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.





Populist vs. populists

30 05 2018

In recent days there have been a couple of news accounts of “populism” in Thailand. One is in the Bangkok Post and another was in the South China Morning Post.

The SCMP reckons the military junta is stealing policies from Thaksin Shinawatra – something we at PPT have long pointed to. Indeed, the role of Somkid Jatusripitak cannot be discounted in accounting for policy congruence in areas the media delights in calling “populism.”

Taking quite a different approach to origins, the Bangkok Post believes the military dictatorship’s Thai Niyom Yangyuen (sustainable Thai-ness) campaign draws “inspiration” from “the Chinese Communist Party’s grassroots development campaigns…”. Given Somkid’s ethnicity and personal ties, that could also be true. We doubt many in the military are followers of Chinese Communist Party rural efforts, but they certainly like that regime’s strong authoritarian control, so perhaps its political models they draw on. But as an economist, Somkid also draws inspiration from Japanese models of development and innovation, and he did this successfully under Thaksin.

Puea Thai Party politicians are right, too, to point to “double standards as the government has been quite outspoken in the past in vilifying such attempts at populism.”

The Dictator is likely to get even more jumpy and agitated in his campaigning as the Shinawatra clan is again in the news. It seems Yingluck Shinawatra has been given a 10-year visa by the British government.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha looks silly because he keeps talking about extradition but does precious little. He is probably happier to have her outside the country as he campaigns for his own continued premiership, But he gets grumpy when the Shinawatras get media time.

But back to populism. One of the biggest “subsidies” going into an election some time in the future is that from the State Oil Fund. Gen Prayuth reckons he can maintain fuel prices at the current level until the election.

He insisted that “the State Oil Fund proves a vital tool for stabilising oil prices and limiting the effects on the economy.” It is also a means of preventing voter disenchantment with the junta’s devil parties. He says the Fund currently has “about 31 billion baht in its coffers” but don’t be surprised if that is added to if an election is called. There is also pressure on PTT to support lower prices.

For the junta, it is all hands and lots of cash on deck for an election.





Updated: Devils and angels

29 05 2018

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has faced intense criticism from the military junta and The Dictators for his statement that the junta’s charter needs to be ditched.

He’s right. PPT has said this for a very long time. But we are not campaigning for a possible election, rumored to be held sometime in early 2019, maybe.

Thanathorn  is reported to have stated that the “2017 constitution can’t be amended so it will have to be torn [up]…”. He’s partly right. The junta’s charter includes provisions for change but the rules and appointments of senators, judges and others in various “independent” agencies means that amending the junta’s constitution will be impossible for any party that isn’t entirely aligned with the junta and its supporters.

Yingluck Shinawatra learned that the hard way when her elected government was unable to use the then charter’s articles on amending the constitution.

His other promise was “an amnesty for all political prisoners charged by the National Council for Peace and Order [the junta]…”. Again, that seems reasonable, but the junta and anti-democrats are up in arms.

The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, campaigning hard for the position of unelected, outsider premier after the still vague;y promised election, declared “it was inappropriate to criticise the charter and blamed it for political woes.”

It is “inappropriate” to criticize his charter, that was written by his carefully chosen puppets, passed by his puppet legislature, put to a unfree and unfair sham referendum where no one could campaign against it, and then was amended as an unelected king felt he wanted it.

That charter also has rules that embed the military’s domination of politics for years to come in a kind of guided democracy, which will be no democracy at all, not least because it overturns notions of representation.

For all those reasons, the junta’s charter should be dumped.

The Dictator then made threats about his thugs watching and waiting for political parties to break the law so they can be dissolved and leaders arrested. He didn’t use those words, but that’s the threat.

The Dictator’s client deputy, Wissanu Krea-ngam, also warned Thanathorn with vaguely semi-legal language that mounted to The Dictator’s threat repeated.

Then the hopelessly anti-democratic Democrat Party babbled about the constitution like junta lapdogs. Most egregiously, it was the Party’s deputy spokeswoman Mallika Boonmeetrakul, who views “democracy” as some kind of royalist absolutism, who “warned that the amnesty and charter-scrapping ideas could bring back the political rifts experienced earlier.” In other words, threatening another People’s Democratic Reform Committee.

More interestingly, it was Wirat Kanlayasiri, a Democrat Party legal advisor, who noticed that Thanathorn’s statements were, in his words, “empty promise to lure voters.” In other words, voters are likely to find these ideas reasonable and attractive.

Any election that is held some time in the future is now going to be a military vs. anti-military campaign or devil parties vs. angel parties in a proxy election.

Update: Khaosod reports that Election Commission head Pol Col. Charungwit Phumma has stated that there “is nothing wrong with campaigning on a pledge to rewrite the constitution…”.





Stealing an election VII

6 05 2018

While the military junta runs wild, collecting support, campaigning vigorously and throwing funds at the electorate, its dependent institutions are working for it.

The Bangkok Post reports that “Pheu Thai Party caretaker secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai warned the Election Commission (EC) it should not assume that former leader Thaksin Shinawatra still dominates the party’s activity.”

While Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan declared that there was no breaking of any law if Puea Thai politicians met Thaksin and sister Yingluck in Singapore, his Election Commission chairman Supachai Somcharoen warned that “party members should be cautious when meeting party outsiders — those who fall outside official member or executive status.” He “they must not let outsiders influence the party’s agenda or accept their money to finance activity.”

No one doubts that Thaksin still wields great influence but the potential for the EC to dissolve the party is real. The notion of precluding “external” influence is a junta law that is designed to trump Puea Thai should the junta party/parties look weak in the junta’s “election.”

Screwing with Thaksin/red shirt parties is going to be a strategy for the junta going forward, so that even a minor party like Sombat Boonngamanong’s proposed Grin Party (or Krian Party) is to be expected. The EC has rejected his request to register his part, objecting to its name.

It is all about paving the road to “election” for The Dictator and his allies.





Glacial NACC

27 04 2018

The pattern of “investigations” by the National Anti-Corruption Commission is that political opponents of the military junta tend have judgements made in quick time, while the buddies, allies and members of the military junta proceed at a glacial pace or are quickly dismissed.

An example of glacial “investigation” is that of Deputy Dictator, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who was caught with more than a score of expensive luxury watches and sundry precious gems. The result, so far, is that the general has declared his case “over” but the NACC claims that its investigations continue – they are now in a fifth month – despite the relative simplicity of the case in investigative terms. Of course, because of conflicts of interest in “investigating” a boss, the cover-up inquiry drags on.

The Bangkok Post reports another case that is slower than a glacier. In recent days, the NACC “has pledged to speed up probes into irregularities in bungled police station construction projects which allegedly involved Suthep Thaugsuban, the former leader of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) which led a mass street protest against the Yingluck Shinawatra administration.”

Suthep is treated with great respect and some circumspect in the circles of the great and good because he’s a thug but his “work” for the “cause” in bringing down Yingluck is to be rewarded.

Back in April 2015, an NACC subcommittee decided to “charge former deputy prime minister Suthep Thuagsuban of malfeasance in office for arbitrarily changing the method of the bid for the construction of 396 police stations in defiance of a cabinet’s resolution.” If we recall correctly, that subcommittee has begun its work in 2013.

Recall that Yingluck was also accused, “investigated,” and sentenced on a malfeasance claim in May 2014. The case, far more complicated than that involving Suthep, was completed and through the courts by September 2017.

When the NACC subcommittee began the case, it “said that Mr Suthep was fully aware that the National Police Office would have to call bid for the construction of the police stations in each region as proposed by the NPO and endorsed by the cabinet.” Yet in 2009 Suthep “arbitrarily changed the method by holding just one bid for the construction of all the police stations across the country.”

Subsequently, “the company which won the bid was unable to fulfill the contractual commitment to build 396 police stations and eventually abandoned the job.” It was a was a 6.67-billion-baht project.

Three years later, five years after NACC “investigations” began, and nine years after his alleged malfeasance, NACC president Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit says his “agency is in the middle of examining the money trail in the case and the result will be presented to the NACC committee no later than September…”.

Such timelines for the NACC just never seem to mean anything when “investigating” the buddies, allies and members of the military junta.