2006 military coup remembered

19 09 2017

2006 seems a long time ago. So much has happened since the palace, led by General Prem Tinsulanonda, the military and a coterie of royalist anti-democrats (congealed as the People’s Alliance for Democracy) brought down Thaksin Shinawatra’s government on 19 September 2006.

Yet it is remembered as an important milestone in bringing down electoral democracy in Thailand and establishing the royalist-military authoritarianism that has deepened since the 2014 military coup that brought down Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government.

Khaosod reports:

Pro-democracy activists are marking the 11th anniversary of the 2006 coup on Tuesday evening on the skywalk in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Representatives from the police and BTS Skytrain were ordering them to clear the area because it belongs to the rail operator.

The location, frequented by commuters and tourists in a highly visible location, has become a de facto location for protests since the 2014 coup.

“It’s unbelievable how far back we’ve gone for the past 11 years,” said Siriwit Seritiwat, the prominent activist known as Ja New. “The country doesn’t suck by itself, but it sucks because of the wicked cycle.”

The 2006 coup was no surprise given that Thaksin had faced determined opposition from PAD and from General Prem, who reflected palace and royal household dissatisfaction with Thaksin. The coup came after Thaksin had been re-elected in a landslide in February 2005 with about 60% of the vote.

Thaksin had many faults and made many mistakes often as a result of arrogance. The February 2005 election reflected Thaksin’s popularity and this posed a threat to the monstrous egos in the palace. Of course, they also worried about Thaksin’s combination of political and economic power and his efforts to control the military.

Thaksin’s reliance on votes and the fact that he accumulated them as never before was an existential threat to the powers that be. The elite feared for its control of political, economic and social power.

Behind the machinations to tame Thaksin lurked the real power holders in the military brass, the palace and the upper echelons of the bureaucracy who together comprised the royalist state. Some referred to this as the network monarchy and others identified a Deep State. They worried about their power and Thaksin’s efforts to transform Thailand. Others have said there were concerns about managing succession motivating coup masters.

We are sure that there were many motivations, fears and hallucinatory self-serving that led to the coup. Wikileaks has told part of the story of the machinations.

Coup soldiers wearing the king’s yellow, also PAD’s color

A way of observing the anniversary of the military-palace power grab on 19 September 2006 is to look again at Wikileaks cables that reflect most directly on that coup. Here they are:

There are more cables on the figures circling around the coup and the events immediately before and after the coup, giving a pretty good picture of how the royalist elite behaved and what they wanted the U.S. embassy to know.

The royalist elite came to believe that the 2006 coup failed as pro-Thaksin parties managed to continue to win elections. The result was the development of an anti-democracy ideology and movement that paved the way for the 2014 coup and the military dictatorship that is determined to uproot the “Thaksin regime” and to eventually make elections events that have no meaning for governing Thailand.

When the military is on top XI

15 09 2017

It’s a while since we had a “When the military is on top” post. This post is prompted by a couple of recent stories reveal more about the military dictatorship and its aims.

First, as we have noted previously, the dictatorship’s core task is uprooting the “Thaksin regime.” That task is deepening and widening. Following thoroughgoing purges and arrests, the attention to the money the dictatorship and its anti-democrat allies mistakenly believe underpins Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra’s electoral popularity. The latest effort has the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) and the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) seeking to bring money laundering charges against Panthongtae “Oak” Shinawatra. This is a ratcheting up of earlier efforts and a precursor to charges being laid.

Second, Prachatai reports that the new junta-written election commission law has been promulgated and means that the new election commissioners will be selected by 250 military junta-appointed senators. That decision means that the Election Commission will essentially be junta-controlled for the next 5 or so years (depending when the junta decides to hold its “election”). Should a new government not be as the junta wants it, it is likely that that government will always be under threat from anti-election election commissioners.

Third, members of “the Pheu Thai Party and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) have slammed a [police reform] committee over its move to invite former protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban to give his opinions on reforming the Thai police.” Suthep, mired in long-standing corruption allegations that go back to the 1990s, when his underhanded actions brought down Chuan Leekpai’s government in 1994, is an anti-democrats as coup planner and supporter.

The “committee on police reform [has] announced it would start seeking opinions from Constitutional Court judges, mass media, former national police chiefs, and the former leader of the now-dissolved People’s Democratic Reform Committee Suthep Thaugsuban, who has also come up with reformist proposals.”

The police are seen as a nest of Thaksinites, so Suthep’s views will be important. After all, he’s been a minister, accused of corruption many times, is an “influential person” in the south, has been in the courts several times, once essentially accused of mass murder. That seems just the kind of advice the junta will want.

Can Thailand sink much deeper into the fascist slime? Under the military dictatorship, it seems it can go much deeper.

The Dictator and his law

12 09 2017

The Dictator and his military junta are particularly keen on the law. They have used it extensively in their self-initiated battles against Shinawatras, red shirts, the Peau Thai Party, students, local communities, republicans, and anyone else conceived of as an enemy or potential threat.

This is why The Nation reports that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “stressed that justice is a crucial part of human rights protection, saying that everyone must go through the process equally and face the consequences if they are found guilty of wrongdoing, regardless of their social status.”

On the face of it, none of this would seem to apply to General Prayuth and his military dictatorship or their allies. After all, the junta seized state power in an illegal coup, it has abused human rights and it has lasciviously bathed itself and its allies in rule by decree, martial law, impunity and double standards.

A Bangkok Post picture

But, then, one must remember that all the junta members and supporters think the law is a tool for repression and order that falls to those who control the state.

But even then, when The Dictator states that his “government [he means the junta] pays attention to human rights protection and instructs investigations into allegations concerning the issue,” he’s lying. In fact, his regime has repeatedly affirmed that it has little understanding of human rights.

Clearly, however, when General Prayuth, who also commanded troops that gunned down dozens of civilians in 2010, spoke of law and justice, he was thinking of those now declared “fugitives” – Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra.

He did, however, get closer to truth when he acknowledged that human rights “allegations need to be delicately handled when it comes to the performance of state officials.” What he means is that impunity is the rule and that state officials only get into trouble when their actions don’t help their bosses or when they forget to pass on required loot.

On double standards, the general mischievously declared:

It’s not that the poor commit wrongdoings and they will definitely go to jail, while the rich will not. The fact is that the rich have often fled the scene, and that’s why we see that they don’t go to jail. It’s not a problem with the justice system…. The law is not there to bully anyone. If one commits wrongdoings, he or she must go through it and fight for justice….

Prayuth’s regime has shown that this is untrue. Yes, some of the rich do flee, but sometimes that suits the regime and sometimes it suits the rich. But it is the double standards that are most evident. Slow investigations, withheld evidence, cover-ups, and so on. And, significantly, the regime uses (and abuses) the law to bully and silence opponents. It also uses it to benefit itself and its allies.

Thailand’s justice system was wobbly before the coup. Since the coup it has become an injustice system.

The “hunt” continues II

10 09 2017

A report at The Nation mirrors an earlier post at PPT, and updates the military junta’s “hunt” for Yingluck Shinawatra. It begins:

All imaginable questions of what, when, where and why poured forth on the matter of ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra’s fleeing the country and missing the verdict in her malfeasance case.

There’s also a repeated question of when she will appear and what she will say. It remains unclear if a deal was not done with the junta.

Then the report provides a round-up of the miltiary dictatorship’s latest drip-drip feed of “information” regarding the “great escape.”

For the record:

She was last seen in Bangkok on August 23, when CCTV footage showed her lunching with 14 people of her team at the Shinawatra-run SC Park Hotel Bangkok after making merit at Wat Rakhang Khositaram.

The latest claim by the Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan are that:

… Yingluck was last seen in a sedan on CCTV at a military checkpoint in Sa Kaew, a border province to Cambodia, that same day.

However, the vehicle’s movements were not captured by additional CCTV cameras, and so there is no proof that it had crossed the border into Cambodia.

As far as we can tell, this is a reference to a vehicle, but not the person.

The report then makes another point PPT has made in several posts:

The Shinawatras remain oddly silent, only posting social media messages encouraging their missing relative. Thaksin himself hasn’t even asked for justice or explained why Yingluck did not go to hear the final verdict.

The ruling government, meanwhile, has stressed progress of the investigation in vague terms. We’ve almost figured out how and in what way she escaped, police officers said. All still remains ambiguous. The military simply said they haven’t got anything on their hands.

The report then speculates on when Yingluck might choose to speak out:

The more Yingluck stays silent, the more she will be attacked. September 27, when a verdict is scheduled to be read without her presence, could be the most appropriate moment for her to strike back.

Social media speculation has suggested that she will remain silent until she gets political asylum in an unnamed place. It also mentions the dead king’s funeral. There has long been speculation that the period after the funeral may see increased political activity.

Updated: Another case against the Shinawatra clan

9 09 2017

Getting rid of the so-called Thaksin regime was the military dictatorship’s main political aim following its 2014 coup. This was also a key demand of the anti-democrats who schemed and maneuvered against Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government.

Yingluck Shinawatra was one target. She’s now gone, even if the we still don’t know how and where.

Her departure seems to have caused the military regime to turn its attention to other ways to hog-tie the Shinawatra clan. The Bangkok Post reports that the junta’s target has now been hung around Panthongtae Shinawatra’s neck.

It is reported that the “Anti Money Laundering Office (Amlo) is expected to press money laundering charges against Panthongtae … and three others in connection with the Krungthai Bank (KTB) loan scandal next week.”

That “scandal” refers to officers “wrongfully approving more than 9.9 billion baht in loans to affiliates of developer KMN from 2003 and 2004…”. Yes, that’s 13 and 14 years ago, when Thaksin’s son was 23-24 years old.

In 2015 the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions found 24 people guilty in the case. For many of the years since 2006, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has been seeking to locate “adequate evidence” for the case to proceed. Despite having received a statement on the case from Panthongtae in 2016, little progress was made until recently:

A DSI source insisted the case against Mr Panthongtae, who is Thaksin Shinawatra’s only son, is not politically motivated as some might try to suggest following former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s Aug 25 disappearance when she did not appear before the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions to hear the court’s ruling in her trial for alleged negligence in managing her government’s controversial rice-pledging scheme.

The DSI claims to have “come across evidence that Mr Panthongtae and … [another] three [Shinawatra-linked individuals] received two checks for 36 million baht…”. He is now accused of money-laundering.

As far as we can determine, no other persons – those who received and used the other 9.864 billion – have been charged. In addition, it seems that the company involved is repaying the 9.9 billion.

One can be forgiven for wondering about timing and intent.

Update: Panthongtae’s response is reported at The Nation.

Prayuth fumes, wants attention

8 09 2017

Most readers will have seen the story of The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s temper tantrum when a survey by King Prajadhipok Institute claimed that “former premier Thaksin Shinawatra had a higher credibility rating while in office than Prayut has now.”

The Dictator’s notoriously short fuse was lit and he exploded.

The data and the details of the survey are not all that interesting except for a military dictatorship thinking about how it might manufacture an “election” where its people, not Thaksin’s, “win.”

What is interesting are The Dictator’s comments on Thaksin and (the still missing) Yingluck.

Prayuth lambasted the media: “I am so over him. But you [the media], you’re not. And you keep reporting [news] about him…”.

He went on to say that he was “over” Yingluck as well. He reckons they all create “conflict.” He blamed the media for political conflict: “He asked whether the media was trying to provoke the people again.”

He then began to lie, saying “he just wanted justice to prevail.” Anyone who watches Thailand’s politics knows that, under the junta, its justice is no justice at all. It is all double standards and impunity.

What he apparently means is that his junta is now using the judiciary as its main weapon deployed against Thaksin and Yingluck. He thundered: “Do you get that there are wrongdoings there? Please report so…”.

“Clearly upset,” Prayuth demanded that the media forget the conflicts of domestic politics and focus on good stories about his regime. And, more importantly, he wanted the media to focus on him:

“Don’t think that I do not follow your [the media] work. I always do. But I only read what matters and I skip the nonsense,” Prayut said.

Before leaving he added: “I want to know why you never asked whether I’m tired, whether I will be back, where I have been. But don’t ask me now. It’s too late. I’m back here and the first thing I get is these questions. It’s you that never get over them.”

Such childish egotism seems definitional of the psychology of dictators:

They see themselves as “very special” people, deserving of admiration and, consequently, have difficulty empathizing with the feelings and needs of others … Not only do dictators commonly show a “pervasive pattern of grandiosity,” they also tend to behave with a vindictiveness often observed in narcissistic personality disorder.

Updated: The “hunt” continues I

6 09 2017

Breathless reports in the media are keeping Yingluck Shinawatra in the headlines even if it is some two weeks since she was last seen.

Social media is lit up. Where is she? Dubai? Thailand? Why is she silent? Threats to her family? She’s looking for political asylum? Or she is in secret detention?

The junta’s manipulation of this discourse has been rather skilled (or perhaps just lucky), diverting attention from the earlier questions about a possible deal done with Yingluck to allow her escape. It has also taken the heat off those who were supposed to “guarding” and “monitoring” her.

The junta has directed attention to the “investigation.” General Prawit Wongsuwan says his super sleuths “are tracking fugitive former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra using the same methods employed in locating the suspect in the bomb attack on Phramongkutklao Hospital in May…”.

Leaving aside the many doubts about that investigation and the person charged, while the cops say they are 80% done on the Yingluck hunt, the Deputy Dictator “refused to elaborate further on progress in the Yingluck case, saying that authorities would need time to connect CCTV footage from various sources to figure out what had happened.”

One thing that has changed in the past few days is that the sleuths “are becoming more convinced that Yingluck has fled the country…”. They say this changed view is based on “evidence … gathered from various CCTV cameras.”

Army chief Chalermchai Sitthisart chimed in, “revealing” that “several vehicles had been involved in Yingluck’s disappearance.”

It has also been revealed that the junta has had its officials contact “more than 190 countries via Interpol but none has offered any clues as to Yingluck’s possible whereabouts…”.

This all remains deliberately and divertingly vague.

Update: The police claim that they know who helped Yingluck “escape. They “have given information [about]… those who helped … [her] flee the country to the military…” But Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul “declined to reveal the details of that information, saying it is security-related and should be left to the military to explain.” The policeman reckons that when “the military files a complaint asking police to take legal action against those involved in helping Ms Yingluck escape,” then the secret details will be revealed. The report appears to suggest that the cops also know Yingluck’s location. We can barely contain ourselves in anticipation of these fascinating investigative revelations.