Money matters

19 08 2018

Readers may recall the changes made to the Crown Property Bureau in June and the somewhat murky associated share transfers at two of Thailand’s biggest firms, Siam Commercial Bank and Siam Cement Group that preceded that. These changes were demanded by the king and approved by the military junta.

Reuters reports that one of the flow-ons of these deals is that:

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn is now the largest shareholder in the country’s biggest industrial conglomerate, Siam Cement Group Pcl, data from the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET), published on its website on Saturday showed.

It shows the king as having a 33.30 percent share, making him the biggest shareholder in the construction and industrial supplies firm. The monarch’s holdings in the company have a value of nearly 180 billion baht ($5.43 billion).

Data for the Siam Commercial Bank has not been updated. There the CPB is till listed as the top shareholder (30%) while the king is listed with 3.3%. Presumably that will change soon.





Election commissioners made “legal” II

19 08 2018

Remember all that kerfuffle over the past week or so about election inspectors? First the National Legislative Assembly was going to change a law to allow the new, then unconfirmed Election Commission members – well, some of them – to select election inspectors. NLA people, initially supported by The Dictator, said this was necessary because the old commissioners had done the selecting and the junta no longer trusted them. They might have made appointments that didn’t suit the junta. Then “pressure” came from somewhere and it was decided not to do anything because changing law might encourage naughty politicians to do the same in years to come, if the junta ever decides to have an election.

At the same time, the new commissioners, not yet officially appointed, were making decisions about who should lead them, seemingly in ways that was unconstitutional.

All very messy and complicated.

But now those 5 of 7 commissioners have been officially appointed, what’s their first job?

Thai PBS reports that the “five new members of the Election Commission officially assumed their duty today [Friday] and the first major task awaiting them is how to deal with the fate of the 616 election inspectors appointed by their predecessors.” It reports that they immediately had a meeting to discuss the 616 inspectors and that it’s expected “the new election commissioners will go through the list and strike out those who they believe are not qualified.”

By “not qualified” we assume that this designates inspectors who can’t be trusted to do the junta’s bidding when an election is held, sometime in the future.

So there was no need to change the law in the NLA because the new, junta-approved Election Commissioners can do the junta’s bidding on this anyway.





Pavin interviews Chomsky

18 08 2018

We are not sure PPT has seen this interview previously, although the date is 2017. However, it was the Southeast Asia Globe that brought it to our attention.

In the video, Pavin Chachavalpongpun interviews Noam Chomsky. He begins with a question on monarchy and democracy.





No nepotism, just a strong odor

18 08 2018

Nepotism has been a recurring issue for the military junta. Most usually, this nepotism has been associated with Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his brother Gen Preecha.

Nothing ever came of non-investigations and the “explanations” were insipid.

Interestingly, Thai PBS has reported that former Army boss and the junta’s Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda has defended his son “after the latter’s name appeared on a list of appointments with the Phuket governor to discuss garbage management deals.”

Gen Anupong declared that his son could not have done anything wrong.

Indeed, Gen Anupong “explained” that “he had asked his son, Yutthapong, about the reported appointment with the Phuket governor and was told that his son had never met the governor.”

Going further, Gen Anupong said “he had checked with the governor who said he had already deleted Yutthapong’s appointment from the list.”

Gen Anupong then announced: “I can guarantee that my family has never get involved in this vested interest.  My son said he had never met the governor, didn’t know him (governor) and was not involved in the business (garbage management)…”.

But there’s a very fishy odor about this because Gen Anupong’s own words make it clear that his son’s name was on an appointment list to meet the governor to discuss a business deal. His  name was only deleted when the issue became public.

Seeking to silence critics, the disingenuous Gen Anupong “said he would sue anyone who defamed his reputation.” But getting rid of that odor might be more difficult.





Election commissioners made “legal” I

17 08 2018

The Nation reports that five men in yellow ties have been appointed as Election Commissioners by the king.

Their official appointment was thus completed on 15 August when reported in the Royal Gazette. The report confirms this, stating: “With the royal endorsement, the five newly appointed commissioners can now start performing their duty officially.”

The problem is that they already began work by meeting and selecting Ittiporn Boonprakong as new EC president.

But as everyone knows, law doesn’t bother the great and good in Thailand. Or the military junta.





Reporting truth on AMLO and the rigged election

17 08 2018

The Nation has some interesting comments on the events at AMLO.

Policeman Romsit Viriyasan “was abruptly removed from his top post at the Anti-Money Laundering Organisation (AMLO) largely because he failed to expedite a number of long-delayed politically sensitive cases, especially since the general election is looming…”.

The Dictator issued the transfer order under the power of Article 44, which allows him to do pretty much anything he wants.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha used his unbridled power and then said, unbelievably, that “… Romsit had done nothing wrong…”. He’d been in the AMLO job since 29 June 2018.

Prayuth added that AMLO’s boss had been changed “to make the agency more efficient.” This “abrupt removal followed the August 14 meeting of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] chaired by Prayut and attended by deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan, who had reportedly said there was a top-level discussion on AMLO’s leadership change.”

The Nation observes that the removal was “rather unusual.” That’s too bland. This action by The Dictator is “rather usual” in the sense that almost everything the junta does now is highly politicized in the sense that it is meant to consolidate its position going forward.

As The Nation explains, for the junta, “the top AMLO post is crucial, especially in view of the looming general election due some time next year. Hence, the AMLO secretary-general has to be someone who can take immediate action to speed up pending cases that are politically sensitive.” That is, the junta needs to finish off some important political opponents before an rigged election can be held and it can win it.

Apparently, “Romsit had not expedited several pending [political] cases, citing legal and other constraints, which prompted the premier to have him moved to an inactive post in the PM’s Office.”

One case in particular is that against Panthongtae Shinawatra, son of former premier Thaksin, which the junta claims involved “wrongdoing in the state-owned Krung Thai Bank loan fraud case.” But, in addition, the junta wants AMLO to “play a powerful oversight role in the upcoming general election regarding the flow of funds that are used by politicians during the elections.” In other words, AMLO has to be a part of the election rigging, and The Dictator didn’t trust Romsit to do the job he’d be given by the junta.

hHe Nation concludes: “So, there will soon be a replacement as the Prayut government gets ready to hold general elections next year.” Yep, that’s the rigged election (which will only be held when the junta is sure its lot can triumph.





How does that happen?

16 08 2018

With the military junta in its fifth year of rule, at times it does seem to lose even its own plot. Below are three news items that PPT struggles to comprehend.

First, in a financial scandal that looks something between a white-collar crime and a Ponzi scheme with new means, the Bangkok Post reports that a big investor on the Stock Exchange of Thailand and staff from at least three commercial banks “are suspected of being complicit in a 797 million baht (US$24 million) scandal involving a foreign investor and the cryptocurrency bitcoin…”. The banks are the big three: Bangkok Bank, Siam Commercial Bank and Kasikorn Bank. Police say that “several of the banks’ employees failed to report money transfers of 2 million baht or higher, a serious violation of bank rules.” Those rules come under the Anti-Money Laundering Office.

It was just a couple of days ago that The Dictator sacked the head of AMLO. That head had only been in the job for about a month. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha used his unbridled Article 44 powers to send the AMLO boss packing. What’s going on there?

(Call us suspicious, but we do recall the big wigs being involved in the Mae Chamoy chit fund that was exposed in the 1980s. The Wikipedia entry states:

The fund had a large number of politically powerful investors from the military and even the Royal Household and as such there were calls for the government to bail out the banks and the chit funds. After discussions with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the nature of which were not made public, the Mae Chamoy Fund was shut down and Chamoy Thipyaso was arrested. She was held in secret by the air force for several days and her trial was not held until after the losses for the military and royal personnel involved had been recovered.)

Second, the Nikkei Asian Review reports that the junta is dumping its Special Economic Zone projects. It observes:

Since taking power in 2014, the military-led government had floated SEZ projects with the idea of building industrial complexes in the poor, remote areas along the country’s border. The plans backfired by fueling property speculation and sending land prices substantially higher, driving up the costs of building the SEZs.

How does that happen? Perhaps it has to do with the third story, with the junta stating it now wants to concentrate on infrastructure rather than SEZs.

Third, the Bangkok Post reports that “Transport Ministry officials have confirmed that auctions for the construction contracts for all sections of the first phase of the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway project will commence by the end of the year, despite unsettled negotiations between both countries.” How does that work?

One way it works is by dividing up the work into “14 separate contracts, which will use design and construction blueprints from China.” Quite a few are going to be in the money!