John Thomas














Home | Site blocked after 2006 coup





Organised Crime and the Justice System in Thailand

This website: http://johnthomasagain.tripod.com/

Website reposted August 10, 2007; last updated:




























ATTENTION:

 

This website has been blocked by Lycos several times. Why?

 

In future, if Lycos Tripod receives a request to block this website, it is advised to inform the webmaster at once of any complaints, with details, before blocking the site. Webmaster: johnthomasth@yahoo.com

 

Lycos, an American firm founded in 1994, merged with a Spanish firm, Terra Networks, in 2000. 

 

As Terra Lycos, it was sold to a South Korean firm, Daum Communications Corporation, in October 2004. 

 

Lycos was purchased by an Indian company, Ybrant Digital, in August 2010. 

 

In 2016, U. S. courts ruled that Ybrant had defaulted on its payments for its purchase of the company and gave control of the compnay back to Daum.  

 

This website, John Thomas, was posted in 2004 to expose notorious mafias in Thailand that control the legal process and conduct of international crime, particularly traffic in narcotics, illicit labor, and women and children. 

 

The website pointed out privy council members with ties to organized crime. 

   

The website was not objected to by the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (2001 – 2006).

 

The website was blocked on September 19, 2006, within two hours of the army coup d'etat that toppled Thaksin.

 

One of the first things the coup leaders did was to appoint numerous Thai officials who were identified by this website for their ties to organized crime to posts on advisory boards created by the military junta's civilian government. 

 

The Thais exposed by this website and who accepted posts from the junta are lawyers Jiraniti Havanon, Sak Khaosangrung, Dej Udon-Krairat, and Klanarong Chantrik. 

 

The reason for the appiointments was soon obvious. The coup leaders intended to control the entire justice system   -   the courts, anti-corruption investigators and the privy council. The lawyers gained the most professionally from the coup d'etat. The coup leaders used them to enrich themselves and their friends and to thwart dissent. (Evidence of this was readily displayed by the composition of the Thai upper house of parliament, where half of its members were handpicked by the coup leader and include many unelected judicial officials.)

 

According to local press reports, some 15,000 websites were blocked by the junta within a few months of the coup.

 

The original website, which was soon reposted as "John Thomas (restored)," was a copy of the blocked website (with updates and revisions). This second website, too, was blocked several days after posting.

 

Surprisngly, the second website was restored several days later upon demand to Lycos Tripod, but eventually blocked again. 

 

Over the next twelve months the website was posted again four times, under different names, and blocked each time. 

 

The blockage appeared to be local, by the junta or those taking advantage of it.

 

Lycos/Tripod could not provide an explanation for the blockage of the site. Since the bloakage appeared to be local, it was unlikely to know why. Eventually, however, Lycos Tripod claimed that the website(s) violated "terms of service". Lycos/Tripod refused to specify what terms were violated and how. 

 

This fifth site. John Thomas Again, was unblocked in late 2007, about one year after the coup, when the coup leaders had become a public laughing stock. 

 

The site was not interferred with again until three years later, when Lycos Tripod blocked it in November or early December 2010. This time, the blockage did not appear to be local or an act of the Thai government. And there was no apparent local political connection to the blockage.   

 

But Lycos Tripod eventually revealed the cause of the blockage. The site was blocked at the request of an American woman in Thailand, Jane Puranananda, who works for Dej-Udom Krairat, a Thai who owns a law firm in Bangkok and heads the country's only legal assistance office.

 

The website was eventually unblocked, two months later, on January 29, 2011. 

 

Read the correspondence about the blockage with Lycos Tripod here:

 

http://johnthomasagain.tripod.com/whoisrunninglycostripod/

 

Ms. Puranananda is in late middle age and appears to be Caucasian. Puranananda is her Thai husband's surname. 

Despite the mass of self-advertising Ms. Puranananda has posted on the Internet, details about her maiden name are 

conspicuously absent. 

 

Ms. Puranananda's ties to organised crime in Thailand, however, are obvious. Ms. Puranananda was fronting for Dej-Udom Krairat and Sak Koasangrung. They   -   not the junta   -   were behind the blockage in 2006 and again in 2010.

 

Thais involved in international crime often hire a foreigner, especially a woman, to front for them and do their dirty work. Ms. Puranananda is used to deter complainants and obstruct due process. 

      

The two lawyers and Ms. Puranananda are still in use today by the government and international criminal networks for the same purposes the junta used them.    

  

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An Article by John Thomas
 
Organized Crime and Thailand 's Privy Council
 
Appointment of Crime Figure to Privy Council points out Spreading Influence of Organized Crime
 
Refocuses Attention on the Country’s Primitive Judicial and Penal Systems

 
The date of the following article is April 10, 2005; it was posted on June 30, 2005 
Revised
07/19/06
 
By John Thomas
 
The appointment of a former chief justice of Thailand's Supreme Court, Santi Thrakal (pronounced Trakan) (Thai: สันติ ทักราล), in March of 2005 and his inclusion in the King’s annual honors list on Coronation Day on May 5 point to the spread of organized crime to country’s highest and most sacred institution   -   the monarchy. It calls into question the credibility of the country's most prominent officials, including the king’s closest advisors.
 
The appointment of Santi (the surname is spelled also as Trakal, Thrakan, Thakran and Thakal) to the Privy Council also draws attention once more to Thailand’s conspicuous lack of a credible legal system and to its deplorable penal system.
 
The country’s legal codes, judicial procedures, courtroom facilities and judicial officials are primitive and inadequate   -   and allow for gross human rights abuses, especially through the criminal justice system. 
 
The pervasive cronyism, corruption and the lack of basic education, especially training in logic, of judicial officials preclude a working and reliable judicial system. (Proficiency in English, for example, is a prerequisite for a law degree, yet fewer than one percent of licensed lawyers, prosecutors and judges understand the language.)
 
Homosexuality, pedophilia, pimping and prostitution are common in Thailand and have a drastic effect upon the conduct of a large number of government officials, including police and court officials. 
 
Policemen, prosecutors and judges use the courts for their own criminal purposes or for those of gangs that they consort with.
 
Intimidation of complainants and witnesses by the police, prosecutors and judges is common.
 
Policemen, prosecutors and judges conspire to accuse plaintiffs and witnesses of committing criminal offenses, usually defamation or contempt of court, to prevent them from pursuing a case or testifying against criminal gangs and exposing corrupt officials.
 
Judges conspire with one another to pursue cases based on false charges against innocent persons; they operate freely, without fear of reproach by their superiors: provincial court chief judges, regional court justices and Supreme Court justices ignore complaints against other judges and evidence of misconduct.
 
The Experience of Expatriates and Foreign Travelers
 
As much as 90 percent of felons brought before the courts in Thailand go completely free. As much as 35 percent of persons condemned by the courts are wholly innocent of any wrongdoing.
 
A survey of expatriates and seasoned travelers in Asia would list Thailand and Indonesia as the least desirable (and most treacherous) places for an individual to pursue a criminal matter through the courts.
 
Foreign tourists and expatriates often complain of discovering Thai acquaintances conspiring with local policemen to set them up for arrest on false charges, usually drug trafficking offenses. This, of course, is an old story in much of Asia, but it is particularly so in Thailand. 
 
Many foreigners are held in crowded police station cells, immigration jails, or prisons for weeks, months and even years. Some of them are ignored or forgotten by their embassies.
 
Many persons perish while in police custody and prisons. (Countless young migrants from Burma , Cambodia and Laos age 14 and under, including infants, languish in small and crowded cells in police stations for many months before deportation.)
 
In nine cases out of ten, Thai lawyers cheat their clients. Foreigners, in particular, complain that Thai lawyers are corrupt, ineffectual and untrustworthy   -   and ultimately of value only as conduits for the payment of bribes to their embassy’s officials to complete urgent and essential official paper work.
 
The American embassy in Bangkok offers a list of lawyers, available to Americans upon request, that includes some of the sleaziest and least reliable lawyers in the country. Some notoriously bad lawyers employ Americans in their offices who assist them to set up American clients for arrest and imprisonment on false charges, for extortion, and to deny them legal representation.
 
(There is conclusive evidence that in December 2000 and January 2001 personnel of the American Embassy in Bangkok conspired with editors of an English-language daily newspaper in Bangkok and corrupt Thai judicial officials to urge lese majeste charges against American expatriates in Thailand who exposed pedophiles, homosexuals and traffickers in children at the embassy.)
 
Western countries have delayed complicance with extradition requests to Thailand because of the country’s appalling human rights record, unreliable judicial system and dangerous prisons. (See article regarding the recent extradition of an American to Thailand in the next column.)
 
Judicial Misconduct
 
During his tenure as chief justice (a position officially called “president”) of the Supreme Court from 2000 to 2003, Santi, the son of an Indian Sikh and a Thai, from Phrae Province in northern Thailand, conspired with the court's long-time secretary, Jiranti Havanon (Thai: จิรนิติ หะวานนท์), criminal gangs and other corrupt judicial officials to falsely accuse and condemn complainants, witnesses and other innocent persons, particularly in cases involving the traffic in women and children.
 
Santi and Jiraniti conspired with international pedophile rings, procurers, corrupt policemen, welfare, foreign ministry and other judicial officials to obstruct investigations and prosecutions of pedophiles and traffickers in women and children, to obstruct victim recovery efforts, and to imprison and murder complainants and relatives of victims.
 
Santi and Jiraniti conspired with officials of the Central Juvenile and Family Court, which is under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court, in particular the chief judge, Deungman Silpa-archa, a relative of the former Prime Minister, Banharn Silpa-archa, to obstruct victim recovery efforts.
 
Santi and Jiraniti conspired with Thai lawyers, including lawyers assigned by the Law Society of Thailand to represent victims and witnesses, to obstruct victim recovery efforts and to imprison and murder complianants, relatives of victims and other witnesses.
 
Santi and Jiraniti conspired with officials of foreign embassies who hide behind diplomatic cover and so-called "non-governmental organizations" ("NGOs") that have arrangements with the police to traffic Thai women and children abroad and to obstruct victim recovery efforts.
 
Santi and Jiraniti also conspired with lower court judges to deny bail to plaintiffs falsely accused of minor criminal offenses, like contempt of court. Some foreigners have been detained in the country for more than a decade without bail or permission to leave. Their embassies destroy all trace of them.  
 
Santi’s immediate successor as chief justice of the Supreme Court, Atthaniti Disathaamnarj (pronounced "Atanitti Ditam-nat") (Thai: อรรถนิติ ดิษฐอำนาจ), who retired last year, conspired with Jiraniti, organized crime figures and complicit judicial officials, particularly in the traffic in women and children, and followed Santi’s misconduct. Atthaniti ("Atanitti") was honored by the king on Coronation Day last year.
 
Two other, much older, former chief justices of the Supreme Court, who preceded Santi, sit on the Privy Council.
 
No Recourse
 
Inevitably, most, if not all, criminal cases in Thailand are referred to the country’s Supreme Court   -   usually as an appeal, or to request a change of venue, or to complain about the misconduct of lower court judges.
 
Complainants against the misconduct of judges (and justices) are often advised to send their complaints to the president of the Judicial Commission of the Office of Judicial Affairs, or to the president of the Office of Judicial Affairs, or to the permanent secretary to the Office of Judicial Affairs. Ultimately, according to current regulations, all complaints to the Office of Judicial Affairs must be referred to the Supreme Court for a final determination. Needless to say, Supreme Court justices discard the complaints   -   and complainants require protection.  
 
The Thai press likes to tout the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) as the country’s leading graft fighter. But the NCCC has yet to respond to a single complaint against officials of the Supreme Court, Attorney General's Office, police, and ministries of Labor & Social Welfare and Foreign Affairs for human rights abuses, especially for complicity with international pedophile rings and the traffic in women and children. The NCCC is utterly powerless against the courts. Last year, the Supreme Court suspended all NCCC commissioners for giving themselves a pay raise and forced them to resign last May. The NCCC, which is under the direct supervision of the Thai Prime Minister’s Office, is generally considered a joke and a rubber stamp for the prime minister.
 
The United Nations Human Rights Commission ignores 99% of complaints of human rights violations it receives because the perpetrators are government officials.
 
The Thai Monarchy and the Privy Council
 
In the last resort, cases are referred to the king of Thailand 
 
The king is the country’s head of state. However, the king does not have the power and influence at home that do absolute rulers in Asia like the king of Bhutan and the Sultan of Brunei. He is a constitutional monarch. Nor does he have the freedom of the king of Nepal , also a constitutional monarch, who can, if he decides, take over the government and rule as he sees fit. Nor does he have the influence of the king of Cambodia , another constitutional monarch, who often plays a pivotal role in his country’s affairs.
 
The king of Thailand is not a mere fiigurehead, however, like most European monarchs today. He is not just a rubber stamp. He can object to requests and decisions of his advisors, the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers.
 
The King of the Belgians has been accused of all sorts of hideous things in public. In marked contrast, the monarchy in Thailand is considered sacred and the king is considered beyond reproach. He cannot be criticized in public. But the king’s men   -   his closest aides, advisors or relatives   -   can be held to account.
 
An 18-member Privy Council screens all petitions for pardons to the king.
 
Privy Council members are from the royal family or former high-ranking military and government officials.
 
The council’s current president, a former Prime Minister, General Prem Tinsulanonda, earned the king's favor by protecting him from two army generals who were out to kidnap him during a failed coup d’้tat attempt 24 years ago.
 
The appointment of Santi   -   notorious for ties to organized crime, particularly to regional mafiosi and smugglers of contraband, like narcotics, counterfeit goods, and women and children for prostitution, and his persistent abuse of office for criminal purposes   -   to the Privy Council, was unexpected.
 
If given the benefit of the doubt, it could be said that the king’s advisors did not consider sufficiently the significance of Santi’s appointment to the Privy Council (or the Coronation Day honor) and its possible implications.
 
It is possible that the king’s advisors are out of touch with the world around them, that they failed to read the changes in the times, that they are unaware of crucial goings-on and uninformed.
 
Santi’s appointment could indicate also that the king’s advisors are unconcerned about what they do and the possible consequences.
 
The king’s closest advisers and relatives make lucrative deals and reap millions of dollars in bribes every year from individuals seeking royal appointments, royal patronage, royal pardons, etc.
 
Santi’s appointment could indicate that the Privy Council was up for sale and that someone paid a substantial bribe to place Santi on it.
 
The monarchy, like the government, in lavishing undue praise, awards, honors and appointments upon unworthy public figures, can be used for negative purposes and appear to be lording over crime and corruption.
 
Santi's appointment points out growing cronyism of Privy Council members with corrupt judicial officials who front for organized crime and the establishment of a conduit to extort more money through the courts.   
 
Gangsters; pedophile and prostitution rings; traffickers in women and children, narcotics, counterfeit goods; etc., and their criminal associates in the government, including the courts, with whom Santi openly conspired as a judge, will make use of Santi in the Privy Council.
 
The appointment of Atthaniti Ditathaamnarj to the Privy Council by the king, on August 17, 2007, further points out the 
abuse of the monarchy by the king's advisors in pursuit of the traffic in women and children for illicit labor, pedophilia and prostitution.  
 
The appointments of Santi and Atthaniti to the Privy Council should be thoroughly investigated by an independent international panel, with emphasis on crime and human rights.   
 
John Thomas
Thailand
 
 
 
 
 
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Crime Figure Appointed to Thailand's Privy Council
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Santi Trakan (Thakral) (1942-2011) conspired with pedophile rings to intimidate witnesses

Secretary to President of Supreme Court
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Jiraniti Havanon conspired in the traffic in children and intimidation of witnesses

 
Attaniti Ditam-naj (Atthaniti Dittha-amnart)
(Thai: อรรถนิติ ดิษฐอำนาจ)
President of the Supreme Court
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Conspired with traffickers in women and
children and to intimidate witnesses

Charan Phakdithanakun  (or - l) (Thai: จรัญ  ภักดีธนากุล)
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Secretary-General to the Supreme Court

Other Thai officials using the monarchy to cover criminal behavior

Phan Wannametee
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President of Thai Red Cross Society

 

 

A message from Surakh K., Bangkok, April 11, 2015

 

The Thai press has been running articles about Phan Wannamethee, age 78, in the past week or so. Someone, a Thai, has just published a biography about him.

 

Apparently, Phan had a fascinating life and an illustrious career as a civil servant. He was a member of the Free Thai Movement while working in the Thai Embassy in Washington, D. C., during WW2. He served a stint as permanent secretary at the Thai Foreign Ministry and as head of the Thai Red Cross Society (TRCS).

 

It is at the TRCS head that we got a real measure of Phan Wanamethee.

 

Many Thai women have unwanted babies. They abandon them or sell them. Many prostitutes are also mothers. They are picked up by pedophiles from abroad who want their children. They contract marriages of convenience to go abroad. They pay government officials to let them take their children abroad with them. They take their children abroad and sell them. They commit fraud abroad to traffic their children.

 

Searching for missing loved ones overseas can be complicated by corrupt and incompetent consular and diplomatic officials and by the corrupt local police and other local government officials. NGOs are just as corrupt as government officials. The two conspire in perpetrating and peddling fraudulent reports to cover abuse and neglect, the traffic in children, and death.

 

The TRCS has a tracing agency that offers to search for missing loved ones. But the TRCS is just as corrupt as any other NGO.

 

The families of prostitutes and abandoned children overseas ask the TRCS tracing agency for help. TRCS tracing agency officials make inquiries through the Red Cross offices of other countries. TRCS tracing agency officials ask Red Cross officials overseas to search for the children. The Red Cross officials overseas ask the local police. The police present fraudulent documents about the children to the local Red Cross and the TRCS tracing agency refuses to question them. Instead, they stand by them.

 

And Phan Wannamethee ignores complaints about his subordinates.

 

Belgium is the European hub for the traffic in humans and children in particular. Belgium is also notorious for widespread official fraud. Officials of the Belgian Red Cross have repeatedly conspired with corrupt Belgian government officials and NGOs to conceal evidence of official fraud and the traffic in children.

 

Belgium has the world’s biggest concentration of pedophiles. Belgium, a country of 11 million people, has more pedophiles than Thailand, a country of 67 million people. Belgium and Thailand are the premier destinations of homosexual and pedophile diplomats and consular officials seeking assignment overseas.

 

If someone in Thailand is searching for a Thai child in Belgium, the TRCS tracing agency in Bangkok sends an inquiry to the Belgian Red Cross. But TRCS officials in Bangkok refuse to question documentarian of official fraud committed by foreign officials in the traffic in children. Show TRCS officials legal documents that can put traffickers behind bars, they prefer to peddle the obviously false reports they received from corrupt Red Cross officials abroad.

 

Phan Wannamethee ignored complaints to him about the conduct of TRCS tracing agency officials who openly conspired with fraudsters overseas in the traffic in children.

 

About seven or eight years ago I read a small article in the Bangkok Post that claimed that Thailand had opened up to international adoptions and that at least 10,000 Thai children had been sent abroad through international adoptions in the previous year.

 

According to the Thai press, Thailand had become another South Korea, sending thousands of children abroad through international adoptions. 

 

I could not believe the article. Indeed, the Thai press is notorious for erroneous claims. 

 

Another article in the Thai press about the same time claimed that the TRCS handled thousands of international adoptions every year. That was indeed news.

 

Many legal international adoptions are not at all legal. Look at all the crazy unmarried American movie stars adopting children in poor Third World countries! Money talks.

 

One big problem with adoptions is that they are handled by lowly officials who are often corrupt. Often, their supervisors are just as corrupt.

 

All legal adoptions world-wide are to be monitored in the post-adoption stage with follow-up reports. The persons who conduct the follow-up reports are often corrupt.

 

Most post-adoption follow-up reports paint a rosy picture of the adopted child’s life in his or her new home. In reality, the child may be in worse circumstances than he or she would have been in an orphanage.

 

It is easier to cover up official corruption and a bad domestic situation in an international adoption than a local adoption.

 

In short, the TRCS is (or has become) an international criminal organization and Phan Wannamethee is a monster.

 

 

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Dej-udom Krairit
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President, Law Society of Thailand; heads of law firm, Dej-udom & Associates

Sak Khaosangrung
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President, Law Society of Thailand

Phan Chantraphan
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Ministry of Labor & Social Welfare

Sakthip Krairiksh
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Thai Foreign Ministry

Somchai Homla-or
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Human Rights Division, Law Society of Thailand

Jane Puranananda
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Dej-Udom & Associates, Bangkok law firm

 
Prasert Khienninsilli
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President of Regional Court
Northeastern Thailand

Anupote Bunnag
 
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Office of the Inspector General, Ministry of Labor & Social Welfare

Visitors's Comments

Cheap crooks on Privy Council would turn back the clock to restore feudalism 
 
A Comment from Andrew Garrison, Boston, Massachusetts, October 22, 2007:
 
John Thomas has every right to post this website.
 
Very recently, the president of Thailand's Supreme Court (there is no chief justice because the title would imply a position with too much responsibility for a Thai to handle) tried to get a bill passed through the "puppet' one-house parliament appointed by the junta that would have protected all members of the Privy Council from any criticism by making it an act of lese majeste to criticize a Privy Council member. 
 
Can you imagine such a thing?
 
I was there at the time and some judges confided to me that if the bill passed another bill would be proposed to offer Thai judges the same protection.  
 
Can you imagine that?
 
Alas, the chairman of the Privy Council said the bill was not wanted by the Privy Council. But that was only after some criticism from the public.
 
So the bill just protects members of the royal family from criticism. I think that applies only to members of the king's immediate family.
 
(Ed.: Some of the king's close relatives are in jail, including one for murder.)
 
 
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An Anonymous request about Santi Thakral 
 
Bangkok, April 30, 2011
 
I think you can take down everything about Santi Thakral because he passed away yesterday. The Bangkok Post ran a notice about the funeral today.
 
His name was spelt Thakral, not Trakan, and pronounced "Tak - kan" with the accent on the last syllable. 
 
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Interesting Wikipedia entry for Santi Thakral
 
A comment by K. W., Bangkok, May 9, 2011
 
The deceased privy councilor, Santi Thakral, has a Wikipedia page.
 
A day or so after his death, at 9:32 a. m. on May 1, the Wikipedia page was revised by "Vigilante 201" to include the following comment under the subheading of "Career in Thai Judiciary":
 
In 2000 and 2001, Santi conspired with an international pedophile and prostitution ring; the Supreme Court secretary, Jiraniti Havanon; a regional court judge, Prasert Khienninsilli; and a two provincial court judges in northeastern Thailand to obstruct due process, victim recovery efforts, procecution of procurers and traffickers in women and children on related charges, and to intimidate victims, complainants and witnesses. The pedophile and prostitution ring included fraudsters on the Americam Embassy staff in Bangkok and Jiraniti was granted visas to the U. S. for his complicity.
 
Two two hours later, the above comment was removed by "Edgar 181", who, on his "Talk Page" describes himself as a "medicinal chemist" in "organic chemisry" 
working "in the area of drug discovery". (What is that?) He claims to live in Pennsylvania with his wife and children.
 
I remember the matter entioned by "Vigilante 201". I was in northeastern Thailand at the time. There were at least three provincial court judges   -   not two   -   involved in a criminal conspiracy with Santi, Jiraniti, Prasert and Prasert's secretary, Noon, to obstruct due process and intimidate witneses.   
 
Did you know that some judicial officials in Thailand are on the American embassy's payroll? This is to ensure that the embassy's international criminal operations, like the traffic in Thai women and children, are not disrupted by Thai officials and that local witnesses are harassed and intimidated or murdered.
 
 
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There were more judges in the conspiracy
 
An email message from V. J., Washington, D. C., May 10, 2011: 
 
Prasert Khienninsilli was the chief judge of the regional court, headquartered in the city of Khon Kaen, for the region of northeastern Thailand, ten years ago.
 
There were actully two regional court judges in Khon Kaen in conspiracy to obstruct the prosecution of a pedophle and prostitution ring trafficking in women and chidren. The other regional court judge was Sootichoke Teprairat. 
 
The pedophile and prostituion ring included consular staff of the American Embassy in Bangkok.  
 
Note that Sootichoke got visas to travel to the U. S.
 
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Diagnosing Santi
 
A mesage from J. T., Bangkok, May 12, 2011
 
Santi Thakral was the son of a Sikh father and a Thai mother.
 
He was educated at a Catholic college in Bangkok and got graduate degrees in the U. S.
 
During WW2 the Japanese who behaved the worst toward American POWs were the Issei and Nisei interogators. They were the most sadistic and the most brutal toward POWs. They were raised and educated in the U. S. and returned to Japan before Pearl Harbor.
 
Likewise, the worst Thais are, like Santi Thakral, often those who were educated in local Christian schools, lived many years in the U. S. and went to school there. They take every opportunity to harm Americans in every way they can when they return to Thailand.
 
The parents of many Thais were collaborators of the Axis during WW2. While succesive generations of Japanese have liked westerners and gottn along with them, many Thais have not. Many positions in the Thai government are occupied by the children abnd grandchildren of Axis collaborators and they hate Americans and others from the countries of the WW2 Allies.
 
        

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V i s i t o r s'  C o m m e n t s

 
A comment from Victor Kowlaski, Bankok, October 1, 2006:
 
I noticed that this website was deleted on the eve of the recent military coup d'etat in Thailand (September 19, 2006) and that several of the officials exposed in this website have since accepted high posts from the ruling junta.
 
Victor Kowalski, Bangkok
 
Ed. note: Other websites, critical of the same lawyers and judicial officials, were also deleted. See comments by Vance Lewin, below. 
 
------------------------
 
Parents Shocked by King's Appointment of Santi Trakal
 
A comment from Patiwat Panurach, June 8, 2006
 
Dear John,
 
I read with great interest and dismay your startling accusations that Santi Thakral was involved in drug and child trafficking. These crimes are disgusting, and I find it horrible that the Thai King would appoint someone like this as one of his personal advisors.
 
I wish to do further research into this issue, and would greatly appreciate it if you could send me some more links or articles involving Santi and the trafficking charges.
 
Regards,
 
Patiwat Panurach (A concerned father)
 
Editor's reply:
 
Santi Trakal, Attaniti Dijam-nat and Jiraniti Havanon conspired with an international pedophile ring that included Thai police, welfare, foreign ministry and judicial officials. The relevant documentary evidence is in the Thai criminal courts.
 
The Thai judicial system is extremely slow. Some cases take decades to conclude. By the time some criminal cases come to court, the statutes of limitation have run out. That is what happened in the case, for example, of Sobraj, a French national accused of committing numerous murders in Thailand. The statutes should be changed so that murderers and kidnappers and their accomplices do not get away.  
 
 
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About the Privy Council
 
 
Comment from Puang Phanich, Bangkok, March 26, 2006
 
Just who sits on the Privy Council? The public would like to know!

Just who is on the Privy Council? And who are the secretaries?
 
Considering the news today, it is understandable that readers should demand more details.
 
Now would be a most appropriate time for the the Thai press to describe the duties of the Privy Council and list the names of all 19 Privy Council members. Not a single website provides an accurate up-to-date listing of the Privy Council membership. The press should also include biographical details about the Privy Council members.
 
The press should also tell the readers something about the King's secretaries. After all, they too are often in the news these days.
 
Puang Phanich
Bangkok
 
Ed: the King's Principal Private Secretary is Arsa Sarasin
 
 
--------------------
 
Comment by Arisa Ratanakul of Bangkok, June 10, 2006
 
Abuse on royal power by crooks
 
At the beginning of the year the King expressed concern about the unusually high and increasing number of lese majeste complaints and stated that the king was not infallible; His Majesty invited and welcomed personal criticism.
 
The scandal-ridden night safari of Chiang Mai obtained use of public land by a royal decree.
 
This is but one of many instances of abuse of royal powers by crooks in Thailand .
 
Ultimately, and above all, responsibility for such royal decrees lies with the king   -   then his aides, the privy council and the prime minister’s cabinet.
 
Arisa Ratanakul, Bangkok
 
------------------------------------
 
A Comment by Siriphon Prousakh of Bangkok , May 31, 2006  
 
Thailand will have to implement French presidential system        
The King could have responded to persistent requests to appoint a new prime minister by appointing an interim prime minister. He chose not to. Instead, he deferred to the courts.
 
The costly political impasse in Thailand , which will not be resolved before late October at the earliest, could have been avoided by a strong presidential system. 
 
It appears that the King, who is almost 80 years old, acted as he did to warn his fellow countrymen to prepare for the day when they will be without him.
 
The king seems to realize that eventually Thailand will have to replace the monarch by a president as head of state and that the president will have to have considerable power, like the president of France .
 
Siriphon Prousakh
Bangkok         
 
----------------------
 
 
Visitor's Comments:
 
 
About Lese Majeste
 
August 20, 2007
 
A message was posted on the webboard of Thailand's second-biggest English language daily newspaper, The Nation, "Why did Thaksin attack the king?" by "Professor" on Aug 5, 1007, attributing attacks on a website, Panthip.com, against the king of Thailand to "cronies" of ousted prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. Click: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/board/thaipol/view.php?id=1432&offset=0
 
In response, someone called "Joe" posted a message that Thaksin or his associates were not attacking the king and that they were actually attacking the Privy Council chairman, General Prem Tinsulanonda.
 
"Whatever Thaksin's views on constitutional monarchy or the institution of the monarchy in Thailand, he never attacked the king.
 
"Thaksin had a disagreement with Prem somewhere along the way. I can't recall when and where exactly. They never got along after that.
 
"Prem himself never claimed that Thaksin attacked the king. But his cronies, pointing out that he was the Privy Council chairman, claimed that to attack Prem was to attack the monarchy.
 
"Judges in Thailand do the same thing. When exposed for criminal wrong-doing, they are quick to stress that they represent the king. They say nothing more. But someone else takes it from there to intimate (or warn) that to expose the judge of criminal wrong-doing is an act of lese-majeste.
 
An attack against Prem does not constitute an attack against the monarchy. To say that it does drags the monarchy into the fray. So, actually, it is Prem's supporters who are attacking the monarchy, not Thaksin."
 
Indeed, the same point can be made against judges who insist that to expose their criminal conduct is to attack the king.  
 
-----------
 
 
 
 
About the NCCC
 
From Yuan Jammkrapong, Thonburi
 
August 1, 2005

Dear Mr. Thomas,
 
There are several anti-graft and anti-corruption agencies in Thailand. The National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) is the most highly-touted and the best known. The NCCC has reportedly more more than 7,000 complaints against government officials to investigate. But aside from one or two highly publicized cases, it has accomplished very little.
 
Last year, the Supreme Court took the NCCC commissioners to task over a self-pay hike proposal. Almost one year later, the Supreme Court found the NCCC commissioners guilty of breaking the law and forced them all to resign.
 
In the next day or so, nine new NCCC commissioners are to be selected in a process overseen by the president of the Supreme Court.
 
The Supreme Court is not above the law. But it is certain that the NCCC will remain ineffectual if the new commissioners must be approved by Supreme Court justices who will blackmail them or suspend them if they consider complaints against judiciary.
 
The governing rules and regulations of the NCCC should be redrawn and the public should elect NCCC commissioners.
 
Yuan Jammkrapong, Thonburi
 
-----------------------------
 
Visitor's Comment, August 2, 2005
 
From Tharm Wasawang, Bangkok
 
Dear Mr. Thomas,
 
I submitted the following letter to the Bangkok Post and The Nation. One printed it recently after editing. Feel free to add it to your visitors' comments.
 
The Thai public should be allowed to elect the commissioners of the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC). Otherwise, the NCCC will never function properly or effectively.
 
An NCCC selection panel, composed of government officials and others who work for the government, is not free of conflicts of interests and cannot be trusted to make a fair and impartial selection of NCCC commissioners.
 
The chief justice of the Supreme Court is one of 15 members of the NCCC selection committee. Two years ago a notoriously corrupt and ineffectual Supreme Court justice made it all the way to the semi-final round of voting for NCCC commissioners, largely through the support of cronies. Judges can make deals with one another to ensure that one is appointed to a committee or commission now in order to help the other onto it later.
 
The public should elect NCCC commissioners from persons who are not personally associated with or obligated to the government in any way.
 
The government should provide candidates with a set amount of funds to campaign for a position on the NCCC. The government should prohibit the use of personal resources in the campaign. The campaign should last three to four months to allow the public to familiarize itself with all of the candidates. Candidates should be allowed the same amount of free air time on television and free space in newspapers.
 
Tharm Wasawang, Bangkok
 
-----------------------
 
Visitor's Comment, August 3, 2005:
 
From Martin Bishop, Bangkok
 
The current procedure for selecting candidates for the Thai government's National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) ensures that there is no possibility that the anti-graft body will ever live up to its name.
 
A government selection panel, made up of 15 members, is to choose 18 candidates from all applicants and present them to the Senate for final selection this week or next.
 
The public has often complained that NCCC commissioners had conflicts of interests, usually stemming from ties to government and government officials.
 
Thus, the selection panel should keep government officials off the NCCC.
 
But the selection panel itself is composed almost entirely of government officials and appointees, including several chief justices (or presidents) of various courts   -   the Supreme Court, the Constitution Court, the Administrative Court, etc.   -   and it is chaired by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. According to the Bangok Post today, August 3, the applicants for the NCCC are "many active and forner Supreme Court judges, a number of former provincial governors . . ."
 
Outside of Bangkok Province, where the provincial governor is an elected official, provincial governors are still appointed by the Ministry of Interior. District chiefs, provincial and regional court judges, and other government officials are also appointed officials.
 
Two days ago, Thais nation-wide chose their township (tambon) headmen for the first time through popular elections.
 
It appears that Thais are also ready to elect provincial governors, district chiefs, provincial and regional court judges, etc.
 
Some have advised choosing NCCC commissioners through a national election. Indeed, that would be the best way to do it.
 
By the way, note that according to The Nation today, August 3, " . . . as of yesterday . . . . only 16 people had asked to be considered . . ." but, according to the Bangkok Post, also today, " . . . althogether, 39 people have applied . . ."
 
Martin Bishop, Bangkok
 
--------------------------------------
 
Visitor's Comment, August 6, 2005:
 
From Khun Mongkhol, Bangkok
 
Dear Sir:
 
With regard to the visitor’s comment by Tharm Wasawang of  Bangkok on August 2, I should like to say that indeed the English-language newspaper, the Bangkok Post, published all but part of one paragraph of his comment, which he submitted as a letter to the editor, on July 25.
 
According to Mr. Tharm's comment in this website, the part of his letter that was edited by the Bangkok Post referred to a former Supreme Court justice, unnamed, who failed to get a seat on the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) two years ago. Mr. Tharm described the judge as "notoriously corrupt and ineffectual".
 
Mr. Tharm was clearly referring to Prasert Kiennilsiri, who is again seeking a seat on the NCCC.
 
As regional court chief justice in northeastern Thailand and, later, a Supreme Court justice, Prasert had a foul reputation for ineptness, dishonesty, corruption, perversity and conspiracy. He joined criminal gangs, pedophiles, pimps, and other corrupt judicial officials in the traffic in women and children and the intimidation of victims and witnesses.
 
Prasert should have been impeached long ago. He should be prosecuted for malfeasance and other criminal offenses. He should be taken to task also for human rights violations. Since the findings and recommendations of all investigative bodies in the judiciary must ultimately pass through the Supreme Court, Prasert is free.
 
That Prasert is the judiciary's leading candidate for a seat on the NCCC is symptomatic of a thoroughly corrupt criminal justice system in Thailand .
 
Khun Mongkhol, Bangkok
 
Ed. note: The second name, Kiennilsili, is also spelled Khieninsili,Khienninsilli, Khienilsiri, etc. 
 
The first name, Prasert, is pronounced as two syllables: pra (short a) - sairt'. The second or family name, Kienninsili, is pronounced as four syllables: Kyen (hard k, short e) - in' (short i, pronounced "in"; (the n is sometimes pronounced as an l and the syllable is pronounced as "il") - si (short i) - ri' (i as long e); the last syllable is also pronounced as li' (i as long e).
----------
 
Visitor’s Comment, August 9, 2005:
 
From Teth Sarasin, Bangkok
 
Mr. Thomas:
 
There are actually 80 applicants for a seat on the Thai government’s much ballyhooed National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC). The government-appointed selection panel must trim the list to 18 candidates and refer it to the senate by August 25. The senate will appoint nine commissioners from the 18. 
 
In your article, you pointed out that proficiency in English is required for a law degree in Thailand and yet few lawyers in Thailand can understand the language. Indeed, it is obvious that those deficient students made deals with their instructors to get the passing marks that they did not merit. It is, therefore, ironic to see a former Supreme Court justice, Prasert Kieninsilli, requesting a seat on the NCCC. Prasert does not understand English. He needs a translator. He could not have gotten a law degree without corruption.
 
I should add that Prasert hates foreigners, especially Americans. While chief justice of the regional court in northeastern Thailand and a Supreme Court justice, Prasert formed a criminal conspiracy with several provincial court judges; two other northeastern regional court justices, Nipon Jaisomran and Sootichok Teptrairat; two successive chief justices of the Supreme Court, Santi Trakan and Attaniti Dit-am-nat; and the Supreme Court secretary, Jiranati Havanon, to reject cases presented by foreigners and also back complainants against them.
 
Respectfully yours,
 
Teth Sarasin
Bangkok
 
 
Ed. notes:
 
A comment from Mr. Teth, similar to the comment above, appeared as a letter to the editor in the Postbag section of the Bangkok Post on August 15, 2005.
 
The first name, Nipon, is pronounced as two syllables: Ni (short i) - pon' (short o); the second or family name, Jaisomran, is pronounced as three syllables: Jai' (ai as a long i) - som (short o) - ran (short a).
 
The first name, Sootichok, or Sutichoke, is pronounced as three syllables: Soo ' (double as in the English words look or hook) - ti (short i or long e) - choke (long o and silent e); the second or family name, Teptrairat, or Teptairat, is prounounced as three syllables: Tep' (short e) - trai or tai (ai as long i) - rat (short a).
 
 
photo of Prasert Khienninsilli
Photo
khiennilsiri.jpg
Prasert Khiennilsiri, former judge
 
 
---------------------------
 
Visitor's Comment
 
Comment by Michael Whitman in Khon Kaen, Thailand, August 15, 2005:
 
Mr. Thomas:
 
The judiciary is the most corrupt branch of the government in Thailand. There are infinite reasons for complaints, including the fact that complaints against judges are passed around from one office of the judiciary to another without receiving proper consideration before they are finally squelched by Supreme Court justices and judges serving as their secretaries.
 
Complaints must be resubmitted, therefore, to offices outside the judiciary. The result, however, is almost always the same.
 
Thailand's leading anti-corruption agency is the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) and as such it is one office that receives complaints against the judiciary. But, like other government offices, the NCCC is ineffective. It’s not even a decent-looking scarecrow.
 
Last year, for reasons having more to do with showing off one’s bureaucratic superiority than with enforcing proper ethics, the Supreme Court justices suspended all NCCC commissioners over the commissioners’ attempt to give themselves a pay increase. The Supreme Court found all the commissioners guilty nine months later, gave them suspended jail sentences and forced them to resign.
 
This month, a government-appointed selection panel of dubious design and qualification, chaired by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and the senate are to select new commissioners for the NCCC.
 
The contest to fill the post of NCCC commissioners is a reminder that notoriously corrupt government officials enjoy great freedom in Thailand and that they expect to run the government's anti-corruption agencies to maintain their status-quo. 
 
Obviously, an agency with more power and authority than the NCCC should be created to keep the judiciary in check. 
 
It remains for the press, therefore, to point out the need for more transparency, allowing for closer public scrutiny. The local press, however, has not released the names of all the 80 candidates for the NCCC and it has, by reference to merely a few candidates who are government officials, given the impression that journalists and editors themselves have conflicts of interests.  
 
Michael Whitman
Khon Kaen
 
Editor's Note: Michael Whitman has posted a website about the above: http://whitmanth.tripod.com/
 
--------
 
Visitor's Comment
 
Visitor's Comment from Jang Boonyai of Bangkok , August 19, 2005
 
Sir:
 
According to Thailand 's leading English-language daily newspapers, the Bangkok Post and The Nation, on August 19, 2005, a government panel of 15 officials selected 18 candidates from 80 applicants for the nine posts of commissioner on the government's National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) yesterday and referred the shortlist to the senate.
 
The shortlist is an example of cronyism at its worst.
 
The selection panel was chaired by the current chief justice of the Supreme Court. It is not surprising, therefore, that the shortlist of 18 includes three former Supreme Court justices: one chief justice and two associate justices. One of the former associate justices, Prasert Kienninsili, is unqualified for a position on the NCCC and was rejected two years ago. He is a crony of a former chief justice, Santi Trakal, and Supreme Court secretary, Jiraniti Havanon.
 
Hopefully, the senate wull show better sense than the selection panel. 
 
In the future, the NCCC selection panel should be composed of persons outside the government who have demonstrated an understanding of corruption and proved their sincerity and honesty in combating it. 
 
Jang Bounyai
Bangkok
 
Ed. note: The above comment from Mr. Jang appeared in similar form, abbreviated or edited, in The Nation, an English-language daily newspaper in Thailand, on August 21, 2005. 
 
-------
 
Purging Thaksin and his cronies, the
military appoints new NCCC  commissioners.
 
Alas, the purge is  imperfect and Klanarong returns.
 
A commment by Grapan Ladikul in Bangkok, September 23, 2006   
 
The army has desposed Thaksin Shinawatra, the Prime Minister, and is purging his cronies from the government and armed forces.
 
The army has dismissed the nine commissioners elected by the senate to the NCCC earlier this year and appointed new commissioners:
 
The Nation, September 23: 
New NCCC meets on September 25
Nine new NCCC commissioners
 
Bangkok Post, September 23, 2006
Appointment of some graft busters criticised
 
Klanarong Chantik is one of the nine new commissioners appointed by the army.   
 
Klanarong was secretary-general of the old Office of the Counter Corruption Commission (OCCC), which was formed in 1996, to investigate complaints against public officials. This office was "under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister's Office". It changed its name to the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) around 2000.    
 
As secretary-general, Klanarong handled thousands of complaints submitted to the NCCC against public officials after other agencies and offices had failed to consider them.    
 
A teacher up-country molesting pupils? A cop demanding bribes from victims of crimes to pursue their complaints?  A headman not doing his job? A criminal court judge lost his marbles? A prosecutor ignoring trafficking in children by welfare officials? Superiors ignoring complaints?       
 
Complain to the Prime Minister! That was the last step. 999 times out of 1000, the Prime Minister's office sent the complaint to the OCCC/NCCC. Within a couple of years, Klanarong wrote to the complainant to announce, with regret, that the OCCC/NCCC could not pursue the complaint. No explanation given. Thousands of people throughout Thailand have such letters from Klanarong. 999 cases out of 1000 were never investigated by the OCCC/NCCC.   
 
In 2000, the local press made Klanarong a hero for pursuing a complaint of assets concealment against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.    
 
As secretary-general, Klanarong did not have a role in determining the NCCC's commissioners' decision to eventually drop the case. But for bringing the case to the commissioners, Klanarong was dismissed from his job.    
 
In 2003, Klanarong was accused of defaulting on a Bt1.9-million loan.    
 
Also in 2003, Klanarong was accused also of adultery.    
 
Also in 2003, Klanarong ran for a vacant NCCC commissioner's seat and lost.    
 
Earlier this year, 2006, Klanarong joined the anti-Thaksin bandwagon. For having presented a complaint against Thaksin to the NCCC commissioners years ago, he was hailed as a graft fighter.    
 
Also earlier this year, Klanarong declined to run again for a commissioner’s post on the NCCC.    
 
Now, the military has staged a coup, taken over the government, scrapped the NCCC that was elected by the senate earlier this year and appointed Klanarong as one of the NCCC commissioners.    
 
And Klanarong has accepted the posting.   
 
The same worm who sidetracked thousands of legitimate complaints from the public against government officials while secretary general of the NCCC is now  an NCCC commissioner because the military does not know any better.    
 
What will Klanarong do now on the NCCC?
 
Toss out thousands of complaints resubmitted to the NCCC since he was dismissed from it!     
 
Grapan Ladikul 
Bangkok   
 
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Visitor's Comment, from --------------------, January 12, 2006:
 
US Embassy gave Thai judges visas
 
I can confirm personally that two of the above-named Thai judges, who conspired in the traffic in children to pedophiles abroad, received visas to travel to the United States. They are Jiraniti Havanon, secretary to the Suprme Court, and Sootichoke Teptrairat, associate justice of the regional court in Northeastern Thailand.
 
---------------------------
A comment from Sukhon Thinakhon, Bangkok, March 19, 2006:
 
Looking for Jiraniti Havanon on the web I found two websites: CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AGAINST MEMBER OF THE NATION COUNTER CORRUPTION COMMITTEE (http://www.stkc.go.th/libraryDatabaseDetail.php?id=19551&pubid=7) and Identifying the Pedophiles and their Accomplices in the Thai Government and U. S. State Department (http://whitmanth.tripod.com/).

Sukhon Thinakhon, Bangkok
 
 
------
 
The CIA, Mafia and Yakuza 
 
Visitor's Comment
Hiritomo Ken, Bangkok 
May 25, 2007

Some of the Thai judicial officials named by John Thomas in his website as complicit in the traffic in women and children and intimidation of witnesses have American citizenship. Others reside in the U. S. Others travel freely to and from the United States.
And some of them have been in contact with the
U. S. Central Intelligence Agency (C. I. A.).
When Thai judicial officials do a real dirty job on someone, check to see who else is involved. Often enough, when the traffic in narcotics or in women and children is involved, the C. I. A. is involved too.
------------------
 
Visitor's Comment, September 6, 2005 
 
Constitution Court Chief Justice Phan Chantraphan was guilty of misconduct at Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare 
 
Comment by Wattana Jongkal na Ayuttaya, Bangkok:
 
The current chief justice of the Constitution Court of Thailand, Phan Chantraphan, committed malfeasance and other felonious offenses while holding successive posts at the Ministry of Labor & Social Welfare ten years ago.
 
Mr. Phan failed to take proper action when informed of the complicity of welfare officials in the traffic in women and children.
 
Phan Chantrapan
phanchantrapan.jpg
Acting Chief Judge, Constitution Court
 
Who are the Constitution Court judges? For a listing of each of the 15 judges, with brief biographies, see: 
 
 
--------------------------------------------------------
 
Anupote Bunnag
 
A Comment from Sonkheth Rejwanwan, Bangkok , November 24, 2005
 
Add Anupote Bunnag to the list of Corrupt Officials in Complicity with Pedophile Rings
 
With reference to the comment by Wattana Jongkal na Ayuttaya about the misconduct of Phan Chantraphan, current chief justice of the Constitution Court, while he was at the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare ten years ago, I would like to add that another well-known official in the same ministry at the same time, Anupote Bunnag, was also guilty of similar misconduct.
 
Bunnag ignored complaints about traffickers in women and children and the complicity of ministry officials in the illicit trade. It was his responsibility to investigate the complaints and take proper action. He did absolutely nothing.
 
Sonkheth Rejwanan, Bangkok
 
----------
 
Visitor's comment: Name Withheld, Bangkok, June 2, 2007
 
Dear Mr. Thomas,

Bunnag is the surname of many people in Thailand. The Bunnags are an old family of Muslim merchants from the Persian Gulf who settled in Thailand some 500 years ago. You will find Bunnags everywhere today. Even the King of Thailand is related to the Bunnag (pronounced Boon - agh) family.
 
Anupote Bunnag worked in the Inspector-General's Office of the Ministry of Labor & Social Welfare in the mid-1990s. He was involved in trafficking cases.
 
By the way, I posted the above as a message to the on-line forum of The Nation, Thailand's # 2 English-language daily newspaper, published in Bangkok. You can view the forum:
http://www.nationmultimedia.com/board/general/view.php?id=477&offset=0
 
 
--------------
 
Visitor's Comment
 
Puang Panich, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, September 27, 2005:
 
In Thailand, a committee of the legislature’s upper house, the senate, is soon to decide the composition of the government's much-ballyhooed graft fighting agency, the National Counter Corruption Commission, also known by the acronym NCCC.
 
The Thai media has long played up the NCCC while the public has complained that the commission is a political ploy, set up solely for cosmetic purposes, and that its commissioners are as lazy and corrupt as the officials and organizations they are asked to investigate. Another oft-repeated complaint about the NCCC has been that it was set up to function under the direct supervision of the prime minister's office.
   
Last year, when NCCC commissioners voted themselves a pay-raise, there were protests from other government officials. The Supreme Court suspended the agency. Nine months later, the Supreme Court declared that the commissioners had acted unconstitutionally. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court gave the commissioners suspended one-year jail sentences and forced them to resign.
 
Subsequently, a committee was formed by the government to recommend 18 candidates to the senate, which would select nine new commissioners for the NCCC.  
 
There were protests from the public that the government's selection committee was composed almost entirely of current and former government officials and dominated by the military, police and judiciary. The committee was chaired by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Two Supreme Court associate justices also sat on the committee.
 
To give the committee the appearance of some legitimacy, the head of a local university was appointed to it. In an immediate display of unethical conduct, this person invited a former NCCC commissioner, who had been tossed off the NCCC two to three years ago, to apply to the selection committee for a commissioner's post. This particular ex-commissioner, about whom there had been many complaints from the public, has been the darling of the media in stories about anti-corruption since his removal from the agency, pointing out the corruption and conflicts of interests of newspaper editors.
 
Eighty-eight persons applied to the selection committee for the nine commissioners' posts on the NCCC.
 
Unfazed by complaints of cronyism and bias, the selection committee proceeded to nominate three former Supreme Court justices, including one who had failed to get a commissioner's post last year.
 
The fact that this particular ex-judge, Prasert Khiennilsiri, is again a candidate for an NCCC commissioner's post and has made it as far as the senate screening committee points out the cronyism, ignorance and irresponsibility of the Thai government officials who have considered his candidacy thus far.
 
While chief justice of one of Thailand's regional courts, in northeastern Thailand, and, later, as a Supreme Court associate justice, Prasert conspired with pedophile rings that included government officials to traffic in women and children, obstruct investigations, thwart victim recovery efforts, and intimidate victims and witnesses. 
 
Prasert was the subject of numerous lengthy and well-documented complaints to the NCCC, which the previous NCCC commissioners sat on or filed away. He would like to get his hands on those complaints. If he does, many people will require round-the-clock protection.
 
Prasert joined the political party, Tai Rak Tai, of the multi-billionaire prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, in the hope that the prime minister or his party would pave the way for him.
 
Interestingly, Thaksin himself was involved in at least one child trafficking case in which Prasert was complicit: Thaksin, after he had become prime minister, ignored the pleas of a family for his cooperation in rescuing a child.
 
That could be another reason that Prasert, who knew all about the case, joined the Tai Rak Tai.

Puang Panich, Korat, Thailand
 
---------------------------------------
 
Visitor's Comment from Thana Hethisethiran of Bangkok, October 13, 2005
 
When lawyers in Thailand cheat their clients the latter can complain to the Law Society of Thailand and often do.
 
Unfortunately, Law Society officials seldom take any action against the lawyers, especially when the lawyers concerned are Law Society staff members or were appointed to the complainant by the court at the request of the Law Society.
 
Worse still, Law Society lawyers and officers often form criminal conspiracies with government officials, including court officials, to cheat a client.
 
Previous commissioners of the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) claimed that they could not accept complaints from the public against lawyers or the Law Society because the lawyers were not government officials and the Law Society was not a government agency. NCCC commissioners maintained also that they could not consider complaints against lawyers who had been appointed by the courts at the request of the Law Society.
 
Law Society lawyers and officers work hand in hand with the courts. Thus, the NCCC should take Law Society officers and lawyers to task for cheating the public or conspiring with government officials against the Law Society's clients.
 
------------------------------
 
Senate to select NCCC commissioners today
 
Visitor’s Comment, from Wong-wong Kaiwanlit of Bangkok , November 1, 2005:
 
The senate is to select nine commissioners for the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) from 18 candidates today.
 
A senate screening panel is to submit its findings to the senate for consideration before the vote.
 
There is wide-spread concern that the process by which the commissioners are selected is seriously flawed.
 
One of the 15-member selection committee that paired the list of 80 candidates down to 18 in August was himself the object of a complaint to the NCCC.
 
Complaints to the NCCC were also made against 12 of the 18 candidates.
 
The senate screening committee deemed five of the 18 candidates unfit for NCCC commissioners’ posts.
 
Many of the candidates, including Police General Darun Sotthibandhu, Supreme Court Justice Surapol Ekyokha, army chief Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Provincial Administration Department director-general Siva Saengmanee, Attorney General Kampree Kaeocharern, former judge Prasert Khiennilsiri, and the Prime MInister's deputy secretary Naengnoi na Ranong, are cronies of high political and government figures. There is great concern that they could cripple the NCCC if posted to it. All complaints of corruption against government officials and politicians must pass first through the NCCC, which can accept or reject them.  
 
The pro-government press in Thailand , especially the English-language daily newspapers the Bangkok Post and The Nation, which are owned and run by local and foreign Chinese interests, has been touting the above-mentioned candidates “as highly favored”.
 
There are rumors of bloc voting. Politics, particularly “money politics”, could determine the composition of the NCCC.
 
In the past, the NCCC refused to investigate so-called "independent" non-governmental agencies. Apparently, it will have to do so in the future. But that seems to be the only new positive aspect of the NCCC. The commissioners are to serve nine-year terms, far too long in a country where corruption is a way of living. Furthermore, it will be difficult to impeach corrupt commissioners. Three to four-year terms would be more than long enough.
 
Wong-wong Kaiwanlit
Bangkok
 
----------------------------
 
Another comment from Michael Whitman in Khon Kaen, Thailand, November 18, 2005:
 
New NCCC unlikely to be anything new
 
On November 1, Thailand's senate selected nine commissioners for the country's number one anti-corruption office, the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC). All complaints of corruption against politicians and government officials must be considered first by the NCCC.
 
The senate selected the nine commissioners from 18 candidates.
 
There were many complaints that the selection process was seriously flawed. The 15-member selection panel, which selected the 18 candidates from a list of 80 (or 88) in August, consisted of high present and former government officials and chaired by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. One member of the selection committee was himself the object of a complaint to the NCCC.
 
Complaints to the NCCC had been made against 12 of the 18 final candidates. A senate screening committee deemed five of the 18 wholly unsuited for a post on the NCCC.
 
Most of the new commissioners are cronies of high politicians and government officials.
 
The commissioners are to serve for nine years   -   absurdly long terms   -   and it will be difficult to impeach them. Three to four-year terms would have been long enough.
 
Previously, the NCCC had refused to accept complaints against private or "independent" agencies, like the Law Society of Thailand and the Thai Red Cross Society, or so-called "non-governmental organizations", better known by the acronym "NGO", like local United Nations agencies. Apparently, the NCCC will accept complaints against these organizations now and investigate them.
 
One of the candidates for the NCCC, Prasert Khienninsili, was a former chief justice of the regional court in northeastern Thailand and an associate justice of the Supreme Court. While on the courts, Prasert conspired with pedophiles and traffickers in children and their accomplices in government positions to obstruct search and recovery efforts and to intimidate relatives of victims and complainants and witnesses. (There is documentary evidence to that effect.)
 
Twice, after his retirement from the judiciary, Prasert tried to get a commissioner's post on the NCCC. After he was rejected last year, he tried again this year, this time with the backing of the Prime Minister's political party. It appeared also that the local press was behind him. While, in fact, few expected him to get a post on the NCCC, the press described him as a "favorite". But the senate, meeting in full session on November 1, rejected his candidacy. 
 
Prasert has yet to answer for his crimes. Complaints against Prasert have been made to the NCCC. But few expect the NCCC commissioners, former Supreme Court justices among them, to deal him proper justice.
 
Michael Whitman
Khon Kaen
 
--------------------
 
The Un-Dead! Perverts Masquerading as Juvenile Court Officials!
 
A comment by Michael Whitman, New York, August 19, 2006:
 
Prasert Khienninsilli is a retired judge in Thailand. Several years ago, Prasert was chief justice of one of the country’s four regional courts, region # 4, northeastern Thailand, located in the city of Khon Kaen.
 
More recently, Prasert was one of 87 judges on the Supreme Court, located in Bangkok. While on the Supreme Court, Prasert tried twice to get a post as one of the nine commissioners on the Thailand’s much-ballyhooed National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC). He failed both times. The first time he reached the final list selected by the senate. The second time he was cut out early by the senate.
 
Stepping down from the Supreme Court, Prasert was posted as a consultant to the Juvenile & Family Court in Khon Kaen.
 
How could Prasert, who was in complicity with pedophile and prostitution rings, get posted as a consultant to a Juvenile & Family Court should be thoroughly investigated?
 
Easy! After all, that is how organized crime works.     
 
Most recently, in July 2006, Prasert resurfaced in public in an attempt to get one of the five commissioners’ posts on the highly controversial Election Commission (EC). But he was turned down.
 
Evidently, Prasert’s ties to the Thai Rak Thai political party of the prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, could not help him.
 
That should be the end of Prasert.
 
For the whole story, "The Un-Dead! Perverts Masquerading as Juvenile Court Officials!" visit the website: http://whitmanth.tripod.com/
 
------
 
A visitor's comment by James Page of Bangkok on January 7, 2006, 2005:
 
King should reject senate's NCCC nominees
 
The nomination of the post of auditor-general requires the approval of the king of Thailand.
 
The king has refused to approve a new nominee for the post, which was meant to replace the current auditor-general who has upset many by her determination to take corrupt officials to task.
 
The King of Thailand should reject the senate's nine nominees for commissioners' posts on the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) because the nominees have connections to high officials in government, non-governmental organizations, politics and even the media.
 
In fact, the King's approval of the senate's nominees would ensure that the NCCC would not function as an honest anti-graft body should. His approval would be inconsistent with his earlier refusal to approve a new nominee for auditor-general. 
 
The King should return the list of NCCC nominees to the senate without his approval and with the recommendation that the senate select nominees with less obvious conflicts of interest.
 
The King should recommend also that the senate reduce an NCCC commissioner's term from nine years to a more realistic, or reasonable, two to three years.
 
James L. Page
Bangkok, Thailand
 
---------------------------
 
Comment from Vance Lewin in Bangkok, November 6, 2005:
 
An American woman in Bangkok is in conspiracy with the Thai Mafia to commit crimes against foreigners, including other Americans.
 
Photo of Jane Puranananda
 
When foreigners in Thailand get into legal trouble and need a local lawyer, they ask friends and their embassies for advice.
 
Lists of local lawyers, handed out by embassies to their nationals upon request, are merely a suggestion and often list unscrupulous lawyers who habitually cheat clients. Unfortunately, treacherous lawyers remain on embassy lists many years after they have been roundly denounced and should have been disbarred and imprisoned. 
 
In the last resort, some foreigners, from the East as well as the West, have asked the Law Society of Thailand (LST), a private organization of local lawyers that provides free legal assistance to those who cannot afford it, for representation.
 
However, the LST rarely helps foreigners. In almost every case, foreigners who contact the LST are given the runaround and dissuaded from trying to obtain legal help. LST officials pretend not to speak English. They skip appointments. They insist that all foreigners are rich and can afford to pay lawyers whereas Thais are poor and cannot.
 
Nonetheless, the LST has on rare occasions provided lawyers to foreigners who could not find a one even for hire. But the lawyers provided by the Law Society often cheat their clients and, in many cases, deliberately make matters worse for them. And they are covered by senior LST officers. It is useless to complain.
 
For the past several years, foreigners contacting the LST have been referred to a local American woman, Jane Puranananda, who works for a local law firm, Dej Udom, named after the firm’s owner, Dej Udom Krairat. LST officials maintain that Ms. Puranananda will explain to them what is required of them.
 
Indeed, Ms. Puranananda is listed as the law firm’s contact. And her boss, Dej Udom, is currently also the president of the LST. Before becoming president, he was LST vice-president.
 
Ms. Puranananda has published a book on local textiles and is currently co-chairman of the advisory board of the James H. W. Thompson Foundation in Bangkok . 
 
Ms. Puranananda, however, seems to be under instructions to get rid of anyone referred to her by the LST. She gives them the runaround. She even claims that Dej Udom is not actually with the LST. In other words, she’s part of a scam, with Dej Udom and other LST officials, and often corrupt government officials, to deny foreigners urgently required legal assistance.
 
Ms. Puranananda is one of those Americans in Bangkok who thinks nothing of cheating other foreigners, including Americans, for local swindlers. Perhaps she thinks her connections, through her marriage to a Thai royal, place her beyond reproach?
 
Ms. Puranananda should be charged with conspiracy and other felonious offenses, not just in Thailand but in the United States and other countries as well.
 
Of course, Ms. Puranananda is not the first American woman in Bangkok to conspire with local Thais to cheat other Americans. But she is one that many people know about. The press should too.
 
Vance Lewin, Bangkok
 
 
Ed. note: The above letter was submitted to Thai English-language newspapers but editors refused to publish it. The letter was posted on the website forum of The Nation, Thailand's second biggest English-language daily, and drew several comments before the editors withdrew it, apparently at the request request of one of Purananda's or because the newspaper has conflicts of interests. The article and comments can be viewed at 
 
+Vance+Lewin+website+about+Jane+Puranananda&hl
=en&ct=clnk&cd=2
 
                                  
 
A comment by Vance Lewin, December 9, 2006:
 
The above letter was sent to this website on November 6, 2005. I submitted it to Thailand's two major English-language daily newspapers, the Bangkok Post and The Nation. The Nation posted it on its on-line forum on January 16, 2006. The posting drew numerous comments before the editors removed it shortly afterward.
 
I sent the message to other newspapers and also posted it on a website, http://vancelewin.tripod.com/.
 
Around the time of the September 19 coup d'etat in Thailand the website, along with many others that criticized the same lawyers and judicial officials, who have since resurfaced through appointments by the junta to high positions, was deleted by Lycos/Tripod, a South Korean company.
 
Since then, I learned that one of the editors of The Nation was related to Ms. Puranananda's Thai husband and, also, that one of the editors was a client of the law firm, Dej-Udom & Associates.
 
Further, a former staffer of
The Nation informed me that the newspaper had working agreements with the law firm, Dej-Udom, the Law Society of Thailand, and the government's National Counter Corruption Commission.
 
Considering other information that I have received, I believe that I have good reason to believe that
The Nation, Dej-Udom and certain employees of the American Embassy in Bangkok were behind the website deletions. 
 
I have posted the comment on another website, http://vancelewinreposted.tripod.com/.
 
If it is deleted again I will post it again.
 
Vance Lewin
email: eastbywestv@yahoo.com

website:
http://vancelewinreposted.tripod.com/
 
For American Expatriates and Tourists in Thailand -
Americans with legal problems in Thailand are easy prey for Thai mafiosi and American accomplices
       
----------------------------------
 
Comment by Harold Schwartz, Washington, D. C., June 15, 2006
 
American agents of foreign interests
 
Considering the work that Jane Puranananda, who is an American citizen, does for Dej-Udon Krairat, she must be registered with the United States government as employed and representing a foreign agency. Apparenlty, she is not registered as such. This is a violation of U. S. laws. Ms. Puranananda is not immune to prosecution in the United States for her conduct abroad.
 
Harold Schwartz, Washington, D. C. 
------------------
 
A Visitor's Comment from John Reasoner in Bangkok, March 18, 2006:
 
The letter from from Vance Lewin, about the criminal behavior of a local American woman in Bangkok who is in conspiracy with local criminal elements to swindle other Americans, is a warning to expatriates and tourists in Thailand .
 
Mr. Lewin's letter was posted on the Forum website of the English-language Thai newspaper, The Nation, for many months. There were nine replies to it. The newspaper took it down recently. The editors seldom remove a site.
 
Why did the editors remove the site? Did someone make a specific request to have it removed? If so, who? What were his or her objections?
 
A former American embassy employee in Bangkok  told me that Jane Puranananda conspired with Central Intelligence Agency (C. I. A.) operatives at the embassy. These persons were usually officials from the consular and political offices. Indeed, their intention was to cheat and endanger Americans in Thailand who were not professionally connected to the American government. This was often done in conspiracy with local Thais, including Thai lawyers. Usually, this involved committing fraud.
 
The American and Thai public should know about this.
 
John Reasoner, Bangkok
 
-----------------------------------
 
Comment by Thomason L. Keller, Washington, D. C., April 10, 2006
 
What can Americans do about bad American officials    
 
I have been interested in the comments about Americans in conspiracy with local Thais to swindle other Americans.
 
Traveling aboard as a tourist, or living abroad as an expatriate, especially in the Third World, has always posed risks and dangers that do not ordinarily exist at home in the Western world.
 
Many Westerners in the Third World have been the victims of theft and, after identifying the thief or thieves, have been accused and sometimes charged with defamation.
 
Many Westerners have been innocent victims of a car accident and wrongly accused of causing the accident or accused of defamation by the driver at fault.
 
Often, locals and policemen defend a local involved in an incident even if he or she caused it. 
 
Thieves can come from all walks of life. There are kleptomaniacs and psychopaths from wealthy families. They inflict injuries upon others. They run away. They refuse to own up. They often have the backing of local residents, the police and law courts against their foreign victim.
 
Indeed, there are many western tourists and expatriates in Thailand who refuse to report crimes to the police or appear in court as witnesses. They have learned from experience that it serves no purpose to do so and can even lead to accusations against them, physical injury and internment.
 
Often, the Thai police fail to report accurately a witness's account of an incident. And the policeman's superiors, all the way to the national police chief, will not respond positively to requests to correct an errant policeman or report. They are unlikely to heed a report or complaint submitted directly from the public.
 
Prosecutors are reluctant to accept complaints directly from the public or question a policemen's report.
 
The Attorney General seldom acts upon complaints submitted directly from the public.
 
There are no stenographers or audio recordings in Thai courts. There is only a secretary who takes dictation from the judge. The judge dictates to the secretary a summary of a witness's testimony. Often, that summary is inaccurate, sometimes very much so and sometimes entirely so. Witnesses can petition the court, with an affidavit, to correct a judge's summary of their testimony, but such petitions, though accepted by the court, are seldom heeded.
 
A low court judge's superiors, all the way to the Supreme Court, seldom accept complaints against the judge or oppose the judge's decisions. 
 
Often enough, witnesses, translators and lawyers are intimidated by the police with harassment and threats of arrest to dissuade them from making or pursuing a complaint or report.
 
A policeman, prosecutor and judge can charge a witness with any number of offenses to dissuade him or her from testifying or pointing out their misconduct.
 
Worse, for a Westerner involved in a legal matter in a Third World country, like Thailand , the employees of his country's local embassy are often reluctant to help. Instead, they prefer to take issue with him and back the native locals against him.
 
Unless a Westerner has a personal contact in the embassy of his country who can persuade local officials to cooperate the embassy is useless to him and can even make matters worse.     
 
There are many Westerners employed abroad by native businesses, including law firms, who, without the least compunction, will oppose other citizens of their countries if asked by their native employers to do so,
 
Embassy officials, including police and intelligence operatives, have established relations with native policemen, prosecutors, judges and law firms that they do not want to use to help a fellow citizen who has been injured, victimized, cheated, harassed or wrongly accused or detained. This is usually due to timidity, pettiness and mendacity that is typical of many Foreign Service personnel and government desk jobbers. They feel it inconvenient to question their local contact's actions. Often, they prefer to agree with the native officials, just for the sake of agreement, regardless of the facts. Consular, political and economic officers at the American embassy in Bangkok are definitely this sort of Foreign Service official. They can also perpetrate crimes against an innocent individual through their native contacts.
 
There are provisions in the laws of the United States that allow an American who was wronged by fellow citizens abroad or by the natives of a foreign country abroad to pursue prosecution of those persons as well as sue them for damages 9n the United States.
 
The best known examples of such cases are the recent prosecutions of pedophiles in America who committed criminal acts abroad. In another well-known example, victims of human rights abuses committed by the Burmese Army, who used forced labor to build the Yadini pipeline for the American oil company Unocal and the French oil company, Total, had recourse to an American court in pursuing claims for damages against Unocal.
 
Americans can be insured at home against many types of injuries and losses abroad, but not all. In the end, they will have to turn to American courts for justice and compensation. Perpetrators of crimes against Americans in Thailand, be they Thai or American, common civilians or government officials, acting individually or in conspiracy with others, in committing crimes or trying to cover up, can be prosecuted in the United States under certain provisions of certain laws. Diplomatic immunity is limited.
 
Thomason L. Keller
Washington, D. C.
 
------------------------------
 
 
A comment from James Page, January 28, 2006:
 
The King and the NCCC (senate)
 
The King has just rejected the senate's list of nine commissioners for the National Counter-Corruption Commission (NCCC) because they were selected from a shortlist of 17 instead of 18 as required. One candidiate withdrew at the last minute. The senate did not bother to select another candidate. Some senators argued that an eightheenth candidate had to be added to the shortlist before the senate could select the nine commissioners. Others were tired of the lengthy process and wanted to get on with it.
 
Apparently, the King has agreed and asked the senate to chose again.
 
Having rejected the list of commissioners for a purely technical legal reason, will the King find it difficult the next time around to reject the list again for the more evident reason that the nine commissioners-to-be have conflicts of interests that will inhibit proper conduct on an anti-corruption body?
 
James Page
Bangkok 
 
-----------------
 
The following comment was published also as a letter to the Bangkok Post on March 11, 2006
 
The Public has a Right to Know
                            
The Thai press has been extremely sloppy in its reporting of developments in the selection of new commissioners for the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC).
 
The press has repeatedly reported that the King rejected the senate's selection of nine commissioners who are to serve nine-year terms on the NCCC, which requires royal approval, last January.
 
According to the press, the King rejected the senate's list on a simple legal technicality: the senate selected the nine would-be commissioners from a list of 17 instead of 18, after one withdrew his name from the list at the last moment.
 
According to the press, the King felt that complaints that the senate should have selected the nine from a list of 18 instead of 17 were just.
 
But in an article, "Rejected NCCC nominees reapply" in the March 3 issue of the Bangkok Post, a reporter, Tul Pinkaew, revealed that "seven of the eight candidates were rejected by the King's principal private secretary in January on the grounds that the process was 'inappropriate'".
 
Thus, readers learned for the first time, two months after the fact, that it was not the King who rejected the senate's list of nominees, but actually his "principal private secretary".
 
Which was it? Who rejected the senate's list? The King or his principal private secretary? There is a world of difference between the two. And what was the reason? A simple legal technicality, as previously reported? Or was it, as the reporter seemed to have trouble saying, because the King deemed seven of the eight candidates unfit?
 
Further in this matter, it has been more than a week since the senate panel that is to select the NCCC commissioners announced that 44 people had applied. But the press has not listed the 44. Only a handful has been mentioned. To provide for transparency the press should list all of the candidates for the NCCC and details about them. In a democratic society, there can be no excuse for not doing so. 
 
The press should be more careful in its reporting. It should report the news more fully and precisely instead of beating around the bush and offering doubletalk. The public has a right to know to full facts.
 
Wattana Jongkal na Ayuttaya
jongkalnaayuttaya@yahoo.com

 

--------------------------------------

 

Playing with the System

 

The recent extradition of an American from the United States to Thailand was unprecedented   -   and shocked many people. The American, a native Caucasian, was an alleged swindler. He was extradited to Thailand to stand trial for the murder of a New Zealander who was one of his partners in an underground stock brokerage and swindling operation in Bangkok.

 

It is widely believed that the extradition was bought by the Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, with sizable bribes to judicial officials in the American state of Georgia and officials of the State Department, so he could show off an honorary doctorate recently awarded to him by a criminal justice college in Texas    -   to which the American president, G. W. Bush, and former Secretary of State, James Baker, are associated   -   and/or that Bush, in a private deal with Thaksin, leaned on American officials to allow the extradition.

 

Some likened the extradition to Bush spitting in the soup of Asia watchers, legal experts and human rights monitors. They point out that the US has not complied with the requests of Southeast Asian countries for the arrest and extradition of thousands of Thais currently in the US.

 

There followed, however, a surprisingly short trial and swift acquittal of the alleged murderer by the criminal court, without an appeal by the prosecution, widely suspected of having been contrived by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which has a hand in local stock swindling operations run by underground stock brokerages called “boiler rooms”. The American was returned to prison in the US, where he faces charges of swindling

 

Traffickers in Women and Children

 

Was a foreign power   -   perhaps Japan, the United States or the United Nations   -   behind the appointment of Santi Trakan to the Privy Council?

 

The Yakuza, the Mafia, State Department, Thai Red Cross Society, and UN agencies in Bangkok are notorious for their involvement in the traffic in women and children. In Thailand, so-called “non-governmental organizations" (“NGOs”) have privileged access to the courts.

 

Officials of foreign governments in Thailand, including the US, are involved in the traffic in Thai women and children. They ignore complaints from the public, including their own nationals, against corrupt Thai policemen, lawyers and judicial officials complicit in the illicit trade. American embassy personnel tip off local police contacts in attempts to stop complainants. They use the complaints for excuses to establish contacts and networks with corrupt local officials in the traffic in women and children. They conspire with local lawyers and judicial officials to frame and extort money from American tourists and expatriates. They grant visas for travel to the US to their co-conspirators in the local police, judiciary (like Jiraniti) and other government offices. They pave the way up the ranks of officialdom for criminal associates in the Thai government. 

 

 

 

 
--------------
 
For full listing of Privy Council members and biographies, see:
 
or
 
For full listing of of all 87 judges of the Supreme Court and biographies, click here.
 

Your comments are welcome.
 
 

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In Thailand Today
 
Monday, 1 April 2019
 
 
The Junta - Shinawatra Show
 
It's still on, folks!
 
For the latest details, cut to the last section of the following article - "2019".    
 
 

What is going on in Thailand?

The Haves and Have-Nots

Simply put, in terms black and white, there are two groups of people, or two sides, opposed to one another. The rich and the poor. The haves and have-nots. It’s an old story. It’s being played out in many places. Thailand is just one of them.

The Poor

On one side there is the vast majority of the Thai population   -   mostly rural peasants and urban laborers, especially from the north and northeast of the country. They are the poor. 

The Well-Off

The other side is the tiny upper class and a growing but still small middle class. They are represented by an old entrenched elite in business and government. They make up a small percentage of the population. Most of them live in the cities. Many live in central Thailand. Many live in the north of the Malay Peninsula or what is called southern Thailand.

The Poor Wake Up

Over the course of the past seven decades Thailand’s masses have experienced a big improvement in their lives. It began with the appearance of cheap mass-produced clothing. Then came western medicine. Then came electricity, roads, motor vehicles, television, phones. Same as everywhere.

The big industrial boom that began in the late 1980s drew many to the big cities, sea ports and beach resorts for work. They have seen how “the other half” lives. They want more say in their lives.

Today, many of the young can be considered the second 7-Eleven generation, or the second McDonald’s generation. Food is plentiful. Transportation is cheap.

Thailand's first experience with real democracy

The Chinese businessman

The leader of the poor or have-nots is a Chinese multi-multi-millionaire businessman, politician and populist tyrant, Thaksin Shinawatra.

In 2000, Thaksin was not considered a serious political prospect beyond Bangkok. But over the course of the following year he conducted a thoroughly professional village-to-village campaign all over the country. His posters were on every back road. Thaksin's political party won a landslide victory in Thailand's first nation-wide fully democratic elections for all seats of both houses of parliament in 2001. His party won again, also by a landslide vote, in 2005.

Thaksin was obnoxious to Burmese refugees on the border and Muslims in the south of Thailand.

And police went on a rampage, summarily executing some 2,000 people, when Thaksin declared a “war on drugs”. 

Eventually, in the years that followed, the Thais realised the Shinawatras for what they were: selfish nouveau-riche interested solely in joining the old feudal elite. A political parvenu.

But Thaksin continued democratic reforms. For the first time in a century, Thais elected their village leaders or headmen (phuyaiban) and their township leaders or headmen (kamnan).

The 2006 military coup d'etat

Many envied Thaksin for his millions, his brilliant political success and his phenomenal popularity. As foreseen, he ran into trouble early in his second term. He was deposed by a military coup d'etat, led by the army chief, Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin, in September 2006.

He has been on the lam overseas since 2008. He is wanted in Thailand on charges of financial wrong-doing and jumping bail. He could face charges also of conspiracy to murder and human rights abuses.

Feudalism

The 2006 military coup ended Thailand's brief five-year-long experience with full democracy in local government and in the legislative branch of national government.

The military leaders of the 2006 coup   -   the junta   -   and their puppets in the privy council cancelled the country's democratic constitution and tried to undo democratic reforms in an attempt to restore feudalism throughout the country for the old entrenched elite, who are mostly in Bangkok.

The junta sought to restore the old system of filling the upper house of parliament, the senate, entirely with appointees, with a large number of soldiers, many policemen and members of the judiciary.

The junta tried to do away with elections at the local level too. Village and township headmen were to be appointed for life by the Ministry of Interior or by the military. A military officer was to be appointed to the provincial governor’s office as senior deputy.

Thaksin’s political party was outlawed. The junta, however, could not stem the tide of modernisation. Popular support for Thaksin remained strong. Eventually, the junta was forced to step down and let the politicians return.

A new constitution was drafted. A referendum on the constitution was held eleven months after the coup d’etat, in August 2007, and general elections were held four months later, in December 2007.  

The junta did not achieve its goal of suppressing democracy entirely. The legacy of the Sonthi Boonyaratglin junta was the upper house of parliament, the senate. As before, there were to be two senators from each province but now only one was elected by the voters. Thus, half of the senate was made up of appointees. They were selected by a small committee of government hacks from nominees handpicked by the coup leader, Sonthi. The other half of the senate was filled by the winners of provincial elections. Most of the elected MPs were Thaksin supporters. But one must note that many appointees were also Thaksin supporters.

The half-appointed senate was approved by Thai voters in the referendum of August 2007. The people voluntarily gave up the hard-won democratic rights that many had died for fifteen years earlier in a confrontation with Gen. Suchinda Kraprayoon, leader of the junta that staged the 1991 coup d'état.

Some Thais who put their lives on the line to get rid of Gen. Suchinda in 1992 won senate seats in the fully democratic elections of 2001, the first in Thai history. But in January 2008, they gladly accepted appointments to the new half-elected and half-appointed senate without any qualms. Among them was the incorruptible Chamlong Srimaung ("Mr. Clean"), leader of the May 1992 democracy uprising that toppled Gen. Suchinda. Of course, Chamlong would have won reelection to the senate easily if he had run a campaign. By accepting appointment to the senate rather than seeking election to it, Chamlong betrayed the sacred principles of democratic government that hundreds of his followers fought and died for in May 1992.

(The official government tally of 53 dead for Black May 1992, a ridiculously false figure long touted by Gen. Suchinda's stooge, Anand Panyarachun, was a blatant attempt to cover up the extent of the killing by the police and the army over a three-day period in Bangkok [many people disappeared].)

The lower house elected an old government hack, picked by Thaksin to head his political front, as prime minister in January 2008.  

The Chinese Businessman's Family

Thaksin’s party   -   or proxy partties and front men   -   won all national elections since 2001 by big margins. Three of the four prime ministers of any significance who succeeded Thaksin were his puppets. Two of them were close relatives. All three were eventually removed from office through legal trickery. Thaksin’s party lost only one national election. But that too was through legal trickery. His party's victory was disqualified and the opposition Democrat Party formed the government. The result was rioting in many cities, especially in Bangkok, in May 2010.

In any case, Thaksin's party retained control of both houses of parliament   -   the lower house, or house of representatives, which was elected by the voters, and the upper house, or senate, which was half-appointed by the junta and its lackeys.

May 2010 Confrontation

Thaksin's supporters, who wore red shirts to distinguish them from their opposition, who often wore yellow shirts, came to be known as the "Red Shirts".

In May 2010, “Red Shirt” resentment of Thaksin's opponents, who were then in government, led to the biggest clashes and riots in the history of modern Thailand. The “Red Shirts” battled it out with the army in the streets. When routed by the army, they set fire to Bangkok.

What the Have-Nots Want

The “Red Shirts” are demanding the restoration of all the democratic reforms that were curtailed by the junta in 2006 and, it should be noted here, not restored by Thaksin stand-ins subsequently.

Many also want elections in every province to elect provincial governors. Until very recently, governors in all but four of the country’s 76 provinces were appointed by the Ministry of Interior. (At present [2016] all provincial governors are appointed.)

Feudalists vs. Populists

From 2001 to 2014, those against Thaksin and his hordes of supporters were the opposition in parliament, the old political party, the Democrats. They were joined by the “haves”   -   the tiny middle class, mostly from Bangkok and other big cities and central and southern Thailand.

They are a small but powerful minority. They do not want Thaksin to return to Thailand. They want an end to the Shinawatra family in government and politics. They want an end to the “Red Shirts”.

These people claim they want democracy too. But they do not. They do not want democracy. They abhor it. That is because they lose by it. Thus, they oppose universal suffrage.

They complain that allowing the nation to elect its officials will allow the super-rich Thaksin to buy up votes everywhere and let the have-nots from up-country take over everything. They complain that democracy will increase official corruption and that is sufficient reason to suppress it. They have no intention of wooing the public by offering more than Thaksin. But they realise that democracy is inevitable. They want only to stall its growth as long as they can. Sound familiar? They even accuse the “Red Shirts” of being against the monarchy.

The opposition leaders have been called reactionaries and neo-fascists. Indeed, they want a return to the Thailand of old, when the country and the government were run by soldiers, policemen and appointees, a few families and cliques, and the Ministry of Interior.

From November 2013 to May 2014, this group, backed by large groups of vocational students, staged long marches through Bangkok and held big 24-hour rallies, televised nationwide. They seized and controlled major intersections in Bangkok for months. They took over the city's biggest public park, obstructing joggers for two months. There were confrontations between demonstrators of both sides and the police. There were some gun fights and several deaths and many injuries.

In response, in December 2013, the prime minister, Thaksin’s younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, dissolved the lower house of parliament, the house of representatives, and called for new elections.

As expected, Thaksin's party won the elections, which were held in February 2014.

But legal trickery by the relevant courts, encouraged by the opposition, nullified the polls. Thus, the lower house was not reconvened.

Thaksin's party also won elections for the senate   -   that is, that half of the senate that was democratically elected.

The opposition, who could not win at the polls, failed to oust Thaksin’s proxy government by disrupting the election process, through street demonstrations, and by storming and occupying government offices.

The prime minister, Yingluck, was brought down in mid-May 2014 through legal trickery. The judiciary annulled her party's victory in the elections and she was forced out of office.

Following Yingluck’s disqualification by the courts her cabinet formed an interim government, with an interim prime minister, to remain until elections could be held.

The opposition took over government buildings and demanded the senate reject the interim or acting prime minister, who was appointed by Yingluck's cabinet members, and appoint a new one   -   one who had no ties to Thaksin.

All this time, the matter of the composition of the half-appointed senate was a major issue in the senate. There were heated arguments over the question of “electoral reform" and the scheduling of the next general elections. Which should come first? Reform or elections? 

Surprisingly, the fully democratic parliamentary system instituted in 2001 was not restored by Thaksin’s cronies and relatives who succeeded him in office after the leaders of the 2006 coup d'etat stepped down in January 2008.

Neither Thaksin nor his sister Yingluck pressed for a full restoration of democratic reforms or for more democracy.

As prime minister, Yingluck mentioned the need to restore democracy to the upper house only once   -   at an international forum on democracy in Mongolia in early 2013. Obviously, she did not care about democracy.

Thaksin himself said absolutely nothing about democracy. Somewhere along the line, Thaksin lost interest in democracy. Why? In any election, Thaksin could count on a majority of the votes. But why bother with an electoral campaign when your supporters can be appointed? Thaksin's party was well represented in the senate among the appointees. There was nobody else to appoint.

The “Red Shirts” were let down. Efforts to restore democracy to the senate were mishandled. A proposal in parliament in 2013 to let the nation elect all members of the senate, as before the coup in 2006, stood no chance of passing because it was submitted together with a proposal to amnesty Thaksin and allow him to return to Thailand.

The officials who proposed the bill to democratise the senate and the official who submitted it were accused of lèse majesté. They were eventually tried in court on the charge of lèse majesté but acquitted in March 2015.

But then they faced impeachment proceedings. (See below.)

Demands that the nation elect its senators led to brawls on the senate floor.

There were suggestions of holding a national referendum. Put the question to the people:

“Should the voters elect provincial candidates to the nation's senate? Yes or no? Yes, senators should be elected by their constituents. No, senators should be appointed by the government.”

If the either-or option were presented to the voters in such unqualified terms, without a catch, the voters would certainly vote for a fully-elected upper house. 

The junta in August 2007 blackmailed the voters into accepting the half-appointed senate by presenting it a referendum as "it's this or nothing". The voters were also given the impression that the half-appointed senate would be a brief and temporary thing.

Coup d'etat 2014

The Thai army chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha (later, he insisted the press spell his surname as Chan - o - cha), declared martial law on 20 May 2014. The two opposing political groups were confined to two rally sites in Bangkok. Numerous television stations were shut down.

Two days later, in a coup d’etat, on 22 May, the army took over the government. The army chief, Gen. Prayuth, assumed the role of acting prime minister. The protesters were sent home.

This was just what the opposition wanted. A return to minority rule. Rule by an unelected elite. An end of democracy. And an end to the populist Thaksin and his family. 

The senate was shut down. Thaksin supporters were to be purged from government.

A nationwide seven-hour-long overnight curfew, from 10:00 p. m. to 5:00 a. m., was imposed on 24 May. The curfew was reduced to four hours, from midnight to 4:00 a. m., on 27 May. The curfew was lifted in the big resorts of Pattaya and Phuket in early June and lifted nation-wide on 13 June. The junta announced that martial law would remain in effect for one year. However, few visitors to Thailand noticed any indication of martial law. It appeared to be martial law in name only. Martial law was lifted after ten months, on 1 April 2015.

When, after a long and violent confrontation, the army broke up “Red Shirt” camps and barricades in Bangkok in 2010, Thaksin, a fugitive overseas, warned of possible guerrilla warfare. And within an hour or so, the "Red Shirts" torched the city and the Bangkok skyline was covered with black smoke. It looked like an Allied aerial bombing raid in WW2. Arson and shooting spread through the city. 

But the "Red Shirts" were not as determined in 2014 as they had been in 2010. Perhaps they were dismayed by Thaksin's apparent intransigence over democratic reform. Many rice farmers felt let down by Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck. They had not received payments from the government mills for their February crop. (See article about rice below.)

In the week following the 22 May coup d'etat, there were daily protests against military rule and demonstrations for immediate elections. The protests were staged by hundreds of people at various points about Bangkok and other cities. The protesters were neither "Red Shirts" nor the anti-"Red Shirts". The army headed off some of the protests and demonstrations by dispatching thousands of soldiers in riot gear to various locations beforehand. By mid-June, there remained few public indications of opposition. By July, the only rumblings were in the press and overseas. Many believed the Shinawatra family and the "Red Shirts" were finished in Thailand.

Gen. Prayuth quickly announced that all rice farmers would be paid in twenty days.  

Military Dictatorship

The previous junta retained power for 16 months, from its coup d’etat in September 2006 to the partial return of popularly elected civilian government in January 2008.

In 2014, many people desired a long period of respite from political confrontation.

Early on, many believed the Gen. Prayuth’s junta would remain in power for two years, until mid-2016. Two years, people said. But why two years? Two years for a military government is a long time in modern Thailand. The last military dictator to remain in power that long was Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, who died in office in 1963.   

The previous coup d'état, by Gen. Sonthi in September 2006, was followed by sixteen months of military rule. A new constitution, curtailing democracy, was drafted and approved in a national referendum within a year of the coup d'état, in August 2007, and limited national elections were held four months later, in December of the same year.

Initailly, Gen. Prayuth and his junta gave repeated assurances that local and nation-wide elections would be held again in 2015.

But it quickly became apparent that Gen. Prayuth’s junta was not like the junta of Gen. Sonthi. There were hints, though few people, if any, mentioned it at the time, that Gen. Prayuth was another Suchinda Kraprayoon. Gen. Prayuth, it seemed, meant trouble.

In some ways, however, Gen. Prayuth's junta was not as obstructive as Gen. Sonthi's junta. The mass blockage of websites, said to number tens of thousands, that followed the 2006 coup d'etat and lasted for most of the junta's stay, was not repeated in 2014.

It eventually became apparent that Gen. Prayuth was wholly opposed to any and all forms of democracy, whatever else he might have to say.

The date mentioned by Gen. Prayuth's junta for general elections was steadily pushed back, first to the end of 2015 and then to early 2016.

On 30 May 2014, Gen. Prayuth announced that the military would name an interim government by the following October. The interim government would take one year to reform the election process and set a date for national elections, to be held probably in late 2015 or early 2016.

Foreign embassies love Chinese businessmen

Many foreign embassies in Bangkok advised avoiding travel to Thailand.

The U. S. State Department criticised the coup d'etat and the junta's plan to delay elections for more than a year. It must be remembered, however  that the American government is very self-interested and has always been pro-Thaksin   -   for the money, of course   -   just as it has always been pro-junta in Burma.

Every year, the American Embassy in Bangkok invites leading Thai figures to join in American Independence Day celebrations on 4 July. But in 2014, the coup leader, Gen. Prayuth, was not invited. The local press later claimed that Gen. Prayuth had been invited but he felt he should not attend. This press report is generally regarded as having been incorrect.

The French Embassy in Bangkok did not invite Gen. Prayuth to celebrations on Bastille Day, the French national holiday on July 14.

Democracy board game

On 10 June 2014, the junta announced that it had drafted a provisional or interim constitution. A National Legislative Assembly (NLA) would be appointed in August. A cabinet would be formed in September. A National Reform Council (NRC) with 150 appointees would be set up in September or October.

The reform council would appoint a 35-member committee to draft a new charter or constitution. The final draft would not be submitted to the voters in a national referendum. Instead, it would be presented directly to the reform council for approval. The final draft would prescribe a national legislature and outline the election process. The new constitution would be enacted in July 2015. 

If the reform council did not approve the draft of the charter, the junta would consider the possibility of reinstating previous constitutions.

Thailand's (Siam's) first constitution was in 1932. There have been twenty constitutions since 1932. The 1997 constitution is universally regarded as having been Thailand's best constitution. It allowed for universal suffrage and a fully-elected bicameral legislature.

At best, the final draft of any new constitution, like the 1997 constitution, would call for the restoration of a fully democratically-elected parliament.

But that would be hoping for a lot from Thais at this point. After canvassing four study groups, two from each political side, in late 2013, the press reported that neither side favored full democracy. Instead, they preferred a government "guided" by a small group of "experienced administrators" and "enlightened scholars".

There was some pressure from abroad for a return to the 1997 constitution. But the interim government, with its many sub-groupings or councils, and the junta did not seem to take foreign opinion into account.

The old entrenched ruling elites complained that restoration of democracy would open the door to the return of a multi-multi-millionaire populist tyrant like Thaksin. Supporters of the coup d'etat hoped to dissuade the voters from ever again electing another Shinawatra. The junta announced that the army would conduct an extensive nationwide village-to-village public relations and educational campaign. But without offering the voters more than the populist Shinawatras, such campaign was unlikely to have much impact.

Yingluck Shinawatra was to face numerous charges in criminal court. To this day, she is free on bail. Interestingly, the junta leader, Gen. Prayuth, allowed her to leave Thailand in late July and again in October of 2014 to visit her brother, Thaksin, who is on the lam overseas. Thaksin himself did not return to face criminal charges when he was granted permission to travel abroad in 2008. However, in December 2015, the courts forbade Yingluck to leave the country, labeling her a flight risk.

On 16 July 2014, the junta announced that there would be no more elections at the local level. Like the leaders of the previous coup d'etat, in 2006, they set about dismantling the democratic system and resurrecting nation-wide army rule. When provincial governors, big city councilmen, and township and village headmen completed their current terms of office they would be replaced by government officials appointed by the Ministry of Interior. Committees chaired by the provincial governor would select the replacements from government officials. In Bangkok the council would be selected by a committee that included the country's attorney general, auditor-general and election commission secretary-general.

The reason given for this was that if politicians were allowed to contest for public office again, national political parties would control local government. That implied that the new constitution would outlaw national political parties. Indeed, there was discussion about restricting the activities of political parties.  

In fact, of course, career civil servants are no less corrupt than politicians.

The junta’s plan would be tolerated by local voters only if the appointees were as good as the officials they had elected or intended to elect.

In early September 2014 the national organisation of village (ban) and township (tamboon) headmen made clear its opposition to the new regulation. Indeed, any popular village headman, who could expect to be reelected, would have to lobby for reappointment or step aside for an appointed official.

Most headmen are not involved in political parties.

Gen. Prayuth might have been better advised to ask the elected headmen to stay on in their posts until civilian rule was restored. (In the case of an unpopular headman, the villagers could petition for his or her removal.)

In August 2014, the National Legislative Assembly convened with 193 members. About half of the members were active and retired military officers.

Objections were voiced in the press about the military's domination of the assembly.

As expected, the assembly chose Gen. Prayuth as prime minister.

In September 2014, Gen. Prayuth selected his cabinet. As expected, half of the 35 cabinet members were active or retired military men.

Many among the press and public resented what they saw as a wholesale occupation of the government by the junta and the armed forces.

Many expressed concern that Gen. Prayuth and the army would try to dominate the elections and also dominate the next parliament when it convened.

Would the military reserve for itself seats in the senate? If so, how many? Half the seats? All the seats?

Would full democracy be restored at the local, provincial and national levels? Or would village and provincial government posts be filled by appointees of the military and Ministry of Interior?

By October 2014, the National Reform Council was formed.

In early November 2014 a Charter Drafting Committee began work on reforms and drafting a new charter or constitution.

The Perfect Stooge

The chairman of the drafting committee was Meechai Ruchupan, 76-year-old career civil servant. Meechai was the prime minister's office director under prime ministers General Prem Tinsulanonda (1980 - 1988) and General Chatchai Choonhavn (1988 - 1991). Following the February 1991 coup d'etat of General Suchinda Kraprayoon, he was appointed deputy to Suchinda's prime minister, Anand Panyarachun (1991 - 1992).

Meechai headed the committee that drafted the new constitution in 1991. Following Suchinda's occupation of the prime minister's post and his dramatic ouster by People Power soon afterward, in May 1992, Meechai was acting prime minister for 17 days.

Following the 2006 coup d'etat, the junta appointed Meechai president of its national legislative assembly. He was involved in drafting the unpopular 2007 constitution.

The junta leader and new prime minister, Gen. Prayuth, remarked that bickering within the reform council could hamper its work and that its proposals, to be submitted in 2015, might not be satisfactory. In that case, if Gen. Prayuth followed the procedure he had outlined earlier, the junta could revert to an earlier constitution.

The greater Thai public, of course, wants a return to the 1997 constitution, which guaranteed fully democratic elections at the national level.

Would Gen. Prayuth return to the 2007 charter? That would not be popular with the public today. The 2007 charter is now regretted for having led, in large part, to the current lamentable situation. Would Gen. Prayuth make some effort to return to the 1997 charter? The public would appreciate that. But it would be a surprising move for an army man, especially Gen. Prayuth, who believes only in military dictatorship.

The press, entrenched government officials, powerful families and the political opposition, to whom democracy is an anathema, will not tolerate anything more democratic than the last junta's 2007 constitution.

Being Prime Minister

On 7 August 2014, Gen. Prayuth warned that polemics in the media about the conflict between the rich and the poor in Thailand implied social inequality among the people of the nation and would not be tolerated. He threatened to arrest those who discussed the matter in public.

In mid-August 2014, Thaksin, in exile abroad, asked his followers not to confront the junta. Otherwise, he said, they could be blamed for anything that went wrong.

Initially, the biggest and most pressing problem facing the junta was not politics. It was the economy. The hospitality industry, which is dependent on tourism, saw business decline after the coup d'etat. Hotels, restaurants, bars and beach concessions complained of a big drop in business.  

Thaksin said the junta would be unable to handle the economy and have to step aside by mid-2015. (That did not happen.)

In early November 2014 there were press reports of secret meetings and behind-the-scenes negotiations between Gen. Prayuth and Thaksin cronies.

According to a timeline that appeared in the 6 November 2014 issue of the Bangkok Post the Charter Drafting Committee would have to submit its proposed charter to the reform council not later than 23 July 2015. The reform council would have to decide by 6 August 2015 whether or not to accept the new charter. Then it would have to present it to the king for royal endorsement on 4 September 2015.

In early November 2014 the head of the Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva, called for a national referendum on any charter that was to be proposed by the reform council. A poll claimed that 85% of respondents wanted a national referendum on any proposed charter.

Toward the end of 2014, the reform council discussed several proposals, the most publicised of which was the possibility of a prime minister elected directly by the voters instead of parliament. This was eventually turned down. But it repeatedly popped up again for discussion.

By November 2014 it was clear that things would not proceed as they had after the 2006 coup. The 2014 coup leaders would not go willingly. They would have to be forced out.

Tell them anything . . . 

In February 2015, to no one's surprise, the charter drafting commission declared its opposition to a senate elected directly and democratically by the people. It preferred that the people not elect any senators! Instead, all senators should be appointed. 

It proposed a senate selected from candidates nominated by the national legislative assembly and former ruling elites   -   ex-prime ministers, ex-supreme court chief justices, ex-parliament presidents, ex-military leaders, ex-top government civil servants, leaders of labor unions and agricultural cooperatives, etc., etc, and, of course, lawyers and academics.

This was promptly shot down by both the Democrat Party and Thaksin's party. Eventually, the press voiced its disgust. The greater public seemed to abhor it too. All demanded the restoration of universal suffrage and full democracy and insisted upon a national referendum on any proposed charter.

The anti-democratic elements and the puppet government opposed a referendum.

The army chief threatened a crackdown if public criticism of the charter drafting commission persisted.

Numerous western countries expressed disappointment and hinted at the possibility of sanctions.

In meetings with the press, the junta said it had given itself till early or mid-2016. Indeed, two years. But all indications were that the junta wanted to hang around much longer than that.

Gen. Prayuth scrapped martial law in May 2015, one year after declaring it. But then Gen. Prayuth assumed full dictatorial powers. It was all legal and constitutional.

Local and foreign observers complained that Gen. Prayuth was a military dictator and that he was out to suppress democracy entirely, silence opponents, and make a mockery of the election process. 

Woe to you!

Meanwhile, the National Legislative Assembly was absorbed in taking Yingluck Shinawatra to task over her handling of rice payments to farmers.

On 22 January 2015, Thailand's attorney-general indicted Yingluck on the criminal charge of dereliction of duty for her scheme to double payments to farmers of rice. If found guilty she could spend ten years in jail.

Later on the same day, the NLA voted to impeach Yingluck for her mishandling of rice payments.

Yingluck was banned from politics for the next five years.

On 14 February 2015, the press announced that Yingluck was to be sued in civil court and ordered to compensate the government for the losses it incurred through her rice-scheme.

Yingluck was to be one of 22 persons who could be asked to compensate the government for the loss of Baht 530 billion (about US$15 billion).

All this seemed to be a bit of hocus-pocus to get rid of the Shinawatras, at least for a while.

But there are nany who believed the Shinawatras were through in politics and that the country had seen the last of them.

On 12 October 2015, the government announced that Yingluck's assets could be seized to compensate for the government's losses caused by her doubling of payments to rice farmers. ‘

In mid-May 2016 a government investigative committee concluded that Yingluck failed to check corruption that led to huge losses from her rice scheme and that she owed the government some Baht 287 billion (about US$8 billion). The press did not report if Yingluck alone was expected to reimburse the government or if she was one of 22 persons who were considered responsible for the loss. 

On 2 August 2016, the press reported that a government panel determined that Yingluck was to be fined Baht 286.6 billion to compensate the government for its losses. Six others are to be fined Baht 18.7 billion each. 

On 17 September 2016, a government committee on civil liberty (its name as given in the Bangkok Post) chaired by the comptroller-general decided that Yingluck would be held responsible for government loses incurred during only three harvests, in 2013 and 2014, instead of five harvests, from 2011 to 2014. Thus, the government's losses under Yingluck were lowered to Baht 178 billion. According to the law, Yingluck, because she was the top government official at the time, was to be held liable for 20% of the loss, or Baht 35.71 billion (US$ 1.03 billion).

Gen. Prayut, invoking his legal powers as a dictator, authorised the Legal Execution Department to seize the assets of state officials held liable for damages. 

Yingluck's personal assests, valued at Baht 579.3 million, could be seized by the government.

According to the Bangkok Post on 22 October 2016, Yingluck received an order from the Administrative Court on 20 October to pay Baht 35.7 billion within 30 days (by 19 November).

Yingluck appealed to the Administrative Court to overturn the order. Her appeal was rejected. She was told to pay up. $1 billion.  

Others, all of whom have or have not been publicly identified, must compensate the government for the remaining 80% of the amount lost.  

Menwhile, after appeals and delays, the supreme court was to announce its final ruling in the rice scheme case on 25 August 2017. If guilty, Yingluck could go to jail for up to ten years. 

But Yingluck did not show. Instead, she turned up in Dubai, where her brother, Thaksin, maintains a residence. 

The court postponed its decision for thrty days, confiscated Yingluck's one million dollar bail, and ordered her arrest. The court ordered her sixteen bank accounts seized.  

The junta  was suspected in Yingluck's escape. Yingluck's large security detail included policemen and soldiers. The junta sought to avoid political turnoil over a guilty verdict. It is said that Yingluck traveled overland or sailed to Cambodia, flew on to Singapore and continued to Dubai. She has gone into exile.

Yingluck's flight could signal an end to the Shinawatras and a new era in Thailand. Needles to say, the Shinawatras will not be launching political campaigns in Thailand any time soon. Only a political upheaval or a king's pardon can spare Yingluck now.

it must be moted that many were glad to see the Shinawatras go.

Yingluck's commerce minister was sentenced to 42 years in prison. His deputy received 36 years. Of the 28 persons charged in the case, two disappeared earlier and two, including Yingluck, failed to appear in court. Eight werre acquitted. Seventeen were were found guilty. (The math is off. One person seems to be unaccounted for. That's typical of the Thai press.)    

On 27 September 2017, the court sentenced Yingluck in absentia to five years in prison without right of appeal. She has appealed for assylum in England.

Yingluck was found guilty of dereliction of duty. Although she was unaware of corrupt rice shipment deals with Chinese traders but fired the cabinet minister involved when the deals were exposed in the lower house, she did not stop the shipments to China.

Stamping out democracy

Initially, it appeared that the leaders of the previous coup, in 2006, hoped to put together a successor civilian government that excluded Thaksin relatives and supporters.  But, as expected, the December 2007 nation-wide elections returned Thaksin's relatives, cronies and front men to government leadership.

For many months following the 2014 coup, there was much meaningless discussion about elections and reform. The same as before the coup. Which should come first? Reform or elections. Many insisted that reform should come first.

Some insisted that Gen. Prayuth should stay on to see the reforms through. Gen. Prayuth often said the reforms, if not completed under his government, would be taken up by the next government. Really? 

According to the Bangkok Post on 9 April 2015, Gen. Prayuth invited French and German legal experts to give advice on drafting a constitution. France and Germany have fully democratic systems. (The Americans and the British do not have fully democratic systems. The British have an unelected upper house, the House of Lords. American presidents are elected by an electoral college representing the individual 50 states rather than by direct national popular vote; thus, the winner of the most votes nation-wide might not win the presidency.)

On 9 July 2015, the press reported that the charter drafting committee was opposed to the restoration of full democracy. Of course, that was not news. The committee's final draft of its proposal opposed democracy even more than the 2007 charter of the previous junta. The new senate would have 200 members. The voters in each of the country's 77 provinces would elect one senator. The rest of the senators   -   123 members (about two-thirds of the senate)   -   would be appointed by the government (committees appointed by the government).

The public should have seen it coming. The longer the junta remained, the less democracy it wanted.

Eventually, however, most of those involved in drafting a new constitution agreed on holding a referendum on the proposed constitution. But to hold a referendum, the drafters warned, would delay elections by six months, to late 2016. In fact, only 30 to 60 days are needed to prepare for a national referendum in Thailand.

The national reform council was to approve a charter not later than 6 August 2015. If approved, the charter would be sent to the King for endorsement on 4 September 2015.

The general feeling at the time was that the proposed charter would be soundly defeated in a referendum.

Some of the drafters of the charter called for the junta to stay on for two more years   -   to 2017 and even beyond! A pollster claimed that he had canvassed one thousand people and that they wanted the junta to stay on for at least two more years, to late 2017. Three and one-half years after the coup d'etat! 

Gen, Prayuth wondered if he might not stay on as prime minister. There was even talk of his running for election.

Foreign sanctions?

From time to time, the American Embassy in Bangkok announced that Washington, D. C.  was annoyed by ("concerned about") the suspension of democratic institutions and the delay in holding free and democratic elections in Thailand. The remarks sounded hollow and mechanical and came across as an exercise in bad-mouthing. To compel a junta to respond, significant sanctions must be applied and strictly enforced. Half-hearted measures actually cause an undesired effect. No one is taking warnings of sanctions seriously. The Thai junta is well aware that the U. S. never made any real attempt to force the junta in Burma to respond appropriately.

Did the American Embassy in Bangkok invite Gen. Prayuth and other junta officials to 4 July celebrations in 2015? The American Embassy never confirmed or denied that it did. Why?

The local press reported that Gen. Prayuth's secretary, an army general, claimed that the American Embassy had invited Gen. Prayuth to attend an American Independence Day reception at a Bangkok hotel on 2 July. Gen. Prayuth, who seemed to be unaware of an invitation, said he would attend if invited. But there were no press reports later of Gen. Prayuth attending the reception. No photos. And there were reports that he was out of the country at the time, probably in Japan.

Chaturon Chaisang

The best-known members of Thaksin's government were General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Chaturon Chaisang.

Chaturon was the bright shining star of the Thaksin administration. He offered real hope for the future. He was intelligent and he was willing to listen to people.

Gen. Chavalit and Chaisang were the only major figures in Bangkok willing to properly consider the needs and wishes of the Muslims in the south.

For his association with Thaksin, however, Chaturon was barred from political office for five years in 2007. He was eligible for government service again in May 2012 but he stayed at home until May 2013, when the prime minister, Yingluck, appointed him to her cabinet. He was once again Minister of Education.

Chaturon did not have the rich and powerful Chinese backers needed to reach the top of the political heap. But in popularity polls taken after a cabinet reshuffle in mid-2013 Chaturon rated much higher than Yingluck. That was not surprising.

Unfortunately, the popularity polls were tampered with by another new cabinet appointee, Paveena Hongsakula. She too had been barred from government service for five years for her ties to Thaksin. She came out even higher than Chaturon in the polls.

Ms. Paveena is a notorious trafficker in women and children, with her own private front organization. She works in conspiracy with the press and the police to ignore or silent victims and witnesses and to extort money through false accusations from innocent persons and businesses. She has been at it far too long to win any popularity contests. Her inclusion in any government is obnoxious.

It seemed that the people canvassed confused Paveena with her older sister, Apasara, who was Thailand's first Miss Universe some fifty years ago.

(More recently, in mid-2015, Ms. Paveena claimed to have received a call for help from Rohingya refugees from Burma holed up in southern Thailand and victimized by brutal Thai traffickers. That sounded very odd. The Thai police often refer complainants to NGOs when they do not want to handle the complaint themselves. Such a complaint is "inconvenient". Paveena is one NGO the police send complainants to because they know she will do nothing.)

Following the most recent coup d'etat, in May of 2014, the army ordered cabinet ministers to turn themselves in. Chaturon refused. He hid in the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok for four days. Then, on 27 May, he held a press conference. The army arrived and took him away. He was held by the army, denied bail until 6 June and then released.

For refusing to turn himself in, Chaturon is to be tried by a military court without the possibility of appeal. He could be imprisoned for up to two years.

The Thai press mentioned that Chaturon was an invited guest in attendance at the American Embassy in Bangkok for American Independence Day celebrations on 4 July 2014 and at the French Embassy in Bangkok for Bastille Day celebrations on 14 July 2014.

In March 2015, the Thai press considered Chaturon the best and most likely choice for the next prime minister.

Chaturon and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva are the leading critics of the opponents of democracy who are currently in government. But there is a difference. Chaturon means what he says. Abhisit does not mean anything he says in favour of democracy and he leaves little doubt about it. Chaturon receives very little publicity in the press.

In August 2015, the junta asked the Foreign Ministry to invalidate Chaturons's passports   -   his diplomatic passport and two regular passports.

Two years later, in April 2017, Chaturon's passports were revalidated.

The next national elections, if fair, should return Thaksin's party to power. That should result in Chaturon Chaisang as prime minister.

However, in early 2015, Thaksin's Party supporters indicated that they might not form the next government if they won the next elections. If so, that might offer a way out of the current political situation.

That is to say that Thaksin's supporters could return to government in time, without Thaksin, in new political parties, perhaps to lead a coalition government.

The party might consider it prudent to give the prime ministership to someone other than a long-time Thaksin supporter.

Who?

General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh

Some have suggested that the former prime minister, General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, could play a key role in the future politics of the country.

Many "Red-Shirt" leaders attended Gen. Chavalit's highly publicised birthday party in 2015.

Gen. Chavalit's sudden return to prominence frightened the junta.

And Gen. Chavalit was always liked by the American official community.

Indeed, Gen. Chavalit's opinions, reported in the press, seemed to make more sense and carry more weight than anyone else's.

Gen. Chavalit could very well be the key to a smooth transition from the junta back to civilian rule and to Chaisang without involving Thaksin. 

Gen. Chavalit could also hold the key to ending the conflict between the Thai government and the Pattani Muslim insurgents.

And Gen. Chavalit would be acceptable to most parties concerned.

Of course . . .

On 15 July 2015 the National Legislative Assembly began impeachment hearings against 248 members of the previous parliament for their efforts to return the senate to full democracy in 2013. But, eventually, the assembly voted against impeachment.  

The X Charter

Gen. Suchinda Kraprayoon staged his coup d’etat in February 1991. National elections were held thirteen months later, in March 1992. Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin staged his coup in September 2006. General elections were held fifteen months later, in December 2007.

Gen. Prayuth Chan - o - cha staged his coup in May 2014. On 3 August 2015, a deputy prime minister stated that the next general elections could be delayed till April 2017. Three years after the coup!

It was claimed that if the drafters of the country's new constitution   -   the National Reform Council and the National Legislative Assembly   -   approved their proposed draft by late August 2015 it would be submitted to the public in a referendum in January 2016. If the public approved the constitution, a national election would be held in September 2016.

If, on the other hand, the charter drafters decided that they did not like their draft, they would have to go back to the drawing board for another six months, till March 2106   -   and, thus, general elections could not be held before April 2017 at the very earliest.

On or about 10 August 2015, the drafters proposed  additions to their charter that would install a "national government of reconciliation" for four years and a small elite group of all-powerful government overseers which, in effect, could prolong military dictatorship for another five years after elections and the installation of the new government   -   to at least 2021.

After the May 2014 coup many anticipated military rule for two years. Democratic elections should have been held as a matter of due course in 2015. But schedules and deadlines were pushed back again and again.

On 6 September 2015, the 247-member National Legislative Assembly rejected the draft of the constitution proposed by the charter drafting committee  -   135 voted against, 105 voted for, and seven abstained.

More than anything, this seemed to be a stalling tactic, to provide an excuse to stay on,

The junta selected a new drafting committee, to be chaired again by Meechai Rupuchan, in October 2015.

It would take 180 days   -   six months   -   to April 2016, to draft a new constitution.

If the National Legislative Assembly passed the next proposed draft, it would be submitted to the public in a referendum 120 days later   -   in July or August 2016.

If the proposed constitution was approved by the electorate in a referendum, the assembly would spend another six months on "organic laws" (rewriting election laws).

If the "organic laws" were passed by the assembly, nation-wide elections for government offices would be held four months later.

So, if the next charter proposal and "organic laws" were approved by the national assembly and again by the public in a referendum, elections would not be held before June 2017.    

Two years? Now, it was to be three years!

The junta then offered to reduce the 20-month period before the next general elections by four months, to 16 months.

Chaturon Chaisang suggested shortening the proposed period before the next elections by half   -   to mid-2016.

Chaturon suggested taking three months to draft a new constitution, three months to prepare a national referendum on the proposed draft, three months to rewrite "organic laws" ("to rewrite election laws"), and two to three months to prepare for elections.

When the junta claimed that this was "not feasible", Chaturon pointed out that the drafters of the new constitution did not have to start all over again. Rather, they could work on what they had produced thus far.

Chaturon pointed out also that the National Legislative Assembly did not need to wait for a new charter proposal to begin work on "organic laws". They could start work right away. The new charter and "organic laws" could be prepared at the same time.

But the junta claimed that this too was “not feasible”.

In fact, however, a Thai charter and "organic" laws can be prepared at the same time in just three months. A referendum can be prepared in 45 days. Elections can be prepared in 30 to 60 days. In other words, national elections could have been held in February or March 2016.

Gen. Prayuth stated in 2014 that he might revert to a previous charter if the lawmakers were unable to come up with one. Since Gen. Prayuth has assumed dictatorial powers there was no need for him to discuss the matter with his lackeys.

But Gen. Prayuth made clear his preference for the 2007 charter. He wanted the army in government. The more the better. And the less democracy the better. In fact, he did not want the 2007 charter. He preferred something even lees democratic.

Gen. Prayuth told the UN secretary-general on 27 September 2015 that elections were scheduled for mid-2017. 

General Chavalit, in a press conference in mid-October 2015, called for earlier elections.

The junta is up your hole

On 13 October 2015, Meechai, the chairman of the new charter drafting committee, announced that democracy could be dispensed with entirely and the entire senate could be appointed.

Some expressed the fear that a puppet parliament with a fully-appointed senate dominated by the military and an unelected appointee as prime minister could allow Gen. Prayuth himself to become prime minister.

This centralised form of government, with the army the dominant power, has ruled all of Vietnam and Laos for the past 41 years. It has ruled P. R. China for 66 years. It was the form of government in Russia's old Soviet Union for 74 years. It ruled Burma for 54 years, from 1962 to 2016.

It might work at certain times with certain nations. It functioned in Thailand for a long time. But since the winds of democracy swept through the world in the late 1980s and early 1990s Thailand has become a rather dynamic nation. The country cannot thrive with bone-heads bent on suppressing democratic government at all levels, regimenting the peasantry, asserting central rule from Bangkok and returning the army to its pre-1992 prominence in the daily life of the people, especially up-country.    

The race for dog catcher

The most persistent opponents of the democratic process are Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the 2013-2014 anti-Thaksin movement, and Abhisit Vejajiva, leader of the old Democrat Party.

Abhisit assumes the junta will hand the government over to him eventually. Abhisit is fully aware that the Democrat Party cannot assume office or govern without the backing of a military dictatorship. The oldest political party in Thailand today stands for fascism, military dominance, unelected government, minority one-party rule and legal trickery. Abhisit is a latter-day Anand Panyarachun, a fascist stooge, an imposter posing as a liberal with high moral principles.

But it must be remembered that to many Thais Thaksin was more obnoxious than army generals and pseudo-liberals. Many people can live with a military dictatorship and a puppet parliament because it is preferable to a democracy under the multi-millionaire Chinese cowboy and killjoy Thaksin. Many people in Bangkok want the junta to stay on to 2017 and even beyond.

However, people in the provinces are expressing growing unhappiness with the junta. The government is no less corrupt now than it was under the Shinawatras. Nepotism is no less an issue now than it was before. Many people resent interference in local matters by the army and Ministry of Interior in Bangkok. Gen. Prayuth roundly condemns populism as the political ploy of corrupt and unscrupulous politicians. Yet he touts the same populist line that Thaksin did. And like Thaksin, he touts unrealistic industrial mega-projects. 

There are frequent warnings by the junta that criticism will not be tolerated. The junta attempts to silence critics from the public and the press by detention on military bases without charge and trial by closed military courts without right to bail or appeal.

Some observers wonder if the country is heading for another violent confrontation   -   as in Black May 1992. Indeed, at this point, it appears that only a similar mass protest and confrontation can dislodge the junta and restore democracy.

But there is no indication of a resurgence of People Power at present.

The junta is facing growing scrutiny abroad but there is no indication that foreign government officials are serious in their criticism of the junta or willing to impose significant economic and political sanctions.

Other matters . . .

There are other causes for the growing public impatience at home with the junta.

- The huge increase in lèse majesté cases since the coup d'etat.  The accused are tried in closed military courts without right of bail or appeal. Long jail sentences are ordered. In August 2015, a Thai was sentenced to jail for 30 years   -   the longest sentence ever given for lèse majesté.

- The economy is also an issue. The entire region  -  the western Pacific Rim and Indian sub-continent  -  is experiencing an economic downturn. The Thai currency fell from Baht 32 to Baht 36 to the dollar in 2015 and has not recovered. The Thai Baht can rise and fall by as much as 100 sitang (one baht) in one week. The weakened Russian ruble has hurt the hospitality industry in Thailand. The local press reports that Russian tourism recovered by ten percent in early 2016 and that hordes of mainland Chinese tourists have made up for the losses. Nonetheless, business fell immediately after the coup d'etat in May 2014 and has never fully recovered. One need only go to the hotels and entertainment venues to notice the difference.

Many are complaining that the junta is poisoning the atmosphere and deterring foreign investment.

- Irresponsible conduct in international affairs is another concern. In July 2015, 109 Uighurs in Thailand, who claimed to be refugees from persecution by Han Chinese officials in their native Sinkiang Province, were arrested, bound, blindfolded, and forcibly flown to China and an uncertain fate: possible summary execution, long years in the gulag or disappearance. They begged to be allowed to stay in Thailand or to be expelled to Turkey where many Uighurs live today.

Most of the Uighur men were sent to China without their wives and children, who were, surprisingly, sent to Turkey.

Subsequent claims by the Thai junta that all 109 Uighurs were safe and well in China have not been verified by international human rights organizations and the governments of other countries.

The Uighur refugees in Thailand were not bothering anyone. There was no evidence that they were terrorists. If they were, it must be remembered that terrorism is often a means rather than a cause. The Uighurs are nationalists. They are often compared to Tibetans, whose country has been inundated by the Han Chinese. The Uighurs seek to recover Sinkiang from the Han. One can imagine how the Kazakhs would respond if the Chinese invaded Kazakhstan.

International human rights organisations and several countries criticised the junta for its treatment of the Uighurs. Protests and riots against the Thai government broke out in several countries. A Thai consulate in Turkey was sacked.

Then a bomb exploded at Bangkok's most sacred shrine, devoted to the Hindu god Brahma, on 17 August 2015, killing 20 people and wounding at least 110. Initially, the junta was suspected   -   it was seeking an excuse for a clamp-down. Then "Red Shirts" were suspected. The junta dwelled on the possible involvement of a former "Red Shirt" politician. There were remarks by officials quoted in the local press that conflicts among rival Thai "internal security services" involved in the trafficking of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis might have been behind the bombing. Soon, it appeared that the bomb was an act of vengeance by the Uighurs. Indeed, a warning to the junta not to mistreat Uighurs again. Eventually, the junta and the police placed blame for the bombing on a trafficking ring that allegedly smuggled people into Turkey via Thailand.

On 31 May 2016, seventy Uighurs in Thai jails and to be deported to China began a hunger strike. They declared that they would rather die than be sent to China. They complained also that the Thai government had separated them from their wives and children.

The wisest course to pursue in this matter is to send Uighurs who are suspected terrorists and subject to arrest in China quietly to a third country, like Turkey, or to any country willing to accept them. What they do after that need not concern the Thais.

2023?
 
Gen. Prayuth has no illusions about current opinion. He knows he is unpopular. Or, certainly, not popular. He could not win in a free election. He might not even place in an honest popularity poll. 

 

At the beginning of 2016, General Prayuth looked like the most surprised person in Thailand. He couldn't believe his luck. In 2014, no fortune teller would have predicted that Gen. Prayuth would be around beyond mid-2016.

 

At press conferences in January and February 2016 he blew up at reporters. Quite literally, he threw a shoe.

 

Any suggestion by the junta and its lackeys regarding a constitution was quickly shot down by politicians, the press and the public.

 

Gen. Prayuth is also rather controversial. A scandal involving nepotism erupted in late April 2016 when Gen. Prayuth's younger brother, who heads the army in northern Thailand, appointed his son   -   a punk kid who was never in the military and dyes his hair green and wears earrings   -   to an important public relations post in the army.

 

In September 2016, another son of Gen. Preecha was alleged to have improperly amassed millions through army contracts by taking advantage of his father's influence. .

 

In late 2016, the press revealed that Gen. Preecha had failed to disclose his assets as required when his older brother appointed him to the puppet NLA. He had omitted to mention his $1 million house. A serious breach of the regulations. Many have been forced to resign their seats amid similar revelations. But there does not appear to have been a follow-up. Indeed, being a dictator's younger brother has certain advantages.  

 

Zed

 

The charter draft proposal was completed and presented to the junta by Meechai on 29 March 2016. It was the charter demanded by the junta. It was intended to perpetuate army dictatorship in Thailand as long as possible.

As the junta commanded, this charter proposal calls for a senate of 250 senators, all of them to be appointed ("hand-picked") by the junta. Not a one will be elected by the people. The junta will select 50 senators to represent "twenty professional groups at the provincial and national levels". The junta will form a nine-member committee to select 194 senators from 400 possible candidates. The appointed senators are to serve five-year terms. The remaining six senate seats are to go automatically to the supreme commander of the armed forces; the chiefs of the army, navy and air force; the permanent secretary of defense; and the national police chief.

There is also to be a supervisory body - a council or committee - formed by the junta to oversee the government and to have the authority to step in whenever it sees fit. This supervisory council would be in power for five years. The excuse for this proposal is that the five-year "transition" period from a military dictatorship to "full democracy", to begin when a new prime minister takes office, will require supervision by a superior authority.

That means that the next government, which is to be a partially democratically elected government, can be shut down, without tanks or discussion, whenever the junta so chooses.

At a parade at an annual football match between two big universities at National Stadium in Bangkok in early 2016, students hanged Meechai in effigy from the barrel of an army rifle.

 

Later, on 6 April 2016, students twice disrupted Meechai as he lauded the junta’s proposed charter in a speech at a university in Bangkok. Meechai was enfuriated and demanded the students be punished.  

 

If the proposed charter passed through the various relevant bodies of the puppet government there would be a national referendum in late July 2016. This date was eventually pushed back to 7 August 2016. Why? No reason was given. Someone pointed out that students at Chulalongkorn University, which is considered Thailand's top college, would sit for final examinations on that day and would be unable to vote.

 

If the charter proposal passed in the public referendum there would be national elections for the lower house eleven months hence (almost one year later!) in July 2017.

 

Gen. Prayuth, who heads the junta, is to remain prime minister until a new prime minister takes office.

 

The proposed charter specified that a popularly elected lower house, the house of representatives, would elect the prime minister. It specified also that a person not elected to parliament could be elected by the lower house to be prime minister.

 

Many people object to someone from outside parliament being prime minister.

 

On 8 April, the national legislative assembly (NLA) voted almost unanimously to add an amendment to the charter that would allow the 250 appointed senators (hand-picked by the junta) to join the democratically elected representatives of the lower house (elected by the people) in electing a prime minister (if the lower house could not come up with one).

 

This late amendment was criticised by the public, press and politicians as an attempt by the junta to control the election process in the parliament and make an unelected person from outside parliament prime minister   -   and allow Gen. Prayuth to retain the post beyond elections.

 

The amendment would give the junta, through the puppet senate, a virtual stranglehold on the parliamentary election process and ensure that the next prime minister wiould be handpicked by Gen. Prayuth or would be Gen. Prayuth himself.

 

The bill was sent to the king for royal endorsement. On 20 April, the Thai press reported that the Royal Gazette had announced the date of 7 August for the national referendum on the junta's proposed charter and also the amendment to allow the appointed senate to join the elected house of representatives in electing the prime minister if the lower house could not agree on one.

 

The charter proposal was condemned by the press, politicians and human rights advocates in Thailand and abroad as the worst charter since absolute monarchy was overthrown and the country became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

 

The junta seemed to believe it could coerce the puppet government and intimidate a seemingly docile electorate (the general public) into accepting a very undemocratic charter intended to keep the junta in power for years to come.

 

Gen. Prayuth threatened to arrest anyone criticising the proposed charter. Critics would be arrested and confined to reeducation camps.

Gen. Prayuth seemed to believe that he would be around yet in late 2017. And there was talk of 2018! And some believed the junta would remain indeed till 2022 or 2023!

There are even plans for the junta to retain power for 20 years! To 2037 or 2038. That is so it can ensure that its recommended reforms, to be spelled out in a 20-year-programme, are properly instituted. In late April 2016 Gen. Prayuth ordered government ministries to prepare to implement the 20-year-plan.

Even before the proposed charter was handed to the national legislative assembly for consideration, the junta ordered the army to go at once to the northeast of Thailand, where resentment of the junta is strongest, to “explain” the proposed charter to the voters.

 

The junta warned repeatedly that criticism of the proposed charter was forbidden. There were to be no "unauthorised" campaigns against the charter.

Wanna No Watta? Shinawatra No Gotta!

Some were expecting a behind-the-scenes deal between the junta and the Shinawatras that would allow the Shinawatras to return to power and allow the junta or some of its members a future role in government.

 

On 30 March, Thaksin’s party leaders declared that the junta's proposed charter was undemocratic and called for the voters to reject it.

 

But a week later, on 7 April, Thaksin, on the lam in China, made a surprising about-face and announced he was ready to go arm-in-arm with the junta.

 

Thaksin advised his followers in Thailand that indeed there would be elections in mid-2017, just as the junta maintained. He added that his party members would contest in the elections.

 

Thaksin did not challenge the junta's undemocratic charter. He did not call for voting it down in the referendum scheduled for 7 August. In effect, he approved the junta's charter. The referendum, he seemed to be saying, was unnecessary. Let's get on with the elections.

 

Was Thaksin offering the junta a deal?

 

Some party members said that the elections in mid-2017 would force the formation of a coalition government between political parties and the army that would last for a year or two.

 

It would take time, they said, to weed the army out of the government entirely. They sounded very naïve.

 

Asked for comment, the junta's number two, Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, belittled Thaksin's remarks: So what?

 

The nouveau-riche Thaksin, as he is often called, benefited the most from democracy. But Thaksin himself is not a sincere advocate of democracy. He believes he can buy appointments to parliament for his supporters or buy the support of parliamentary appointees as easily as he can back the political campaigns of supporters. Not restoring the fully-elected senate was the biggest fault of Thaksin's family and his cronies in the years that they dominated the government between 2008 and 2014. They are paying dearly for that mistake now.

 

On 10 April, the leader of Thaksin’s party in Thailand announced that the party would campaign against the junta’s charter and the late amendment.

 

The Democrat Party has little to gain from democracy. The party needs the army to pave the way for it, to install it in government and to deter opposition. The party leaders pretend they are for democracy. They might fool idiots and wishful thinkers. They have been hesitant to declare support for or opposition to the junta’s proposed charter. Whenever they declare their oppostion they take it back the next day or act as if they have said nothing and have yet to decide. They suggested a boycott of the referendum. Since it appeared at the time that most Thais opposed the charter, a boycott would only play into the junta’s hands.

 

On 4 April, the press reported that a former Thai prime minister and Democrat Party leader, Chuan Leekpai (1992 - 1995 and 1997 - 2001), called the junta’s charter “a step back" and said that it was "not the best thing for the country".

 

On 10 April, Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the Democrats, declared that the party would campaign against the charter. He called the charter anti-democratic, against free will and against the will of the people. The party would also campaign against the late amendment which would allow an unelected senate to select a prime minister and for the prime minister to be a non-member of parliament.

 

However, the press seems to favour junta rule. And many editors seem to be with the Democrat Party. In reporting Abhisit’s statements the press added the reactions of doubting party members: Abhisit, they pointed out, did not mean what he said.

 

On 11 April, the president of the privy council, Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, publicly declared his support for the junta’s proposed charter. Five years was fine, he said. (Five years for a government under a military dictatorship.)

 

On 14 April, the press reported that Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the mass political movement that brought down Yingluck Shinawatra and urged Gen. Prayuth to declare martial law in May 2014, announced that he was forming another mass political movement to campaign for the junta’s charter. Suthep backs the feudal elite of the country. He despises democracy.

 

Whatever Thaksin himself might have to say, his party leaders in Thailand prefer the 1997 charter, which introduced full parliamentary democracy to Thailand. Most of the world agrees. A return to the 1997 constitution would be best for the country.

 

The Democrat Party, however, opposed the restoration of full democracy and would abide by the previous ruling junta’s 2007 charter which brought in the half-elected half-appointed senate.

 

In late March, the junta declared that it was about to mobilise a million or more government employees on the national, provincial and local levels to urge the voters to vote in the referendum. Many people understood that to mean that government employees would be expected to vote for the junta’s proposed charter in the referendum and to urge the voters to vote for it too.

 

On 5 April, the press reported that the head of the Thai army in the northeast had declared his full support of the junta’s proposed charter. He said that the army would instruct the voters on the charter before the referendum.

 

The junta hoped for an 80% turnout for the referendum. A poll taker in mid-April claimed that 67.4% of the voters across the country opposed the junta’s proposed charter. The actual percentage of Thais opposed to the charter was certainly much higher  -  probably between 80 and 90%. Not many cared to answer pollsters frankly.

 

On 14 April, the press reported that Gen. Prayuth had once again threatened to take action against critics of the charter, warning that political parties that opposed the junta’s charter would be "summoned".

 

In late April, Thaksin's party called for the United Nations (UNO) and European Union (EU) to send observers to Thailand for the referendum. Indeed, many believed the only way the junta could get its charter through a referendum would be by bribing and intimidating the voters and rigging the voting results. But to do so could infuriate the people and have unfortunate consequences for the junta.

 

On 22 May, the Bangkok Post reported in a front-page feature article that although Thaksin's party opposed the junta's charter proposal Chaturon Chaisang believed it "probable" that the Thais would pass it in the referendum.

 

Was Chaturon too saying: “Let’s get on with the elections!”?

 

In fact, many people expressed contempt for the junta and their dislike of its charter draft, which, they stressed, was the worst in the country's history. So many people opposed the junta's charter proposal that it seemed doomed to fail spectacularly in the referendum. Yet, curiously, these same people took for granted that the junta's charter would pass in the referendum.

 

Chaturon complained that the junta was obstructing his party's efforts to talk to the voters.

 

Chaturon was just one of many politicians who complained of obstruction by the junta.

 

Chaturon said that the junta had the means to hoodwink the voters. He pointed out that the junta was spending Baht 200,000 (US$6,000) on every village (ban) in the country for the village and township (tamboon) headmen to persuade the villagers to vote for the junta's charter draft.

 

There are about 75,000 villages in Thailand. There can be as few as 50 and as many as 3,0000 inhabitants in a village. The junta was spending Baht 15 billion (US$430 million   -   almost half a billion dollars!), an enormous amount, to make fools of the voters.

 

How was that money to be spent exactly? Was the money intended to buy votes? Thais live for the day and grab the money on sight.

 

Was the money to be used to hire goons to strong-arm and intimidate the voters?

 

Was the money intended to ensure that the voting results were rigged?

According to reports in the Thai press in early June, hundreds of thousands of teachers were to be recruited to "educate" the voters. Each teacher was to be paid Baht 300 per day for 61 days, or Baht 18,300  -  like a bonus of about two-thirds of a monthly salary. This would cost the government an estimated Baht 5 billion (US$140 million).

More of the same or worse to come

 

On 16 April, the press reported that Meechai stated that if the voters approved the charter in the referendum in August, the charter would be further revised and amended by his charter drafting committee, subject to the approval only of the constitution court and endorsement of the king. He seemed to be ridiculing the voters for demanding a referendum.

 

Meechai added that if, on the other hand, voters rejected the junta's charter proposal in the 7 August referendum, the junta would draft a new charter.

 

On 13 April, the press reported that Gen. Prayuth made it clear that a new charter would be drafted if voters rejected the current charter proposal. Previous charters would not be implemented.

 

On 18 May, the press reported that the junta "warned" that if the voters rejected the proposed charter in the referendum in August, national elections would be further delayed to 2018.

 

Gen. Prayuth also made clear that the next time round there would be no refeendum. The junta would draft a charter and enact it without the approval of the people.  

 

Either way, win or lose in the referendum, the junta would get to stay on. Drafting a new charter would give the junta at least another ten months of political limbo. And an excuse to push back elections to 2018.

 

Stand up for your rights!

 

Thais are notorious for their lack of education. For decades they have ranked at the bottom of every educational survey of Asia. Thais are also notorious spoilers. They are the first to quit. They often let others down. They make good things, like democracy and chocolate ice cream, disappear.

 

The Thais made a stupid mistake in 2007. They accepted a junta's undemocratic charter proposal. It led to worse things. Indeed, Gen. Prayuth is the natural outcome of the years of failure of pro-democracy elements to restore full democracy when they had the chance. Gen. Prayuth is the logical result of years of acquiescence by pro-democracy elements to anti-democratic elements and their willing participation in anti-democratic government institutions. The 2006 coup leaders coerced the people to approve a bad charter in the referendum of August 2007. Gen. Prayuth thought he could go a step further in 2016.

 

Would the Thais prefer to renounce their rights and let a military dictatorship rule over them? Why throw it all away? Who wants to live like Laotians and Vietnamese?

 

It's 97/44 or another 5/92

 

Many considered the charter drafting a sick farce and a long-planned deliberate provocation, intended by the junta to force a bloody confrontation.

There was frequent mention of Suchinda Kraprayoon, leader of the February 1991 coup d'état, and the events that led to the violent and bloody confrontation between an outraged public demanding democracy and the army in Black May 1992. The events of the day recalled those of 1991 and 1992.

Many foresee another dramatic showdown between the people and the army. There will be even more killing than in 1992 and more damage than in 2010. In the end, the people will triumph. The junta will have to back down. Democracy will be restored. But that is still in the future. How far off is it?

On 22 May 2016, several hundred demonstrators gathered at Democracy Monument in Bangkok to protest against the junta. The protest marked the second anniversary of the junta's coup d'état on 22 May 2014. The protest was the biggest public protest against the junta since it seized power. But there was no indication that the event was a prelude of things to come and that more and bigger protests could be expected. it was really a small gathering. The police did not break up the rally. When a group of coup supporters confronted the protesters the police intervened.

 

It appeared that the junta had run out of time. The junta had overstayed its welcome. Many people were fed up with it. Most people did not want it. And they were saying so. It had done no good. Things were worse. And so on.

 

There were rumours that government employees feared a wholesale purge of junta supporters when a new democratically-elected government took over.

 

There were rumours also that the number two junta leader, Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, had had enough and wanted to quit. Asked by the press in late May if he thought it true, as an opinion poll claimed, that the public wanted the junta to stay on for another two years, Gen. Prawit replied that there was no such plan. In early August, he told the press that the elections would be held in July 2017, as promised, even if the approaching referendum failed. This last remark contradicted previous statements by Gen. Prayuth and his lackeys.

 

Gen. Prayuth ignored the fact that he had just two years to do whatever it was he wanted to do. Not three, not four, not five, not twenty. He should have handed over to a democratically elected government by mid-2016. But, being a soldier dedicated to military rule, he is loath to do such a thing.

 

In early June 2016 the junta suggested the possibility of further postponing the referendum in order to redraft it and "certain relevant laws".

 

The press was divided, as always, but disappointing with its apparent support of the junta and its contempt for democracy.

 

The junta was saying: "Vote for military dictatorship now and get a bit of democracy later." But few believed the junta. Many were not interested in promises of democracy later. They demanded a return to a previous charter, in particular the 1997 charter, and an immediate restoration of democracy. 

 

Throughout late June and July, Thai political parties, human rights organisations at home and abroad and the UN secretary-general objected to the junta's suppression of democracy and complained ("expressed concern") that the junta was controlling the referendum and suppressing all opposition to it.

 

Bandits and Beggars

 

At the end of June 2016, Gen. Prayuth insisted he would not resign if the voters rejected the junta's charter proposal in the referendum on 7 August.

 

The junta also made clear that it would not invoke a previous constitution if defeated in the August referendum. It would not opt for the 2007 charter. And certainly not the 1997 charter.

 

In early July, Gen. Prayuth announced that he had assigned a committee to prepare another constitution, to be introduced if the junta was defeated in the referendum.

 

There would be no referendum the next time round. The next charter proposal would be the third and last. It too would be touted as the junta's five-year "roadmap to democracy". It would be passed by the puppet legislature and rubber stamped by the king and go into effect without seeking public approval.

 

End of the two-year run-around.

Politicians called for last-minute debate on the junta’s proposed charter.

But what was there to debate?

The junta was asking for the public's official approval of a continuation of military dictatorship for at least six more years. Answer "yes" or "no".

Indications were that the junta had bought off its critics in the press, the politicians, foreign diplomats in town, outside poll monitors and other NGOs.

Indeed, the junta's opponents were pussy-footing, mincing their words and uttering meaningless babble.

The usual obnoxious phonies and double-talkers were out in full, masquerading as pro-democracy or “anti-dictatorship” activists. One group called itself the Committee of the Relatives of the May 1992 Heroes. Many expressing opinions actually sounded like secret junta agents undercover.

A college professor who is often touted by the press suggested a further delay of two years before elections (to August 2018) if the junta were defeated in the referendum.

A former Democrat Party leader called on the notorious trickster, provocateur and troublemaker, Prawase Wasi, to express an opinion on the charter.

Politicians from Thaksin’s party and the Democrat Party are more than willing to share power with the junta and are pushing for elections A. S. A. P.

In April, Abhisit, the Democrat Party leader, declared that his party would campaign against the junta’s charter. But the press and Democrat Party politicians again expressed doubt in Abhisit's remarks. Some maintained that Abhisit had never actually stated his own personal opposition to the junta’s charter proposal. They added that he had yet to say whether he himself supported or opposed the charter.

Thus, on 27 July, Abhisit made clear his personal opposition to the junta's charter. He also opposed the amendment that would allow the appointed senate to join the elected house of representatives in choosing a prime minister if the lower house could not agree on one.

The press reported that before Abhisit's declaration of opposition, some party members up-country claimed that 80% of their constituents supported the junta's charter. But on 28 July, immediately after Abhisit's comments, the same party members up-country claimed that Abhisit had swayed the voters and now only 40% of their constituents supported the junta charter. Obviously, Abhisit should have spoken up earlier. It was a bit late now. 

Few want the junta to remain. Many insisted that Gen. Prayuth should resign if the voters rejected his charter. But in the next breath, Abhisit called on Gen. Prayuth to draft the next charter himself (if the voters rejected the junta's charter on 7 August). He said Gen. Prayuth should personally lead a team of charter drafters instead of Meechai.

There was more nonsense. Abhisit added that while his party opposed the junta's charter, party members were free to decide for themselves how to vote in the referendum. They could vote for or against the junta. Why on earth say that? 

On 31 July, the press reported that Democrat party members in central Thailand were all united behind Abhisit and would vote against the junta's proposed charter.

A party member said that Chuan Leekpai, who stated earlier that the junta charter was a step back for the country, had yet to declare how he himself would vote. So, several days before the referendum, Chuan announced that he too would vote against the junta's charter. 

Abhisit and Chuan sounded like mice. Yingluck Shinawatra was much more definate. She declared that she was voting against the junta's charter and the amendment. She left no doubt about it. She did not waver. She urged her party members to vote likewise.  

The junta continued to arrest and detain persons expressing disapproval of its charter proposal. Not all, of course, but some. The motives were indeed political.

In late July and early August, provincial governors in Ubon Rajatani and Khon Kaen   -   government officials appointed by the Ministry of Interior   -   ordered local universities to cancel scheduled debates on the junta's proposed charter. Chaturon Chaisang was to have been present at the debate in Ubon. 

It must be remembered that the great bulk of the Thai population is from the lower class. (Scholastic surveys that claim Thailand is now a middle class society are absurd.) There is a tiny upper class, a small middle class and a huge lower class. The working class is made up of farm and industrial labourers although there are millions without occupation or work. The lower class   -   or working class   -   stands to gain the most from democracy. It must be recalled that one of the first acts of the Suchinda Kraprayoon junta, after staging its coup d’etat in 1991, was to outlaw all trade unions. And several months later, the country’s leading labour union organiser disappeared.

According to the Thai press recently, there are some 18 million Thais (out of a total population of 68 million) employed by the government. The vast majority of these government employees are working class. The article implied that 18 million government employees were united behind the junta.

It appeared that the junta had arranged to rig referendum results. All International poll monitors who expressed concern about a fair vote begged off. So there would be no outside poll monitors, a clear sign of corruption. The American ambassador in Bangkok (the most unpopular ambassador in the 184-year history of diplomatic relations between the U. S. and Thailand) said that some of the embassy's people would go out on 7 August to have a look-see at some of the voting. La-dee-da. The next day, however, the American, British and Canadian embassies in Bangkok issued warnings to their nationals to avoid polling stations on 7 August. The junta warned all foreigners to stay away from polling stations. They had no business there. And no photos allowed.

To restate: Even if the final vote tallies went against the junta, it would make no difference at all. The junta planned to draft a new charter or adjust the current one and enact it without public approval.

As is the custom in Thailand, all bars throughout the country were closed for two-days   -   the day before the voting and on the day of the voting. All shops were forbidden to sell alcohol on those two days.

In the days leading up to the referendum more and more V. I. P.s spoke out against the junta's charter proposal. It appeared too that a vast majority of other nations opposed it. Yet there were many who expressed certainty that the referendum would pass or that it was too close to call.

The day before the referendum the Bangkok Post claimed that private polling services predicted an overwhelming victory for the junta.

The editor-in-chief of the Bangkok Post, who was due to retire, planted a moronic note on the front page of the Sunday edition of the paper, on the morning of voting day. A last-minute word of advice from the editor. "We Thais," he repeatedly addressed the readers. He urged pushing general elections back even further   -    to the end of 2017. He warned against using a "No" vote victory as a pretext to oust the junta. He could not have made himself plainer. That was typical of him. He has been at it for years. Ultra-nationalistic and anti-democratic. He has been watering down or suppressing criticism of the junta and stressing opposition to democracy. Lots of fun! Who the hell lured that one out of the fields? The sooner this one goes, the better. And there are others like him who should be given the boot. 

They did it again

According to those who counted the votes on 7 August, the voters passed the junta's proposed charter, with 61.35% in favour to 38.65% opposed. (The polls closed at 16:00 and the announcement was made several hours later. Official results were announced three days later, on 10 August.)   

The junta's undemocratic charter passed by an incredibly big margin.

Too big to believe!

Even the amendment to allow the fully-appointed senate to join the fully-elected house of representatives in electing a prime minister (in the case of a deadlock in the lower house) passed with 58.07% for it and 49.1% against it.    

Many suspected the vote was rigged.

Wrong-doing was exposed. Before the referendum, the junta made a big show of informing the public about its proposed charter. The press played it up with photos of stacks of thick manuals that explained the charter propossal. But only 2% of the voters received a copy of the booklet! It turned out that only one million copies were printed. There were 50 million registered voters. What happened? Did someone take the money? Or did someone contrive to deny the voters details of the issues? Most likely, the junta never had any intention of informing anyone about the charter, despite its repeated pretenses. This was indeed a spectacular misdeed.  

Several days after the referendum,someone from Thaksin's party petitioned to have the referndum declared illegal and the result nullified on the grounds that the junta had failed to provide the required information to the voters. But little more was heard of this.

Also, one million votes were invalidated. That was about 4% of the total number of votes cast!

There will be a recount in one area and investigations into the conduct of poll officials at several stations. Some stations closed before closing time and voters were turned away.

Thaksin's party and the Democrat Party eagerly conceded "defeat" before sunset. All too quickly. No talk of a recount. There must have been a deal.

The American Embassy, to everyone's surprise, made the unexpected claim to have observed voting after all   -   only in some places   -   and declared that there had been no irregularities. No doubt whose side its on.

And an NGO poll-monitoring service that announced earlier that it could not observe the voting claimed to have been present after all and declared that there had been no irregularities.

What really happened?

There was a low voter turn-out. Initially, it was reported that only half of the voters   -   50% of 50 million eligible voters   -   voted. Three days later, the official result was 59.4%.

Many opponents of the military dictatorship were unable to vote. They were impeded or they were reluctant to appear at polling stations.

The newspapers had reported earlier that Thaksin's party was "boycotting the junta's charter". Many supporters might have interpreted that to mean that they were to boycott the referendum.

The northeast of the country is predominantly poor, rural, agrarian and Lao. Most of the country's foot soldiers come from the northeast. On 7 August, the northeast voted against the junta's charter, with 52% opposed, and also against the junta's amendment, with 56% opposed.

The three provinces in the south, the site of a Malay Muslim insurgency for the past 12 years, also voted against the charter and the amendment.

Most of the one million invalidated votes were from the southern Malay Muslim provinces.

Bombs exploded in popular tourist areas in the south of the country shortly after the referendum. The police claimed Muslim insurgents were responsible. Indeed, had the junta asked for trouble again? 

The rest of the country, it is claimed, voted overwhelmingly for the junta's charter and its amendment.

Was the junta unable to rig vote tallies in the northeast and the Muslim Malay provinces?

The northeast and the three Malay Muslim provinces voted against the Sonthi Boonyaratglin junta's charter proposal eight years ago, in 2007.

As in 2007, so in 2016. It was pretty much the same everywhere.

In 2007, the majority of the voters accepted the junta's demand for a half-appointed senate. Now, in 2016, the voters accepted the junta's demand for a fully-appointed senate   -   and also a junta-supervised legislature. 

Incredible, isn't it?

Maybe not.

In both charter referendums, 2007 and 2016, the voters did not really understand the significance of the proposed junta charter. Instead, they believed that they had to approve the proposed charter in order to allow for national elections again. That is all. In both cases, the junta realised that full well. The masses were not displaying approval of the junta or of the junta's charter. They were approving the call general elections. That might be why Gen. Prayuth printed manuals for only two percent of the voters.

And now for my next number!

In 2007, general elections followed the referendum without too much delay. The refernedum was in August and general elections were held four months later, in December of the same year.

But this current junta is another matter entirely. Gen. Prayuth and Gen. Prawit repeatedly told everyone that national elections for the lower house would he held in July 2017. That is almost a full year after the referendum! A very, very long delay. Much too long!

As if that delay was not long enough, in the days leading up to the referendum and in the days immediately afterward, there were predictions made by people in positions of some responsibility that elections would be held "in late 2017" or "early 2018".

As mentioned above, on the morning of referendum day, 7 August, the Bangkok Post declared that the next general elections would be held in November or December 2017 at the earliest.

This was news to the public.

Obviously, the demons had returned and were up to it again   -   getting rid of democracy entirely or postponing it as long as possible.

Two days after the referendum, on 9 August, Gen. Prayuth showed his hand. General elections were pushed back once more. He announced that elections for the lower house would be held "not later" than December 2017.

That is an incredibly long delay before general elections. Sixteen months after the referendum! More than three and one-half years after the coup d'etat!

Why December 2017? Mysteriously, no one asked. No one recalled that the junta had repeatedly promised to hold elections in July 2017. No one recalled the four-month interval between the referendum and elections in 2007.

According to the junta all of sixteen months are required to rewrite election ("organic") laws and prepare for elections. That is utter nonsense, of course. If the past can be a guide, elections in Thailand can be prepared in just two to three months.

One sarcastic offical suggested holding the elections on 10 December, which is Constitution Day in Thailand. A day or so later, the junta announced that elections would be held on that day in 2017. Not long afterwards, another official inisisted that the actual date of voting had not been decided yet. 

The voters, who assume they had given their approval for general elections, have yet to wake up and realise that they are being cheated.

Considering all the delays experienced since the coup d'etat, it would not be unreasonable to expect more delays, pushing elections back even further, well into 2018.

The unpopular Gen. Prayuth is to remain prime minister until after the general elections and a new legislature chooses a new PM. But by the sound of it, that could be a very long way off. The Sonthi Boonyaratglin junta handed over to an elected civilian government one month after general elections. But Gen. Prayuth might prefer to delay the handover for many months, perhaps even a year or more, to 2019.

Winning a referendum is one thing. Stopping a rich populist is another thing altogether. In the 2007 general elections, the voters gave Thaksin's front men control of both houses of the legislature. The voters could do that again in the next general elections. The Prayuth junta is all too aware of that. Gen. Prayuth is barely able to keep a step ahead of Thaksin. Gen. Prayuth is constantly reminded of the populist Thaksin.  

But Gen. Prayuth is not prepared to give way. And, if nobody minds, he'll hang around a bit longer.

Wise old men in Chinatown believe Gen. Prayuth would rather die than allow elections. And there is no reason to believe they are not right. 

With the flight of Yingluck to England in August 2017, Thaksin is history and the Shinawatra threat seems to be gone.

Hi ho, hi ho! It's off to work we go . . .

The national legislative assembly (NLA), the mock parliament, voted to increase its membership from 220 to 250. The thirty new members are to be appointed by the junta.

Meechai's charter drafting committee immediately went to work on rewriting the charter. This time, public approval will not be sought.

If the recent conduct of the referendum is an indication, all political partiies will be severely reduced, dispersed and compromised. The number of genuine candidates and political campaigning will be restricted. The voters will be disappointed and become apathetic. Only a political front contolled by the army will operate freely. In areas opposed to the junta   -   the northeast and the Thai south of the Malay Peninsula   -  voters will be given little or no notification or details.

If there are elections in late 2017 or early 2018 and the charter is not altered, Thailand's only surviving democratically and popularly elected institution will be the lower house. But it will operate under the close scrutiny of an all-powerful supervisory body appointed by the junta. The junta will overrule the legislature whenever it wishes. 

Whether the Thais realise it or not that is the system they have chosen, to go into effect for five years after the next elections (if and when elections are held). Indeed, a military dictatorship   -   till at least 2023.

Chances are too that if things get that far, Gen. Prayuth will contrive to have himself made PM by the puppet legislature.

In the fortnight after the referendum the newspapers talked much about a senate-elected prime minister. There was no mention of the house of represenatives. The press seemed to have forgotten entirely the democratically elected lower house, whose responsibility it should be to elect a prime minister from house members. But at this stage such talk sounded typical and seemed par for the course.

A fully-appointed puppet senate would without doubt decide that a non-MP, like Gen. Prayuth, could be made prime minister.  

The Bangkok Post editors are for a fully-appointed senate. They want also the fully-appointed senate to dominate the legislature, with more power than the fully-elected lower house. They want the senate instead of the lower house to nominate the candidate for prime minister. They want also a candidate from outside parliament. Are they in the pay of the junta? It is not always possible to tell.  

On 20 August, the press reported that Meechai had expressed second thoughts about alllowing the senate to choose the prime minister. He claimed to have opposed the idea all along. If so, he put on quite an act. He certainly fooled everyone. Did he realise that things were getting out of hand?

On 25 August, the press reported that Meechai's charter drafting committee had decided that the senate would not be allowed to nominate a candidate for prime minister. The lower house will retain the sole right to nominate a prime minister. If the lower house fails to agree on a candidate the senate can join it in electing one. 

On 11 October, Meechai presented Gen. Prayuth with a revised charter. Gen. Prayuth is to present it to the king for royal endorsement, which is expected in November. How much the revised charter differs from the charter the voters approved in the 7 August referendum is not clear. The press has been very sloppy in its reporting. One thing is said in the press one day and another the next. But it seems that Meechai has made considerable revisions. The last word is that the fully-appointed senate is to be allowed to join the fully-elected lower house in electing a prime minister. The next prime minister will not need to be an MP. This is exactly what Gen. Prayuth wants.

The day after the referendum, an NLA member announced the formation of a new political party that would back Gen. Prayuth as prime minister after general elections in December 2017, whether or not he won a seat in the lower house. All military personnel seeking election to the lower house were invited to join the party. This appeared to be the beginning of the army's political front.

At the end of August, the press reported that in opinion polls, which are almost always rigged, Gen. Prayuth was the most popular person in the Thai government.

On 28 August, the country’s second English-language newspaper, The Nation, which is vastly inferior to the Bangkok Post, claimed that Gen. Prayuth was “very popular”. This sounded like ass-kissing, something Thais are notorious for. The article presented Gen. Prayuth as a likely winner in the general elections for a seat in the lower house scheduled for December of 2017. (The big front page article could have been ordered by the China Daily in the People's Republic.) There was a fix. The article showed off what the junta could do.

Gen. Prayuth gave reporters the impression that he was considering a run for the lower house. Nothing certain, mind you. Just a possibility. Let you know later. Obviously, Gen. Prayuth would not descend into politics if he could not be sure of winning.

But win or lose, after general elections, Gen. Prayuth can manipulate the election process in the puppet parliament to retain his position as prime minister. He does not need to run for a seat in the lower house.

In the last days of August, Gen. Prayuth visited the president of the privy council, Prem Tinsulanonda, to celebrate the latter's 95th birthday. The press seized the opportunity to liken Gen. Prayuth to Gen. Prem. Prem was prime minister for eight years, from 1980 to 1988. He was not a member of parliament. He was an outsider. The press recalled that Prem was asked on three separate occasions by the lower house to be the prime minister. The press asked Gen. Prayuth if he expected to be made prime minister as in the "Prem Model". Gen. Prayuth claimed that he had no political aspirations. He was just performing his job, as duty required. Biu if parliament coud not come up with a prime minister, he said, they could come to see him.   

The press pointed out that times have changed. Prem was thirty years ago. People have access to much more information today than they had back then. They have the facts much more quickly too. They demand more transparency. The "Prem Model" is unsuitable today, the press concluded. 

There are no plans to restore democracy at the local level. Many Thais want to elect their provincial governors rather than accept appointees from the Ministry of Interior in Bangkok. The appointees are usually career civil servants and unfamiliar with the province. It is difficult to imagine how the junta intends to hold the line against the growing demand for decentralisation and democratisation.  

There is more corruption in government and the press today than ever before. And fewer yet who seem interested in checking it.

It is unlikely to happen, but look for it: villagers holding elections, without consulting or informing the provincial government, for their village and township headmen and other officials.  

The country is on a steamroller to totalitarianism.

Recall the two dozen or more senators who in 2013 proposed a bill to restore full democracy to the senate. They were accused of lese majeste. By requesting a fully democratic senate they had insulted the monarchy. Eventually, it was determined that they had not committed lese majeste after all. Indeed, Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. It has been since 1932. But then they were impeached. Eventually, impeachment proceedings too were dropped. They had acted within their rights. But now, in 2016, as anti-democratic elements tout the voter-approved junta charter as a mandate to stamp out democracy entirely, the hapless ex-senators are to be taken to task again   -   and for the same "crime".

This is not necessarily another example of Gen Prayuth and Gen. Prawit manipulating lackies for their own ends. The anti-democratic forces are merely taking advantage of the situation. For sure, however, the junta appreciates them.

What's next?

The next elections for the lower house were tentatively scheduled for December 2017. No date was actually set. Nothing official. Anything could happen before then. No one believed the junta. Indeed, at year's end and in the first week of the new year (2017), the junta leaders were discussing delaying the elections further to 2018.

Of course, before there can be an election, the constitution must become law. It has been significantly changed by Meechai since it passed the August 2016 referendum.

The charter must receive royal endorsement or it will be dropped and considered null and void.

On 8 March 2017 the Bangkok Post reported that when the charter receives royal endorsement Meechai and his committee can resume work on the "organic" laws. This could take up to eleven months   -   or to the middle of next year, 2018. Then there must be elections within 150 days. So, it looks like the next elections could be in late 2018   -   more than two years aftert the refenedum. The lastest word is that there should be election by October 2018.

The junta might delay also the handover after the elections for many months, probably to 2019.

Indeed, on 29 September 2016, the army rag, the Bangkok Post, devoted half of its front page to praising Gen. Prayuth for his dictatorship. It gave him eight years more and touted his 20-year-plan.

But now, the Thais should realise what is round the corner. There is no reason for optimism. If unchecked, the junta and its supporters will erode completely any remaining traces of democratic government, force an increasingly oppressive military dictatorship upon the nation and restore feudalism.

In Thailand today, people who oppose democracy, campaign against it, and beat up advocates of democracy are given free reign.

Some shrewd thinking is required. Getting rid of the junta and weeding the military out of the government will require some serious sacrifices. The longer the delay the harder it will be.

It appears that only a mass uprising can bring the elections forward.  

Many Thais have seen it all before. They view current events as part of a repeating cycle of Thai history. Thailand is going through a period of military dictatorship to be followed by a period of limited elections and limited democratic government. But this current dictatorship has lasted an extraordinarily long time. 

It was often claimed that the democracy uprising that brought down Gen. Suchinda Kraprayoon In May 1992 was spearheaded by the upper-middle class, white collar professionals and college students. The long series of rallies, marches and demonstrations against Thaksin in 2006 were led by the lower-miidle class and small shop keepers. The mass protests against Yingluck in 2013 and 2014 were waged in large part by the working class and vocational students.  

If the bottom line is business, the military has cost the country dearly. Business, especially in the hospitality industry, has been off since the coup d'etat in May 2014.

But hardly anyone seems to be interested in a return to normalcy. Few seem interested in restoring democratic government.   

In late January 2017, there appeared to be a move afoot to give the prime ministership eventually to Abhisit, the leader of the Democrat Party, when the junta has had enough. No one is saying so. No one is saying who might be the next prime minister. No one admits to having any idea about it. But the feeling is that the most likely possibility is Abhisit. Yet, by March nothing was certain.  

Abhisit cannot win in a fair election. So the next election will not be fair. Political parties will be restricted. Thaksin's supporters will be blocked or disenfranchised. And it is unlikely that Abhisit will hold on for long without firm army backing.  

There is a committee of reconciliation. The junta has invited the leading politicians to appear before it and pledge to work fior unity with all concerned.

In free elections Thakisn or his proxy would win. But there are enough people who do not want Thaksin. Since there is no real alternative to Thaksin the junta is tolerated. So, the junta appears to serve no other purpose than to hold the line against the return of Thaksin and his family.

The king, Rama X, endorsed the poposed charter, the twentieth since 1932, after making some changes to sections concerning regency and the privy council, in a big ceremony in the throne hall on 6 April. The day was Chakri Day, an official annual holiday  commemorating the founding of the current Chakri Dynasty in 1782. Outside there was a gun salute.

In September 2017, the press was playing up claims that Gen. Prayuth should have ten more years as prime minister.

Gen. Prayuth was invited to Washington to discuss security and trade in early October 2017. He is expected to buy arms from the U. S. The American president did not enquire about democracy or elections in Thailand when he met Gen. Prayuth in the White House. But Gen. Prayuth mentioned to the president that he would “announce” elections next year, in 2018.

Back home, on 10 October, Gen. Prayuth announced that elections would be held in November of next year, 2018.   

Elections have yet to be scheduled, however. Many expect Gen. Prayuth will run in elections and that he will win. How he intendes to do so, even with the Shinawatras out of the way, remains to be seen. In a private poll in early 2017 he ranked behind several others.

Too bad about the Thais

That’s it for the Thais. Abroad, nobody is asking them for their thoughts on government. For now, the Thais, it seems, prefer a totalitarian military dictatorship and a return to feudal society. 

 

Indeed, It appears that Gen. Prayuth now has most of the corrupted Thai press behind him. And the Thai public seems to have acquiesced completely to his wishes. Gen. Prayuth has been a pariah overseas, but, obvioulsy, less so with the passage of time. At the annual ASEAN meeting in Laos in early September 2016, he chose to dwell on regional unity.

 

Many see big international business conglomerates and foreign governments backing the junta in the expectation of profiting from its prolonged stay in power. Some are warning that Thailand is becoming a "Panama"   -   a small Third World country run by a military dictator for exploitation by the big economic powers China, Japan and the U. S. 

 

Foreign companies would do well to cancel their advertising accounts with the Bangkok Post, a newspaper which is touting the military dictatorship as best for the country. But they are unlikely to do so.

 

Foreign governments are doing little to encourage a swift return to democracy in Thailand. If they do anything, they resort to feeble half-measures, which never accomplished much, and let their smirky diplomats sound like idiots. The foreign officials complain to the press just enough to pretend they are doing their jobs.    

 

Rather than suspend annual 2016 joint military exercises in Thailand, the U. S. tried to make a show of limiting the exercises. Yet, a month or so later, the U. S. conducted wholly new naval exercises with the Thais in Thailand. And, on 2 August 2016 the press announced that the U. S. had just reached an agreement with the Thais to stage the annual 2017 military exercises, regardless of the political situation in Thailand. The Thai navy is requesting submarines. (The excuse offered by the U. S. is that the Chinese pose an immediate military threat to other nations in the South China Sea and that the Russians will seize any opportunity to replace the U. S. in the region.) 

 

Rather than bar junta leaders from travel to the U. S., Gen. Prayuth is invited to speak at official gatherings there. On 2 October 2017, Gen. Prayith met privately with the American president in the oval office of the White House in Washington, D. C. to discuss security and trade.   

 

Such conduct by a major western government can only goad the tinhorn junta of a Third World nation, determined to remain as long as possible, to risk a violent confrontation with the masses. But all that is nothing new.

 

Nobody in the U. S. government or the United Nations is believed when claiming to be concerned about the disappearance of democracy in Thailand. The claims sound like similar false claims of concern about the traffic in women and children and the narcotics trade. (If you read, you know.)

 

Thailand is the only military dictatorship in Asia today. There is concern that the continued erosion of democracy and the persistence of military dictatorship in Thailand could have a negative effect on other countries on the Southeast Asian mainland. Few in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam or Malaysia want a military dictatorship in Thailand.

 

At present, Cambodia is the most democratic country on the Southeast Asian mainland. Its lower house is directly elected through a system of proportional representation. Its upper house is elected by local elected governing bodies. One-third of Malaysia's upper house is elected by local state assemblymen; the rest are appointed by the king with the recommendation of the prime minister. One-quarter of the seats in both houses of Burma's legislature is reserved for the armed forces.

 

On paper and in practice, the Communist countries of Laos and Vietnam have more democratic systems than Thailand.

 

Thailand will return to democracy eventually. And there will be more military coups and dictatorships. There is nothing to suggest otherwise.

 

Thailand otherwise

 

To foreign tourists in Thailand, all this hardly matters. Whatever happens might not be noticed by visitors. They care little about the country's politics. Trade and commerce are more important. They are curious about the many monks. They are interested in palaces and temples, archeological ruins and performances of traditional culture, sandy beaches, good food and the neon lights.

 

There were two big changes in Thailand in late 2016 and early 2017. Tourists might not have noticed them. But the man on the street did. The 89-year-old king, Rama IX, died on 13 October 2016. His only son succeeded him on that day and was proclaimed king, Rama X, on 1 December. Then a new head of the Buddhist clergy was appointed by the king in February 2017. The appointment of a new Sangharaja seemed to mark a new day. From that day on, fewer and fewer people wore black clothing in mourning. Within a week or so, only government officials wore black.

 

The junta and the Shinawatras looked almost irrelevant for awhile. But by April, the longest-running show in Thailand had recovered its prime-time ratings. Now, with two former Shinawatra prime ministers on the lam abroad, there is nothing. The usual concern about pesticides and preservatives in food seems to be the thing.

 

The month of October 2017 was one of remembrance of the late king in Thailand. His body was cremated at the end of the month. Sometime in the future the new king is to be coroneted.   

  

One can travel about the country for a month and notice few, if any, Che Guevara tee-shirts. Now, that is something! Fifteen years ago, one could see them, now and again, here and there, almost every day.

 

 Ed.: Memo: Add: Shin Corp sales and taxes

 

2018

 

The New Year began amid high expectations, or seemed to. Many political parties were invited to register and did. Elections were to be held in November 2018, as Gen. Prayuth told the American president on a visit to the U. S. The Bangkok Post ran a daily front-page countdown to the elections, indicating the number of days left before the November date, but this read like a put-on and, indeed, it was short-lived. The election date was pushed back. November came and went.

 

The leaders of several parties declared their support of Gen. Prayuth as a candidate for parliament and for prime minister. Suthep, the leader of the protests against Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014 that led to the coup d'etat by Gen. Prayuth, declared his support of Gen. Prayuth.

 

The old political pre-election chaos seemed to have returned.

 

On 30 May 2018, the constitution court ruled that the "organic" bill on the election of parliament followed the 2017 constitution. Royal endorsement of the bill was required within 90 days of its submittal. The bill became law 90 days later and elections had to be held within 150 days -  that is, by April 2019 at the latest. There could be delays, of course. June 2019 seemed like the most probable date.

 

Unfortunately for Gen. Prayuth, he is not good political material. He is strictly an army man. He is a dictator, not a politician. He looks rather nutty in a political mode.

 

Gen. Prayut seemed to have realised his limitations. In April and May he visited the Northeast to present a government project to benefit the people. He looked much better. Everyone seemed pleased. In Buriram Province, he got one of the biggest political organisers in Thailand to back him as the next prime minister.

More small and medium-size government projects up-country could help Gen. Prayuth's image and change the public mood a bit. The backing of the country's top political big shots should help him in a political scramble.

 

In August, Gen. Prayuth set the date for the next elections. They were to be held, if they at all, on 24 February 2019. The date was tentative, of course. The new government will take office in June 2019. Again, the elections coud be pushed back.

 

The nouveau-riche populist Shinawatras seemed out of the way. At least for now. Thaksin's present political party's leaders are as mediocre as could possibly be. The party is led by woman, the party's former spokeswoman, Sudarat Keyuraphan, and Chalerm Yubamrung, a politica hack. Sudarat is not suited for the job. Few seem to take her seriously. But the party topped all the others in a national opinion poll in mid-November 2018.

 

A national popularity poll, taken two days later, had Gen. Prayuth ahead of Sudarat by a slim margin and going head and head in Bangkok with Abhist Vejjajiva, recently reaffirmed by the Democrat Party as its leader. In the south of the country Abhisit had a lead.  

 

Local press reports seemed to indicate that, as far as the people are concerned, the junta is out and Thaksin's front men are back in. But that was the press. Somebody must have intervened because a few days later Gen. Prayut was the star on the front page again.  

 

Gen. Prayuth's supporters could still prevail in a national election. Parliament could elect him prime minister. But after that, anything can happen.

  

2019

 

The New Year began, as it has every year since the junta took over. No fireworks in the sky above Bangkok. Tourists must think Thailand is very poor. Can't afford fireworks on New Year's. Or very corrupt. Somebody ran off with the dough.

 

But on 24 February the long-awaited elections would be held. And results would be announced within 60 days of the elections   -   or not later than 25 April. Then the king would preside over the opening of the new parliament on 9 May.

 

On 2 January, the royal palace announced that the coronation of the king will be a three-day affair, from 4 to 6 May. There will be important events in the fortnights before and after the coronation.  

 

Thus, there was a conflict of schedules   -   an undesired "overlap" of the coronation and elections. 

 

The junta suggested a delay of elections for one month, to 24 March. Results would be announced on 22 May and the king would preside over the opening session of the new parliament in early June.

 

The junta left the matter up to the Election Commission, whose members were hand-picked by the junta.

 

The Election Commission replied that it could not organise elections before the government presented a royal decree. The last day to do this was 4 January. The decree was not presented. So, the commission said, it could not organise elections by 24 February.

 

The commission awaited a presentation by the government of the required royal decree.

 

In mid-February, another politcal party, set up by Thaksin as a proxy to contest elections in a certain region, announced that Princess Ubon Rattana, the king's older sister, would be its candidate for prime minister after the elections. In Thailand, the king and the royal family are considered above politics. The king said it was inappropriate for a family member to enter politics. The Election Commission disqualified Ubon Rattana and dissolved the party. This was foreseen. The proxy party committed a serious blunder that cost it dearly in the elections. Thaksin knew the risk he was running. It is evident, however, that Thaksin, a political parvenue, thought it more important to display a personal closeness to the royal family than win votes. Two days before the elections, Princess Ubon Rattana attended the wedding of Thaksin's daughter in Hong Kong. 

 

 

To cut a long story short, elections were held on Sunday, 24 March 2019 (with advance voting on the previous Sunday, 17 March). The first elections in Thailand in eight years.

 

The elections were nation-wide parliamentary elections for the 500-seat Lower House (House of Representatives) only.

 

The Upper House, the 250-seat-Senate was filled long ago with appointees "hand-picked" by the junta. 

 

All 500 seats of the Lower House were up for grabs.  

 

The contest was seen as one between Thaksin's party and the junta's political front. Between democracy and military dictatorship.

 

Some fifty million Thais were eligible to vote.

 

Expectations ran high on both sides.

 

The Election Commission counted the votes and announced results throughout the day.

 

The counting continued into the evening and stopped with 93 to 95% of the votes reported.

 

Surprisingly, the junta won the most votes nation-wide. Prayuth claimed the popular vote and a victory. But the popular vote does not determine the parliamentary contest.

 

Not surprisingly, by late Sunday evening, Thaksin Shinawatra's party, Pheu Thai, had won the most seats   -   137. The junta party front, Palang Pracharat, had won 97 seats. Not as many as expected.

 

The figures were approximate. The results were “preliminary” and “unofficial”.

 

The results announced were for 350 of the 500 seats in the Lower House. The results were for local constituencies. Candidates were elected directly by the voters in their constituencies. Candidates ran for seats representing various cities - Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Korat . . .

 

The Election Commission decided to knock off for the night and return to work in the morning. That may sound rather provincial but there was another reason. There was a bit of math to figure.  

 

There were still 150 seats to account for.

 

These 150 seats were party-list seats. The results of the contests for the party-list seats were not announced.

 

Candidates for the party-list seats are not elected by local constituencies. The process for electing party-list seats is odd but not unique in the world. There are party quotas. A party may win the most votes for party-list seats but the rules might not allow that party to claim them. 

 

Further announcements were put off for the next day, Monday, 25 March. But on the following day, the Election Commission again postponed announcement, this time to five days hence, to Friday, 29 March.

 

Many complained the junta manipulated the election process. Many suspected the junta withheld the results because the votes were not going its way.

 

Both Thaksin's party and Prayuth's junta political front claimed victory and each maintained they they would form the next government.

 

On Wednesday, 27 March, Thaksin's party announced a coalition with six other parties. The coalition is called the "Democratic Front". Projected results gave the front a slight majority in the Lower House.

 

The Election Commission did not wait till Friday and announced "100 %" of the results on Thursday afternoon, 29 March.

 

According to the Election Commission, 75% of the voters - a bit more than 40 million - voted. Up 11% from Sunday.

 

The junta political party front won the most votes   -   8.43 million.

 

Thaksin's party won 7.92 million votes.

 

The junta maintained the half-million-vote-lead in the nation-wide popular vote count gave them a mandate from the people to form the next government.

 

A new party popular with young voters, particularly in Bangkok, the Future Forward Party, led by a handsome 40-year-old billionaire, heir to a big auto parts company, won 6.26 million votes. This party has joined Thaksin's party in the Democratic Front coalition.

 

The Democrats did poorly in the elections. The party won only 3.95 million votes. The party's leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva, resigned on election night.

 

Bumjaitai won 3.73 million votes.

 

Prayuth may claim the national popular vote but that does not matter in parliamentary elections.

 

Thaksin's party won 137 seats, all from constituencies. Under the party-list quota rules, Thaksin's party was not allowed to claim any party-list seats.

 

The junta won 118 seats. To the 97 seats from constituencies announced on election night, the junta was allowed to claim 21 party-list seats.

 

Future Forward won 87 seats   -   30 seats from constituencies and 57 party-list seats.  

 

The Democrats won 55 seats.

 

Bumjaitai won 52 seats.

 

To form the next government, a party must have a majority in parliament   -   376 of 750 seats   -   to elect its candidate prime minister. 

 

Gen. Prayuth wants to continue as prime minister. The 750-seat parliament is to elect the prime minister. A candidate for the top post need not hold a seat in parliament. To be prime minister, Prayuth must get more than half the votes of parliament - a minimum of 376 votes. The senate, with his 250 hand-picked members, is expected to back him. He needs 126 votes in the Lower House to be prime minister. He has 118. So, he can count on 368 votes in parliament. Not enough to be prime ininister. He needs eight more votes in the Lower House.

 

Prayuth will form a coalition or gather allies. He may achieve an over-all majority in parliament, enough to elect him prime minister. But he will not have a majority in the Lower House. His government will be a minority government.

 

Thaksin's coalition, the Democratic Front, has 253 seats in the Lower House   -   a majortiy. But to elect the next prime minister, Thaksin's party needs 376 seats in the Lower House. He needs 123 more votes in the Lower House. Thaksin must draw the support of more parties.

 

Bumjaitai and the Democrats are viewed as "swing parties" or "kingmakers". They can decide everything. So can the party of a deceased former prime minister, Barnharn Silpa-archa, which won 11 seats. These parties are more disposed towards a coalition with the junta.

 

It will be a long wait to 9 May, when voting results are officially announced. But the picture should be clear before then.

 

Most observers believe Prayuth will be prime minister and form the next government.

 

How will people react when Prayuth, with a minority in the Lower House, becomes prime minister   -   possible only with the backing of his hand-picked unelected senate?

 

There was a similar situation in 1992, when Suchinda Kraprayoon, an army general who led a coup in 1991, claimed the most votes in a subsequent election. Many denounced the election as a fraud, took to the streets and, after a bloody confrontation, forced him out. However, the protesters had a leader in the popular Gen. Chamlong Srimuang. There does not appear to be such a leader now. Thaksin cannot lead a big public protest movement from exile abroad.

 

How will Prayuth govern with a minority government? Will he be able to govern? How long will his government last?

 

Some elected candidates of the seven-party Democratic Front could be disqualified for one reason or another. This could block Thaksin's coalition from obtaining a majority in the Lower House.

 

Many observers do not think the next government, which is certain to be formed by the junta, will be able to govern. It will not last to the end of the year.

 

Barring a coup, there should be elections again within the year. With the junta out of the way, the elections should be freer. Or more chaotic. A coup is always a possibility.  

 

 

Suthep Thaugsuban, who led the protest rallies that crippled the government of Thaksin's sister, Yingluck, when she was prime minister and forced the coup by Prayuth in 2014, lost the race for a lower house seat from his home town of Surat Thani.

 

Returning home after the 2014 coup Suthep ordered the bulldozing of a village. He claimed the villagers were squatting on his land, which he wanted to develop. Villagers claimed deeds to the property. This resulted in a long legal battle about which little or nothing was reported by the press.

 

 

A week after the elections, the king revoked Thaksin's royal medals, citing Thaksin's conviction by the Supreme Court and Thaksin's fleeing the country.

  

 

 

 
 

-------------------------

 
 
Fragrant Rice
 
18 October 2018
 
Thailand was the world's leading exporter of rice for more than 30 years.
 
According to the keepers of such statistics (not all of them), Thailand was surpassed in 2012 and again in 2013 by India and Vietnam, who exported more rice.
 
That had been long expected.
 
India has kept the top spot to this day.
 
Eventually, Burma should recover its role as biggest producer and exporter of rice in the world.
 
Thailand's loss of the top spot was not so much due to the long overdue recovery of Burma and Vietnam and the growth of India.
 
India and Vietnam offer their rice at a considerably lower price than Thailand, so buyers are turning away from Thai rice.
 
Thai salesmen are indeed very greedy people. Shoppers will find many items sold in Thailand ten times cheaper in Cambodia and Vietnam.
 
Also, in recent years, Burma has flooded western Thailand with enourmous quanities of rice, sold across the border cheaply and without registration by the statisticians. The Thais complain that this lowers the price.
 
The Thais begged the Vietnamese to raise their selling price. The Vietnamese would agree only not to lower their price.
 
The Thai government raised the price of its rice on the international market in 2012. So Thailand lost even more of its overseas market to India and Vietnam.
 
The Thai government claimed it had to raise the price of its exported rice to cover the cost of doubling payments to rice farmers in 2012.
 
In her election campaign in 2011, the Thai prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, younger sister of the deposed populist tyrant, Thaksin Shinawatra, promised to increase farmers' incomes. So, after Yingluck's election victory the government doubled the amount paid to farmers for their rice.
 
Farmers growing the popular world famous strains of fragant Thai rice, called Jasmin rice, and Homali, Chainat and Suphan rice were promised twice as much for their 2013 harvests than they had received in 2011.
 
Thus, the government mills (and the private millers) paid the rice farmers Baht 15,000 per tonne. (The government mills delay payment for several days).
 
It should be noted that the government millers regularly skim Baht 1,500 per tonne from their payjments to farmers. Thus famers got only Baht 13,500 per tonne from the government millers.
 
Farmers complain of high overhead. The cost of seed, fertiliser, insecticide, labour and transportation eat up a third of their earnings.
 
Farmers who got twice as much for their rice in 2012 maintain that they still had to spend 30 to 35% of their earnings to cover production costs.
 
Because no one was buying rice on the world market at the high price demanded by the Thai government, the government said that it had to store the rice and wait for for world prices to go back up.
 
American rice farmers feared dumping by the Thais.
 
The Thai government again begged India and Vietnam to raise the price of their rice and proposed setting up a cartel.
 
Then there was a new problem. U. S. chemical tests of imported Thai rice revealed a lead content much higher than the safety level. The Thais were shocked. They became indignant. They were outraged. Eventually, the Thai government got the American government to retract the statement and declare that Thai rice was okay after all.
 
In early 2013 the Yingluck government lowered the payment to farmers of fragrant rice to Baht 12,500 per tonne. Still, it was much more than the farmers 
had received in 2011.
 
But the price went back up and farmers received Baht 13,500 per tonne for the second harvest of 2013,
 
And farmers were told that they would receive Baht 15,000 for the first harvest of 2014.
 
All this, of course, less the Baht 1,500 per tonne skimmed by the millers.
 
In early 2014, rice farmers complained that they had not been paid by the government millers. Every day in early 2014 there was a note about this in the press. One day the press announced that farmers had not been paid by the government. The next day the press reported that the government had "authorised payment to the farmers". The next day, the press reported that the farmers were indeed about to be paid. But the next day, the press reported that there had been another delay in payments to farmers. In early May 2014 the press reported that 20% of the rice farmers had not been paid yet for their February crop. Then Yingluck claimed that her caretaker government, in the interim awaiting the next lower house elections, which had yet to be scheduled, did not have the legal authority to pay the farmers.
 
For a while during the long open political conflict that was played out in the streets of Bangkok from November 2013 to May 2014, rice farmers, organised and on the march, emerged as a bigger threat to the Yingluck government than the political opposition in the streets.
 
Yingluck was disqualified by the courts from the office of prime minister in mid-May.
 
Following the army coup d'etat of 22 May 2014 the army chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha, announced that all rice farmers would be paid in 20 days.
 
According to later newspaper reports, the rice farmers eventually collected their payments.
 
Gen. Prayuth complained that the rice scheme initiated by Yingluck was unrealistic and scrapped it. He announced that in the future rice farmers would be paid much less for their produce but they would receive more financial assistance than they had before the Yingluck scheme.
 
Gen. Prayuth announced that farmers of fragrant rice would now receive Baht 9,500 per tonne. That meant that they would actually receive only Baht 8,000 after skimming by the government millers. That was well below the amount farmers were to have been paid by Yingluck.
 
Thus, a farmer in Ban Pong District of Rajaburi Province, who had been expecting to receive Baht 15,000 per tonne for his first crop of 2014, or Baht 13,500 after skimming by the millers, received only Baht 9,500 per tonne, or Baht 8,000 a tonne after skimming by the millers.
 
Then the farmer was informed that he would receive Baht 8,500 for his second rice crop in 2014. This was Baht 1,000 less than the farmer received for his first crop of the year. And it was only slightly more than he had received before Yingluck doubled payments.
 
Rice farmers maintain that they need more money to cover their overhead expenses. Gen. Prayuth offered to subsidise poor farmers by making credit easier to obtain and by supplying some necessary items for free and other items at lower prices. Fertiliser, for example, was to be made available cheap.
 
In late September 2014, Gen. Prayuth announced that the government would give all rice farmers who owned 15 rai of land or less a one-time payout of Baht 15,000 free, no strings attached. The press celebrated. Everyone was to be happy again.
 
In fact, however, this was not all that it was made out to be. Farmers were to receive payouts of Baht 1,000 for each rai of land that they owned or tended, up to 15 rai. All well and good. But . . .
 
Depending on the region, one rai of land yields one-third to one tonne of rice. Thus, a farmer with 15 rai produces about five to 15 tonnes of rice per harvest. At best, under Yingluck's government, when goverment millers paid Baht 13,500 per tonne of fragrant rice, these amounts of rice earned from Baht 67,000 to Baht 202,500. At present, this amount of tonnage of rice is sold for Baht 40,000 to Baht 120,000. Small farmers working 15 rai of land got more from Yingluck, even with the extra Baht 15,000 offered by Gen. Prayuth.
 
In some regions, like the northeast, only one harvest per year is possible. And only sticky rice can be grown. And the land produces only a third of a tonne per rai. Sticky rice earns much less than fragrant rice and the labour required is long and strenuous. In other regions, like Rajaburi Province, farmers can plant and harvest the high-earning fragrant rice three times per year - and without the labourious transplanting.
 
The farmer in Rajaburi Province who got Baht 13,500 from the government millers in 2013, before Yingluck was forced out of office, got only Baht 6,500 from the millers for the last crop in late 2015  -  more than a 100% drop in price.
 
Worse, in 2016, farmers in Rajaburi Province who usually plant three crops a year, were ordered to plant only one crop. This was to combat drought. Water from the nearby reservoir was cut. The farmers could not water their fields.
 
On 22 January 2015, Thailand's attorney-general announced that Yingluck would be charged in criminal court for her doubling of payments to rice farmers.
 
On the same day, the NLA voted to impeach Yingluck for her mishandling of the rice economy.
 
Yingluck was thus banned from politics for five years   -   to 2020.
 

On 14 February 2015, the press announced that Yingluck was to be sued in civil court and ordered to compensate the government for the losses it incurred through her rice-scheme.

 

Yingluck was to be tried in criminal court. The trial was to begin in May 2015 but it was pushed back to the end of September 2015.

 

Yingluck was one of 22 pesons who could be held liable for the government's loss of Baht 530 billion (about US$15 billion) through her rice scheme.

 

On 17 February 2016, the Ministry of Finance announced it had conducted an investigation of Yingluck's "rice-pledging scheme" and concluded that the scheme was "not wrong" and did not damage the economy. A complaint that 390,000 tonnes of pledged rice disappeared was in error. But Yingluck was found to have committed dereliction of duty for failing to stop corruption involved in the scheme.

 

The rice schemes, going back to 2004, have been held responsible for huge losses in revenue. Yingluck was to be held responsible for 80% of the loss.

 

In mid-May 2016, a government investigative committee concluded that Yingluck failed to check corruption that led to huge losses from her rice scheme and that she owed the government Baht 287 billion (about US$ 8 billion). The press did not report if the committee expected Yingluck to reimburse the government the entire amount or if she was one of 22 persons to be billed.

 

Yingluck sued the head of the committee in criminal court, claiming that he had committed malfeasance by improperly handling the probe 

into the matter. The criminal court dismissed the case out of hand. But in April of 2017 a court of appeals ruled that the criminal court should hear the case. 

 

In July, the junta insisted the government's investigation be concluded by year-end.

 
On 2 August 2016, the press reported that a government panel had determined that Yingluck should be fined Baht 286.6 billion to compensate the government for its losses. Six others were to be fined Baht 18.7 billion each.
 
In late September 2016 a "committee on civil liberty, chaired by the comptroller-general" decided that the Yingluck government would be held responsible for government loses incurred during just three harvests, in 2013 and 2014, instead of five harvests from 2011 to 2014.
 
Thus, the government's losses were lowered to Baht 178 billion.
 
By law, the highest government official overseeing the rice scheme, in this case Yingluck, can be held liable for 20% of the total loss.
 
Thus, Yingluck must reimburse the government Baht 35.71 billion (slightly more than US$ 1 billion).    
 
Yingluck's personal assets, valued at Baht 579.3 million in 2015, can be seized by the government.
 
Others, all of whom have or have not been publicly identified in the press, must compensate the government for the remaining 80% of the amount lost.
 
The committee forwarded its conclusions to the Finance Ministry for endorsement.
 
Gen. Prayut, invoking his legal powers as a dictator, authorised the Legal Execution Department to seize the assets of state officials held liable for damages.
 
On 22 October, the Bangkok Post reported that Yingluck received an order from the Administrative Court on 20 October to pay Baht 35.7 billion within 30 days (by 19 November).
 
Everything has its price
 
Yingluck was given 90 days to appeal to the Administrative Court to overturn the order. (This court hears cases between the government and private citizens.)
 
On 26 January 2017, Yingluck pleaded in the Administrative Court to revoke the order, She said that if she had to pay Baht 35 billion she would be destitute and her entire family ruined. She woud be in debt for the rest of her life.
 
On 11 February 2017, the government annouced that it would enforce an order seize the assets of six persons involved in Yingluck's rice scheme 
who had been ordered to reimburse the government. The six will have assets of twenty billion baht (US$570,000) seized.  
 
Yingluck must pay twenty percent of the fine. Others must pay the remaining eighty percent   -   Baht 142 billion. On 2 April 2017, the Bangkok Post reported that 302 people were alleged to have been connected to the rice scandal. Of those, 158 are government officials assigned to the Marketing Organisation for Farmers and the Public Warehouse Organisation. The others are private parties, mostly warehouse owners and "rice surveyors".  
 
Unveiling the Junta's Very Own Rice Scheme 
 
Something odd happened in November 2016.  
 
Gen. Prayuth announced another government rice scheme. 
 
Farmers of Homali (fragrant) rice would be paid Baht 13,500 per tonne by the government.
 
That was quite a surprise.
 
Still, Prayut's offer was Baht 1,500 less than the Baht 15,000 Yingluck had offered them.
 
After the government millers skimmed off the usual Baht 1,500, the famer would get only Baht 11,000 per tonne from Gen. Prayuth's scheme.
 
Of course, it would be better than the Baht 6,500 per tonne they collected in 2016.
 
Gen. Prayuth reminded everyone that his government wanted to help the famers and this was his way of doing it.
 
But there was a catch.
 
In fact, the junta's scheme would reduce the farmer's income rather than increase it.
 
Gen. Prayuth explained that Baht 6,500 would be withheld from the payment of Baht 13,500 per tonne to pay for storage of the rice (in the name of the farmer) until it could be sold at a higher price on the currently depressed world market. 
 
The newspapers, reduced in recent years to army propaganda rags, touted Gen. Prayuth's scheme. For a week or so, it was celebrated on the front page. 
 
And then nothing. No more was said. Indeed, few farmers ever heard about Gen Prayuth's scheme.
 
There was no advantage at all in the junta's scheme to the rice farmers. The farmers would be getting only Baht 7,000 per tonne. After the customary skimming by the government millers, the farmers would receive only Baht 5,500. That is actually Baht 1,000 less than they are pocketing now!
 
Gen. Prayuth was out for headlines. But no one was fooled.  
 
The junta clipped the farmer for Baht 1,000. It sounded like the government had screwed the peasants.
 
And who was to store the rice? Government warehouses? Privately contracted warehouses? Who would be contracted to store the rice? For how long would the rice be stored? Just where was the money that would be withheld from the farmer in this deal going?
 
Would the farmer ever see the money?
 
Would the farmer be handed a bill or would there be deductions from the next payments for "extra storage time"?
 
There were then a few press reports that the farmers would be expected to store the rice themselves.
 
If so, why not give the farmers all of the Baht 13,500 now? After all, there is no need to withhold Baht 6,500 to pay someone else to store it.
 
The army propaganda rags refused to address these obvious questions.
 
Gen. Prayuth ought to have been taken to task over his rice scheme. But he is a dictator with unlimited power and he can do whatever he wants. Nobody, other than one or two letter writers to the editors of local newspapers, pointed out the facts of the matter. And, of course, the scheme was not mentioned in Thailand's latest corruption index, which was published on 26 January 2017.
 
And some wondered if this was typical of Gen. Prayuth. Was he like this across the board?
 
The End of the Shinawatras
 
Meanwhile, the supreme court, Thailand's highest court of appeal, was to announce its final ruling in the rice scheme case on 25 August 2017. Twenty-eight persons were to appear in court.
 
Yingluck was to appear before the the Supreme Court's Crminal Divsion for Political Office Holders. One billion dollars of Yingluck assets could be seized by the government. Yingluck could be sentenced to jail for up to ten years for dereliction of duty   -   her failure to stop corruption of subordinates in the rice scheme.
 
In the days leading up to the court session, Yingluck informed the court that she had an ear ailment and asked for a delay. The request was denied. 
 
Yingluck did not appear in court. The court postponed its ruling for thirty days, confiscated 
Yingluck's one million dollar bail and ordered her arrest. She lost the right to appeal. There is no statute of limitation in her case. The court can seize her twelve bank accounts.  
 
Yingluck fled Thailand. She went into exile. She is said to have flown to Dubai, where her brother maintains a residence, via Singapore. Many suspect that she traveled overland or by sea to Cambodia and flew on to Singapore. She applied to Great Britain for assylum.
 
The complicity of the junta   -   the army   -   is suspected in Yingluck's escape. How could she evade the large contingent of soldiers and policeman who had her under constant surveillance? To avoid turmoil over a guilty verdict, she was escorted out of the country.
 
Of the twenty-eight persons charged in the rice case, two fled earlier before sentencing. Yingluck was one of two persons who failed to show up in court for the verdict. Fifteen other persons were found guilty and eight were aquitted. Yingluck's commerce minister was sentenced to 42 years in prison for his part in the rice scheme. He was denied bail. His deputy was sent to jail for 36 years. One was sentenced to 40 years. Another got 32 years. Another 24 years. A rice trader got 48 years and ordered to pay half a billion dollars.
 
The eight acquitted, for lack of evidence, were "mostly" rice traders associated with Yingluck's commerce minister. Prosecutors said they would appeal the acquittals.
 
Prosecutors said they would probably appeal against the low compensations some were ordered to pay.
 
Yingluck's flight appeared to signal a new era in Thailand. An end to the Shinawatras in the daily life of the nation. The future of the Shinawatras' political party is now in doubt. Only a politcal upheaval or a king's pardon can save Yingluck now.
 
 
 
-------------
 
 
 
Whatever happened to Aung San Suu Kyi?
 
 
Pattani
 
26 November 2016
 
 
The Tak Bai Incident   -   85 dead 
 
25 October 2004
 
In mid-January 2012, the Thai government announced it would compensate victims in the 2004 Tak Bai Massacre.
 
In late April 2015, the Thai press reported that former prime minister General Chavalit Youngchaiyudh, who brokered the final end to the Malaysian Communist insurgency years ago, was in private talks with Malay Muslim insurgents of Yala in the south of Thailand.
 
The revelation came on the heels of press reports of accusations by the junta that Gen. Chavalit was the mastermind behind several recent terrorist bombings in public places in Bangkok and Phuket.
 
Initially, the junta believed the bombings were conducted by political opponents, probably Thaksin supporters, but they later suspected Muslim insurgents from the south.
 
The accusations of terrorism against Gen. Chavalit sounded absurd and seemed to have been made because Gen. Chavalit has close political ties to the Red Shirts.
 
Gen. Chavalit was negotiating with the Muslim rebels a possible end to an 11-year-old insurgency in the south.
 
While on a visit to the area eleven years ago, General Chavalit said that some form of autonomy for Pattani should be possible.
 
A big question concerning autonomy in the south is the extent to which Sharia law is acceptable. Islamic banking is practiced in the south. But the universal rights of women must be guaranteed. Religious instruction must not impede pursuit of general education.
 
Other issues:
 
Local goverment should be run by local inhabitants instead of Thai Buddhists from Bangkok . . .
 
 
The Disappearance of Somchai Neelaphaijit (Bangkok, 12 March 2004)
 
Somchai Neelaphaijit was a Bangkok lawyer and chairman of the Muslim Lawyers Association of Thailand.
 
In 2003, Somchai defended four Thai Muslims accused of plotting bombings for a militant organisation. Somchai claimed the four men were tortured in custody.
 
Somchai disappeared on the night of 12 March 2004. He was last seen climbing into a police car outside a hotel in Bangkok.
 
It is generally believed that police chiefs planned and carried out Somchai's abduction and murder.
 
Somchai's body was never found.
 
Several policemen were arrested and tried for Somchai's abduction and murder but eventually acquitted. One policemen was killed in a mudslide or went into hiding.
 
Some believe Somchai's killers were protected by Thaksin Shinawatra, who was prime minister at the time, or by persons close to Thaksin.
 
 
 
---------------------
 
 

Siam/Thailand
 
The People
 
The original human inhabitants of Southeast Asia are generally believed to have been Negroid, or Negritos, like the Semang of Malaysia and southern Thailand and the Aita of Luzon Island in the Philippines. 
 
Later, Malays and Malayo-Polynesians, like the Cham, arrived.
 
Then, from the northwest, came the Mons and Khmers, who share similar physical and linguistic characteristics.
 
There have long been significant numbers of Indians and Chinese in the region.
 
The Tais did not have a sizeable presence in the area of present-day Thailand until the 1200s A. D., when 
Tai-Yuen and Tai-Lue descended from present-day southern Hunan Province of China, Laos and the Shan States of Burma. Tai-Dang (Red Tai) and Tai-Dam (Black Tai) came from the region of present-day northern Vietnam. There are other large Tai groups, like, for instance, the Phu Tai.
 
The long-held assumption that the Tais and Laos (a branch of the Tai identified as Tai-Lao) were forced south into present-day Southeaast Asia by the Mongol invasions of the 1200s has been challenged by numerous scholars in recent decades. The Tais were the dominant population of Siam by the 1400s.  
 
The Name
 
Siam (pronounced "Say-am") means "dark" in Sanskrit and "the land between" in Cham.
 
The name of the country, Siam, was changed to 
Thailand (refering to the country's predominant Tai ethnic group) in 1939. After V-J day in 1945 the name was changed back to Siam. But since 1949 the country has been called Thailand, as it was during World War Two. 
 
Some scholars have pointed out that Claudius Ptolemaeus, in his Geographica (ca. 150 A.D.), called the area around the northwest corner of the Bight of Bangkok "Sam".
 
  

 

 

-------------------

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Monarchy in Thailand

 

The city of Ayuttaya was the capital of Siam for four centuries from 1351 to 1767.

 

Invading Burmese armies sacked Ayutthaya in 1767.

 

Sin, the governor of Kampheng Phet, rallied forces against the Burmese and prevailed against rival Siamese. He restored Siam to its former strength. 

 

Sin was formerly the governor of Tak Province and thus known as "Phraya Tak". As King Tak Sin, he established a new capital of Siam south of Ayuttaya, in Bang Mak Kok, or Thon Buri, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River

 

Taksin was of Teochiu Chinese and Siamese origins.

 

He is known as Taksin the Great.

 

The Chakri Dynasty

 

King Taksin was deposed and replaced by one of his generals, Chao Phraya Chakri, in 1782.

 

Born Thong Duang, Chakri was the son of Phra Aksorn Sundara Smiantra, the Chao Phraya Chakri Pitsanuloke, who was of an old Mon noble family of the former Ayutthaya ruling elite. Thong's mother was from a family of Mons and a family of Teochiu Chinese merchants in Thon Buri. Chao Phraya Chakri was known as King Ramathibodi (the third Siamese king with that title). He was given the posthumous title of Phra Yuttha Yod Fa Chulaloke. He is better known today as Rama I, the first of the ten kings of the current Chakri dynasty. He is best remembered for his establishment of Bangkok as the new capital of Siam, across the Chao Phraya river from Thon Buri, on its east bank.

 

Under Rama I, Siam reached its greatest territorial extent.

 

The founding of the Chakri dynasty is commemorated on 6 April. The day is national holiday.

 

With the growing domination of the British, and later the French, in Southeast Asia, succesive kings of Siam held gradually less authority and influence.

 

Rama IV

 

Outside Thailand, the Chakri dynasty's fourth king, Mongkut, is the best known king in Siam's history. Mongkut was popularized by a best-selling book written by an English tutor of his children, Anna Leonowens, which was published in 1870.

 

A long-running popular Rogers & Hammerstein stage musical on Broadway, "The King & I", with the legendary movie star, Yul Brynner, portraying Mongkut, and several big Hollywood films, of which the best known was "The King and I", also starring Brynner, in 1956, were based in part on the book by Leonowens.

 

Before Mongkut became king, he was a monk and founded the Dharmayut sect, one of the two orders of the Theravada Buddhist clergy in Siam. The Dharmayut is a small sect.  

 

Abolishment of Absolutism

 

Divine right and absolute monarchy in Siam were abolished in a coup d'etat led by young western-educated soldiers and politicians in 1932. The lawyer and politician, Pridi Banomyong, of Chinese origin, led the civilian faction; the future fascist dictator, Plaek Pibulsongkram (Pibul), of Chinese and Mon origins, was one of the leaders of the military faction.

 

The coup leaders dominated Thai society for 25 years, until 1957. 

 

The king, Prajadhipok, Rama VII, now a constitutional figurehead, went abroad two years later, in 1934, and abdicated in the following year, 1935.

 

Rama VIII

 

The throne thus passed to a nine-year-old nephew of Prajadhipok, Ananda Mahidol, born in Germany in 1925, then living in Switzerland.

 

Except for a two-month trip to Siam in 1938, Ananda lived abroad until late 1945. 

 

Ananda was in neutral Switzerland during the Second World War. (In Europe, the war was from September 1939 to May 1945; in Southeast Asia the war was from September 1940 to September 1945.)

 

During the war, the Thai government was led by the dictator Pibulsongkram, who collaborated with Japanese forces. With Japanese backing, Siam briefly recovered former Thai possessions from the British in Burma and Malaya and from the French in Cambodia and Laos.

 

Pridi, who publicly opposed Pibulsongkram's collaboration with the Axis and secretly headed a Resistance network with the Allies, was regent, a position with little or no power or influence.

 

The real authority in Thailand (and Burma) during the Japanese occcupation was the notorious Colonel Suzuki Keiji of the Imperial Japanese Army. Col. Suzuki and his Thai collaborators escaped war crimes tribunals (and the hangman's noose) by bribing the Allies at war's end. 

 

On 9 June 1946   -   six months after his return to Siam  -   Ananda, age 20, was found dead in his bed, shot through the forehead by a Colt .45 that had been given to him as a gift a short time earlier by an American O. S. S. agent in Siam.

 

Initially, the shooting was considered a tragic gun accident. But soon there were rumours of a suicide. Eventually, murder was suspected.

 

The two main parties vying for power in Siam accused one another of murdering the young king.

 

One side, backed by the British, was accused of supporting a Communist take-over of Southeast Asia.

 

The other side, local Axis collaborators who had escaped prosecution as war criminals after the war, wanted a military dictatorship and was backed by the U. S.

 

The two sides accused one another of wanting to abolish the monarchy and getting rid of the king.

 

Eventually, three of the late king's closest servants were accused of negligence, an accusation widely considered unjust. They were illegally executed, many years later, personally by the national police chief.

 

Both Pridi and Pibulsongkram lost out in political intrigues and eventually wound up in permanent exile, Pridi to China and France in 1949 and Pibulsongkram to Japan in 1957.

 

Rama IX

 

Ananda Mahidol's younger brother, Bhumipol Adulyadej, 18 years old, inherited the throne on the day of Ananda's death, on 9 June 1946.

 

Bhumipol was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on 5 December 1927. His father, Prince Mahidol (1892 – 1929) (known as the "Father of Thai Medicine"), was studying medicine at Harvard University. His mother, Sangwal Talabhat (1900– 1995), a commoner, the daughter of a Chinese goldsmith in Thonburi, was a nurse.

 

Bhumipol was educated in Lausanne, Switzerland.

 

Following Ananda’s death, there were fears that Bhumipol had been targeted for assassination.

 

Bhumipol returned to Switzerland to study. He married a cousin, Sirikit Kitiyakara, daughter of the Thai ambassador to France, in 1950. He was coroneted in Thailand shortly afterwards, also in 1950.

 

KIng Bhumipol did not become a prominent public figure, however, until 1957. The country's military dictator, Marshal Sarit Dhanarajata, a Bangkok native who had lived in northeastern Thailand and was related by marriage to the Laotian royal family, encouraged the king to take an active roll in public affairs by traveling about the country, supporting government projects and participating in public ceremonies.

 

The king appeared to have played an active role in his country's political affairs on several occasions, especially in resolving the country's political crisis in May 1992.

 

Bhumipol lost an eye in a car accident while studying in Switzerland. He suffered health problems for the last three decades of his life. He suffered a severe heart ailment in the mid-1980s which, for a while, he was not expected to survive.

 

The king spent four years in Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok, from September 2009 to August 2013, due to health problems. However, the king continued to meet foreign dignitaries as head of state and made several day-trips within the city and to the countryside. 

 

For much of his last years, Bhumiphol resided in his palace at Hua Hin, a resort on the west coast of Gulf of Siam. He had occasional short stays in hospital.

 

During the last decade of the king's life, the press frequently claimed that the nation was in crisis because the king was ailing and the future of the monarchy uncertain. 

 

In 2013, parliament briefly discussed the procedure for appointing a new head of state to replace the ailing king in this function.

 

The king was born on a Monday. In Thailand, Monday is the day of Chandra, the god of the Moon in the Hindu Vedas. (In Thai, Monday is Wan-chan.) The color of Chandra is yellow. Thus, for three years, from 2006 to 2009, many Thais, to display support for the king, wore yellow golf-knit shirts on Mondays.

 

King Bhumipol died at Siriraj Hospital in Thonburi after a short illness on 13 October 2016. He was 88 years old. 

 

Bhumipol was king longer than any monarch in Thai history. The year 2016 marked his seventieth year as king. He was the ninth king, with the title of Rama IX, of the 236-year-old Chakri dynasty. Bhumipol was also the world's longest reigning monarch.

 

The government declared thirty days of public mourning and one year of official mourning for government employees.

 

The cremation was on Sanam Luang in Bangkok, after the official one-year period of mourning, on 26 October 2017.

 

Rama X

 

King Bhimphol and Queen Sirikit had four children  -  one son and three daughters.  

 

The oldest child, a daughter, the king's favourite, Ubon Rattana, renounced her royal titles when she married an American.

 

Many Thais  -  royals and commoners alike  -  did not want the second-born child, the crown prince, Vajiralongkorn, age 64, to succeed his father as king. He was unpopular since his youth. He was considered a playboy. Many complained that he spent more time abroad than in Thailand. His in-laws were involved in financial scandals.   

 

Many suggested that the king's second daughter, the crown princess, Sirindhorn, could succeed her father as the country's monarch instead of the crown prince. Indeed, for the previous two to three decades, the crown princess was more active and more prominent in public affairs than her siblings at home and abroad.

 

The law of succession was changed in 1974, at the instigation of the king, to allow a woman to succeed the king. Both the crown prince and the crown princess were designated as first heirs to the throne.

 

But with the death of King Bhimiphol, on 13 October 2016, most questions about the succession evaporated.

 

The crown prince asked the leader of ruling junta, the prime minister, Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha, for a delay in the succession. This was unexpected and surprised many people. Many were not sure what to make of it.

 

Gen. Prayuth explained that the crown prince preferred to join the nation in mourning his father before succeeding him as king. (Others pointed out that the crown prince had personal matters in Germany to take care of.) 

 

The general impression was that the crown prince would be proclaimed king after   -   not before   -   the official one year period of mourning was over and after the funeral and cremation of the late king.

 

The chairman/president of the privy council, Prem Tinsulanonda, age 96, automatically became the regent. He assumed the duties and responsibilities of a constitutional monarch and head of state. 

 

Another privy council member, Thanin Kraivichien, age 89, assumed the position of chairman/president of the privy council for the duration of the regency.

 

Some wanted to proclaim the crown prince the new king at once, despite his request for a delay in the succession. Indeed, the proclamation could be made at any time before the funeral and crmeation of the late king.

 

Gen. Prayuth maintained that officially, and as a matter of record, Vijirayuth succeeded his father on the king's death on 13 October 2016. 

 

There were local press reports several days after the death of the king that the crown prince would be proclaimed king by the government on 28 October. Many people anticipated the event. But there was no further mention of it in the press. No follow-up. And nothing happened.

 

In late October and early November, there were press reports abroad that the proclamation was scheduled for 1 December. But the local Thai press did not mention it at all and few Thais seemed to be aware of it. (Even a notice posted on a Wikipedia entry about the crown prince in early November was withdrawn in mid-November.)  

On 26 November, the Bangkok Post quoted Gen. Prayuth as saying the crown prince would be proclaimed king "shortly". No date was given.

 

On 1 December, the National Legislative Assembly, the junta's puppet mock parliament, proclaimed the crown prince the new king of Thailand.

 

King Vajiralongkhorn is the tenth king of the Chakri dynasty and thus Rama X.

 

Rama IX was cremated on Sanam Luang in Bangkok on 28 October 2017. 

 

The date of the coronation of Rama X has not yet been announced.  

 

Aside from the unexpected delay in the proclamation of the new king, the transition from Rama IX to Rama X went smoothly.   

 

In December 2016, the new king granted 30,000 pardons to prisoners jailed for certain offenses. Some prominent figures were released. 

 

The government requested the required royal endorsement of the new constitution proposed by the junta and approved by the voters in a referendum in August. The new king asked for a change in the regency laws to give him the responsibility of appointing the regent before going abroad. The king signed the new constitution into law amid much fanfare in April 2017. 

 

In early February 2017, the king selected from a list of five monks submitted to him by Gen. Prayuth the 90-year-old abbot of Wat Rajabopit in Bangkok to be the new supreme patriarch, the head of the sangkha or clergy, the sangkharaja. The new sangkharaja is of the Dharmayut sect, one of the two orders of the Theravada Buddhist clergy in Thailand.

 

On 2 January 2019, the royal palace announced that the coronation of King Rama X will be a three-day affair, from 4 to 6 May.

 

There will be important events in the fortnight before and in the fortnight after the coronation.

 

In Thailand, the king is above politics. The royal family is abcve politics. 

 

During the political campaigns for the lower house of parliament in February 2019, Princess Ubon Rattana announced her candidacy for prime minister as a member of one of Thaksin Shinawatra's political parties. 

 

The king said that would not be possible and the party withdrew her candidacy.   

 

 

 

------------------------

 

 

 

Royal Anthem

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLBH0pMMUgg&feature=related

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nAIuQhu27k

 

The royal anthem is played, or sung, before movies, cultural events, sporting events, etc. You are expected to rise and stand respectfully. Some people who have failed to do so have been arrested. If people around you remain seated or wander about you can assume that they are unaware of the regulation.

 

National Anthem

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmFq0_PLft4&feature=related

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dloihhQM_yc&feature=related

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFmBitcsk6w&feature=related

 

The national anthem is not the royal anthem. It is played publicly every morning at 8:00 and every evening at 6:00. When you hear it in a public place, as in all countries, rise and stand fast. If you see others sitting or wandering about you can assume that is because they are unaware of the regulation.

 

 

-------------

 

 

 

About Lèse Majesté

 

The king of Thailand, as head of state, is a constitutional monarch. Like most monarchs today, the king is really a figurehead. He is neither divine nor an absolute ruler.

 

But the last king of Thailand was the most popular person in the country and there were people who, for whatever reason, believed the king was divine, that he was a god and to be worshipped as a god.

 

Indeed, one must consider the king above the political fray and consider it improper to drag the king into any controversy.

 

Many people in Thailand are reluctant to discuss the Thai monarchy in public. If they do, they lower their voices and sneak glances at others nearby. They say as little as possible. They look very odd. They fear misunderstandings and accusations of lèse majesté.

 

Few people have ever heard the term or expression lèse majesté.

 

Even fewer know what it means.

 

What is lèse majesté?

 

To insult (or defame) the monarchy is to commit lèse majesté.  

 

Many lèse majesté cases

 

There are at present more than 400 cases of lèse majesté pending in Thai criminal courts.

 

With 400 lèse majesté cases pending, there are certainly many people in jail on lèse majesté charges who are unable to obtain bail and awaiting trial. In Thailand, the legal system is unbelievably slow and jails are notoriously dangerous places.

 

Since the coup d'etat of May 2014, the junta has arrested many people on the charge of lèse majesté. Cases are tried in closed miilitary courts without the possibility of bail or appeal. 

 

In mid-2015, a Thai was sentenced to 30 years in prison for lèse majesté, the harshest punishment ever given for lèse majesté in Thailand.  

 

At present, one person convicted of lèse majesté.has been in jail for five abd one-hlaf years.  

 

Stories about lèse majesté appear in Thai newspapers often.

 

Several western countries, the United Nations and many human rights organizations have complained that many accusations of lèse majesté in Thailand are politcally motivated and the punishments much too severe.  

 

According to local press reports, the ruling junta claims there are currently 50 Thais in jail on lèse majesté charges. 

 

According to press reports the junta claims there were 50 Thais abroad wanted by Thailand on charges of lèse majesté. The Thai government has requested their extradition to Thaland.

 

France refuses to extradite to Thailand three Thais accused of lèse majesté.

 

Several years ago, a Thai was sentenced to 20 years in prison for lèse majesté. He insisted he was framed. He was denied bail. He died in prison in May 2012.

 

In Bangkok in 2012, a Thai woman residing in New Zealand and awaiting trial in Thailand on lèse majesté charges, was refused admittance to a Thai Airways plane bound for New Zealand. She was free on bail and free to return home but 200 protesters appeared at the airport to complain about her and the pilot refused to allow her on board. She was locked up in a hospital.

 

A Thai was aquitted of the charge of lèse majesté in 2012 after he had been in jail, denied bail, for 14 months, since September 2011.    

 

Over the years, a few unsuspecting foreigners have been arrested in Thailand and charged with lèse majesté for saying something in public to others about a member of the royal family that someone overheard and considered insulting. They were denounced to the police.

 

In one case, a tourist on a Thai Airways plane bound for Thailand was arrested upon arrival and charged with lèse majesté. Someone overheard a conversation about the monarchy and took offense.

 

Three persons charged with lèse majesté have died while in custody in 2015. One died in prison. Two died on an army base where they were detained for interrogation. One of them was reportedly found hanged in a cell. The other reportedly died of blood poisoning.

In the week following the death of King Bhumiphol five persons were charged with lèse majesté. One person was almost lynched in the presence of police.

Hoisted by his own petard

In 2011, two Thai-Americans were charged with lèse majesté and arrested in Thailand.

 

One was charged with posting a translation of a text about the Thai monarchy on the Internet. The text was "not authorised" by the king. Thus, the charge of lèse majesté. He was accused also of providing a link to an article considered critical of the king.

 

For pleading guilty, he was given a reduced jail sentence of two-and-one-half years. 

 

The American Embassy in Bangkok exerted some pressure for his release and he received a royal pardon on 10 July 2012.  

 

That was surprising because the American Embassy in Bangkok has been behind the arrests and imprisonment on false charges of Americans in Thailand who exposed the involvement of embassy personnel in pedophile and prostitution rings and the traffic in women and children and who tried to protect children from them. 

 

In 2000/2001, embassy personnel, through the 

local press, urged that witnesses be charged with lèse majesté. 

 

(The official American community in Thailand has long been notorious for its involvement in the smuggling of humans, drugs, artwork, antiques, pornography, etc. It is also notorious for making false complaints to Thai officials about American tourists and expatriates.)

 

On 24 November 2015, the newly arrived American ambassador to Thailand complained during an address to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok about excessive jail sentences in Thailand for lèse majesté.

 

Three days later, on 27 November, an angry crowd appeared outside the American embassy in Bangkok and demanded the ambassador “Go home!”

 

The Bangkok Post reported that there were rallies against the American ambassador in other cities   -   Chiang Mai, Songkhla, Trang, Trat and Chainat. There were demonstrations in Phuket on 30 

November and in Nonthaburi on 4 December.

 

On 9 December, the press reported that the Thai police were investigating the American ambassador's remarks to determine if he had committed lèse majesté.

 

On the following day the Thai police announced that the American ambassador could not be prosecuted for his remarks because he has diplomatic immunity.

 

The ambassador made his remarks before officially assuming his post. Thus, he can be arrested the moment his tour officially ends.   

 

The ambassador should have left town. Whatever happens now, he can do no right. Many are complained that he is an obnoxious idiot. "Read a book!" They demanded that he go home at once. They demanded also that he be declared persona non grata in Thailand.

 

In the 185-year-long history of American and Thai diplomatic relations, since 1835, no American ambassador has been so much disliked as the present one.

 

It must be noted here that American ambassadors to Thailand over the past twenty years have been very mediocre. Few were serious or prepared for the job. They considered themselves paid tourists. The posting was a lark.  

 

(There was one particularly obnoxious character who flaunted all codes of proper conduct, displayed persistent opposition to public interests, used the ambassadorship for personal financial gain, and eventually drew calls from Thai officials for his recall. All too late, he was hauled before his superiors in Washington. Rather than try to account for his behaviour, he gave up government employment. However, he returned to Thailand on his own and continued to make a nuisance of himself.)

 

Politics

 

Many believe that the excess of lèse majesté charges is "politically motivated". Indeed, Thailand is an extremely corrupt place. (After all, this is Southeast Asia.) Public officials are incredibly ignorant, lazy, corrupt and perverse. Politicians and crooks in government try to use the monarchy for their own ends.

 

Many claimed that the excess of lèse majesté charges was "a symptom of public uncertainty about the future of the monarchy". What was to happen after Rama IX?

 

Many Thais, especially from the north and northeast of the country, believe that Thailand will eventually adopt a presidential system, with a democratically elected president, or a president 

appointed by a democratically elected parliament, as head of state.

 

Many Thais, however, want to retain some facets of the monarchy, like the royal projects initiated by the late Queen Mother that have helped many hill tribes and refugees from Burma and Laos.  

 

The current political crisis involving the Shinawatra family came to a head in 2006 while the king was at the height of his popularity during celebrations of his 60th anniversary on the throne. Thaksin Shinawatra, prime minister since 2001, semed to have overstayed his welcome. The city Chinese and Thai middle class felt increasingly threatened by Thaksin's horde of supporters, mostly poor rural peasants and urban laborers. The former accused the latter of communism and anti-monarchism.

The army staged its coup in 2006 practically in the name of the king. 

Since then, both political sides have sought to outdo one another with accusations of treason and, when that isn't enough, of lese majesté.

Recently, a long-time Thaksin crony was accused of lese majesté. He escaped to Cambodia. His publisher, however, was given a ten-year jail sentence. The publication was a Thaksin paper.  

Misapplication of the law for criminal purposes by corrupt officials

The real sources of this incredible increase in accusations of lèse majesté are the privy council and a corrupt and unchecked judiciary. They gained the most by the 2006 coup d'état (though less by the 2014 coup).

Indeed, a bill was introduced in parliament in 2013 to allow the police to arrest anyone who criticized privy council members on the charge of lèse majesté. Fortunately, the bill was defeated.

 

A privy council member, General Surayud Chulanond, was prime minister after the 2006 coup d'etat, between 2006 and 2008. Gen. Surayud was a squatter. He built a home in a popular national park which was a UNESCO world heritage site. The squatting became a big issue when he was prime minister. He was caught red-handed. He could have been impeached, prosecuted, fined and jailed. He got away with razing his house and leaving the park. Had the proposed law been enacted, those who made an issue of his squatting could have been put away for many years for lèse majesté.

 

Surayud was instrumental in undoing the country's most recent democratic reform   -   the fully elected senate. Until the parliament was abolished in 2014 half of its members were appointees, including many hand-picked by the 2006 coup leader.

 

Some judicial officials like to point out that in their positions in the royal Thai government they represent the king. Such remarks are usually made in warning. They would have you believe that to complain against corrupt and incompetent judges or privy council members is an offense of lèse majesté.

 

In fact, only a remark about a member of the king's immediate family made in public can be construed as insulting and an act of lèse majesté.

 

While he was regent, Prem Tinsulanonda, age 96. 

was protected against criticism. To criticise the regent is to commit lèse majesté.  

 

It must be noted, however, that persons have been prosecuted and sent to jail on lèse majesté charges in cases involving extended family 

relatives who consider themselves royals.  

 

Corrupt judges cover for pedophile rings and traffickers in women and children for prostitution and labor rackets; they obstruct the legal process; they send innocent victims and witnesses to jail.

 

An openly corrupt judge who flaunts his (or her) ties to criminal networks and pedophile and prostitution rings and warns complainants and witnesses that he (or she) represents the king is insulting the monarchy and should be charged with lèse majesté.

 

(Corrupt policemen in Thailand like to tell 

complainants accused by corrupt judges of contempt of court that the judge represents the king.)

 

Despite complaints of judicial misconduct, however, such judges are not taken to task. And some buy postings to juvenile courts. Some buy promotions to the supreme court. Some buy appointments to the privy council.

 

A remark by a government official that in his position he represents the king is usually a warning of things to come. It means "Withdraw your complaint and recant your petition. Apologize most humbly. And go to jail."

 

You can complain against government officials all you want. But pack your bags and keep a gun handy.

 

 

For an example of articles about the matter, see the following:

 

 

International Herald Tribune, October 3, 2011

 

In Thailand, campaign to purge Net of royal insults

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/03/world/asia/03iht-thailand03.html?_r=1&ref=asia

 

 

 

BBC News, November 23, 2011

 

Thailand lese majeste man jailed for 20 years

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-15850068

 

 

 

Reuters, December 8, 2011:

 

US citizen jailed for insuting Thai monarch

 

http://news.yahoo.com/u-citizen-sent-jail-insulting-thai-monarchy-034522703.html

 

 

 

Taiwan News, December 8, 2011 

 

US disappointed at Thai’s judgment, concerning over use of lese-majeste law

 

http://www.taiwannews.com.tw/etn/news_content.php?id=1781513

 

 

 

Bangkok Post (Online), published December 10, 2011

 

UN criticises lese majeste law

 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights tells Thailand to amend lese majeste laws:

  

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/270159/un-criticises-lese-majeste-law

 

 

CNN. July 11, 2012 

 

Thai-American jailed for insulting monarchy receives royal pardon  

 

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/11/world/asia/thailand-american-pardon/index.html

 

 

 

Bangkok Post, July 18, 2012

 

Lese majeste suspect admitted to hospital

 

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/302972/lese-majeste-suspect-admitted-to-hospital

 

 

 

Bangkok Post, October 30, 1912

Surapak acquitted of lese majeste

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/crimes/318925/lese-majeste-defendant-acquitted

 

Bangkok Post, January 24, 2013

Somyot handed 10 years for lese majeste

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/332306/somyot-handed-10-years-for-lese-majeste

 

Bangkok Post, August 7, 2015

Facebook poster jailed record 30-years for lese majeste

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/crime/648284/facebook-poster-jailed-record-30-years-for-lese-majeste

 

Thai law on defaming monarchy has ‘chilling effect’ on free expression – UN rights office

August 19, 2015

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48522

 

Bangkok Post, November 28, 2015

Protesters take aim at US envoy

Davies' lese majeste law remarks draw fire

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/778813/protesters-take-aim-at-us-envoy

 

Bangkok Post, November 30, 2015

Prawit advises US ambassador to 'think before speaking'

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/780725/prawit-advises-us-ambassador-to-think-before-speaking


Bangkok Post, December 1, 2015

US hasn't 'lost' Thailand, says envoy Davies

Protests escalate over Section 112 remark

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/781037/us-hasn-t-lost-thailand-says-envoy-davies


 

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A note on sources:

 

All of the above details about the Thai monarchy are common knowledge and topics of discussion there. They can be read in many "acceptable" (or "approved") published sources   -   newspaper and magazine archives (mostly the local English-language press) and books in bookshops and libraries in Thailand.

 

On rare occasions, an issue of an international magazine will be removed from newsstands because an article in it about the king is considered inaccurate.

 

Some books about the king are considered acceptable. Some are not. A publication considered acceptable today might be considered unacceptable tomorrow.

 

Recently, a well-known incident involving the crown prince   -   cited in countless books, newspapers, magazines and film documentaries over the years   -   was declared never to have happened, with a warning of lèse majesté charges to anyone who recalled the matter. 

 

The most recent “acceptable” publication about the king and the royal family is The Revolutionary King: the true-life sequel to the King and I, by William Stevenson, published in 2001 by Constable and Robinson. The book can be ordered in paperback through Thai bookstores. It has many details. 

 

 

 

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Visiting the ruins in Thailand
 
There are famous ancient Khmer Hindu temples along the Thai-Cambodian border: Sdok Kok Thom, the Ta Meun Thom complex and Pre Vihear (Khao Pra Viharn). Both the Thais and the Cambodians claim the temples and the land they stand on. 
 
Whatever Thais tell you, the temples are Khmer. They were built by Mon-Khmer and Cham people long before the Tais entered the region. The Tais and Vietnamese beat back the vast Khmer empire and for many centuries the Tais occupied a large chunk of Cambodia and administered it as provinces of Siam.
 
The French colonialists, however, redrew the politicial map and the Cambodians got some of their land, with some temples, back.   
 
But the Siamese refused to yield. The Japanese helped the Thais get the land back briefly, in WW2.
 
In 1962, the World Court awarded Pre Vihear to Cambodia. 
 
A few years ago, during the Thaksin government, the
Thais agreed to give up a patch of land around Pre Vihear to the Cambodians. This would allow Cambodia to qualify for a grant from an international organization to help preserve the temple. Thaksin backed the arrangement. A few days before the deal was to become official, however, Sondhi Limthongkul made an issue out of the matter to accuse Thaksin of selling out the country. Thaksin was made to look like a traitor. It was pointed out that Thaksin and Hun Sen had plans to exploit Koh Kong as a resort together. Egged on by Sondhi, the Thais claimed Pre Vihear again.
 
Cambodians responded by posting soldiers to the
temple and shooting between the two countries soon erupted.
 
Then Cambodian and Thai soldiers also shot it out around Ta Meun Thom, which had been quiet for years.
 
Then the Cambodian government recalled that Sdok Kok Thom belonged to Cambodia.
 
Then some Thais went bezerk at Panom Rung, the big ancient Khmer Hindu temple in central Buriram Province, far from Cambodia, damaging several sculptures in the temple. (The objects had been undamaged for a thousand years.) The culprits were never brought to justice.  
 
 

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