Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Nation: The Junta, Immunity and the Election

According to The Nation:

The Council for National Security Friday sent an urgent letter to the Election Commission, telling it to halt an investigation against body on ground that its actions have legal immunity granted by the interim charter.

The EC is investigating whether the CNS has issued a secret order considered by the People Power Party as attempts to prevent it from winning the election.

EC commissioner Sodsri Sattayatham said the CNS reasoned in its urgent letter that the CNS had immunity under the interim charter so its actions could not be taken any legal action against.

Now, read this and this from Bangkok Pundit. And the Thai documents here.

Now, put it together with what coup apologist Thepchai Yong wrote yesterday:

We may quickly summarise the purpose of the[military and police] polls this way:

First, they show that the PPP is a force that is invisible. Second, they show that the State will have to do more if it is to prevent the old power clique - in the form of PPP - from returning to power.

It is going to be the State vs Money in the December 23 election. The State has a vested interest in preventing Thaksin's cronies from returning to power. After all, the military coup was staged last year with the single purpose of ousting Thaksin from power. The military will not cling to power but has promised - and is now fulfilling the pledge - to push the country back to democracy. And the top brass has enjoyed a big reward, as witnessed by a significant rise in the fiscal budget allocated to military spending. Thailand's neighbours should not feel nervous about Thailand's move to increase its military budget. There was a recent news report showing the military will use its hardware for peaceful missions rather than war. A junior military officer flew his helicopter to pick mushrooms for his mother. Tanks will either sit and rust, or be diverted for road construction tasks.

Still, at this point, the military can't afford to allow the PPP to gain power. Such a victory for the old enemy would make a mockery of the coup. So the generals will be sending their people to villages in the PPP power-bases to try to influence the outcome of the election.

They should already have set a goal in their minds about the targets for the election - to make sure PPP is confined to the opposition bloc. This honourable mission will also ensure that the Democrats win a high enough percentage of the vote to form a coalition government with other parties and leave the PPP out in the cold. The Puea Pandin Party is likely to benefit most from this State-backed mission to keep seats from the PPP in the Northeast.

But the State-backed effort to uproot the PPP will face strong resistance in the form of big spending by the famous man in exile in London. Every politician would love to get a piece of the London pie. Some might even get help from State election funds at the same time as they are stuffing money from the "Londoner" into their back pockets. In Thai politics, you never know the true story unless you follow the money trail.

Given this State backing, the Democrats should be able to form the next government. But the honeymoon period will be short-lived. Party politics will be intense. There is the prospect that PPP supporters may rock the boat by resorting to street demonstrations against any new coalition formed by the Democrats.

And with what Chang Noi wrote Monday:

First, to win the "war for the people", the Army must be an exemplary institution which is worthy of the respect and support of the people.

Certainly in recent months the media have carried few or no stories about soldiers engaged in protection rackets, drug dealing, or other misdemeanours. Army radio is currently broadcasting a line which goes like this: the Thai Army is unique amongst the militaries of the world in that it works for the people and is responsible in large part for the country's successful development; this fact has gained acknowledgement all over the world.

Second, the Army must gain the support of other official agencies as allies in this war for the people. Under the conditions created by the coup, Army men have had the opportunity to insert themselves into the workings of government at all levels. The Army must use this position to persuade officials to embrace the view of the current situation outlined above, and to accept the implications for action.

Third, ministries and other bureaucratic agencies must draw up long-terms plans and insist upon following these plans in their day-to-day operations so that politicians who are put in charge of these agencies will not be able to implement the policies they promise to the electorate.

Fourth, as a first stage of regaining popular support, the Army must concentrate on merchants, businessmen, and the middle classes. Programmes with this target have already been launched.

Fifth, the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) units at the regional and the provincial level must play the key role in mobilising people at the grass roots to support the Army. These Isoc units can use the kamnan, village headmen, and other official bodies at the local level as their tools to win the "war for the people". The recent changes, which have converted the kamnan and village headmen back from elective to bureaucratic positions, are consistent with this strategy.

Ideally the provincial Isoc units should take control of issues like drugs, illegal migration, terrorism, poverty eradication, drought and flood relief so that these policies are more efficient and help win popular support. To ensure success, Army officers need to be better educated and more politically aware so that they are more effective leaders. Demobbed soldiers should be organised to supplement the serving troops, given that the military budget is still insufficient.

Sixth, if these plans are made known to the public, there is a risk that the Army will be accused of digging up the past and reviving dictatorship. Hence, these plans must be implemented using a softly-softly approach, and winning the support of strategic allies at every point.

And now, read the junta's spin in The Nation today:

CNS calls for second opinion

The Council for National Security yesterday petitioned the Election Commission seeking a review after its fact-finding committee concluded that the junta had acted with bias ahead of next month's general election.

Just trust us, they say:

Surayud said he would wait for the EC to rule on the matter before deciding his next move.

He said he had not discussed the issue with Deputy Prime Minister Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who was the chief of the junta that deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra last September.

The government and the armed forces, particularly the Special Warfare Command, which is considered close to Sonthi, remained firm on their neutral stand although some civilians or soldiers might have strayed to get involved in politics, Surayud said, adding that he was trying to ensure the integrity of the electoral process.

"I think Army chief General Anupong Paochinda made it sufficiently clear in his recent interview about keeping the military out of politics," he said.

Sonthi said he would not worry if he lost his job as chairman of the government-appointed committee in charge of fighting money politics. Many see his committee as a vehicle to counter the PPP.

"I will leave it to the prime minister to decide my fate," he said.

He said he knew in his heart that he was neutral but his responsibility for security affairs might require of him what anyone in his position would do.

Basically, the junta wants carte blanche to do whatever it wants under the guise of sovereign immunity and amnesty, and they think they can get away with meddling in the election if they issue enough non-denial denials and sink their conspiracy in the bowls of the bureaucracy.

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