Remember the “ban” on populism?

15 08 2018

Long-term readers may recall our posts from the year following the 2014 military coup, where the junta and its puppet agencies all but declared “evil populism” illegal.

As the junta struggled with the sluggish economy, the serial failure economic minister Pridiyathorn Devakula tried a little economic stimulus, but declared it “not populism.” He made the important royalist distinction: “This is not populism, because I am not doing it for votes…”. I only want to stimulate the economy…. If we don’t stimulate it this way, what are we supposed to do?” Pridiyathorn essentially “explained” that he couldn’t be a populist because he was appointed by a military dictatorship. For him, a populist can only be elected evil politician.

When Pridiyathorn was dumped and replaced by former Thaksin Shinawatra minister Somkid Jatusripitak, royalists fretted that populism was being reborn under the junta.

As the military dictatorship worked to excise support for Thaksin and became determined to stay on for years and years, populist economic policies multiplied.

In all of this, though, in a report in the Bangkok Post it is was revealed that the junta decided to ban populism whenever there is an elected regime put in place: “The cabinet … approved a draft monetary and fiscal bill which includes controls on spending for populist policies. The move is aimed at preventing future fiscal problems and enhancing transparency in the state fiscal budget.”

As the junta has worked increasingly assiduously to uproot Thaksinism and embed The Dictator and military-backed regimes into the future, so-called populist policies have become the norm.

The Bangkok Post reports that “populist spending is nearing the cap of 30% of the annual budget…”.

What is called “pork-barrel spending” has reached “29.6% of the 2018 annual budget after the cabinet approved debt repayment extension and lower lending rates for small-scale farmers and a price stability scheme for the 2018-19 rice harvest…”.

That’s about 870 billion baht “to finance populist policies through specialised financial institutions or quasi-fiscal activities.”

If we understand the report, that 870  billion is from 900 billion baht budgeted for fiscal 2019…”.

As the Post points out, that one year’s spending is almost double the alleged “losses” by the Yingluck Shinawatra government on rice pledging.





Democrat Party lying to itself

31 07 2018

Bringing down Yingluck

The Democrat Party has been kidding about itself and to the public for years about its political history. The latest in this long line of myth makers is deputy spokesman Churith Laksanavisit, who has been in a social media contest with red shirt/Puea Thai’s Nattawut Saikua.

Thai PBS reports that Nattawut made the obvious point that the Democrat Party “was involved in the overthrow of Thai Rak Thai-led Thaksin government and the Pheu Thai-led government of Ms Yingluck Shinawatra by the military.”

The good old days at the Army Club

A pretty basic point you’d think. But for some reason “Churith insisted that the Democrat [P]arty had never supported or conspired with any group of people to seize power from a legitimate government…”. He added: “the party is definitely not a democratic turncoat that supports power seizure…”.

Where to begin? There’s just so much evidence of the Democrat Party’s efforts to bring down legitimate governments that it hardly needs saying.

Who is the puppet?

The Democrat Party vandalized parliament in 2013, boycotted two elections, and supported the military and was supported by the military.  Then there was the military-brokered coalition that brought Abhisit to the premier’s chair in 2008.

Newin and Abhisit

Of course, the Democrat Party has a long history of bringing down legitimate governments. The Party has a long history of political hypocrisy. For most of its history, it has been conservative, royalist and cooperative with military regimes. There have been brief periods where it has attempted to be a democratic Democrat Party, but these periods appear as aberrations.

We could add that the Democrat Party has supported military-led lese majeste campaigns, which also destabilized elected government, and as well as presiding over a government that ordered the military to shoot demonstrators, easing power to the military.

We could go on and on, but in everything it has done since 2005, the Democrat Party has pretty much been in cahoots with the military. It might be regretting that now that the junta is dismissing the failed party and going its own way, but watch the Democrat Party return to form as time and elections pass. Because the junta’s party is likely to undermine the Democrat Party as much as Puea Thai, the former will fall in with any future junta-led and arranged regime.





The heiress, a scam and the public purse

7 07 2018

In an earlier post, PPT commented on Singha beer heiress Chitpas Kridakorn aka Boonrawd seeking assistance from a taxpayer-funded Justice Ministry fund for defendants to meet court bail and costs as a low-income earner. Despite the fact that she’s heir to a fortune that currently stacks up to some $2.4 billion, she cried poor to apparently pay a bail surety in cases arising from her high-profile activities with the anti-democratic People’s  Democratic Reform Committee in the street protests against the Yingluck Shinawatra government.

In a report at The Nation, it now appears that this application may have been little more than a smart-assed legal ploy to delay the case: “It has been speculated that she had applied for financial assistance to stall for time in the criminal cases against her.” This is because she “had postponed a meeting with public prosecutors, citing the pending application to the Justice Fund.”

It is now reported that the Justice Ministry “has set aside a request for financial assistance from … Chitpas … to contest a treason charge after she failed to verify her suitability within the given time.” The Ministry stated that the Fund “had requested that she submit her tax documents to prove she should be a priority,” but that the letter sent had not been accepted or signed for and it had been returned to the Fund.

While this might seem to confirm a legal scam, the “fund managers chose not to scrap her request, and “Chitpas was eligible to re-apply anytime…”. That might be a legal position for the Ministry but sounds suspiciously like collusion in a legal scam.





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.





Stop criticizing The Dictator

12 06 2018

Readers will have noticed that PPT is having trouble keeping up with The Dictator’s antics and his junta’s political campaigning for an “election” that may be held at some time in the future and/or for puffing the junta’s collective chest.

The junta gets away with a lot given its political repression and its control of the media through bans, hectoring and the media’s own political timidness and/or support for the military dictatorship.

Even so, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s recent gripe that he deserves more respect because he’s (self-appointed) prime minister (after illegally seizing the state), has us wondering what might have been the media’s response if, say, Thaksin or Yingluck Shinawatra had made the same demand.

Khaosod reports that The Dictator last week made a “plea for the position of prime minister to be spared from insult…”. Prayuth moaned to his puppet National Legislative Assembly that “his ‘honorable’ position should be above reproach…”.

Befitting a dictatorial leader, Prayuth warned his critics: “I want to maintain the position as honorable. Those attacking me should be careful…”.

The Dictator loves power, covets it and cannot stand even the mildest of criticism.





Updated: Arrogant heiress cries poor

8 06 2018

Chutzpah, egotism, smugness, vanity, audacity, cheek, conceitedness, contemptuousness, disdainfulness, gall, high-handedness, imperiousness, pomposity, self-importance, self-love, superciliousness, overbearance and scornfulness are just some of the words that come up as possible synonyms for arrogance.

Whatever it is described as, Singha beer heiress Chitpas Kridakorn aka Boonrawd has it in bulldozer loads.

In a Ripley’s style story, she is reported to be “seeking assistance from a Justice Ministry fund to help defendants meet court bail has been given until June 21 to submit a list of her assets and verify she is a low-income earner registered with the government.”

She’s heir to a fortune that currently stacks up to some $2.4 billion.

Despite this pile of cash, shares, houses, cars, planes and more, Chitpas “filed a request on May 28 that the Justice Fund place money as bail surety in legal cases against her arising from the street protests against the Yingluck Shinawatra government.”

Chitpas is described as “a co-leader of the former People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), cited her waiting for financial assistance from the Justice Fund as a reason for the delay” in answering the charges against her.

Some dopey senior official babbled that Chitpas may have fallen on hard times: “In the past, she may have been wealthy but maybe she no longer had the means to meet her bail requirements…”. Yeah, right.

After that astoundingly farcical babble, the same senior official said the “ministry would ensure the fair treatment of all applicants [for state funds] and examine any documents submitted. Ms Chitpas’ request would be approved, or not, depending on the documentation…”. He became delirious when he said the “ministry did not have a double standard and was willing to help all groups and people if they met the fund’s requirements.”

Well, yes, but he’s saying this in the context of a multi-billionaire to be.

Justice deputy permanent secretary Thawatchai Thaikhiew scoops the pool in awards for the most ridiculous statement by an official in June. He gets a bag of hammers.

Chitpas is simply reprehensible.

Update: Some pro-Chitpas social media reckon she’s been disinherited by the Boonrawds. As far as we can see, there’s no evidence for this claim.





Thaksin is still the opponent

3 06 2018

Asia Times commentator Shawn Crispin writes about what is obvious to all but the military junta dare not express in words.

His account is a bit too junta-esque in other ways. For example, he or perhaps an editor states: “Thailand’s politics are percolating again with legal clearance for democracy-restoring polls in February 2019. But will they be free and fair?”

The answer to the question is a resounding NO. It isn’t even a question worth asking. It seems to us that the junta’s “election” will only be in February if The Dictator and his cronies believe they have a better chance to get their favored lot elected then. Otherwise, expect more delays and more repression.

The claim that the military “overthrew a Peua Thai-led elected government … [after] months of anti-government street protests sparked by a Peua Thai bid to pass … an amnesty that may have allowed the criminally convicted Thaksin to return to the kingdom as a free man” is only partly correct.

It should not be forgotten that many red shirts opposed the blanket amnesty. And, as important, it should not be forgotten that Suthep Thaugsuban and the Democrat Party were just the last of a series of military-backed efforts to undermine the Yingluck Shinawatra government. In 2011, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha had publicly announced that people should not vote for Puea Thai. There were then all kinds of efforts to (re)create a street movement. The amnesty bungle provided a spark that gave the anti-democrats more traction on the streets.

The notion that The Dictator and his junta “has endeavored since to uproot Thaksin’s and his younger sister ex-premier Yingluck[’s]… populist legacies … in the name of curbing corruption, restoring finances and political reform” is nonsense. Time and again, the junta has implemented policies plagiarized from those administrations.

But Crispin is right to observe that the junta “despite [the]… regime’s best blunt efforts, will be hard-pressed to erase Shinawatra family memories from voters’ minds.” Military surveys have shown this. Crispin knows this. He states:

One source with access to high-level junta officials says that the military’s own internal forecasting, conducted by its all-seeing Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), has consistently shown Peua Thai will win resoundingly, even with Prayut’s more recent efforts to put a more human, pro-poor face on his militaristic regime.

But that’s not the junta’s task. That is to splinter parties and have several devil parties that will “united” in coalition to allow for Prayuth to continue as premier.

He’s also right to observe that it is clear that the junta “intends to manage the elections on its own strict terms, including likely bans on acceptable and unacceptable political discourse on the campaign trail.”

Crispin later states correctly that:

…the junta’s ideal scenario, no single party will win an outright majority – a near but not 100% certainty under election rules put in deliberate place to prevent a landslide Peua Thai victory – and with a deadlock the military’s appointed Senate lends its numbers to select Prayut atop a coalition of parties in a military-friendly “national unity” government.

When he cites analysts as believing “the regime aims to stage the elections in the same repressed vein as the 2016 referendum…” is a point we have made many times.

It is very clear that Gen Prayuth will be loathe to tolerate an “election” that does not have him as boss.