More lese majeste charges linked to prince

22 02 2015

The Bangkok Post reports that lese majeste cases have been made against two further men associated with Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s housecleaning following his separation from third wife Srirasmi late last year. We think the total number of lese majeste cases related to this event is now 29.

Setthawut Pengdit, who is a younger brother of former Department of Special Investigation chief Tarit Pengdit, “has turned himself in to police after a warrant was issued for his arrest.”

He and Boontham Thepprathan, a proprietor of the Colonze massage parlor-entertainment complex-cum-illegal casino, are accused of lese majeste. Boontham has not yet surrendered.

The lese majeste charges came after some 50 residents of the Lamtakong self-help settlement in the Pak Chong district “accused the pair of issuing unlawful title deeds…”. The deeds were allegedly for “more than 700 rai to Ban Chum Thong Co and Khaoyai Beverly Hill Co…”. That land is said to belong “to an army infantry unit” and that the “unit had loaned the land to the settlement, which issued Nor Kor 3 land ownership documents to the residents.”

It appears that this murky deal involved the army, police and “investors” making the land transferable by having the certificates illegally changed to “title deeds” without telling the residents. It is reported that “Setthawut had allegedly made a false claim to land officials — citing the name of former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayapan — that the land would be developed into a palace for the royal family.”

The report adds: “There is speculation that Pol Lt Gen Pongpat, convicted of a raft of charges involving a crime network, might be involved in the case as he is closely acquainted with Mr Boontham…”.

Setthawut has allegedly confessed.

It is quite a believable scenario that farmers would lose their land to “investors.” It is also conceivable that land could be acquired for a “palace;” this has happened before. That the Army and police would be involved in such deals is quite normal in rural Thailand.





Army boss wants (his) order

18 02 2015

Army boss Udomdej Sitabutr has many of the usual traits of the army brass. He’s conservative, intolerant, royalist, happy with hierarchy and has little capacity for understanding political difference.

The Bangkok Post reports that after some activists rallied on the weekend, holding a mock election, the Army boss has felt the need to warn “that legal action may be taken against people who protest against the coup because martial law is in place to limit political gatherings.”

That’s pretty well known, and four of the activists were arrested and bailed. Yet Udomdej’s warning is about anti-coup demonstrations. He says “[p]eople are allowed to express their views and take part in ‘positive’ activities, as long as they are within the law…”. That confirms that approved pro-coup rallies are okay  – as was seen, for example, at the US Embassy when rabid nationalists rallied.

Udomdej explained a military perspective as a national perspective: “I think most people prefer peace and order in our country. It is only small groups that carry out unlawful activities…”.

As might be expected, Udomdej says he doesn’t want “any more [anti-coup] political gatherings.”

 





More on the regular use of torture

30 10 2014

PPT has posted regularly on the use of torture by Thailand’s police and military.

These authorities use torture against locals and foreigners.

A report in The Cambodia Daily indicates the use of torture against three poor villagers from Cambodia “arrested in Thailand last week [who] were returned to Preah Vihear province on Monday…”. They claimed they were “tortured by the Thai military before being released…”.

The men were arrested in Thai territory “while searching for wild vegetables.” Perhaps they were seeking valuable timber.

A Cambodian military officer stated “the men told him that Thai soldiers persuaded one of the men to admit he was a Cambodian soldier in order to expedite his transfer back home.”

That confession led to them being tortured by “Thai soldiers … to get information about the location of Cambodian military troops and supplies.” Shockingly, “The Thai soldiers used pliers to pull out both of his big toenails in order to extract a confession…”. The man was also beaten with a belt and stomped on.

Video evidence shows that his toenails are missing.

Some Cambodian authorities dispute the claims. Whatever the truth of this particular claim, the torture sounds familiar to those who follow, for example, the torture used in the south of Thailand by soldiers there.

In this case, the Thai military are seeking to protect its monopoly control of the smuggling of forest products in the border area. Torturing and mistreating Cambodian villagers and other interests serves as a warning to others who may trespass on the illicit profits gained by the corrupt Thai military.





Missing the point

20 10 2014

One of the problems that faces “academics,” in Thailand and elsewhere, is that when they become media pundits they over-reach and write about things that aren’t based on their “comparative advantage,” which is writing about things they have actually researched. This problem becomes especially acute when some of these “academic” pundits don’t actually do any research in what is meant to be their day job and they blather on about things they don’t know much about.

PPT recently read yet another op-ed by Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies in the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University. It was a view of the military and its politics which while summarizing some well-established information, also left out a pivotal piece of information. We’ll come to this a bit further down. First we’ll summarize some of Thitinan’s summary.

Thitinan remembers the late 1990s as “a promising period of de-politicisation” for the military. He blames Thaksin Shinawatra for “a manipulative re-politicisation in the early 2000s…”. Our view is quite different and we think that Thitinan should actually do some research on this to enable an inevitably more complex picture.

The logical conclusion of this view is to essentially blame Thaksin for the 2006 and 2014 putsches. That the rise of Thaksin prompted the two interventions is not in doubt, but the story is, as ever, more complex than Thitinan allows. He says:

The cradle of political power in the current phase of military rule is a fraternal cohort of senior army officers, known as the “tiger soldiers”, who hail from the 2nd Infantry Division (Queen’s Guard). Never have the former commanders of this division held so much power in Thai politics. Understanding Thailand’s new rulers and the sources of their power requires knowledge of the regimental cradle that bred them.

… Chuan [Leekpai] gambled and appointed Gen Surayud Chulanont from an obscure advisory position to the army commander-in-chief position in 1998. For a few years, it looked like Mr Chuan and Gen Surayud were going to remake the army into a professional fighting force, trying to do away with conscription, reducing the top-heavy number of generals, and scaling down the size of the rank-and-file.

That’s only partly true. His claim that it was when Chuan Leekpai doubled as defence minister that saw “wide-ranging reforms to make the military more accountable and professional” is an exaggeration and missing three critical points.

First, the move to “reform” the military was a defensive reaction by the military to a civilian uprising in 1992 that saw the military (briefly) disgraced for grabbing power in 1991 (which initially saw Chuan’s Democrat Party very quiet, even supportive) and engaging in a massacre of protesting citizens in May 1992. Chuan was dragged along by the public that literally spat on the military, jeered troops in uniform and demanded fundamental change. Chuan, as an indecisive and weak minister, was simply not up to the task of reforming the military.

Second, when Thitinan claims that “Chuan gambled and appointed Gen Surayud Chulanont from an obscure advisory position to the army commander-in-chief position in 1998,” this too is an exaggeration. The most important thing about Surayud was that he was close to powerful figures in the palace. In this sense, nothing had changed, and it was Prem Tinsulanonda and the queen who were managing appointments, not Chuan.

Third, Thitinan’s aim at Thaksin for politicizing the military by promoting his cousin, Gen Chaisit Shinawatra in 2003, to army chief fails to take account of the army brass’s moves against Thaksin, which were often involving the palace and sought to undermine the elected premier and his government, as had happened to Chatichai Choonhavan in 1988-91.

There’s much else that is debatable in this flimsy article, not least Thitinan’s claims that Thailand was about to be invaded by the Vietnamese in 1979.

Most importantly, though, for some reason, Thitinan has decided to muddy the role of Prem, the queen and the palace in manipulating the military for their own political purposes. After all that has happened over the past 15 years, that’s a political choice and an academic failure.





Updated: Generals and their money

3 10 2014

Being a general offers numerous opportunities for capital accumulation.

The Nation reveals that four of the generals who are members of the puppet National Legislative Assembly are multimillionaires despite having been soldiers all their lives. PPT would like to hear about all the rest of the generals and all their money:

General Pairoj Panichsamai, a former close aide to Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda, has net assets worth Bt388 million, with more than Bt209 million in investments.

General Yuvanut Siriyakul na Ayudhaya, who was in the same military-school class as PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha, has net assets of Bt340 million. He owns more than 100 valuable Buddha statues, gold bullion and accessories worth more than Bt53 million. His spouse owns property worth Bt158 million.

General Chayuti Suvanamas has Bt295 million worth of net assets, which includes Bt240 million worth of property.

Former Air Force chief Air Chief Marshall Ithaporn Suphawong has assets worth more than Bt263 million, including Bt92 million worth of property.

Clearly being close to someone who is close to the monarchy has benefits.

Everyone knows that the military is packed with corrupt bastards yet nothing has ever been done to bring them into line because the military, being “protectors” of the hugely wealthy monarchy, grants them impunity.

Update: The Bangkok Post has produced a graphic of these rich “civil servants,”  revealing that a whole bunch of generals have profited immensely from their meager state salaries. Lucky investors or just corrupt bastards? The answer is clear. We are sure they wil rake in even more as the flunkies of the military dictatorship. We count 19 who should be investigated for “unusual wealth.”

Corrupt bastards

 





Further updated: The norms of arrogance and banality

2 10 2014

Readers will know of the recent crazy, silly and bizarre statements of various members of the military now in sweet government positions. Banding of foreign tourists, blaming murder victims for having been murdered, and more. When the rulers are served by sycophants, they believe they can do and say anything. The military brass is doubly convinced of its greatness because they have always enjoyed impunity.

The idea that these military “leaders” could be short of clothes simply never occurs to them. Because of this arrogance of fools and the arrogance of the powerful seems uniquely combined in the military dictatorship.

With all this background, then, no one should be at all surprised when it is reported at The Nation that the new Army boss General Udomdej Sitabutr “vowed … there would be no military coup to oust the Prayut Chan-o-cha administration.” Additional hyphens aside, did anyone think Udomdej would: (a) shaft his boss on the first day; (b) announce a plan for a coup; (c) be so ungrateful that he would abandon his elder brother-in-arms?

No one, right? Yet Udomdej had to babble like a fool stating: “There won’t be [a coup], be it by those [in power] now or in the future.”

Of course not. Udomdej explains why: “The commanders have a common understanding and everyone is moving in the same direction…”. Who would not have guessed this?

Udomdej, the master of nothing other than the obvious, said “the Army would continue to serve as a main base for maintaining peace and order and would defend the monarchy institution [sic.] and try to end the conflict in the deep South.” He continued to explain that the military is positioned to stay central to Thailand’s politics: “I am ready to continue the task and deal with threats of all forms that are becoming more complex and broad…”. Udomdej explained that the junta’s repression is about “winning the trust of the public” while using propaganda for “fostering national unity and stability.”

Again, this is simply obvious.

Entering deep into the realm of the very ridiculous, Udomdej offered the Thai Army to ASEAN when he said he was “preparing [the Army] into becoming a strong Army for Asean…”. ASEAN must love the idea of having to accommodate another not very smart military dictatorship.

Meanwhile The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha (the one hyphen version), expressed confidence in Udomdej. Was anyone expecting anything else from, in the words of The Nation, another “Eastern Tiger” (2nd Infantry Division) and one who “has made his way to the top of the Army, succeeding his elder ‘tiger’ General Prayut…”.

That story at The Nation says that “Udomdej is quiet, calm and subtle.” We assume the report means in the context of loudmouth, angry and crude army leaders.

More important than anything, and an obvious requirement for the military-monarchy regime, Udomdej “is known to be decisive with determination and loyalty to the monarchy.” More repression, more lese majeste repression, more lese majeste stupidity and more ultra-royalism can be expected.

Update 1: While all this rather stupid military backslapping is going on, the ever more ludicrous sycophants at the Ministry of Education and Junta Propaganda have decided that licking military boots requires “producing a ballad for schoolchildren based on the ‘Twelve Values’ bestowed by junta leader and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.” The spineless types at the Ministry stated, without a hint of irony:

We are producing a song for schools,” said Kamol Rodklai, sec-gen of the Office of Basic Education Commission (OBEC). “But if it becomes popular, members of the public can adopt it, too.”

Kamol also suggested that the song about Gen. Prayuth’s Twelve Values could be used during “aerobic exercise” classes and theatre performances.

PPT liked the use of the slithering, drooling term “Bestowed” in the Khaosod story as it carries an air of royalty about it, and Prayuth is certainly positioning himself to a king with dementia in the same way that Sarit positioned himself as a father figure for the young and inexperienced king in the late 1950s.

Update 2: A reader points out a Thai PBS report, illustrated with a picture of Udomdej, dyed hair and a comb over, described as a “new army strongman.” After we shook ourselves to ensure we weren’t reading a report from 1958, we find the “new army strongman” has “vowed to protect the Monarchy against attempts by any element to insult or defame the revered institution,” as expected from a military that owes its political centrality to its alliance with the palace.

The “new army strongman” then sounds ridiculous in the extreme when he is quoted as having “vowed to protect democratic rule and full support for the forthcoming reform process to bring about national reconciliation.” Hasn’t he noticed? His boss is running a military dictatorship. Either Udomdej is no smarter than a wooden post or he’s imbibing the Orwellian doublespeak more than the average Army boss. When you then read some woolly-headed academics saying that the military is hugely “popular” and comparing the authoritarianism of the Thaksin Shinawatra regime with that of a repressive military dictatorship, you begin to despair for Thailand’s future in the hands of the walking dead, puppets, sycophants, dunderheads and clowns.

 





Polishing The Dictator I

27 09 2014

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-cha, is becoming more kingly by the day. As number one amongst the military junta that controls Thailand, he can demand all kinds of “honoring.”

PrayuthAnd given that The Dictator has recently rewarded a whole group of loyalists with promotions, it is to be expected that, according to Khaosod, the “Royal Thai Army is planning an extravagant parade for next week to honour [the] junta leader…”. The Army says that as well as polishing Prayuth’s glowing posterior, the “parade is meant to celebrate … over 200 other generals who will retire from their posts this October…”. Many of those have new jobs provided by The Dictator and his junta. THey fill the National Legislative Assembly, state enterprises and are likely to get more.

The Army says: “It is an important ceremony to thank and praise the diligence and good deeds of those who about to retire…”. “Good deeds” include rampant corruption, murdering civilians, controlling border trading and overthrowing elected governments.








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