Updated: Courts, media, monarchy and constitution

4 12 2020

A couple of short reports that PPT found interesting.

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court also ruled that:

… summons orders issued by the now-defunct military regime are unconstitutional.

The court ruled by a vote of 7-2 that NCPO Announcement No.29/2014 contravened Section 29 of the constitution.

The court also ruled by a unanimous decision that NCPO Announcement No.41/2014 runs counter to Section 26 of the charter.

Announcement No.29 ordered people to report to authorities while Announcement No.41 stipulated penalties including criminal action against those who failed to report.

Given that several hundred were detained, this ruling opens a channel for former detainees like Nitirat’s Worachet Pakeerut of Thammasat University and a law professor to look at filing “a suit for damages from former members of the now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)…”.

In another story, we zoom right. Right-wing ultra-royalist Warong Dechgitvigrom and his nutter friends in Thai Pakdee have “asked the Constitutional Court … to halt the charter change process, claiming it could overthrow Thailand’s system of governance.”

As happened in the recent past, rightists oppose any move to change even punctuation in the charter claiming the sky will fall. Watch what the Court decides on this.

The third story is about how to make the media monarchist. We all know that the media is under pressure to make the monarchy look great, but The Dictator recently complained:

During a visit to the Defense Ministry today, [Gen] Prayuth Chan-o-cha was expounding on why the media should remain neutral amid protests to his rule when he noted “inappropriate” newspaper front pages on which photos of the king and queen appeared smaller than those of recent protests.

“What does this mean?” he said. “You have to weigh whether this is appropriate.”

The report then explains pro-monarchy edicts:

Prayuth was getting at guidelines long observed quietly by newsrooms on how to uphold the supremacy of the monarchy by strictly adhering to rules for how it is presented. While most newspapers around the world position front page stories based on their news value, impact and photographs; Thai newsrooms follow agreed-upon rules dictating what appears on A1 – and where.

For example, obligatory royal news items – usually routine ceremonies or dedications – must appear above other stories, with royal faces minor and major appearing higher than anyone or anything else on the page. As with every television channel’s inclusion of “royal news” at the peak prime time of 8pm, it serves to reinforce the primacy of the royal family in everyday life.

It’s good to know what the regime expects.

Update: For a more detailed explanation of Worachet’s Constitutional Court decision, see Prachatai. That report also cites Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is reported as saying:

If the Court decided that the Orders contravened the Constitution, then they became ineffective. “After 2017, it is admitted that some people were summoned in the belief that the order was not unconstitutional. But when the Court decides that it is unconstitutional, then it is,” Wissanu said.

However, Wissanu confirmed that the Court’s decision would not be retroactive and defendants could not sue officials. “Because the officials proceeded in the understanding that it was not unconstitutional, and because there was no ruling, if they had not proceeded, they might themselves have been guilty. For now, if anyone is still being prosecuted or consideration of the case is unfinished, they must all cease.”





Updated: Nepotism and Thammanat

11 11 2020

How odd that we recently mentioned convicted heroin smuggler and government minister Thammanat Prompao in a post just a couple of days ago. He’s back in the news, with one of his wives – 30 years his junior a former Miss Thailand – suddenly being allocated a position within the Prime Minister’s Office.

Clipped from Thai Newsroom

Deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul announced that on Tuesday, “the cabinet approved the appointment of Ms Thanaporn Sriviraj as a government official, with immediate effect.” Traisuree “said Thanaporn has been actively working as her husband’s personal secretary before the proposal was made to the cabinet.”

Clipped from Khaosod

Presumably she thought this claim would remove the awful smell of nepotism and corruption. But that’s difficult with a deputy minister with a heroin trafficking conviction, fake degrees and a gangster reputation, not to mention the murder case he got off.

According to Wikipedia, “Thamanat’s parliamentary declaration of assets in August 2019 listed two wives, seven children, and a net worth of about A$42 million, including a Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Tesla, and Mercedes-Benz along with 12 Hermès and 13 Chanel handbags, luxury watches, and Thai Buddha amulets.” That declaration also listed dozens and dozens of bank accounts.

Funny how the National Anti-Corruption Commission is uninterested in how Thammanat came to be so fabulously wealthy.

Isra News Agency, which has more details on the “interesting” assets declaration, says that Thanaporn drives a Porsche and owns dozens of luxury watches and handbags.

And, how is it that Thammanat is so wealthy? See above and add in gangster lottery contracts and similar shady deals.

So, why does Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s administration do him favors and appear so hopelessly tone deaf? We have the answer here.

Is this appointment going to look a bit like the Thungyai hunting scandal? It should.

Update: Wissanu Krea-ngam seems to enjoy rolling in slime. Once again, he has come out to support the cabinet’s convicted heroin smuggler. Like a mobster’s corrupt lawyer, Wissanu has defended the indefensible:

Wissanu asked reporters “why can’t it be done?” after being questioned about Tuesday’s controversial move. When pressed if the appointment of spouses and family members into government positions was appropriate, Wissanu said it wasn’t illegal.

Of course, others have also defended the cabinet’s “Don” and Palang Pracharath’s northern enforcer. In 2019, several deputy prime ministers and the prime minister supported Boss Thammanat. Back then, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, speaking after a cabinet meeting, “said that he would no longer comment on legal cases against cabinet ministers because they had been clarified by those involved.” Clarified means denying that anything happened in Australia, despite all the legal documents and Thammanat’s four years in prison.

Nepotism is, it seems, legal in Thailand. Just like unusual wealth, murder (if you are rich or in the military), shoveling funds to Sino-Thai conglomerates, etc.





Law as political weapon

31 10 2020

It was only a few days ago that we posted on the ever pliant Election Commission deciding to file criminal charges against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for the time when he was with the Future Forward Party. It no coincidence that the regime believes Thanathorn behind the rallies. In addition, its pretty clear he’s being punished for his questioning of the monarch’s use of taxpayer funds and for posing a challenge to the ruling regime and the ruling class.

The regime’s strategy, managed by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and the odious Wissanu Krea-ngam is to tie the upstart opposition (and student protesters) into legal knots.

The Thai Enquirer reports on yet another regime move against the former Future Forward and now heading up the Progressive Movement.

The former leaders of the dissolved Future Forward Party – Thanathorn, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and Pannika Wanichhave – been summoned by police “to hear charges of sedition and other alleged crimes…”. As the newspaper puts it, this is “continuing a judicial campaign against people thought to be behind the current pro-democracy protests.”

Summoning the three is a step taken before issuing arrest warrants.

Piyabutr pointed out the bias and yet more bending of the rules for the regime:

“If the police take off their uniforms and think back to their second year in law school, they would know very well that almost every warrant that was issued [is not a real violation of section 116],” Piyabutr said.

“Thailand is unlucky because these police officers have to throw away everything they learned in order to become part of the government’s mechanism and serve the people in power,” he added.

A Bangkok Post picture

That the judicial system is now a tool for repression is now widely acknowledged – we have been saying it for years – with even the Bangkok Post’s opinion page scribbler Thitinan Pongsudhirak writing:

When Thailand’s justice system issues decisions that have political ramifications, fewer people are holding their breath these days because conclusions are increasingly foregone. In fact, when the historical record comes into fuller view, it will be seen that the politicisation of the judiciary has fundamentally undermined Thailand’s fragile democratic development and reinforced authoritarian rule that has been resurgent over the past 15 years.

He adds something else we have been saying for years:

The lesson is that Thailand’s political party system has been deliberately weakened and kept weak to keep established centres of power in the military, monarchy, judiciary, and bureaucracy paramount and decisive. No democracy can take root until voters have an equal say on how they are to be governed without the usurpation and distortion of party dissolutions and power plays behind the scenes.

The point of the junta’s time in power was to ensure that there was 20 years of non-democracy.





King, regime and royalists

23 10 2020

King Vajiralongkorn, Queen Suthida and other members of the royal family have thrown their support behind royalists. Of course, it is natural for the royals to support those who support them. But in the current political climate, this is a statement of the palace’s position. That position is, naturally enough, to oppose those who challenge the king and his palace to reform and become a proper constitutional monarch.

We think this public statement of support for ultra-royalists ranks with previous royal political interventions such as Vajiralongkorn’s support of ultra-royalists in 1976 and the then queen’s attendance at a yellow shirt’s funeral in 2008.

Social media has several video renderings of the royals greeting an arranged crown of yellow-shirted royalists. The picture here is clipped from Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Facebook page.

This royal outing is a part of the regime’s plan to break the protesters. In our previous post, PPT stated: “PPT looks at the “break” from protests and sees the regime gaining time for organizing rightists and royalists.”

Erich Parpart at Thai Enquirer seems to agree: “What if the removal of the emergency decree wasn’t the government backing down but mobilizing royalist forces.” He says:

The severe state of emergency decree was lifted not because Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha’s wanted to back down.

It was actually the first step to revitalize the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and mobilize extreme royalist groups against the student-led pro-democracy movement….

The prime minister, Chuan Leekpai, the house speaker, and Wissanu Krea-ngam, the deputy prime minister, are all stalling for time….

There are already PDRC members out on the streets harassing pro-democracy protestors including groups led by Tossapol Manunrat from Acheewa Chuay Chart, Police Major General Rienthong Nanna, and Suwit Thongprasert who is also known as Buddha Issara. It’s like a PDRC reunion.

They are not out and about to protect the monarchy, they are out and about to intimidate pro-democracy protestors and to protect Prayut.

In addition, there are reports that Army boss Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae has shown his support for Gen Prayuth’s regime. Of course, many of the yellow shirt groups owe their existence to the Army and ISOC.

The messages from the king, the Army and the regime to the protesters is that they must back down. If they don’t, expect the regime to mobilize yellow shirts for violent confrontation.





All hail the rich (king)!

7 07 2020

The king and queen arrived yesterday at about 7am (TG971) and left again at about 3.30am today (TG970). That’s about 17 or so hours. This means that since he decamped to Germany early this year, the king’s two visits to his “home” totals about 36 hours. On each occasion he was provided with a special Thai Airways flight to and from Zurich.

Never mind that it is clear that the king doesn’t plan to actually live in Thailand and seems to prefer Germany, Prachatai reports that “[a]ll government agencies have been told to organize ceremonies for … the King’s 68th birthday while everyone is urged to wear yellow in July.” Interestingly, European newspapers are also reporting on this, noting that he will be in Germany when Thai taxpayer money is poured into official “celebrations.”

For the feudal lord

It is reported that:

On 30 June, Oranuch Srinon, Deputy Permanent Secretary to the Office of the Prime Minister, sent a letter to all ministries encouraging them to hold ceremonies to show loyalty to the King and acknowledge his royal grace as 28 July is the King’s birthday.

“Encouraged” is really an order. In the order, according to Prachatai, each state office is told to:

  • Set up altar tables displaying the King’s portrait with royal offerings
  • Set up places for people to write messages of goodwill for the King
  • Display Thai and royal flags at government buildings and residential areas
  • Decorate government buildings and residential areas with yellow and white cloth
  • Decorate main streets with lights for an appropriate period of timePost messages of goodwill on the main page of agencies’ websites
  • Wear yellow from 1-31 July
  • Ministries are encouraged to hold celebrations for the King with the leader of each agency as the guest of honour to pay respect, say a blessing and sign a blessing for the King.

This order includes all agencies including “those inside in the country, such as public schools, and those abroad, such as Thai embassies.”

In another communication, the following day, “Interior Ministry Permanent Secretary Chatchai Promlert sent a letter to all 77 provincial governors asking them to organize ceremonies.” They have to “display the King’s portrait in front of their provincial halls, decorate them with flags and cloth, put up decorative lights on main streets, set up a place for the public to write messages of goodwill and tell other local government agencies to do so.”

Governors were also ordered “to encourage private businesses and the public in each province to do the same things at their business locations and their homes.” Again, “encourage” is an order.

The unelected Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha had also “asked cabinet members, civil servants and the public to wear yellow [the king’s birth color] for the whole month of July.” This order was then massaged a bit by the execrable Wissanu Krea-ngam, who confirmed that the order to ministers was “to wear yellow only at their meetings on Tuesdays while they are asked to wear a yellow tie on other days…”.

Even in the midst of the virus crisis, taxpayers are squeezed for the absent feudal lord.





Updated: Heard it before, again and again

27 06 2020

A few reports in the last day or two carry the smell of regime deja vu.

One involves the execrable Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam. It says that the junta’s legal hireling is pondering virus “crisis” alternatives to the emergency decree. Heard it before. Almost the same headline and story popped up a month ago. Ho hum. No local transmission for more than a month, borders more or less closed. But the emergency decree maintained. As in May, Wissanu will need to concoct a “legal” plan for the military-backed regime to continue its suppression of its opponents.

A second report relates to the 2014 killing of Karen activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen. It says the “Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has pledged to look into a decision by prosecutors to drop serious charges against four park officials suspected of being involved in the [murder]…”. Heard it before. It was back in January that state prosecutors “dropped the murder charges against Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, the former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park, and three others accused…”. Instead, they “decided to recommend indicting them only for failing to hand over the Karen activist to police after he was arrested in April 2014…”. It was never made entirely clear why the charges were dropped, but suspicions were raised of interventions from higher-ups. Not long after, the DSI boss resigned. It remains to be seen if the new boss can overcome the pressure for impunity to be maintained.

Party time for Boss (clipped from The Daily Mail)

Then there’s the ongoing saga of one of Thailand’s richest – fugitive Red Bull heir Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya – escaping justice. Vorayuth, driving his Ferrari, “hit and killed a motorcycle policeman in the early morning of Sept 3, 2012 on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok.” Heard it before. After the driving his car over the policeman and dragging his body for a period under the car, Vorayuth his behind the gates of the family mansion. Forensic police concluded he was driving at 177 kilometres per hour. He may have been drunk and/or drugged up at the time.

He “then delayed hearing the charges seven times.  It was not until April 27, 2017, that prosecutors finally charged him with reckless driving causing death and failing to help a crash victim. He fled on a private plane two days before he was due to face the charges.” Since then he’s been pictured as he partied. We suspect that for some of the time he’s been in Thailand.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission has now ruled that a couple of policemen are guilty of minor negligence charges for delaying the case, failing to prosecute some charges and failing to seek warrants for Boss’s arrest. Most observers might conclude that the family’s wealth and power would have “contributed” to these failures. How policeman can be so uncaring of a brother officer, killed on the job, beggars belief. In the end, none of the policemen may face any action at all as it is their supervisors who decide on disciplinary action. They only have to delay another 7 years for Boss to avoid all charges; that’s when the statute of limitations expire. Wealth and power should help there as well.

Update: As predicted, the “disciplining” of the cops was almost nothing: “Deputy police spokesman Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen said all the officers had been placed on probation on March 31, except for Pol Col Wiladon, who had to serve a three-day detention instead. The two other convicted policemen retired before the punishment order was issued at the end of March and the order was not retrospective, he said.” These cops are only serious about keeping the money flowing through their system.





The virus ate my elections

18 06 2020

School children who fail to submit a homework assignment sometimes come up with poorly fabricated excuses. This has resulted in the reference to one excuse, “the dog ate my homework.” As Wikipedia explains, the “claim of a dog eating one’s homework is inherently suspect since it is both impossible for a teacher to disprove and conveniently absolves the student who gives that excuse of any blame.” In colloquial use, it means that no one believes the childish excuse.

As the Bangkok Post reports, Deputy Prime Minister, the execrable Wissanu Krea-ngam has come up with a similar childish and dopey excuse for another delay in local elections.

He said the further delay was because the “budget earmarked to finance them [was] now shifted to fight the Covid-19 pandemic…”.

Wissanu and Gen Prayuth

Many people can’t even remember when the last local elections were held, but the regime certainly doesn’t want them anytime soon.

His excuse was for local administrative organizations, saying they “have no budget to pay for poll expenses now and it remains unclear if there is leftover money anywhere in the central fund which could be transferred to the organisations.”

A couple of days later, the normally supine Election Commission of Thailand suddenly developed some spine and declared it was ready for local elections and had budget. EC secretary-general Pol Col Jarungvith Phumma the agency was just waiting for the regime to allow elections to take place.

The junta worried that local elections may turn into a referendum on the junta/post-junta regime.

We can only agree with Puea Thai Party spokesman Anusorn Eiamsaard who lambasted the puppet Wissanu, saying that the regime has “tried to suspend political activity in the country for the past six years to make local governments weaker and boost the power of the Defence Ministry…”. (Maybe they have German hotel bills as well.)

Anusorn added: “This attempt to freeze the country will destroy its people…”. Wissanu’s lame and slimy excuse is just another example of the regime’s desperation to hold onto power, to repress and to silence the people.





It is still a military regime VII

10 06 2020

At the end of May, the military’s favorite legal manipulator and deputy prime minister, Wissanu Krea-ngam was given the task of confusing the public about the emergency decree. The regime was under pressure on the decree because there’s little virus in the country but the decree remains in place.

He babbled about the Communicable Diseases Control Act but also raised the notional “battle the second round of the outbreak” to slyly suggest that the decree may stay.

A few days later, he pressed on with setting the foundations for keeping the decree, saying: “It is possible to extend the imposition of the emergency decree. It is being considered.”

This was quickly followed-up by self-appointed Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha who “defended the use of the emergency decree to curb the spread of Covid-19…”.

While Gen Prayuth emphasized the virus, it is clear that he is more concerned to maintain political repression. Most protests, rallies and so on are being closed down by the military and police.

Rising opposition/rising military repression

Gen Prayuth dissembled about “the time is not right to lift the lockdown because the pandemic has not ended.”

But it was the military that soon corrected him, emphasizing that their focus is political rather than anything to do with health. According to the Bangkok Post, “Deputy army chief Gen Nathapol Nakpanit … said on Wednesday the committee planned to lift the 11pm-3am curfew for 15 days.”

But this is not about lifting the repression: the General stated: “”Without the curfew people can resume their normal lives, but the state of emergency will remain in place in case the government needs to take swift action to stop Covid-19 from spreading…”.

Mostly it will be used to keep the lid on rising political opposition. The military remains the boss (especially when the big boss remains a truant).





Updated: Liar challenged

27 05 2020

Now that Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Untruth and Buffalo Manure Thammanat Prompao has come out of self-isolation, he is being challenged by the opposition Move Forward Party.

It is staggering that a convicted heroin smuggler, a man who claims fake education qualifications and a serial liar can not just sit in the parliament but can be a minister. It is even more jaw-dropping that he’s a power broker in the regime’s Palang Pracharath Party and a minister.

Convicted heroin smuggler

(We acknowledge that politicians and their advisers the world over have contracted the lying virus at a rate far higher than the coronavirus but Thammanat’s lies began some time ago.)

Move Forward’s Natcha Boonchaiya-insawat “said the party’s MPs would submit a motion for the impeachment of … Thamanat to the House speaker on Wednesday afternoon.”

Natcha stated that “Section 98(10) of the constitution prohibited anyone found guilty of a narcotics trafficking offence from standing for election to parliament,” citing Thammanat’s heroin smuggling conviction in Australia.

Section 98 (10) of the junta’s constitution states:

(10) having been convicted by a final judgment of a court for committing wrongful conduct in official duties or justice affairs, or committing an offence under the law on the wrongful acts of officials in State organizations or State agencies, or an offence against property in bad faith according the Criminal Code, or an offence under the law on fraudulent acts related to loans of the people, or an offence of being producer, importer or exporter or trader under the narcotics law, an offence of being the owner or keeper of a gambling house under the law on gambling, or an offence of money laundering under the law on prevention and suppression of human trafficking or the law on prevention and suppression of money laundering;…

As Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has declared the heroin conviction a “small issue,” we could expect that the regime’s execrable Wissanu Krea-ngam will again claim that only Thai laws are covered by this section.

Update: In case readers are wondering why Thammanat is important to the regime, consider this report from The Nation:

The candidate for Pheu Thai … has dropped his plans to run in the Lampang by-election despite having a high… chance of beating Palang Pracharath Party.

Pheu Thai’s Phinit Chantharasurin was set to run in the by-election after his son Itthirat, who won … 42,984 votes in last year’s election, passed away. Palang Pracharath’s Wattana Sithiwang, who came in second with 30,368 votes last year, was set to be his No 1 opponent.

However, Phinit decided not to run because he said there was no benefit. He also seems to be leaning more towards Palang Pracharath Party, especially after Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao called on Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan to let Phinit apply for the post of chief executive of provincial administrative organisations.

In return, Phinit was asked to withdraw from the by-election and clear the path for Wattana to become a representative of Lampang.

Blatant, corrupt and devious. That’s why they love Thammanat.





Thai Airways, masks, poor policy

31 03 2020

This is a bit of an update post on things we’ve posted on recently.

Criticism of the regime’s virus blunders and policy failures and flip-flops continues, not least because as the virus takes hold, parts of the country are burning in an emergency that has been ongoing for months.

Meanwhile, one of the chief bunglers, Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsomgpong told a meeting of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration it needed “to achieve the 90% travel cut goal to flatten the curve of new infections.” That’s a bit rich from a man who deserves derision for his (in)actions. Essentially the regime is happy for the poor to be completely screwed. Apirat hates them because they can’t be trusted politically.

Don’t believe us on how tone deaf, arrogant and self-centered the military leadership is? Then consider a proposed military purchase:

General Chaichan Changmongkol, permanent secretary of Thailand’s Ministry of Defence, had prepared to propose the procurement of an amphibious assault ship, at an expected budget of more than 6.1 billion baht, at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday. But it appears that General Chaichan had already removed this proposal from the meeting’s agenda.

He only pulled it after huge criticism “from opposition parties and the public…”.

As airlines everywhere are collapsing and begging for bailouts while laying-off almost all their workers, according to “Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak … the government will not allow ailing flag-carrier Thai Airways International Plc (THAI) to collapse and dismissed rumours of impending lay-offs as a result of the coronavirus crisis.” We guess this is partly because the airline needs to continue to chauffeur the king and his major wife back and forth to Europe.

Finally, we hope that there’s a math mistake in a Bangkok Post report. However, as published, the horrid military posterior polisher and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has announced that the mask problem has been “solved.” How’s that? Masks are being made locally. Yes, we realize that everyone already knew this. But here’s the bit that caught our attention. On N95 masks, the report states that “400,000 of them have been procured from China in a government-to-government deal costing 1.5 billion baht …”. Our math suggests that this G-to-G deal is costing 3,750 baht per mask. Really? Is that possible? Is Thammanat Prompao organizing this?