Sky Dragon “investigation” 8 years late

18 09 2017

The Bangkok Post reports that “Auditor-General Pisit Leelavachiropas has vowed to scrutinise the army’s controversial 340-million-baht aerial patrol project, which included the purchase of a rarely-used airship.”

The Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) will “step in to conduct a review of the project…”. This “review” is to “assess” Sky Dragon’s “past performance … to find out whether it was worth spending national funds to buy it in the first place, and if something irregular is detected, various organisations will be contacted to investigate further…”.

Under the military junta and when investigating anything military or associated with the junta, the OAG is notorious for announcing “investigations” and then burying them in silence or quickly saying every thing is above board. Will this “review” be any different? Probably not, unless General Anupong Paojinda, the military commander when the blimp was purchased, has fallen out of favor.

But, really, why now? The problems and issues with the deflating dirigible go back to its purchase in 2009 under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. Where has the OAG then and every year since?

PPT’s first post on Sky Dragon was in February 2010. Let’s reproduce some of that. It begins by mentioning the price (that the persons involved and the junta spokesman are now trying to fiddle down):

The airship was purchased from the US company, Arial International Cooperation. [Bangkok Post reporter] Wassana [Nanuam] explains that the “airship is the brainchild of Gen Anupong and his second-in-command, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. They envision the airship as a sky-based surveillance and command station.” Leaving aside obvious questions about this assumption, the problem is that the airship can’t do what it is meant to, and there has even been trouble getting it into the air. The airship has seepage holes and it initially costs 2.8 million baht to inflate and then 280,000 baht a month to top-up. There has been considerable criticism…. [Prayuth later said that such leaks were “normal.”]

General Anupong had reportedly agreed to purchase three airships for the army. Wassana asks: “is it a bigger sham than the GT200?” Maybe she meant “scam”?

At Bangkok Pundit on 6 February 2010, a comment [the link no longer works] was added by “Reg, encouraging Bangkok Pundit to look into the zeppelin case. “Reg” stated: ”Why this machine and not drones as used almost everywhere else for this kind of recon work? What’s the track record of this model? What’s the price paid elsewhere? Have you seen dirigibles used in other insurgency situations? … Seems like there’s a smell there as soon as it is wheeled out. A quick Google seems to suggest that this is a Thailand first (a manned airship for counter-insurgency).”

Correspondent “Reg” then turns to the company involved and its website [The website still sort of operates with a different URL]. He says: “Note its last stock trade was 1 cent. Have a look through the site and see if you have doubts about the company founded in mid-2008 and with 12 employees. How on earth did the RTA [Royal Thai Army] even know about them? It seems that one of the principals had previous experience with the RTA. According to their press releases, the RTA is their only client. It also seems that they are agents for the real manufacturers .”

“Reg” concludes: “I remain suspicious, but maybe that’s just because everything the military buys involves commissions etc. But, hey, you might want to congratulate the RTA for a 10 million dollar gamble that might show the world of counter-insurgency the way forward via a penny company.”

We are not sure if the company is Arial or Aria. If it is Aria (and what’s left at the website fits the deal with the RTA), it seems that if it still exists, its shares are down considerably from when it was a penny company. It usually trades at 0.0005 cents.

You would think that a competent Office of the Attorney General might have been a little interested back in 2010.


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21 09 2017
Ousting Yingluck and Prayuth’s campaigning | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] The broader claim is that the military junta has essentially won. There’s no hint of royal discontent with the junta or of factionalism within the military and/or junta. Yet some social media commentary sees General Anupong Paojinda under unusual pressure – we mentioned this a couple of days ago. […]

21 09 2017
Ousting Yingluck and Prayuth’s campaigning | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] The broader claim is that the military junta has essentially won. There’s no hint of royal discontent with the junta or of factionalism within the military and/or junta. Yet some social media commentary sees General Anupong Paojinda under unusual pressure – we mentioned this a couple of days ago. […]

22 10 2017
Covering the corruption money trails | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] right. Then there was the deflated zeppelin. And the GT200 magic wands, both purchased in the past with Anupong and General Prayuth Chan-ocha […]

22 10 2017
Covering the corruption money trails | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] right. Then there was the deflated zeppelin. And the GT200 magic wands, both purchased in the past with Anupong and General Prayuth Chan-ocha […]