With 3 updates: A royal shemozzle IV

31 05 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has provided “further assurances that all Thais will receive Covid-19 jabs and warned the media not to sow confusion over the state vaccination programme.” He did this as the government cancelled its booking app.

He continued to say that “the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine planned for next month … will proceed as planned.”

Meanwhile, the private sector is taking a increasing role in the vaccine campaign, especially in Bangkok, with department stores, malls, the Board of Trade of Thailand and private hospitals seemingly taking the lead.

And, it seems the Princess playthingChulabhorn Royal Academy’s ham-fisted foray into vaccines, cutting through constitution and law, is morphing. It is as if no person responsible for the administration of the “Academy” had thought much about the sudden royal intervention.

The Bangkok Post reports that Dr Nithi Mahanonda, the Academy’s secretary-general announced that “[o]ne million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from Chinese state-owned Sinopharm will arrive in June and be offered as a paid alternative for particular groups who don’t want to wait…”. He specifically targeted the “private sector or any agencies which are at risk and want to speed up the process…”.

Dr Nithi added “that as the vaccine will be procured with the academy’s budget, it could not be offered free of charge.” He said the price would “not exceed 1,000 baht per shot…”.

This was something of a shock, for as the Bangkok Post states, “most people assumed that the imports would be offered free of charge as an adjunct to the state vaccination programme.”

The price is not out of line with prices cited in other places where the sale price per dose of the two-dose regime for the Sinopharm’s vaccine is reported to be between $19-$36. As usual, the Chinese government does discounts and “friendship prices” for some places. AstraZeneca is less than half of the lowest price in this range.

(For those interested in efficacy, this non-medical article might be of some interest.)

Nithi then further sank the public’s understandings and maybe even hopes when he stated: “I do not think that members of the public can come to receive it…”.

This led to predictable criticism, with Nithi clarifying: “I apologise if I might have talked too fast during the press conference, causing a misunderstanding that we’ll profit from the vaccine…. We won’t charge an extra baht…”.

We are left to wonder why? Why a royal intervention? Was it a propaganda opportunity? Was it a way to cover up for delays at Siam Bioscience? Did some royal do a deal in or with China? Did the Chinese government make an offer to a royal? Given the private sector’s increasing role, approved by the state, why was a royal intervention necessary if it is just acting like other vaccine procurers? More importantly, what of the constitutional and legal bending and cracking that it involves? Why?

Update 1: The shemozzle looks more bizarre by the day. Thai Enquirer reports that Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda has ordered that “provincial governments must gain approval from the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) before they buy coronavirus vaccines…”. This order “came after Pathum Thani governor Chaiwat Chuenkosum said that his province is ordering 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines from Chulabhorn Royal Academy (CRA).” This potential collaboration and sale has been confirmed by the “Academy.” So fully half of the vaccines it imports will be sold to one province. What on earth is going on? Any of our readers know?

Update 2: A comment by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha makes the royal (imported) vaccine muddier still. He is reported to have stated:

On the national Covid-19 vaccine rollout, he said the government will proceed according to its plan.

“Every vaccine must be imported with the government-to-government method. We have a committee working on this,” he said.

So why was there an “Academy” intervention?

Update 3: The royal intervention has done little but has made the constitutional waters muddier than ever. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has reiterated that Siam Bioscience is a problem:

As for the bulk of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will be mainly used in the country during the second half of the year, Anutin said that the allocation is based on the doses deliverable under the contract with AstraZeneca, regardless of where they have been manufactured. Some are produced in Thailand and some will be imported to meet the contracted deliverables.

Meanwhile, Chulabhorn’s self-named “academy” is now just an also-ran among “universities,” and a bunch of private sector forays into the vaccine market.





With 3 updates: Gen Prayuth’s court let him off

2 12 2020

In a move that was never in doubt – forget the rumors of the last few days – the politicized Constitutional Court, with double standards in neon lights, let The Dictator off.

The Constitutional Court was never going to find Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha of malfeasance for having violated the constitution by staying on in his Army residence long after he officially retired from the Army.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

The Nation reports that the court “ruled that military regulations allow former officers to remain in their Army residence after retirement.”

The opposition had “accused Prayut of breaching the Constitution by staying on at an official Army residence in the First Infantry Battalion of Royal Guards … after his military retirement at the end of September 2014.”

He stood “accused of violating Sections 184 and 186 of the Constitution that forbid a government minister from ‘receiving any special money or benefit from a government agency, state agency or state enterprise…’.” It is clear that such free accommodation violates these  articles.

But the Constitutional Court has regularly ignored the constitution. We can recall then Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej being ousted by the court for “expenses” totaling about $2,350 for appearing on his long-running television show a “Tasting and Complaining.” Gen Prayuth’s gains far exceed that paltry amount. Free rent, free services, free servants, etc. etc.

The Army “informed the court that the residence was provided to Prayut because he is PM and deserves the honour and security it provides.” It added that “[s]imilar housing has been provided to other former Army chiefs who are members of the Cabinet, the Privy Council and Parliament…”. In other words, the Army rewards its generals who serve as privy councilors, ministers – like Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda – and appointed senators. It is a corrupt cabal, with the Army ensuring its people are never “tainted” by regular society.

The Army, the Constitutional Court and the regime are corrupt.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post failed to produce an editorial on this story. We can only guess that the editor’s desk is having to get their editorials approved by the owners. How else could they have missed this? We’ll look again tomorrow. The story it has on Gen Prayuth’s free pass from his court summarizes the Constitutional Court’s “reasoning,” resulting in a unanimous decision by this sad group of judges:

His occupancy was allowed under a 2005 army regulation, which lets army chiefs stay on base after they retire if they continue to serve the country well, according to the unanimous ruling read out at the court in Bangkok on Wednesday afternoon.

The court said the regulation had come into effect before Gen Prayut was the army chief, and other former army commanders have also received the same benefits.

The court said Gen Prayut served the country well as army chief, and the army regulation allowed its former commanders to use such houses, and subsidised utility bills.

“When he became prime minister on Aug 24, 2014, the complainee [Gen Prayut] was also the army chief in active duty. He was therefore qualified to stay in the house in his capacity as the army chief. When he retired on Sept 30, 2014, he was still qualified to stay as a former army chief. A prime minister who had not been army chief could not have stayed at the house,” the court said in its ruling.

Being a prime minister is an important position and security for him and his family is important. The state must provide appropriate security and an accommodation that is safe and offers privacy enables him to perform his duties for public benefits. It is therefore necessary to prepare accommodation for the country’s leader when Baan Phitsanulok is not ready, the court said.

The free utilities also do not constitute a conflict of interest since they are part of the welfare that comes with the housing.

In other words, the Court accepted every major point made by Gen Prayuth and the Army. It is easy to see who is the master and who is the pet poodle.

Just for interest, this is what Sections 184(3) and 186 of the constitution state:

183. A Member of the House of Representatives and Senator shall not:

… (c) receive any special money or benefit from a government agency, State agency or State enterprise apart from that given by the government agency, State agency or State enterprise to other persons in the ordinary course of business;…

186. The provisions in section 184 shall also apply to Ministers mutatis mutandis, except for the following cases:

1. holding positions or carrying out acts provided by the law to be the duties or powers of the Minister;

2. carrying out acts pursuant to the duties and powers in the administration of State affairs, or pursuant to the policies stated to the National Assembly, or as provided by law….

Compare that to the “reasoning” summarized by the Post and it is easy to see that the court has made yet another political decision for the regime and the social order it maintains.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post has now produced an editorial. It actually says things that could easily have been made a day ago, but we guess lawyers and owners had to have their say. It notes:

Many observers have said the ruling did not surprise them in the least. This is not the first time the court, appointed by the military regime in accordance with the 2017 charter, and endorsed by the military-leaning Senate, has cleared up political trouble for the prime minister. Before this, there was the incomplete oath-taking case and the ruling that Gen Prayut, while serving as premier after the 2014 coup, was not a “state official.”

And on this verdict makes – as others have – the point that should never be forgotten:

In its not-guilty verdict regarding the welfare house, the court judges cited a 2005 army regulation, which lets army chiefs stay on at a base after they retire “if they continue to serve the country well”. The court said the regulation came into effect before Gen Prayut was army chief, and other former army commanders have also received the same benefits.

However, the court stopped short of explaining why a military regulation can overrule the country’s supreme law.

Constitutional Court judges make a ruling

The explanation has to do with the nature of the court – politicized – the nature of “justice” – double standards – and the power of the military (in alignment with the monarchy).

Update 3: As night follows day, the Constitutional Court has assigned Pol Cpl [a corporal? really? why keep that moniker with one’s name?] Montri Daengsri, the director of the Constitutional Court’s litigation office, to file charges with the Technology Crime Suppression Division against Parit Chiwarak for Facebook posts that the court considers “contempt of court.” Parit condemned their ridiculous legal contortions.

Cpl Montri also stated that Parit’s speech at the protest rally after the verdict was “defamatory in nature and violated the Criminal Code…. Police investigators were looking to see what charges would be pressed…”.

The court’s litigation office was also “looking into a stage play allegedly poking fun at the court over its ruling at the rally site.” No sense of humor as well as dullards and sham “judges.”





Bolstering monarchy

7 11 2020

The royal family’s younger women, including Queen Suthida, Princesses Bajrakitiyabha and Sirivannavari, and some of the harem, appear to be pushing for a new PR strategy and rebranding of Vajiralongkorn and themselves as celebrities – what might be considered the Hello! strategy. Obviously, this follows the model of royals in some other countries.

Sirivannavari’s photo clipped from Hello!

At the same time, the royalist dinosaurs occupying government seats continue to follow ninth reign strategy. For example, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda have “urged provincial governors across the country to help protect the monarchy and prevent fake news.”

During a video conference, Gen Prawit ordered governors “to promote the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy.”

This approach seems unlikely to mesh with the notion of royals-as-celebrities, pioneered by Sirivannavari and (more bizarrely) by big sister Ubolratana.

If we are to believe that Vajiralongkorn – who has recently appeared ill and unsteady – is to go down the Hello! celebrity path, then he’d need to also acknowledge that such a rebranding usually goes along with subjection to the constitution, the acceptance of criticism, and the ditching of ninth reign repression and “demi-god” status. So far, the evidence is of some leniency on criticism while also mobilizing fascist yellow shirts, which would seem to mitigate against a celebrity status.





Prawit is the natural leader of mafioso

23 06 2020

The “news” that everyone knew was coming is now out. Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has “accepted” his nomination as leader of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, the party that he mostly formed and has directed throughout.

As the Thai Enquirer puts it, “[h]is ascension to the party’s highest post will pull back the loosely held curtain that had been in place for the better part of the last decade and shine a spotlight on Prawit’s central role in Thai politics.”

In fact, the title of this post is from that newspaper, which says: “To Palang Pracharat, with its patchwork makeup of local mafiosos and provocateurs, Prawit is the natural leader.”

Emphasizing this, the gang that crawled around the aging and sick general “to extend the invitation were Industry Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, Deputy Finance Minister Santi Prompat, Education Minister Nuttapol Teepsuwan, Minister of Digital Economy and Society Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao, Messrs. Paiboon Nititawan and Anucha Nakasai.” Local thugs, convicted crooks, moneybags who buy the party’s votes and MPs, and coup plotters.

They slithered around him at his office at a metropolitan Army base. Of course, it is the Army that provides Prawit with the accoutrements he’s used to after his years as a military manipulator.

As Thai Enquirer explains:

Prawit has been the mastermind behind not only the military coup of 2014 but the turbulent nature of Thai politics since the Abhisit government stepped down.

While Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has served as a ready ‘puppet’ … it has been Prawit that has been the brains behind the operations. [PPT does not consider Gen Prayuth a “puppet.” He’s worked hand-in-glove with Prawit and Anupong.]

Prawit is, after all, the spiritual leader of the military faction known as ‘Burapha Payak (Tigers of the East)’ or the Queen’s Guard military unit.

Burapha-aligned Generals like Prawit, Prayut, Udomdej Sitabutr and Anupong Paochinda have played a central role in orchestrating, from behind the scenes, much of the political upheavals since the PDRC protests [which they helped organize and motivate].

All four men have served as head of the army.

They control the regime and this move simply strengthens their control as the regime looks to years and years in power. Next, a cabinet reshuffle is needed to reward Prawit’s minions.

 





Preparing for (more) repression

15 06 2020

Increased repression is in the works.

One indication is that police “have summonsed at least three people to answer charges of violating the Emergency Decree in connection with a recent gathering to demand a probe into the [enforced] disappearance in Cambodia of pro-democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit.” (One of those to be charged is Chotisak Onsoong.)

Keeping the emergency decree in place is a part of the ongoing repression.

Another indication is that the Bangkok Post reports the “Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) will carry out a major drill next month aimed at testing its new internal security plan…”. ISOC’s targets are always opponents of the regime and the monarchy.

Prawit and Prayuth

A third indication has to do with the military bosses in the regime strengthening its control over its Palang Pracharath Party by having Gen Prawit Wongsuwan run the show. With Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda, the trio that planned the 2014 military coup are ensuring that parliament and oppositions are kept quiescent.

Anupong

As a Bangkok Post report states: “Once firmly in control of the party, his role will further strengthen the positions of Gen Prawit himself, Prime Minister Prayut … and Interior Minister Anupong…”. The move also strengthens the military itself.

While the trio already have control, they and the Army brass are worried about rising discontent, some of it targeting the absent king. And, they plan to stay around for years to come, controlling the country.





No accountability

20 05 2020

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the Asia Democracy Network (ADN) have called on “the Government of Thailand to re-activate its investigation into the [murderous military] crackdown [in 2010], and ensure transparent proceedings and due process for all involved.”

The joint statement demanded:

The Government must ensure that activists fighting for justice for victims of this massacre are protected from reprisals. The Government should take genuine and impartial steps towards ensuring justice for all if it is to gain the trust of its people….

The good old days at the Army Club

The groups wants the government to conduct “a reliable and transparent investigation to assure its people that such forms of violence would never recur, and to ensure the protection of advocates pushing for accountability.”

Those responsible would “need to be held accountable, regardless of position or political affiliation. Without this accountability, the right to fundamental freedoms, and the ability of the public to trust its Government remains compromised.”

While PPT supports such calls, it must be acknowledged that accountability, transparency and impartiality are simply not possible from the current regime.

The military crackdown was ordered by then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, leading a Democrat Party coalition government. That Democrat Party was supportive of the 2014 military coup, the resulting junta and is now a part of the pro-military/military-dominated ruling regime. It is never going to be a part of any effort to establish accountability, transparency and impartiality on 2010.

More obviously, the military assaults on red shirt protesters, including the use of snipers, were led by Gen Anupong Paojinda and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, among others, many of who were a part of the junta regime after the 2014 coup and remain at the apex of the current regime. Such a government is never going to be a part of any effort to establish accountability, transparency and impartiality on 2010. In any case, these former military leaders, who still conduct themselves as soldiers, expect impunity for their actions that protect the ruling class.





Updated: No one forgets 2010

19 05 2020

There’s a trend in academic work that emphasizes memory, memorialization and memory. As it has translated in Thailand, several very smart academics have argued that Thais have forgotten important events, including 1976 and 2010. And, there’s discussion of how to remember. As an example, see one of the several op-eds at the Thai Enquirer today.

We feel this is too academic and too detached from the reality of the almost two-month long Battle for Bangkok. No one who was involved has forgotten. Nor do they need “advice” on how to remember. But, it is a decade ago, and many of those talking of memory, forgetting and remembering were too young, too class-disconnected, too bookish or too coddled to be involved and therefore, it is their memories that are constructed, distorted or reoriented. For examples, see the other op-ed at the Thai Enquirer by reformed/reforming/rethinking/unreformed yellow shirts (here, here, here, and here). And, do look at the real effort that this newspaper put into trying to understand 2010 (here, here, here, and here). We don’t agree with everything that is said, but applaud the effort made.

The 19th of May 2010 marked the end of the red shirt struggles. April and May 2010 again revealed the utter brutality of a military that views electoral democracy and people’s sovereignty as a threat to the order it prefers and defends.

It must be recalled that the leadership of today’s regime is born of the military dictatorship – Generals Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prawit Wongsuwan, Anupong Paojinda, and Apirat Kongsompong – together with former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban have never been held accountable for the protesters shot down, injured and killed in those bloody events. These men, blood on their hands, remain at the center of yet another military-backed regime.

These pictures are from both sides of the battle as the military gradually surrounded and then cleared the Rajaprasong area. Blood flowed and no one has been held responsible. Unfortunately, while no one involved forgets, it is Jatuporn Promphan who captures the essence of “remembering” for those defeated by the military’s armed excess:

“The truth is that this is the deadliest fight for democracy in Thailand…. Over the past 10 years, the Redshirts have been living humbly because we know that there is no way for us to fight. We can only seek for justice, but it will not be delivered.”

Update: It was at Wat Pathum Wanaram that – according to the courts and eye witnesses – the military gunned down people, including medics, in a zone they had declared “safe.” Since those murders, the military has gone to extraordinary lengths to silence witnesses and silence campaigners. Of course, the military has a lot to hide. Sadly, the military has also used the virus to close the temple on the anniversary of its murderous assault.

 





Updated: Appalling Abhisit

18 05 2020

Like the military, the appalling Abhisit Vejjajiva and the (Anti)Democrat Party have been spooked into responding to the illuminations of sites in Bangkok that remembered and questioned the military’s crackdown on red shirts in 2010.

As we previously posted and is widely known, the crackdowns were ordered by then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban. The murderous military assaults, including the use of snipers, was led by Gen Anupong Paojinda and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, among others, many of who were a part of the junta regime after the 2014 military coup and remain part of the current regime.

In a Bangkok Post report, Abhisit reportedly claimed:

he thinks the country has yet to recover from the decade-old wounds despite several legal cases connected to the red-shirt mass protest having been settled in court and an independent panel shedding light on what happened.

Like his “book,” called The Simple Truth – a travesty of untruth – Abhisit’s observation here is misleading. The “independent” panel was, in fact, appointed by his regime and almost none of the cases that matter have been “settled in court.” In fact, as Khaosod reports, despite courts finding that the military murdered red shirts and bystanders, “[t]en years after a military crackdown that left about 90 people dead, no army personnel has ever stood trial over the killings…”.

Abhisit and Suthep have never been held accountable. When they were charged they defended themselves with spurious accounts and by claiming the police could not investigate them. They claimed that the charges were a subterfuge by political opponents, insisted that most of the deaths were the work of terrorists – men in black – and that the use of weapons and lethal force was justified by terrorist attacks on the military. Supporting them, the military leadership repeatedly claimed that it did not kill any protesters. Then Deputy Army Commander General Prayuth stated: “My subordinates did not kill anyone, but they were shot at…”.

The good old days at the Army Club

The charges failed because the lapdog of military and royalist regimes, the NACC rejected malfeasance allegations against Abhisit, Suthep and Anupong. Following the defendant’s script, he NACC considered the red shirt protests were not peaceful with armed militants among the demonstrators. Because of this, the NACC agreed that regime had acted legally in authorizing armed personnel to reclaim the demonstration sites and that they had to protect themselves and did so in accord with “international standards.” All allegations and charges against Abhisit, Suthep and Anupong were dismissed.

No one seriously expects justice in royalist Thailand.

This year, Abhisit continues to blame Thaksin Shinawatra and his parties.

Let’s have that coup!

Startlingly, Abhisit now says: “We all should look ahead and work together with an open mind to prevent the preconditions for military coups…”. He apparently thinks all Thais are morons and have short memories. Arguably, Abhisit ranks second behind Suthep in the stridency of calls for a military coup. In allowing his Democrat Party to repeatedly sabotage parliamentary politics and in taking to the streets several times to hasten a coup, Abhisit would be better advised to shut his mouth and avoid the buffalo manure drivel that emanates from that aperture.

He’s supported in his avoidance of justice when the Democrat Party avers:

“The allegation [against Abhisit] has been already disproved by contests in the justice system, whether a court of justice or an inquiry by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which already proved that the crackdown was in accordance with the law…”.

“The allegations [against Abhisit] are distortions to defame him.”

The Democrat Party now supports a regime that came to power via the 2014 coup. The credibility of the justice system has been destroyed by the military and its puppet regimes and associated parties.

Abhisit then attacked the illuminations: “The movement’s search was launched with rhetoric that was bent on pointing fingers, which is not the way to attain the truth.” If there’s one thing the appalling Abhisit has shown that he can avoid, it is the truth. And, he reckons Thailand can’t handle the truth (unless it is his truth).

Update: The renewed attention to the murderous events of April and May 2010 have pricked the military-supporting Democrat Party. According to Khaosod, the anti-democratic party “will take legal action against anyone who accuses its former leader of illegitimately ordering a military crackdown on Redshirt protesters that left about 90 people dead 10 years ago.” The unpopular party claims that such “accusations” are libelous. In Thailand, the libel and defamation laws and threats to use it is often used by criminals, liars and the powerful to silence whistleblowers and critics. Truth is often suppressed by such actions.





Truth, May 2010, no remorse

13 05 2020

After the illumination attacks on King Vajiralongkorn in Germany, illuminations of sites in Bangkok have remembered and questioned the military’s murderous crackdown on red shirts in 2010.

Prachatai reported that messages “projected onto key locations of the May 2010 crackdown on the Red Shirt protests” on Sunday night and the projected hashtag “#FindingTruth” (“#ตามหาความจริง”) trending on Twitter. The projections appeared just “a week before the 10th anniversary of the May 2020 crackdown on Red Shirt protestors on 19 May.”

The crackdowns were ordered by then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban. The murderous military assaults, including the use of snipers, was led by Gen Anupong Paojinda and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, among others, many of who were a part of the junta regime after the 2014 military coup and remain part of the current regime.

The locations included “Wat Pathum Wanaram, Soi Rangnam, the Ministry of Defence, and the Democracy Monument.”

Other messages were: “May 1992, 2010: killing fields in the city” and “Facts about May 2010: (1) the military forced all Red Shirts out of CTW [Central World] (2) The military took control of the CTW area (3) The fire happened when the military took control of CTW (4) The military wouldn’t let fire trucks in to put out of the fire…”.

The identity of those responsible was, at first, unknown, but the military elements of the regime sprang into repressive action, threatening “legal” action. The Nation reported:

“We do not know the exact purpose of this group but speculate that they have also spread these messages around social media to gain a wider audience,” Defence Ministry spokesman Lt-General Kongcheep Tantrawanich said. “It seems they are trying to bring up past political events, but this could lead to misunderstanding by authorities and institutes.”

Lt-Gen Kongcheep continued:

“I personally find it inappropriate to project these messages on government and public buildings, which could spark disagreement amid a crisis that the country is already facing. If the group wants to seek the truth, they can find it from evidence in legal cases, some of which have already seen verdicts while others are awaiting further legal procedures…”.

Of course, this is buffalo manure. As Prachatai explained, the:

casualties of the April-May 2010 crackdowns included unarmed protestors, volunteer medics, reporters, photographers, and bystanders. While the Abhisit government claimed that the protestors were ‘terrorists,’ news reports, pictures, and video footage show that none of the victims were armed, and until now, no trace of gunpowder has been found on any protestors’ hands. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2011 report, the excessive and unnecessary force used by the military caused the high number of death and injuries, including the enforcement of “live fire zones” around the protest sites in which sharpshooters and snipers were deployed. No officials responsible for the crackdowns have so far been held accountable for these casualties.

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch is clear, saying the projections are “a sign of popular support for the demand for truth about the 2010 violence…”. He observes:

… the government of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, just like its predecessors, has no answers for those demanding justice for at least 98 people killed and more than 2,000 injured between April and May 2010….

In the decade since, the authorities have conducted no serious investigations to prosecute government officials responsible for crimes. While protest leaders and their supporters have faced serious criminal charges, successive Thai governments have made paltry efforts to hold policymakers, commanding officers, and soldiers accountable.

Under pressure from the military, authorities made insufficient efforts to identify the soldiers and commanding officers responsible for the shootings. Criminal and disciplinary cases were dropped against former Prime Minister Abhisit, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, and former army chief Gen. Anupong Paojinda over their failure to prevent the wrongful use of force by the military that caused deaths and destruction of property. To add insult to injury, Thai authorities have also targeted for intimidation and prosecution witnesses and families of the victims.

Khaosod reported that the “Defense Ministry will file legal action against those responsible for a light spectacle…”, although it was not clear what the charges would be.  According to the Bangkok Post, “Pol Col Kissana Phatanacharoen, deputy spokesman of the Royal Thai Police Office, said on Tuesday that legal police officers were considering which laws were violated and who should face charges.”

We suppose that the regime can concoct something, including using the current emergency decree, even if Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan seemed stumped.

Meanwhile, the “Progressive Movement, a group of politicians loyal to the now-disbanded Future Forward Party, appeared to claim responsibility for the actions Monday night by posting a timelapse , behind-the-scenes video from inside a van.” The Nation confirmed:

The group also said on its Twitter account that the authorities had no need to track them down….

“The truth might make some people uncomfortable and they may try to silence it but the truth will set us free from your lies,” the group boldly announced on Twitter. “We are no longer your slaves. Find the truth with us on our Progressive Movement Facebook page between May 12 and 20,” it added.

Lacking any remorse, the military is insistent that action be taken against protesters who did not gather and merely composed projections. Its political allies are threatening that the “Move Forward Party, a reincarnation of Future Forward Party, may face dissolution for sharing images of messages with a political tone that were recently projected in public places across the capital…”.

Interestingly, much political discontent is simmering. As The Nation reports, a “large crowd of mourners, many dressed in red, paid tribute to [lese majeste victim] Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul on Sunday (May 10) as the pro-democracy fighter better known as Da Torpedo was laid to rest in Bangkok.” The report notes that: “Her funeral marked the first large pro-democracy gathering during lockdown. Many mourners dressed in red instead of black to demonstrate their determination to carry forward Da Torpedo’s fight for democracy.”

The regime and its murderous military appear worried.





With 3 updates: Corrupt military

15 02 2020

The calls for reform of the Army following the Korat murders are almost deafening. Some are from those who previously more or less supported the 2006 and 2014 military coups. Other critics are ardent yellow shirts.

But, really, wasn’t all of this corruption known before? It was for us, and we have posted on it dozens and dozens of times. The unusual wealth, free digs for senior officers, the use of the lower ranks as slaves by the top brass, “commissions,” scams, nepotism, the impunity on torture and murder, etc. It has all been widely known.

Clipped from Khaosod

Naturally enough, the criticism of the military flows across into the military-backed regime, led by generals. One reported comment was an expression of “hopelessness” at responses to Korat from both Army and regime. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was seen as gruff and uncaring in his response while Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s tearful media conference was seen by some as theatrical.The two are seen as part of the same regime and they are both men who have benefited greatly from the corrupt system.

Of course, Apirat’s response is also political as he is angling to take the premiership after Gen Prayuth, to continue the Army’s political dominance.

One of the public responses has been skepticism that “the army chief’s vow to bring transparency to the barracks” is real. As one person commented to reporters, “there is no reason why those in power will make sacrifices…”.

We at PPT are not so skeptical because Gen Apirat obviously views the current criticism as an opening for critics and a threat to the Army’s role in the economy and politics. For the moment, he is unable to shut down critics. And, he needs to respond. He’s said:

There are many projects among army personnel who collaborate with businessmen including real estate and loan sharking businesses. I know that and there will be generals down to colonels who will go jobless this month and in the coming months….

Sacking underlings is one thing. Attacking the toxic culture of a feudal military requires much more that this.

But the political threat to the military is acknowledged by Gen Apirat and he knows he has to be seen to be doing something.

As the Bangkok Post reports. “[p]olitical activists are pushing for an investigation into what they describe as the army’s administrative errors, which they believe was the root cause of the massacre in Nakhon Ratchasima…”.

The Future Forward Party and other opposition parties are demanding investigation and reform.

A group known as The People’s Party for Freedom, Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) called on the “House of Representatives’ committee on military affairs” to conduct “an investigation into the army’s alleged mismanagement” of armories and poor security. More significantly, it also demanded “that businesses run by the army, especially those managing army-owned land for commercial purposes” be investigated.

This is a big deal. Consider, for example, the role of the military in the Eastern Economic Corridor, controlling the airport and port in the project as well as tracts of land that are being converted to commercial use. And, the military controls millions of rai of land.

The group also demanded “that the authorities look into certain members of top brass, who have abused their authority for the benefit of themselves and their families.” Here the group is pointing to the “military housing project … in which the gunman was reportedly cheated by his superior and his superior’s family, [as]… clear evidence of blatant abuse in the army…”

But there’s much, much more. Think of the crony Senate and the nepotism of Gen Preecha Chan-ocha, among many, many others. Consider how it is that Can anyone remember the Rolls Royce corruption case and how nothing happened? Does anyone recall the corruption allegations over the Army’s expensive Rajabhakti Park homage to dead kings?

And then there’s the declared wealth of the military members of the junta’s administration, showing huge and unusual wealth in 2014:

If a general in the armed forces, your assets average about 78 million baht.

If you managed to become an admiral in the navy, you sail away with average assets of about 109 million baht.

The top money secretes to the top police …[where] the average for the top brass in the police is a whopping 258 million baht.

Even declared unusual wealth was never investigated. For confirmation of this, for readers with access, a recent academic article detailed some of this. This is what the paper’s abstract states:

After the military coup of 2014, 143 serving and retired generals of the Royal Armed Thai Forces submitted asset declarations to the National Anti-Corruption Commission on being appointed to the military junta’s National Legislative Assembly. By analysing these declarations, this article demonstrates that a cohort of wealthy generals has emerged, which leads to the article’s central concern: how is it that despite the political reform project of the 1990s, military leaders were able to evade scrutiny and become wealthy? It is argued that behind the lack of scrutiny of the military’s wealth accumulation was a structure of fear that severely undermined the capacity to enforce regulations and which enabled the military to evade the constitutional forms of scrutiny elaborated in the 1997 Constitution. That structure of fear emerged in a context of an elusive political settlement when the apparatuses of the state were occupied by competing regime framers, leading to a re-assertion of military power.

The Korat event has led to an outpouring of accusations and complaints, some of it from soldiers:

Lawyer Atchariya Ruangrattanapong said he was compiling a list of soldiers who had made similar complaints about being caught up in shady loans or real estate deals with superior officers.

“There are plenty of cases at the moment…”.

Atchariya also praised the military for transferring Col. Uthai Fangkratok and Lt. Col. Tee Permpol to “inactive duty” within the Second Army Region, which covers Thailand’s northeastern region where the rampage took place.

“Thank you commander of the Second Army Region for the actions after we exposed the scam,” he said in a Facebook post on the Help Crime Victims Club page.

Despite our comment above, there’s ample reason for skepticism about the “optics” around “doing something.” Critic Titipol Pkadeewanich of Ubon Ratchathani University declares: “It is just a show…”.

For one thing, Gen Apirat is not allowing any independent investigations. He has:

… ordered 2nd Army commander Lt Gen Thanya Kiattisan to conduct a “straightforward” and speedy investigation into the shooting, said a source who asked not to be identified.

Two other working teams have been told to look into soldiers’ welfare provisions and businesses run within the barracks as well as take action against any personnel found to be involved in dishonest deals, the source added.

Maj Gen Rachit Arunrangsi, chief of the Army Welfare Department, and Lt Gen Ayut Siwiset, chief of the Directorate of Personnel, are in charge of the two panels.

While he has “threatened to suspend any business-oriented army projects that are found to have irregularities,” again, it is an internal investigation.

Bolstering skepticism, it has been widely reported that Gen Apirat’s statement that “retired army officers must move out from their official residences…”, has exceptions. No prizes for guessing that Gen  Prayuth, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda will be first among those keeping their Army-supplied houses. This is because they make a “contribution to society.”

Other “retired generals who now serve as Senators; and retired army generals in the Privy Council” also have taxpayer-funded free accommodation on bases, cloistered from the rest of the population, feeling comfortable among the groveling and hierarchy of the forces, using military slaves and more.

While they suck on the public teat forever, they are being “recognized” for their “contributions” to the military, conducting military coups, strengthening impunity and slaughtering red shirts. And, they have strengthened the military’s systematized corruption.

Who can forget the taxpayer-funded years of free accommodation  for now dead Privy Council President Gen Prem Tinsulanonda in a house that the Army has since “donated” to the king. Where does current Privy Council President Gen Surayud Chulanont live?

It is not just that those at the very top engage in nepotism, corruption and sweet deals, setting a poor example, but it is systematized: those at lower levels engage in corruption that funnels funds up into the higher ranks.

Update 1: Is it only a coincidence that Gen Prayuth has ordered the Fine Arts Department to produce “shows” on “Thailand’s war history to bolster patriotism among Thais.” The aim is to strengthen “unity” and promote “awareness of the roles of key institutions — the nation, religion and monarchy — in helping overcome crises…”. Given that most of the propaganda will be about the military, their “reputation” will also be bolstered.

Update 2: The op-eds criticizing the military are raining down like political confetti. Some of them seem to express surprise at the size of corruption revealed, while neglecting to mention some of the biggest military scams or to ask why it is that the military brass gets away with murder and crime. Other op-eds get right to the point: “The Thai army is a closed system governed by feudal authoritarianism which breeds corruption and abuse of power.” Read them all.

Update 3: Prachatai reports on a rally of:

a hundred people [who] gathered in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) yesterday (13 February) for a candlelight vigil to mourn the victims of the Nakhon Ratchasima mass shooting … and to demand that Gen Apirat Kongsompong take responsibility by resigning from his position as army chief.