Thailand Election 2019 | The Military Junta Rules

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Thu Apr 30, 2020 9:01 am

Military Junta | Evidence of Election Irregularities and Manipulation

On March 24.2019 Thailand’s opposition Pheu Thai Party won the majority of seats in the country’s first election since a 2014 military coup, but the alliance with other pro-democracy parties to form a government is not possible because of questionable rules established by the military. None of the parties are holding the majority of seats in the House of Representatives, according to official results released, meaning selecting a prime minister could involve prolonged negotiations. But the head of the junta and leader of the 2014 coup, Prayuth Chan-ocha, is expected to retain his post as prime minister. But opposition parties have questioned the results, saying that rules were changed after the vote to give an advantage to smaller parties.

“This is what the election was designed for,” said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an associate professor of political science at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University. “The election was designed for the prolongation of military rule.” The military, which wrote the 2017 constitution that created the framework for the new government, appoints the 250-member Senate, giving it a built-in advantage before voting even began for the 500-member House of Representatives in March.

  • The opposition Pheu Thai Party won 136 seats in the House of Representatives
  • The pro-military party, Palang Pracharat, won 115 seats in the House of Representatives
  • Another pro-democracy party - Future Forward - won 80 seats in the House of Representatives

Opposition parties said after early returns that they expected to win as many as 255 seats, but they ended up with 245, just short of a majority. The House and the Senate together choose the prime minister, and the pro-military delegates are closer to the 376 needed to win that vote. Uttama Savanayana, the leader of Palang Pracharat, said he was confident a coalition could be formed. “We will coordinate with other parties who share our ideology and are interested in forming a government together,” he said.

The results have taken six weeks to be released, with the tabulation marred by delays and irregularities. The allotment of 150 seats allocated by votes for particular parties - called party-list seats - was particularly contentious. The election commission seemed uncertain of how to apportion the votes, telling reporters at one news conference to work it out for themselves after releasing 208 pages of returns.

The election commission has yet to release full results on the number of votes cast for each party. But it confirmed that one party-list seat is allocated to every 30,000 votes, down from the 71,000 votes it previously said was the threshold. The election commission’s chief, Somchai Sawaengkan, said the previous quota turned out to be untenable because it would have resulted in too few party-list seats. He said Thailand’s constitutional court granted his office the authority to distribute seats under its own calculation.

Parties associated with Thaksin Shinawatra, who served as prime minister from 2001 to 2006, and his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, who was prime minister from 2011 until 2014, the year the military took power, have long been a major force in Thailand, although both have been convicted in absentia of corruption-related offenses and live in exile.

Pheu Thai is the latest incarnation of the party founded by Mr. Thaksin, which has won every national election in Thailand since 2001. The new constitution checked the power of Pheu Thai by distributing seats to a larger number of small parties. Mr. Thaksin’s allies created new parties but one of those, Thai Raksa Chart, was banned after it attempted to field the elder sister of the king for prime minister.

This year another pro-democracy force emerged, the Future Forward Party, which attracted younger voters disenchanted with established political offerings. Last month, the authorities revived a four-year-old case against its billionaire leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, who was accused of helping protesters flee arrest. Representatives of Future Forward said it lost seven seats under the election commission’s revised system of allotment. “The number of votes for Future Forward Party nationwide that got thrown into the drain is almost 600,000,” Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, the party’s secretary-general, said Wednesday. “And when we gather the votes from all parties that have been thrown out by the party list, the number is at around 1,500,000 votes.”

In a report issued for Forsea, a Southeast Asian rights group, Mr. Chachavalpongpun of Kyoto University detailed a long list of cases of electoral fraud and irregularities, including miscounts, government employees pressured to support pro-military parties, accusations of vote buying and identity theft. The apparent changes to the party-list seats to benefit the military stands out, though, he said. “The extent they were able to distort regulations and also influence the election commission to go out of its way in how to calculate, I find that a bit disturbing,” he said.
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Thu Apr 30, 2020 9:33 am

Future Forward Party - Disbanded by Court

The "Constitutional Court" - or should we say the Military Mastermind Prayut - on Friday dissolved a key opposition party for violating election laws by accepting an illegal loan from its billionaire founder. The Future Forward Party was found guilty after the court considered the 191 Million THB loan it received from party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit to be a donation, which is forbidden by the voting laws. It was the fourth anti-military party to be disbanded by the same court in the last 13-years.

Apart from disbanding the party, the court banned 16 executives of the party from politics for 10 years including its founder Thanathorn, ending his short-lived career as a maverick politician who stunned the political landscape by placing third in the March 2019 poll, his first-ever election. Because 11 of the executives also serve as MPs, the ruling subsequently shrank the number of the party’s seats in Parliament down to 65. Future Forward Party supporters react to the verdict on Feb. 21, 2020. The rest of the MPs must find a new party within the next 30 days to keep their lawmaker status.

Speaking after the verdict, Thanathorn apologized to his supporters for failing to keep the party intact, but pledged to carry on campaigning on their behalf outside the Parliament. He said now is not the time to cry, but to unite and take up the struggle for liberty and justice. “Our goal is to plant the flag of our ideology onto the land,” Thanathorn said. “The only solution that is left for this country is to amend the Constitution.”

Writing in an online post, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha sought to extend an olive branch to the opposition by suggesting that Future Forward supporters can still resort to other methods to hold his government accountable. “Having a good and responsible opposition will benefit the country and the people as a whole,” Prayut said.

The Election Commission filed the complaint in 2019 based on the evidence brought forward by transparency activist Srisuwan Janya, who accused the party of breaking election laws by accepting the loan from Thanathorn. The loan was first mentioned by Thanathorn himself, who admitted at a forum held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in May that he handed the money to his newly founded party.

Election regulators said the loan counts as a donation forbidden by voting laws, which prohibits a person from donating more than ten million baht to a political party within a year. The party denied the allegation, saying that a loan cannot be counted as a donation since the party agreed to pay back the debt to Thanathorn. In its ruling today, the court said there was a clear intent that the loan was a donation by its own party founder.

The demise of the upstart party came less than two years after it was founded by auto parts tycoon Thanathorn who pledged to campaign on progressive policies, like reforming the military, promoting human rights, and decentralizing the government. The party later proved to be extremely popular, coming third in last year’s general election and dethroning even the pro-establishment Democrats from their traditional strongholds in Bangkok. Its popularity was highlighted when thousands joined a rally called by Thanathorn to protest the court case, distinguishing the protest as the largest political demonstrations since the 2014 coup.

But the party also came under legal challenges nearly as soon as it began to make its bid for power, including a bizarre lawsuit that accused Thanathorn of drawing inspiration from the Illuminati and attempting to overthrow the Thai monarchy in favor of a New World Order. Thanathorn himself had his MP status suspended just days after the parliament convened due to a legal challenge by election regulators. He was later stripped of his MP seat on allegations of violating a voting law.

In the wake of today’s verdict, the Future Forward joined the rank of other anti-military parties dissolved by the Constitutional Court, starting from the Thai Rak Thai Party back in 2006 to the Thai Raksa Chart Party last year.
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Mon May 04, 2020 3:00 pm

Criminal Action against Thanathorn

The Election Commission (EC) has disclosed details of the criminal case it has lodged against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, former leader of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, after he was disqualified as MP by the Constitutional Court in November last year. That case stemmed from the EC making three accusations against Thanathorn. The first and second accusations involved an allegation that he owned or held shares in a media company, the third was related to shares in 13 companies of the Thai Summit Group.

A Constitutional Court investigation found that Thanathorn still held shares in V-Luck Media on February 06, 2019, the day the Future Forward Party submitted its list of party-list MPs. The findings showed that Thanathorn went ahead with applying as an MP despite the knowledge that holding the shares were in violation of the Organic Act on MPs – Articles 151 and 42 (3).

The investigation into the first accusation was then halted, with Thanathorn facing criminal prosecution as per the Organic Act. If found guilty he faces up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to THB 200,000. He will also lose his election rights and be forced to give up his parliamentary allowance and other benefits to the Secretariat of the House of Representatives. The Constitutional Court has yet to rule on the second and third.

Editorial Note: This really highlights the desperation of the ruling party, its paranoia and the lowly depths they will go to to retain power and their place at the trough!
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Mon May 04, 2020 3:16 pm

Cable and Satellite Provider True Visions wanted a “Censorship Officer”

Satellite and cable TV provider True Visions is in hot water after posting an advert seeking an “international news censor” on the biggest online jobs board in Thailand. The ad, which appeared on the JobsDB site, said the right candidate would be required to scrutinise 17 Foreign News Channels and report any “inappropriate” content to supervisors.

A report in Coconuts points out that this is not the first time the use of “censors” at True Visions has come up. Four years ago, Khaosod English reported that the company was monitoring content from BBC and Al Jazeera, after the BBC had found itself blocked in Thailand on a few occasions as a result of their coverage of the military junta

The latest True Visions job ad says content that goes against Article 112 of the Criminal Code (that’s the piece covering lese majeste, or defamation of the Thai Royal Family) is “inappropriate” and should be flagged to superiors. The punishment for lese majeste is up to 15 years’ imprisonment. Many netizens are up in arms after the ad was brought to their attention when someone shared it on Facebook. One user, named as Pran Tamalee, slams True Visions for participating in censorship.

“This is why the country deserves to be called Kala Land. The world has changed, and anyone who is not willing to change along with it, too bad.” ( The expression Kala Land is a metaphor that says Thailand is like an ignorant frog inside a coconut shell. )

Other social media users threatened not to renew their subscriptions, with one saying, “we can get information from original news anyway. We don’t need an operator that lacks principles like True.” The rise in social media use across Thailand means more people than ever are voicing their opposition to authority figures and calling out issues such as censorship and corruption.

True Visions is part of True Corporation and owned by one of the largest conglomerates in the world, Charoen Pokphand. Coconuts reports that True Visions has done well financially under military rule, benefiting from light regulation and other favorable conditions.

The job listing has been removed from the JobsDB site in meantime.
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Mon May 11, 2020 10:19 pm

Human Rights Watch: Thailand should free detained migrants

A significant number of migrants in Thailand’s Songkhla immigration detention centre have the coronavirus and the Human Rights Watch is saying all them should be free due to the dangers of the coronavirus pot the other detainees. In an article urging the release of the migrants, the HRW said the virus infections “spread like wildfire in squalid lockup” and that the conditions in the detention centre on the Malaysian border were “overcrowded and unhygienic”. Calls have been made by other activists to free detained migrants all over the world amid the pandemic.

18 of the 65 detainees, as well as an immigration officer, have tested positive for Covid-19, according to the HRW. However, last week the Bangkok Post reported that 42 migrant workers tested positive at the Songkla centre. The immigration bureau wants to transfer 26 Rohingya women to another detention centre in Hat Yai to help prevent an outbreak. “Regardless of the numbers, there seems to be a problem with the conditions at the detention centre and containment of the virus.”

And when it comes to the simple practice of social distancing, it’s apparently almost impossible in the detention centre where people are crammed together in the same space and sharing bathrooms. The HRW claims medical care is inadequate in Thailand’s detention centres. The HRW says they should at least find ways to provide adequate space for social distancing. And since it is still unsafe for migrants to return to their home countries, the HRW suggests a temporary moratorium on police checks which would ultimately prevent the overcrowding and risk of exposure to the virus at detention facilities.

The HRW says the lack of action to protect migrants and the “wretched” conditions they endure makes Thailand’s frequent claims about respecting the rights and welfare of migrants “ring hollow.”
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Tue May 12, 2020 10:46 am

Bangkok police hunt activists who projected slogans onto landmarks of 2010 protests

The slogan Seek the Truth (in Thai) has been projected onto several Bangkok landmarks in what appears to be a commemoration of the violent end to political demonstrations in 2010. That year, protests rocked Bangkok for 3 months between March and May, when over 100,000 supporters of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra (known as the “Redshirts”) descended on the city, demanding elections.

The slogan has appeared on the Democracy Monument, on the Defense Ministry building and at the Victory Monument BTS station, as well as being spotted on a temple, Wat Pathum Wanaram, in the centre of the capital. These are all places that witnessed violent clashes during the Government’s crackdown on protesters.

Violence first broke out at the Democracy Monument in April of 2010, and soldiers are suspected of killing six people who sought refuge in the temple in May. Yesterday, the Seek the Truth slogan was all over social media too, becoming the top-trending hashtag on Twitter.

Those defending the demonstrators say they were protesting peacefully, while the other side accuses them of being paid to flock to Bangkok and create anarchy and disruption. After shutting down large parts of the capital, they were forcibly removed on May 19. As the situation grew increasingly violent, the iconic Central World shopping mall was set on fire, and the ‘redshirts’ blamed for the violence.

In the bloody crackdown that followed, nearly 100 people, mostly civilians, were killed. A Japanese journalist also died, as well as 5 soldiers. Charges initially brought against then PM Abhisit and his deputy, Suthep Thaugsuban, were later dropped and to date, nobody has been held accountable for the bloodshed.

Coconuts reports that while it’s not known who is responsible for the Seek the Truth slogan being projected onto the city’s landmarks, police have launched an investigation to track them down. It’s not clear what offence they might be charged with.
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Wed May 13, 2020 2:24 pm

Future Forward Members are behind Political Slogan Campaigns in Bangkok

Former members of the now defunct Future Forward party say they are responsible for projecting a political slogan on to some of Bangkok’s most iconic landmarks Sunday night, and say more’s to come. Coconuts reports that the political figures, now members of a group called “Progressive Movement,” shared a video of activists using projection equipment from within a van. The group says it plans to release information related to a bloody government crackdown that ended political protests in 2010. “How many times have people with empty hands been killed in cold blood? How many times have killers and those behind them never been prosecuted, and even stepped into the lanes of power?”

On Sunday, the slogan Seek the Truth was projected onto several monuments and buildings in Bangkok, all scenes of bloody clashes during political protests in 2010. They included the Democracy Monument, the BTS Victory Monument station, and a temple, Wat Pathum Wanaram, where 6 people seeking refuge were allegedly killed by government soldiers.

Prominent members of the Future Forward Party, including its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, have been banned from politics for 10 years, after the party was dissolved by the Constitutional Court in February. One former member, Pannika Wanich, now a founding member of the new Progressive Thai party, has warned that Sunday night’s activism is just the beginning. The group has promised that between now and May 20, it will release more information about the government action that ended the 2010 protests.

Between March and May that year, over 100,000 demonstrators, supporters of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, descended on the capital, demanding elections. Known as the “redshirts,” their supporters claim they protested peacefully, while opponents claim they were paid to flood into the city and cause mayhem and chaos.

The protests came to an end in May, with a bloody crackdown that saw nearly 100 people killed. The vast majority were civilians, but a Japanese journalist and five soldiers also died.
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Thu May 14, 2020 4:39 pm

Defence Ministry take Legal Action in Anti-Government Slogan Campaign

The Defence Ministry is vowing to take action after an anti-government slogan was projected onto various Bangkok monuments and buildings, including the Defence Ministry building itself, at the weekend. The Seek the Truth slogan also appeared on the Democracy Monument, at the Victory Monument BTS station and on Wat Pathum Wanaram temple.

Former members of the now defunct Future Forward party are taking credit for the campaign, which seeks to commemorate the anniversary of a bloody government crackdown that ended 3 months of protests in the capital in 2010. Over 100,000 people, supporters of former PM, Thaksin Shinawatra, and known as the “Redshirts”, had flooded into Bangkok, demanding elections be called.

A large fire that broke out at the Central World shopping centre during the government crackdown was also projected onto the walls of Thailand’s Defence Ministry on Sunday night. The campaign has gone viral on social media, with the hashtag Seek The Truth (in Thai) being the top-trending hashtag on Twitter on Monday. Defence spokesman, Kongcheep Tantravanich, is vowing retaliation, saying the campaign is intended to divide the country.

“I personally believe it is inappropriate. It can incite disunity and mistrust among the public, which is not beneficial to the current situation the country is facing. If one wants to seek for the truth, they can find it from the court cases where justice is delivered. I see this as a politically-motivated act seeking to cause misunderstandings to institutions and organisations. Security officials are working to find the perpetrators, which should not be difficult for them.” However, Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan says he can’t say for sure that the action has broken any laws.

After ongoing demonstrations between the months of March and May, the protests were finally ended by a government crackdown that led to the loss of 100 lives, mostly civilians. A Japanese journalist and 5 soldiers also died. Charges were brought against then PM Abhisit and his deputy, Suthep Thaugsuban, but subsequently dropped. To date, nobody has been held accountable for the bloodshed.

Now a group called Progressive Movement, which includes former Future Forward party members, has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s campaign, adding that this is just the beginning. The group says it plans to release more information about the government’s actions in ending the 2010 protests.
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Mon May 18, 2020 1:21 pm

Government | 2010 Bangkok Protest Crackdown was Legal

A spokesman for Thailand’s Democrat Party, currently part of the ruling coalition, says former PM and party chairman Abhisit Vejjajiva did nothing wrong in ordering the 2010 military crackdown on protesters in Bangkok.

Khaosod English reports that Ramet Rattanachaweng’s comments come as activists commemorated the 10 year anniversary of the crackdown, in which around 100 people died, by projecting an anti-government slogan on some of the capital’s key monuments and buildings.

In 2010, over 100,000 demonstrators congregated in Bangkok to protest against the government, demanding that parliament be dissolved, and elections called. Known as the “Redshirts”, they protested for 3 months from March until the government’s crackdown in May brought things to a bloody end. Most of those who died were civilians.

In the aftermath, the Abhisit administration established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate any wrongdoing on the part of the government. Ramet says the findings show the former PM did nothing wrong.

“The allegation has been already disproved by contests in the justice system, whether a court of justice or an inquiry by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which already proved that the crackdown was in accordance with the law. The allegations [against Abhisit] are distortions to defame him.”

He also criticises the recent actions of former members of the Future Forward party, now part of a group calling itself “Progressive Movement”. The group says it’s responsible for the Seek the Truth campaign, but Ramet says the truth has already been uncovered by the investigation and there is nothing to hide.

“I want to let them know that in fact, they don’t have to shoot any laser to find the truth. Truth is truth. There are already clear investigation results by many committees and the justice system.”
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Tue May 26, 2020 2:17 pm

Pandemic May Split Thailand’s Ruling Coalition - Says Opposition

Thailand’s ruling coalition is at risk of fracturing amid infighting stoked in part by criticism of its response to the Covid-19 induced economic crash, according to the main opposition party. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s administration acted too slowly and lacked a vision for how to fight the fallout, said Sompong Amornvivat, leader of the Pheu Thai party. The next largest opposition party, Move Forward, signaled anti-government protests are likely once a state of emergency ends. “We’ve seen the weakness in the coalition,” Sompong said in an interview May 22, citing tension between some of the more than a dozen parties in the bloc. “We’ve seen signs of cracks. A people’s movement, and the stability of the government, are the things to watch for.”

The risk of the coalition splintering could renew questions about whether Prayuth’s military-backed alliance can last its full term to 2023 after taking office in July last year following a disputed election. A political upheaval would add another challenge for an economy facing its worst contraction this year since the Asian financial crisis about two decades ago. The party leading the coalition, Palang Pracharath, has rejected claims of internal discord and described Prayuth’s response to the crisis as “outstanding.” The comment followed rumors that party leader Uttama Savanayana, also the finance minister, could quit Palang Pracharath to form a new outfit.

Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, a spokesman for Palang Pracharath, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The World Bank estimates the government’s stimulus of 15% of the economy is among the largest in East Asia and the Pacific. Tourism and trade reliant Thailand still faces a contraction of about 6% in 2020, and as many as 10 million jobs could be lost in a country that was already facing rising poverty. The stimulus includes emergency cash handouts to spur consumer spending. Almost 29 million people applied for handouts of approximately $155 a month, but only about half qualified, leading to criticism that more needs to be done.

A state of emergency imposed in late March to curb the pathogen is set to be extended to the end of June. At the same time, Prayuth is easing a national lockdown in stages to kickstart the economy after infections dwindled, restricting the official tally to just over 3,000. Prayuth, a former army chief, seized power in a military coup in 2014, ruled at the head of a junta for five years and returned as leader after the election, which was held under rules crafted during the junta’s tenure. Before large gatherings were banned due to the virus crisis, he and his backers in the royalist establishment faced escalating protests from critics who dispute the fairness of the poll.

The emergency and lockdown amplified the dissatisfaction, said Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of Move Forward, the second largest opposition party. Move Forward emerged from the now disbanded Future Forward party, which was dissolved by a court just before the outbreak. Students were protesting about a lack of opportunities back in January, and now laborers, business owners and the middle class are also reeling, he said, adding it’s as if “their problems are now on steroids.”

A Cabinet reshuffle and a change in policies is likely in the months ahead, said Punchada Sirivunnabood, an associate professor in politics at Mahidol University. “A lot of the protest movement that went online during the lockdown will return and intensify,” she said.
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