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.





Promoting political allies II

15 09 2016

A few days ago, PPT posted on the rise of the new Army boss General Chalermchai Sittisart.

It seems the Bangkok Post’s military correspondent essentially agrees with us. Wassana Nanuam reckons that The Dictator’s promotion of Chalermchai was a “bold move [that] has surprised many.”

As we said, there should be no surprise as The Dictator is selecting a man “well-suited with what he called ‘the current situation’.” She means well-suited to managing the military junta’s continued control of politics, “election” or not.

Chalermchai is not from the Burapha Phayak clique, having never “served in the 21st Infantry Regiment (Queen’s Guard) nor the 2nd Infantry Division where Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha] and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon grew into their military careers.”

But Chalermchai is well “qualified” for repressing the junta’s opponents. The new boss “is from the ‘red beret’ Special Warfare Command (SWC) where he had served in intelligence and secret services throughout his career.” He served on the Thailand-Cambodia border during the Khmer Rouge era meaning he probably made a reasonable amount of money.

He also served under another red beret, General Surayud Chulanont, now a privy councilor. The report says he “formed a close bond with Gen Surayud.” That bond and links to the queen have been critical for Chalermchai’s rise.

Gen Chalermchai’s is not due for retirement until September 2018 meaning Gen Prayuth can expect “stability within the army…”. The report states that “[s]uch stability is important for Gen Prayut if he becomes a non-elected prime minister of an elected government.”

Chalermchai’s appointment is also a sign that Prayuth “wants to maintain close ties with Gen Surayud and strengthen relations with the Si Sao Thewes clique of Privy Council president [General] Prem Tinsulanonda.”





Media targeted

31 03 2016

The mainstream media has long been supportive of anti-democrats and was generally pleased about the military coups in both 2006 and 2014.

This makes it telling when the military junta gets jittery and cracks down on a mostly supportive media. Yes, The Dictator often gets his Boss underpants in a twist over reasonable media questions that would not challenge anyone with the mental capacity of a gnat or higher, but times are changing.

Related to the seemingly ridiculous case of a woman accused of sedition over a red bowl featuring Thaksin Shinawatra, the junta first decided to declare such bowls illegal. That is both ludicrous and such a bizarre declaration would be illegal in any sane society. That is clearly and emphatically not Thailand under the military dictatorship. Red bowl

It gets worse.

The military has “summoned journalists in the northern province of Chiang Mai for a discussion over reporting news about a red bowl inscribed with Thai new year greetings from former Prime Minister Thaksin …”.

The reporters call in were from Thailand’s largest circulation newspaper, Thai rath. Its editorial team in Chiang Mai were ordered to report to the Kawila Military Base for “a discussion.”

Military thug Major-General Koson Prathumchat, commander of the murderous Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) “asked the two journalists about a news article about the red bowl…”. Perhaps the thug can’t read.

It seems the General needed to know where the reporters “got the picture of the red bowl…”. Seriously. The reporters explained to this knuckle dragger “that it was from a viral social media campaign to save water for the upcoming Songkran Festival.” It has also been reproduced on about a million blogs, web sites and other outlets.

Confirming that the thug can’t read beyond the level of a trained goat, the reporters “added that the main content of the news article with the red bowl picture was about such campaign.”

The military thug declared that “they should not report on such news again.”

We are being rather too frivolous in our recounting of this event, for as silly and brainless as it is, it reflects several things: (a) the junta’s fear of Thaksin; (b) its grim and dangerous determination to make Thailand a military state lacking in freedoms; and (c) the mental incapacity of the junta for any thought that is not constrained by hierarchical bootlicking.

It gets worse still.

General Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy dictator-in-chief and portly thug, has threatened to send Bangkok Post journalist Wassana Nanuam to a re-education camp.

Wassana is known to be close to the military and is seldom very critical. Indeed, her beat requires close relations with the top brass. Yet “re-education” is usually considered “coercive discussions forced upon political dissidents by the military.”

Apparently, Wassana “asked the deputy junta head about government making the attitude adjustment session as a course. He replied her by asking whether she wants to be in the session or not.”

When a Matichon journalist asked about the detention of Watana Muangsook, the dumpy thug-General demanded: “What’s your relation with Watana, why are you so worried about him?”

Threatening journalists is now going to be standard practice, and the tolerance of these intolerant dictators is going to be extremely limited. The plan is that there will be no anti-junta or anti-charter news anywhere.





Further updated: What is the rumor?

17 12 2014

The Bangkok Post reports that the “Stock Exchange of Thailand says it found no irregularities in Monday’s stock plunge as battered Thai shares Tuesday extended their six-day skid” of about 10% since 8 December. It cites several possible contributing factors and then states “[a]n undisclosed local rumour and the tumbling oil price prompted the selling spree.”

In fact, the undisclosed is disclosed. Prachatai, citing the ultra-royalist ASTV, states the:

Thai junta on Tuesday accused a Thai journalist living in self-exile of spreading rumours about the Thai King’s health, which caused the Stock Exchange of Thailand to plunge dramatically on Monday.

Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, Army and government spokesman, said the rumour about the King’s health was spread by Jom Petpradab, a veteran journalist now living in self-exile in the US.

In fact, PPT hasn’t followed Job, but we were also pretty sure that the SET trading was due to two things: that the king is so unwell that he is unable to operate; and related, that the succession has begun. Several of our recent posts about the “royal divorce” have indicated our guesses about this.

Because the media is so opaque and self-censoring on these things it is difficult to find evidence that is in any way solid. However, it seems pretty clear to us that the prince is preparing for his reign. That might be a cause for the sell-off as much as claims that the king is dead (or just resting).

Update 1: Another take on the rumors is provided by the Bangkok Post’s reporter assigned to the military, Wassana Nanuam, who claims several domestic rumors: General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh talking about a possible “counter-coup”; that the military dictatorship “might invalidate 1,000-baht banknotes in a bid to wipe out corrupt politicians and officials who keep all their money in cash”; an “internal conflict within the NCPO and between the NCPO and the ‘old powers’, a reference to soldiers loyal to Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda”; and, finally, although it is not quite stated as a rumor, “concern about His Majesty the King’s health…”.

Update 2: Prachatai has a story citing journalist Jom Petpradab mentioned above. He is reported to have issued “a statement released on Wednesday [stating] that he was very upset and worried with the allegation from the junta that he spreaded [sic.] the rumour which caused the biggest single-day loss in six years at the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).” He said that the story, “The inside story of the divorce between the Crown Prince and Mom Srirasmi,” which was published on Thai Voice Media website on 13 December 2014, “was initiated because he noticed that most of the public have sympathy for the former royal consort, so he intended to correct the popular misunderstanding about the divorce.” He states that he had “high level sources in the palace.” One of those sources stated that the “divorce” was done in “preparation for the succession. The source also speculated that the succession will take place during the military regime.”





Prayuth gets up close

24 11 2014

PPT might as well join the huge interest in the bizarre effort by The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha getting “media friendly” in a very odd way.

The Straits Times reports that “Thailand’s military leader has opted for something a little more unorthodox – patting a reporter’s head and scratching behind his ear.”

The video of the General “petting a kneeling reporter during a chat with reporters earlier this week has gone viral…” after it was posted by Wassana Nanuam onto Facebook on Wednesday.

We have no idea what this is about or why he would do it.





In for the long haul II

13 11 2014

Some time ago, PPT posted on the military dictatorship being in position for the long haul. Then we were observing that despite claims about “democracy” and an “election” in about 12-15 months, the military dictatorship was likely to maintain control for a very long time.

Wassana Nanuam a senior reporter at the Bangkok Post now seems to agree with us, setting out the path to deep military involvement in Thailand’s post-junta regime.

She focuses on “speculation is growing over a plan by the men in green to form a new political party, or perhaps a nominee party with military backing.”

Previous military regimes that decided not to rule more directly tried this. Some past efforts have failed. In the post 2006 period, the military backed Newin Chidchob’s Bhum Jai Thai Party, and it did poorly in the 2011 election. Before that, when General Suchinda Kraprayoon tried a military party, it resulted in the 1992 rebellion.

She details moves that might politically position the military for the long term. The important considerations seems to be the observation that “[s]ome people in the military believe the Democrat Party will never win the next election, so the military might have to step in, or at least throw its support behind a party to challenge Pheu Thai.”

As a footnote, Wassana’s discussion of the dealings between General Prawit Wongsuwan and Thaksin Shinawatra put a different spin on this part of the story, worth considering.

In terms of transition beyond the military dictatorship, 12 years has often been mentioned as the period required to get back to full electoral democracy. It was 12 years from the coup in 1976 until Prem Tinsulanonda finally stepped aside in 1988.