“Law” and repression I

8 10 2019

The current discussion of a biased and politicized judiciary should not be separated from the use of “law” for political repression. In fact, the military junta of 2014-19, under the direction of the evil, rightist lawyer-for-military-hire Wissanu Krea-ngam and the military’s ideologues, worked harder on establishing rule by law – quite different from rule by law – than most previous rightists regimes. The military junta recognized that its laws could be used for ongoing political repression once the regime it self transmogrified into a corrupt civilian front organization now sometimes erroneously referred to as an elected government.

Rule by law has been an increasingly favored means of political repression adopted by rightist regimes worldwide and is also infecting electoral democracies as well.

Human rights lawyer Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen recently observed that “the authorities’ main method of suppression has evolved into the use of laws and state orders to enable them to cling on to power.”

In essence, the law is used to repress the regime’s opponents, whether they be journalists who step outside the bounds of self-censorship, elected opposition politicians or democracy activists.

Anurak. Clipped from TAHR

Recent cases involve a Belgian freelance journalist Kris Janssens,taken into police custody “for inquiries because our intel suggested that he might have been a threat to national security…”. In fact, he was detained because he planned to interview an anti-government activist Anurak Jeantawanich. He was warned not to and advised to leave Thailand. The Immigration Police claimed this was “normal procedure” and cited immigration law. But they could not specify how the journalist was a threat to this vague but useful notion of national security.

A second example of the authorities using the law to repress opponents is the case of the 12 speakers – academics and opposition politicians – at a public discussion of constitutional reform who have all been slapped with sedition complaints by the shadowy Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).

Behind a “national security” law, ISOC lies that “it is persecuting opposition political parties in laying a sedition complaint over their public forum in the far South…”. Unbelievably, “Isoc spokesman Maj Gen Thanathip Sawangsaeng said … no one ordered that legal action be taken.” We do know the action was taken, so this being the military, someone ordered it. We also know that the nasty watchman Gen Prawit Wongsuwan approved the action.

Maj Gen Thanathip continued his charade by insisting “Isoc was not abusing its power to persecute the opposition parties.” In a warped sense, he’s probably right on this because the military junta allocated ISOC powers to repress its opponents before it metastasized.

He then babbled in a manner that explains how authoritarian regimes use the law for repression: “Isoc does not see the people as an enemy, but it does abide by the law. Words spoken at the constitution amendment forum in Pattani caused concerns…”. He doesn’t say for who. Obviously the person who did not order the legal action.

Obviously and unreservedly, the military and other authorities supporting the present regime are using the law for repression. We can expect much more of this abuse of the law. Meanwhile, thugs, forgers, liars and criminals serve as ministers.





With two updates: Junta politics of influence, dark influence and murder

25 09 2019

A quick look at the English-language newspapers over the last day or so suggests that there’s more than a little poor journalism going on.

One was the report that “the Charoen Pokphand Group (CP)-led consortium, winner of the bid to build the 224-billion-baht high-speed railway linking three airports, will be told to sign the contract on Oct 15 or face a fine for failing to honour the terms of the bid.” That “ultimatum was decided upon … at a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who oversees the Transport Ministry, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, senior transport officials and the chief of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Office.”

PPT has no brief for the Sino-Thai tycoons at CP, but we would have thought that someone at the Bangkok Post might have recalled that Anutin’s family are the major shareholders in CP competitor Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction. Perhaps it might have also been useful to note that the Chidchob family, Anutin and his father have been political bedmates for over a decade.

While on Sino-Thai tycoons, the Post reported that Viroj and Samrerng Suknamai, the parents of “former beauty queen and actress Nusara Suknamai,” have “filed a lawsuit with the civil court on Monday, demanding 300 million baht in compensation plus a 7.5% interest from the manager of Vichai’s estate and the King Power Duty Free company, which is owned by the tycoon’s family.” Nusara “died on Oct 27 in a helicopter crash outside the King Power Stadium in Leicester…”. When all of the eulogies were for Vichai, at the time of the accident, BBC Sport Editor Dan Roan was in a spot of bother after being caught “talking about Vichai[‘s]… personal assistant Nusara Suknamai.” He correctly identified her “the mistress who died in the crash, otherwise known as member of staff, i.e. mistress… [of the so-called] family man [Vichai]…”. The report does indicate that the fabulously wealthy King Power lot have been pretty tight-fisted in dealing with the “other woman.”

The ruling class’s military-backed regime is anything but tight-fisted when it comes to buying support. Puea Thai Party chief strategist Sudarat Keyuraphan claims to have “an audio clip that would show that Phalang Pracharat had tried to lure …[14] Pheu Thai MPs by offering to pay them certain benefits.” Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan denied this. But no one should believe Gen Prawit. He’s got form on this, having bought up former pro-Thaksin MPs all over the country before the election. That included heroin trafficker and standover man Thammanat Prompao. Now, Gen Prawit needs “to prop up the government’s slim majority.” This wheeling and dealing is expensive and leads to all kinds of policies that are designed simply to raise money for political shenanigans. The media should be more active in pointing out that it is the military junta’s constitution that (re)created the capacity for such political corruption.

While considering the military junta’s corruption, look to the report that the “Parliament’s Anti-Corruption Committee is gathering evidence in a fact-finding probe against Public Relations Department chief Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd over accusations that he verbally and in writing ordered his subordinates to spread information allegedly helping the Palang Pracharat Party ahead of the March 24 national elections and attacking a former prime minister and his party.” Remarkably, the junta government’s former spokesman thinks that like a heroin smuggler, he can simply deny: “Sansern argued that he had never taken sides…”. Back when the junta moved Lt Gen Sansern to his position, the Bangkok Post observed that Sansern was in place to “control all government-run media and enforce censorship rules in the lead-up to the expected 2019 election.” While denying everything, Sansern ran back to the boss: “Sansern said he had briefed Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha about the case.” Of course he has.

And speaking of corruption, the National Anti-Corruption Commission is ever so careful when dealing with its masters the government. A report at The Nation advises that Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives from Anutin’s Bhum Jai Thai Party, Mananya Thaiset – yes, in there with Thammanat – “has not yet submitted her declaration of assets and debts to the anti-graft body within the required time frame…”. While the law requires all to declare their assets, NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon “said officials … would gather information regarding the matter and consider issuing a letter to Mananya requiring her to provide her reason for failing to file.” It gets worse as the NACC tiptoes around its masters: “If the NACC decided Mananya was required to submit the declaration, the NACC secretariat will issue a letter to notify her accordingly…”.

Back when the political dealing was in full swing, the Bangkok Post had a source who observed the obvious: “Because it receives a big budget, the ministry [of agriculture] can be used as a political tool…”. Money can be made, voters influenced and parties supported.And, as we know from the Thammanat case, “influential persons” get these positions because they are the party wheeler-dealers. And, Mananya is from a family of chao phor and chao mae. Not that long ago, her brother, Chada Thaiset, also a Bhum Jai Thai MP for Uthai Thani declared “I am an influential person.” Back in 2015 it was reported that. like Thammanat, Chada was considered a “dark influence”:

Crime suppression Division (CSD) police officers and commandos yesterday raided 11 locations belonging to alleged influential figures in Uthai Thani’s Muang and Sawang Arom districts.

Most of the targeted premises were those of former or local politicians. They included the house of former Chart Thai Pattana Party MP Chada Thaiset and a resort building under the care of Chada’s nephew.

The 200-strong “Yutthakan Sakaekrang” operation … seized 20 guns, four bullet-proof vests, two tiger skins, two pairs of wildlife horns and a clouded leopard carcass.

… the operation was part of the Royal Thai Police’s policy to suppress crime, crack down on influential figures and hired guns.

Then in 2017, it was reported that:

A former MP and four members of his entourage were released on bail on Sunday after being detained overnight for carrying firearms in public without permission.

Chada Thaiseth, a former Uthai Thani MP, reportedly has been on an official list of mafia-style figures.

More than 100 policemen, both in uniform and plainclothes, intercepted his convoy on a road in Uthai Thani province on Saturday afternoon.

Chada’s group was driving as many as eight vehicles and a search found several guns and illicit drugs in the cars.

A pattern? You bet.

Turning to the other side of politics, Khaosod reports that Nawat Tohcharoensuk, a Puea Thai politician was found guilty of “engineering the murder of a civil servant” and was “sentenced to death on Tuesday … [but] will continue serving as an MP for the opposition, his party said.” He’s appealing the verdict, so the case is not over, but even so, it might be considered prudent for him to step down. But with gangsters in the government, the opposition has them too. And a bit of reading suggests the modus operandi of a dark influence:

Prosecutors said Nawat hired two police officers to gun down Suchart Khotethum, an administrative official in Khon Kaen, in front of his home in 2013. Investigators cited romance-related vendetta as the motive.

And, just to finish off with state violence of the military kind, we see the remarkable report that “four red-shirt co-leaders on Monday … confessed to their roles in the violent protest outside the home of the late Privy Council president, Prem Tinsulanonda, in 2007.” Perhaps they confessed to get the case settled? Perhaps a deal has been done? We can’t help but wonder because Nattawut Saikua said:

he and fellow red-shirt co-leaders offered their apologies because the protest outside Gen Prem’s residence caused injuries among both protesters and police officers on duty.

“We are sorry for what happened,” he said, before insisting the red-shirt co-leaders harboured no grudge with the late Gen Prem.

No grudge? Why’s that? He was one of those who perpetrated the 2006 coup and egged the military on in 2014. He supported crackdowns on red shirts that resulted in deaths and injuries to thousands. He dis this for the military-monarchy alliance that underpins the ruling class. With all the royalist buffalo manure that surrounds this creepy general, there’s no criticism allowed. No one has asked about his unusual wealth, revealed when he finally died.

What a week it has been for a political system designed by the military junta.

Update 1: Legal eel and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam declared Nawat’s “tenure as an MP was now voided, even though the appeal process was not finalised…”. He said the “constitution stated clearly that MPs lost their status when convicted of a criminal offence.” While we think Nawat should step down and while Wissanu picks and chooses which aspects of the constitution he adheres to, we are not so sure he’s right on this. All sections in the constitution relating to convictions refer to final judgements. Indeed, Article 29 offers a general protection to those in the legal process, stating:

A suspect or defendant in a criminal case shall be presumed innocent, and before the passing of a final judgment convicting a person of having committed an offence, such person shall not be treated as a convict.

Despite this, and the fact that “appeal is automatic in the case of a death sentence,” the House Secretariat is advising a ruling from the Constitutional Court. Of course, the judgement of that Court will probably follow Wissanu.

Meanwhile, in another case of twisted ethics (see those above), the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party is “likely to field Krungsrivilai Suthinpuak in a potential by-election despite the Election Commission (EC) having issued him with a yellow-card for attempted vote-buying.”

The junta’s 5 years seems to have yielded an administration of goons and crooks.

Update 2: Being ever so gentle and flexible with junta party allies, the NACC has decided that Deputy Minister Mananya Thaiset “must declare her assets and liabilities despite her insistence she is under no obligation to do so.” But she’s forgiven for “interpreting” the law incorrectly and can take longer to get her assets list in order before submitting it. Can anyone imagine such leniency for the other side of politics? Of course not. The Post believes Mananya is known “for spearheading a mission to ban toxic farm chemicals.” We think they are gilding it. She’s best known for being from a family of dark influences.

Chada Thaiseth’s convoy stopped by more than uniformed and plainclothes police on a road in Uthai Thani province in 2017. Clipped from The Nation.





Updated: Constitutional Court’s “logic”

22 09 2019

Wasant Techawongtham is a former news editor of the Bangkok Post. He writes:

I’m no legal expert, so I may not fully comprehend the legalese language of many court rulings, some of which just go right over my head, not because of the language itself but the logic within them.

While the Court has threatened those who question its decisions, Wasant states:

The two latest rulings by the Constitutional Court have just left me scratching my head with bewilderment and frustration. In this, I’m not alone. Many legal experts have had to scamper to their law textbooks to make sure they have not missed some important principles.

He writes of the Court’s 11 September determination that “it has no authority to rule on the question of whether Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has violated the constitution” on his unconstitutional oath.

Despite a clear and precise statement of the content of the oath in the Constitution, the Court said that the oath was a matter between the king and executive.

Wasant points out the constitutional fallacy of this “decision”:

As I understand it, we have three pillars of democracy — the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. Each provides checks and balances against the others, and each has the duty to respect and protect the country’s constitution.

The fact that Gen Prayut failed to utter a complete oath is no longer in dispute. Such an act is a violation of Section 161 of the constitution which requires that a minister “must” make a solemn declaration as specifically stated before the King.

As everyone in neo-feudal Thailand must, Wasant protects his posterior by trying to “explain” that the king could not possibly have been involved in Gen Prayuth’s unconstitutional oath: “The King cannot be held responsible or complicit in this act.”

He concludes: “I can see no reason why the Constitutional Court could not rule on the matter.” Anyone who is fair and reasonable can only comprehend this ruling as yet another politicized decision by the Court.

Wasant then turns to the other recent ruling by the Constitutional Court on Gen Prayuth’s status as a state official and thus ineligible for the prime ministership. He describes the Court’s rejection of this petition as a “victory for the beleaguered general-turned-politician.” He adds: “it is also one of the most fuzzy and confusing rulings that is extremely difficult for laymen to understand.”

He quotes Political scientist Prajak Kongkirati who asked the right questions:

… [Gen Prayut] uses state power but he is not accountable to the state? He was not appointed by any law but issued and enforced laws concerning all public and private entities as well as the people? He was not legally a state official but received a salary from the public purse? He held on to power temporarily but stayed on for more than five years, longer than any elected government in Thai political history?

Wasant adds a question: “[Gen Prayuth] … wore official [state] uniforms to attend official [state] functions but was not a … [state] official?”

He concludes that:

Bolstered by the two court decisions, Gen Prayut must have felt he could do no wrong. On the day of the House debate, he walked away from the meeting without answering the central question: How would he take responsibility for the constitutional blunder he created after he had said publicly he would solely bear the responsibility?

Thailand is left with Gen Prayuth as The Dictator and prime minister following a coup, political repression, unbridled power as head of a junta, a rigged election and and rules thanks to politicized court decisions.

For several years the Constitutional Court has delivered politicized decisions based on clear double standards. Its attention now turns to the Future Forward Party. We would be hugely surprised if the Court doesn’t consign the party’s leader and the party itself to its dustbin of dissolved political parties. Of course, these dissolved parties are all pro-Thaksin Shinawatra or anti-junta.

Update: While mentioning op-eds at the Bangkok Post, Veera Prateepchaikul is unhappy with “the prime minister [who] did not himself clarify why he omitted to recite an important part of the oath as stipulated in the constitution…”. He handed over to deep swamp slime mining creature Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam to concoct something that sounded legal. As Veera sees it – and most everyone else –

In his clarification … Wissanu was as slippery as an eel as he beat about the bush before referring to the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the swearing-in ceremony was an affair between the government and … the King. In short, he offered no clarification as to whether the omission of the final part of the oath by the prime minister was intentional or unintentional.

And, of course, said nothing about who might have ordered Gen Prayuth to omit reference to the constitution. Veera says Gen Prayuth’s “attitude can only be seen as a lack of acceptance of the opposition’s role as a check-and-balance mechanism of the executive branch, if not his contempt for it.” While that contempt is well-known, the whole story of the unconstitutional oath is also suggestive of the king’s contempt for parliament and the constitution.

Sadly, Veera then gets into some obscurantist royalism:

It is a straightforward and non-complicated issue that could be fixed with an honest explanation, which any good leader should offer. It is not a sensitive issue as claimed by Mr Wissanu because it is separate from the swearing-in ceremony.

Clearly, it isn’t. If this unconstitutional oath was an error, then it would have been easily fixed. Because it hasn’t been fixed and because those involved won’t say anything, the finger is pointing at the king.





With three updates: Thammanat and Wissanu go deep in the swamp

14 09 2019

How low can Thailand’s current political crop go? Just how far are they prepared to sink into the squalid depths of lies, deceit and the ludicrous? It seems, like phraratchathanwearing hard-hat divers, they will go to the bottom, and perhaps even excavate a bit deeper than the muddy bottom of the political swamp.

The Bangkok Post reports Deputy Minister Thammanat Prompao, “known as the coordinator of the coalition government, has vowed to file around 100 lawsuits against those who he believes have lied about his past.” He’s no coordinator. He’s an enforcer and bagman for the “post”-junta regime and its Palang Pracharath Party. And we are sure that he does not “believe” that others have lied about his past. He is the one doing the lying about his past.

But, never mind, the junta’s political swamp is opaque, filthy and deep, and Thammanat is at the bottom already, so more lies won’t make much of a difference to the depth of his political chicanery.

Where he might usually send out thugs to intimidate critics – and that’s still on the cards in this marked deck – he’s taking a leaf out of the junta’s handbook of political deception and using the (in)justice system. And why not? It worked for them and it worked from him in the past on murder charges no less. It was only Last year that Thammanat was helping alleged fraudsters – where did all that Bitcoin loot go? And it was only a couple of years ago when Thammanat appeared on a junta “blacklist” of “influential criminal figures” drawn up for Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. Now he’s a minister in a government that Prawit helped engineer. Prawit now defends him!

Well maybe he’ll take the legal route. Much like Gen Prawit’s massive luxury watch collection “borrowed” from a (dead) friend, Thammanat might just be hoping that the whole heroin trafficking/fake PhD stuff might just go away. We seriously doubt that even this loud-mouth will take on 100 people in the courts.

On the PhD issue, Thammanat has again been supported by Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is getting deeper into the corruption slime by the day. Wissanu declared that “even if his degree was fake, Capt Thammanat could still be a minister because the constitution requires an MP to have only a bachelor’s degree at a minimum, which he already obtained from the army school.” Wissanu must know that Thammanat’s slime sticks and stinks. He seems prepared to accept anything: deception, lies, heroin trafficking, murder charges (okay, Thammanat got off that one, but an aide didn’t), fake credentials and probably a lot more.

Update 1: Thammanat seems to have finally decided on a political line that he will take in “fighting back” against those revealing his dark past. His line now is “that the series of accusations levelled against him by the opposition and on Thai social media were aimed at toppling the government.” He babbled:

“I’m not the target. As I have told reporters many times before, I am a key player in the formation of the present government because I was the one who handled the gathering of the required votes to back General Prayut Chan-o-cha to be the prime minister.”

He said those who were behind this multiple-pronged attack on him know that these controversies would shake the government and it would lose stability. “Their ultimate goal is to overthrow the government, General Prayut and General Prawit Wongsuwan.”

Like everything else Thammanat has done, he’s being deceitful. He is the target. But what he’s trying to shift the politics to a pro-/anti-junta debate. He wants all the yellow mob to rally to him and the government he claims credit for. He’s saying that drug trafficking, murder charges, lottery mafia accusations, fake qualifications and strange Bitcoin fraud connections are all best forgotten in “saving” the regime. Can this work? Probably. Many on the yellow side of politics has been captured by conspiracy theories.

Update 2: Like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Wissanu has struggled to the surface, covered in slime, to mumble about Thammanat. He said something hypothetical about the convicted drug smuggler “could be removed from the cabinet if it is found that he has an ‘ethics’ problem…”.

Wissanu is speaking of a person who still claims to have never confessed, convicted or to have been jailed for several years. Given the court documents produced, Thammanat is showing himself as unable or incapable of recognizing or telling the truth.

Remember when both Gen Prayuth and Wissanu claimed that all cabinet members had been scrutinized? Now Wissanu has “admitted that Capt Thamanat’s educational background had not been examined prior to his appointment as a cabinet minister, noting the process could have delayed the formation of the government.”

We guess that his criminal past wasn’t examined either because it was exactly that background that the nascent regime needed in order to form its government.

Thammanat himself has gone in for more “explanation.” He says all of his “wrongdoings had already been exonerated by the 2007 [some reports have it as 2005] Impunity Act, making him eligible to be a cabinet minister.” Not bad. It is a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card issued to mafia figures.

Update 3: The story just gets better and better. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

The embattled Thai cabinet minister who lied about serving four years in a Sydney jail on a drugs charge has changed his story again, admitting for the first time that he was sentenced in Australia.

After spending the weekend in a “war room” to combat a growing series of scandals, the legal team of Thai government enforcer Thammanat Prompao issued a statement insisting he was fully qualified to be an MP and cabinet minister….

Thammanat’s statement cited two Thai royal pardons among other evidence that his legal team claimed meant there was no impediment to serving as either an MP or cabinet minister.

Getting his name – he’s apparently had at least four – is tough, but getting a crooked story straight is even more challenging. So much so that Thammanat is now holed up in a hospital.





With a major update: Open-mouthed disbelief III

8 09 2019

Readers may recall the brief reporting of crook or “controversial” figure Capt Thammanat Prompao, a Palang Pracharat MP for Phayao who became Deputy Minister for Agriculture in the military-backed government a few weeks ago. There was controversy when his seedy past was reported as including being stripped of his military rank for alleged involvement in a murder case in 1998, of which he was acquitted. He was also reported to have “previously convicted of a crime in a foreign country.”

This led to reports of a heroin bust in Australia, Thammanat being jailed and deported. Thammanat came up with a ridiculously unbelievable account of his “innocence.” Oddly, the story then seemed to disappear as the crook was both a minister and a fixer for the military’s Palang Pracharath.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Interestingly, the Sydney Morning the Herald and The Age:

reveal that a newly appointed senior member of Thailand’s ruling party spent four years in a Sydney jail in the 1990s for his role in trafficking 3.2 kilograms of heroin into Australia. He was deported on his release from Parklea prison.

Thammanat Prompao, a key ally of top generals and an enforcer in the coalition cabinet, was a young soldier known as Manat Bophlom when he pleaded guilty in the NSW District Court to conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of heroin with a street value of up to $4.1 million.

Recall that he told the Thai press: ““I didn’t import, produce or deal heroin…”. He added:

“I lived a normal life in Australia, in Sydney, for a full four years. You can ask the court in Sydney whether what I’m saying is true or not.”

Well, “normal” for a convicted criminal in an Australian jail.

According to the report, court records show that the then:

… Second Lieutenant Manat, as he was then known, was a central figure in the drug trafficking operation.

The court file reveals Manat [Thammanat] met key Thai underworld figures and his Australian co-accused in Bangkok before the deal, was involved in arranging the visa and buying Qantas tickets for the female drug courier, was recorded saying he was present when she packed the drugs into her luggage, and later helped transport that bag across town to the buyers in Bondi.

He met with known Australian criminals.

Interestingly, while in Parramatta jail awaiting sentencing, Thammanat:

told police he had worked as a bodyguard for the then crown prince of Thailand [now King Vajiralongkorn], had been an army spy under the identity “Yuthaphum Bophlom”, and ran a side business while serving as an assistant to a top general. In exchange for leniency in his sentence, he also gave up details about Thai drug operations, saying former soldiers named Wera, Manop and Pisarn were intimately involved….

The whole operation was under surveillance by the Australian Federal Police and included recordings of Thammanat and his accomplices.

Thammanat was sentenced to six years in jail with a non-parole period of four years. He served that sentence and was immediately deported.

Showing exactly how Thailand’s underworld works, Thammanat “… produced character references from a judge and a police lieutenant-colonel who each said he ‘always has good behaviours [sic], honesty and is reliable’.”

Thammanat appealed his sentence, which was rejected:

The Court of Criminal Appeal rejected it unanimously, noting the evidence “casts considerable light upon the role of the applicants in relation to the importation [of heroin], and upon their relationship with what might be described as the head supplier in Thailand.

As soon as the deported Thammanat was back in Thailand, he was back in the Royal Thai Army. Despite the murder charge in 1998, he did well. Now a minister, the report adds:

His assets and family have grown, too; a parliamentary declaration of assets in August named two wives and seven children, wealth of about $42 million, a fleet of cars including a Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Tesla and Mercedes along with 12 Hermes and 13 Chanel handbags, luxury watches and Buddhist amulets.

There’s a related report here.

Will this have any impact in Thailand and on a shaky military-backed, junta-concocted government? It is certainly another test of that regime. Convicted drug dealing ministers may be momentarily embarrassing, but the regime is, as we’ve said before, led by a mafia party.

We can’t wait for the impact of this story. Lies will certainly follow.

Update: The Thai media seemed a little slow getting to this story, but is all over it now. One reason for the reluctance probably had to do with the line in the report that stated that Thammanat “told police [in Australia] he had worked as a bodyguard for the then crown prince of Thailand [now King Vajiralongkorn]…”. Some reporters seem to feel that this may be a factual statement but Thai reports are reluctant to mention this. This is where the lese majeste law protects alleged criminal behavior.

It is the South China Morning Post that emphasizes the claimed link to the king.

Khaosod reports that Thammanat “said he has no response to the claim, which was made in detail by the Australian newspapers…”. He stated: “I’ve read the news, but I’d like to refrain from giving any explanation today…. And I won’t give a response, because they don’t understand the system [sic].” We are not entirely sure what he means. Perhaps how the criminal system works? Or perhaps how Thailand’s hierarchical, military-monarchy feudalism allows the well-connected to behave in a criminal manner. Illustrating these two “systems,” he Palang Pracharat fixer and enforcer made these comments as he accompanied prime minister Gen Prayudh Chan-ocha on official business.

The Bangkok Post reports that the Australian newspapers directly challenge Thammanat’s July “explanations.” At the time, PPT referred to his fabrications as “the best-ever self-incriminating interview in recent memory.” The Australian newspapers show Thammanat’s “explanation” was a concoction that was nothing less than a pack of lies. Remember that, at that time, Thammanat falsely declared: “I did not import, produce or deal heroin…”.

The Post also points out that Thammanat’s Thai accomplice in Australi, jailed with him, is his half-brother.

The Post’s account of Thammanat’s most recent response is that he stated that the reports were “yet another attempt by the same group of people who tried to discredit him.” He stated: “Don’t give it any credit. They keep repeating the same story. I can’t be bothered…”. And, revealingly, he added that: “no senior cabinet minister had asked him about this since they knew it was old news and the works of his political opponents.”

That is damning of the regime. Yet the regime has been, at best, hopelessly negligent and at worst, politically implicated in yet again granting impunity to a criminal.

Indeed, Wissanu Krea-ngam – who now looks like a cross between Carl Schmitt and a Reich Minister of Justice – publicly proclaimed that Thammanat “eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary.” Only Thai law counts. This seems to mean that even a person convicted of mass murder overseas could become Thailand’s minister of justice or even prime minister.

Clearly, this military-backed and monarch-backed regime has no shame. Less shame, it seems, than the 1991 coup group that backed down on someone accused of links with drug dealing.





King’s oath a secret

31 08 2019

PPT has three times posted on Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha being scripted to make a constitutionally-required oath that left out a sentence from the oath as set out in the constitution. The bit left out was: “I will also uphold and observe the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand in every respect.”

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

As we noted in one of our posts, no one has been prepared to say why the oath was changed. The Bangkok Post is misleading its readers when it persistently refers to a “blunder.” It is clear that the oath was not a mistake but a statement Gen Prayuth was directed to make, probably by palace officials.

The evidence for this comes from Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam wanted to avoid talking about the oath. When pressed,  Wissanu remonstrated, “One day you’ll know why we shouldn’t talk about it…”. A reporter pressed him, saying he should explain for “knowledge’s sake”, Mr Wissanu said: “This is not ‘knowledge’ but something no one should stick his nose into.”

When the issue of the incomplete oath was first raised, Gen Prayuth “insisted … the oath was in compliance with the charter and, most importantly, in line with … the King’s advice that the government stay committed to serving the country and the people.”

Confirming all of this, Wissanu now affirms that:

… parliamentary debate on cabinet’s failure to recite the complete oath during its swearing-in could be held behind closed doors if the content is considered inappropriate to be made public….

The parliament only ever goes into secret session when dealing with anything related to the monarchy. Under a constitutional monarchy, it is not clear why the public should not know about the machinations of monarchy when it involves itself in politics and constitutional issues.





Updated: On that oath

15 08 2019

The oath taken by the military-backed government’s new ministers – many recycled from the military junta’s government – goes on.

The oath is sworn before the king, and as everyone knows, the junta’s own constitution states:

Section 161. Before taking office, a Minister must make a solemn declaration before the King in the following words: “I, (name of the declarer), do solemnly declare that I will be loyal to the King and will faithfully perform my duties in the interests of the country and of the people. I will also uphold and observe the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand in every respect.”

When this regime’s ministers were sworn in, the last sentence was omitted.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

No one is prepared to say why. Normally talkative ministers like Wissanu Krea-ngam have avoided talking about it. Opposition politicians and serial complainers have rightly stated that this is a serious breach of the constitution. Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has mumbled that this omission was “unintentional.” He refuses to resign and says that he will wait to see what the Ombudsman says about not declaring an intention to uphold the constitution.

Puea Thai Party MP Cholnan Srikaew told the Bangkok Post: “We don’t think it was a case of carelessness. Rather, it may have been [the prime minister’s] intention to evade significant phrases in the oath…”.

Based on the silence, evasion and embarrassment, we think that Gen Prayuth may have been told what he was to say at the palace. When the oath was first raised, Gen Prayuth “insisted … the oath was in compliance with the charter and, most importantly, in line with … the King’s advice that the government stay committed to serving the country and the people.” Add to this Wissanu’s first remonstrance, we think it is a pretty fair guess that the PM and ministers followed royal command:

Wissanu on Thursday said he would rather not answer the questions when asked by reporters whether the incomplete oath would affect the cabinet or whether the prime minister must seek a royal pardon. “One day you’ll know why we shouldn’t talk about it,” he said.

When a reporter asked him to explain for “knowledge’s sake”, Mr Wissanu said: “This is not ‘knowledge’ but something no one should stick his nose into.”

This means the agitation on the oath is not just a political issue but an issue regarding taking a stance regarding the further rolling back of Thailand’s political history and 80+ years of practice.

Update: The Bangkok Post, now calling the oath neo-feudal edit a “slip,” reports that “Chief Ombudsman Wittawat Ratchatanan said a review of the petition will take about two weeks and that the Ombudsman’s office will rule on the legitimacy of the oath on Aug 27.” Recent cases handled by this office have involved coffee shops, prices at airport restaurants and airport luggage. Ombudsman Wittawat is an Army General and Royal Guard with no experience outside the Army until he became Ombudsman in 2012. He has served with all of the former junta members and the last time he was asked about investigating anything to do with Gen Prayuth, he ran a mile. So there is no reason to think that this general will find against another general who is his boss, no matter how clear the constitution. (It would be good to be proven wrong on this assessment.)