One of the usual practices of Thailand’s military is to engage in corrupt activities. For decades the generals have been siphoning funds from the economy into their own vast pockets.
Often this involves running scams, black businesses and illegal activities, as seen in the expanding arrests of military officers and other authorities involved in vast human trafficking networks. The bosses are seldom apprehended, usually because their position protects them.
At other times, the military has clientelist arrangements with businesses seeking protection, support, inside running and other benefits. One lucrative area for the military brass has been around borders, where all kinds of illegal activities are possible, often because the military have controlled the borders. These kinds of relationship have existed for decades.
As a recent example, Prachatai reports that The Dictator “has urged the relevant authorities to speed up a special economic zone project in northern Thailand despite opposition from local people who are to be evicted.”
General Prayuth Chan-ocha has ordered local authorities in Mae Sot in northern Thailand to clear two plots of land for SEZs. The plots were once “listed as protected areas, parts of which have been settled and utilized by the locals as farmland…”.
The junta “earlier this year invoked Section 44 of the Interim Charter, which gives the junta absolute power to maintain national security, to expropriate the area to make way for industry.”
This is the second time this year that villagers have lost land for an SEZ. Prachatai reports that on “24 August 2015, the provincial court of Nakhon Phanom told 33 embattled villagers from Kok Phu Kratae Village in At Samat Subdistrict, Mueang District, who are accused of land encroachment, to relocate to make way for SEZs.”
We guess there is mutual back-scratching going on after the villagers are booted out.
While on mutual back-scratching, the Bangkok Post reports that the junta is giving further buckets of money via tax breaks. The report states that “[b]usinesses in ‘superclusters’ will enjoy an 8-year tax holiday and another five years of 50% taxable income deductions.”
Some industries will get up to 15 years of tax breaks. And there’s a bunch more benefits for companies: “machinery import tax exemption, personal income tax break for Thai and international specialists working in the areas. International experts will also get permanent residence.” Remarkably for Thailand, “foreigners will be allowed to own land for promoted projects.”
And, you guessed it, the “clusters” are “a type of special economic zone…”.
Friends in high places really can deliver for their buddies. “Enemies” tend to be identified as villagers causing problems for the military and their friends. They simply get steamrollered, or worse.