Updated: King controls Army, Air Force and Police

29 08 2020

The winner in this years reshuffles of the military and police is King Vajiralongkorn. While loyalists have been in charge of these forces for decades, the palace has always had and expressed preferences. Vajiralongkorn has previously been involved in contests over the appointment of police chiefs.

Yet the recent approval of heads of Army, Air Force and Police suggest that the appointments have all been made to satisfy the king.

Nikkei Asian Review has recently recounted how “[t]rusted military allies of Thailand’s monarch have moved to extend their reach into the armed forces…”.

Whether this amounts to “alienating Prime Minister [Gen] Prayuth Chan-ocha from a pillar he needs to prop up his government,” remains to be seen. After all, Gen Prayuth is a staunch royalist and has been premier for more than six years. The last prime minister to serve longer was Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, another royalist, and he had to face down coup attempts.

According to unnamed sources, it was palace favorite and Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong who boosted “Gen Narongphan Jitkaewthae, the assistant army chief, to succeed him in September as the new commander of the army, which has 335,000 active-duty troops.”

Gen Narongphan is known to be trusted by Vajiralongkorn while Gen Prayuth is reported to have  favored Gen. Natthapon Nakpanich, the deputy army chief. But, of course, it is the king “who wields ultimate authority in this Southeast Asian kingdom.”

The report goes on to observe:

In a country where demonstrations of loyalty to the monarchy are prized, both Apirat and Narongphan wear theirs around their neck — special shirts with a red rim around the collar. The shirts show they have passed special training for soldiers in the elite Royal Command Guard, also known as Royal Guard 904, which answers only to the king.

The two generals also belong to the King’s Guard, a Bangkok-based military faction with a rich army pedigree. The monarch himself served in the ranks of the Wongthewan, as the King’s Guard is called in Thai, during military service in the 1970s while he was crown prince.

Given the king’s connections with the Air Force and with Air Chief Marshall Sathitpong Sukwimol as his long-serving private secretary the rise of palace loyalist Air Chief Marshall Airbull Suttiwan has been expected.

Meanwhile, at the police, Gen. Suwat “Big Pud” Chaengyodsuk, “a former commander of a royal protection police unit” has been approved as the next national police chief. Big Pud is reported to have “attended the same military cadet class with the current army chief Gen. Apirat … and was a classmate of Chakthip [Gen. Chakthip Chaijinda, current police chief] when they studied at the Royal Police Cadet Academy.”

Most significantly, Big Pud commanded the “police commando unit tasked with providing security to the Royal Family members and carrying out other tasks assigned by King Vajiralongkorn.”

The chances are that after these appointments are approved that a harder line will be taken against students and anti-monarchists.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that there’s been pushback on the Air Force appointment, with Air Chief Marshall Airbull reportedly pushed aside after complaints, that included barb that “the nomination of ACM Airbull from ‘a special signal’ was damaging.” In the past, unless Vajiralongkorn has changed his mind, he has tended to be insistent. Let’s watch this.





Hardening lines I

13 08 2020

A couple of days ago, The Guardian reported the now obvious: “Thai protesters have broken a long-standing taboo, risking lengthy jail terms to criticise the king, after weeks of student-led pro-democracy rallies that have swept across the country.”

In fact, as Thai Lawyers for Human Rights recount,

Since 18 July 2020, youth and various civic groups have demonstrated against dictatorship in Thailand. Free Youth has proposed three demands: the state must stop intimidating the people, a new constitution must be drafted, and parliament must be dissolved. At least 107 public activities and assemblies have been organized in 52 provinces, the latest of which was the #ThammasatCan’tTakeItAnymore demonstration organized by the United Front of Thammasat and Assembly at Lan Payanak on Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on 10 August 2020.

The students have included those in high school and university. They have been joined by other pro-democracy groups and individuals. The movement is decentralized and multi-headed.

That some protesters have begun to openly criticize “the country’s wealthy and powerful monarchy” has shocked some and provoked others.

The Guardian report believes this has “left the government in a bind. Allowing criticism to pass would undermine the status quo that keeps them in power … while cracking down hard on the students could foment further protests and intensify scrutiny of the monarchy.”

With King Vajiralongkorn having made another flying visit to “his kingdom,” we expect that the regime has been ordered what it must do.

(We assume Vajiralongkorn is on his way back to Germany via Zurich as the taxpayer-funded TG970 left Bangkok at about 2.30 am. If that is his flight, then he spent just 18 hours in country, visiting his hospitalized mother and swearing in new cabinet ministers.)

At Thammasat University on Monday students issued “a 10-point list for reform of the monarchy.”

The regime and the palace have reacted. Rightists have been mobilized, but for the moment remain relatively contained and constrained. But the self-proclaimed protectors of the monarchy have also been vocal in warning and threatening the students.

Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong provided the example for rightists by borrowing from rightist social media to describe the protesters as “nation-haters.”

Sunai Phasuk at Human Rights Watch warns that legal measures and intimidation of pro-democracy protesters “is getting more and more aggressive…”.

Claims on social media that the palace has been speaking to owners and executives of media firms, encouraging them to scale back their reporting of the protests and to oppose the students seems reflected in television news and in the press.

For example, the Bangkok Post seems to have become more recognizably rightist. Its report on Monday’s rally made accusations: “Comments made by protesters at the university’s Rangsit Campus in Pathum Thani have potentially violated Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law.”

That amounts to a threat to the students by essentially calling for Article 112 to be used against the students.

They cite university administrators and their threats to students and distancing themselves from the rally: “Police will take legal action against all involved, particularly those who are not Thammasat University students…. For the university’s students who acted improperly during the rally, Thammasat will itself take action based on facts and in line with its regulations.”

For a university that has been the site of so much political activism, its compromised administrators made the astounding statement that the university will now “ban political activities on its premises that risk violating the law.”

The report went on to cite rightists and yellow shirts. Not a single student voice is heard in this “story.”

Unelected senator and rightist Kamnoon Sidhisamarn “told parliament that the demands made by protesters during the rally were unprecedented and their comments were the most violent he’d ever heard.”

Violent? Is he quoted correctly? If he is, then it is a lie and a fabrication that threatens the students and invites violence from the right.

Like many others, Kamnoon raised the specter of 6 October 1976 and its violence. While he moderates his threats by arguing that parliament should have a role in sorting out this conflict, his commentary remains threatening.

(At least royalists are admitting that the massacre at Thammasat in 1976 was by royalists and for the “protection” of the monarchy.)

Another unelected senator, Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana claimed the students had offended “tens of millions of Thai people loyal to the royal institution and the tradition of peaceful co-existence based on the mercy of the royal institution.” That’s pure royalist drivel but also a call fro a response from the right and ultra-royalists.

The Bangkok Post joins the call for parliament to play a role in preventing the “country plung[ing] into a deep divide, with the possibility of violent confrontations … [in] what could become a national crisis.”

It makes no comment on the student’s demands.

Meanwhile, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has observed that

The exercise of the right to freedom of expression and public assembly has caused at least 76 organizers of the events to face intimidation and surveillance, as well as being told to call off the events, denied permission to hold the events, and the events being intervened by the authorities, etc. At least four legal cases have been initiated against individuals who have exercised their right to freedom of expression, particularly as a result of their criticism of the monarchy. It has led to the arrests of lawyer Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer, and Phanuphong Jadnok, a university student, and it appears more people will be slapped with legal cases. The issue has ignited widespread and fiery debate online as some view the exercise of such freedom of expression by the demonstrators as illegal acts and “insulting to the monarchy.” They have even threatened that the dehumanizing violence of 6 October 1976 at Thammasat’s Tha Pra Chan campus could repeat itself.

In response to the official and rightist threats, 130 academics issued a statement “to voice their support for student protesters who raised a 10-point manifesto on reforming the monarchy in a rally at Thammasat University on Monday.” They argue that the proposal “does not undermine the Palace.”

The academics supported the 10-point manifesto to reform the monarchy and stated that “the protesters were sincere and expressed their opinions within their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Section 34 of the Constitution. Moreover, it said, their activities are in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is recognised by Thailand.”

They pointed out that the proposals do not violate any law, arguing that “it’s a straightforward proposal that aims to protect the constitutional monarchy and democracy.”

Implicitly criticizing Thammasat administrators, they declared: “Educational institutions must not avoid or shut the door on freedom of expression. The universities should set an example and teach society to face challenges with patience, which is essential to democracy…”.

Part of the motivation for the academic statement was talk of a military coup, a point also made by the anti-government Free People movement which stated “it was also opposed to all attempts to stage a military coup…”.





Military, monarchy and their nation

5 08 2020

With criticism of the king, monarchy and regime increasing, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha sounded old-fashioned and tired in his claim that the absent king and queen “are concerned over the safety of flood victims and have ordered volunteers in affected provinces to supply meals to them.”

That kind of claim was standard for the dead king and usually resulted in taxpayer funds putting cheap goods in bags with the king’s moniker on it and handing them out in stage-managed ceremonies. This king has continued that, but his absence from the country makes it a lame exercise and one that is very mid-20th century.

Speaking of throwbacks, Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong could no longer keep his mouth shut on calls for reform of the monarchy-military alliance. He seemed agitated and must feel that Gen Prayuth is being too “conciliatory.” He’s issued (more) threats against those he calls “nation-haters,” which is also “a term frequently used by pro-establishment figures to describe pro-democracy activists.”

The Army chief, speaking to the cadets at Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, “slammed unidentified individuals who kept criticizing their own country, saying they are an ‘incurable disease’.”

Apirat “protecting”

His threat and warning was clear: “Those who hate their own country are not recoverable because they keep mocking their own country.” The general “told the cadets that it is preventable by cultivating a patriotic mindset early on from their childhood.”

Activist Arnon Nampa reportedly described Gen Aprirat as “lacking maturity” in “coming up with new discourses to belittle citizens.” He stated: “It’s nonsense. He’s just ridiculing those who are fighting for democracy…. We don’t hate the country, it’s the dictators we detest.”

One of Gen Apirat’s problems is that his own “patriotic mindset” instilled from  childhood by his military family and his military indoctrination means that he is unable to distinguish between monarchy, military and “nation.” For him, military and monarchy are twinned as the nation and he is incapable of imagining anything else.





Monarchy and conflict II

3 08 2020

Prachatai has an important post that reproduces a 24 June op-ed from The Manager Online defending the king. It is remarkable that, on the anniversary of the 1932 revolution felt the need to “defend” the king. Prachatai notes that this piece “is one of many responses to negative sentiments towards monarchy as anti-government protests grow.” The threat of rightist violence has increased. As Prachatai notes:

The opinion piece came out amid proliferating protests against Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government, many elements of which are seen by many as involving the monarchy. The protests also took place in July, which is the month of King Vajiralongkorn’s birthday. Many have asked the protesters not to involve the monarchy, including former red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, Army Chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong, the leader of the Kla Party [and former Democrat Party boss and PRDC supporter] Korn Chatikavanij, and the rector of Rangsit University [and ardent yellow shirt], Arthit Ourairat.

The piece is authored by Dr Arnond Sakworawich, an Assistant Professor in Business Analytics with qualifications in statistics and psychology at the Graduate School of Applied Statistics in the National Institute of Development Administration.

He has quite a list of op-eds in the media and seems a reasonably regular columnist for The Manager.

His previous claim to fame was as “director of the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida)’s polling agency” when he “vowed to resign after [NIDA’s] top administration bowed to political pressure in suspending the release of a poll on Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan]’s luxury wristwatches.” He was only director for three weeks.

More significantly, as Prachatai points out, in “2014, Arnond … was on stage of the PDRC mob which overthrew Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government and gave rise to …[the] military regime.”

In the piece discussed at Prachatai, Arnond is driven to declare the absentee king a low-profile hard worker.  That hard work is defined as using “modern technologies” to “give orders to his royal servants and follow up on them.” A kind of couch potato hard work.

Arnond makes a claim for the king having an idiosyncratic work style: “With regard to the issue that people make accusations and gossip that King Rama X rarely works, I know that it is not true. In fact, His Majesty works very hard and uses many methods specific to His Majesty…”. He claims “he knows His Majesty’s working style from his observation of …[his] role in the Tham Luang cave rescue in June and July 2018.”

Our memory of the king’s involvement that event is of “phu yai” culture and political grandstanding, marked by royalist propaganda that even featured the king’s son and one of the first mobilizations for the king’s uniformed jit arsa “volunteers.” We also recall his interfering nature.

Arnond’s account is of the king having minions – “officials” – at the cave. Apparently he had them “record videos and take pictures to be sent to him, and write reports to him all the time via Line.” We can only wonder if these “officials” were getting in the way (after all, reporters were restricted in where they could gather). He also claims the king “sought equipment, contacted divers and experts from around the world by himself, and gave advice and assistance closely and followed up every step…”.

This is kind of a standard royalist narrative for Vajiralongkorn. We recall when they were claiming the king was secretly joining teams to clean Bangkok’s streets at night when the virus first appeared. Of course, he was carousing in Germany with his harem.

But that doesn’t stop royalists constructing an image; something that was especially powerful during Bhumibol’s reign. Aged readers will recall images of the now deceased king listening in on all kinds of radios on all kinds of issues and events nationwide, ready, like some kind of superhero, to swoop in and solve problems.

Channeling the Bhumibol image, the assistant professor says that, on the cave story, the king:

went without sleep following all aspects of the situation himself. He followed in his own way, that is, His Majesty did not want anyone to know what he was working on. The King likes to be silent, and likes it to be a secret. He does not make announcements, attaching gold leaf to the back of the Buddha statue in the most silent way.

Exactly how Arnond knows of the king’s alleged work at the cave or anywhere else is left opaque.

But some of what he says is just trite and trifling:

King Rama X uses modern communication devices, the internet and smartphones to give orders and follow up work (while many of us Thais are sending flowers of seven colours, saying hi for seven days, and sharing fake news and messages around without checking and using it for entertainment more than work.)”

Arnond repeatedly emphasizes that the king works secretly and silently. It is a claim that is, by its nature, impossible to refute or verify. It is also an attempt to “explain” why the king is so seldom seen doing anything much at all.

At work, using taxpayer monies

Arnond also defends the king’s absenteeism. He reckons privy councilors say that, “regardless of which country he stays in, the King works at night and sleeps during the day…”.

Asleep on his bike: The king “works at night and sleeps during the day…”.

And, even if he is lolling about in Germany, he’s got his men at work:

he clearly assigns different work for each Privy Councillor. “Some are responsible for the three border provinces in the South, some for public health, some for agriculture, some for security, and some for education. He assigns work in a military way….

If readers watch the royal news, they can see this as privy councilors are sent off to appear at events, making up for the king’s absence.

In contextualizing the propaganda piece, Prachatai goes on to note that the “monarchy is facing a growing challenge.” That’s a factual claim, but in Thailand, it is a bold statement.

It cites Royal World Thailand, a Facebook account that claims the king is “facing decreasing popularity with a growing number of negative views among the people, from normal critics to great malice displayed publicly which has never ever happened in Thai history.” It refers to “waves of haters and great malice” towards the king.

The reason for this is because “the King assigns various officers to represent him in some duties, rather than doing them mostly by himself.” Arnond is seeking to turn this fact on its head.

Will this decline of the monarchy lead to conflict? Probably.





Rising rightists

30 07 2020

As predicted, the rightists are rising in opposition to student calls for change. The Bangkok Post reported that an unknown “right-wing group calling itself Archeewa Chuai Chart will hold a rally on Thursday [today] in what is seen as a bid to support the government in the wake of protests by student activists.”

Suthep thanks the Army

On social media, this group is widely seen as having been created by groups associated with the anti-democratic People’s Democratic Reform Committee and Suthep Thaugsuban, who led the rallies that paved the way for the 2014 military coup. Indeed, the group claims to have formed in 2013 to support Suthep’s attacks on the elected government.

This new rightist group” criticised the Free Youth group and the Student Union of Thailand…”. It claimed the “student activists used fake news and false information to cause misunderstanding about the monarchy…”. They vowed to “defend the monarchy.”

Why royalists want to “protect” a monarch who lives in a foreign country is anyone’s guess. Perhaps they hope that another member of The Munsters can take over.

Khaosod adds that many have expressed concern that the rally could be a precursor to political conflict. Even Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has expressed concerns (see more below).

We are not convinced by Prayuth’s alleged concern, especially when he warned: “I have ordered police to prevent them from confronting each other…”.

As Khaosod reports, this is just one element of a broader rightist and ultra-monarchist denunciation of the students as part of a “plot” to bring down the monarchy. This includes the Army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong. Last week saw the first counter-protest, at Army headquarters.

As Thai PBS reports, critics include all of the “usual suspects” who have organized all manner of “protests” and groups to “protect the monarchy.” It lists several of them, all yellow-shirts since the days of the People’s Alliance for Democracy:

Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn voiced concern at the presence of protest placards with veiled and direct references to the monarchy.

Sondhi

Sondhi Limthongkul, a media mogul and former yellow-shirt protest leader, said he was convinced the mastermind behind the placards aimed to provoke violent clashes between police and protesters. [We thought he was in jail….]

Academic [Is he? Really?] and media personality Seri Wongmontha said he was convinced that “people pulling the strings” behind the anti-monarchy placards wanted to incite violence between the protesters and angry royalists….

Rienthong

And, as Khaosod reports, fascist maniacs like Mongkutwattana Hospital director and Army officer Maj Gen Rientong Nan-nah is back at work, seeking to mobilize ultra-royalists. He declares that he will support those who “report” student activists to companies, government agencies, universities, and other educational institutes, demanding they never be employed. He called on supporters to “quietly infiltrate [the student protests] and take the photos of these people who joined the god damned protests. Try to make sure the photos have detailed faces that can be traced their identity.” He wanted these photos posted on Facebook, making the protesters political targets and illegally discriminated against.

More worrying are the regime’s moves. Khaosod has reported that “[r]iot police were ordered to mobilize and prepare detention facilities to accommodate student protesters arrested by security officers…”. Most threatening for the student activists, it is the notorious, royalist and heavily armed Border Patrol Police who were mobilized:

Two companies of riot police would be housed at the regional Border Patrol Police headquarters in Pathum Thani’s Khlong Luang district north of metro Bangkok, while about a 100 protesters would be held at a separate building inside the base, the letter wrote.

A “guest house” is also prepared to accommodate 5 protest leaders….

Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, the leader of the Free Youth Movement, suggested the memo might have been intentionally leaked by police as part of their psychological operations.

“They just want to threaten protesters,” Tattep said. “Our movement is not against the law or causing harm to anyone.”

Given the BPP’s murderous history, it is not an idle threat.

As Thai Examiner explains/warns: “there is no denying that conservative forces have now been mobilised by this protest wave which they infer, carry with it, criticism of the monarchy and Thailand’s traditional values.” Those conservatives already have a lot of blood on their hands.





Apirat, Jatuporn and the students

24 07 2020

With demonstrations against the regime spreading across the country, students continue to shine a light on the regime’s lack of legitimacy.

But the backlash has been swift and ultra-royalist. Some have been arguing that the students are a part of the lom chao republican plotting to bring down the monarchy.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

In a stern ultra-royalist warning, Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong demanded that the protesters not “disrespect the royal institution” – he means the absentee king and the monarchy.

Gen Apirat babbled about “people’s rights and freedoms in a democratic system” – that can’t be Thailand – but worried that “protesters’ actions were making people feel uncomfortable.” He then speculated, like so many ultra-royalists, that “the current protest seemed like it may be part of a conspiracy but he refused to speculate who might be pulling the strings.”

Apparently Gen Apirat can’t get it through his thick skull that many of the younger generation aren’t interested in ageing generals and the absentee monarch, living off taxpayer monies.

Apirat being “democratic”

His meandering discussion raised the specter of 1976, when student demonstrators were massacred.

Meanwhile, an earlier Bangkok Post report brought a royalist warning from an unlikely source: Jatuporn Promphan, chairman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). He said that attacking the monarchy left the activists open to “a public backlash…”.

Jatuporn “said the students must not drag the monarchy into their activism.” He worried that republicanism “would end with huge losses like in the past…”.

Such advice is probably not needed by the students. They are well educated, quite politically savvy and of a different generation. They may appreciate his efforts in the past and his time in jail, but they probably disagree with Jatuporn’s political capitulation when he declared:

I’d like to ask these students to keep a clear head and bear in mind that Thailand will [always] be governed by a constitutional monarchy that will serve as [the kingdom’s] guard….

He is not someone this generation of very young activists listens to, distinguishing themselves from the battles of the 2000s and 2010s with new ideas and methods.





Updated: Military screws Thailand again II

15 07 2020

The double standards and impunity evident in the virus quarantine fail episode have caused much anger and the regime has gone into deep damage control.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “has apologised to the people for lax Covid-91 measures which failed to effectively put dozens of foreign visitors [in Rayong] in quarantine.” He stated: “It shows no respect of the rules and a lack of discipline…”.

We think he’s wrong. What has happened reflects the impunity the military enjoys. “Discipline” in the military involves knowing one’s place in the hierarchy and granting privileges to those in uniform.

Gen Prayuth also said “he is taking responsibility for the incident…”. That seems to mean little as no one believes he’s doing more than damage control.

Taweesin Visanuyothin, the spokesman of the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, previously said of the incident: “it was not a mistake.” He added: “We will not lay the blame on anyone since they have been authorized to do so…”.

He faced a barrage of criticism and soon changed tack: “We can’t deny responsibility…. We apologize and appreciate everyone for their cooperation.”

PPT have no idea what the last phrase means.

Army chief Apirat Kongsompong has trouble expressing regret or taking responsibility. Gen Apirat claims he’s “a victim of unfounded rumors,” and grumbles “I’m always to blame…”, adding:“The army is not involved with it, and the [Egyptian aircrews] are not the guest of the army.”

So the air force is the problem but Utapao airport director Kritchaphon Rianglekjamnong “said the Egyptian Air Force’s transport plane was approved by the government for a refueling stop, and the crew went through appropriate checkpoints upon arrival.” Nothing to see there he says and blames others: the Rayong provincial public health office.

As Khaosod observes, and as most of the population has been thinking:

In a contrast to the government’s harsh enforcement of pandemic health measures on members of the public, no charge was filed against any government or military officials responsible for the Egyptian pilots’ arrivals and quarantine.

And, as everyone knows, this is not the only similar case. There were the lies about the visit by the American general and his entourage. And, there was the case of special treatment of a Sudanese diplomat’s family.

We reckon the taking of “responsibility” and offering “apologies” amounts to very little if no one is held to have done anything wrong (apart from a few low-level scapegoats).

Update: Who knew!? According to the Middle East Monitor, it is the Egyptian Embassy that was responsible for quarantining the Egyptian military personnel who dragged themselves around Rayong, shopping and so on. The report states:

Thailand has summoned the Egyptian ambassador after an Egyptian military crew member left a hotel where he was supposed to be self-isolating and later tested positive for COVID-19.

Spokesman for the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration, Taweeslip Visanuyothin, blamed the Egyptian embassy for sending the crew to a hotel rather than a state quarantine facility….

The Director General of the Department of South Asian, Middle East and African Affairs, Dusit Manapan, has asked Egypt to comply with regulations and measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Phew! That lets the regime and Thai military off the hook. Or so they hope.





Military screws Thailand again I

14 07 2020

Puea Thai Party’s chief strategist, Sudarat Keyuraphan is right to accuse “the Government of lowering its guard when it allowed an Egyptian military mission to enter and stay in Thailand without being monitored or quarantined” when at least one of them had the virus.

She’s also right to recall that it was the Royal Thai Army that arranged a boxing match – against regulations – that resulted in the country’s largest virus cluster. And, she’s right to observe that there’s been almost no accountability on that case. In this sense, she may be off target when she only blames the government. She should be lashing the military.

Certainly many members of the public are pointing at the military. It is reported that the “hashtag #อีแดงกราบตีนคนไทย (Daeng should prostrate before the feet of the Thai people), referring to the army chief Apirat Kongsompong, reached over 1.5 million tweets and shares between Monday night and Tuesday morning.”

Now, some 400 people have to be traced, tested and quarantined. Up to 1000 may be impacted.

The regime and the military has gone into damage control, suppression and blame shifting.

The response from the military: “The army has denied that it played any role in the soldier’s transit.”

Might someone explain why the Egyptian military was in Thailand? We at PPT hadn’t noticed a relationship previously. But there were 31 in the “delegation.” That sounds official and not like a simple stopover. Someone must have granted permission for the visit and stopover.

Cover-up is the main response. The regime has refused to provide details: “The soldiers — whose identities and ranks were withheld by the government — stayed in Thailand before leaving for a one-day visit to Chengdu, China on July 9. They returned to Thailand on July 10…”. It is claimed that “[s]ince it was an official trip, it is understood that the government exempted the group from a number of entry requirements, including the mandatory 14-day quarantine. It was also reported that the soldiers were allowed in because they were listed as ‘air crew’.”

Cover-up exposed:

The military is distancing itself from the case, with U-Tapao airport officials telling reporters “only one out of 31 delegates sneaked out”. Such an explanation is ridiculous and leaves some questions unanswered. For instance, how could the soldier (or soldiers) leave the assigned accommodation with a liaison officer around?

Blame shifting has seen the governor of Rayong Province reassigned after the “foul-up which exposed people within Rayong to possible coronavirus infection.” In this case, blaming the governor is buffalo poo. It is the military. Move Forward MP Taopiphop Lim is right: “This is a move that is on the military and government level and not on the provincial level, the governor is just a scapegoat…”.

Why not blame Egypt? “All flights from Egypt will be barred from landing in Thailand, following an incident last week when members of an Egyptian military mission defied Thai regulations by not confining themselves to their hotel in Rayong.” That reporting is weak-kneed rubbish. It is the Thai military and regime that defied regulations. Why? Because they can and do, all the time. It is the usual impunity.

Or blame the Egyptian Embassy:

Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, put the blame on the Egyptian embassy in Thailand for arranging hotel accommodation for the Egyptian delegation instead of sending the visitors to a state quarantine facility.

“Regulations require the quarantine during their stay but the embassy contacted the hotel directly. Health and security teams learned later about the incident and did their best to cope,” he said.

Huh? If this is right, then Taweesilp, doing his own credibility huge damage, is saying the government knew nothing. So how did they land at the military-controlled airport? No answer.

The Air Force has blamed the Ministry of Health:

The health ministry was responsible for allowing an Egyptian military delegation later found to include an officer infected with Covid-19 to go shopping in Rayong during their stopover in Thailand, air force chief ACM Manat Wongwat said on Tuesday.

A stopover by a military airplane on a long-haul flight for refueling and to rest the crew and passengers was normal international practice, ACM Manat said.

The role of the air force was to approve or disapprove a stopover request by a plane carrying a military delegation. The health ministry was responsible for coronavirus checks and quarantine….

ACM Manat said when the Foreign Ministry received a stopover request from an embassy it was forwarded to the air force for approval.

Buck-passing may not work if the Air Force’s role at its airport is to not control anything, which is buffalo manure. So the next trick is an “inquiry.” Can anyone recall the last time anyone n the military or the regime was held responsible for anything during an “investigation”?





Odd stuff

10 07 2020

A reader reckoned it was odd that PPT has been ignoring the ructions in the Palang Pracharath Party. While we have linked to a couple of stories on this, our view has been much as the Thai Enquirer has it:

The former party leader of Thailand’s ruling party and three other senior officials resigned from the party on Thursday signalling a possible cabinet shake up and the consolidation of power by the army wing of the ruling party.

We’d just add that it has always been a military-backed party. Recall that it was formed to allow Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his military junta to stay in power following a rigged election. The plan is to have the military pulling the string for up to 20 years.

On that 20 year period that The Dictator once called this “national reform.” It was a long-term plan to keep the military in politics and the monarchy in place.

Perhaps because the regime seems to feel it remains in control, as the Bangkok Post reports, no one seems particularly interested, demonstrated when a “Lower House sitting on national reform was cancelled yesterday for the lack of quorum.” The meeting was meant to “discuss progress on reform plans, which require a report and debate in parliament every three months.”  mainly because the .

For some grasping at “democratic” straws, see Prachatai.

Finally, the regime has ditched the ridiculous lie that the American general and his entourage had quarantined for 14 days prior to arrival in Thailand. Rather, it has sought to downplay the obvious double standards.

The Bangkok Post reports that:

Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said the delegation … would not be quarantined because health officials were confident of controlling any disease they may have….

Taweesilp added:

Thai officials who accompanied the visitors would also not have to be quarantined for 14 days subsequently, because they knew well how to protect themselves, kept a distance from the visitors, and had experience gained in handling returnees who arrived by plane….

Funny statement when Taweesilp has carved out those accompanying the US military delegation and those meeting with it. We don’t recall Gen Prayuth or Gen Apirat Kongsompong “handling returnees.” There are still glaring double standards at work, most especially when the regime maintains an emergency decree.

Rounding out a series of cockeyed reports, Gen Apirat is reported to have “insisted the US did not ask to use Thailand as a place to build a base.” He warned: “Don’t stir up issues that might create conflict in the region…”. Tell us more!





With 4 updates: Generals, kings and isolation

6 07 2020

After some criticism of quarantine exemptions for a visiting US military delegation, a Thai general was quoted:

A delegation led by the US army chief of staff has been required to self-isolate before their arrival for 14 days for a two-day trip under a special arrangement, Gen Somsak Roongsita, secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC) said yesterday [Sunday].

That seems pretty clear. The Thai general is further quoted:

US army chief of staff Gen James McConville will meet his Thai counterpart, Gen Apirat Kongsompong, and Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha on Thursday and Friday, Gen Somsak said.

But, then, as ever, things get a little murkier:

Gen Somsak said the delegation would fly from Singapore to Thailand on a private flight. “They won’t be flying directly from the US. It’s a small delegation and will be in Thailand for two days.”

They were tested and quarantined for 14 days in the US before the trip and would be tested again in Singapore and at the Military Air Terminal 2 at Don Mueang airport.

So in Singapore, they are not isolated.Just saying….

But what about in the USA? We found this official report:

REDSTONE, AL, UNITED STATES
07.02.2020
Photo by Kari Hawkins
U.S. Army Materiel Command

Gen. Ed Daly takes command of the Army Materiel Command as he returns the AMC flag to Command Sgt. Maj. Rodger Masker during a Passing of the Colors ceremony July 2. The Passing of the Colors was part of the change of command ceremony, and included previous AMC Commander Gen. Gus Perna and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville.

Date Taken: 07.02.2020
Date Posted: 07.02.2020 16:46….

We did a count, and we don’t think 2-9 July equals 14 days. Is the Thai general concocting a lame story for local consumption? Does he think no one will bother doing a bit of online searching? We are sure another lame story will follow. Just saying….

And what of all those who are in contact? Are they isolating after the visit? Probably not. Just saying….

And then there’s the arrival this morning of yet another special Thai Airways reportedly carrying the king and queen back to Bangkok from Germany and Switzerland for another less than one day visit. It seems the bankrupt airline is still flying special flights for the royals. And, like the king’s one other visit to Thailand, there’s no isolation, presumably as the possibility of a royal virus is a blessing. Just saying….

Update 1: If you aren’t filthy rich and are without a royal or military connection, then you can be held in contempt compared to those with status and loot. Gen Prayuth has “expressed his concerns about the future resumption of international travel under the Travel Bubble scheme, stressing Thailand must implement a vigorous arrivals screening.” Unless you are rich, royal or connected.

Update 2: We predicted another story to cover for the Thai general’s dissembling. One we saw came in the Bangkok Post. It seem that the buffalo manure is being dumped as the Post has a photo that appears to be showing that the American general hasn’t isolated for 14 days anywhere. The caption for the photo states:

US army chief of staff Gen James McConville (centre right) visits the Thai army’s combat team which joins Exercise Lightning Forge at the Schofield Barracks army Base in Hawaii before his trip to Singapore, Thailand and Japan later this week. (Photo supplied by Wassana Nanuam)

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

We can’t confirm when the photo was taken but the text above gives the impression that “before” means within the last few days and the photo shows everyone masked.

Now the official line is that the American general and his entourage will wear masks and limit meetings. Then is is added that they’ll be virus tested before arrival and on arrival. But what about all those they meet and the “liaison officers, along with health and security officials”? What about Gen Prayuth and Gen Apirat?

Update 3: Serial complainer Srisuwan Janya, who has celebrity status for his incessant attention-seeking activism, has lodged a complaint about the delegation’s visit and associated double standards.

Update 4: Because they lied, officials and army brass have been busy covering posterior and repairing their image by going above and beyond in having the American general appear to be sanitized and separated. Look at the lengths Gen Apirat has gone to. One suspects he is trying to (re)burnish his image for a political career.