Updated: Scurrilous scoundrels

15 10 2018

Two scoundrels appear in separate stories at Thai PBS. One is on The Dictator and the other is another anti-democrat, Suriyasai Katasila. We won’t waste much space on them except to point out their untruths.

We can begin with Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. As big boss at the military junta, he has banned “politicians” and political parties from using social media. So what’s the deal with The Dictator’s deputy secretary-general for political affairs announcing that The Dictator “and his aides would administer the [boss’s Facebook] page, IG [Instagram] and Twitter accounts as well as the website of the prime minister.” Everyone knows that The Dictator is campaigning and now he’s the only politician permitted to campaign in public and with social media. Double standards? Of course. Crooked? Of course. Rigging the election? Naturally.

Then there’s the yellow ideologue and pretend academic Suriyasai. His self-assigned role is to speak for “the people.” The problem is that the people ignore him and the things he says about them are nonsense. He said “people have more expectations on the next election than the previous ones because they want politics to help solve problems the country is facing.” He means yellow shirts. Sensible people know that the outcome of the elections, when held, will be more military domination (see above). He added that “people are fed up with politics and do not trust politicians…”. This is nonsense. The evidence of voter turnout is that the last two elections had turnouts at record rates of 80-88%. Of course, Suriyasai and his ilk prefer the military’s voice to voter voice and rigged elections to free and fair elections.

Both anti-democrats are scurrilous scoundrels.

Update: A reader chastises us for being too eager to criticize The Dictator. After all, that reader says, many other politicians have Facebook and other social media accounts. That’s true, but those politicians didn’t establish them all in one day in anticipation of winning an election (whenever it is decided it will be held) and after almost five years after seizing power in a military coup. Nor are they permitted to use these accounts for election campaigning. Indeed, some have been charged for doing this.





Don’t vote Thaksin

8 09 2018

The Dictator remains on the “election” campaign trail.

As has been his mantra, going back to at least 2011, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha told “200 people, including community leaders, who greeted him during his visit to Lop Buri” to vote for “good” people (like him and his thuggish military buddies).

He essentially rants against Puea Thai and the Shinawatra clan by urging people to vote for a different party: “If you vote the same way like in the past, you will get the same thing. There must be a change…”. He reckoned voting for his kind of politicians would “help make sure that the country would get a government with good governance after the next general election…”.

And, repeating the yellow shirt hymn, he warned against vote-buying. Of course, the electoral system his government has cobbled together is designed to encourage the vote buying that was seen in the 1980s and 1990s.

Gen Prayuth is saying these things while the junta and its related parties are buying up politicians with all manner of promises, so it is clear that he means only the little people he commands should behave themselves. He droned on: “Don’t let yourselves be bought. You have the right to vote for any person and any party you like. But if you vote for people who give you money, in the future they will try to get the money back. Nobody gives you free stuff. Don’t accept it. Promise me.”

Don’t forget that Prayuth is a political buddy with the notorious Newin Chidchob, one of the undisputed vote buying experts.

Interestingly, when he “asked local residents what help they wanted from his government, they replied they wanted rice subsidies.” Essentially they seemed to say “Bring back Yingluck!” The Dictator declined.

Equally interesting was his linking of elections to the monarchy and the reign as he “urged people not to stage street protests after the election.” He explained: “The election must lead to peace. Don’t stage protests again…. This reign must be the most peaceful.” We don’t recall this language before, but maybe we just missed it.

We are reminded of a vaguely apposite statement several years ago by Chang Noi: “When you try to qualify democracy by rigging the rules, when you obstruct the freedom of information with too many repressive laws, when you allow politics to be enveloped by fear, then the fog rolls in, the mirrors change perceptions as in an illusionist’s show, and darkness descends.”





Thailand’s new uniform

26 07 2018

Under the previous king the rule for dress became yellow. If you weren’t wearing yellow, doing anything public or with government officers became more difficult. Yellow became a sign of loyalty. That’s why the People’s Alliance for Democracy chose the king’s birth color – they were saying and displaying their royalism and their loyalty.

Even opponents wore yellow before they became red shirts.

Under the new king a new uniform has emerged. We mentioned this in a previous post. There it was associated with the cave rescue.

Reading the news regarding the dam tragedy in Laos, we noticed that Thailand was preparing and sending aid. Sure enough, the persons doing the preparation were in the same uniform. The people wearing the royal uniform are regularly described as “volunteers,” although officials get into their loyalty kits as well.

As far as we can recall, the initial push on a new uniform for the then crown prince was Bike for Mom in 2015. Then it was the queen’s color of sky blue, with touches of yellow.

From Khaosod

A couple of months later, it was Bike for Dad, and then the king’s yellow dominated, featuring blue.

If one looks at the standards for the king and when he was crown prince, the combination of these colors is seen. It now seems that Thailand’s displays of loyalty is to be regimented in this way going forward.

Of course, having “volunteers” doing good works dressed in the king’s colors gets him lots of credit, and that’s exactly what the palace propagandists intend.





TIME’s dictator of the year II

26 06 2018

Khaosod reports that the TIME edition featuring The Dictator will not be distributed or sold in Thailand.

As we stated earlier, we felt it was a story that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha will like because it promotes him as a strong leader, now and into the future.

Indeed, “a top government spokesman held up Prayuth’s Time interview as a sign the world was warming to the retired general as he embarked on a tour of European capitals.”

However, there seems to be elements of the story that seem to be a problem. Some in the regime seem to say that the description of The Dictator as a “little Sarit” somehow inappropriate. But that seems an unlikely reason for a ban on the magazine.

That the article says Prayuth was seen talking to a frog has not come up as something causing a ban.

Based on the fear expressed by the magazine’s local distributors, it seems that very brief comments on coronation and the monarchy may be the issue.

One is reported as stating:

We were informed by the distributor from abroad … that it may contain inappropriate content. Some text may need to be censored, meaning we’d have to cover some parts, so we decided it’s better not to sell it.

Exactly which content was considered inappropriate was not disclosed.

Another distributor dded no more information, stating, “Please excuse us for not clarifying.”

Khaosod states that the article “contains one sentence describing King Rama X in general terms. It cannot be reproduced here [in Khaosod] for fear of violating the draconian lese majeste law…”.

In the article, there are references to the monarchy:

The royal family is treated with almost divine reverence in Thailand [PPT: not by all]. Prayuth strengthened ties with the royal household and earned himself the nickname Little Sarit, after Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, who seized power through a putsch in 1957 and helped raise the monarchy to its paramount role in Thai society. Today every [PPT: not all] Thai household displays a portrait of the monarch as the highest picture in the room. And the country boasts some of the world’s strictest royal defamation laws, which are increasingly being used to crush dissent.

Many believe Prayuth’s coup was meant to ensure that Thailand’s elites remained in control during a sensitive time of royal succession. Thailand’s new King, Maha Vajiralongkorn, leads an unconventional lifestyle and does not command the same respect that his father did.

The latter statement has become a media mantra, so hardly seems controversial. Another paragraph includes this:

For more than a decade, Thailand has been wracked with color-coded street protests between the typically rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother Thaksin–who served as Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006–and their mainly urban opponents, backed by the powerful royal palace, military and judiciary. The pro-Yingluck faction wear red. Their opponents wear yellow.

Perhaps the claim of palace support to the yellow shirts is the issue? Whatever the particular statement on the monarchy that has created fear and a ban, it is clear that any commentary on the monarchy that is not laudatory is now more or less banned.





Hitting Puea Thai, using populism

20 06 2018

Report after report has recounted how the military dictatorship is hoovering up Puea Thai Party politicians for its own parties.

The most recent we saw told the story of former Thaksin Shinawatra-linked politicians working for the junta canvassing in the northeast trying to entice and bribe politicians to join up with the junta.

After a trip to Loei, Suriya Juangroongruangkit (same family as Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit) and Somsak Thepsutin are heading into Nakhon Ratchasima “to try to convince former Pheu Thai MPs to switch their allegiances to a party supporting [Gen]Prayut[h] Chan-o…cha to be an outside prime minister after an election.” The offers are to join the Palang Pracharath Party and are said to target “three members of the Rattanaseth clan: former [party] list-MP Wirat and two former constituency MPs, Tassineeya and Athirat.”

Suriya and Somsak “are publicly leading the campaign to woo Pheu Thai members into the new political camp.”

The other element of this pilfering of politicians is the junta’s continuing efforts to destroy the Shinawatra clan and the Puea Thai Party.

The Bangkok Post reports that former foreign minister Surapong Towijakchaikul “has been sentenced to two years in prison for issuing a passport for Thaksin Shinawatra.”

The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions “ruled him guilty of malfeasance under Section 157 of the Criminal Code and the 2000 anti-corruption law.”

Surapong has appealed, but the message is clear: support Thaksin and we will screw you. Malfeasance is highly debatable under the law but the court decided that he was guilty because Thaksin was subject to “an arrest warrant on national security charges.” We take it that this means lese majeste. That charge is trumped up. But the yellow shirts and junta prevail over law.

The claim that Surapong’s “actions allowed Thaksin to travel freely and live abroad and the Thai government could not ask a country to expel or extradite him on the charge of not having a passport” is complete nonsense given that Thaksin has other passports.

When the court states that Surapong had “weakened the judicial procedures and court sanctions” and argues that he “tarnished the reputation of the country,” we can only point to the 2014 military coup that was illegal and caused serious damage to Thailand’s reputation (and still does). Yet the courts have always accepted that coups are retrospectively legal because the criminals make them so.

That effort to “legally” target the Shinawatra clan and Puea Thai sees more Supreme Court action against Thaksin.

While the junta pilfers politicians from Puea Thai and uses the judiciary against recalcitrants, the junta continues to pilfer political tactics from that party.

When The Dictator orders the execution of a prisoner, he captures some of the notion of populist appeal.

Gen Prayuth declared that “most people thought it [state execution] should remain in place,” he was appealing to fear. When he says:

The death penalty is legitimate. Many cases of severe crime have happened. Capital punishment exists to guarantee national peace and teach lessons. It is a necessity for us and people want it….

The Dictator is targeting the same vein of fear that had Thaksin receiving support for the reprehensible War on Drugs.

Take from Thaksin and Puea Thai while crushing them has been on the top of the junta’s agenda from the time that it planned the coup.





Rigged elections better than no elections?

18 06 2018

Pravit Rojanaphruk at Khaosod had an op-ed a couple of days ago that causes us to consider again the question of rigged elections being better than no elections at all.

Pravit essentially sees the formation of  “the ultra-conservative, ultra-royalist and ultra-nationalist Action Coalition for Thailand … [as] a sign that something is on the right track.” For him, ACT is “promoting its ideology to potential members and voters, and this is not a bad thing.”

He adds that this “is a positive development because Thai politics needs to be more ideology-driven and less dependent on outsized personalities and the notion of supporting the ‘lesser of two evils’.”

Although Pravit acknowledges that ACT is in fact led by “a very outsized personality. Suthep Thaugsuban,” he reckons other “key members took to the floor to espouse the party’s core doctrines of holding the monarchy above everything, ultra-nationalist oaths and aspirations for broad reforms.”

Pravit doesn’t say it, but the People’s Democratic Reform Committee also had plenty of other speakers on its stage.

So Pravit’s argument is not going so well… But, he does have a point: “… it is absolutely preferable to have fellow citizens trying to convince others to support them at a ballot box by peddling their ideas instead of mobilizing people to paralyze the capital…“. He adds: “… shifting that conflict and ideological struggle into electoral politics is a welcome development.”

It is difficult to disagree that an electoral system is better than dictatorship (not a point Pravit explicitly makes) or that electoral competition is not a better way to solve political disagreements than having the military murder protesters or protesters beating each other up or using gangs of thugs to disrupt protests by other groups.

Yet the idea that elections will simply resolve deep-rooted conflicts is naive. After all, it was elections that resulted in yellow-shirted street mobilizations. The reason was because the royalists, supported by elites, tycoons, palace and military, would not accept election results. They eventually rejected the notion of one-person, one-vote and majoritarian-based representative government.

That’s why the current, junta-developed constitution, its electoral rules and its so-called independent agencies and mechanisms have been put in place. The idea is that only one result can be permitted and that will be the victory of anti-democrats in a rigged election.

If they should happen to stumble and not get their preferred “election” outcome, what is to stop them rising again?

In cheering for a rigged election, Pravit goes too far in implicitly accepting that rigging and the anti-democrat agenda as the junta has enforced it. His hope may be that the anti-democrats do stumble and that a government more representative of those groups repeatedly beaten down may triumph is one most democrats would share. But, in the end, for the military dictatorship, in the short to medium term it looks like heads we win, tails you lose.





On the EC and an “election”

6 06 2018

Don Pramudwinai works for the military junta. He’s the Minister of Foreign Affairs hired to give the military dictatorship a civilian face in its international dealings. He’s one of the few civilians in the junta’s cabinet.

He got his position because he has been important in converting the Ministry into a nest of anti-democrats clad in yellow. He’s also been defined by anti-democrats as one of the “good” people.

So it was something of a surprise when the Election Commission decided he may have breached rules in the junta’s 2017 Constitution

But, as reported by the Bangkok Post, the junta says this “good” minister “will not yet have to give up his post despite the ongoing controversy surrounding his wife’s shareholdings.” Not unless the Constitutional Court decides to stand him down.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has declared he’s not going to reshuffle his cabinet.

The irony of this case is that a so-called good person is caught in rules the junta’s puppets designed to limit elected politicians in any future civilian government as they schemed on how to destroy the Shinawatra clan.

Another complicating factor is that the complaint came from a Puea Thai Party member. This means that the case comes to be defined as good vs bad people in the eyes of the junta, anti-democrats and the minister himself.

This paradox causes a Bangkok Post editorial to find, as the junta has, in Don’s favor. The Post prefers not to wait for the Constitutional Court. That’s not a particularly smart approach for a newspaper that has supported rule of law and the justice system.

Haughtily, Don has decided he’s done nothing wrong either and seems miffed that he should be accused by people he hates.

This amounts to little more than another sideshow in the political poking of the junta. In addition, it helps the junta by taking attention away from bigger issues: Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s luxury watches (nothing heard from the National Anti-Corruption Commission on that), election rigging, the extra-judicial murder of Chaiyapoom Pasae, and so on.

Meanwhile, the “election” issue drags on.

The EC says it will “ask” the junta “to lift the ban on political activities if Tuesday’s meeting of the Constitutional Court backs an NCPO order on the political parties law.” It has done that so as everyone knows, there is no junta-imposed legal barrier to lifting its ban.

As an aside, it would have been unheard of for the Constitutional Court to decide against the junta. It could decide against Don, but that’s unlikely. Even if it did, he’s a civilian, so expendable for the military dictatorship.

Lifting the ban won’t change a huge amount the activities of the junta and its minions. It will still spy on and seek to disrupt the political parties it defines as enemies. It will continue to use the massive resources of the state and the military to campaign for a junta-preferred outcome to the rigged election.