Updated: Lese majeste in police force

22 11 2015

The Nation has a very brief report, pasted below in full:

Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) chief Pol Maj-General Thitirat Nonghanpitak yesterday admitted that an investigation had initially found two policemen, who had recently resigned from the bureau, might be involved in the violation of the lese majeste law under the Criminal Code’s Article 112.

The information was passed on to acting deputy police chief Pol Lt-General Sriwara Rangsipramanakul for further investigation and evidence gathering, he added. As for four other CIB policemen who were previously transferred to inactive posts, Thitirat said the probe so far had not found any involvement so far with Article 112 offences.

It seems to PPT that these claims relate to the cases of Suriyan Sujaritpalawong, Prakrom Warunprapha and Jirawong Wattanathewasilp.

Update: There’s also a story at the Bangkok Post, but no names are mentioned.

Explaining the military junta

21 11 2015

This post is one of the few “editorials” to appear at PPT. What is it that prompts us to take this unusual step?

It is Thailand’s military dictatorship and the horrible and vicious mess it claims is a road map to reconciliation or some other equally ridiculous euphemism.

Let’s be clear. Thailand’s military dictatorship came to power in an illegal coup in 2014. Like all coup-makers before it, it manipulated the judicial system to ensure that the coup was made legal. It also managed to declare everything it did in that period legal.

This illegal regime is constructed on the bodies of scores of red shirts it murdered. It has impunity for that. It has jailed hundreds, suggesting that its jailings are “discussions.” Scores more have fled the dictatorship and now live in exile.

These days, going into a military prison risks death. Deaths in custody simply aren’t investigated, with the bodies being cremated almost as soon as they die. There is no reason to believe that these were not murders in custody.

If they were murders, it is now clear that the military dictatorship was murderous to save itself and, probably Prince Vajiralongkorn who is caught up in this series of deaths and jailings of dozens of his former supporters and accomplices.

When the military “investigates” itself on corruption, of course, there is none, even when a senior minister has admitted it.

The capacity for untruth from this regime knows no bounds; we even had The Dictator himself, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, lying to U.S. President Obama a day or so ago. Prayuth has either lost touch with reality or simply cannot determine the difference between truth and fabrication. Fabrication and concoction are subjects taught at the military academy.

This military regime is populated by dunces who gained their positions by lying, corruption, murder and other forma of deceit.

It is a regime beneath contempt. It can, and does, get away with murder.

Army air freshener

20 11 2015

The Army thinks that a bit of air freshener can eliminate the odor of rotting fish. They are wrong.

SpraySeveral sprays of freshener have been applied to the pile of pungent gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals. First, the military has been blaming others.

Second, they have been repressing those who dare to speak out on the topic. In recent days we have seen Anusorn Iamsa-ard, Acting Deputy Spokesperson of the Puea Thai Party called in for “a discussion at the 1st Army Region Division in Bangkok” after he criticised a “statement of Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the Defence Minister, about the construction of Rajabhakti Park, a royal theme park featuring gigantic monuments of seven prominent past monarchs in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province of central Thailand, which was rife with corruption.”

Then we saw the junta raiding a television station and filing charges against former national police chief Seripisut Temiyavet and for “hosting a TV programme called Siang Seree (Seree’s voice) in which he criticised the NCPO…. Pol Gen Sereepisuth earlier said the military needed to reform itself before trying to reform the police force, and alleged there was widespread corruption in the armed forces, including in the Rajabhakti Park project in Hua Hin.”

Third, the Army “investigation” team has discovered that the Army is, in fact, virginal, squeaky clean, untainted and good. As Khaosod reports it: “An internal review into the billion-baht Rajabhakti Park found no evidence of corruption, army chief Teerachai Nakwanich announced today.”

Nothing. Not a thing. Even the self-admitted scams by former Army boss Udomdej Sitabutr weren’t found: “Following media reports and statements from the former army chief confirming financial irregularities involving overpayments and dodgy commissions paid to middlemen, Gen. Teerachai said inspection of budget and accounts of the project found no such irregularities in the project.” Nothing. Not a thing. Teerachai said: “There is no corruption. Every procedure is transparent…”.

No one will believe them, but this gang has guns and holds power. They can even get away with murder. So a bit of corruption is nothing.

Because the Army decided the Army is good, there “is no need to ask the National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the project…”.

No one will believe them.

Not even our predicted scapegoat, Col. Khachachart Boondee, is accused of anything.

Then things got really strange.

Khaosod reports that “Army officials also did not allow media present to broadcast the news conference live, without stating a reason.” When he was asked “if the army would open the books to for the public to see how money was spent, Teerachai provided extremely odd responses: he “said that would be dangerous.” He then opined: “You want people to die for this? You want me to execute someone and their entire family for this? I mean, we have to look at their intention.” He also declared that the budget for the project was confidential.

The notion that this project is in “dangerous” areas raises interesting questions. Is someone higher up involved? Is that the reason it is dangerous? Is the military covering up for someone else? Or is he just doing a bit more of a freshening spray so that the trail of corruption is more difficult to follow?

The army and the odor of fish II

19 11 2015

The fish smell is pungent.

As the Bangkok Post explains so well, the “military regime is rushing into ‘damage-control mode’ to protect key member Gen Udomdej Sitabutr from becoming embroiled in the scandal surrounding the construction of Rajabhakti Park.”

The junta is protecting General Udomdej, its deputy defence minister and junta member and former Army commander and chairman of the committee that oversaw the 1 billion baht project.

The Post’s story claims that the junta wants to protect Udomdej because part of The Dictator’s justification for seizing power and staying on and on is that one of the regime’s “priorities is to tackle corruption” and that any whiff of it involving a junta member makes the whole junta smell.

We don’t buy this line. For one thing, many junta members, including General Prayuth Chan-ocha, are unusually wealthy and have never explained how it is that state officials accumulate so much personal wealth.

According to one of his assets declarations, Prayuth’s wealth includes:

… 128.6 million baht ($3.9 million) in assets and 654,745 baht ($20,000) in liabilities. … He also reported the transfer of 466.5 million baht ($14.3 million) to other family members.

… His assets include a Mercedes Benz S600L car, a BMW 740Li Series sedan, luxury watches, rings and several pistols.

How can that be?

A second reason we don’t buy the claim is because the military is a hierarchical club arranged a bit like a mafia family, and they stick together. They tend only to abandon family members when there are territorial disputes. So they protect each other for the most part.

Yet Udomdej is clearly approaching a situation where he might have to face the military equivalent of baseball bats. We are thinking of a lese majeste charge or perhaps a suicide in detention.

But protect they will, until they have no option. So the story is that Udomdej “unwittingly gave his subordinates all the responsibility [to run the project] without realising the impacts that could follow.” So the blame is to be attached to “subordinates.” It’s the “I’m so sorry, but my wife has made a mistake!” excuse.

For the moment, his “wife” is Col Khachachart Boondee, who is charged with lese majeste and who has fled the country. Leaks from the Army’s “investigation” and from police are that there were “alleged irregularities in the purchase of T-shirts for the Rajabhakti Bike & Concert event held on Sept 12 in Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Hua Hin district.” About 6 million baht was skimmed, allegedly by Col Khachachart Boondee and said to be “Gen Udomdej’s close aide.”

As we already know, Col Khachachart was “dismissed from the army, [and] is said to have fled across the border into Myanmar…”. It is also alleged that the colonel was a kind of bagman, collecting money as “commissions” from those making the giant king statues for the park. Remember that he was “Gen Udomdej’s close aide.”

General Udomdej is clearly in trouble, but scratch any top military commander and there’s dirt. One of the reasons to be in the military (and police) is to become powerful and wealthy, and the whole hierarchy is organized to provide wealth, privilege and power to those at the top. Those who scoop up the illicit funds justify it as their just reward for protecting Thailand’s royalist power structure.

The army and the odor of fish I

18 11 2015

In another case of Fawlty Towerism – “I’m so sorry, but my wife has made a mistake!” – the junta is looking worse than silly.

The Nation reports that Deputy Defense Minister General Udomdej Sitabutr is squirming on the hook, but may slip off it as the cover-up on the corruption at Rajabhakti Park, the military’s 1 billion baht ode to loyalty to some monarchs. The project was “initiated when he [Udomdej] served as Army chief,” but the “Army’s fact-finding [read: cover-up] committee did not target Udomdej in its probe.”

Rather, the Army is blaming others and the junta is saying it – chock full of generals – had nothing to do with it.

A photo from The Straits Times

A photo from The Straits Times

All of the corruption and “commissions” was by somebody other than military personnel: “We have focused on the fact that the Army’s reputation has allegedly been abused by someone who sought personal benefit through the project…”. When they name the person, “the Army definitely would sue wrongdoers if there was solid evidence of wrongdoing.” So maybe there isn’t solid evidence? Maybe it was the Army itself and its senior commanders? After all, that is the pattern of military corruption.

If Udomdej gets named, it must be that his “name is abused,” and then he decides “whether he will sue the culprits…”. This is smelling like a haul of fish caught by Navy-supplied slaves.

That the “Army set up a fact-finding panel to investigate alleged irregularities in the Rajabhakti Park project” sounds good until, after reading the above, it is realized that the “goal” is “protecting its [the Army’s] reputation”!

The story from the military still seems to be that “some people did demand personal benefits through the project but after their actions were detected, they returned the money.” And, as Udomdej has stated, they then donated it back to the project. That fish odor will not go away.

Questions about the transparency of the Rajabhakti Park project emerged after Colonel Kachachart Boondee, a staff officer at the Third Army Area, was charged earlier this month with lese majeste along with the late famous fortune-teller Suriyan Sujaritpolwong’s secretary Jirawong Wattanathewasilp. It was alleged that they had falsely cited the Royal Family to demand money from big companies.

Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan is busy handing out air freshener for the junta, playing down the scandal: “It’s not a big deal…”. He makes this point by declaring that the “budget used for the project did not come from state coffers.” It must be okay to use money from private citizens corruptly.

When asked if the scandal meant the Army and the junta had a strong whiff of anchovies, Prawit said, “No.”

Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha was clearer: “his government would not take any responsibility over alleged corruption in the Rajabhakti Park project.” Readers might ask “Why not?”, but Prayuth has the answer: “Why should the government be held responsible?” Oh, sorry, that’s a question, not an answer.

rotting-fishThe junta is seeking to delay “answers.” We assume this means they need to get their story straight. The Bangkok Post reports that the “investigation” is “unlikely to be completed within a week as initially scheduled.”

Prawit says there’s “much more work remains to be done.” Ah, um, er, general, you have already said it ain’t a big deal…. Wait! It’s not a big deal “like the Khlong Dan waste water scandal…”.* And, he’s not sure how much it cost: “As for the about 1 billion baht spent on construction of the park, Gen Prawit said, he could not be certain that much really went into it.” Prayuth isn’t sure either! But certainly more than a ton of plah-rah, that’s for sure.

The committee is “still ploughing through reports on the probe with no indication of when it would finish.” Maybe the smelly fish can be wrapped in the reports.

Prayuth couldn’t keep his mouth shut and decided to “warn” the “critics should not attempt to make the Rajabhakti Park matter a political issue.” No politics in it at all. Just the junta, the Army and a mountain of rotting sardines.

Again asked if the government would take responsibility, Prayuth said: “How does the government take responsibility for this alleged misconduct and why?” That’s military “democracy” at work! Blame everyone else.

We can’t wait to hear who is going to take the fall.

*The Klong Dan Wastewater Project is worthy of study. It was approved by the Chuan Leekpai and Democrat Party-led government in 1995. In recent days the junta has a greed to pay out on a court ruling in 2012 that gives about 8-9 billion baht to the original contractors. For the slippery details on this, see here (opens a small PDF), here (opens a larger PDF, and then read the Chang Noi article) and here.


17 11 2015

Prayuth Chan-ocha has been Thailand’s dictator since 22 May 2014. He seems increasingly comfortable in that position, even if he abhors even the slightest criticism.

He seems especially willing to use Article 44 of the interim constitution – put in place by himself and his junta and which replaced martial law – to get what he wants. Recently there has been timid criticism of his repeated use of this dictatorial article to push through the simplest and most mundane of policies (such as changes to the Social Security Office).

According to a report at the Bangkok Post, Prayuth has sounded very much like other dictators by claiming that Article 44 was used “to cut through red tape and run the government more effectively…”. Of course, dictatorial powers are not necessary for he speaks of normal government activities. But dictators like Prayuth seem to love using special powers.

He added that his use of these powers “does not run counter to the achievement of democratic ideals.” We are bemused by this claim, for Prayuth’s junta has no notion of democratic ideals and does not operate as anything other than a military dictatorship.

For some reason, The Dictator then decided to lecture Thais on democracy. As a leader who has no experience of democratic principles and has shown no democratic intent, this strikes us as arrogant. But that’s how dictators are.

Dictatorspeak saw him warning of Thais being “deceived by illusive democracy.” He claimed to know what “real democracy is…”.

Like the old men in his Constitution Drafting Committee, Prayuth’s dictatorspeak is that “instead of electing politicians and handing power to them, people need to learn how to exercise their power to achieve what they really want.” Or is it what Prayuth and his royalist and anti-democratic elite wants?

Indeed, anti-democrat ideology is now dictatorspeak: “… politicians will help only the people who vote them in…”. Of course, he’s talking about Thaksin Shinawatra and his various parties and governments. Yet his memory is flawed in that Thaksin circa 2001-05 actually implemented several universalist policies.

As dictators often do, Prayuth declared: “Don’t pay much attention to the elections.” He never has.

Like previous military dictators, he also complained about the media and opposition.

Akechai released

16 11 2015

After serving his jail term for lese majeste, Akechai Hongkangwarn was released on 15 November. Prachatai reports that the release came four months ahead of his jail term of two years and eight months being completed.

Akechai pleaded innocent following his arrest, claiming that the documents he had from Wikileaks (see here, here, here, here and here) and the copies of the Australian ABC program on the monarchy were factual and not defamatory. He lost but fought his case all the way to the Supreme Court.

There’s some confusion on the reporting of his release and time served. We think it is correct that his release was four months early.

He’s a brave guy, telling Prachatai “that he still thinks that he is innocent.’ He stated: “I chose to fight because I feel that I have done nothing wrong.” He added:

There were hesitations, the Supreme Court took seven months to accept the case after the Appeal Court. At that time, [I] was discouraged, questioning why it took so long, and people were saying that next April pardons might be granted, so just give in. But eventually, I decided that as [I have] already fought this far then [I should] do it to the very end. People thought I was stupid.



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