Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Truethaksin Watch part one: AEC : Part of the Perfect Pla

This is my first analysis of the truethaksin website.

Let me state immediately, this is not a pro junta or "defence of the coup" exercise. Too many people seem to think that we need a clear 'good' and a 'bad' in these situations. This is not how realpolitik works. There is rarely black and white in politics, only shades of grey. The coup was a disgraceful attack on democracy. None of that changes the fact that Thaksin was a deceiver, an opponent of press freedom and heavily, heavily alleged to be corrupt and greedy.

My analysis uses several sources including academic works, web sites, my own interviews and research and more. I can cite these if sensibly requested.

There will not be any order of analysis. I simply examine the articles I find to be interesting.

With this said, allow us to proceed with the article:

AEC : Part of the Perfect Plan (found here)

The Thaksin version:

We see the plan of the Junta clearer months after the coup, though many actions of the junta could be well predicted in advance.

One of the reason for coup d'etat, cited by the Junta under the politically correct name; the "Democratic Reform Council, was the vast corruptions by Dr. Thaksin' government. No doubt, the junta had to appoint the "Asset Examination Committee" to investigate and scrutinize the alleged wrongdoing of Dr. Thaksin's government, even though there are at least 2 other independent government offices already in charge with full power and authority.

My version:
Immediately we see the poor English. This is not nitpicking, a man of Thaksin's wealth and contacts, looking to mount a web site designed to garner international sympathisers should surely have the means to employ someone more diligent in their grammar usage. These mistakes are frequented heavily throughout the site, I will not constantly refer to them unless it is relevant to the point at hand.

The "two other bodies" quoted is likely to imply the NCCC and possibly AMLO or the Office Auditor General (OAG). If the latter was intended, we could note that auditor general Kun Ying Jaruvan Maintaka is already a member of the AEC, so we could accept that the OAG are part of investigations already.

But allow us to consider the other two cases:

The NCCC are well known to Thaksin. They instigated his legendary 2001 assets concealment trial at the Constitutional Court before he took office. It seems Thaksin has a newfound respect for the office, since back then his attitude seemed different when he stated " It seems strange that the leader elected by eleven million people had to bow to the ruling of the NCCC and the verdict of the court....."

It didn't stop there. Thaksin's attitude to the NCCC changed little during his term. The NCCC seemed impartial until 2003. Then, under Thaksin's tenure, the NCCC drafted a friend of Thaksin's from police school, and another individual who was his police cadet school mentor. Other associates of Thaksin were drafted in and no investigations of his government took place thereafter. Back here in 2007, the NCCC also have a backlog of ten thousand cases, they say. So perhaps they felt too overworked to take on the new cases.

As for AMLO, they have never been heavily involved in political cases and lack the experience to do so. They were surprisingly involved in an investigation of 'The Nation' newspaper at around the time Thaksin began to appear hostile to critical media. After a takeover of iTV in which twenty outspoken journalists were surreptitiously fired, The Nation stood as one of the few criticisers of the TRT regime. In 2002, it transpired AMLO had been instructed to investigate The Nation Group and were underway. Who gave the order was never disclosed but when the case came to light, all charges and investigations were dropped. It seemed bizarre that a group set up to investigate organised crime and drug trafficking revenue (not political corruption per se) was directing its resources in such a manner.

So if Mr. Thaksin wants to suggest that independent groups designed to investigate corruption already existed, perhaps he could address the issue of why such groups seemed compromised, slow, inefficient and unproductive under his government. Perhaps we could turn the tables by suggesting the AEC have been fast, efficient, more productive and far more impartial than existing groups. Indeed, secretary Kaesawan suggested his group would work quicker than the NCCC and he has been proved right.

Finally, perhaps Mr. Thaksin can take heart from the fact that the NCCC is scheduled to take over any cases that outlast the AEC's term. With the remarkable run of bad health in the Thaksin family that has caused huge delays, this seems a real possibility.

The Thaksin version:
The Democratic Reform Council issued Order No.23 on September 24, 2006 appointing the Asset Examination Committee, simply to find out within days that it can not exercise full control over this body.

Why? The answer is the wrong composition of member. The initial set of members of the AEC are senior officers, being the head of various government offices (Please See Democratic Reform Order No.23). Take the governor of Bank of Thailand or the Attorney General as examples. Both organization, i.e. the Bank of Thailand and the office of the Attorney General has its own sets of laws, regulation and practice. It is easy for the junta to influence individual not the organization since there could be too many neutral officers within such organization!

Within few days, the composition of the AEC has been changed. It needed to be change to ensure that the junta can influence and direct the AEC to fit its grander plan.

On September 30, 2006, the junta issued the Democratic Reform Council Order No.30 replacing the entire member of the AEC with group of individuals, all of them are publicly known as "Dr. Thaksin's enemy". Each of these individual, though some may be seconded from the Court of Justice, is and will be easier to influenced as they are not attach to any per permanent or formal institution. Just a group of hater get together for personal vendetta and agendas.

My version:
This paragraph took a couple of reads from me to try and understand its full message. The suggestion that the initial AEC was neutral and the later selection biased is ironically biased in itself. The initial AEC (actually called the APC at the time, perhaps the double meaning was deliberate?) included personnel from departments that would be directly involved with investigations. The conflicts of interest were obvious.

Lest anyone suggest I am devoid of sympathy, the new draft of the AEC did indeed include some Thaksin critics. Kaesawan was author of "Stop the Thaksin Regime" , a Thai language book which I am informed contained sensible well made arguments against Thaksin's management style. Jaruvan and Klamrong attended PAD rallies and Banjerd Singkaneti made a most infelicitous "Thaksin and Hitler" comparison.

Klanarong Chanthrik has been labelled as an "enemy of Thaksin" by Thaksin himself. In fact his only crime was to do his job by prosecuting Thaksin in the assets concealment case. An act for which he was later punished by rejection from the NCCC under Thaksin.

The four critics are just one third of the panel. This is a bigger proportion than members of the senate, the ECC , he NCCC and various other organisations that (allegedly were unbiased in TRT and Thaksin dealings during his stint.

(See my footnote for more on the perceived bias issue.)

The public "Dr Thaksin's enemy" charge is ludicrous. Jaruvan was famous - almost trendy - for being unbiased. Nam Yimyean likewise. Sawat (outgoing member) was known as an impartial and fair judge. To label all of these "publicly known as Dr Thaksin's enemy" is nothing short of hysterical, as is its proceeding clause.

The Thaksin version:
The investigation, threat, defamation and many other wrongful things had begun since that very day; September 30, 2006. However, up until now the AEC did not fine a single evidence to confirm the corruption by Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra or that Dr. Thaksin has any personal gain out of those 11 cases accused by the AEC. Never mind, though the investigation of those cases have not been finalized. Let's freeze the assets first, then let them fight for justice and prove that they are innocent!

My version:
The evidence has been found, it has not been publicly revealed because it would prejudice the case. Thaksin knows this and is using the AEC's professionalism as a weapon against them. When one case of UK authorities leaking details of possible account concealment by Thaksin was reported in the mainstream press, AEC secretary Kaeswawan was furious that the media were informed.

To use a crude analogy: imagine a police officer sees a drug dealer trying to throw away his drugs, would the officer be wrong to seize the drugs? The AEC had grounds to believe the cash stocks could be transferred away pending the announcement of charges, and ordered a freeze, no a seizure. It could be argued that Thaksin would have already transferred the money out but this is a straw man in the legal argument.

The Thaksin version:
The civilian back-up of the junta also aware that back in 1993, the Supreme Court has rendered decisions that the seizure of assets by the AEC appointed by the junta of 1991 was unconstitutional and ordered the release of all assets.

My version:
And Thaksin is well aware that the 1993 AEC did an excellent job, uncovering gift cheques and other assets worth approximately 1.9 billion. The High Court ordered that the AEC had no right to act as a court. At no time were the politicians found innocent and at no time was their highly unusual wealth explained.

Two politicians who were absolved of charges before the court case. One of these went on to head the junta's new Samakk hitham political party before he was found to be suspected of narcotics trafficking in America.

So Thaksin's reference to the 1993 case is another irrelevant straw man. The new AEC is protected under new laws.

(Notice the tone of this entire page is geared less towards proclamation of innocence, but more towards the subliminal suggestion that nobody has the right to catch a thief! See my second footnote.)

The Thaksin version:
The draft new constitution therefore need to ensure that history will not repeat itself. Section 208 and 300 of the draft Constitution, drafted by committee appointed by the Junta, (file draft by for the first time in the history of Thailand states that the Constitutional Tribunal appointed by the junta shall remain as the Constitutional Court for another period of 9 years. Further, all Supreme Court judge who supposed to be retired in October get extension of terms for another 10 years simply to ensure that the younger generation of Supreme Judges cannot overrule the political motivated decisions!

My version:
Perhaps such as the politically motivated decision to acquit Thaksin of assets concealment? After all, four of the judges were removed from court following an NCCC complaint some years later.

In fact, judges have appeared to be some of the last few who can still provide some semblance of impartiality throughout the massive political upheaval. The Constituional Court verdicts on the party dissolution case were comprhensively and logically explained.

The Thaksin version:
Good bye to democracy and Rules of laws in Thailand!

My version:
It's true. Democracy and rule of law are under threat. But this threat was not solely caused by the coup. It was caused throughout a culture of free press repression, corruption, and political deceit. Thaksin was as guilty of this as any PN. Two wrongs do not make a right, and if Thaksin is found guilty in court. He must pay his debit to society.

Footnote one:

As this is my first article analysis, I want to share a collection of quotes I compiled from Mr. Thaksin, that I used on my own personal blog. I believe it demonstrates his entire mindset of being above the law or better than the law, rather than being held accountable for his actions:

A few select quotes are:

On taking office:

"I will serve twenty full terms and then retire out of sympathy to the opposition. There will be no crime, no Mafia and no social ills"

In response to academic criticism:
"I have full knowledge of democratic values, those who know less should refrain from talking"
" Some teachers cannot teach and just criticize to look cool. They will have to go".

On concerns about compramisation of independent checking bodies:

"The woman who cautions me is my wife. People needn't worry, my wife keeps me in check"

(Two points of note here: Firstly, Thaksin didn't mention that since he took office, his wife had become the richest woman in Thailand and was heavily implicated in tax evasion allegations. Secondly, this quote was made not longer after HM The King had made a speech in which he mentioned how his mother used to keep his feet on the ground. I wonder if Thaksin simply liked the sound of HM The King's speech).

Talking to the rural masses about the protests in Bangkok:
"These people think they are smarter than you, you must tell them loudly how you feel"

After losing two by - elections:
[to the voters in those two provinces] "
Let me be very clear, we will take care of our own first, we will give priority to those provinces who voted for us"

(NB Thaksin seemed unconcerned that he was publicly declaring a breech of constitutional rule by showing favour to provinces that voted for him)

Now watch for a trend from here on............

After protests against the government decision to privatise public businesses without referendum and sell them to politician shareholders:

"Some people don't understand what we are doing because they don't have enough knowledge"

During protests against Thaksin using public funds to buy Liverpool Football Club:
Some people simply don't understand. They aren't ready for my vision yet"
"Some people might be upset because they don't have access to all the information"

After the Constitutional Court rejected Thaksin's bid to privatise the Electric Authority:
"Some people are confused and don't understand, that's OK"
"Some people might not be aware of all the facts"

After massive Bangkok protests in response to Thaksin selling his main business and avoiding paying tax:
"There are technical issues that most people don't understand so they are confused"

Footnote two:

Some months ago I debated the AEC bias issue with the prolific Bangkok Pundit. He made the suggestion of apprehended bias. While it was a good point, I still took issue on two accounts. Firstly, the issue of apprehended bias is itself ambiguous and unclear. We could all find a point of producible apprehended bias in most cases. Secondly, the AEC - at least up until the assets freeze - had worked flawlessly. Even their critics (i.e. Thaksin supporters) struggled to find a point of contention.

(I enjoy feedback of any type that is relevant and informed. Snipes and petty "I know it all" comments that come from people with nothing to offer are not helpful and reflect on the comment poster.)

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