Abhisit and the junta

27 03 2017

We at PPT don’t usually pay much attention to the self-promoting bantering of failed (anti)Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. He seems to do several interviews each year for the Bangkok Post and they aren’t usually riveting reading.

This time, however, there’s more interest. The main reason for this is that Abhisit indicates that he and his party are under pressure from the military junta. Before getting too much into that, a little on Abhisit’s self-important view of how he has never done anything wrong. (We do note that he was not asked about the 2010 events and his role in those murders.)

Abhisit criticizes the junta, saying “… I am not sure if they understand who was actually involved in the political conflict in the most recent years.” He reckons the junta has “been obsessed with the notion the political conflict occurred because (the Democrat Party) did not accept the result of the (previous) election.”

At least the junta got that right. But, of course, Abhisit has to dissemble because his preferred notion is that his party’s anti-democratic stance was not his fault. He blames the Yingluck Shinawatra government’s amnesty bill.

There’s no doubt that that move was ill-considered, but it was also a useful trigger for unrest that the Democrat Party had been seeking to foment from the time of their landslide defeat in 2011.

His view that the “Yingluck … government still manage[d] to stay on for more than two years without any of us doing anything to disrupt her government…” is a bald-faced lie.

Worse, he still won’t accept an election result in the future if it doesn’t suit him. He says: “No matter who wins or loses in the next election, if corruption still persists and if a political amnesty push is revived, the conflicts among people will become more severe…”.

Implicitly, he is also warning the junta about contemplating an amnesty.

On his own future, and rumors that others are working to oust him, he initially retorts that he is continuing “doing my job while political parties are banned from engaging in activities.” As we understand it, parties can’t officially meet, so he “safe” for the present. If he later gets ditched, he says he will accept this.

He then gets really dumb, saying: “If I lead my party to contest elections and fail to secure success, they won’t keep me.” As he was trounced in 2011, we can only wonder why he’s still there. Maybe he forgot this crushing defeat?

As he resumes his criticism of the junta, he says, the “Democrats as a political party were not established to satisfy anyone and any change of its leadership won’t bend to the will of those in authority.”

That’s historically incorrect as the party was formed as a royalist party that supported royalist militarists. That aside, he’s indicating the junta is pushing the party to be rid of him.

He says he, Chuan Leekpai and other failed leaders “share the view that we will not change the party’s stance so as to kowtow to people in authority in exchange for securing cabinet seats.”

He means the junta is going to offer the Democrat Party cabinet seats after the junta arranges an “election” victory at some time in the future. However, the party is expected to ditch the lame baggage of the unelectable Abhisit.

Abhisit declares that “[e]veryone knows that we think along the same lines, particularly Mr Banyat who among us is the most ardent critic of the military.” Funny, we haven’t heard much of this or seen him called in for days of re-education by the military dictators.

Abhisit then criticizes the junta for scrapping local elections and organizations, saying this “will adversely affect the decentralisation of power.” He adds: “What the NCPO is doing now is really a retrograde step.” He is right on this.

The junta is seeking a coalition that it will be comfortable joining when it decides to manage its “election,” and Abhisit seems unlikely to be a part of that, and the ever “pragmatic” anti-democrats will happily ditch him to get into bed with the military party.





Further updated: Another miracle of the law?

19 03 2017

Readers will certainly know that the supposed taxes now deemed by the military regime as due from Thaksin Shinawatra are to be collected by a secret measure officially described as a “miracle of law.”

Another miracle of law seems to have been seen. Immediately after the 2014 military coup, red shirt Wuthipong Kachathamakul also called Ko Tee took off, fleeing charges that included lese majeste. That latter charge originated from the period of the Yingluck Shinawatra government and under huge pressure from the military and royalists.

Prominent among those calling for Ko Tee’s arrest was General Prayuth Chan-ocha. He had been verbally sparring with Ko Tee for some time.

In the new “miracle,” the Bangkok Post reports that a military and police search of Ko Tee’s house resulted in a “large number of explosives, weapons, rounds of ammunition and other items were seized…”.

The media and the yellow-shirt anti-democrat social media lit up, expressing gratitude that the miracle provided further “evidence” of red shirt violence and skulduggery.

The Post “revealed” that “Wuthipong was not there when a combined team of police and soldiers searched the two-storey house, which also serves as the office of Thai Max Group Co, run by the red-shirt leading member in this central province…”. Well, yes, but….

Later the Post “reveals” that for “three years, Ko Tee, a hardcore red-shirt co-leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), has not been living in the Pathum Thani house where he reportedly ran a community radio station.”  Well, yes, but….

Finally: “He has been on the run since the May 22, 2014 coup and was wanted on a number of charges, including lese majeste.” Well, yes, that’s quite a long-winded way of getting to the point.

The police and military “detained a man who was a caretaker of the house for questioning.”

As can be seen in this photo, clipped from the Bangkok Post, it can be seen that the authorities, in displaying the weapons and explosives they claim to have discovered have a link to red shirts.

Why a miracle now? Why three years after Ko Tee fled?

Is it that the authorities got new “intelligence”? Nothing stated so far.

Is it, as has been the case in the past, the junta feels a little pressure, and feels the need to “remind” people of the reason for the coup?Almost certainly.

Is it because the junta has faced an excoriation for its human rights failure?Perhaps.

Is it because the anti-democrats have been complaining about the junta’s failures? Perhaps.

Men in black are back? Perhaps.

Do they want to show that red shirts are still threatening to the elite and anti-democrats? Almost certainly.

It really is a miracle.

Update 1: We can now more or less express disbelief on this story. Thai Rath reports that the military is saying that the cache of “newly discovered” weapons were meant to be used against The Dictator. Forgive our incredulity, but if one was an assassin, such a cache of arms would hardly be required unless a rebellion was planned. If a rebellion was planned, the “rebels” must be as dumb as they come, hiding weapons in a red shirt’s house, which they might assume is under surveillance. If it wasn’t under surveillance then the cops and military are as dumb as they come. But, who would be planning rebellion? We could hope, but there’s been no obvious reason for hope.

Update 2: The junta has been forced to deny that this “discovery” of weapons was a set up. Junta flunkie Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd stated that “the operation followed a lengthy investigation and intelligence operation.” When reporters noted how new many of the weapons seemed, Sansern reckoned this was because they had been well protected and well hidden. Right….

Sansern declared that “the seized items would be  kept and used whenever the regime needed another set up as evidence for further investigations to nail the culprits because possessing such war materials was detrimental to national security.”

Then, somewhat compromising his “explanation,” Sansern “said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had instructed officials to look for those who were involved and take appropriate legal action.” So we should assume that the “lengthy investigation and intelligence operation” followed weapons but failed to finger those responsible for the weapons cache? Right….





Updated: Suthep demands more dictatorship for longer

18 03 2017

The People’s Democratic Reform Foundation (PDRF) is the legalistic renaming of the anti-democratic People’s Democratic Reform Committee to allow it to keep operating under the junta it helped seize power in 2014.

It is still led by Democrat Party stalwart Suthep Thaugsuban, who “left” the party to arrange his anti-democratic actions opposing elections and the elected government led by Yingluck Shinawatra. Its bosses remain those anti-democratic elite and Democrat Party (former) members, Sathit Wongnongtoey, Akanat Promphan, Chitpas Kridakorn (Bhirombhakdi), Thaworn Senniam, Nattapol Teepsuwan, Chumpol Julsai and Sakoltee Patthippayakul.

It was this group that recently met with representatives of the military junta for “reconciliation talks.”

Readers might be surprised to learn (or maybe not) that, almost three years after he got the coup he wanted, Suthep “remained firm in its stance of ‘reform before election’, saying it did not mind a delay in the holding of the next election.”

Suthep and his clutch of anti-democrats also declared their full support for “absolute power under Article 44 of the interim charter” and claimed it “was not a problem for reform. Suthep said it as an opportunity for the junta to effectively reform the country.” We know he supports the murderous military and we guess he would also support military courts, torture and all manner of draconian measures against his political opponents.

Of course, we also know that Suthep hates elections, not least because his party never won one in its own right, and repeatedly hung off the military and royal coattails.

Likewise, it is no surprise that this group of anti-democrats “admitted to being fans of junta head General Prayut Chan-o-cha and the desire to complete key reforms.” Why wouldn’t they be? It was Suthep who claimed that he had worked since 2010 with General Prayuth on ways and means for preventing a Thaksin Shinawatra-aligned government from getting elected and then, if it did, on bringing it down.

Suthep and his cronies met with the junta’s people for “four hours of reconciliation talks” after which Suthep declared or maybe even threatened: “We’ve made the point in the meeting that the masses expect the National Council for Peace and Order [the junta] and the government led by [Prayuth] to finish the reforms so the country can continue as a democracy with the monarch as the head of state.”

Suthep, who spent many years as a Democrat Party powerbroker and politician chortled about “politics” being a problem: “Politics has to serve the people. In the past, it was [dominated by] politicians and financiers as well as interest groups. It’s never about the people…”. Because his party was resoundingly defeated time and time again, we can understand his reluctance to accept the will of the people.

Remarkably, as if Thailand’s elite is still under threat, he grasps the monarchy shibboleth by the throat and thunders: “Most importantly, political parties must be run by people who support democratic rule with the monarch as the head of state, not a republic.”

That purported danger justifies for Suthep, and his gaggle of anti-democrat scions of the elite, continuing military dictatorship. He reckons “the people” don’t want an election any time soon.

If the message wasn’t clear, Suthep stated: “The PDRF has no concerns over the NCPO staying in power so long as it works to push reforms.” He added that his support for “the military and Gen Prayut … was never hidden…”.

Update: And just in case anyone was wondering, the Bangkok Post reports that Suthep declined “to say whether his group would accept the outcome of the next election in the event that the Pheu Thai Party wins the poll.”





Wolves in charge of “reconciliation”

7 02 2017

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk has been in jail since 30 April 2011. In a long and deliberately tortuous trial, the labor activist was convicted of lese majeste in a sham trial. Because he refused to plead guilty, the “justice” system has deliberately treated him badly.

Despite all of this, a brave Somyos “has denounced the junta’s political reconciliation plans.” He declared:

If the regime is really serious about reconciliation, asserted Somyot, all parties to the political conflicts since the 2006 coup d’état must be invited to the negotiation table. This includes controversial figures such as Thaksin Shinawatra, Suthep Thaugsuban, Yingluck Shinawatra, Jatuporn Prompan, Abhisit Vejjajiva, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, Sondhi Limthongkul and Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin.

He made the good point that the junta’s “reconciliation plan … is like a story of wolves trying to solve problems about grass for cows and buffaloes. [The wolves] portray themselves as the protagonists but they have hidden agendas. It’s like a soap opera…”.

He’s right.





Anti-junta and anti-democrat?

5 02 2017

In a recent post, PPT briefly mentioned the complaint by the junta of nasty “politicians” causing ill-will towards the military dictatorship over its ham-fisted flood relief operations in the south. It was junta spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd who declared that “[s]ome politicians in Songkhla are behind a move to stir up dissent against the government…”. As we said, he was pointing a finger at the Democrat Party.

The junta saw farmers “rallying” and got to worrying, seeing a political plot.

In response, the Bangkok Post reports that former Democrat Party MP for Songkhla Thaworn Senniam has emerged to refuted the junta’s claims. He essentially declares that the Democrat Party is helping, not stirring trouble.

He claimed “that the affected farmers asked another Democrat MP … to relay their complaints to state authorities…”. At the same time, he did identify faults: “Do not listen only to reports from officials. Hear the voices of ordinary people like us…”. He complained: “But the government overlooks our good will.”

Former Democrat Party MP Wirat Kalayasiri concurred. He said “that farmers who were facing shortages of rice seeds as a result of floods gathered to call for help from the Songkhla governor, but little progress had been made in addressing the problem.” There was “no intention of inciting any public disturbances.”

Wirat pointed a finger back at the junta: “We allow the government to run the country and it should not slander us without verifying the facts. No Songkhla politicians were involved in inciting unrest…”.

These are strong words from the anti-democrats, suggesting an undercurrent of discontent with the regime’s bureaucratism.

The south is critical for the junta’s “election” planning. If The Dictator is to continue to rule Thailand, the alliance with anti-democrats in the region is critical, just as it was for bringing down the Yingluck Shinawatra’s government.

But retreat is not in the junta’s political playbook. Lt Gen Sansern said “he would want to have an understanding with Songkhla politicians that the government is ready to solve the problems of farmers and the people. So they should not be worried about this matter.”

That is the junta’s usual bureaucratic paternalism – we can solve all problems from the top down. The response included an assertion that the bureaucracy had everything in hand.

Thaworn again pointed an angry finger at the regime: “The prime minister and Lt Gen Sansern should visit the affected farmers and listen to their concerns for themselves…”.

How far will the junta want to go in attacking the Democrat Party? How far are the Democrat Party southerners prepared to go in expressing their discontent? Will there be a southern reconciliation? We reckon the Democrat Party needs the junta more than the junta needs the southern politicians.





Monarchy, judges and prosecutors

19 01 2017

Dead kings, live ones, the princeling judges of the courts of law and now prosecutors are protected from all kinds of “threats,” implied, imagined and real.

Thailand’s process of judicialization has gone a long way under various royalist regimes and their constitutions since 2006. Judges and prosecutors are untouchable.

To emphasize how far this process has gone, crippling any notion of rule of law, a report in the Bangkok Post will appear ludicrous to most readers.

It seems that the seemingly august  prosecutors in the case at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions hearing the political case against Yingluck Shinawatra are easily frightened.

On “Oct 7, 2016 around noon,” two court spectators were considered to be “staring at prosecutors in an intimidating manner.”no-justice

Intimidation through staring. There’s a cultural aspect to this but presumably prosecutors are used to dealing with criminals like rapists, murderers, drug dealers, torturers and even hi-so types with excellent connections. But staring bothers and frightens them. Perhaps they feel closer to the criminal types.

The persecuted prosecutors “filed a petition with the court on Nov 18, accusing the two spectators of contempt of court.” The courts swung into action to investigate the “starers” protect the “stare-ees” and a panel of three very senior judges gave their presumably valuable time to this nonsense important “case.”

The Post reports that on “Jan 17, a panel of three judges led by Wiroon Saengthian, deputy president of the Supreme Court, summoned the two for questioning.” The starers admitted they had stared and were fined 500 baht each.

Thailand’s farcical judicial system just got a lot more ridiculous as it seeks to protect the status quo of the ever more hierarchical society.





Things that make you think

15 01 2017

There lots of stuff that goes on in the junta’s Thailand that causes you to wonder and think about motivations and machinations.

PPT’s perusal of the Bangkok Post today produced two such moments.

The first Bangkok Post story had us wondering…

The first paragraph was pretty much palace propaganda-like, with the king reported as having “reiterated the importance of children, urging the government to enhance the education system as a key part of the country’s development…”.

Prayuth Puppetry

Who is the puppet?

That’s pretty standard. But then we learn that this is not the king speaking, but The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Speaking at a ceremony marking National Children’s Day, The Dictator becomes the voice of the king and explains an apparently close relationship:

“… the [k]ing told me many times to give priority to children both in terms of education and the country’s development. He also wants the government to enhance the discipline of Thai children, which will result in orderliness and knowledge development of Thai people….

That sounds a lot like Prayuth’s voice rather than the king’s.It does seem a little out of the ordinary for a premier to speaking for the monarch. Is Prayuth out of line? Or are he and the king best buddies?

Just for good measure, The Dictator invokes the dead king: “During the rest of my term in office, I want all Thais to do good to follow in the footsteps of the late monarch, who was always concerned about his people…”. That is more the invocation we are used to from prime ministers.

The second Bangkok Post story is a tale of two parties and had us thinking of double standards and political machinations.

The About Politics column reflects on the floods in the south.

(Naturally enough, these floods can’t be blamed on Yingluck Shinawatra was the case in 2011. This time the culprit is not a government or a party, but the weather.)

The story praises “recovery operations” and singles out the so-called Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation.

Who is the puppet?

Who is the puppet?

This is the “foundation” established by anti-democrat boss Suthep Thaugsuban, as a post-coup vehicle for the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and others who temporarily or momentarily left the Democrat Party in order to engage in street activism to prevent elections and bring down an elected government.

Unlike the Puea Thai Party and red shirts, the Democrat Party and the Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation have not been sued, harassed, arrested, jailed and suppressed by the junta. After all, they did a lot to foment the coup that brought the military thugs to power.

Suthep and other “key leaders of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) have sprung into action, including Chitpas … Kridakorn [Bhirombhakdi], Chumphol Julsai and Isara Somchai” have been active in the region.

Most important has been Witthaya Kaewparadai, described as “Suthep’s right-hand man in this operation.”

As is well known, Witthaya is a former Democrat Party MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat. This former MP is said to have been an asset in relief operation having “helped boost the efficiency of distribution of essential supplies.”

Like us, many readers will wonder at this. The junta doesn’t like “politicians” meddling in anything. But, then, Witthaya is also a “member of the coup-appointed [puppet] National Legislative Assembly (NLA),” and this “secures coordination among state agencies and the military which need a go-between to bring help to where it is needed.”

Readers are then told that:

Since the PDRC protests, Mr Witthaya has remained active in his constituency, but his focus has been on community work. He has founded a cycling club where members do the necessary legwork to keep fit and the brainwork by discussing problems facing their community. This cycling club is said to be the biggest in the region.

The reports goes on:Kissing soldiers

The Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation’s contribution to flood rescue and relief operations can be no less; most of the flood victims are the very same people who kept the group’s street protests going in Bangkok during 2013-2014.

In other words, the PRDC-Democrat Party are catering to their members and supporters.

Imagine what would happen if a former MP from Puea Thai who was also a red shirt was doing something similar in the north or northeast. Sedition charges would be pending!

We learn more about these double standards when the report states:

While the former PDRC leaders are out there working in flood relief operations, the Democrat Party which has a political stronghold in the region is helping quietly, staying out of the spotlight due to a political ban by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

But they are indeed working there, with the PDRC. An unnamed source says: “People think the PDRC and the Democrat Party are no different. It doesn’t matter who leads the flood relief efforts…”.

“Election” preparations and electioneering are permitted in the south. Indeed, the military and junta facilitate them.

Double standards? You bet.

These double standards are reinforced in another story, in the same column, about the problems facing Puea Thai.

The party has few resources left and former party MPs are complaining that they are being left to their own devices and resources, with little help from the party or the “party’s heavyweights.”

Party leaders are tied up in a myriad of legal actions – hundreds of them – brought by the junta.

The longer the junta delays an “election” – some now suggest 2020, only partly tongue-in-cheek – the worse it gets for Puea Thai. And don’t think the junta doesn’t know this. All the talk of cremations delaying the “election” or the king making changes will be used as excuses for no “election.” However, one thing the junta wants is for Yingluck Shinawatra’s case and related cases against Puea Thai to be concluded this year.

The junta believes these cases will cause the collapse of Puea Thai. Once that happens, the junta can better control the “election” outcome.