Apirat’s responsibility and a call for resignation

29 03 2020

A few days ago we posted on reports that the Army’s Lumpinee Boxing Stadium remained operating two days [closer to three] after it was told to shut down.

As a Bangkok Post editorial puts it, the Army  “arrogantly chose to ignore a prime ministerial order dated March 3 that asked all parties to avoid organising sporting events as they could exacerbate the spread of Covid-19.”

It is now known that scores of people attending were infected and have now spread the virus throughout the country. Some may die.

In our earlier post we noted that propaganda photos of Army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong swabbing streets count for nothing when his commanders act in dangerous ways. After a couple of weeks and the regime having tried to silence the first whistleblower, Apirat belatedly ordered an “investigation.”

The Post editorial pointedly observes that there “are still no apologies from the army or army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong.”

Rotten to the core

It gets worse, showing how the regime’s reliance on the military makes it rotten to the core:

A group of big-wigs, including Senator Surasak Kanchanarat and Deputy Communication Minister Thaworn Senniam who defied the government’s self-isolation order, made an appearance at the stadium that night….

Worse still, it is said the stadium’s military management knew what they were doing, claiming there was no need to cancel the event. Arrogance and impunity mark out much that the military does.

The editorial has its sting in the tail, setting out that “Gen Apirat on March 27 moved the chief of army’s welfare department to an inactive post, pending a probe.” That’s three weeks after the event. “But” as the editorial continues, “the investigation against Maj Gen Rachit is not enough.”

It politely demands that: “At least, the army chief should offer his apologies for such a debacle, caused by his subordinates’ negligence.” It then adds:

With the country still making little progress in the fight against the virus, Gen Apirat, who is top of the army’s hierarchy, should consider showing more responsibility by tendering his resignation.

We can assume will be furious. We await his response.

Updated: Taxpayers slugged for royal whims

28 03 2020

Long in trouble, bleeding money and with a President who has recently resigned, the coronavirus is a disaster for the struggling Thai Airways.

How to make it worse? Force the airline to keep flying to suit the king’s whims and fancies.

Thai Airways has announced that, from 1 April, it will cease flying to almost all of its European destinations. Compare the destination list and the cancellations and it is seen that flights will continue to Munich and Zurich.

The only reason for these flights continuing flights to Munich is because King Vajiralongkorn is living in Germany, currently ensconced in a luxury hotel where he rents every room.

Why Zurich? Andrew McGregor Marshall has previously reported that Queen Suthida prefers to hang out in luxury resorts in the mountains of Switzerland. The king has been reported holidaying and cycling in Switzerland too.

Marshall has also reported that the king plans to return to Bangkok early in April for a few days.

In other words, in a country where the regime has few funds are available for the poor – and they are hardest hit by the virus crisis – the Thai taxpayer is forking out extra millions for the country’s richest person to do as he pleases.

Update: The slug for taxpayers came faster than we imagined. In a report we missed at the time we wrote the above post, Khaosod has reported that the regime “will inject a new round of cash bailout for Thai Airways, whose operations have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.” Of course, some of that bailout will fund the king’s and queen’s travels. The exact amount to be paid remains unknown as “the state enterprise board is discussing with the airline and transport ministry on the details of the financial assistance.” The report notes that “[a]ccording to … February data, Thai Airways has an accumulative loss of 12 billion baht.”

Royalism trumps virus

27 03 2020

When it comes to the virus, the regime remains muddled and dopey. When it comes to pleasing the king, the regime is conducting business as usual.

Khaosod reports that the absent and silent king has “approved a name change for two military bases, ditching the names of two revolutionaries behind the 1932 democratic revolt.”

The “Phahol Pholphayuhasena Artillery Center and Fort Pibulsongkram in Lopburi province are hereby known as Fort Bhumibol and Fort Sirkit, respectively, after the names of King’s Vajiralongkorn’s parents.”

By his repeated actions, it is obvious that the king feels the need to roll back 1932. At the same time, he feels the need to build his legitimacy by drawing on the status of his dead father and ill mother.

The change was made “retroactively effective from December 2019.”

The king’s travels and troubles II

26 03 2020

Andrew MacGregor Marshall continues to post some fabulous reports at his Facebook page regarding the travails of King Vajiralongkorn in times of the corona (crown) virus.

Before we get to that, we should note several unflattering international reports on the king’s recent exploits.

Daily Mail, 23 Mar 2020: ‘Why do we need a king?’

South China Morning Post, 22 Mar 2020: Coronavirus: Thai king remains in Germany during pandemic

Royal Central, 24 Mar 2020: King of Thailand rents entire hotel in Germany for his harem

The Times, 24 Mar 2020: Thais protest as king takes holiday amid coronavirus crisis

An Australian news site that usually follows royals has the essence of the story. It notes that “one king has gone to great lengths to maintain his luxurious lifestyle in the wake of the virus.” It says that Vajiralongkorn “has rented out every single room of a hotel in Germany so he can self-isolate with his harem of 20 women and his servants.”

While German hotels have been mostly closed, “the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl applied for, and received a special permit to house the king and his company.” No, not Grand Hotel Sonofabitch but Sonnenbichl. The luxury hotel’s website currently states: “Due to high demand, we apologize for our current limited room availability. Please feel free to contact our Reception team for questions and individual requests.”

The report continues:

The 67-year-old Thai King, a regular in Germany already, often residing in his $12 million mansion at Lake Starnberg, has been spotted enjoying the facilities of the luxury hotel, riding his bike outside with several of the women in his harem.

It is unclear why the expensive residence in Tutzing is not “appropriate” at this time for the multi-billionaire king. Or why he needs a special location when the official advice states: “According to guidelines local authorities will be required Hotels to provide stays only if strictly necessary and not for touristic purposes.”

How much of his copious state funds pay for all of this?

While things might change, especially if there’s negative reaction, back at Marshall’s Facebook page, he has a post stating that:

King Vajiralongkorn is due to arrive in Thailand early on April 6 to preside over Chakri Day rituals, and will leave after the start of Songkran on April 15, high-level sources say.

He will be flying Thai Airways, which has few European destinations remaining on its schedule apart from Munich and Zurich which have been used by the king and queen in the past.

We wonder how he can return to Germany after that. Has he got dispensation just like the hotel deal? Has he got German residence? Does being in his expensive digs count as isolation time when he gets to Thailand? We are sure readers have even more questions.

Updated: Military sadism

25 03 2020

PPT has long posted criticized Thailand’s murderous military. One of these criticisms is the impunity the military enjoys that allows it to act illegally and with great savagery.

On impunity and the belief that the Royal Thai Army can ignore the law and public safety, see a recent report at Khaosod. (These days, the “Royal” bit is important as it is the Army’s constant pandering to the monarchy that it believes provides it with its legitimacy.)

In that report, it is stated that the Army’s “Lumpinee Boxing Stadium … declined to explain why it proceeded with the match on March 6, two days after the venue was told to shut down.”

It is added: “Of about 800 people infected with the coronavirus so far, the Ministry of Public Health traced at least 132 to the fateful boxing match at the stadium on March 6.”

So propaganda photos of Army commander Apirat Kongsompong swabbing streets count for nothing when his commanders act in dangerous ways.

Then there’s the disturbing new report by Amnesty International that “exposes how the Thai military routinely subject[s] new conscripts to a barrage of beating, humiliation and sexual abuse that often amounts to torture.” The sexual abuse includes rape.

The report is difficult to read for the horrid acts it details.

Clare Algar, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research, Advocacy & Policy states:

Abuses of new conscripts in the Thai military have long been an open secret. What our research shows is that such maltreatment is not the exception but the rule, and deliberately hushed within the military….

It is added: “The full chain of command bears responsibility for this culture of violence and degradation.”

Conscripts are repeatedly abused:

Not a single day passed by without punishment…. Every time the trainers have an excuse to punish you: you’re not chanting loud enough, you’re too slow in the shower, you failed to follow orders strictly, you smoked.

Sexual abuse is rampant:

Eight conscripts, trained in four different cycles in camps located in eight different provinces, told Amnesty International that they and dozens of fellow conscripts were collectively forced by commanders to masturbate and ejaculate in public.

In response, the military has engaged in its usual arrogant responses, lying to Amnesty International. Deputy Chief of Staff Air Chief Marshal Chalermchai Sri-saiyud “stated that the military follow a policy of ‘treating new conscripts as family members and friends’.”

This pathetic response is what we have come to expect of Thailand’s officer corps.

We doubt that reform of the military is possible until it is placed under civilian oversight, with that oversight by elected civilians, and it is detached from the corrupt monarch. In addition, investigations of serving and retired military responsible for murders, coups and torture must face real and independent courts.

Update: Belatedly, General Apirat has ordered “an investigation into the alleged involvement of senior army officers in organizing the “Lumpini Champion Kiatpetch” Thai boxing event at the Lumpini boxing stadium…”.

We are not at all sure why “alleged.” It is sure that the event was held and that dozens were later found infected.

But the report continues with the nonsensical kowtowing to the military’s impunity, saying Apirat:

ordered General Ayuth Sriviset, head of the Army Personnel Department, to form a committee to investigate the boxing event and the any involvement by army officers.

Seriously? The joint is owned by the Army. This is the usual buffalo manure. Impunity reigns supreme.

Emergency decree, “election” anniversary

24 03 2020

The regime has now enacted “an emergency decree, along with a raft of new restrictive measures, will come into effect on Thursday” to deal with the coronavirus.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “said the enactment of the 2005 Royal Decree of Emergency Situations” which gives the him “the sole authority in implementing policies designed to combat the pandemic through the Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation…”.

Long-time readers will recall the use of this Centre being used against red shirts and the use of emergency decrees in the recent past by the junta.

The “decree empowers authorities to impose curfews, ban travels, and close down buildings without warrants…. Security officers will also have the power to censor and shut down media if deemed necessary.”

Sound familiar?

Interestingly, today is the first anniversary of the rigged election. The Bangkok Post remembered and made some salient points, referring to a “dysfunctional democracy.” It isn’t a democracy, but whatever it is, it is dysfunctional. The editorial is right to observe that the “return to democracy” has “yet to materialise.”

It adds that the “credibility and legitimacy of key independent public organisations” has to be re-established “along with rewriting the charter and election laws.” It notes that the puppet Election Commission’s “handling of the polls largely tainted the legitimacy of the process…”.

In addition, “many … question the impartiality of both the EC and the Constitutional Court.”

Then there’s the puppet National Anti-Corruption Corruption “whose dismissal of cases against certain members of the military regime has made it a laughing stock…”.

We’ve been making similar points for years and up until today.

Updated: The king’s travels and troubles I

24 03 2020

With the king getting plenty of stick on social media, we looked around to see where he was. He’s now in Germany.

Everyone knows that King Vajiralongkorn prefers to spend most of his time in Germany. It seems that even with the startling rise in Germany’s coronavirus numbers, the king would rather be there.

PPT doesn’t track the king’s movements, but some do. Andrew MacGregor Marshall does a really fine job of this and has some excellent reporting. His Facebook page is an great source of information on the king’s travels and travails.

Unfortunately, it may be blocked in Thailand. So let us summarize a couple of his recent posts. We think these are critical parts of the current discussion of the  king and monarchy, which cost the Thai taxpayer at least a billion dollars this year.

Marshall has recently released documents that show that the king is still requiring “soldiers selected for the Royal Guard to go to training camps, despite the increased risk of spreading COVID-19” in Thailand.

He reveals that “[t]wo training camps, one for 432 and the other for 421 soldiers, are due to start on April 1 at military bases in Saraburi and Sa Kaeo provinces” for up to 3 months.

It would be hoped that some better sense might prevail before the camps assemble. Marshall quotes an army source:

Vajiralongkorn and his high-ranking officers are not interested in changing or postponing the training. That shows that they don’t care about the health and safety of military personal who are coerced to go to training. They only care about drafting more people to be their servants, and the number is going to increase each year.”

Of course, Vajiralongkorn won’t be there. As Marshall shows in another post, he’s in Germany, where Bild newspaper headlines (and Marshall provides the English translation):

𝗧𝗵𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗱’𝘀 𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗺𝗮𝗸𝗲𝘀 𝗹𝘂𝘅𝘂𝗿𝘆 𝗕𝗮𝘃𝗮𝗿𝗶𝗮𝗻 𝗵𝗼𝘁𝗲𝗹 𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗵𝗼𝗺𝗲

…𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘮 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘰𝘰

𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘻𝘦𝘯𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘧𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘳𝘶𝘭𝘦𝘴, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘭𝘶𝘹𝘶𝘳𝘺 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘭𝘪𝘮𝘪𝘵𝘴!

The four-star “Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl” in the Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is closed due to the strict coronavirus rules. Technically. Because for Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn (67), known as Rama X, the closure does not apply.

The luxury hotel applied for a “special permit” for the heavily wealthy monarch (56 billion euros in assets) with a registration address in Tutzing on Lake Starnberg on March 18 — and received it!

The official explanation, in response to questions from BILD:… “The guests are a single, homogeneous group of people with no changes.”

Even more: The “Sonnenbichl” is no longer classified as a hotel, but as a residential building. So Rama X and his entourage — including 20 women from his “harem” — are allowed to use the hotel privately and lavishly.

Exit restrictions? “No contact” rules? They do not apply to the king’s entourage.

BILD has learned that the king is said to have sent 119 employees back to Bangkok by plane (flight TG925) because of suspected coronavirus.

But the Thai royal party ignores the virus danger, cheerfully taking bicycle trips into the town.

Drawn attention by BILD to the reports of coronavirus among the royal entourage, the district office responded: “We know nothing about this.”

If they can, readers should be following Marshall on these stories and more.

Update: Marshall reports now that the training exercises have been postponed – see his Facebook page.