Judicial politicization

26 07 2019

Thailand’s courts have long been pretty hopeless. In this century they have become highly politicized, with judges doing their “duty” as royalists.

In yet another example of this politicization of the judiciary, The Nation reports that in a trial that began in 2015, the Criminal Court has “acquitted four key members of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee on insurrection charges.” It might be defunct, but as the cheerleaders for the 2014 military coup and for the current military-backed regime, it gets credit and protection from the royalist establishment.

The court acquitted found Sonthiyan Chuenruethainaitham, Sakoltee Phattiyakul, Sombat Thamrongthanyawong and the bewigged Seri Wongmontha of a huge list of charges “related to the Bangkok Shutdown protests against the Yingluck [Shinawatra] government from May 23 2013 to May 1 2014.” They were:

charged by public prosecutors with insurrection, inciting public disturbances, unlawful gathering, gathering in a group of more than 10 persons to use arms to cause disturbances and to harm others, inciting the public to stop working to pressure the government, and unlawful entries of government offices and others’ properties….

The four defendants were charged with violating Articles 113, 116, 117, 209, 210, 215, 362, 364, and 365 of the Criminal Code and with obstructing the holding of an election by the Election Commission and thus violating Articles 76, 152, and 8 of the 2007 election act. The public prosecutors filed charges against the four in the court in 2014.

With the boss (clipped from Bangkok Post)

Of course, these four were all heavily and publicly involved in the actions that led to the charges. Readers will know that hundreds of red shirts have been convicted and jailed of similar charges. The double standards are obvious and perennial.

The court’s “reasoning” for the acquittals on the spurious “grounds that while they joined the PDRC-led protests against the Yingluck government, they were not leaders who gave orders to the protesters.” All of them were close to the anti-democrat leadership and appeared on the PDRC stages, urging protesters to engage in illegal action. They denied this and the court agreed.

In addition:

The court also cited a ruling by the Constitutional Court on case number of 59/2556 to acquit the four. The Constitutional Court ruled that the PDRC demonstrators had constitutional rights based on Article 63 of the then charter to demonstrate out of dissatisfaction with the Yingluck administration enacting an amnesty law to try to whitewash former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

As far as we are aware, no such decision has been applied to red shirts.

Suthep Thaugsuban and other anti-democrats were in the court to cheer the decision.

The Bangkok Post reports that 28 other anti-democrats face similar charges.

Meanwhile, as reported at The Nation, the politicized Constitutional Court seems to be preparing for its decisions that will likely go against the Future Forward Party and its leaders.

 

It has “warned that critics of its rulings could face prosecution for contempt of court if they unfairly attack its judgments or use expletives in public comments.”

The court warned that under junta-enacted law, “criticism of the court should be done in an honest manner, with no use of expletives or sarcastic or vengeful language. This provision also refers to comments made on the Internet or in social media…”.

The court has stated that it “will enforce this law as much as it is necessary in order to ensure justice in an efficient and fair manner…”. In other words, it is prepared to jail those who disagree with the court;s politicized verdicts.





Further updated: Cat among the pigeons

22 03 2019

Matichon Sutsapda has an “interesting” story on a wedding in Hong Kong.

It is likely to set the cat among the political pigeons just a couple of days prior to the junta’s election.

Clipped from Matichon

Update 1: While social media has this story everywhere, the mainstream news outlets have been just a little more self-censorial. Even so, the Bangkok Post reports that “Princess Ubolratana on Friday presided over the wedding reception of Thaksin Shinawatra’s youngest daughter in Hong Kong.” Yingluck Shinawatra was there as well.

The story adds: “Other Thai guests were former members of the disbanded Thai Raksa Chart Party — former leader Lt Preechapol Pongpanich, co-leader Sunee Luangvichit, and MP candidate Khattiya Sawatdiphol. The Thaksin-affiliated party was disbanded by an order of the Constitutional Court for nominating Princess Ubolratana as its prime ministerial candidate…. Tida Tavornseth, a red-shirt leader, was also present at the Hong Kong reception.”

There’s none of the obvious questions: What does the king think of this? Is Ubolratana in open revolt against her brother and/or family? Is this her payback for the previous month’s embarrassment? What next?

Update 2: More photos are emerging in the mainstream media and on social media that suggest further questions awaiting answers. At the risk of appearing Hello-like, here are some of them, in this instance, both clipped from Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Facebook page:

 





Updated: Cynical recycling

16 03 2019

We are sure readers recall when Thaksin Shinawatra was damned as a “populist.” And then there was Yingluck Shinawatra. When she campaigned in Thailand’s last completed election in 2011, she was also labeled a populist and was prosecuted for one of the policies she took to the electorate. Anti-populism has been a pillar of anti-Thaksinism.

When the military junta seized power, there is a plan to outlaw “populist” policies. That anti-populism soon became an embrace of the policies that the junta had previously damned. This turn to economic policies previously damned was an effort to claw back political ground from the Shinawatra clan, led by Thaksin turncoat Somkid Jatusripitak.

Not surprisingly, it was Somkid who was behind the manufacture of the Palang Pracharat Party as the junta’s devil party.

Now, desperate to gain the electoral traction it has been lacking, Palang Pracharath has released a range of so-called populist policies, apparently hurriedly concocted in recent days.

Increasing the minimum wage by a third, cutting income tax (including for the wealthiest), raising the graduate minimum wage 10% and waving their income tax for 5 years, loans and exemptions for businesses, and promised guaranteed minimum prices for six crops.

Remember Yingluck’s travails for her rice pledging policy?

Palang Pracharath deputy party leader Suvit Maesincee said “Pracha Rath state welfare cards would be given to more people, from 14.5 million low-income earners currently.” He added that “[d]ebt suspension will be allowed for village funds and more funds will be added.” And he promised a welfare state to “take care of children from womb to old age…”.

Can the junta/Palang Pracharath afford these promises when it is already running a substantial “fiscal deficit of 450 billion baht…”? The Bangkok Post notes that the regime has abandoned “plans to balance the budget within the next few years…”.

Sounding Thaksinesque, Palang Pracharath’s Uttama Savanayana declared: “Thais shall be rich in peace, happiness and hope…”.

Even more Thaksin-like were the measures proposed to  fund “Thais being rich.” The measures for making administration more efficient are exactly those used by Thaksin and Thai Rak Thai back in 2001-06.

Policy plagiarism has been a hallmark of the junta. It continues. The only “original” contribution by Palang Pracharath/junta is to promise “order.”

The Palang Pracharath/junta twin is banking on voters being “uneducate” and that by offering Thaksinesque policies that they can lure pro-Thaksin voters to support a failing junta party.

Update: Less than a day after his devil party released the policies discussed above, The Dictator has “issued a statement saying all governments must abide by financial discipline and good governance.” Maybe he should have thought about that several years ago before his own government began its vote-buying splurges. Or maybe before his party promised to extend the splurge further.





Fallout from Ubolratana move

11 02 2019

If Thaksin Shinawatra really did “mastermind” the nomination of former Princess Ubolratana as prime ministerial candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart Party, then it goes down as a major failure, equivalent, perhaps, to the great amnesty fiasco that Yingluck’s government briefly “masterminded.”

Why anyone in the Thaksin camp thought this was a good idea is anyone’s guess. Most guesses are that somehow Thaksin and crew thought the king was on board. They seemed to think that on amnesty too. But even if this was the case, having a member of the royal family as a prime minister in a neo-absolutist regime is crippled (anti)democratic thinking.

The fallout is beginning to be seen.

For one, the monarch’s word – “command” – is now considered law:

Citing the King’s royal command issued late on Friday, the Election Commission (EC) did not include Princess Ubolratana’s name among prime ministerial candidates announced yesterday

It is shameful that a legal body does not or could not cite law in making its decision.

Even if one considers royalist Thitinan Pongsudhirak’s lame defense of the monarch and his announcement as “a reminder and a reflection more than an instruction,” the impact and interpretation in Thailand marks his interpretation as hopelessly flawed.

The Bangkok Post reports that “EC secretary-general Pol Col Jarunvith Phumma said that the EC’s announcement of prime ministerial candidates was final and there are no legal channels for parties to appeal the decision.”

Announcement=command=law. The balance in Thailand’s politics has moved even more into the palace. If that’s Thailand’s “new balance,” it is royally lopsided. Recall that coronation trumps election.

Second, the EC is investigating Thai Raksa Chart. The party’s executive is resigning in order to try and avoid dissolution.

If the party is dissolved, it is still unclear whether they can switch parties, but it could end up that all the pro-Thaksin parties, who many pundits considered the front runners in the election may be in a situation where they cannot compete in sufficient seats to garner the largest number of seats in the lower house.

The Post states that “the party may be dissolved and its executives could be banned from voting and running in elections for a minimum of 10 years, or even life…”.

If the party tries “to keep their MP candidates in the race with the party prepared to seek a royal pardon over its selection of the princess,” it is further consolidating royal control over politics.

Meanwhile, the move has unleashed the ultra-royalist and anti-Thaksin anti-democrats.

Third, with all the attention to Thai Raksa Chart, the junta’s devil party escapes the scrutiny it should be under.

There will be further fallout.





Updated: More interesting and democratic than the junta

5 02 2019

To date, in posting on the junta’s election, PPT has mainly been interested in the junta and its devil party, Palang Pracharath.

Today, with news that on the first day of candidate registrations, “58 political parties submitted 5,831 candidates to contest for seats in all 350 constituencies…”.

That’s a huge boost for real democrats in Thailand as the vast majority are likely to be opposed to the junta’s “work” over the past 5 years.

We also like it when these democrats poke fun at the junta or come up with ideas that are anathema to the junta and its supporters.

We particularly liked the report that “[a]ll 30 Future Forward Party (FWP) candidates for Bangkok on Monday took a public bus to register as MP candidates…”. Given the party’s promotion of democracy and social welfare and more equality for Thailand, this seems very appropriate.

Then there’s Future Forward’s “Kanphong Prayoonsak, a first time politician … [who] registered to run in the Nong Khaem district, saying he wants to change the country after five years of military rule.” He added: “This is an unfair election, but we’re gonna play [by] their game…. We’re gonna beat them with their rules.”

Meanwhile, in Uttaradit, “Pheu Thai candidate Saranwut Saranket dressed as a Thai warrior and rode into the registration center on a horse, saying he was there to kick out dictatorship.”

We couldn’t help chuckling to read that “nine Pheu Chart candidates announced they had legally changed their first names to Thaksin, while two female candidates now calls themselves Yingluck…”.

As one new Thaksin explained:

“I changed my name to Thaksin because Thaksin brought progress to Thailand. Every world leader knows Thaksin,” said Thaksin Kuenkhoksoong, who’s running for a seat in Korat. “Thaksin is in the heart of all people.”

Poking the junta like this usually gets a response. Let’s see what it does.

Update: While a 6,828 candidates have registered from 61 parties, a reader points out that this is not necessarily a measure of anything other than the manner in which the junta changed the rules. The junta and anti-democrats wanted more parties, more candidates and a relatively weak coalition government to result. In 2011, there were 2,422 candidates.





Doubling down on double standards VIII

14 12 2018

Like us, many readers will recall the hullabaloo and legal efforts that were associated with the undermining of Yingluck Shinawatra regime, much of it arguing that her government was illegitimate due to “populism.” For that matter, some may recall similar analysis, including by yellow-shirted academics, who howled about “policy corruption” as a form of vote-buying when Thaksin Shinawatra was elected.

We hear far less of that hullabaloo and howling associated with similar programs associated with the military junta and raining money into the electorate. Given that the junta is in total control and has banned (most) political parties from campaigning, its efforts are quite obviously meant to garner votes.

Clearly, double standards are at work.

The most recent splurge of taxpayer funds meant to shift political support to the devil parties has been so obvious that even the normally anti-democrat Democrat Party has been complaining. They see themselves as losing out to junta-backed parties when the junta, with its guns and access to state funds is so obviously vote buying.

The main devil party, Palang Pracharath, formed by the military junta, is the main beneficiary of the junta’s vote buying, even as it waddles through the unnecessarily prolonged and untheatrical charade of naming General Prayuth Chan-ocha as its prime ministerial nominee. Everyone in Thailand already knows this. (Go on General, surprise us. Do something else, like holidaying in Germany for a couple of years.)

The main defenders of the the junta’s all-too-obvious cheating have been … yep, the Palang Pracharath Party.

According to Khaosod, the Palang Pracharat’s deputy leader Suvit Maesincee, who is simultaneously and unethically also a cabinet minister, declared that “the poor are starving to death and should benefit from continued support for programs introduced by his government, such as its controversial welfare card program.”

He does not explain how his military junta has managed an economy that leaves people starving to death, all the 11 million and more who were recently handed 500 baht each as some kind of warped one-off “welfare” payment.

(A reader suggests that the electoral strategies being used by the junta have some resonances with Najib Razak’s money politics.)

But he did add:

“We want to create a pracharat society,” … using the slogan his party is named after, which the government uses to promote its policies as a form of public-state cooperation.

The minister-devil-party-deputy leader also mumbled that salaried workers in the private sector will soon get state-funded pensions. Now that should be big!

But then, some of the junta’s electoral splurges have failed to impact the poor. A report at the Bangkok Post states that a “meagre 360,000 of the 11.4 million recipients of the government’s welfare and subsidy scheme for the poor are entitled to value-added tax (VAT) payback in the first month after the tax incentive scheme…”, for an average of just over 12 baht each. That’s mainly because only Thong Fah Pracharat – yes, like the Party’s name – shops with card readers are involved. That’s less than 15% of these junta-sponsored shops.

Double standards are the junta’s standards.

 





The election splurge II

3 12 2018

Just days after shoveling taxpayer funds out to shore up its electoral appeal, and soon after the devil party more-or-less officially stated that The Dictator is their man for the premiership after the election, the junta has come up with even more electoral giveaways.

This means that the de facto leader of the Palang Pracharath Party is Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. So when The Dictator has his minions throw more money after votes, he does it for his party.

His latest scheme to pour funds into the party’s direction is seen by The Nation as blatant:

In a bid to garner popularity ahead of the election scheduled for February, the government has finalised plans to give more than 11 million low-income people free Internet SIM cards and other state subsidies that will together cost taxpayers billions of baht.

Mimicking Pansak Vinyaratn when he was with the Chatichai Choonhavan government in the late 1980s,

Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said it would benefit farmers, for example, who could access market crop prices and other useful data in real time.

He said farmers would be able to follow price trends on low-cost smartphones so they could make more informed decisions on what and when to plant, avoiding issues like oversupply. The NBTC would work out the details, Apisak said, and low-income people other than farmers would also benefit from online access to improve their individual economic well-being.

As well as helicoptering cash, the new taxpayer-funded handout is the free internet access.

How much more will the junta shovel into the electorate in order to maintain its political control?

Yellow shirted anti-democrats reckon there’s nothing wrong with all of this. Look at Yingluck Shinawatra’s rice subsidy, they say. But they then forget that they demanded and got people jailed for years for this scheme. But no one is about to “investigate” the junta in they way they hounded Yingluck. Double standards? You bet.