Bangkok Post military affairs reporter Wassana Nanuam has more on the military’s plans for more intensive cyber scrutiny and snooping.

She reports that the Defence Ministry is recruiting civilians and military reserve force members to work as so-called “cyber warriors.” This “special unit” apparently adds to the military’s already extensive “cyber security” capacity.

The bit about using the military reserve is important as Lt Gen Ritthi Intharawut, head of the Defence Ministry’s cyber team, compares its use to the Cold War:

During the Cold War era, the military reserve force was seen as a militia that was very important to the armed forces. But now in the era of cyber warfare, ‘cyber warriors’ are an important asset for the nation….

What Wassana does not mention is that the snooping plan, as in the Cold War, was one of the military’s means for surveillance and for threatening political opponents. Those actions came with associated secrecy and an impunity for the gross acts committed by the military and its semi-trained and armed vigilantes.

Cyber surveillance, threats and legal harassment will assist the military’s continued domination of Thailand’s politics and society.





Updated: Domination plans

6 01 2018

Seldom has PPT been able to fully agree with analysis in the mainstream media. Generally we rummage about in it and post bits and pieces drawn from it to highlight things about the monarchy, lese majeste and political repression. Nor have we always been fans of the Bangkok Post’s military affairs reporter Wassana Nanuam.

However, a recent piece by Wassana in the Bangkok Post is one we can recommend. “Regime lays plans for post-poll control” says much that PPT has been posting about for several years, and we are pleased that others are recognizing the junta’s plans and writing about them in Thailand. Wassana writes about how the junta “has been busy ensuring its success at the ballot box” and establishing its post-“election” regime. And she’s still unsure when the junta will be prepared and ready to “win” its “election.”

Being prepared translates as being sure no pro-Thaksin Shinawatra party has any chance of looking electorally powerful. The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha seems to believe that he is the only one who can prevent such a “catastrophe” for the military, the royalist elite and the anti-democrats. He may also need a military party. As Wassana comments: “Gen Prayut, Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan, the watchman] and Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda are united in wanting to prevent Pheu Thai from winning sufficient seats to form a government.”

As we have been pointing out, the polls are likely to be a stitch-up when they are permitted. Wassana explains some of the mechanisms:

As interior minister, Gen Anupong has assumed authority over the past few years for transferring provincial governors and chiefs of district offices, while Gen Prawit, who is believed to have good relations with several political parties, will likely be the one who convinces politicians to defect to the military party.

The armed forces and other security agencies will also be deployed to achieve this goal.

The burden of helping a military party become a key party in the formation of the next government will, however, fall on the armed forces. They are no longer politically neutral these days [they never have been], … with their leaders serving as members of the NCPO [junta].

Army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad serves as the secretary-general of the NCPO and head of the NCPO’s peace and order command that controls the entire military and police.

Assistant army commander Apirat Kongsompong, a close aide of Gen Prayut who serves also as a deputy chief of the NCPO’s command, meanwhile, is expected to emerge as the new army chief in the military reshuffle expected between September and October.

Gen Apirat will take up a key role in controlling the armed forces including during the election.

General Anupong has also been ensuring that local electoral authorities and “independent” agencies are in the junta’s pockets. And, PPT does not rule out military ballot box stuffing and corrupt counting to get the required electoral outcome.

Worryingly, Wassana reveals how the military and its ISOC will be used in provincial areas:

The armed forces will play a bigger role in attempts to bar Pheu Thai from winning the race. Military officials will act more or less as canvassers for the military party and assess the popularity and the overall situation of parties in each constituency.

With his special powers provided under the charter’s Section 44, Gen Prayut may deal by this means with canvassers from other parties in the name of suppressing mafia-style thugs and illegal weapons — ever-present threats during elections.

Of course, plans can be upset. We’d love to see a broad-based opposition to the military’s operations and planning. However, this particular regime has been far more repressive and nasty than any of its recent predecessors have been (in, say, 1991-2 and 2006-7). It has also shown itself to be prepared to murder and maim to maintain its preferred regime (as in 2009 and 2010). And, it has worked assiduously to dismantle opposition organizing. All of this suggests that a broad-based opposition to continuing military fascism is unlikely without some kind of special spark.

Update: On this topic we also recommend “Brave the third wave.”





Sky Dragon “investigation” 8 years late

18 09 2017

The Bangkok Post reports that “Auditor-General Pisit Leelavachiropas has vowed to scrutinise the army’s controversial 340-million-baht aerial patrol project, which included the purchase of a rarely-used airship.”

The Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) will “step in to conduct a review of the project…”. This “review” is to “assess” Sky Dragon’s “past performance … to find out whether it was worth spending national funds to buy it in the first place, and if something irregular is detected, various organisations will be contacted to investigate further…”.

Under the military junta and when investigating anything military or associated with the junta, the OAG is notorious for announcing “investigations” and then burying them in silence or quickly saying every thing is above board. Will this “review” be any different? Probably not, unless General Anupong Paojinda, the military commander when the blimp was purchased, has fallen out of favor.

But, really, why now? The problems and issues with the deflating dirigible go back to its purchase in 2009 under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. Where has the OAG then and every year since?

PPT’s first post on Sky Dragon was in February 2010. Let’s reproduce some of that. It begins by mentioning the price (that the persons involved and the junta spokesman are now trying to fiddle down):

The airship was purchased from the US company, Arial International Cooperation. [Bangkok Post reporter] Wassana [Nanuam] explains that the “airship is the brainchild of Gen Anupong and his second-in-command, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. They envision the airship as a sky-based surveillance and command station.” Leaving aside obvious questions about this assumption, the problem is that the airship can’t do what it is meant to, and there has even been trouble getting it into the air. The airship has seepage holes and it initially costs 2.8 million baht to inflate and then 280,000 baht a month to top-up. There has been considerable criticism…. [Prayuth later said that such leaks were “normal.”]

General Anupong had reportedly agreed to purchase three airships for the army. Wassana asks: “is it a bigger sham than the GT200?” Maybe she meant “scam”?

At Bangkok Pundit on 6 February 2010, a comment [the link no longer works] was added by “Reg, encouraging Bangkok Pundit to look into the zeppelin case. “Reg” stated: ”Why this machine and not drones as used almost everywhere else for this kind of recon work? What’s the track record of this model? What’s the price paid elsewhere? Have you seen dirigibles used in other insurgency situations? … Seems like there’s a smell there as soon as it is wheeled out. A quick Google seems to suggest that this is a Thailand first (a manned airship for counter-insurgency).”

Correspondent “Reg” then turns to the company involved and its website [The website still sort of operates with a different URL]. He says: “Note its last stock trade was 1 cent. Have a look through the site and see if you have doubts about the company founded in mid-2008 and with 12 employees. How on earth did the RTA [Royal Thai Army] even know about them? It seems that one of the principals had previous experience with the RTA. According to their press releases, the RTA is their only client. It also seems that they are agents for the real manufacturers .”

“Reg” concludes: “I remain suspicious, but maybe that’s just because everything the military buys involves commissions etc. But, hey, you might want to congratulate the RTA for a 10 million dollar gamble that might show the world of counter-insurgency the way forward via a penny company.”

We are not sure if the company is Arial or Aria. If it is Aria (and what’s left at the website fits the deal with the RTA), it seems that if it still exists, its shares are down considerably from when it was a penny company. It usually trades at 0.0005 cents.

You would think that a competent Office of the Attorney General might have been a little interested back in 2010.





Updated: Mud on the road to nowhere

8 01 2017

The junta’s “election,” if ever permitted, is going to be a non-democratic public relations stunt. Thailand’s military junta will allow an “election” only when it knows it will get the result it wants. That means no Thaksin Shinawatra party can get close to power, not now, not ever.

Various members of the junta and its puppet organizations talk about “election” in contradictory ways. Yes, last year. No, this year. Well, perhaps next year. And, yes, after the military coup in 2014, there was babble from The Dictator about 12 months to an election.

(We can only wonder at the fad for the term “fake news.” After all, the junta and its authoritarian predecessors are masters of the lie that manipulates opinion. The palace propagandists and its flunkies and acolytes just make stuff up and have done so for decades.)

We are not the only ones to consider that Thailand is led by power-grubbing, authoritarian liars.

What is clear is that The Dictator has prepared the Army for an “election,” should there be one and for continuing anti-Thaksin political actions. As this Bangkok Post report by Wassana Nanuam states, reflecting the military perspective, “if” (let’s say “when”) General Prayuth Chan-ocha “needs to serve the nation longer, worries about the military should not be of much concern…”. At least not for the royalist elite and anti-democrats. The implication is that The Dictator will be around for a considerable time, “election” or not.

But there have been lots of conflicting reports of late on “election” timing. The latest effort to make things “clear” has been by Wissanu Krea-ngam, a hireling who is usually sent out when “legal” issues are “discussed” or need to be “clarified.”

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu is deemed to have “clarified the government’s roadmap leading to the general amid confusion over whether an election will actually happen this year.” He says “the government [he means the junta] has agreed that it will follow the roadmap which spells out the time frames and sequence of related events specified by the new constitution.”

What’s the time frame?

When the new constitution is promulgated, the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) has 240 days to complete the 10 organic laws, which will be tabled to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) for consideration — a process that will take two months.

As we remember it, the king had 90 days from 9 November to endorse the constitution. That would be 8 February would be the last day for “endorsement.” Assuming the CDC uses the full time, as it has said it will, then we would be about the end of the first week of October. Then there’s the two months for the CDC, meaning an election in the first week of December 2017.

But this is as clear as a bucket of mud. For a start, the last king died in October 2016 and the new king did not accede until 1 December. Oddly, his reign is claimed to have begun from the death of his father, even though Vajiralongkorn declined to accede for some six weeks. So when does the 90 days begin? 9 November? or 1 December?

Then, we imagine that some of the period of fiddling with the law and constitution by the CDC and NLA could overlap.

But the organic laws also go to the king for “endorsement.” We assume he has another 90 days to sign off. And assuming the king does as he’s told and those drafts become laws “an election will be held within 150 days…”.

road-to-nowhere

Just to be “clear” like mud, Wissanu says: “But with the passing of King Rama IX, things have to be postponed…”.

So when Wissanu says the “roadmap is still on course,” we can only guess at what this means. It may be the road to nowhere or it could be a mapping of some future year. We can be sure that it is a military map.

Update: The Nation has produced an infographic that seeks to explain the date of an “election.” It suggests that the junta’s “road map” means that the earliest date for an “election” will be January 2018 while the timetable allows an election as late as September 2018.





Making up the story for the new king

1 12 2016

Is it just us or does it seem odd to some others that the journalist writing the Bangkok Post’s “Long Live the King” articles lauding the new king is the Post’s military reporter?

In a series of articles, Wassana Nanuam has been purveying palace and junta propaganda about the crown prince-about-to-be-king. It is so santized that we are not sure she’s writing it or just running it out for the junta and/or palace.

In the latest article at the Bangkok Post she “confides” that “Deputy Prime Minister [General] Prawit Wongsuwon yesterday revealed that … Crown Prince … Vajiralongkorn has agreed to become the new [k]ing, pending an official invitation, as admiration and joy from people greeted the news of the start of the process toward a new reign.”

“Joy.” We guess nothing else is permitted to be said.

She bubbles on as if the prince’s past poor behavior is forgotten: “exhilaration and happiness greeted the news of the start of the process leading to the new reign.”

“Exhilaration and happiness.” We guess nothing else is permitted to be said.

Quoting a punter, Wassana states, and this is the way the junta wants it, the alleged “infinite love and support for the late King will be extended to the next King.”

Forget the strange behavior, naked pictures of consorts, extravagance and violence. The aura of the late king, manufactured over decades is going to be magically transferred to the new king. We guess that lese majeste will ensure that.

So it is that this nonsense continues quoting “average” citizens declaring love, faith, respect and unwavering support for the new king.

The junta is desperate to suck up the dead king’s manufactured hegemonic image for the prince as he becomes king.