Secret constitution amendments

15 02 2017

Readers will recall that the military junta’s “constitution” was sent to a process it described as a “referendum.”

Despite that exercise in (false) legitimacy, the junta then had to withdraw the draft constitution to make changes demanded by King Vajiralongkorn, said to increase his powers.

During the amendment process, the exact changes were kept secret.

The Bangkok Post reports that Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has declared that the secret “[a]mendments to the constitution … have been completed…”.

The “handwritten copy of the constitution, in the form of an accordion-style scroll by the Bureau of Royal Scribes and Royal Decorations of the Secretariat of the Cabinet, was also scheduled to be completed today.” Then it is sent to the king for another look at it.

The Dictator has not requested an audience with the king, so we can guess that the changes have been made to the “constitution” in a way that will please the king.

We think it is remarkable that the secret amendments will be announced by the palace rather than the junta. Wissanu stated: “The Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary would disclose the content of the amendments to the public…”.

That seem to us to be something quite novel, even for royalist Thailand.





“Election” slipping IV

9 02 2017

On the last day of 2016, PPT posted that there had been quite a few indications that the promised “election” would be delayed from 2017 to 2018. Then we observed that the military junta had an addition to repression and control, meaning that their authoritarian rule is likely to be extended for as long as it desires, especially as opposition has been pretty much neutralized.

We see no reason to change that view. Not least because the junta’s legal minion and deputy prime minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has finally admitted that there will be no “election” in 2017.

That’s just one more promise nixed by the military dictatorship. It has been a repeated promise since the day of the coup in 2014, broken again and again. As the Post reports, the junta “had earlier set rough deadlines for elections via … [its] ‘roadmap’ in 2015, 2016 and 2017.”

Wissanu set a record for breaking a promise. He first said: “One year from today, there’ll be elections…”. Seconds later he said:

Please don’t force [the government] to give a specific schedule for the election…. We can only roughly estimate it…. In future we will talk about the election schedule in broad terms, not the exact timing….

National elections will take place when the junta feels it can adequately control the outcome. That desired outcome is no Thaksin Shinawatra, no Thaksin proxies and no political party having power to change anything the junta has put in place. More “positively,” the junta prefers that it continue to control things for the next 15 to 20 years.

Of course, this depends on the current junta being able to maintain its influence over a seemingly divided military and maintaining its coalition with the palace.

The junta’s servants are reportedly still at work on the constitutional changes demanded by the king. Wissanu said the amended charter would go back to the king on 18 February, and he has up to 90 days to think about it.

Wissanu reckons neither the Democrat Party and Puea Thai Party object to another “election” delay. Lies and broken promises are important parts of the junta’s political arsenal.





Chipping away at 1932

12 01 2017

Several times since we began in 2009, PPT has marked the 1932 Revolution by reprinting the first announcement of the khana ratsadon or People’s Party.

Democracy Monument, BangkokIn recent years the anniversary of this event is barely noticed, buried by a the celebration of various historically insignificant royal anniversaries. While there has been a long-term effort to erase 1932 from school books and the public mind, under the military junta there has been a determined efforts to make invisible an event it consider horrendous for reducing royal powers and granting sovereignty to common people. Moreover, the junta and palace have been writing laws that reverse important changes made in 1932, not least in limiting the powers of the monarchy under the constitution.

One of the nominated changes is to allow the king to decide if he needs a regent when he is flitting back and forth to his home outside Munich.

The current order by the king to change aspects of the draft constitution, “approved” in a “referendum,” is an example of how the very notion of a constitutional monarchy is being rolled back.

The junta may have been surprised by the king’s demands, but they are unwilling to tell him to go to hell. That could be because they are in dispute with the king but feel he should get his way for the moment. It might be that the junta is happy enough to have General Prem Tinsulanonda lose some influence. It may be that the junta wants to further delay an “election” and this is their excuse. It could be that the junta may feel that its legitimacy depends entirely on the monarchy. It might be that the junta believes that a feudal Thailand a la pre-1932 is appropriate for a 21st century Thailand. Or it might be all of these.

Whatever is going on, it’s clear the junta has asked how high the king wants it to jump. It is rushing ahead with the demanded changes.

The Nation reports that quotes junta lawyer Wissanu Krea-ngam as sayin: “Now, … the situation in the country has changed, so they will have to be amended to meet the situation. Otherwise, we will be using principles that were written in 1932…”.

He’s clear on what’s being done here. As a reminder, in 1932, Article 5 stated:

If there is any reason that the king is unable temporarily to carry out his duties, or is not in the capital, the Committee of the People will execute the right on his behalf.

How things have changed and they’ll change further in the next few days.

Readers might ask why the junta wasn’t getting the king’s view as it developed its constitution. Wissanu says: “The clauses to be amended were not paid attention to before the referendum, because drafters had only copied them from the previous constitution.” Yet, you would think a royalist regime would have been talking with the soon-to-be-king. Maybe he was more interested in his concubines and fake tattoos than the work of rolling back 1932 constitutionalism. Perhaps he only realized the potential problems of the regency when Prem got the job back in October.

The chief of the charter drafters, Meechai Ruchupan might have been a bit contrite about causing the king some angst, but he’s still talking draft constitutions and says the proposed “amendment would give the [k]ing the option of either appointing or not appointing a regent should he not reside in the Kingdom.”

Another of the royalist dopes, Somchai Sawaengkarn, of the puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA), ignoring constitutional history and practice,  babbled about it not being “necessary to name a regent because modern communication methods have made it easy and convenient to work remotely. The charter should be amended to meet this environment…”.

In another report, Meechai blathered that the demanded changes were “in line with proposed changes to the charter sought by the government…”. That is so nonsensical that it suggests he’s lost his marbles or is a great liar. It could be both. If the changes were “in line,” why the seeming panic and back-filling now?

Recalling Article 5 from 1932, this is what the same article looks like in the draft constitution:

16. Whenever the King is absent from the Kingdom or unable to perform His functions for any reason whatsoever, the King will appoint a person as the Regent and the President of the National Assembly shall countersign the Royal Command.

If this is to change, what does it mean for related articles? The other relevant articles state:

17. In the case where the King does not appoint the Regent under Section 16, or the King is unable to appoint the Regent owing to His not being sui juris or any other reason whatsoever, the Privy Council shall submit the name of a person suitable to hold the office of the Regent to the National Assembly for approval. Upon approval by the National Assembly, the President of the National Assembly shall make an announcement, in the name of the King, to appoint such person as the Regent.

18. While there is no Regent under Section 16 or Section17, the President of the Privy Council shall be Regent pro tempore. In the case where the Regent appointed under Section 16 or Section 17 is unable to perform his duties, the President of the Privy Council shall act as Regent pro tempore….

Our immediate question is what happens if the king dies or is badly injured and can’t appoint a regent? Another crisis and military intervention to again fix the rules and manipulate constitutional principles and practice?

The new king may well end up creating a republican military that “remembers” what motivated the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. That would be positive in the long run….





Further updated: Royal meddling continues II

11 01 2017

This post updates our earlier post on royal constitutional meddling.

In the Bangkok Post, the king’s demands become “advice” and the report adds:

Under the interim charter amendment bill proposed by the government, when the prime minister submits the new constitution for royal endorsement and if the King makes observations about any charter amendments within 90 days of the new charter being submitted, the prime minister must ask for the document back so amendments can be made at the King’s behest.

Afterwards, the prime minister will resubmit the amended new charter for royal endorsement within 30 days of the document being sent back to the prime minister.

The report states that Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam stated that “in principle the charter provisions that are to be amended are Sections 5, 17, and 182.” Looking at the draft, section or article 5 does not seem to involve the king, section 17 does, and section 182 relates to the countersigning of laws.

In another report, Wissanu suggests that changes to these articles will have wider impacts on other articles in the constitution.

So much for claims about the “will of the people” being expressed in the “referendum.”

If these really are the parts to be amended, they suggest major changes and increases to royal power are likely, further rolling back the post-1932 efforts to constitutionalize the monarchy.

Update 1: Interestingly, the efforts to block sites like PPT, including Facebook pages of critics overseas, is the heaviest we have seen for many months. We can only assume that the junta is either deeply embarrassed or not wanting any negative commentary on the king and his efforts to have the draft constitution changed.

Update 2: The Nation has a story stating that one article the king demands be changed relates to “Article 3, which involved a new stipulation: ‘Should the King not reside in the Kingdom or should the King not be able to perform his duty for any reasons, the King shall or shall not designate a regent by his preference and such a command shall be countersigned by president of the Parliament.’ The passage was to be added to the existing Article 2 of the charter.” This change would allow the king to act officially wherever he is – presumably at home in Germany.





Royal meddling continues I

10 01 2017

New king, same old political meddling. This time, however, Vajiralongkorn’s meddling is public and embarrassing for the junta. It is also revealing of how the “referendum” was a junta plaything that can be thrown aside whenever it or the king wants.

Khaosod reports that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has stated that the king “has asked for changes to the constitution approved by the public in August relating to his powers.” It is reported that the king told members of his privy council of his demands.

Prayuth said “three or four issues would be amended in the section involving the authority and role of the king.”

As the report points out, issues of the “authority and role of the king” occur throughout the 279 articles of the draft and it is unclear which articles are up for amendment. Social media speculation focuses on Articles 5 and 6.

How will the king’s demands be met? Prayuth says”he would use his self-granted absolute power under Article 44 to amend the 2014 interim charter to make it possible to change an already approved constitution…”

Prayuth must be deeply embarrassed by this turn of events. Some might suggest a power struggle is underway and others might consider it is the new king getting a chance at his political oats.

The Dictator is being dictated to, and that will frustrate him. He reckons it will take up to four months to make the changes, and while he denies it, this will further delay the “election.” Additionally, when the changes go back to the king, he can take another 90 days mulling it.

We suspect that Prayuth has invested so much in the succession and royal legitimacy that all he can do is bite his lip. We find it hard to conceive of a republican Prayuth turfing the recalcitrant king out.





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.





Putting things back in place

2 12 2016

General Prem Tinsulanonda is now back as President of the Privy Council after being “temporary Regent” for a period.

The Bangkok Post reports that the 96 year-old was reappointed by the new king in an announcement in the Royal Gazette.Prem 1

Aged judge and former rightist and royalist prime minister Thanin Kraivixien returns to being a regular privy councilor after filling in for Prem as President for the period.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam stated that “traditionally, Gen Prem would resume his role as Privy Council president just after his role as the regent ended. The term as president of the Privy Council was open-ended…”. He pointed out that a privy councilor could only leave his [they are all men] position by “royal command, death or resignation…”.