Short on good sense and vaccine

14 06 2021

The regime’s vaccine rollout is spluttering and seems to have pretty much failed to meet expectations.

Let’s be clear on the reason for this. It is because Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and, we suspect, the palace decided that they could get some excellent royalist propaganda by betting on the AstraZeneca vaccine and the ill-prepared and tiny Siam Bioscience. By producing AstraZeneca at the king’s company, they reckoned – like dams, water supplies, roads, rain and more – they could convince the public that the king had saved the country from the virus.

VaccineAs they were warned ages ago, this was a fraught strategy.

Now it is looking like a PR failure for regime and palace. The reports of shortages are everywhere.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has postponed Covid-19 vaccination for people who have registered via Thai Ruam Jai website.

Hospitals across the country are in trouble on vaccines, causing Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul to deny “that the Public Health Ministry has anything to do with the postponement of vaccination appointments, scheduled for this week, by numerous private and state hospitals and health centres in Bangkok and other provinces.” As in previous buck-passing, he cannot tell the truth: that Siam Bioscience can’t produce sufficient vaccine. To do so would be to criticize the king.

The vulnerable are being left behind in vaccine rollout as it becomes more privatized and it is dog-eat-dog in getting a shot, meaning the rich are okay but the poor, the aged, and such groups are left behind.

Now, the “Rural Doctors Society is demanding that the government, and the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), tell the truth about the availability of COVID-19 vaccines…”.

Truth is not the regime’s usual approach to problems. When it involves the monarchy, PR/fake news and silences are standard. The more usual approach in dealing with criticism is repression and threats, not transparency.





The 112 virus

14 06 2021

The number charged with lese-majeste has reached 100.

That’s the count by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR). They say that the “overwhelming majority of these cases have stemmed from online political expression and the participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations that took place between August 2020 and March 2021.”

FIDH Secretary-General Adilur Rahman Khan states:112

“The vigorous enforcement of Article 112 to criminalize the actions of pro-democracy activists, protesters, and critics of the monarchy has resulted in blatant violations of the rights to liberty, freedom of expression, and fair trial. The Thai government must end this abuse and immediately heed calls for the amendment of Article 112.

The two organizations made a call for “Thai authorities to end legal prosecution against individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression and to amend Article 112 to bring it into line with Thailand’s human rights obligations under the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights]…”.

We at PPT fear that the number charged may exceed 100 as some cases are kept secret or are held in places where the news doesn’t get out. It should also be remembered that there are many other cases where charges have yet to be brought.

TLHR reports that, between 24 November 2020 and 11 June 2021, with 100 individuals charged, “eight are children (i.e. individuals under the age of 18).” And, several “[p]rominent pro-democracy activists have been especially targeted. Some of them face numerous prosecutions under Article 112 in connection with multiple cases, which could result in very long prison terms.”

Worryingly, as this call is made, right-wing fascists and other royalists are calling for more charges and jailings. The Nation reports that the execrable Nangnoi Assawakittikorn “led an army of royalist ‘Minions’ to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD), where they urged police to crack down on violators of the lese majeste and computer crime laws.”

Clipped from The Nation

Calling themselves “the Thailand Help Centre for Cyber-bullying Victims…”, it is Nangnoi’s group that are the bullies, including of children.

Making herself snitch-in-chief of the royalist minions, Nangnoi “handed what she said was evidence of lese majeste to the police. Most of it consisted of comments posted on media websites such as The Standard, Channel One News, Workpoint Today, Nation TV and TikTok.” Police said she was calling for charges against another 90 individuals.

It seems likely that the regime will listen to their rightist allies rather than to those calling for constitutional human rights to be observed.





Updated: “Fake” news, state news

13 06 2021

Anyone who struggles through the blarney posted by the regime’s PR outfits must wonder about the meaning of “fake news.”

But when the regime’s bosses talk “fake news” one can expect they are talking about others and their news. Mostly, they are worried about news on the monarchy and criticism of themselves.

All kinds of political regimes have taken up “fake news” as a way of limiting criticism, but it is authoritarian, military and military-backed regimes that have been most enthusiastic in using it to roll back and limit criticism. In Thailand, repression has been deepened through all kinds of efforts to limit free expression and to silence opponents.

With laws on computer crimes, defamation, treason, sedition, and lese majeste, a reasonable person might wonder why the regime needs more “legal” means for repression. But, then, authoritarian regimes tend to enjoy finding ways to silence critics.

It is thus no real surprise to read in the Bangkok Post that Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has ordered “the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) and security agencies to take tough action against those who spread fake news.” He included the “Anti-Fake News Centre, the Royal Thai Police, the Justice Ministry and the DES” telling them to “work together to respond swiftly to the spread of fake news on social media platforms, and take legal action accordingly.”

I Can't Speak

His minions “explained” he was worried about virus news, but when Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “instructed the Council of State, the government’s legal advisory body, to study the laws and regulations, including those in foreign countries, dealing with the spread of fake news” the focus was much broader and was clearly about anti-monarchy news. After all, officials added that the Computer Crime Act was insufficient for curbing “the damage speedily enough.”

The Thai Enquirer sensed an even broader regime agenda. They saw the use of the Council of State as a path to a “law that would control the online media in Thailand.”

They recognize that the aim is to strengthen “national security,” code for the monarchy. But, they also note a desire to limit “the criticism that the government has received over its Covid-19 response program from online platforms” including by Thai Enquirer. Of course, that criticism has also involved the monarchy.

They rightly fear that the online media “would be targeted under the new law.” They say:

This law, as commentators have noted, is an affront and a threat to free and fair press inside this country. It would make our job thousands of times harder and open us up to lawsuit and the threat of legal harassment by the government.

As we have been saying at PPT, Thai Enquirer believes:

we are being taken back to the dark days of military rule because the government believes criticism aimed at them is a threat to the entire nation. That they are unable to differentiate between a political party, its rule, and the fabric of the nation is arrogant and worrying.

But here we are, even as Deputy Prime Minister and legal predator Wissanu Krea-Ngam thinks of an excuse to shut us down, we promise to you that we will keep reporting to the end.

They call for opposition to tyranny, adding that “this new onslaught against press freedom” will be opposed through their reporting.

In a Bangkok Post op-ed by Wasant Techawongtham acknowledges that fake news can be a problem but notes that a new law “Bootis aimed at silencing critics of the ruling regime.” He adds:

Since democracy was banished from Thailand following the 2014 military coup d’etat, a number of laws have been enacted purportedly to protect the Thai people against the harmful effects of computer crimes. But it is crystal clear that the real purpose of these laws is to suppress the voice of the people.

Authoritarians tend to go to great lengths to ensure their stay in power through silencing dissent.

Under this regime, Wasant observes that regime opponents have been “harassed, or even put in jail” and several have been dissappeared and others killed.

He recognizes that a range of repressive laws have:

done quite a remarkable job of suppressing free speech. Those who insisted on speaking their minds against the current rulers have been severely dealt with. Those who were put in jail were allowed back to their families only after they agreed to seal their lips.

Not only regime and monarchy critics are silenced, but the “media — broadcast, digital and print — have felt compelled to screen their offerings very carefully, which in many cases leads to self-censorship.”

But none of this is enough! The regime wants more! There can be no freedom. There can only be the regime’s “truth.”

Update: Thinking about fake news from the regime, the royal propaganda machine is pumping out some real tripe. The latest has the king and his number 1 consort cooking meals allegedly for “medical professionals,” although in the story at The Nation, Sineenat isn’t even mentioned.

Royal cooks

Clipped from The Nation

As they often are, the couple appear in identical kit with minions groveling around them. We are told that “King … Vajiralongkorn on Saturday cooked a variety of food at the kitchen of Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in Dusit Palace…”. He’s the cleanest cook in history, with not a stain to be seen, suggesting that its fake news or, in other words, a photo op meant to deceive the public. And, their gear changes in several of the pictures.

To add to the “news,” the “Royal Office” is quoted as saying:

These foods have nutrition values of five food groups with fingerroot as a key ingredient…. Fingerroot or Krachai is a Thai traditional herb that has various medicinal benefits and could help strengthen the body’s immune system and help prevent Covid-19. Furthermore, eating freshly cooked meals is one of the recommended ways to stay safe from the virus.

We have to say that we at PPT must have wasted our time getting vaccinated because, as the royals have, hot food protects us, and we eat “freshly cooked meals” at least twice a day! Krachai may well be the king’s favorite ingredient as it is said to help with male sexual performance. But how to explain the erect chef’s hat is beyond us.

That aside, this palace propaganda must rank as “fake news.”





Further updated: Lucky pricing, unlikely dealer

12 06 2021

According to several reports, the Chulabhorn Royal Academy has set the price of the Covid-19 vaccine procured from China’s state-owned Sinopharm at 888 baht per dose…”.

While the “Academy” secretary-general Nithi Mahanonda claimed the “price includes transport, storage and insurance against side effects of the vaccine.” So how amazing is it that all of that came to the lucky number 888!

It seems that the “Royal Academy” has become just another vaccine dealer in an increasingly privatized vaccine rollout.Princess plaything

It is offering “state or private organisations that want the Sinopharm vaccine from the CRA must be capable of providing it to groups of people who want alternative vaccines — including staff, family members and migrant workers.” But they cannot “use the vaccine for commercial gain.”

Remarkably, the Äcademy” claims the power to fine “violators.” Who knew?

It also seemed to demand that “[s]tate or private organisations provided with the vaccine by the CRA should also do society a favour by donating 10% of the vaccine to underprivileged groups.” But not the “Academy.” More, the buyers had to “find hospitals to administer the vaccine.” The hospitals can “collect service charges from such organisations, but not from vaccine recipients…”.

How much does the Sinopharm vaccine cost? Early on, it was remarkably expensive. A few months later, Hungary was paying $36 per dose or $72 for a course of two shots. Perhaps the “Academy” is getting Sri Lankan or Bangladesh prices?

As usual with matters royal, there’s no transparency, even when they are engaged in commercial activities. All they say is the vaccine is supplied at cost. Magically, that is 888 baht.

As The Nation reports, the dealing is expanding, and after the “first batch of 1 million Sinopharm vaccine doses [arrive] on June 20-21,” the “Academy” has “plans to import a total of 5-6 million doses of Sinopharm in batches every 10 days.”

One thing is sure, the regime is unable to meet current demand, but is the “Academy” simply replacing the delayed AstraZeneca vaccine from another royal enterprise?

Update 1: On vaccine shortages, see two stories in the Bangkok Post, here and here.

Update 2:For more on vaccine shortages, see here and here, and for more on the state’s “fake news” on these shortages, see here. As Thai Enquirer has it:

On June 7, coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha flanked by Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and members of his Covid-19 management team declared that there would be no delays in the distribution of the vaccines.

Just over a week later, that promise has fallen flat on its face.





Updated: Blind 112 complaint

11 06 2021

Longtime readers of PPT might remember a lese majeste case from 2016, where Nurhayati Masoh, a then 23 year-old unemployed Thai-Malay Muslim from Yala who was convicted on 4 January 2018 and sentenced to three years in jail.

At the time, we commented that, under the military dictatorship, lese majeste cases had become increasing bizarre and cruel. Students, journalists, academics, workers, red shirts and many more have been charged and sentenced. In recent months this purge has included juveniles and the aged. 112 logo

Nurhayati ‘s case marked another sad milestone in that she is blind. Worse still, she had been reported by Pipathanachai Srakawee, President of the Thailand Association of the Blind and a fervent royalist. Not only did he lodge his complaint, but he repeatedly and obsessively pursued senior officials, police and prosecutors to ensure that she was charged, tried and convicted. She was eventually sentenced to one year in jail for violating the Computer Crime Act.

As Prachatai reports, Pipathanachai (now Phatanachai) and still President of the Association is back, “protecting” the monarchy. In this case, the king’s fourth wife Queen Suthida.

Phatanachai told the Thungmahamek Police in Bangkok to report “an allegedly lèse majesté comment posted by someone older who also has a visibility impairment.” Prachatai reports:

Khumklao Songsomboon of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the lawyer in the new case, said on 9 June that the police summons had been delayed until 25 June because the notice was too short and the suspect was a blind person in another province.

Khumklao said that he could not reveal any details without the permission of the suspect. Prachatai is trying to reach the person for more detail.

All Khumklao could say was that TLHR received a request for help from a blind person. And apart delaying the police summons, he was preparing a bail request in case of detention.

The evil Phatanachai “told Prachatai that the suspect was his senior when he was studying in a school in Surat Thani.” He claimed to have been motivated to snitch “because in 2020 the suspect shared a comment critical of Queen Suthida in a post by Nipit Intarasombat, a former MP of the Democrat Party.”

Remarkably this royalist snitch went on to “explain” his perspective on Article 112:

He thought that criticism of the monarchy, including calls for monarchy reform, was okay, but it should also have boundaries. He agreed that 3-15 years in jail was long, but the jail term should be reduced in proportion to the criticism of the monarchy – that is it should be based on reasons, facts, and politeness.

Making the regime’s and palace’s point for them, he added that 112 “has no effect to people who keep quiet…”.

Presumably he also thinks that snitching and vigilantism is rewarded.

Update: Prachatai has a lengthy article that reflects more on Phatanachai’s perculiar perspective on lese majeste. In it he claims “he is not keeping track of this complaint” as he did in the previous case he instigated. He also compares prison for the blind as being “just the same as boarding school…”.





Wind powers hi-so corruption

11 06 2021

In an oddly presented report at the Bangkok Post it is reported that the Attorney General “has ordered the prosecution of Khunying Korkaew Boonyachinda and associates for forgery and allegedly using forged documents for the transfer of shares of Wind Energy Holding (WEH).” A similar story appeared at Khaosod and promptly disappeared.

Korkaew

Korkaew. From Bangkok Post

This caught our attention as the case is related to a 2014 lese majeste case against Nopporn Suppipat. At the time, he was one of Thailand’s wealthiest men, investing in alternative energy.

He was entangled in the purge of persons associated with then Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s estranged wife Srirasmi and her relatives in early December 2014.

His lese majeste arrest warrant alleged he hired two persons connected to former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayapan, the princess’s uncle. Nopporn was accused of using royal influence to hire others – Srirasmi’s associates/relatives – to physically assault and threaten.

He denied any connection to the princess’s relatives and fled the country.

In an on-again/off-again legal case that has traversed Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK, in 2020 it is reported that Nopporn had “sued members of a family-run business conglomerate in London’s High Court over the $700 million sale of the business, claiming they conspired to take control of the company.”

Nopporn

Nopporn in 2014

Nopporn’s suit accuses “members, companies and allies of Thailand’s Narongdej family of conspiring to deprive him of any interest in the [W]ind [C]ompany [Wind Energy Holding Co. Ltd.].”

His suit accused “Nop Narongdej, the scion of the KPN Group business conglomerate, of reneging on the plans and secretly conspiring with members of his family to keep the [company’s] shares” despite a deal done that would have allowed Nopporn to hold the shares outside Thailand. It was said that the “stake in WEH was eventually sold to Kasem Narongdej, Nop’s father, at a major discount…”. As a result, the suit involved Nop, Kasem and “15 other defendants, including the family’s companies, WEH employees, Narongdej’s lawyer, Siam Commercial Bank [major shareholder: the king], and individual banking employees.”

In Thailand and Hong Kong, the shenanigans have caused considerable reporting. Some of it:

The new report states that:

on June 4, 2021, the Attorney General issued a definitive court order against Khunying Korkaew Boonyachinda and associates to the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court on charges of the forgery of Mr. Kasem Narongdej’s signatures in several documents and allegedly using these forged documents for the transfer of WEH shares to Khunying Korkaew Boonyachinda.

The prosecution order issued by the Attorney General corresponds to the results of signature verification from both the Central Police Forensic Science Division, Royal Thai Police and the Institute of Forensic Science, Ministry of Justice. Both results clearly indicate that Mr. Kasem’s signatures on all documents used by Khunying Korkaew Boonyachinda for the transfer of WEH shares (Mr. Kasem as transferor and Khunying Korkaew as transferee) are forged.

Korkaew is Nop’s mother-in-law and she’s always been a hi-so figure. The case unveils some of the corruption that marks this class.





International embarrassment II

10 06 2021

The regime’s embarrassment should be increasing now that other countries are reporting that Thailand’s AstraZeneca production is severely delayed.

Reuters reports that, in addition to the Philippines, both Malaysia and Taiwan are saying deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Thailand will be delayed. AstraZeneca reportedly made the king’s Siam Bioscience the production site for much of Southeast Asia.

Covid vaccinate

Clipped from The Rand Blog

The report states that “AstraZeneca’s distribution plans in Southeast Asia … depends on 200 million doses made by Siam Bioscience, a company owned by Thailand’s king that is making vaccines for the first time.” It adds:

Any questions about Siam Bioscience meeting production targets are sensitive because King … Vajiralongkorn is its sole owner. Insulting Thailand’s monarchy is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison….

Siam Bioscience and AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to requests for comment….

In Taiwan, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said “orders from AstraZeneca would be delayed by a month due to production problems at the firm’s Thai plant.”

In Malaysia, Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told reporters he is also expecting delays.

In Thailand, Thai Enquirer reports that

A source inside Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health told Thai Enquirer that part of the reason for the delay is because the Thai government has decided to focus first on inoculating its own citizens.

“I think the government has been criticized from all sides due to its decision to heavily rely on SBS vaccines and it is especially sensitive right now,” the source told Thai Enquirer by phone.

“So they are halting or delaying exports of the vaccine to focus on the inoculation drive to gain back some credit.”

Remember when Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul was demanding that AstraZeneca deliver doses to Thailand as contracted? What’s he saying now? Such “vaccine nationalism” has been seen elsewhere, but what about contracts?

Meanwhile, even in Bangkok, the supply of vaccines continues to run short. But the private sector seems to be able to access a flow of vaccines. What’s going on?





An NACC surprise

10 06 2021

After more than six years, PPT has been surprised that the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has finally acted on an clear breach of the assets disclosure rules by The Dictator’s brother and currently appointed senator, Gen Preecha Chan-ocha.

The Bangkok Post recently reported that the NACC commissioners voted 9-0 to ask Gen Preecha “to acknowledge charges of concealing assets belonging to himself and his wife.” Indeed, “Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, the NACC deputy secretary-general, told Isra [N]ews Agency the NACC was in the process of laying charges against the accused.”

Following that, Gen Preecha is expected to “give further statements to the commission before the case is concluded. After that the case will be submitted to the commissioners who will decide whether to forward it to prosecutors.”

This case goes back to 2014, when Gen Preecha was appointed to the military junta’s National Legislative Assembly. Then he was said to have “falsely declaring his assets and liabilities…”.  According to this report:

corrupt-preecha

Clean hands?

The alleged false declaration has to do with Gen Preecha’s failure to include his house in Phitsanulok and a bank account belonging to his wife, Pongpuan, in the couple’s asset list.

Gen Preecha claims to have “explained everything to the commission in January and February and would let the law run its course…. He insisted that he filed his assets and liabilities properly.”

PPT’s first post on Preecha and his assets declaration is from October 2014, when he declared assets of almost 80 million baht, but already there were errors in his declaration. As he does now, back then the Assistant army chief Preecha “defended his declaration of wealth … saying everything can be explained.” His explanations then were bizarre and entirely unlikely.

About a year later, with Preecha now Defence Ministry permanent secretary, an “investigation” by the NACC was reported and seemed to have to do with his declared assets. When and if there really was an investigation was unclear, but the NACC declared Gen Preecha squeaky clean, even praising his “honesty.”

The NACC secretary-general was reported as revealing that the general and his wife held 10 bank accounts and all were included in the file the general submitted although he stumbled over the details and admitted that the general had filled out the form strangely.

Since then there’s been plenty of reporting about alleged nepotism and family corruption, not to mention Gen Preecha collecting taxpayer-funded allowances and salary for not doing his appointed job.

We can but wonder why the case against Gen Preecha has suddenly re-emerged and why it has taken so long. Can the NACC really have turned? Is this all about intra-coalition bickering?





Ammy and Phromsorn face more 112 charges

9 06 2021

Ammy

An earlier photo of Ammy

Prachatai reports that Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan or Ammy, the lead singer of band The Bottom Blues, is facing yet “another royal defamation charge for singing a modified version of his song ‘1 2 3 4 5 I love you’ at a protest in front of the Thanyaburi Provincial Court in January 2021.”

Along with the already reported case against and activist Phromsorn Weerathamjaree

, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights report that Ammy faces another lese majeste charges for “participation in the 14 January 2021 protest in front of the Thanyaburi Provincial Court to demand the release of student activist Sirichai Natueng, who was arrested in the middle of the night on 13 January 2021,” also for lese majeste involving the “spray-painting portraits of members of the royal family.”

It seems that this may also be a second case against Phromsorn for participation in this event – one for a speech and this one for joining Ammy in singing the song where the “I love you” is replaced with “Fuck you Too [Prayuth Chan-ocha]” or “Free our friends.” This time, however, the police claim the words were replaced with words against the king:

TLHR reported that according to the police, participants during the 14 January 2021 protest replaced “I love you” with “Fuck you […].” TLHR did not disclose what the final word was, but said the police deemed that the modified lyrics were insulting to the king.

Phromsorn

Phromsorn

Phromsorn reported to Thanyaburi Police Station on 7 June and denied the charge and Ammy reported on 8 June, also denying the charge.

The public prosecutor has now filed 112 cases against the two activists.

It is stated in the report that this “is the 17th royal defamation case in which the public prosecutor has ordered an indictment since the law began to be used against pro-democracy protesters in November 2020.”

The Thanyaburi Provincial Court granted bail to both men, “with a security of 300,000 baht each. The court also required them to sign a letter promising not to run or tamper with evidence.”

Ammy stated that this is “the first pop song to be charged under Section 112” and “that he was notified of the charges while he was still being detained pending trial in another royal defamation [lese majeste*] charge at the Thanyaburi Remand Prison.” He was detained for 69 days before being bailed on 11 May 2021 “on condition that he does not participate in activities which are damaging to the monarchy…”.

So far, Phromsorn is “facing a total of 3 counts of royal defamation [lese majeste] relating to political expression…”.

*PPT is becoming concerned that reporting of lese majeste is replacing the term with “royal defamation.” That plays into the arguments of the military-backed and royalist regime that argues for the draconian lese majeste charge being just another defamation charge. Clearly it is not.





Threatening Penguin

9 06 2021

To get bail, Penguin – Parit Chiwarak – had to give the court certain undertakings that prevent him from questioning the monarchy and engaging in political protest. The regime and its pliant judiciary considered they have worked a fix that keeps the protesters quiet and compliant.

As would be expected from this repressive regime and its royalist vigilantes, they been patrolling Penguin’s social media.

Thai PBS reports that the “parents of Ratsadon anti-establishment protest leader … Penguin … and a Thammasat University lecturer were warned by the Criminal Court today (Monday) that it may revoke the anti-establishment [anti-monarchy] political activist’s bail if he is found to be in breach of his bail terms.”

They were “summoned as Parit’s caretakers to the Court today for a special hearing over a complaint in which Parit is accused of posting a message on his Facebook page deemed to be a breach of the terms of his release on bail…”.

During the hearing, “caretaker” Dr. Adisorn Juntrasook explained that Parit was “just exercising of his freedom of expression within the terms of the bail.” Parit’s “parents also explained that their son did not do anything which could be considered a breach of the bail terms.” Adisorn promised “to remind Parit to comply strictly with the court’s requirements.”

The court “instructed them to make sure that Parit strictly follows the bail terms and refrains from posting any messages on social media which may constitute a violation, or the court may revoke his bail.”

No anti-regime or anti-monarchy language will be tolerated.