Tailor sentenced on lese majeste conviction

2 09 2014

Prachatai reports that Chaleaw J., a tailor, has been found guilty by the Criminal Court of lese majeste.

On Monday the 50-year-old man was convicted “for uploading audio clips onto 4shared.com, a file-sharing website, and sentenced him to three years in jail. Since the defendant pleaded guilty, the sentence was halved and suspended for two years.”

He was convicted under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and Article 14 of the Computer Crimes Act after being held without bail for 84 days, initially detained by the military after the 2014 coup.

Chaleaw claimed he “did not intend to distribute the clips to anyone else and said he was not aware that uploading the clips could be a crime.”

The saved clip that got him in trouble with the royalist authorities “was a podcast programme by red-shirt host named Banphot.”

The military “accused him of being Banphot, but Chaleaw only confessed to uploading the clips and insisted that he was not Banphot. The authorities then interrogated him three times and also interrogated him using a lie detector, while most of the other detainees were interrogated only once.”





A cabinet of sycophants

2 09 2014

Sycophant is defined as: a “servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people.” Another meaning is: “a person who uses flattery to win favour from individuals wielding influence; toady.” And a third and related meaning is: ” a self-seeking, servile flatterer; fawning parasite.” All of these seem like perfectly adequate definitions of the military dictatorship’s recently announced cabinet of yes-men-cum-ministers.

An AP report stated that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has “awarded top posts in his Cabinet to senior military officials, in the latest move that critics say will prolong the military’s grip on power.” We doubt that only critics will notice this. We notice that the anti-democrats are cheering. According to AP, the new cabinet “includes 11 career military men with no political experience, seven of them generals, who will serve as the ministers of justice, education, defense, transport, commerce and foreign affairs, among other posts.”

In fact, though, these general do have political experience. All of them have been heavily involved in politics for their entire careers, serving political masters in the palace. As a result most of them have seen 3-4 military putsches overthrowing elected governments.

Indeed, a longer AP reports states, “Prayuth awarded portfolios to several senior soldiers said to have played key roles in both coups, including his predecessor and mentor, former army chief Gen. Anupong Phaochinda. Anupong will serve as the new interior minister.”

Anit-democrats seem to have wanted more military men in the cabinet, with pretend “academic” Sombat Thamrongthanyawong criticizing the non-military “bureaucrats” in cabinet.

PPT is having difficulty reconciling the numbers in cabinet. The Bangkok Post’s reporting has it that there are 36 members of cabinet. The official announcement lists 32, of whom 12 are military or police.

The Nation commented that the 11 military yes-men are “close and trusted colleagues of Prime Minister General Prayuth…”. It identifies three groups of military men. The first are Prayuth’s former bosses, General Prawit Wongsuwan and General Anupong…”. They take the two most important political positions, defense and interior. For more than a century, these have been the most powerful cabinet positions. Here the sycophant is Prayuth. The second group id composed of trusted buddies. Prayuth reckons his “close friends … deserve rewards and important posts.” These friends were all “Prayuth’s former classmates at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.”

These include General Dapong Ratanasuwan, who was an Abhisit Vejjajiva regime appointment to ISOC, used for their political purposes, which coincided with the military’s desires.

The third group of military men are all trusted by The Dictator, who has also brought in “National Intelligence Agency director Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana as the Prime Minister’s Office minister [which] also indicates that Prayuth is focusing on security affairs, at a time when the junta believes there are still threats to the newly formed government by old power cliques.” To make the point again, The Nation states: “It appears Prayuth wanted him to help with possible threats from the new unelected administration’s political enemies.”

Regime protection is important to Prayuth as he re-designs Thailand for the royalist elite.

The civilians brought in are a mix. There are recycled sycophants from the previous coup and a group of trusted and anti-Thaksin/anti-red shirt bureaucrats. PPT has mentioned military sycophant Wissanu Krea-ngam plenty of times in the past. He’s trusted because he is for hire. His position, status and wealth depends on his support to the palace-military cabal. Minor prince Pridiyathorn Devakula is a failed former finance minister from the failed military-backed government led by privy councilor General Surayud Chulanont.Sommai Pasi is a former deputy finance minister in the Surayud administration.

We were most interested to see Narongchai Akrasanee, described as a “senior economist and former commerce minister” included as energy minister. Quite some time ago, PPT noted that Narongchai was a spectacularly failed businessman, and adviser to various governments, who was then chairman of MFC Asset Management. In passing, we noted that even if you fail in this industry and lose millions of baht in other people’s money it seems you can be reincarnated in both business and politics. For more on this, we are grateful to a reader who sent on material.

Narongchai headed General Finance, which was one of 56 finance companies closed by the Thai government in 1997 because of bad loans and making loans without requiring collateral. In August 1998, the Bank of Thailand filed criminal charges against six executives of General Finance. For some of 1997, Narongchai was the commerce minister. He was brought into the Chavalit government by Amnuay Viravan, and they presided over some of the financial meltdown:

Although Amnuay was close to the prime minister and had known him for about 10 years, relations between the two were getting sour. Amnuay came aboard the Chavalit government on the New Aspiration Party’s quota, along with other non-MP colleagues Dr Narongchai Akrasanee, the commerce minister, and Somphob Amatayakul, the deputy industry minister.

Narongchai was a well-known economist and chairman of General Finance & Securities Public Company Ltd, which was among the first lot of insolvent finance companies to be shut down by the banking authorities. Somphob was a former top executive of IBM Thailand Ltd.

 If readers can add more, we’d be happy to post.





Telling it like it ain’t

1 09 2014

PPT has no idea who author’s the Bangkok Post’s Saturday column “About Politics.” We do know that it is rapidly deteriorating into a mouthpiece for the military dictatorship. The week’s column is a mixture of concocted headlines and false and anti-democratic claims.

The first header is “He’s hiding in the Philippines.” This rather breathless statement of Apiwan Wiriyachai’s flight to the Philippines after the military coup is something already known to Bangkok Post readers seems overly manufactured in that the Post had reported it some four days earlier. In addition, the “story” is about the lese majeste charges that have been known since late June.

All of this non-story appears to be about establishing that there is a pro-Thaksin Shinawatra clique still loose in the deeply royalist Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

A political source said it was unclear when or how Col Apiwan managed to slip out of the country to receive medical treatment in the Philippines.

Those familiar with the matter said in the past some Thai embassy staff in a number of countries have made themselves “accommodating” to politicians who travel overseas. The politicians in question might not have positions in the government anymore, but they still wield immense influence.

Seems like a beat-up to us, especially as the Ministry has been one of the most deeply royalist.

The second story has to do with The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha. The story seems to be that the general, while prime minister, “is expected to continue running the country through the mechanisms of the National Council for Peace and Order,” meaning the military junta.

Who didn’t know this?

Even so, a parade of sycophants have been parading before The Dictator trying to entice him to appoint them to a puppet cabinet.

Yes, we know it is now appointed, and we are behind on posting about it, yet the heads in it seem almost irrelevant as they are dominated by the junta. The Post put its money on Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala becoming finance minister. It was wrong.

Finally, the column refers to UK ambassador to Thailand, Mark Kent, who is said to have “joined the vibrant social media community in Thailand…”.  We wonder which Thailand the columnist is resident in. Not the Thailand of the military dictatorship and its censorship regime, that’s for sure.

 





The royalist elite at work

1 09 2014

PPT collectively controls capital sufficient to barely keep a northeastern farmer’s tractor running. Our knowledge of economics and investing is limited. However, this Bloomberg report seemed to tell a very interesting story. It begins:

Thailand’s millionaires are helping their military leaders revive lending as legal and political certainty spurs the super-rich to buy riskier bank debt.

Part of the reason for the Sino-Thai tycoons and other royalist rich doing this because their support of the anti-democrats not only brought down yet another elected government they hated, but also ran the economy into the ground and frightened the foreign investors they have long relied on.

The report explains that:

Thai banks have offered $1.6 billion in subordinated notes that cushion their balance sheets since the government made it clear three weeks after the May coup that high-net-worth investor purchases are allowed, data compiled by Bloomberg show….

Wealthy investors are taking advantage of higher returns on riskier debt, with TMB’s securities [i.e. the military's old bank] offering 5.5 percent compared with an average 4.3 percent coupon on all Thai financial bonds issued this year.

The Army is still a major shareholder in the bank, although its shareholding has been greatly diminished since the 1997 economic crisis. It is controlled by the broader state and ING Bank. In its 2014 annual report, The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha was a director of TMB.

How keen are the rich to support the military dictatorship (and what they see as their best interests)?

“Banks have to rely on the high-net-worth individual investors” for subordinated sales as institutions must class the notes as junk holdings, Kowit Adireksombat, a senior associate at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Bangkok, said yesterday. “All of the bonds sold so far comply with the requirements to allow them to be sold to” such individuals, he said.

It was only after the coup that this process was permitted:

Thai banks didn’t conduct any large subordinated bond sales to the public from the start of 2013 until June this year, as lenders grappled with a lack of clarity on regulations. The Securities and Exchange Commission issued notices on June 16 confirming high-net-worth individuals and institutional investors were allowed to buy such bonds….

Three days after the clarification, Thanachart Bank Pcl sold 13 billion baht of 10-year subordinated bonds carrying a 6 percent coupon to local investors….

The SEC became “flexible on sales to high-net-worth individuals” of such bonds after the change of government, Ariya Tiranaprakij, executive vice-president at the Thai Bond Market Association, said in an interview from Bangkok Aug. 26.

This is the elite coming together to support the dictatorship it feels it needs to maintain its political and economic control.





Anti-democrat calls for absolute fascism

31 08 2014

It is clear how far Thailand has moved politically with the military coup and the establishment of a military dictatorship when the ultra-royalist, ultra-nationalist and ultra-anti-democrat Veera Somkwamkid is labeled an “anti-corruption activist” in The Nation.  PPT considers this is misleading advertising for the anti-democrats. There’s a lot that is misleading under the military boot.

Veera, who is said to be “secretary of the People’s Network against Corruption,” but who is associated with thugs like the armed extremists of the Network of Students and People for the Reform of Thailand (see the photo where Veera is joined by the fascist “student” leader Nittithon Lamlua and the right-wing Iceman and coup promoter General Boonlert Kaewprasit).Veera

Perhaps because he is a right-wing extremist, the propaganda arm of the monarchy known as the King Prajadhipok Institute had him speak at an anti-democrat-inspired seminar on “Reforming Thailand, Opposing Corruption.”

On cue, Veera praised The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha and “urged [Prayuth] to emulate the Chinese president’s policy of cracking down on corruption seriously and without exceptions, as part of his government’s fight against graft.” Veera barked that “to ensure success in reducing the problem of corruption, Prayuth needed to wield total power in the same way as China’s President Xi Jinping in the Chinese government’s policy against corruption.”

Showing his deep affection for totalitarianism, Veera claimed that China was “more advanced than some democratic countries, particularly Thailand, about sincerity in tackling corruption…”. Veera might have missed the coup, but his call is apparently for Chinese-style executions of those deemed corrupt by the politically-biased kangaroo courts in Thailand.

On China’s campaign, Professor Andrew Wedeman, a political science professor at Georgia State University notes that: “Every anti-corruption campaign is an exercise in public relations. They’re trying to build legitimacy.”That would be the Thai junta’s approach as well. If it has executions, we are betting that political opponents will be the first in line, with the reprehensible Veera shouting his support for absolute fascism.





Updated: Truth on trial, again

31 08 2014

A couple of days ago, it was reported that 36-year-old Surakrit Chaimongkol, a red shirt accused of murdering anti-democrat leader Suthin Tharatin, died in prison.

Suthin led groups of anti-democrats as they campaigned to bring down the elected government, eventually leading to the 22 May 2014 military coup. He was shot during these demonstrations, by unknown gunmen, as the anti-democrats disrupted voting in the 2014 election on 26 January.

Surakrit was arrested soon after the military coup, on 8 July, and has been in prison since then.

Surakrit’s death is reported in Khaosod with the Director of the Corrections Department Wittaya Suriyawong stating that “Surakrit had an asthma attack on 28 August. Although officials rushed him to hospital immediately, Mr. Surakrit died that evening…”.

Surakrit’s mother, Arie Chaimongkol, was immediately suspicious of the “cirucmstances of her son’s death.” She stated: “I don’t believe he died because of medical condition.” She claimed that the last time she saw her son he stated that he had been threatened and beaten.

Surakrit, who has been refused bail, “told her he was coerced by unidentified individuals in prison to confess about his actions and reveal the names of the people who commanded him to commit the alleged murder.”

Her suspicions must have been further heightened when Wittaya said: “Let me stress that he wasn’t harmed by anyone.” His claim was supported by “Sorasith Chongcharoen, director of Bangkok’s Remand Prison, [who] admitted that Mr. Surakrit had no previous history of asthma, but insisted that the suspect died of a medical condition and not because he was mistreated in any way.” He added: “During his time in prison, Mr. Surakrit had no problem with other inmates, and he was never harmed…”.

There are times when the repeated denial sounds more like an admission, especially when the deniers can’t get their stories straight.

The Bangkok Post has recently reported on an official autopsy. It says nothing of asthma. Rather, it says that Surakrit “died of gastrointestinal bleeding while in detention.”

A police forensic doctor also stated that there “were no signs of external injuries…” and that “[g]astrointestinal bleeding could be the result of ulcers or painkillers…”. The doctor said nothing about finding any evidence of these issues, suggesting that he is making it up.

Surakrit’s mother has a right to be very suspicious. She “believes her son may have died from internal injuries suffered in a beating.”

Update: Khaosod has a different take on the autopsy, quoting Salaktham Tojirakarn, a physician and son of a prominent red shirt leader, who said” the initial autopsy revealed a large amount of bleeding in Mr. Surakrit’s digestive system and some ‘bruises’ on his body, but stressed that it is too early to determine a clear cause of death.”





Updated: Prayuth and cronyism

30 08 2014

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, is like all dictators and is falling in love with the sound of his own voice. He’s also surrounding himself with flunkies who will tell him what he wants to hear.

As predictable as this is, The Dictator is reported in the Bangkok Post,  pronouncing on his hand-picked cabinet which is expected to be dominated by military types.

He babbled about the cabinet line-up having “representation from a wide cross-section of groups in society.” Based on the experience of Prayuth’s dictatorship so far, this is nonsense. All appointments to date have been narrow and unrepresentative. But then why would anyone even imagine that a military junta would provide for “representation”? Indeed, it was Prayuth who sent elected representatives packing on 22 May 2014.

That Prayuth says he “is not affiliated with any political parties, stressing that there is no government party nor opposition party” is nothing more than a statement of dictatorship.

He is creepily Orwellian when he declares: “Today we want to move to democracy and we have an interim charter [to reach that goal].” Prayuth

When he states: “So don’t focus on how many soldiers are in the cabinet. We can’t afford to exclude the military from the cabinet since we still have security problems…”, he’s just being silly. We don’t expect him to do anything other than pack his cabinet with his cronies, but the cabinet has little to do with “security problems.”

He is finally truthful when he explains he wants total control: “We [he means himself] don’t want anyone to obstruct our work [he means the junta], but what we need is more support from the people…”. He is warning that he demands obedience. He is truthful when he says: “How can I work if I don’t have those I can trust…”. So he surrounds himself with cronies.

No one should trust Prayuth.

The Dictator speaksUpdate: The puerile “following” of words and actions of The Dictator struck PPT on a visit to The Nation’s breaking news ticker a few hours ago. There seems no news except news about him, as seen in this snip we grabbed. Prayuth’s name dutifully appears in 7 of the 9 headlines, the king in another and Prayuth’s NLA in the last. Yes, it was during his weekly diatribe on national television, but it does seem like the sun revolves around The Dictator, emperor-like.








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