Graft failures continue

28 02 2017

Remember the Rolls Royce graft story? Forgotten it already? The junta’s government seems to hope it goes away. In the best tradition of burying graft allegations, dragging out a case seems to one way of hoping it will go away.

The Bangkok Post reports that the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) “has admitted there has been no progress in its investigation into the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal involving two major state enterprises.”

That’s none. Zilch.

But never mind, a “newly-appointed joint committee on anti-graft” will hold meetings to “consider high-profile corruption cases, including the Rolls-Royce scandal.”

The new committee is “headed by NACC president Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit and comprises the section heads of various agencies such as the Justice Ministry, the Office of the Attorney-General, the Anti-Money Laundering Office, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission and the Office of the Auditor-General.”

That should work better than the other committees and agencies, right? Probably not. It might be better for a burial of all the charges.

On the Rolls Royce case, NACC secretary-general Sansern Poljeak said “the British Serious Fraud Office (SFO) which is pursuing lawsuits against British manufacturing giant Rolls-Royce over corrupt acts, has not yet handed over documents to the Thai agency.”

We guess blaming the British is useful for the NACC in deflecting criticism of their non-work.

Sansern did say that the “British officials are apparently concerned about the confidentiality of the information they are expected to forward to Thai officials for use in the probe.”

That would seem a reasonable concern, especially when the SFO is dealing with multiple and competing Thai agencies, all of which are incompetent.

The NACC says it “needs hard evidence from the SFO and other official foreign agencies to take legal action against the accused.” Of course they do. They do not want to do any of their own investigations because they are politicized and incompetent.

And guess what? One of the issues of confidentiality is the new committee: “After the panel was formed last week, the SFO sent an email to the NACC expressing concerns about the confidentiality of the information it would hand over to the NACC…”.

Sansern said the new committee would consider the “issue…”.

And, if blaming the Brits is insufficient, also blame the Americans: “the NACC has not yet received documents from the US Department of Justice.”

On another related bribery case, as expected, “PTT Plc president and chief executive Tevin Vongvanich earlier admitted the firm had made no progress in its internal investigation into the Rolls-Royce bribery allegations…”.

PTT had “set up an internal investigative committee consisting of company members who have never been involved in procurement or auction processes in order to ensure transparency.” Nothing. No progress, but “the committee continued to gather evidence and information.”

Another Bangkok Post report is about the new super-committee meeting for the first time. They seemed to rewind to the early days of the RR “investigation,” deciding who the “lead agency” should be. “It has been agreed the Office of the Attorney-General will be responsible for requesting documents and information from the British Serious Fraud Office…”.

The Office of the Attorney-General seems to have rewound the tape of investigation: “Amnat Chotchai, director-general of the International Affairs Department [of AG]… “said the investigation into the Roll-Royce scandal has hit a snag due to a lack of information.”

The death penalty excuse came up again, but has again been dismissed by the Thai “investigators.”

And is the new super-committee sorting things out? No. “Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, chairman of the … NACC … and head of the joint panel, said the prosecution [no idea what this means] has been put in charge of coordinating with the SFO to seek evidence and documents while the NACC will coordinate ‘unofficially’ for information.” So not the AG’s office?

Creating a shemozzle is one of the best ways of not getting things done. And this looks like a classic case of bureaucratic shemozzle that might even be called “corruption” among the anti-corruption agencies.

The NACC boss rambled on: “The matter has been resolved [we are not sure which matter he means]. There will be no more problem when it comes to seeking information…”. Yeah, right…. He is a senior policeman and they are masters of illogic and corruption cover-ups.

He went further! The case is not stalled at all! “Pol Gen Watcharapol said while the NACC has gathered facts involving THAI, the agency still needs to verify some information before it decides to press charges against those allegedly involved in the scandal.”More: “The NACC has information about who were involved in the two first two periods of the bribery but we have to be sure before we go ahead and press charges. We are still gathering information about the third period…”.

Wow. In the space of a day, the stalled investigation is almost finished. Stunning. Amazing. Lies.

We are sure that it is not just us who think this is a hastily cobbled together sham and a sad joke.





Going south II

27 02 2017

Attacking those “liberals” and of the middle class who have generally been supportive of the 2014 military coup and the military junta is another example of things turning screwy from the junta’s position.

The Nation reports that Mahidol University, in rankings terms, the best of a pretty dismal bunch of universities, all controlled by royalist administrations, has said that it “will form a committee to investigate a group of lecturers belonging to its Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP)…”.

Why is this? It is precisely because of “the institute’s statement questioning alleged junta abuses of power, including the issuance of Article 44 orders.” Goodness! How could they be so ungrateful of the wonderful junta?!

The boundary riders of royalist “learning” claim that defending human and legal rights is terrible. “In a statement issued Sunday, Mahidol University denounced the lecturers for ‘damaging the university’s reputation’ by using its name in their original statement.”

In fact, the reputational damage is now caused by the dopey and coup-lovers in the administration.

It gets worse, when they state: “Such action is not academic freedom…. We urge the issuers to stop immediately.”

This is a clear demonstration of the failure of university administrators and another example of why education fails in Thailand in so many ways. By and large, royalist ideologues see all education as indoctrination and claims about human and legal rights are not a part of this.

Mahidol’s administration asserts that “it always stood by the principle that everyone must respect the law.” Well, the military’s law, anyway.

The university administration’s rightist reaction “came after the IHRP late on Saturday night issued a statement calling for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] to stop using absolute powers granted by Article 44 of the interim charter.”

Its authors stated:

Using the article [to solve problems] is using dictatorial power against the rule of law, with a lack of checks and balances, and it is illegitimate…. Article 44 is used too often and without a sense of urgency. In many cases, the government and authorities are able to enforce [the same measures] by normal laws.

That all seems polite and reasonable. Yet one thing that seems to have bother the junta and their supporters running the university was that in citing “nine orders issued this month,” it also mentioned “one establishing the controversial Dhammakaya Temple and surroundings areas as a ‘controlled area’.” It came just after “a man hanged himself from a 100-metre-high radio antenna in an apparent protest against the ongoing siege at the controversial Dhammakaya Temple.” He also complained about Article 44.

Military-loving yellow shirts went online to condemn the IHRP, caliming it should not be “allowed to use Mahidol’s name when taking action.”

Things are indeed unraveling.





Going south I

26 02 2017

Things seem to be getting complicated for the military dictatorship. Earlier on, ruling required a heavy boot and an iron fist. Throw activists in jail, charge them, repress intellectuals and academics, press the media, cut off the red shirt leadership and use lese majeste to silence opponents. All a bit 1960s really.

Now, its looking a bit more difficult as the challenges come from several sources. Managing the new king is not all that simple as he’s erratic and dangerous. Some on social media are saying he’s killing minions.

Puea Thai’s Watana Muangsook seems to be bothering the generals again. He’s got an “invitation” from the junta’s thugs for another “talk.”

The Wat Dhammakaya dispute seems to have The Dictator flummoxed. With one man having committed suicide as a response to the dictatorship’s heavy-handedness, the whole affair is remarkably complicated.

The most recent move by The Dictator is one that will have many Thais scratching their heads. General Prayuth Chan-ocha has placed an officer of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) official has been appointed as new chief of the National Office of Buddhism. He used Article 44, again.

This means there’s now a cop in charge of Thailand’s Buddhist religious hierarchy. We think this is a first.

THe DSI is also pushing for more involvement from the Sangha Council, further politicizing that body. One explanation for this turn of events is provided in The Nation:

The temple’s core leaders have refused to talk to the DSI, so the agency thought it may be better for the temple’s monks to discuss the situation with their superiors on the Sangha Council, the source said.

Some members of the Council were previously believed to have close ties with the temple, the source said, but at that time a new Supreme Patriarch had not been appointed. But the situation seems to be changing now that the new Supreme Patriarch is in office.

DSI has also accused the monks of holding their followers as “hostages.”

The dictators seem to realize that cracking down on Buddhist monks is politically dangerous, but their methods are now quite odd, suggesting confusion and fractionalization within the junta.





Father and son

25 02 2017

On roughly the anniversary of the 1991 military coup, another supported by Thailand’s middle class, dependent on the military and monarchy to keep them above the feared masses, it is interesting that the Bangkok Post does a feature on the son of that coup’s leader, General Sunthorn “Big George” Kongsompong.

Dad dies in 1999, having been held in low repute following the blood-letting of May 1992. As might be expected, Sunthorn was well-heeled and split his time between Thailand and France after the coup group was disgraced.* For more on the 1991 coup, see PDFs here and here.

His son, First Army Region commander Lt. Gen. Apirat Kongsompong, has been on the up and up since he proved himself a red shirt hater in 2010, shooting at protesters in one of the first “hot” clashes of that uprising.He’s been rewarded by the coup group with promotions and cushy money-making positions.

apirat

Apirat

The Post gives him glory with its headline: “Army chief in the making?”

It notes that this year “tension is building on several fronts” for the military junta, “which needs a commander it can trust to help iron things out.” That seems to be just the deal for Apirat, who is making the news more often than he should. Yet, as the story correctly observes,

The NCPO and the armed forces, particularly the army, are one and the same. Naturally, when the going gets a little tough on the political road, the council looks to the army to to steer a course of action required for pacifying heated issues, which could potentially spiral out of control.

Within the army, it says, Apirat is “one commander stands out from the crowd, who is known for his combat skills.” He can be relied on to wage war against anyone seen as a threat to military and monarchy.

The Post also notes his role in seeing off the lads from the south complaining about a coal-fired power station. That group seemed to like him and saw him as a factional leader facing off against the old guard in the junta. That’s unlikely at present as he owes the big boys leading the junta.

On the coal dispute, this:

Lt Gen Apirat said it was necessary to end the protest peacefully and quickly, citing an intelligence report of a third party and anti-government elements attempting to politicise the protest and whipping up an undercurrent for their own political benefit.

That’s buffalo poo, but you get the picture. Apirat knows that his protesters are political allies.

Apirat is positioned for higher position because he heads up Bangkok’s military garrison. He’s got a finger in the funeral stuff at Sanam Luang and his men are backing up the troops and police at Wat Dhammakaya.

When the “election” comes around, you can be sure that Apirat and his troops will be busy arranging the result in Bangkok. Apirat seems likely to emulate his father at the head of undemocratic forces.

____

*Some accounts suggest that Sunthorn was close to Thaksin Shinawatra.





Fudged to save well-paid relatives and buddies

24 02 2017

In an earlier post, we commented on the “clearing” of the seven puppet lawmakers who were “investigated” on allegations that they had failed to fulfill their required duties with the National Legislative Assembly. A report was said to be forthcoming that cleared the well-paid and senior friends of the junta.

PPT concluded by stating: We can’t wait for the report to see how this is fudged.

The Bangkok Post has now reported on this. It is another one of the junta’s concoctions to preserve nepotism, corruption and impunity.

NLA secretary general Vararat Atiphaet “told reporters on Friday that from Jan 1-Dec 31, 2016, NLA members voted 1,264 times in total.” She went on to confirm that “each member had to cast in at least one-third of the votes, or 421, to maintain their status.”

Helpfully, the Post constructed the table below:

From the Bangkok Post

For the table, a year of attendances is presented by the NLA and only “missed votes without prior leave-of-absence requests shall be counted as missed votes.”

As the Post points out, there’s hocus pocus going on: “the timeframe the NLA used in the calculation was 365 days even though its own regulation says the one-third rule applies to a 90-day period.” This sleight of hand went unexplained.

So the data is a pile of buffalo manure. Even so, the absences are remarkable! The next question is when those in the table (and others) are skiving off are they still “paid a position allowance of 71,230 baht and an extra allowance of 42,330 a month, totalling 113,560 baht.” And that doesn’t include “committee allowances.”

The answer seems to be that “If a member fails to attend half of the meetings scheduled each month, he will not receive the extra allowance for that month unless he is on a parliamentary trip approved by the NLA president.” So, the money for nothing seems to be 71,000 baht++.

Recall also, as the Post points out, these lazy thugs get an “allowance” so they can continue to collect other salaries:

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam said two years ago that a state official may not receive salaries from more than one source but may accept unlimited position allowances and other compensation so long as the payments are not called a salary.

The trough is filled with loot and is warm and inviting. These guys are swimming in it.





The Buddhism stand-off

24 02 2017

As we have said several times, PPT has no particular insights on the confrontation that has involved thousands of police and soldiers intent on raiding and searching Wat Dhammakaya. We have posted a couple of times on why this case and is apparently so central for the junta and the broad yellow shirt movement (here, here, here and here).

As we write, it is reported that the temple remains surrounded by several thousand police and soldiers operating under The Dictator’s use of Article 44.

These troops, behind barricades, are supplied with shields, helmets and batons. No one may enter the temple. Those who wish to leave are let out. Data communications to the temple have been cut to prevent those in the temple using social media. This was meant to be a “secret.”

Those in charge of the temple have made an “announcement for followers inside to be prepared” for action by the authorities.

monks

In fact, in the lead-up to the current (renewed) stand-off, there have been several clashes. Even so, while the idea of troops clashing with monks and their supporters seems have caused some concern among the junta, it remains firm on pressing forward. Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan vowed that the search for the temple’s former abbot at the temple compound “will continue no matter how many more weeks or even if a year passes. Authorities are trying to avoid violent confrontations. But it is necessary to continue to enforce the law…”.

Odd alliances are claimed and seen. A Wat Dhammakaya supporter called Aye Phetthong “called on the government to revoke the order which he said has an adverse impact on the country’s image.” He’s also reported as saying that “key figures” from the “yellow-shirt and red-shirt groups” had “entered the grounds of [the] Wat … to ‘protect Buddhism’.” Meanwhile, a fascist and ultra-nationalist monk in Myanmar has offered support to the besieged temple.

Another report, by Reuters, offers some analysis – if that is possible of this situation – and seems to agree with one of PPT’s earlier suggestions, that the military regime and its supporters are intent on protecting the “religion” part of the nationalist-royalist trilogy of Nation, Religion and Monarchy.

The report quotes another with fascist leanings who is close to the junta, Paiboon Nititawan, who declares: “It [the sect] is trying to create unrest and subverting state power…”. That does seem far-fetched, but the political heat is now turned to full and yellow shirts like Paiboon have a history of political fanaticism.

Reuters reminds us of the timeline on these events:

The showdown for control began last year when the Sangha recommended a candidate for Supreme Patriarch with links to Dhammakaya and was under investigation over taxes on a vintage car.

The junta rejected that candidate. Then, when the new king took the throne in December, the law was changed to let him choose a patriarch and ignore the Sangha’s wishes.

Four days after a new patriarch, chosen from Thai Buddhism’s more austere fraternity, was installed the junta declared emergency powers over Dhammakaya.

The junta risks an unraveling of its rule not just on a Buddhist sect, but on several front, mostly because it is treading on the toes of the middle class, its natural (for Thailand) support base. Environmentalists, Buddhists who see themselves as devout, anti-corruption campaigners and similar types are getting the junta runaround and are seeing the hard edge of the regime directed at them. That signals a rising but reluctant opposition to the military’s authoritarianism.





Non-voting, unconstitutional puppets “cleared”

23 02 2017

Khaosod reports that the “[s]even [puppet] lawmakers who failed to fulfill their required duties will not lose their jobs…”.

PPT has to say that this is exactly what we expected.

The vice president of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly, Peerasak Porjit, pre-empted a “review report” due Friday.

He is said to have “[c]ontradict[ed] an expose published earlier this month, [and] said an internal review found the seven members in question had in fact met the minimum participation requirements called for under the body’s regulations, and therefore would not be dismissed.”

The details of the earlier kerfuffle are here and here.

Khaosod adds:

Among the seven, the worst record was held by Gen. Preecha Chan-ocha, the younger brother of junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha. He was found to have cast only six votes out of a total 453 roll calls during a six-month period. Assembly by-laws call for members to be removed if they don’t participate in more than one-third of all votes during a 90-day period.

Puppet Preecha “insisted he had sought and obtained permission for his absenteeism.” Therefore, they would not lose their seats under constitutional provisions.

Khaosod states that NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai decided to make up law and/or display his ignorance of the rules and the junta’s constitution when he “pointed out that the number of sessions the members reportedly missed – 300 to 400 – were the number of roll-call votes and not days. They assembly has only met about 200 days since it was established after the 2014 coup.”

Readers can look at the laws and link through to them on our posts and see that the NLA president is making this up and/or displaying his ignorance and/or arrogance.

We can’t wait for the report to see how this is fudged.