“Integrity” and “”transparency”

2 08 2022

There are times when one reads newspapers and wonder if the journalists involved have recently suffered as severe head knock or if they are lazy or perhaps think that the starkness of a report damns those involved.

Take, as an example, The Nation’s report on Nok Air’s skid off a landing strip at a provincial airport. Of course, not all accidents require an emergency evacuation, but the “explanation” from Nok Air was a doozy: “Nok Air said it decided against evacuating passengers via slides immediately because the ground had many puddles due to heavy rain. Also, it said, it was worried about their safety as it was dark outside and there may be dangerous animals lurking in the area.” Do we take it that snakes, tigers, and bears are loose inside the provincial airport? Surely a truthful statement that the pilot did not consider emergency evacuation necessary might have been a competent statement?

Truth is always fraught among the elite in Thailand.

Then there’s the report, also at The Nation, that announces the results of the National Anti-Corruption Commission’s integrity and transparency assessment that “the Royal Thai Air Force, the Royal Thai Army, the Royal Thai Navy and the Supreme Command passed the criteria of 85 ITA points.” In addition, “the three main courts – the Central Administrative Court, the Court of Justice and the Constitutional Court – passed the assessment with an average score of 90.06 per cent,” while the “agencies of Parliament – the King Prajadhipok’s Institute, the Senate Secretariat and the House Secretariat – also passed the assessment with an average score of 95.55 per cent.”

No doubt many choked on their coffee or rice soup when reading this. What about secret trials, corrupt commission payments, torture, buying parties and parliamentarians, convicted drug dealers in parliament, illegal military coups, the Constitutional Court’s partisanship, and so on and so on?

As it turns out, the NACC’s ITA is largely a box-ticking effort at managerialism in administration. And, as the Bangkok Post points out, even this bureaucratic transparency washing exercise failed to meet the NACC’s own targets.

So, no, the world has not been turned upside down, except for some box-tickers. These agencies are as corrupt as they have ever been and having a military-backed regime in place just makes it all less transparent.





Mad, dumb, and more

21 06 2022

Now that the police have arrested Aniwat Prathumthin, aka “Nara Crepe Katoey”, Thidaporn Chaokuwiang, aka “Nurat”, and Kittikhun Thamkittirath, aka “Mom Dew,” and charged all three with Article 112 offenses, the Royal Thai Army has lifted restrictions on trade with Lazada.

If we weren’t so used to dumb-assed “explanations” from the lot in green, the statement by Army Deputy Spokesperson Col Sirichan Ngathong “said yesterday (Monday) that the lifting of the boycott was … in line with the further relaxation of restrictions, to allow business to resume normal operations and reopen the country to overseas arrivals.” What’s that got to do with monarchy and Article 112? We can only imagine that there may have been pay-offs, whispers in ears emanating from the Chinese Embassy, or orders from the boss. Or maybe all of them. We will never know.

Senate Speaker Pornpetch Wichitcholchai is supposed to have legal training. But he’s also a “good” person, meaning he enjoys being a dumb-ass with impunity. He’s defended his Senate colleagues – also “good” people – who employ dozens of their relatives. He says it “is not illegal.”

Pornpetch says “certain positions in public office may require someone, who the senators can trust, to fill.” We recall that Alexander MacDonald reported similar nepotism and the same “explanation” back in the 1940s (look for his Bangkok Editor on Library Genesis). Thai Enquirer has him saying: “[Nepotism] is not wrong because it is not against the law.” Taken aback, “reporters acknowledged that even though nepotism was not technically illegal, wasn’t it still morally wrong?” No, Pornpetch retorted, “nepotism, in government, is not morally wrong.”

Having trusted relatives means they are not likely to blow the whistle on their relatives as they supp at the public trough. It’s a family protection racket.

While on “good” people, we must mention a letter to the SCMP by Wiwat Salyakamthorn, said to be president of the World Soil Association and former vice-minister of agriculture and cooperatives of Thailand. You might have thought the sufficiency economy fertilizer might have leached away. But you’d be wrong. There’s now an effort to attribute everything that’s ever happened in Thai agriculture to the dead king and his “idea.” More, there’s an effort to transfer sufficiency economy to King Vajiralongkorn.

Wiwat claims: “Much of Thailand’s resilience in food security is due to … King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s development projects for the betterment of the Thai people’s livelihoods based on his philosophy of sufficiency economy.” Yes, farmers are all Thaksin-voting dolts. Only the royals know, and although Vajiralongkorn would have trouble growing a flower, Wiwat comes up with this guff: “Building upon his father’s legacy, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua has guided the Thai people in applying the Khok Nong Na model to ensure that resilience of the food system remains one of Thailand’s crowning achievements in the years to come.”

That’s enough for today!





Further updated: Pavlov and Srisuwan

5 06 2022

For those who don’t recall, Pavlov trained – conditioned – animals. When referring to Pavlov’s dogs it is a nod to the experiments Pavlov did in conditioning dogs to salivate through a learning process that results from this pairing, through which the neutral stimulus comes to elicit a salivation response that usually provoked by the potent stimulus of food.

From SimplyPsychology

PPT has referred to Pavlovian political responses in several posts over the years (see here). But today’s report that the forever complaining Srisuwan Janya has made yet another complaint takes the cake.

In the parliamentary debate on the 2023 Budget Bill on Thursday, Move Forward MP Jirat Thongsuwan raised a question regarding the “Defence Ministry spent as much as THB7.57 million to hire the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) to examine 757 GT200 devices, or THB10,000 per device.”

The GT200 is “a fraudulent ‘remote substance detector’ that was claimed by its manufacturer, UK-based Global Technical Ltd, to be able to detect, from a distance, various substances including explosives and drugs…. [T]he device has been described as little more than ‘divining rods’ which lack any scientific explanation for why they should work.”

The controversy over these money-making devices for the heads of agencies that purchased almost 1300 of them in Thailand has gone on for more than a decade. As Jessada Denduangboripant, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Science, pointed out, the “GT200 is amazing. It can waste the state budget all the time. The devices have been locked up for 14 years, but they are still moved out to waste the budget. It’s really a tool to make money.”

What’s remarkable in the story on Srisuwan’s salivating response. Raised by an opposition politician – Srisuwan hates them – the serial complainer made PR by stealing the limelight:

Activist Srisuwan Janya said he will petition the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to look into the army’s hiring of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) for 7.5 million baht to examine fraudulent bomb detectors purchased years ago.

Mr Srisuwan, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Thai Constitution, on Saturday on Facebook said the procurement of GT200 detectors reflects poor budget planning that lacked proper scrutiny.

This additional case involving the GT200 warants investigation, but so does the procurement by some who remain in power – think Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha who when Army boss in 2012 stated that not only was the device still used, he defended it: “I affirm that the device is still effective. Other armed forces are also using it…”. In fact, with”four army commanders in a row spoke glowingly and positively of their effectiveness.” That’s Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who led the 2006 coup and Gen Anupong Paojinda, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan who all led the 2014 coup and now lead the military junta.

So Srisuwan now puts the spotlight on himself, and we’d expect that, like thousands of other complaints he’s made, that this is nothing more than a PR stunt. Why isn’t he following up on the “investigations” on the GT200 that go back more than 10 years. Which of the military bosses has been charged for this massive fraud? Where’s Srisuwan on those cases?

Frankly, we think Srisuwan’s complaints costs the taxpayer a huge amount of money for little good. He promotes himself but not much else. Maybe someone should investigate his serial complaining?

Update 1: It is reported that the “Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) has said that the army does not need to examine fraudulent GT200 bomb detectors as a lawsuit seeking compensation from the distributor has been finalised.”

Update 2: The Army has now “stopped conducting expensive tests on the bogus GT200 bomb detectors after the issue sparked an uproar about taxpayers’ money being wasted.”

 





Wither the (in)justice system

27 01 2022

Over several years, the (in)justice system has been crafted to ensure that “good” people are protected from the law. That protected species is made up of criminal masterminds, the well-connected, murderous generals, coup-makers, police, army, the wealthy, and more.

In the never-ending saga, dating back to 2012, of getting the wealthy Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya off all charges associated with his murder of a lowly policeman, The Nation reports that. as expected, the “cocaine use charge against … [the fugitive is] nearing the end of its statute of limitations.”

An AFP photo clipped from ChannelNews Asia

The office on Wednesday released a statement on the results of the year 2021 and the direction of proactive action in 2022.

That will leave one charge: “rash driving causing the death of another person…”.

The only question now is how the corrupt (in)justice system can make that one go away. In the meantime, there’s stalling, delays and so on that mean justice is dead and those responsible for that death have probably become wealthier.

Meanwhile, to add emphasis to the death of justice, the Bangkok Post reports that an Appeals Court “upheld a Civil Court ruling dismissing a lawsuit filed against the army for compensation over the death of Lahu human rights activist Chaiyaphum Pasae, who was shot dead at a checkpoint in Chiang Mai province in 2017.”

The “court ruled to dismiss the lawsuit and said the army has no need to pay compensation to Chaiyaphum’s family. The court considered the M16 rifle that a soldier shot Chaiyaphum with was used in self-defence and out of necessity.”

This relates to a case where “officers claimed they found drugs in Chaiyaphum’s car and had to shoot him because he resisted their search and tried to throw a grenade at them.” Of course, witnesses had a different story, saying “Chaiyaphum was dragged out of the car, beaten and shot.” And, the CCTV footage of the military’s actions was taken away by Army bosses and never provided to any court. That’s because the military is more powerful than the courts, enjoys almost complete impunity for its crimes, and has the power to murder civilians as it sees fit.

Of course, occasionally a court does its work properly, but these occasions are surprises rather than the norm. Wither the justice system.





Monarchy propaganda as fake news

25 01 2022

The Bangkok Post has published palace propaganda. We know they have little choice in the matter, but we also guess the tycoons who run the paper also love this kind of fake news.

As we write this post, the story has become inaccessible. It remains a searchable story at the Post, and might come back, but there’s also an excerpt here.

With King Vajiralongkorn turning 70 later this year, the military is busy not just crushing opposition to the monarch and regime, but is promoting him and link between monarchy and military.

Reminiscent of elements of then Army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s royalist rant in 2019, the Post article promotes the martial monarch.

It reports that the Royal Thai Army “will upgrade Ban Mak Khaeng Thed Phrakiat Park in Loei,” building a “sculpture of the King, and open[ing] a museum to portray the historical moment when the King, who was Crown Prince at the time, fought alongside troops against communist rebels in Ban Mak Khaeng…”.

Such a propaganda effort promotes monarch, monarchy, military and the bond between monarch and military.

The park was first constructed “by the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) of Loei to mark the battlefield in which [Vajiralongkorn]… joined soldiers in fighting Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) insurgents in tambon Kok Sathon of Dan Sai district” in 1976.

As the Post story notes, the “1970s was the height of the Cold War, when communist revolutions toppled governments and monarchies in Laos and Cambodia and when relations between the Thai monarchy and military were reshaped by dramatic and rapid shifts in domestic politics.” The best example of that relationship was the royalist massacre of students on 6 October 1976.

Vajiralongkorn had hurriedly returned from counterinsurgency training in Australia to be there for the massacre and he took up arms with the military to fight the battle against those identified as opponents of the military and monarchy.

The Post reports that: “On Nov 5, 1976, King Rama X, who was [a] … captain at that time, received a direct order from … King Bhumibol Adulyadej … to contain the situation [the anti-CPT fight in Loei].”

A myth in training

Lt Gen Chanvit Attatheerapong, director of the Army Tourism Promotion Agency – who knew there was such a thing – declared: “As a soldier, when the king had fought alongside army troops, it was a moment of incomparable rejoicing for us soldiers. And he [the king] is courageous…”.

It is important to both king and military to create stories of the king-as-soldier in a period when the ruling elite is reliant on  the military-backed regime.

The propaganda is myth-making as “villagers, police and soldiers who witnessed the events tell the magnificent story of the bravery of … the King.” From a soldier taking part in a fire fight, the then crown prince is re-made as a hero:

Pol Lt Suvin Viriyawat, a 69-year-old retired police officer, said the CTP insurgents had nearly managed to surround and cut off a police stronghold….

However, they never thought His Majesty the King would arrive to support his troops. Due to the mountainous area, the chopper could not land, so His Majesty the King suddenly hopped down with his seven royal guards onto the heated battlefield. “His Majesty the King said he was just a soldier, no need to be formal, just carry out our duties. He was so kind to us and ate alongside us too,” said Pol Lt Suvin.

“If His Majesty didn’t show up, around 20 survivors of the 48 might not be alive as we were surrounded with limited supplies for eight days. It was like we were drowning and His Majesty pulled us up. We survived because of him,” he said.

With such embellished stories, ISOC and the Army want to display the martial king, the brave soldiers and the people as one. Such propaganda is believed to be critical for the maintenance of the ruling elite. And, it blots out the critical role played by royals and royalists in the murder of civilians.





Updated: Military manure

3 01 2022

How high?

Members of the royalist elite lie with alacrity. The military has made lying a political art and we imagine there are courses on it at the military academy.

A recent example is provided in a Bangkok Post report citing Army boss Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae. He’s responded to Democrat Party complaints “of soldiers interfering in the … Party’s preparations for a by-election in Chumphon…”.

Democrat spokesman Ramet Rattanachaweng alleged “that a senior-ranking army officer with the alias ‘Seh Tor’ has led a team of about 100 soldiers in Constituency 1 in Chumphon where a by-election has been called.”

An army deputy spokeswoman Col Sirichan stated that:

If any army personnel were involved, they will face the music for violating disciplinary rules and the law,  said, adding that the army is a state agency which must strictly remain neutral in elections.

Gen Narongphan

What a pile of buffalo manure. The army not only interferes in elections – most recently supporting the party of the military junta and its friends in 2019 – but also throws out elected governments.

As a measure of how little chance there is of an “investigation,” Gen Narongphan assigned “4th Army Region commander Lt Gen Kriangkrai Srilak to gather the facts as a matter of urgency.” The 4th Army is in control of the region.

Ramet said: “If the allegation has grounds, the army chief must order the soldiers to leave the constituency at once.” He added: “Maintaining neutrality in elections is crucial. If state powers are exerted to favour a particular candidate or party, the system of democracy is no longer functioning…”.

We guess the Democrat Party should know, having benefited several times from army interference in their favor.

Update: Even more quickly than usual, the “investigation” is over. Within hours, the “army has found no grounds to the Democrat Party’s claims that soldiers are trying to interfere in its preparations for a by-election in Chumphon…”.

Lt Gen Kriangkrai, who headed the so-called probe – cover ip is probably a better description – said “the probe had concluded there was no basis to the claims.” He’s more or less saying that the Democrat Party is lying. Moreover, he chastised the Party: “As far as he was aware, the party has not investigated the issue…”. And, he repeated his boss’s blarney: “I’ve issued a swift order that no soldiers under my supervision must interfere in politics. They must remain neutral…”. One wonders why he has to order this if there’s been no interference.

Suitably cajoled, “Ramet thanked the army chief for investigating the complaint.” Yes, sure…. And, he added: “The Democrats would remain on alert for any electoral malpractice in local areas and will campaign hard in Constituency 1 on behalf of their candidate.”

The army wins again. It is so far above the law that it can’t be seen.





Mafia military dependence

19 07 2021

The regime’s dependence on the military is an addiction to the military’s power. PPT posted on this recently when we observed that it it somehow “natural” that a military-backed regime, populated and commanded by generals, should use the military for civil actions.

A couple of days ago this was reaffirmed in a Bangkok Post report where Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, the self-selected prime minister, was said to have “instructed the armed forces and the national police to join hands with City Hall to arrange for more than 200 rapid deployment teams to carry out door-to-door testing for Covid-19 in the worst-hit parts of the city.”

The military and police usually combine and arrive at homes when arresting regime opponents for sedition or lese majeste or when threatening and intimidating the regime’s opponents. So having them show up – in uniform – is threatening and scary for many.

Military repression

Public health maneuvers

And, that’s what it is meant to be as the regime’s aim is aimed “finding and isolating infected people to curb soaring transmissions in the capital…”. It is reported that the “teams will go door to door to offer a free Covid-19 testing service to people.”

“Offer” is not the right word except in the Mafia context of “an offer you can’t refuse.”

Perhaps if the regime had sufficient testing, where people didn’t have to camp out over night, might have been a public health way to do this, but this is a military-backed regime, populated and commanded by generals, skilled in hierarchy and order rather than civil administration.

In addition, it seems that the regime is unable to come up with any sensible idea about how to deal with bed shortages. Again, it takes the military route, with Gen Prayuth ordering the “armed forces to support vehicles and facilities to transport Covid-19 patients from Bangkok and its surrounding areas to return to their home provinces to undergo treatment on a voluntary basis because of bed shortages in the capital and its surrounding provinces.”

“Voluntary” is not the right word except in the Mafia context of “an offer you can’t refuse.”

The regime is addicted to military authoritarianism.





Updated: Masters of repression II

16 07 2021

Lawfare is a tool authoritarian regimes use for political repression. Thailand’s military-backed/monarchist regime has become particularly adept at this means of silencing criticism. There’s been a blizzard of cases of late, even excluding the obvious and odious lese majeste cases.

Just in the past days or so, there have been several cases that warrant attention.

One case involves the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, reported by Reuters to have “initiated a defamation suit against the prominent chairman of a private hospital operator over his criticism of its procurement of Moderna (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccines.” He’s been a critic so he’s targeted. Interestingly, after this criticism, the GPO seemed to suddenly get moving on procurement. All vaccine procurement – and not just in Thailand – remains incredibly opaque.

A second case is reported by The Nation and involves the Royal Thai Army. Army chief General Narongpan Jittkaewtae has bellowed that “eight Facebook users and one Twitter user will be arrested over defamation charges” and can expect jail time, fines or both. His anger is because they shared information suggesting that “Thai soldiers were being flown to the United States for Covid-19 booster shots.”

censorship-1

The army claims that the soldiers were not heading off for the “Strategic Airborne Operation at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.” The army didn’t help its case by initially declaring that the soldiers were involved in Cobra Gold, which has nothing to do with travel to the USA.

A third case is reported in two related stories at Thai Enquirer and Prachatai. The toady National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission has ordered Voice TV “to take its programs off the Video To Home 9 TV (V2H9TV) channel…”. The NBTC claims the channel infringed “regulations when it aired … programs on April 27 which covered the protests Standing Still to Stop Incarceration (ยืนหยุดขัง), the White Ribbons (ผูกโบว์ขาว) and the Let Our Friends Go (ปล่อยเพื่อนเรา)…”. Other live protest broadcasts are reportedly being “investigated.”

In other words, the regime is using the NBTC to prevent Voice TV from providing live coverage of protests.

The NBTC has fined the MVTV company 50,000 baht for airing Voice TV’s “Voice Go” programme, “claiming that the content of the programme affects national security.”

The broadcast on the PSI satellite network on 27 April “was a report on the protest in front of the Supreme Court, in which a group of student activists from Thammasat University occupied an area on the footpath to demand the release of student activists then under detention. The programme also featured interviews with protesters on the reasons for their activities.”

The NBTC “stated that the content of the programme affected national security, peace, and public morals.” In fact, the reason for these moves is to remove opposition criticism.

A fourth case involves more defamation and sedition charges as the regime seeks to shutdown critical commentary on its botched vaccine rollout.

In this case, the regime has gone after veteran politician Sudarat Keyuraphan, with red shirt traitor and now regime flunky Seksakol [Suporn] Atthawong and spineless regime doormat, Sonthiya Sawasdee, adviser to the House committee on law, justice and human rights filing charges.

Sudarat’s Sang Thai Party has been campaigning to sue the “murderous government” for “mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis.”

She’s accused sedition and defamation.

The regime’s mouthpiece Seksakol claims that Sudarat has been “wrongly accusing the government of poorly managing the Covid-19 crisis. This was defamatory, according to Mr Seksakol.” He’s an idiot working for a ridiculous regime, making ridiculous claims while botching the crisis. Only diehard regime supporters would think that the regime’s recent virus work has been anything other than a deadly farce.

The execrable Seksakol made it clear that the charges were to prevent “disharmony in society.” In other words, support the regime or else.

Update: On the attack on Sudarat, consider the commentary by Thitinan Pongsudhirak, which is highly recommended as a full read:

Thailand’s vaccine rollout is evidently a complete shambles due to questionable procurement, supply shortage, and misallocation amid a deadly surge of the Covid-19 “Delta” variant. The situation has been going from bad to worse with no end in sight as a poorly conceived strategy unfolds into a national calamity. As public anger mounts with fast-spreading calls for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s ouster, the Covid-19 pandemic is becoming Thailand’s political game-changer more than anyone could have anticipated.

Instead of the youth-led political movement or the parliamentary opposition’s demands for reform, fundamental political change in this country will likely cascade from the Prayut government’s gross mishandling that is claiming lives, inflicting daily hardships, and causing unhappiness nationwide. When the time comes to pick up the pieces with more abundant and efficacious vaccines with virus control under way, a national inquiry for public accountability will be imperative….

What sets Thailand apart are what appears to be inherent nepotism and vested interests where people suspect there is more than meets the eye behind the country’s vaccination procurement. For inhabitants of this country, it matters less that other countries are suffering the same conditions, but that the country they live in can and should be doing much better. What’s worse, the Prayut government keeps repeating the same mistakes and making matters worse by the day.

Is he up for a state defamation action too?





Know the military

31 03 2021

While the New York Times has written about the murderous military in Myanmar in its “Inside Myanmar’s Army: ‘They See Protesters as Criminals’,” the parallels with Thailand are unmissable. Some points from the article:

[The military] occupy a privileged state within a state, in which soldiers live, work and socialize apart from the rest of society, imbibing an ideology that puts them far above the civilian population. The officers described being constantly monitored by their superiors, in barracks and on Facebook. A steady diet of propaganda feeds them notions of enemies at every corner, even on city streets.

snipers

Following orders in Thailand

The cumulative effect is a bunkered worldview, in which orders to kill unarmed civilians are to be followed without question….

The capacity for murdering civilians is stark and, in both countries, has been definitional of the armed forces for decades:

Today, the Tatmadaw’s foes are again domestic, not foreign: the millions of people who have poured onto the streets for anti-coup rallies or taken part in strikes….

“They see protesters as criminals because if someone disobeys or protests the military, they are criminal,” Captain Tun Myat Aung said. “Most soldiers have never tasted democracy for their whole lives. They are still living in the dark.”

The military’s penetration of society is deep:

Although the Tatmadaw shared some power with an elected government over the five years preceding the coup, it kept its grip on the country. It has its own conglomerates, banks, hospitals, schools, insurance agencies, stock options, mobile network and vegetable farms.

The military runs television stations, publishing houses and a film industry….

The cloistering of the military, on bases, separates them from broader society and there’s a history of nepotism and the creation of cross-generational military families:

Officers’ children often marry other officers’ children, or the progeny of tycoons who have profited from their military connections….

The class-like military sees threats from civil society and creates conspiracies, often fueled by the very same international conspiracy theorists targeting rightists and royalists in Thailand:

The cloistered nature of the Tatmadaw may help to explain why its leadership underestimated the intensity of opposition to the putsch. Officers trained in psychological warfare regularly plant conspiracy theories about democracy in Facebook groups favored by soldiers….

They see foreign “interference”:

… the “black hand” of foreign influence. George Soros, the American philanthropist and democracy advocate, stands accused in Tatmadaw circles of trying to subvert the country with piles of cash for activists and politicians. A military spokesman implied during a news conference that people protesting the coup, too, were foreign-funded.

When the military is behind a government, it remains powerful, even when elections are permitted:

Even during the five years of political opening, a quarter of the seats in Parliament were reserved for men in green. They didn’t mix with other lawmakers or vote as anything but a bloc.

Sadly, all of this is very familiar.





Army business, Army money

6 03 2021

Remember when, after the February 2020 massacre of 29 innocent people in Korat, the then military chief and now senior advisor to the king Gen Apirat Kongsompong vowed to

IThe killer’s problem was “a property dispute” with “the soldier’s senior officer and his mother-in-law…”. In other words, “the army’s side dealings [were]… the root cause.” It adds that “analysts” say that “some army officers enter into private business dealings — and it’s an open secret.”

Apirat (r) doing his duty for the king

A few days later, “then army chief Apirat Kongsompong promised to investigate the problem…”. He vowed to terminate “unsound” internal army projects, after shady transactions were raised as a possible motive behind a soldier’s shooting spree in Korat.

In fact, he did nothing to change the underlying situation. As we said back then, the corruption continues. He did nothing in the months that followed other than endear himself to the palace. The Army remains corrupt.

Indeed, how little has changed is on display in a recent Bangkok Post op-ed by Chuenchom Sangarasri Greacen who is “an independent energy researcher and a former policy analyst at Energy Policy and Planning Office, Ministry of Energy.” It is worth reading in full. Here are some tidbits:

An army plan to open its land for massive solar farm development, up to 30,000 megawatts, has attracted a large number of energy firms. On Feb 22, representatives of more than 30 firms lined up to meet Lieutenant-General Rangsi Kitiyanasap, President of Royal Thai Army Radio and Television Channel 5, to seek clarity on rules and criteria on how to win a slice of the massive solar farm pie.

Why the Army has the boss of their television propaganda machine negotiating this is unclear.

The author points out that many see “this pending deal as a new milestone of the military’s over-reach and a worrying departure from established protocols and rules.” He observes that the pending deal sidelines technocrats, the civil bureaucracy and the public:

… the sanctity of energy technocracy was in complete tatters when the 30 plus energy companies scrambled for a meeting with Lt Gen Rangsi for a slice of the 600 billion baht solar farm pie. Note that the meeting took place at Channel 5 Headquarters, not the Ministry of Energy.

Energy Ministry officials were excluded “from the closed-door meeting.” The author adds: “So does the ascendancy of military deal-making render the Energy Ministry redundant?”  Thailand’s existing over-capacity is explained: “In light of the already extreme excess reserve margin, a 30,000MW solar farm deal is outrageously disconnected from the reality of Thailand’s electrical needs.”

So what is going on? Of course, it is about lining pockets and paying off the hierarchy. And, it may even be illegal (not that illegality has ever bothered the khaki machine: “The supremacy of military deal making not only tossed aside an entire ministry, utility technocrats and guiding principles in power sector planning, it also likely skirts the existing rule of law.” He concludes: “While Thailand’s energy technocracy has its flaws, its replacement with closed door deal making by the military is arguably worse.”

But who pays?

Who will foot the bill for the army’s 600 billion baht deal, plus the cost to upgrade the power system to accommodate large-scale solar farms? If history is any guide, the Thai public as electricity users will likely end up shouldering the burden, thanks to Egat, the co-conspirator of the army’s deal, who will pass through costs directly to consumers.

How much money can the taxpayer be milked for? There’s the monarchy, the Army, the police, and the tycoons. They all bathe in the public trough.








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