8 years is too long

1 07 2022

Yesterday, we mentioned that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha seemed to be expressing doubts about continuing in office.

Now there’s another expression of doubt.

Deputy Prime Minister and usually the general’s reliable legal backers, Wissanu Krea-ngam saying he has doubts regarding his boss’s tenure and premier. He reportedly included himself among the “doubters” on the general’s 8-year term when he “encouraged those who may wonder whether … Prayut … will have spent a maximum of eight years in power by the upcoming August to call on the Constitutional Court for judgement.”

The court spins in the wind following the ruling elite’s wishes and usually supports the status quo. all members of which were handpicked by a coup junta under leadership of Prayut as army chief who then named himself prime minister. The report observes: “all members [of the court] … were handpicked by a coup junta under leadership of Prayut as army chief who then named himself prime minister.”

But, is the elite turning against the general?

Wissanu reportedly said that “Prayut’s eight-year tenure as maximally provided by law will almost certainly raise a bone of contention, thus prompting those who may have doubts about it to file a petition to the Constitutional Court to judge.”

He also said that “government agencies including the Council of State and the Secretariat to the Prime Minister as well as public attorneys may be told by the premier to find out an answer to this question so that he could get himself well-prepared.”

Prayut’s 8 years is up in August.

The constitution’s section 158 states: “The Prime Minister shall not hold office for more than eight years in total, whether or not holding consecutive term.” Seems clear enough.





Silk and shaky royal power I

29 05 2022

Readers may have noticed a recent article in the Bangkok Post regarding the regime “promoting Thai silk as part of its efforts to make Thailand’s soft power conquer the world…”. That’s according to the execrable Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam who for some unexplained reason is “chair of the committee organising the 11th Celebration of Silk, Thai Silk Road to the World…”, which seems to plagiarize Chinese jargon.

Interestingly, the effort is a state-royalist effort, with a “Thai silk fair” held at the Royal Thai Navy Convention Hall in Bangkok, and meant to “honour … Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother for her dedication to the development of Thai silk and the promotion of silk products at an international level.”

Part of the “fair” is a “Big Silk Designer Contest” which “showcases Thai culture and heritage attached to Thai silk” and is meant to “attract … young Thais interested in traditional fabrics and encourages them to incorporate Thai silk into modern fashion design.” Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome described this as “a new area of Thailand soft power…”.

From Wikipedia

So important is this state-royalist effort that “the permanent secretaries of all 10 ministries displayed on the catwalk Thai silk collections designed and produced in recent months.” Presumably permanent secretaries don’t allocate time from presumably busy schedules unless there is some kind of incentive or directive. In this case, we presume it is the royal dimension.

In reading this “report,” we were reminded of a recent post at Fulcrum by Alexandra Dalferro: “Princess Sirivannavari’s Textile Initiative and Royal Power: Will Thai People Take the Hook?” (we suggest ignoring the sub-heading which does not appear to reflect the article). This article explains yet another state-royalist effort to promote the princess (previously promoted as a talented scholar, talented national badminton player, talented equestrian, talented entrepreneur, talented, designer, etc.). It also recounts the opposition to the “use of taxpayer money (to the tune of 13 million baht) to market her brand abroad.”

As it was under the Sirikit “brand,” the Sirivannavari “brand” is not so much about Thai “soft power,” but royal “soft power,” using buckets of taxpayer funds to promote the monarchy. For Sirivannavari, it is also an effort to make the often ridiculed princess appear more “likeable” and more popular.

The article at Fulcrum concludes:

Many producers relate that they are willing to make the pattern to earn money, but they are unwilling to wear it, explaining that it has no source. To them, the pattern has not been shared across generations and is not related to locally meaningful motifs; it exists only for civil servants to wear to fulfil their mandates. ‘They are forced to wear it because they have no freedom,’ one weaver from Northeast Thailand emphasised in a recent conversation with the author. Many Thai people are refusing the lure of the S hook by keeping it away from their bodies, a decision that is also a challenge to entrenched but now shaky royal power.





Further updated: The 2014 political disaster

22 05 2022

It is now 8 long years since Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda colluded with rightists to seize power from an elected government.

The 2014 military coup was not unexpected. After all, the military brass had been planning it and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee had been demonstrating for months in support of a military intervention. The generals knew they had palace support.

Three army generals in 2019. Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Here we recall some of our posts at the time of the coup, with some editing, to recall yet another dark day in Thailand’s political history.

The story of how it happened, from the Bangkok Post is worth recalling:

At 2pm on Thursday, representatives of seven groups began the second day of peace talks hosted by army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The general began by asking all sides what they could do about the five issues he had asked them to consider on the previous day, a source at the closed-door meeting told Matichon Online.

Armed soldiers stand guard during a coup at the Army Club where the army chief held a meeting with all rival factions in central Bangkok on May 22. (Reuters photo)

Wan Muhamad Nor Matha of the Pheu Thai Party said the best his party could do was to ask ministers to take leave of absence or vacation.

Chaikasem Nitisiri of the caretaker government insisted cabinet members would be breaking the law and could be sued later if they resigned.

Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party disagreed, citing as a precedent Visanu Krue-ngam, who had previously resigned as acting deputy prime minister, but Mr Chaikasem stood his ground.

Veerakarn Musikapong of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) said this debate was useless and a person would need a mattress and a pillow if they were to continue with it.

This was like discussing a religious faith in which everyone was firm in his belief. The army chief had a lot on his shoulders now because he came when the water was already waist-high.

If he continued, Mr Veerakarn said, he would be drowned. The army chief should walk away and announced there would be election. That way, his name would be untarnished.

At this point, Gen Prayuth snapped back: “Stop it. Religious issues I don’t know much about. What I do know is I’ll hunt down each and every one of those ‘infidels’. Don’t worry about me drowning. I’m a good swimmer and I’ve studied the situation for three years.

“Back in 2010, I didn’t have absolute power. So don’t fight me. I was accused of accepting six billion baht in exchange of doing nothing. I insist I didn’t get even one baht.”

At this point, Jatuporn Prompan of the UDD appeared more appeasing, saying since an election could not be held now anyway, the best solution was to hold a referendum on whether national reform should come before or after the next election.

The debate went on for a while before Suthep Thaugsuban of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee said political parties were not involved in this.

“This was a problem between the UDD and the PDRC,” he declared.

He proposed the two groups meet in a separate session.

Mr Abhisit said the government should also join in, but Mr Suthep insisted on only the people’s groups.

Gen Prayuth allowed the two groups to meet separately.

In the meantime, Mr Abhisit suggested other participants should go home now that the two sides were in talks, but Gen Prayuth insisted on everyone staying where they were until a conclusion was reached.

The UDD and PDRC sides talked for 30 minutes.

After that, Gen Prayuth led them back to the meeting, saying he would announce the results of the talks.

At that point, Mr Suthep asked for a minute and walked over to say something with Gen Prayuth, with Mr Jatuporn present.

When they were done, Gen Prayuth said: “It’s nothing. We talked about how the restrooms are not in order.”

After that, the army chief asked the government side whether it insisted on not resigning.

Mr Chaikasem said:” We won’t resign”.

Gen Prayuth then declared: “If that’s the case, the Election Commission need not talk about the polls and the Senate need not talk about Section 7.”

He then stood up and spoke in a loud voice: “I’m sorry. I have to seize the ruling power.”

It was 4.32pm.

At that point some of the attendees still thought he was joking.

They changed their minds when the general walked to the exit and turned back to tell them in a stern voice: “You all stay here. Don’t go anywhere.”

He then left the room.

After that armed soldiers came to detain the participants in groups. Notably, Prompong Nopparit who came in the government’s quota was detained with the UDD group in a separate room.

Mr Veerakarn had a smile on his face and forgot his cane.

Mr Abhisit told Varathep Rattanakorn and Chadchart Sittipunt of the government: “I told you so”.

A pale-faced Chadchart snapped:”So what? What’s the point of saying it now?”

The military put the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties in the same room while the rest were put in different rooms.

The senators and election commissioners were let out first.

The rest is history.

The mainstream media essentially welcomed the coup. We observed that the controlled media dutifully announced the junta’s work – arresting people, grabbing control of even more of the media, implementing a curfew and the usual things these military leaders do when they take over.

Supreme Commander Gen Thanasak Pratimaprakorn, Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, Navy chef Adm Narong Pipattanasai, Police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew became Prayuth’s deputies in the junta, but it was the Army that was in control.

Weng

The establishment Bangkok Post published two op-eds supportive of military intervention. One was by Voranai Vanijaka, who congratulated the generals:

Voranai

The other op-ed was by a died-in-the-wool anti-democrat at the Post who declared felling safer:

Dopey shit

Following these two cheering op-eds for the military and its form of fascism, the Bangkok Post managed an  editorial that polished Prayuth’s ego and posterior and justified military intentions. It concluded with this: “The sad thing is it’s the very act of a military takeover that is likely to stir up stiff resistance, provoke acts of violence and possibly cause more loss of life. This coup is not the solution.” Well, of course it is not the solution, but the Post has been part of the problem, failing to clearly stand for democratic process.

Kasit Piromya, former foreign minister under a fully anti-democratic Democrat Party, propagandized and defended the coup at the BBC. He noted the anti-democrat call for the military to intervene “for quite some time.” He lied that the caches of arms found “amongst the red shirts” meant there was going to be great violence. It has to be said that the Army suddenly finding caches of weapons is a propaganda device they have regularly used in the past. He was fully on board with the military.

His comment on the “problem” of democracy is that his side can’t win, and the majority always win. That’s our interpretation of his anti-democrat tripe. He reckons this is the military resetting democracy. He sounds like he’s still in the yellow of 2006; it was the same story then.

Some of these commentators took years to learn that the military intervention was a huge disaster. Others continue to support military, monarchy and fascism. But really, looking back, no one could possibly have thought that this set of military dinosaurs was going to be interested in anyone other than themselves and the monarchy.

The past 8 years are lost years. For us, the only positive is the widespread questioning of the monarchy and its political, economic and social role.

Update 1: The massive Bangkok electoral victory by former Puea Thai minister Chadchart Sittipunt, with a 60% turnout, Chadchart receiving 1,386,215 votes, ahead of the Democrat Party’s Suchatvee Suwansawat with a paltry 240,884 votes. Some of the early commentary refers to the lost years since the 2014 coup – see here and here. It seems clear that the Chadchart landslide marks a rejection of Gen Prayuth and his regime. It is also a rejection of yellow-hued rightists, no more so than the abject failure of the PAD/PDRC eccentric and toxic Rosana Tositrakul with a minuscule 78,919 votes. Sadly, we might predict that the radical royalists and their military allies will interpret the results as a prompt for more vote rigging and even coup planning.

Update 2: Chadchart’s election was no fluke. As Thai PBS reports, the Bangkok assembly election delivered an emphatic vote for the Puea Thai (19 seats) and Move Forward (14 seats) parties. The hopelessly flawed Democrat Party got 9, while the regime’s fracturing Palang Pracharath won just 2 seats. That’s a landslide for the opposition.





Down the royalist rathole

12 11 2021

With the king having decamped back to Germany, the judiciary has stepped up. Some saw this as the deep state at work. However, the judiciary is both obvious and shallow. That said, it is certainly playing the role allocated to it by the regime and its masters.

At Thai Enquirer, Sunai Phasuk from Human Rights Watch is quoted: “The ruling today is essentially a judicial coup that replaces constitutional monarchy in Thailand with absolute monarchy…”. That’s exactly what regime and palace have been working for since the mid-2010s.

On the Constitutional Court’s decision, the same paper quotes academic Tyrell Haberkorn on “a fundamentally dangerous moment”:

“The Constitutional Court’s sleight of hand in equating the activist’s call for reform with revolt — defined in Article 113 of the Criminal Code and punishable with up to life imprisonment or the death penalty — is legally and politically dangerous,” she said.

“To put this in the starkest terms, if the Office of the Attorney General were to bring charges on the basis of this ruling, [the pro-] democracy activists could face the death penalty for the peaceful expression of opinion. That the Constitutional Court has made this ruling with the stated goal of the preservation of democracy is both cynical and incorrect. Democracy and criminalization of peaceful expression of opinion are not compatible.”

What is clear is that with all discussion of the monarchy now made illegal – apart from royalist honey and tripe – the most ultra of royalists are buoyant and calling for more. More repression, more charges, more jailings, less bail, longer sentences and more.

Thai PBS reports that ultra-royalist stooge Paiboon Nititawan, currently with the junta-invented Palang Pracharat Party is jubilant, declaring that the “Constitutional Court’s ruling will strengthen the monarchy [as if it needed it!] and is legally binding on the police, prosecutors and courts, as well as the Election Commission in taking legal action against individuals or political parties whose activities or conduct are deemed to be a threat to the constitutional monarchy.”

Expect, he implies, more charges and the dissolving of opposition parties. The first targets will be the Move Forward Party and Puea Thai (again).

Meanwhile, Senator Somjet Boonthanom “warned any legislator advocating amendments to lèse majesté law or reform of the monarchy to exercise extreme caution as they may now be accused of attempting to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.” He added that “amending the lèse majesté law in parliament … is doomed as a consequence of the court’s ruling.”

Jade Donavanik, said to be a legal scholar, told Thai Enquirer “that if a political party is found guilty of supporting an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy system, they could be dissolved and the Constitutional Court’s ruling could be used to support a petition for the dissolution.”

In the Bangkok Post, Deputy Prime Ministers Wissanu Krea-ngam and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan warned student protesters. They were “warned … to be careful as they can no longer cite their rights and liberties for their actions as they did previously because the court ruled that such actions were not an exercise in rights and freedom under the constitution.”

The police are now hard at work and it is expected that more lese majeste, sedition and treason charges will follow.

It is pretty clear where this is all going: down the royalist rathole.

The response from students has been to firmly reject the court. Let’s see where that leads. Royalists tend to react in nasty ways and the students are now left with few avenues for peaceful and legal protest into the future.

 





The rotten system II

17 09 2021

The smell from the rotten system is overpowering.

Remember the case of Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and his two dozen luxury watches? He said he had borrowed the watches from a former classmate, Patthawat Suksriwong, who was dead, but that he had returned them. Remember how the National Anti-Corruption Commission exonerated him on unexplained – some might say, bogus – grounds?

That smelly story is back. Thai PBS reports that the “The Central Administrative Court has ordered Thailand’s anti-graft watchdog, the … NACC…, to reveal its findings from an investigation into the expensive wristwatches seen being worn in public by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit…”.

The court seems to recognize that the NACC is so politically-biased that it is widely viewed as a regime tool when it “ruled that, the disclosure of the findings…, including witness testimonies and Gen Prawit’s own testimonies, will demonstrate the transparency and accountability of the NACC and will enhance public trust and confidence in the agency.”

The NACC says it is considering what to do. We might guess that it is seeking advice from the likes of regime legal fixer Wissanu Krea-ngam and Gen Prawit himself.

Remember Pol Col Thitisan Uttanapol or “Joe Ferrari,” recently caught on camera suffocating a man to death with plastic bags while “interrogating” a suspect and trying to extort money? You might think that Joe learned his plastic bag trick from watching gangster movies. But it seems he may have been trained by the police. Prachatai reports on “the case of Somsak Chuenchit and his 12-year effort to bring the police officers who tortured his son by beating and suffocating him with plastic bags during an interrogation.” The report states:

On 28 January 2009, Ritthirong ‘Shop’ Chuenchit ,18, was returning from a cinema in Prachinburi Province with a friend when he was stopped by the police. His clothing and motorcycle helmet reportedly fit the description given to police by a woman who had earlier been the victim of a gold necklace-snatching.

At the police station, the woman identified Ritthirong as the person who had taken her necklace. Ignoring his assertion of innocence, the interrogating officers beat the handcuffed youth and then suffocated him in a bid to determine where the necklace was hidden. Whenever Ritthirong chewed holes in the plastic bags to breathe, more were placed over his head.

Chuenchit survived but was framed and traumatized.

Remember the activists kept in jail for months when arrested and refused bail? Prachatai reports that the Court of Appeal granted bail to activists Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, Thatchapong Kaedam, and Nutchanon Pairoj on 15 September, after having been denied bail several times. Several other activists continue to be detained without bail, including Arnon Nampa and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa. A rotten regime prefers that its opponents remain in jail, face never-ending repression and under threat.

The regime is rotten, the system is rotten.





Secrets kept

9 08 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that the “Official Information Commission (OIC) will ask the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to disclose information about assets declared previously by Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha and his deputy, Wissanu Krea-ngam.”

The two had declared “their assets to the NACC, for the sake of record-keeping, although they weren’t actually required under the NACC law to declare their assets again as their positions remained the same in the most recent reshuffle, according Mr Wissanu.”

Earlier, the NACC had “insisted that the NACC’s law doesn’t allow the office to make public assets declared by the two parties [Prayuth and Wissanu].” Yet the OIC has taken a different view, deciding that “the NACC is obliged to reveal the information when asked, saying the public has the right under the constitution to seek access to the information.”

Neither man has declared their assets since 2014, despite changes of government.

In an editorial, the Post observes:

The ball has passed back to the NACC. The agency, one of whose core missions is to build up transparency and fight corruption, must not come up with excuses why it should not in this case perform its duty.

Political position-holders cannot be allowed to exploit legal loopholes to keep their wealth away from public scrutiny until the government completes its term.

The anti-graft agency’s stance in this case is ridiculous.

Add this to the huge pile of ridiculous “cases” ignored and covered up by police, prosecutors, the NACC and the judiciary. Just think of Thammanat Prompao and his heroin smuggling conviction. Ridiculous is a regime norm.





Updated: “Fake” news, state news

13 06 2021

Anyone who struggles through the blarney posted by the regime’s PR outfits must wonder about the meaning of “fake news.”

But when the regime’s bosses talk “fake news” one can expect they are talking about others and their news. Mostly, they are worried about news on the monarchy and criticism of themselves.

All kinds of political regimes have taken up “fake news” as a way of limiting criticism, but it is authoritarian, military and military-backed regimes that have been most enthusiastic in using it to roll back and limit criticism. In Thailand, repression has been deepened through all kinds of efforts to limit free expression and to silence opponents.

With laws on computer crimes, defamation, treason, sedition, and lese majeste, a reasonable person might wonder why the regime needs more “legal” means for repression. But, then, authoritarian regimes tend to enjoy finding ways to silence critics.

It is thus no real surprise to read in the Bangkok Post that Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has ordered “the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) and security agencies to take tough action against those who spread fake news.” He included the “Anti-Fake News Centre, the Royal Thai Police, the Justice Ministry and the DES” telling them to “work together to respond swiftly to the spread of fake news on social media platforms, and take legal action accordingly.”

I Can't Speak

His minions “explained” he was worried about virus news, but when Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “instructed the Council of State, the government’s legal advisory body, to study the laws and regulations, including those in foreign countries, dealing with the spread of fake news” the focus was much broader and was clearly about anti-monarchy news. After all, officials added that the Computer Crime Act was insufficient for curbing “the damage speedily enough.”

The Thai Enquirer sensed an even broader regime agenda. They saw the use of the Council of State as a path to a “law that would control the online media in Thailand.”

They recognize that the aim is to strengthen “national security,” code for the monarchy. But, they also note a desire to limit “the criticism that the government has received over its Covid-19 response program from online platforms” including by Thai Enquirer. Of course, that criticism has also involved the monarchy.

They rightly fear that the online media “would be targeted under the new law.” They say:

This law, as commentators have noted, is an affront and a threat to free and fair press inside this country. It would make our job thousands of times harder and open us up to lawsuit and the threat of legal harassment by the government.

As we have been saying at PPT, Thai Enquirer believes:

we are being taken back to the dark days of military rule because the government believes criticism aimed at them is a threat to the entire nation. That they are unable to differentiate between a political party, its rule, and the fabric of the nation is arrogant and worrying.

But here we are, even as Deputy Prime Minister and legal predator Wissanu Krea-Ngam thinks of an excuse to shut us down, we promise to you that we will keep reporting to the end.

They call for opposition to tyranny, adding that “this new onslaught against press freedom” will be opposed through their reporting.

In a Bangkok Post op-ed by Wasant Techawongtham acknowledges that fake news can be a problem but notes that a new law “Bootis aimed at silencing critics of the ruling regime.” He adds:

Since democracy was banished from Thailand following the 2014 military coup d’etat, a number of laws have been enacted purportedly to protect the Thai people against the harmful effects of computer crimes. But it is crystal clear that the real purpose of these laws is to suppress the voice of the people.

Authoritarians tend to go to great lengths to ensure their stay in power through silencing dissent.

Under this regime, Wasant observes that regime opponents have been “harassed, or even put in jail” and several have been dissappeared and others killed.

He recognizes that a range of repressive laws have:

done quite a remarkable job of suppressing free speech. Those who insisted on speaking their minds against the current rulers have been severely dealt with. Those who were put in jail were allowed back to their families only after they agreed to seal their lips.

Not only regime and monarchy critics are silenced, but the “media — broadcast, digital and print — have felt compelled to screen their offerings very carefully, which in many cases leads to self-censorship.”

But none of this is enough! The regime wants more! There can be no freedom. There can only be the regime’s “truth.”

Update: Thinking about fake news from the regime, the royal propaganda machine is pumping out some real tripe. The latest has the king and his number 1 consort cooking meals allegedly for “medical professionals,” although in the story at The Nation, Sineenat isn’t even mentioned.

Royal cooks

Clipped from The Nation

As they often are, the couple appear in identical kit with minions groveling around them. We are told that “King … Vajiralongkorn on Saturday cooked a variety of food at the kitchen of Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in Dusit Palace…”. He’s the cleanest cook in history, with not a stain to be seen, suggesting that its fake news or, in other words, a photo op meant to deceive the public. And, their gear changes in several of the pictures.

To add to the “news,” the “Royal Office” is quoted as saying:

These foods have nutrition values of five food groups with fingerroot as a key ingredient…. Fingerroot or Krachai is a Thai traditional herb that has various medicinal benefits and could help strengthen the body’s immune system and help prevent Covid-19. Furthermore, eating freshly cooked meals is one of the recommended ways to stay safe from the virus.

We have to say that we at PPT must have wasted our time getting vaccinated because, as the royals have, hot food protects us, and we eat “freshly cooked meals” at least twice a day! Krachai may well be the king’s favorite ingredient as it is said to help with male sexual performance. But how to explain the erect chef’s hat is beyond us.

That aside, this palace propaganda must rank as “fake news.”





A royal shemozzle III

29 05 2021

In a report in the Bangkok Post, Nithi Mahanonda, the secretary-general of the so-called Chulabhorn Royal Academy, is reported as confirming that the latest royal intervention is to save the collective crown’s ass. He reportedly stated that “the CRA would procure ‘alternative vaccines’ until those produced in Thailand were sufficient to protect against the pandemic.” The king’s Siam Bioscience is not and was never up to the job the regime and palace handed it.

As an interesting footnote, Move Forward MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn has stated that it was the royally-controlled Siam Cement Group that “brokered Thailand’s acquisition of AstraZeneca vaccines…” and the technology for local production.

Nithi went on to say that “the CRA was required to comply with the laws governing the production and importation of vaccines, and the registration of medical supplies for emergency use.” More on registration below.Princess plaything

The announcement has been cloaked in a surreal “legal” argument that this procurement is “part of the CRA’s regular missions under the law governing its establishment.” That law does not appear to us to go that distance. But the legalities are manufactured faster than a vaccine approval. And, nowhere in its mission statements does the Academy claim to be in this area of work.

Despite the Academy’s claims to transparency, the website is mostly an ode to the ailing princess.

Nithi states the “emergency plan was approved by the CRA council to support the government through the academy’s research and academic capabilities and special contacts with foreign countries.” As a hospital, we guess that the Academy could have imported vaccines with state approval, but it is the state approval that the decree circumvented.

In our view, the announcement/decree has little legal or constitutional support. Yes, we know that slimy royalists and regime fixers like Wissanu Krea-ngam will have arguments for the legalities and he would probably have the royalist judiciary for support, but these are the same people who reckon heroin trafficking overseas doesn’t count under Thai law or constitution. When it comes to royals it seems there are no limits on their desires, whims, and fancies.

In general, the reporting and commentary on the royal intervention has been limited and misplaced. That’s not unexpected in royalist Thailand under the (semi-)military boot and the lese majeste law.

Much of the attention in the babble about royal intervention has been about the slap in the face this gives Genral Prayuth Chan-ocha and his government. Thitinan Pongsudhirak begins his commentary on an appropriate note:

Just as Thailand’s murky vaccine plan has gone from bad to worse, the plot keeps thickening. The latest development centres on the May 25 publication in the Royal Gazette of the Chulabhorn Royal Academy’s authority to procure Covid-19 vaccines within the country and from abroad as needed for public health benefits. As has been promptly noted elsewhere, this vaccine bombshell could be perceived as a snub to the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, particularly Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul. Thailand’s effectively dual-track vaccine strategy is now likely to engender major repercussions.

Appropriately, Thitinan observes:

…the Chulabhorn Royal Academy and Siam Bioscience — a pharmaceutical company owned by the Crown Property Bureau are connected. On Wednesday, the director-general of the academy made a five-point statement to explain how his team will proceed. Yet, we have not heard much from Siam Bioscience.

He seems to believe that:

The Chulabhorn Royal Academy’s assertion at this time that it will find and obtain all available vaccines for Thai people suggests that its role is paramount. Its complete freedom above and beyond the Prayut government and its related laws and rules may be a power play to say that public health supersedes government longevity.

That may be true. But, the commentary skirts difficult issues associated with Chulabhorn’s royal decree. We think that the short-termism of commentary and in the responses of opposition political parties that focus on damage to Gen Prayuth and his hopeless lot dangerously myopic on yet another grab for power by the palace.

Worse, some of that commentary considers the Academy “another government agency,” which fudges on many levels. If it is a government agency, it would fall under law and constitution, but it doesn’t – or so it seems and so it acts. And which government agency can produce the miraculous vaccine approval that followed less than 24 hours after the royal decree announcing it would import the Sinopham vaccine! The reports were of the documentation only landing with the Thai authorities earlier this week. Miracles do happen, if you are a royally-constructed, taxpayer funded outfit that is a plaything for a princess, established to burnish her reputation and contribute to the monarchy’s propaganda.

But what of the law and constitution? We are not lawyers but we wonder about the royal decree, signed by a princess.

We searched the junta’s constitution and there are several relevant sections, including 172 and 175. They are worth considering.

Section 172 is about emergency decrees and might be relevant:

For the purpose of maintaining national or public safety or national economic
security, or averting public calamity, the King may issue an Emergency Decree which
shall have force as an Act.

The issuance of an Emergency Decree under paragraph one shall be made only when
the Council of Ministers is of the opinion that it is an emergency of necessity and
urgency which is unavoidable.

But this would seem to be the decree already in place for many months, so we do not think it applies to the latest royal decree, except as context (noted in the decree).

Section 175 states:

The King has the Royal Prerogative to issue a Royal Decree which is not contrary to
the law.

We guess this is why Thitinan says that “Royal Gazette publications [proclamations/announcements/decrees] take immediate effect with complete legality…”. But this decree is not issued by the king. And is circumventing the state legal or is it that any royal is sovereign? If there are any legal eagles reading this, let us know what you think.

For us, the ability of the king to proclaim anything he wants if not contrary to the law is worrying enough. Having any royal do this is even more concerning. Thailand is yet another step closer to the king’s desire for an absolutist regime.





A royal shemozzle II

28 05 2021

A reader asks how it is that a person designated a princess, with no obvious constitutional or legal authority can issue a decree that appears to carry the weight of law?

We could simply say: well, this is ultra-royalist Thailand and strange, extra-constitutional happenings seem increasingly common.

The Bangkok Post observes:

His Majesty the King’s sister [Princess Chulabhorn] has approved coronavirus vaccine imports by an institution she sponsors, bypassing the government as it deals with surging infections and growing public anger over a slow and chaotic rollout.

As can be seen in this sentence, the princess is only a sister of the king and yet she may bypass government. As also noted in the sentence, she’s responding to anger about the government’s strategy. As everyone knows, from the beginning this strategy hinged on a “royal vaccine,” which now seems delayed (at best). In the Post’s words: the regime “relies heavily on AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured locally by a company owned by the king.”

This intervention was made without the knowledge of the health minister. Anutin is reported as “unaware of the royal order before it was published.” Notice that the Post as it as a “royal order,” as if Thailand is an absolutist regime. He is quoted: “I just saw the announcement last night…”. He then had to do the royalist-loyalist two-step: “But if it is a benefit to the country, we are ready.”

It was then level to the regime’s slimy legal eagle and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam to try to clean up the constitutional and legal scraps, saying “the academy had to issue the announcement so it could qualify to import drugs and medical equipment and supplies.” That’s buffalo manure.

buffalo-manure

How high?

He added: “But this does not mean it can do so freely — it will have to comply with related laws in full, such as seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration.” We don’t believe him. The announcement gives itself the right to circumvent government, as it already has.

Wissanu then fumbled some more, saying “that the institute could do so only during the Covid-19 crisis and when the vaccine supply was inadequate.” In fact, other readings of the vague announcement suggest that the “institute” has wider self-awarded power than that.

He squared the circle when he “added the institute, like private hospitals, could deal with foreign companies to import the vaccine using its own budget.” The budget for the “institute” is provided by the taxpayer and it is not a hospital. And, if Wissanu is correct, then the announcement is not required. Nor is the “institute’s intervention needed when private hospitals have already contracted to supply and sell 10 million doses in addition to the state’s purchases and orders.

But the royals want to make some propaganda gains in a situation where the king’s company appears to be failing.

Who will sort out the constitutional and legal mess? We suspect that no one will and that the precedent will see royals having even more power to do whatever they fancy.

The students were repressed but they were right. The monarchy on its current course is seriously dangerous for Thailand.





The heroin minister and protecting “the system”

10 05 2021

We decided to wait a couple of days to see how the Constitutional Court’s decision to protect Thammanat Prompao, deputy minister and convicted heroin trafficker, liar, nepotist, and thug before commenting further.

It seems he is untouchable. We assume this has something to do with the claim he made when arrested for heroin smuggling in Australia:

When Thammanat was sitting across from detectives making a statement in Parramatta jail on November 10, 1993, the first thing the young soldier put on the record was his connection to royalty.

After graduating from army cadet school in 1989 he “was commissioned as a bodyguard for the crown prince of Thailand” as a first lieutenant. “I worked in the crown prince’s household to the beginning of 1992,” he said, staying until deployed to help suppress a political conflict that culminated in an army-led massacre in Bangkok.

The crown prince is now King Vajiralongkorn, but the name landed like a thud: the judge made no mention of it when sentencing Thammanat over his part in moving 3.2 kilograms of heroin from Bangkok to Bondi.

Among the first reactions came from the reprehensible Wissanu Krea-ngam. Wissanu, who operates as a mongrel cross between Carl Schmitt and a Reich Minister of Justice, long ago proclaimed that Thammanat’s “eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary.”

The court agreed. No surprise there.  Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam stated that “the court’s decision does not contradict the opinion of the Council of State, the government’s legal adviser, regarding MPs’ qualifications.”

The “Council of State said a person jailed for two years in Thailand or abroad is not eligible to be an MP within five years of being released…”. We have to admit that we did not see this in the reporting of the court’s decision.

Wissanu made the extraordinary claim that “the decision does not ‘whitewash’ the PPRP MP’s [Thammanat] standing.”

The Bangkok Post had an Editorial on the decision. It begins by noting that the court’s decision did not surprise: “After all, society has become used to surprises from our judicial system that run contrary to public sentiment.” It is pulling its punches for fear of offending regime and court yet still makes some useful observations:

In layman’s terms, Thai law permits people with a drug conviction in a foreign country to become a politician or hold public office in Thailand — the Land of Smiles and Land of Second Chances — at least in the case of Capt Thamanat.

It notes that the “court ruling might prolong the meteoric political career of Capt Thamanat as a deal maker and de facto manager of the PPRP. Yet it will come with a hefty price for the government and society as a whole.”

It thinks “the government, and especially the PPRP, still have a little leeway to prevent a complete meltdown in public trust and defuse this time bomb.” The Post is grasping at straws.

Many have lost hope:

People are losing confidence in the government of General Prayut Chan-ocha because of their continued mismanagement, corruption, and repression.

They are losing their faith in the justice system which has propped up this regime – a heartless system that would sooner jail students and watch them die than adjudicate impartially.

…This week, the country’s highest court made the situation worse, if that were possible.

The appalling decision to allow a convicted drug dealer to continue as a cabinet minister shows that this government no longer cares about saving face or pretending to be filled with ‘good people.’

The double standards are observed: the regime considers one crime overseas significant: lese majeste. And, what about a justice system that “still sees it fit to hold the students in jail, without bail, under a draconian law…”, but has a former drug trafficker as a minister? It continues:

Thailand is rapidly approaching the borders of becoming a failed state, a joke-nation where the institutions only serve to reinforce the rule of the few and the elections are a sham run by the whims of generals.

There are examples of anger. This op-ed declares the dire need for change:

Thailand is at a crossroads. We have come to that point in every nation’s history where the decisions of today have massive ramifications for tomorrow….

At stake will be who we are as a nation, not who we were, and what we want to aspire to. Centuries old superstition, entrenched governing structures, a destructive military culture, and an impasse between those that want rapid change and those that want to preserve what it is that they think makes Thailand special….

The generals, the drug dealers, the marijuana growers, the promise breakers that were put in government did so on a broken system drafted and put in place by men in army fatigues.

And now we have arrived at the crossroads and there are three choices which will determine what will become of Thailand.

The op-ed calls for “reform” but far more is needed to root out the military and destroy the privileges of crown and oligarchs. Thais need to get off their knees. That’s exactly what the protesters have been demanding.








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