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June 26, 2023




This headline may not have the same impact on you folks as it does me, but you likely have not followed the election process of Thailand for over half a century.  The Bangkok Post headline on June 19 read All MPs-Elect Endorsed, Fraud Probes Continue.  The “fraud probe” bit might be concerning to many but that will be explained a bit later.  By way of background, there was a Thai parliamentary election when we were recently in Bangkok on May 14 in which 40 million Thais voted representing some 80% of the registered and eligible voters.  The shock was a new young political party, the Move Forward Party, came out on top and formed a coalition with the Pheu Thai Party and several smaller non-military parties to constitute a majority of the House of Representative seats.  An election official, shown below, displays a ballot which gives one a sense of the selection process which could be quite daunting. They should offer a bowl of noodles to every voter to keep up their strength as they review the many options available. 

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The Election Commission (EC) endorsed all 400 constituency MPs-elect and 100 party-list MPs-elect and reserved the right to investigate electoral fraud involving any of them within a year as allowed by the election law.  Election Commissioner secretary-general Sawaeng Boonmee said newly elected MPs could report at the parliament from Tuesday to Saturday.  Reporters asked about the EC’s stance on the allegation that Pita Limjaroenrat, leader and prime minister candidate of the election-winning Move Forward Party, should be banned from the election.  An issue was raised that the Constitutional election laws precluded “holding iTV media shares by Pita in his family’s trust.”  The Election Commissioner, shown below, said the inquiry committee of the office of the EC had yet to conclude its investigation in Mr. Pita’s case. 

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Most anywhere else in the world, the iTV share issue would be considered a “red herring.” You can see The Election Commissioner is a member of the Thai military which has ruled Thailand since their coup in 2014.  During this period, the military has had a free hand in most government matters.  One member of the existing Thai military government is First Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon and former Minister of Defense.  He is shown below in the middle of a photo op of the 2018 ASEAN Defense Minister’s Meeting in Singapore. It is the only image of him that I ever seen in civilian clothes.

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The most publicized image of General Prawit is the one shown below which continues to generate considerable controversy as he is wearing a Richard Mille watch costing over $80,000. Somehow the watch was never disclosed in his declaration of wealth required for all public officials.  Observant watch sleuths documented that he had a very extensive collection of expensive watches that had not been disclosed.

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When the independent findings were taken to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), he was cleared by the NACC as he testified that he had borrowed 22 luxury watches from a friend, who had since died.  A news agency finally prevailed in its petition to the Supreme Administrative Court and an order to release the findings was ignored by the NACC.  Accordingly, there is considerable hope that a new independent government will implement regulations that would cause the National Anti-Corruption Commission to live up to its name.  If General Prawit had looked at the eyewear of many famous generals, he would have worn sunglasses and not had to shield his eyes from the sun glare which ultimately forced him to declare that he had a vast luxury watch collection valued at well over $1,000,000. 

There may be more dramatic changes ahead for the military.  By the way, General Prawit’s political party did not fare well in the recent election.  The most immediate result was the scowl on his face when he was asked for his identification badge upon entering the Parliament building.  Maybe generals are not accustomed to the rough and tumble nature of the political world.

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