The funding trail

12 02 2014

There has been considerable speculation in recent years about the funding for large rallies. In the case of the current crop of anti-democrats, Post Today, and now its English parent, The Bangkok Post has published a leaked list.

The list is apparently from the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) that claimed to have a list “of 136 firms and individuals said to be funding anti-government protests…”. The leaked list is of just 32 alleged financial backers, made up of 19 companies and 13 individuals.

The 19 companies are: Saha Pathanapibul Plc, Gaysorn Plaza, Siam Paragon Department Store, King Power Group, Dusit Thani Hotel, Siam Intercontinental Hotel, Riverside Hotel, Mitr Phol Group, Wangkanai Group, Boon Rawd Brewery Co, Thai Beverage Plc, Yakult (Thailand) Co, Neptune Co, Thai Namthip Co, Muang Thai Life Assurance Co, Hello Bangkok Co and Metro Machinery Group.

Several of these companies are linked with Princess Sirindhorn. Others are long-established royalist firms with strong links to the monarchy through large donations and other support over many years. Amongst these, Bhirombhakdi family of the Boonrawd Brewery of the Bhirombhakdi family and Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi’s family are notable. King Power was associated with Newin Chidchob and his support of the last Democrat Party government. It is also a strong supporter of things royal.

The 13 individuals are: Chumpol Suksai, Chalerm Yoovidhya of Red Bull fame, Pramon Suthiwong, Khunying Kallaya Sophanpanich (Bangkok Bank family), Nuanphan Lamsam (Kasikorn Bank family), Wimolphan Pitathawatcha, Dr Pichet Wiriyachitra, Taya Teepsuwan, Sakchai Guy, Krisana Mutitanant, Pol Gen Kitti Rattanachaya, Chitpas Kridakorn [Bhirombhakdi] and Issara Vongkusolkit (with a family worth about $1 billion).

Denial has been the first response (and here):

… PDRC secretary general Suthep Thaugsuban told supporters on Tuesday night that none of the people on the list, except Sakchai Guy, had provided financial support to his political movement.

Mr Suthep said Mr Sakchai donated money generated from selling T-shirts to PDRC.

Mr Pramon, chairman of Toyota (Thailand), also denied any financial involvement with the PDCR. He said he is considering a lawsuit against the CMPO if it officially accused him of funding protests, since as such information would damage his reputation and company.

Boonchai Chokwatana, the chief executive of Thailand’s leading consumer goods producer Saha Pathanapibul Plc, is also considering a defamation case against the CMPO if it formalises the accusation.





More on those behind the anti-democratic movement

16 12 2013

In earlier posts PPT had some information on those behind the anti-democratic movement, with some emphasis on the so-called academic support. Much of this indicated that the support base in that area was pretty much constant from the first days of the People’s Alliance for Democracy. In addition, it is clear that the leadership of the federated unions associated with state enterprises have remained solid in support of the anti-democratic movement that is now in action as a scion of PAD.

The leadership of the current incarnation is now focused on Suthep Thaugsuban and members of the Democrat Party. In past movements, this lot tended to remain in the background, leaving campaigning to the PAD types. Yes, certain members of the party spoke on stage, with the unpredictable Kasit Piromya appearing on the stage during the 2008 airport occupations. Of course, for a while there were some debates between the Democrat Party and PAD, with the latter demanding more radical action. That demand finally won through when the Democrat Party showed itself incapable of winning an election.

In terms of financial support for the anti-democratic movement, rumor has it that the major sponsors of Suthep’s have been the Bangkok Bank, the Singha Beer, and some add in the Central Group.

But rumors aren’t facts. So two stories by Reuters are of some interest, and we realize that these have been well-circulated, so we just highlight some bits and pieces from them.

The first story at Reuters is regarding “prominent Thais” who have joined the protests. First mentioned is the selfie-photogenic Chitpas Bhirombhakdi who at 27 and with nearly 2,000 Instagram photos of herself posted, is not just a self-indulgent and self-important upper class youngster, but is also “heiress to a $2.6 billion family fortune and, according to high-society magazine Thailand Tatler, one of Bangkok’s ‘most eligible young ladies‘.” The report notes:

Chitpas, whose family owns the Boon Rawd Brewery that makes Singha Beer, had dismounted the machine [a bulldozer that was to bust police barricades] long before police pelted it with rubber bullets and gas canisters. But her gung-ho act showed how members of Thailand’s most celebrated families are discarding all past pretence [sic.] of neutrality to hit the streets in the hope of toppling Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

We understand that several tubes of expensive moisturizer helped after the bulldozer scamming for headlines. Chitpas may be young for Thai politics, but her interests are with the old men who want to keep their hands on the political tiller. She supports harsher lese majeste laws – her family’s beer interests were initially co-invested with the then king back in the early 1930s.

Naphalai Areesorn, editor of banal Thailand Tatler, has also been spotting celebrities and hi-so opportunists at the anti-democratic protests. She is reported to have said:

“People you would normally see in the society pages were out there… All the people from big families used to be called the silent minority. Well, they’re not silent anymore.”

Spot market prices for sunscreen and cosmetics with high ant-sun indices have shot up.

Chris Baker is cited saying: “Banks, construction companies and other big Thai businesses have often openly supported Thaksin-backed parties or the opposition Democrats…”. True, but the big money has been with the anti-democrats for this movement is seen to best protect its interests.

Reuters reports that another “prominent Thai hitting the streets was real estate tycoon Srivara Issara, who along with her husband Songkran runs Charn Issara Development PLC. She led her own protest march from her company’s Bangkok headquarters to the nearby offices of the ruling Puea Thai Party.”Charn Issara

Srivara claims no party affiliation. “I really hate politics,” she said. Her march was inspired by her disgust for Thaksin (“that runaway criminal”) and her faith in protest leader Suthep, a former Democrat politician.

A friend in the PR business helped her dream up a protest slogan: “Moral righteousness comes above democracy”. Srivara publicised the march through Facebook and by personally handing out leaflets in the street the night before.

Thousands of people joined her peaceful rally, which she saw as an extension of Charn Issara’s corporate social responsibility programme. “It’s our duty to do something good for the country,” she said.

Here’s the company’s statement on CSR:

Charn Issara’s main principle is to differentiate the innovated projects and deliver only high quality product to exceed customer’s expectation. The Company ‘s ideology is to present only the best property development project to elevate better social responsibility and grant satisfaction to both the developer and its customers.

PPT has seen plenty of blarney in CSR, but this is pure marketing. She even dresses as she thinks a peasant did or would linking her to the religious base of the sufficiency economy nonsense that the elite embraces in ways that allow them to maintain their corporations and profits. So the company can build estates with golf courses and gobble up beaches. Its 2012 report can be obtained, with a 12MB download as a PDF, showing it as publicly-listed but family-controlled.

Another of Thailand’s wealth at the demonstrations is” Petch Osathanugrah, who along with his brother Ratch has an estimated fortune of $630 million. They own the energy drinks producer Osotspa and 51 percent of Shiseido Thailand.” It is known that the family has sponsored rightist NGOs and the report states that:

Petch believed it [another election] will only install another Thaksin-backed government, which will spark further protests.

His opinion of the mainly rural Thais who voted for Yingluck is unsparing but typical. They are ill-educated, easily swayed and greedy, he said, and their willingness to sell their vote to Thaksin-backed politicians renders elections pointless.

“I’m not really for democracy,” said Petch, who was educated in the United States. “I don’t think we’re ready for it. We need a strong government like China’s or Singapore’s – almost like a dictatorship, but for the good of the country.”

“I am longing for a Lee Kuan Yew,” he said, referring to former prime minister who oversaw Singapore’s economic rise.

We assume that he supported Thaksin Shinawatra when he wanted to be like the aged LKY.

The Sino-Thai business community, at least the big capitalists, have long felt comfortable with military dictatorships and see the monarchy as part of their created identity and a protector of their interests. They tend to see LKY’s conservative “Asian Values” ideas, which laud Chineseness as necessary for their prosperity.

Equally dismissive of voters is “Palawi Bunnag, a scion of a celebrated family of Persian descent who served Thailand’s early kings. Palawi, a qualified lawyer and frequent visitor to the protest sites,” and says:

Educating the electorate begins with people such as “our own drivers and maids,” said  felt people from northeast Thailand should be made to understand the limitations of short-term populist policies such as easy credit.

“They just want their lives to be comfortable, but they don’t think that in the long run they will have debts,” said Palawi. “Thaksin’s regime makes everyone have a lot of greed.”

Clearly, they have no conception of rural life or the changes that have taken place in the countryside.

But do they know the elite better?

Many in Thailand’s elite publicly excoriate Thaksin and his clan. But they also occupy the same rich lists – Forbes places the Shinawatra family 10th with a fortune of $1.7 billion – and move in the same rarefied circles.

Srivara Issara’s oldest son Vorasit, who recently vowed on his Facebook page to “beat the living crap” out of red shirt leaders, told Reuters he was friends with Thaksin’s son Panthongtae.

“Everyone knows each other,” said Palawi Bunnag, who – proving her point – is married to Vorasit and went to the same British university as Thaksin’s nephew Rupop.

Such proximity to the Shinawatras also affords a privileged insight. “They’re nice friends,” said Palawi. “But we also know their hidden agendas, their hidden businesses.”

They seem to be saying that the whole elite is a bunch of crooks. Few who vote for Thaksin are likely to disagree with that assessment. The subaltern judgement of politics seems to be that electoral democracy can produce some control of the elite, whereas the rich see it a nuisance for their profits and lifestyle.

The second story at Reuters: is not about the business elite but about the darker forces behind Suthep’s anti-democratic ranting:

But behind Thailand’s fiery anti-government protest leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, are two powerful retired generals with palace connections, a deep rivalry with the Shinawatra family and an ability to influence Thailand’s coup-prone armed forces.

The forces behind Suthep are led by former defense minister General Prawit Wongsuwan and former army chief General Anupong Paochinda, towering figures in Thailand’s military establishment, said two military sources with direct knowledge of the matter and a third with connections to Thai generals.

The report is clear on these two:

Although retired, Anupong, 64, and Prawit, 67, still wield influence in a powerful and highly politicized military that has played a pivotal role in a country that has seen 18 successful or attempted coups in the past 81 years…. It is unclear how far that influence goes, or how decisive they could be. But both have close ties to army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha. And all three have a history of enmity with Yingluck’s billionaire brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who they helped oust in a 2006 coup.

It adds:

Anupong was a leader of the military coup that removed Thaksin in September 2006 and two years later recommended on television that the Thaksin-allied prime minister step down. As army chief, he oversaw a bloody crackdown on Thaksin’s red-shirted supporters in 2010 in which 91 people, mostly red shirts, were killed. Anupong made Prayuth his heir apparent.

A former army commander, Prawit was a mentor of Anupong and a defence minister under the previous government replaced by Yingluck in the 2011 election. He’s also a close associate of former general Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, leader of the coup against Thaksin….

These older men are linked to a generation of soldiers nurtured by Privy Councilor Prem Tinsulanonda:

Anupong and Prayuth served with the Queen’s Guard, an elite unit with greater autonomy from the rest of military, with its allegiance foremost to the monarchy rather than the direct chain of command….

The report claims that:

As [t]his reign gradually draws to a close, long-simmering business, political and military rivalries are rising to the surface, forcing Thailand to choose sides between supporters of the Bangkok establishment or those seeking to upend the status quo – a constituency associated with Thaksin.

The king has now demonstrated his incapacity for political intervention as he is degraded by age and the interventionist queen is off the stage too. So the miltiary and the members of the Privy Council who can suck up their own drool step into the breech:

Prawit and Anupong had expressed readiness to intervene if there was a security crisis, such as a crackdown by police on protesters or clashes between pro and anti-government demonstrators, and if Suthep’s plan for an interim government was constitutional, said the source with military connections.

This even if “Suthep’s bid to upend Thailand’s current political order looks far-fetched.” But the military, while divided “has provided little security for her caretaker government at protests…”. The report adds, from a government source: “Once a lot of violence takes place and the government cannot enforce the law, then this country becomes a failed state. Then there can be a pretext for the military to come in…”. The report adds:

“Suthep is playing the game on the outside while Prawit tries to play the game on the inside,” said a senior military official who could not be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media. “General Prawit has been clear about his aspirations to become prime minister.”

The calling of elections is a last-ditch effort at a constitutional solution for the crisis.

For the moment, the military brass seems to favor elections. This leads to a dangerous situation where Suthep, with the Democrat Party now sidelined as a normal political party, needs violence and a coup if electoral democracy is to be rolled back.





Sondhi gets jail time, bailed

9 08 2012

Readers will be interested in a brief story at The Nation that reports the sentencing of People’s Alliance for Democracy leader Sondhi Limthongkul to jail. As usual, it isn’t that simple, for he has been bailed on appeal.

The Rayong Provincial Court reportedly sentenced Sondhi “to two years in jail for defaming General Mongkol Ampornpisit, former chairman of the TPI Polene rehabilitation committee.” He also received a fine.

The lawsuit, dating from 2007, saw Mongkol claiming that Sondhi had defamed him in a broadcast talk show on 25 May that year. The report doesn’t note that Mongkol is a former close aide to Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda and a former supreme commander of the armed forces.

The short report says that the case revolved around Sondhi’s claim that “Mongkol had abused his authority to siphon money from TPI, which later changed its name to IRPC, by paying himself a huge salary as well as giving large fees to an advisory firm.” The Rayong Court decided that Sondhi was guilty and sentenced him to two years in jail, with no suspension of the term. As noted above, Sondhi has been released on bail pending his appeal.

The first point to make is that when advocates of the lese majeste law claim that it is “like the defamation law,” they can’t be believed. Sondhi gets immediate bail. Think of all the lese majeste cases where bail is refused again and again, and where sentences are regularly for 10-20 years.

On the case itself, and Sondhi’s involvement, the story is a longish one and PPT has to admit that we haven’t followed it too much. However, it is worth noting that General Prem’s associate General Mongkol was initially appointed to TPI by the Thaksin Shinawatra government. TPI was a festering sore amongst the companies that had crashed following the beginning of the 1997 economic crisis.  The Leophairatana family had refused to restructure the company as its debt mushroomed. As an incomplete Wikipedia page describes it:

When the crisis struck, it emerged that TPI owed US$3.2 billion in external debt to some four hundred creditors. In 1997, the group made exchange losses of … around 5 billion USD. All expansion plans were put on hold, and TPI entered into acrimonious negotiations with its creditors. In an attempt to retain control, Prachai [Leophairatana] put both the holding company and the cement firm, TPI Polene, into the bankruptcy court in 2000. Over the next five years, Prachai used lawsuits, political connections, public advertising, and nationalist posturing in his attempt to retain control. However, with … Thaksin Shinawatra’s term in office, …[and] a bankruptcy court ruling in 2005, the state-owned petroleum corporation PTT, became the major investor in TPI with a 30 percent stake and the family was reduced to a 15 percent minority.

Prachai also mounted media campaigns, painting himself as an injured party. General Mongkol was made head of the plan administrators charged with coming up with a debt restructuring plan for TPI. Prachai was eventually forced out and had to sell his remaining stock.

It is little wonder then, that Prachai became a solid member of the group of Sino-Thai businesspeople who opposed Thaksin and, some suggest, he became major funders to PAD. Readers might also recall that one of the cases that saw the Democrat Party get off charges that originated in the Election Commission, where Prachai and TPI Polene stood accused of an illegal transfer of funds to the Party. TPI Polene is still controlled by Prachai and his relatives (be aware that this is a large PDF, and if downloaded, read from about p. 143) and has continued to fight for it. There’s some more available on the story, indicating Prachai’s politics and his fallout with Thaksin.

Prachai has managed, despite once being Thailand’s largest debtor, kept his fortune, and is ranked 29th richest person in Thailand.

Sondhi appears to have appreciated Prachai’s support, and hence spoke for him and against General Mongkol. It should be added that the relationship between Prem and Sondhi has not been smooth, and this may be related to the Sondhi’s support of Prachai and his attack on General Mongkol. In addition, a major creditor to TPI was reportedly the Bangkok Bank, where Prem has long had connections and mutual support.





Royalist calls for capitalists to be overthrown

7 04 2012

Royalist Amorn Chantarasomboon, a former secretary-general of the Council of State, seems the wrong person to be calling for capitalists to be ousted. And yet he has been consistent in blaming capitalism for Thailand’s ills, including its political crisis.

Of course, while his call may sound radical, it is actually based on a deep conservatism. What they want is not some form of socialism but a monarchy presiding over commoners working away in sufficiency economy villages where people are kept well away from political decision-making.

Back in 2009, Amorn joined with a gaggle of royalists and People’s Alliance for Democracy-aligned sham academics to call for “comprehensive political reform. This was a “call for [the] removal of root causes of problem haunting the country” and to reassert that Thaksin Shinawatra is “funding unrest.” At that gathering of royalists, Amorn declared the political system “a dictatorship by capitalists…”.

Amorn, like many royalists, stated that “political reform should be undertaken by politicians, because they had a conflict of interest…”.

Nothing much has changed for Amorn, and at the Bangkok Post he now declares that the “courts of justice are facing mounting pressure from political parties that wield dominance over parliament…”. He referred to a “parliamentary dictatorship” of “parties which in turn are controlled by financiers.”

Here Amorn is being careful to denote a particular type of capitalists, but if “financiers” is the term used, we wonder if there are flutters of concern at the major financial institutions such as the Bangkok Bank and the Crown Property Bureau-controlled Siam Commercial Bank?

We doubt it, as these are royalist banks are unlikely to be included in Amorn’s attack on renewed attack on Thaksin. But it is interesting that the attack on capitalists – and Amorn is only one of the yellow extremists making this call – ignores the largest capitalist conglomerate in the country that is the CPB. That’s because Amorn has long called for royal powers to be increased. But then Amorn’s convoluted logic also includes a call for “the judiciary to … ensure their verdicts can benefit people and protect the private sector.”

Amorn had a role in the drafting of the 1997 constitution, and PPT has to wonder why Amorn is so unhappy with the 2007 constitution, which the military junta ensured that the judiciary had more power and an vastly expanded political role. Did their “fixing” of the constitution not go far enough or did they screw up?

As far as we can tell, the answer for Amorn is that any constitution that allows an electorate to choose their politicians is a problem. Amorn has been unable to believe that an electorate can consistently elect pro-Thaksin parties if they are not stupid, duped or paid.

The thing that motivates the diehard royalists is a political position that is based on a desire for rule by a few. They can’t abide any notion that the ruled should count, for they believe there are great and good ones who know best how a country should be administered. Amorn would have felt at home in the nineteenth century, and his pocket watch seems broken at about midnight on 23 July 1932.





Wealth and the floods

17 11 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that those good souls at the country’s biggest conglomerates are doing their bit for the victims of the flooding.

The Post reports that Thai Beverage Plc, Advanced Info Service, True Corp, Central Group, GMM Grammy, Muang Thai Life Assurance, ICC International, Bangkok Bank, Major Cineplex, Thai Union Frozen Products, BTS Group Holdings and Mitr Phol Sugar are getting together and planning to raise 100 million baht over eight months.

That sounds like a lot, right? Well, not really. Thai Beverage had sales of 121.7 billion baht in 2010 and a net profit of 10.7 billion baht. The boss of the company, Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, was reported to have a net worth of $4.3 billion in March 2011. The unlisted Central Group had total sales turnover over 119 billion baht in 2010 and probably pretty neat profits too. So 100 million from a dozen companies starts to sound a tad mean.

But wait, it isn’t all coming from them: “each business would contribute seed money and fund activities to raise more funds.” Yes, we know some of these companies have done more than this in recent days, but all this palaver in the Post is about public relations.

We suspect this statement from the Major Cineplex Group Chairman Vicha Poolvaraluck is much closer to a statement of how the big boys in town really think. He is reported to have stated: “We haven’t seen much impact in the short term [from the current floods]…. The massive flood is still better than the 1997 financial crisis when many millionaires went bankrupt. The flood disaster has affected middle- and low-income people the most.”

Better the lower classes take the hits than all those nice millionaires!





Lese majeste repression and the threat to Thai society

28 06 2011

PPT has been increasingly critical of the Bangkok Post’s abysmal and biased election coverage. For a change, we want to praise. In a recent article, Kultida Samabuddhi, a Deputy News Editor at the Post, says some thoughtful things on lese majeste.

Kultida claims that the “real time-bomb that could land the country in a tumult” is the “attempt by government agencies and right-wing groups to keep people in line by accusing them of disloyalty to the monarchy.” The article goes on to note that this “attempt has been intensifying over these past recent years and has become increasingly aggressive.” This is seen in the sharp rise in lese majeste charges.

Kultida observes that tracking down alleged lese majeste offenders seems to have “become the top priority for many state agencies.” Meanwhile other state officials spend their taxpayer-funded time taking “turns instructing people to help protect the monarchy. The officers also issue a warning that those who insult the monarchy will face serious legal action.”

Of course, the major “state agency” promoting loyalty and royalism is the Army under the careful watch of General Prayuth Chan-ocha. He himself has spoken out many times in support of the institution that sits atop the army chief’s vision of Thai society. Kultida notes recent Army interventions: “[a]n army-sponsored music video honouring the royal family was played on the Thai TV pool earlier this month. A documentary on Thaksin Shinawatra and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship’s alleged acts of lese majeste was broadcast on several radio stations.”

It is easy to see the political intent of these actions.

Kultida can’t say all of this state-sponsored snooping, “protection” and self-serving politics, not to mention lese majeste repression, is all just loopy wrong: “State agencies have reason to step up their measures to protect the revered institution.”

PPT can speculate on the “reasons”: to arrest red shirts, to silence opposition critics, to bolster the political and cultural power of the military, to get a position on the Privy Council for an outgoing boss, to influence an election. Readers can probably come up with more.

But Kultida warns that these agencies and their bosses “should be careful because this move could bring about undesirable effects, too.” The author lists these: (1) “it could provoke hatred among members of the public against those alleged of being disloyal to the monarchy…”; and (2) “it could provoke discontent among the accused, who might feel that they are being unfairly charged or deprived of the freedom of thought.”

Kultida worries that “hatred and discontent” can easily result in violence. The author says that feelings are already “strong” and refers to “dangerous sentiments” that are about. An example is of a “media professional” on Facebook who threatened violence against historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul.

The latter is charged by General Prayuth with lese majeste and the general used denigrating words to describe Somsak. These words are essentially inciting such violence.

The government and the military claim to “protect the royal institution. But they have to make sure that their operations will not provoke hatred, which is like a time-bomb that could rip our nation apart if it explodes.”

For PPT, it is interesting to read such comments from the mainstream media. What they don’t really get into is the fact that the military, led by the Army, has long used protection of the monarchy as an excuse for whipping up hatred and right-wing violence. In fact, it is standard procedure. Why should anyone be surprised now, when the Army boss feels that the power structure that has cemented the Army in a privileged position is under threat.

PPT often gets forwarded emails from royalists who support the 2006 coup and the military. These are not about PPT but are filled with hate and calls for action. These are not emails that are from some loony fringe. The long list of recipients includes many in the Democrat Party, senior figures in businesses like the Bangkok Bank, NGO activists and plenty of aristocratic family names. They demand for an end to “restraint” as an implicit call to violence and more repression. If the Puea Thai Party does win the upcoming election, against all of the fixing, cheating and dirty campaigning, get ready for this hatred to intensify.

 





Sombat targets Prem and Bangkok Bank

8 05 2011

It was less than a month ago that Shawn Crispin at Asia Times Online declared Sombat Bunngamanong had “faded into obscurity,” apparently having been ousted in what one of Crispin’s anonymous sources said was a “silent coup” inside the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship that was supposedly upset by Sombat’s allegedly anti-monarchy activities.

As is usual with Crispin’s reporting, it is not possible to refute such allegations when they are based on sources that can’t be verified. However, to anyone who watches the internet and even local television, it is clear that Sombat is anything but “faded.”

In the Bangkok Post, it is reported today that the quirky Sombat is leading his Red Sunday group on a Sunday afternoon rally at the headquarters of the Bangkok Bank on Silom Road. Red Sunday is a ginger group that regularly maintains the spirits and activities of red shirts, often in iconoclastic ways.

Today Sombat is said that his rally is “a symbolic movement to put economic pressure on the Democrat-led coalition government.” Sombat and his supporters called on the bank’s clients to “withdraw all their deposits from the country’s largest commercial bank, given that president of the Privy Council Gen Prem Tinsulanonda is advisory chairman of the bank.”

In addition, the group called for “people to wear in black and turn out to the streets, if there is any military coup.”

Crispin might still think this is “obscurity.” PPT reckons it is clear that Sombat and Red Sunday have not given up the fight.





Who pays the parties?

28 03 2011

The Nation has an interesting (and biased) story reporting funding to the three main political parties.

For the Democrat Party, it says the Election Commission’s records show that last year the Party received just 1.38 million baht in donations from 197 people. This year, big Sino-Thai capitalists have been paying up:

Earlier this month, the party reported to the political party registrar that so far this year it had obtained Bt33.15 million from wealthy families connected to the Democrats, such as the Sophonpanichs (major shareholders of the Bangkok Bank), the Bhirombhakdis (who own the company [Boonrawd] that makes Singha Beer), the Chaisongkhrams, the Srivikorns, the Lamsams [Kasikorn Bank], the Thanadireks and Jirakitis.

There have also been donations of about Bt50 million from many of the country’s leading businesses. They include Benchachinda Holding, Yip In Tsoi, Mitr Phol Sugar, and … Advanced Info Service….

Some businesses are not just donors; relatives of their owners are in the Democrat Party. These include the Charoen Pokphand Group, Metro Machinery, and Singha Corp. Young members of some of these families are expected to contest the upcoming election as candidates of the main ruling party.

Of course, it was less than a month ago that the Democrat Party held a high-cost fundraiser that “has yet to report to the Election Commission about the sum raised but early reports put the figure over Bt700 million.” Big business was heavily represented.

Meanwhile, the coalition partner Bhum Jai Thai Party received “donations of almost Bt10 million last year, compared to as much as Bt35 million in 2009.”

The main donors are associated with Newin Chidchob and his family, including “Chiang Mai Construction – which is owned by the father-in-law of banned politician Newin Chidchob, who is regarded as the party’s de-facto leader – Sino-Thai Construction (owned by the family of party leader and Interior Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul), and King Power.” These are the longstanding supporters.

Chaovarat’s company has done especially well from contracts for infrastructre under the Democrat Party regime.

Other supporters include:

… entertainment giant company GMM Grammy and East Water and wealthy figures with political backgrounds such as Somsak Thepsuthin, Sonthaya Khunplume, Sora-at Klinprathum, Suchart Tancharoen, and Teerapol Noprampa – who all are “political comrades” of Newin, who is believed to be pulling strings behind the party.

The story for Peua Thai Party is different, however. The Nation seems to speculate, saying that Thaksin Shinawatra remains the (assumed) biggest backer. It adds that the party “got donations of Bt15 million, according to the EC. Among the major donors were wealthy people close to Thaksin, including Virun Tejapaiboon, Ong-art Ua-apinyakul, and Pichai Naripthaphand.” It adds: “There are only a handful of regular financiers…”. It follows this up with a bunch of speculative comments.

It is clear where the Sino-Thai tycoons are putting their loot; it is with the royalist party. These days, they feel most comfortable being subordinated to the monarchy (as a symbol and the country’s biggest Sino-Thai conglomerate) and prtected by the military’s firepower.





China and royal propaganda

4 12 2010

A reader in China sends us a note:

China Daily on Friday 3rd December devoted four pages to the king of Thailand’s birthday. A quarter of one page was an advert from Banpu, half another page an advert for Bangkok Bank, and the entire fourth page an advert by CP Group. There was also a smaller advert from the Thai embassy in Beijing.

CP has had investments in China since the 1950s, perhaps unique among overseas capitalist enterprises in maintaining relations with the Chinese Communist Party. Bangkok Bank’s branch on Shanghai’s eponymous Bund waterfront is the same historic building as the Thai consulate. Banpu has number of industrial ventures in China.

What does this sponsored section say, if anything, about the nexus of interests between these corporations, the monarchical regime and China? Does this supplement tell anything about the future direction of relations between China and Thailand? How many other newspapers around the world featured sponsored sections of royal propaganda?

PPT had another thought. If it is only a paid supplement by the royalist Thai government, why in China? What is the message? Do they continue to believe that deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has influence with the regime in Beijing?





Suspicions

28 07 2010

There have only been a few stories that caught PPT’s attention in the past couple of days amidst by-elections, a bomb blast, the DSI trading accusations with red shirts and others, Thaksin Shinawatra’s birthday, flash protests by red shirts, and an apparently never-ending stream of stories regarding Princess Sirindhorn’s latest visit to China – seemingly essentially a holiday – that finished on 23 July but still screening long portions of the royal news four days later.

Some of the stories have raised questions for us, although PPT knows little more than what is reported in the media. We thought it might be useful to list them.

The first story relates to 28 July as Prince Vajiralongkorn’s birthday and he turns 58. As usual, newspapers have little advertisements that double as birthday felicitations to the prince. PPT only purchased the Bangkok Post, which had a one-page tribute and a series of the company-sponsored adverts. The whole thing is pretty low-key, kicked off with a large color picture of the prince at Wat Phra Kaew yesterday.

As PPT went through the color adverts, we noted they were from: Thai Airways, Boon Rawd Brewery, the Central group (the largest greeting, being a full page), CP Group and one all in Thai from Thai Beverage. The latter also posted a very large billboard celebrating the prince near Pan Fah Bridge (see the picture here). On the same day, PPT was reading The Bangkok Massacres: A Call for Accountability produced by Thaksin’s representatives, Amsterdam & Peroff LLP. On page 16, the report states: “The families controlling some of Thailand’s largest economic empires — among them Bangkok Bank, Kasikorn Bank, Thai Beverage, and TPI Polene — became fierce opponents of Thaksin.”

Maybe PPT was asleep at the wheel, but we hadn’t registered Thai Beverage as a major opponent previously. The company belongs to Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, the liquor, beer and land tycoon. Charoen has been pretty secretive. There’s a chapter on him by Nuolnoi Treerat in Pasuk and Baker’s Thai Capital After the 1997 Crisis (Silkworm). Recently he has been seen sponsoring royal events, including one of Princess Chulabhorn’s ventures. If Charoen has signed up with the royalists, then he has huge wealth and networks to build political support.

A second story is in the Bangkok Post and considers what is designated the “alleged ‘plan’ by Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij to change the current yuppiephone concession contracts…”. Then this is slipped in: “mortally wound Shin Corp and its No 1 network Advanced Info Service although that’s not the purpose, perish the thought…”. Given the “plan” is from Korn, a major yellow supporter, maybe this is the purpose. The story goes on to say that the “plan” has “thrown business, government, regulators and even the Senate into a tizzy; the kindest people said Mr Korn had good intentions, lousy planning; others were not so charitable; they noted that his plan to issue AIS, Dtac of Norway and True Move of Thailand with 15-year licences was highly questionable in legal terms…”.

The same column reminds us that Juti Krairiksh, said to be “minister of Internet Censorship in Thailand (MICT)” as well as “sniffing out dodgy websites” has “bragged that one of his greatest achievements was the arrest of three people who posted information critical of the monarchy.”

The third story relates to the Big C bombing and the Bangkok Post story that the “emergency decree will remain in place, at least in Bangkok, … Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says.” Abhisit said that “some parties were determined to carry out dangerous acts and it was the duty of the authorities to try to stop them. That meant they needed the proper legal tools.” Proper legal tools mean the power to detain and anything else the government seems to want to do to opponents.

Just a day before, in the venerable Bangkok Post, Abhisit’s motor-mouthed personal spokesman Thepthai Senapong had attacked critics of the imposition of the emergency decree, saying the bombing proved that the decree was necessary. He added: “The old saying that there is a calm before the storm is still worth considering…”. There’s little doubt that the hardliners in the government, like Thepthai, want the emergency decree in place for a lot longer, benefit from every incident. Much of the cabinet is very twitchy about “security” and, as they have admitted, personally frightened.

The fourth and final story, also in the Bangkok Post, was buried down on about page 4, and the headline suggested to PPT that the Ministry of Justice was going to investigate allegations that a bribe attempt was made in the Department of Special Investigation missing jewellery scandal of a few days ago. But, no. The Justice Ministry was launching an investigation into the rumours themselves!

The rumours were that the “owner of a shop who complained three pieces of jewellery had disappeared from a Department storeroom had been offered 300,000 baht to retract her accusation.”

The “secretary to the justice minister, Fuangwit Aniruttaewa, said it was possible that the claims the jewellery had disappeared were the work of certain people in the ministry who wanted to discredit the justice minister and DSI director-general Tharit Pengdit.” Remarkably, Fuangwit disclosed that an “investigation” had “found the jewellery said to be missing from the DSI storeroom had not disappeared at all. The owner of the store, identified only as Ms Chayaphon, had been told the items had been located.”

Apparently, the three items had just been … well, we don’t know. Hanging off some rich lady perhaps? Miraculously, they have turned up! So what was going on inside the DSI that caused the jewellery to be lost and found at about the same time?








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