Political Prisoners of Thailand | Mirroring the real but often blocked PPT
This is a rough and ready mirror site for Political Prisoners in Thailand. We established it when PPT was blocked by Thai government authorities. The blog does not include all the pages available at PPT, just recent posts.
Two scoundrels appear in separate stories at Thai PBS. One is on The Dictator and the other is another anti-democrat, Suriyasai Katasila. We won’t waste much space on them except to point out their untruths.
We can begin with Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. As big boss at the military junta, he has banned “politicians” and political parties from using social media. So what’s the deal with The Dictator’s deputy secretary-general for political affairs announcing that The Dictator “and his aides would administer the [boss’s Facebook] page, IG and Twitter accounts as well as the website of the prime minister.” Everyone knows that The Dictator is campaigning and now he’s the only politician permitted to campaign in public and with social media. Double standards? Of course. Crooked? Of course. Rigging the election? Naturally.
Then there’s the yellow ideologue and pretend academic Suriyasai. His self-assigned role is to speak for “the people.” The problem is that the people ignore him and the things he says about them are nonsense. He said “people have more expectations on the next election than the previous ones because they want politics to help solve problems the country is facing.” He means yellow shirts. Sensible people know that the outcome of the elections, when held, will be more military domination (see above). He added that “people are fed up with politics and do not trust politicians…”. This is nonsense. The evidence of voter turnout is that the last two elections had turnouts at record rates of 80-88%. Of course, Suriyasai and his ilk prefer the military’s voice to voter voice and rigged elections to free and fair elections.
What happens when the military junta is rigging an election? PPT has had a heck of a lot of posts on this already. Even so, we think it time to begin a series of posts.
One thing that junta has done is arranged a series of puppet organizations that are sometimes inaccurately referred to as “independent.” They are not independent of the junta. Indeed the reason persons get appointed to such puppet outfits is because of loyalty to the junta and those around it.
The Election Commission is one of these puppet organizations.
EC secretary-general Pol Col Jarungvith Phumma has “explained” that the EC warned the Future Forward Party against receiving contributions from supporters. In doing this, it was working for the junta.
Jarungvith now “clarifies” that “[p]olitical parties are allowed to receive donations…”, BUT the parties “need to seek approval from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)…”. That’s the junta.
The receiving of contributions is considered legal by the Revenue Department and under the organic law on political parties. But none of that trumps the military junta.
So, in the wash-up, no party is permitted to accept funds or raise funds WITHOUT the junta’s permission. Rigging? You bet! A dependent EC? You bet!
As it turns out, some the FFP’s revenue was not from contributions but “from souvenir sales…”. Presumably they need junta permission for that too. (In fact, FFP now says it only received funds from the sale of products and membership fees.)
Jarungvith added that “parties that wish to seek donations can seek permission from the NCPO through the EC…”.
In essence, the EC is the junta’s processing terminal on rigging the election.
As part of that, that the EC “has set up tambon democracy promotion centres to boost public understanding about the democratic system ahead of the polls…”. We have no idea what that means, but we guess that, as a junta processing terminal on rigging the election, then there’s likely to be a promotion of the junta’s version of (non) democracy.
Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a well-known critic of the monarchy. He has a new article at The Diplomat. Most of it, though, will be familiar to PPT readers. However, it is worth remaking some of his points.
He focuses on the recent reorganization of the Privy Council and notes that the:
king’s decision to evict old members of the Privy Council close to his late father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the stripping of the power from its president, General Prem Tinsulanonda, as well as the appointment of his close confidants as new Privy Councilors, suggests that, more than just a process, this is part of the growing aggrandizement of political power of Thailand’s new King….
In fact, the king has not really done anything that should not have been expected. Any new king would want to have his most trusted advisers in place.
The dead king made sure he had pliant royalists as advisers “working outside the constitutional framework to compete with other elite groups for administrative and political power.”
They protected and advanced the king’s and monarchy’s positions:
Successive coups have over the years strengthened the partnership between the Privy Council and the military. The Privy Council played its part in endorsing past coups, including the most recent one in May 2014. Prem, in the aftermath of the coup, openly praised the coup makers for being a force that moved Thailand forward. This underlined the quintessential role of the Privy Council as an engine behind the Thai politics.
In the past reign, the link with the military mostly revolved around Gen Prem Tinsulanonda and, to a lesser extent, Gen Surayud Chulanont. The Privy Councilors:
… constructed a complex web of relationships as a way to sanctify the royal power above other institutions outside the constitutional framework. In his overt intervention in politics, Prem placed his trusted subordinates in key positions in the bureaucracy and in the army. He had an influence on the defense budget, and dominated national security and foreign policy, and thus the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Pavin also notes that the:
Privy Council under Prem also had its members seated on boards in major conglomerates including Bangkok Bank, Charoen Phokphand, the Boonrawd group, and the Charoen Siriwatanapakdi business group. For the Privy Council, reaching out to these powerful factions was as crucial as allowing them to reach in, thus consolidating a network of interdependence. The Privy Council’s strong ties with the bureaucracy, the military and businesses effectively circumscribed the power and authority of the government of the day.
The new king wants similar influence, but he’s been busy pushing the old duffers aside. Prem is infirm, doddery and being made essentially powerless:
On October 2, Vajiralongkorn added three more Privy Councillors to its team: Amphon Kittiamphon, currently advisor to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha; General Chalermchai Sidhisart, former army chief, and; Air Chief Marshal Chom Rungsawang, former Air Force chief. This latest move can be regarded as Vajiralongkorn’s plot in strengthening his political position by setting up a new trusted team to replace the old one—the team that has its links with the current military strongmen.
At present, 10 of the 16 councilors have been appointed by the current king. He can appoint another two. At the same time, he has already ditched three he appointed, presumably because they annoyed him about something or other. So the “trusted team” is being put in place, but there’s still some work to do or dying to be done.
Pavin also mentions the “law was enacted in regard to the ownership of the rich Crown Property Bureau…, [where] crown property assets reverted to the ownership of the king with the bureau’s investments now being held in Vajiralongkorn’s name.”
He might have mentioned that the king is now personally the largest shareholder in both the Siam Cement Group and the Siam Commercial Bank, the latter ownership having been seen in stockholder information fairly recently. (We also think Pavin should update the $30 billion assets of the CPB/king. That was from data collected in 2005 and imperfectly updated in 2011. We would guess that the real figure is closer to $50-60 billion.)
Pavin is undoubtedly right that while “many predicted that Vajiralongkorn, perceived as having lacked moral authority, could become a weak king.” As he now says, “He is quickly proving them wrong.”
The junta has spent a king’s ransom on its “populist” programs as The Dictator campaigns for his supporters to “win” the rigged election. PPT has posted again and again on the schemes it has implemented in an effort to defeat the Puea Thai Party and to hoover up its former MPs and its supporters. One of the principal authors of these schemes is a former Thaksin Shinawatra minister, Somkid Jatusripitak.
The latest scheme is one targeted at a particular group: motorcycle taxis.
As is well known, motorcycle taxis were strong Thaksin supporters and were also important for the red shirt movement, so dragging them to the junta’s side is a critical mission for the vote strategists around The Dictator.
We also know, thanks to Claudio Sopranzetti and his book Owners of the Map, that military intelligence moved quickly following the 2014 coup to co-opt leaders of motorcycle taxi riders.
Motorcycle taxis nationwide will receive a discount on gasohol 95 of three baht per litre by December in a bid to manage the effects of higher global oil prices, says Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.
The discount price will be administered through the state-owned oil and gas conglomerate, PTT Plc, whose petrol stations will take part in the programme.
Funding sources could include PTT, the State Oil Fund and the welfare smartcard scheme.
Registered motorcycle taxis nationwide number 200,000, with half of those in Bangkok.
One surprise in this is that PTT is supposed to be a public company. While the state continues to hold 51% of the company, investors probably didn’t put their money into PTT thinking that it would simply respond to the diktats of the military dictatorship.
This adds to other subsidies and schemes that are meant to bolster support for the junta and, in this case, is a lubricant for undoing links between Puea Thai and particular groups of political groups.
The Democrat Party has always been a party of royalists and anti-democrats.
The Bangkok Post reports that analysts now think the “Democrat Party has a chance to form a coalition government led by pro-regime parties rather than cooperating with Pheu Thai as the opposition…”.
While current leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has “insisted that the party under his leadership would not support dictatorship and said if the party were to form a coalition government, its partners must have shared values,” ironically, this does not rule out either possibility. After all, Abhisit and his party supported anti-democrats and have worked in concert with the military when they were most recently in government.
The Post reports that “Deputy Democrat leader Nipit Intarasombat explained that Mr Abhisit’s stance is that he will not support a dictatorship of any kind, be it a military or parliamentary one — a situation where one political party controls parliament so completely it can do whatever it wants.”
In other words, no alliance with Puea Thai (or with any other majority party). Parliamentary democracy and the will of the people is still rejected as it always has been by Abhisit and his party.
Nipit denied “talk that the party may eventually lean toward supporting a military dictatorship…”. But few believe him. This is because many in the party would love to jump back into bed with the military.
It seems pretty clear that the junta has had a plan to rid itself of the Puea Thai Party prior to the “elections.” As a Bangkok Post editorial states:
As the general election, tentatively planned for Feb 24, draws nearer, the Pheu Thai Party’s very existence has increasingly come under threat. A lawsuit and several allegations against its executives have put the party at risk of being dissolved.
This has been a part of the junta’s planning all along, although it does seem that the military thugs felt that they could “win” an “election” by defeating Puea Thai through institutions, gnarled laws and rules and mammoth rigging.
The junta “has filed a complaint with police against eight Pheu Thai leaders for holding a press conference to criticise the regime in May. Sedition is among the four criminal charges being brought against them.” There are also calls for Puea Thai to be dissolved as several of its hierarchy recently met with former premier Thaksin Shinawatra in Hong Kong.
There’s also a “case” about Puea Thai having set up surrogate parties. Despite the fact that junta legal mouth Wissanu Krea-ngam said there was no legal case, the puppet Election Commission is hard at work, looking at how to have the party dissolved.
Even the Post notes the political bias of the EC and recognizes the double standards involved.
As a follow-up, Khaosod reports that the military’s middleman on all these deals has been convicted again:
Sutthiwat Wattanakij and his company Ava Satcom Ltd. were guilty of fraud for selling the so-called GT200 devices worth 6.8 million baht to the ministry’s Central Institute of Forensic Science from 2007 to 2009.
The ruling came two weeks after he was handed down the same sentence for selling the devices to the Royal Thai Aide-De-Camp Department in 2008.
Again, no official seems to have been investigated.
We recall that back in 2010, we posted on a story by Pravit Rojanaphruk at The Nation who suggested that “superstition trumps logic in this country.” He asked:
How else can one explain Army chief General Anupong Paochinda and forensics department chief Pornthip Rojanasunand insisting on using the so-called bomb detectors even though a Science Ministry test had proved that they are basically useless?
We also recall that Pornthip is always claimed to be Thailand’s leading forensic scientist and that her support for the GT200 was enthusiastic.
At the time we suggested that corruption was a better answer to Pravit’s question.It still is, but because all three of the most senior junta generals – Gen Prayuth, Gen Prawit and Gen Anupong – were involved, there’s no investigation.
The Revenue Department has recently decided that it should allow “tax deductions for contributions to political parties, with a cap of 10,000 baht for individual taxpayers and 50,000 baht for companies.” A report states:
The amended Revenue Code, which is currently having a public hearing running through Oct 15, is to comply with Section 70 of the 2017 charter, stipulating that those who contribute to political parties can deduct income tax.
The department considered it appropriate to permit both individuals and corporate taxpayers to claim political contributions and donations as expenses for income tax deductions, the source said.
Yet, the junta’s Election Commission has warned ” about receiving donations as the act is still prohibited by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).”
EC secretary-general Sawaeng Boonmee said that the ban on parties that still exists prevents “political activities, including fundraising for political purposes…”.
Double standards, You bet. The junta is doing all it can to win its rigged election.
We are getting bored with the media outlets and others who operate under the illusion that the junta’s election might be free and fair. We suppose that one might hypothesize that a party that is not pro-junta might win the most seats. But that doesn’t say much about the election, fairness or freedom.
After all, as should be clear to everyone, this is to be an “election” designed by a military junta, under lopsided rules established by a military junta, following a constitution put in place by anti-democrat puppets working for a military junta, establishing a senate populated by unelected junta swill, with the junta controlling a panel of agencies that are meant to impede a government that is not of the military junta and a junta plan that every government must follow for 20 years.
It disappoints us that ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights has a press release calling for “Thailand’s military junta should make good on promises to hold genuinely free and fair elections as soon as possible and lift all restrictions on political parties’ ability to campaign…”.
We do not recall that the junta has ever stated that it aims to have free and fair elections. Its aim is to hamstring real electoral democracy and keep government in the hands of anti-democrats. The Parliamentarians certainly know all of this, so the call for free and fair elections is a bit daft. But if they are not to be free or fair, then there are things that should be demanded, and on this they have some valid things to say.
For example, they are undoubtedly right to observe that:
The past four years of military rule have been a human rights disaster for Thailand. Authorities have muzzled free speech and cowed civil society as the junta has wielded power with complete impunity. A return to democracy is urgently needed to end this crisis….
They are also right to call for the “reforming or repealing [of] repressive laws, releasing all those detained for criticizing military rule, and allowing political parties to campaign and voice opinions without restrictions.”
And we applaud them for saying:
It will be impossible to hold a genuinely free and fair vote in Thailand under the current conditions. How can Thai people make an informed choice about their future if they are not allowed to hear what political parties have to say?
Regional and international governments should push the Thai military junta to remove all restrictions on political parties well in advance of polling day.
There is no point in holding an election unless the will of the people prevails. The junta’s moves to tighten its grip on politics for years to come raises the prospect of Thailand looking frighteningly like military-controlled Myanmar – this must not happen….
Little progress can be expected under the junta and we don’t expect the junta thinks it can be defeated. We doubt it would have its rigged election if it didn’t believe it would “win.” The best prospect a rigged election offers progressives is some hope that the junta’s people and supporters to be defeated.
In an editorial, the Bangkok Post refers to the military leadership having “unveiled plans to reinforce Thailand’s ‘cyber army’.” That’s a scary plan.
The Post uses terms like: “opaque force” and “Big Brother-like surveillance, accompanied by arrests” that has defined the military’s cyber snooping in recent years, much of it in search of so-called enemies of the monarchy.
The Post states that:
The promise to increase the size and scope of this cyber army came from Gen Pornpipat Benyasri, the new chief of the defence forces (formerly known as the Supreme Commander). In practically his first action after he was officially promoted from his position as chief-of-staff of the armed forces, Gen Pornpipat called a meeting of 300 officers to outline his policies, with cyber security near the top. He wants a bigger force of better trained troops to “solve counter-terrorism problems within 30 minutes”.
The Post reckons that this idea goes back to “the government of Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin deceptively created the first Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MICT) with the promise of promoting online freedom, open internet access and huge digital advances in education. None of that happened, and every prime minister after Thaksin has made it worse.”
That’s only partly accurate. Thaksin had ambitions but just over 2000 sites were blocked in mid-2006. By May 2007, this had multiplied by a factor of 5 and went up exponentially. The levels of censorship seen in Thailand since the 2006 coup are totally unprecedented and have been associated with military and military-backed governments. Being conciliatory towards the real culprits is weak.
To suggest that the “2006 coup-installed lawmakers used Thaksin’s bait-and-switch tactics to get and pass an initial Computer Crime Act (CCA) in 2007” is inaccurate to the point of being deceptive. HRW’s report from the time is revealing.
The Post seems all too tepid:
Gen Pornpipat’s emphasis on digital security is well taken. However, it will only earn people’s support if he can resist the urge to expand secret government control measures even further. At the moment, far too many resources — money, and tech-savvy people — are involved in suppression of speech, and trapping people on spurious charges such as “harming the image” of the country and the regime. It is time for a proper, consumer-friendly Computer Crime Act. Thaksin’s moribund promise to bring education into the digital age needs to be properly implemented.
A “cyber army” is as necessary for national defence as the regular armed forces. But just as the Royal Thai Army helps out with floods and fires, so Gen Pornpipat’s cyber army should work more with people instead of against them.
This is not just tepid, it is silly. Thailand’s military is for repressing, not for working with the people. For one thing, it doesn’t trust “people,” and prefers to snoop, repress and oppress, which it does with impunity.