Further updated: Yes, really

17 06 2020

We read this jaw-dropping news with nothing more than incredulity. We simply could not believe the story. How is it possible for this regime to think that every Thai citizen is a complete moron? Why does the regime treat its people as so insignificant? Of course, the answer is that the regime and its people are used to impunity, getting away with murder and considers itself a law unto itself.

Here’s the story, from the Bangkok Post: “Former transport permanent secretary Supoj Saplom has been appointed as a member of a sub-committee tasked with studying an industrial estate for rehabilitation and development of inmates just months after completing a jail term for filing false asset declarations…”.

The responsible minister is Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin. He said “he had invited individuals from various professions including former senior state officials to give their input on the proposed establishment of the facility.”

Supoj was “released from prison in the middle of last year after serving 10 months for filing false asset declarations…. The Supreme Court … [found] he failed to declare assets worth over 20 million baht.”

Supoj. From the Bangkok Post.

But there’s more to the story than this. Readers can click through to PPT’s several posts on Supoj. The last time we posted on Supoj, we said that we were “winding up of a story that began some time ago.” Little id we think that Minister Somsak would push Supoj back into “service” and into the news.

The original story of Supoj’s ill-gotten gains involved fantastic amounts. In late 2011, as huge floods bore down on Bangkok, Supoj’s house was burgled. At the time he was permanent secretary at the Ministry of Transport and chairman of the State Railways of Thailand and was in that position under the previous government. Earlier he was Director of the Highways Department. Such positions are honey holes for the corrupt.

A report at the time stated that while Supoj was at his daughter’s wedding, a dozen burglers tied up two maids and took off with loot. Supoj told reporters that “the valuables taken by the robbers were not in fact worth much, though they also took cash. He believed the robbers heard about his daughter’s bridal price so they wanted to steal it.” Soon after, there was a report that one of the culprits “allegedly confessed to stealing more than 200 million baht in cash from the house of transport Supoj Saplom.” That’s quite a bride price!

But the story became even more interesting. One of the suspects claims “that when the gang entered the house, they found between 700 million baht to 1 billion baht in cash stuffed into bags.” Supoj responded, pleading poverty, claiming that the burglars were defaming him! He explained that he “was smeared by the suspects who claimed he might have hidden as much as Bt1 billion at his home,” adding, “… I don’t have that much money…”.

Even the police seemed to agree: “Police Major General Winai Thongsong, chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, said that CCTV videos of the robbery showed the group leaving the house with large bags, indicating that a large amount of cash had been stolen.”

Later, in 2012, as he scrambled for excuses for being so stupendously “unusually rich,” Supoj claimed “he earned the millions of Baht working a second job…”. He began shifting assets to relatives as investigations loomed. At the time, the Anti-Money Laundering Office “revealed that money found in the transport permanent secretary Supoj Saplom’s home is related to construction contractors in the Northeast – including one from Buriram province – which were involved in the bidding for construction contracts on government projects in several provinces.”

But, by the time the case reached the National Anti-Corruption Commission and then commissioner Klanarong Chanthik announced a seizure of some assets. He was convicted when the “Civil Court ruled in January, 2014, that 46.14 million baht in assets should be seized from Supoj and his family for being unusually wealthy.”

Then there was the verdict of the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders holding Supoj guilty “of deliberately avoiding to mention Bt17.5 million in cash and a Bt3 million Volkswagen in the declaration of his assets on five occasions.” Yes, the millions claimed to have made Supoj “unusually wealthy” led nowhere. It was expunged, deleted, and was made to go away, like magic. All Supoj was convicted of was a problem with his asset declarations. It was whittled down because the suspects who were arrested only had “Bt18 [17.5] million in cash and gold ornaments…”. How convenient. He got 10 months in jail and the 18 million was seized. It took seven years to get Supoj into prison to serve that 10 months. It was only this year that the 17.5 million was given to the state treasury. We have no idea what became of the other 46 million baht.

More to the point, what happened to the bags of money the burglars claimed to have taken? Readers can probably come up with some excellent guesses on that. But presumably one could think of cops getting their hands on it (think Saudi gems), corrupt officials and judges, influential people or even much higher ups being paid off.

Okay, as a former inmate, perhaps Supoj has something of a perspective on “an industrial estate for rehabilitation and development of inmates,” but somehow we doubt it. It seems much more like paybacks or a mutual backscratching exercise.

So here we are, with a military-backed government that not only has a convicted heroin smuggler as a deputy minister, but it’s also appointing a man who may hold a national record for moving state funds into private hands.

Update 1: While dealing with the corruption being embedded in the regime, we note that the Department of Special Investigation’s acting chief has disbanded six special investigation teams that he set up only about six weeks ago. The teams were responsible for investigating money laundering via illegal casinos, misconduct by Stock Exchange of Thailand-listed companies, factories causing environmental and public health damage and producing substandard cosmetics or dietary supplements, land encroachment and unlawful land title deeds, and and price collusion involving state projects. Almost all of those arenas seem to have resonances for the regime’s ministers. Is it a coincidence that these events are in Justice Minister Somsak’s ministry?

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that the private sector Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand has “submitted an open letter to Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, voicing opposition to the appointment of Supoj Saplom … to sit on a sub-committee tasked with studying a project for rehabilitation and development of inmates.” The report noted:

The ACT said in the letter that the constitution of Thailand bars people who lack morality, ethics and good governance from taking part in the country’s administrative affairs.

Since people expect the Justice Ministry to be a model for righteousness and justice, it should appoint only people who are not tainted with corruption to work for it, the letter says. The appointment of Mr Supoj violates this principle.


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