Red shirts, Bangkok Bank and lies

18 02 2010

There are several reports in various media of the red shirts rallying at the Bangkok Bank headquarters in Silom Road. (17 February 2010) reports that United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leader Nattawut Saikua announced the first red shirt action in the business district, usually considered a bastion of yellow-shirt support.

The move comes a day after Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban briefed a large delegation of representatives of the local business community (Bangkok Post, 18 February 2010)

Apparently Suthep and others revealed the government’s intelligence gathering and planning for the red shirt violence that the government has been predicting for several months.

According to, the red shirts will reportedly “disclose information claiming that Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda unfairly favoured a group of businesspersons investing in a golf resort in the eastern province of Chanthaburi.” Prem has a long association with the Bangkok Bank and it is considered that the Bank was one of the businesses that funded the long-running demonstrations by the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

The Bangkok Bank’s controlling family, the immensely wealthy Sino-Thai Sophonpanich clan, has strong links with the Democrat Party. Kalaya Sophonpanich is Science and Technology minister in Abhisit Vejjajiva’s cabinet. The total wealth of the Sophonpanich is not exactly known, although Money & Banking magazine (December 2009, p. 215) listed its senior member, Chatri, as being Thailand’s 23rd wealthiest measured just in terms of shares held on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, holding shares worth almost 2.5 billion baht.

Prem is reported as having a small group of close business associates known as the Group of 11 that includes Kalyani Panchet of MMC Sittipol who gave sums of money to Prem for allegedly charitable purposes and which the red shirts have raised as an issue against the privy councilor. The group also includes the Dusit group’s Chanat Piyaoui and Chatri Sophonpanich of the Bangkok Bank.

The rally at the Bangkok Bank coincides with government accusations that the red shirts have been lying about alleged plans to crackdown on the movement at the end of the month. The red shirts have quoted from a cabinet document that apparently sets out scenarios for a violent crackdown on red shirt protestors. The red shirts claim to have obtained the document from a senior military commander.

PPT has yet to see a copy of this allegedly 37 page document, except in news reports, so if any reader has a copy or a link for a copy, email us.

Initially Deputy Prime Minister Suthep claimed this was all a big lie. He emphatically stated on television that “There is no plan.” However, there have now been considerable backtracking, arguing that the red shirts have a real document but that it is not a secret document but one that is public and from the National Security Council. As we said above, if it is a public document, we at PPT can’t find it. In any case, ministers now claim that despite the NSC planning for a crackdown, they aren’t going to do it. So we wonder who is lying on this case.

In Parliament, there have been more accusations. The Nation (18 February 2010) reports that acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn faced a grilling over his accusations regarding overseas funds flowing to the red shirts. The Nation states that Panitan “vehemently denied having anything to do with the allegations, while a number of Pheu Thai MPs lashed out saying it was a frame-up…”. It might be that Panitan is misreported, although PPT thinks Panitan is fudging, which is our polite term for lying.

Here’s the fudging, as reported: “The news broke because some reporters came into my office asking whether I was aware of any suspicious funds…”. So it was the reporters’ fault? He added that “he had recalled a report from a security agency within the PM’s Office reporting an unusual flow of funds into Thailand from sources overseas.” So he told them.

Panitan also said that “security agencies were checking the report under prescribed procedures and the government was not trying to smear the red shirts.” Another lie. PPT has posted on Panitan’s own comments previously, here and here. Panitan would not reveal “which agency had detected these questionable funds.” Earlier he had claimed that some senators told him….

According to another accusation of lying has come from Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitthi. He was responding to red shirt claims Suwit had “signed an order mobilising and arming thousands of forest rangers nationwide to the capital in an attempt to prevent the anti-government Red Shirts from gathering in Bangkok.” The red shirts claim to have the signed order. Suwit stated: “… I’ve never signed such an order…”.

Undocumented claims of Thai Rak Thai ministers mobilizing forest rangers were made by an anti-government NGO just prior to the 2006 coup, and a couple of days after the coup the military claimed this as one of the reasons for the coup as the nice military lads wanted to prevent violence. No evidence has ever been produced, but the story continues to make the rounds in PAD circles.

So this could be equally unfounded, and the red shirts need to produce evidence and make it available to reporters. At the same time, reports: “Combined units of police and military as well as civil defence volunteers are now closely manning key areas and buildings across the capital in the run-up to the Supreme Court’s February 26 ruling whether or not to seize the assets worth Bt76 billion of convicted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. About 200 checkpoints have been set up in Bangkok and adjacent areas.” Television news regularly reports on “volunteers” joining the military and police in patrolling so-called danger areas.

The Bangkok Post (18 February 2010) indicates how much the military leadership has taken over the running of security matters in the lead-up to the assets case decision. The military does not want to take any chances and is increasingly taking the driving seat on security, making it look like the Abhisit government is their puppet.

Interesting times indeed, with accusations, counter-accusations, lies and, undoubtedly, false leads being put about by many agencies and groups.



3 responses

18 02 2010
UDD Press Release: Risk to national security or risk to vested interests? « GJBKK Blog

[…] Political Prisoners Thailand has some comments on ”Red shirts, Bangkok Bank and lies” […]

19 02 2010
เสื้อแดง ธนาคารกรุงเทพ และการปลิ้นปล้อน « Liberal Thai

[…] by chapter 11 Red shirts, Bangkok Bank and lies February 18, 2010 ที่มา – Political Prisoners in Thailand แปลและเรียบเรียง – แชพเตอร์ […]

21 02 2010
When under pressure, use the monarchy « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] as a liar as he recently was reported as saying this was not happening while admitting that the government’s 37-page plan for stomping on the red shirts is real. Panitan deserves to cop plenty of […]

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