Updated: Panama papers II

6 04 2016

We continue to look for data on Thailand in the Panama Papers. So far we aren’t having too much luck. We were, however, reminded of an earlier report of some 600 Thais stashing loot overseas.

That 2013 report, also from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, included Pojaman Shinawatra, Nalinee Taveesin, Bhanapot Damapong, members of the Chirathivat family, Yuenyong Opakul, and note this very carefully, the Vongkusolkit family and Admiral Bannawit Kengrian.

The latter was described as “the former deputy permanent secretary of defense, who is listed as one of many shareholders in the British Virgin Islands company Vnet Capital International Co., Ltd in 1998” with 2006 coup connections and who is described in a Wikileaks cable as an acolyte of Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda.

On the new release of leaks from Mossack Fonseca, the main new report we have seen was in the Bangkok Post. It states that the “Office of the Auditor-General has weighed in on the so-called Panama Papers, asking the Revenue Department to look into tax payment records of Thai nationals named in a list of people allegedly using a Panama-based law firm for offshore holdings.”moneybags 1

Yet, as might be expected in a country that is protective of its wealthy elites and ruled by a military junta, a cover-up seems likely, unless the junta can come across the names of those it sees as political opponents. At the moment, “Justice Minister Gen Paiboon Koomchaya and the business community are urging the public not to rush to conclusions and let regulators verify the information first.”

“Verify” sounds like “cover-up” or “manipulate.”

Like the rich everywhere, the first bleat refers to law rather than ethics: “… using offshore company structures is a normal and legal business practice.” Not paying tax is legal they say. In Thailand, tax, like so many other things, is malleable and politicized.

Recall that Thaksin Shinawatra’s sale of the Shin Corp involved tax havens. While he didn’t have to pay tax on the transfers in Thailand, there was an outcry over this, and the opposition to him was strengthened. Now, it seems, things are to be reversed. So much for Buddhist ethics and the “good” of “The Good People.”

The report says there are “almost 400 Thais among 780 individuals who used Thailand as a residence and 50 companies were named on the lists.” While it is stated that “[p]rominent names include well-known business people, politicians, a former military officer and celebrities…”, only a few names are named.

As the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) observes, “there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts and it does not intend to suggest or imply that those named in the leak have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.”

General Paiboon said “… the leak is not verified information. But once it’s verified, no one can dodge an investigation. So let Amlo [Anti-Money Laundering Office] work on this first…”.

Our question is: Where are Thailand’s journalists who should be working on this? In most other countries, journalists are pouring out stories.

Auditor-General Pisit Leelavachiropas says “he has seen the list and had proceeded to ask the tax authority to review tax records to detect any possible wrongdoing.” He names no names.

Pisit also suggested that the “Centre for National Anti-Corruption (CNAC) can facilitate the probe by acting as a coordinator as it is the hub of 11 anti-corruption agencies.” Some of this group and Pisit were recently part of another cover-up, finding no corruption in the military’s Rajabhakti Park, while making “commissions” acceptable.

Now to some of the names and what they say.

Isara

Isara

One name in the Panama Papers is Isara Vongkusolkit, who is chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce. His response was to say that “he did not know and had noting to do with Mossack Fonseca. He was wondering how his name was mentioned on the lists.” Wondering? Really? He doesn’t remember the 2013 report?

He did admit that offshore banking and companies were necessary to avoid taxation in Thailand. He then went on to blame government for tax avoidance because it has had “high” tax rates!

The Vongkusolkit family maintains a tight set of relationships. One Chanin Vongkusolkit is a member of the Council of the Private Sector Collective Action against Corruption (CAC), which is:

an initiative by the Thai private sector to take parts in tackling corruption problem via collective action. The CAC aims to bring effective anti-corruption policy and mechanism into implementation by companies in order to create an ecosystem of clean business community.

Forbes says this of Isara and family:

To offset volatility in sugar prices, Isara Vongkusolkit’s privately held Mitr Phol Sugar, Thailand’s largest sugar producer, is expanding its energy business, which generates 400 megawatts of electricity, half for its own consumption. The company, which recently faced allegations of human rights abuses and illegal land- grabbing in Cambodia, said it was in discussions with the Cambodian government about its concessions. Brother Chanin stepped down as CEO of family’s Banpu, the country’s biggest coal miner, after running it for more than 3 decades.

Chanin remains on the Banpu Board of Directors. Others from the family on the Board are Buntoeng and Verajet Vongkusolkit. Australia’s controversial Centennial Coal Centennial is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Banpu.

Banpong

Banpong

The point seems to be that Isara and his family are fabulously wealthy Sino-Thai tycoons and like their ilk everywhere, seek to “minimize” tax while claiming to engage in ethical business behavior, if that is not an oxymoron.

Another listed is “Banyong Pongpanich, chairman of Phatra Capital and a member of the State Enterprises Policy Commission, posted a message on his Facebook page saying he was taken aback that his name was on the list.” Like Isara, he claims to not know Mossack Fonseca: “I have just learned of the company today and I never contacted or did any business with Mossack Fonseca…”.

Schultz

Schultz

We are reminded of Sgt. Schultz, again and again. How many times can “I know nothing” be used?

Patra Capital is a “certified” company at the Private Sector Collective Action against Corruption and Phatra Capital promulgates a Code of Ethics for Directors, Officers and Employees. In part, it states:

By adhering to exemplary standards and conducting our business with excellence and integrity, we enhance our reputation and cultivate the growth of our business. All of us must take personal responsibility for conducting ourselves in a way that reflects positively on the Capital Market Business Group and with the letter and spirit of the Guidelines for Business Conduct.

Like many of Thailand’s tycoons, Banpong has royal links, his with the Mae Fah Luang Foundation. He is also a member of the junta-created Superboard, which is said to be “overseeing all state enterprises has the stated aim of getting them all moving in the same direction towards strength and efficiency.” A Superboard of bankers, coal miners and more means endless conflicts of interest.

Both the Vongkusolkit and Pongpanich families are represented on the Board of Trustees of the royalist Thailand Development Research Institute, which has often commented on corruption and ethics in Thailand’s politics.

Bannawit

Bannawit

The last Sgt. Schultz excuse came from Admiral Bannawit Kengrien. The “former deputy defence permanent secretary, whose name is also on the lists, said this came as a surprise to him…. According to the retired officer he never conducted any business transactions overseas or given permission to anyone to use his name to set up offshore accounts.”

Bannawit has appeared previously at PPT as one of “Dad’s Army,” which was an elite forerunner to the more popular People’s Democratic Reform Committee in trying to bring down the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra. He was a member of several other yellow-shirted and royalist groups that sought to create conflict with the Yingluck government. Earlier, he was previously a member of the assembly appointed by the junta in 2006 and then caused controversy when deputy defense minister. He was not averse to very odd and racist claims when opposing red shirts.

Bannawit also seems to have conveniently forgotten the 2013 leaks from the British Virgin Islands. Or perhaps the rich and powerful expect the junta to enforce collective amnesia on the country.

Update: Khaosod has cast doubt on the Bangkok Post story, above, saying that the newspaper (and many others) confused the 2013 leak with the Panama Papers. INterestingly, whether its 2013 or now, nothing in our post would seem in need of change.





Busy day in Bangkok I

8 08 2013

It has been a busy few days in Bangkok, with more stories than PPT can possibly comment on, so we are going to combine several of them in a couple of posts. We begin with monarchy stories.

First, the Bangkok Post reports that the queen is “recovering from shoulder pain and soreness in her left wrist.” That used to be called “poker wrist.”

Second, and more serious, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, the leader of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) has filed “lawsuits against group of anti-government activists who accused her of planning to overthrow the monarchy and install a Communist regime.”

Thida has “filed a formal complaint against the group calling itself ′People′s Army Overthrowing Thaksin Regime′…”. As Khaosod explains, this Dad’s Army, is “the latest resurrection of the anti-Thaksin faction,” and it has claimed Thida is anti-monarchy, which is considered a crime in Thailand and results in longer sentences than many meted out to murderers. Apparently, Thida’s complaint is against the aged leadership of the royalist ninnies:

The lawsuit names core leaders of the People′s Army as defendants. They are Mr. Thaikorn Polsuwan, the webmaster of the People’s Army website, Adm. Chai Suwannaphap, Gen. Chukiat Tansuwatna, Gen. Preecha Iaemsuphan, Am.Watchara Rittakhanee, Adm. Banwitya Kengrean, and Mr. Phichet Pattanachote.

Third, the Bangkok Post had egg all over its front page yesterday. Or does it? We’ll get to this, but the build-up to the egging is worth mentioning.

A couple of days ago, on its front page, the Bangkok Post reported at some length that former prime minister Anand Panyarachun has turned his back on Yingluck Shinawatra’s proposed political reform assembly, “saying he will not allow himself to be used as a political pawn.” It adds that “Mr Anand’s remarks yesterday came as Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanchana and PM’s Office Minister Varathep Rattanakorn began visiting senior political figures, asking them to embrace the prime minister’s initiative.” Anand is then cited:

Mr Anand said yesterday he had not been approached by the government to join the proposed council, but stressed he would not take part in it to avoid being used as a pawn by any party.

He also questioned the motives of those who floated the names of people they wanted to take part in the assembly.

“[This tactic] would make it seem to the public that the government is trying to foster national reconciliation but the others just won’t cooperate,” he said.

These are direct quotes and reporting of statements. PPT had no reason to doubt the report. After all, the royalist Anand has long opposed Thaksin and pro-Thaksin governments, as our many Wikileaks posts attest. In addition, we would have posted on the story and asked why Anand is prepared to be a pawn of palace and military (as when he served twice as unelected prime minister) but not now? Once a pawn always a pawn? But maybe just on the royalist side?

But in yesterday’s Bangkok Post there is this:

Yesterday’s edition of the Bangkok Post carried a front-page article with the headline “Anand spurns advisory council”.

The Bangkok Post would like to clarify that both the headline and statements attributed to former prime minister Anand Panyarachun in the article are erroneous and totally groundless.

Mr Anand confirmed that he has never spoken to any Bangkok Post reporter about the matter.

The Bangkok Post regrets the error and apologises for any inconvenience or negative repercussions caused by the article upon Mr Anand and the government.

So the story is that the Bangkok Post either made up the whole story (unlikely) or that the comments were made “off the record” by the patrician Anand (more likely) or that Anand thought again about his outburst and asked the Post to protect him (also likely). We think the Post took egg for Anand.

Finally, at The Nation it is reported that Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “defended the monarchy against what he called unfair criticism, and lambasted rumour-mongers calling for a coup to end the ongoing political instability.” This refers to some reporting that linked the flight of the king and queen to Hua Hin to preparations for either a coup of political violence. Prayuth said:

He said Their Majesties’ current stay outside Bangkok did not signify anything about a looming political confrontation, and that comment and speculation on reasons for their trip, on social media, was not fair towards the monarchy.

The general also criticised people who spread rumours of a military coup and tell others to hoard food supplies ahead of political “turmoil” that could turn violent.

Prayuth said he was personally happy with the King’s improving health and many senior foreign military officers congratulated him upon what he described as a national delight.

Military

In uniform for the monarchy and “People’s Army”

We are not sure what a “national delight” is, but probably is a treacly royalism.

Then Prayuth said: “But I don’t know what’s with some Thai people who do not like the monarch,” and he is said not to have elaborated. He was also ticked off that the “rally held by an anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movement that referred to the monarchy. He maintained that the monarchy played no part in Thai politics and stayed neutral, and beyond political conflicts, all along.” He added:

“I don’t understand what’s wrong with some people, who not only fight against compatriots but also hurt the monarchy and attack the military, or these people want the country to no longer exist, through internal conflicts, or they are not Thai people,” he said, in an emotional way.

Prayuth seems frustrated that the monarchy is now (visibly) central to political struggles. Given the military’s huge budget for promoting and protecting the monarchy, he is probably reflecting on his organization’s inability to get beyond Cold War-style “protection” and “promotion” of the declining monarchy.





Updated: Dad’s army

7 08 2013

The so-called People’s Army was discussed a few days ago at The Nation. In the report, as the “peaceful demonstration” began at Lumpini Park, with just a few thousand participants.

The significant element of the report is that the “anti-government People’s Army yesterday revealed the names of 30 high-ranking officials, including military men, who back the group in its campaign to bring down the Thaksin [Shinawatra] regime.” This is who is said to be supporting and leading it:

The group, led by Admiral Chai Suwannaphap, Thaikorn Polsuwan and General Preecha Iamsupan, held a press conference announcing the names of supporters. These include former Army chief General Wimol Wongwanit, former supreme commander General Saiyud Kerdphol, former Air Force chief ACM Kan Pimanthip, and Admiral Bannawit Kengrian. Prasong Soonsiri, former chief of the National Security Council, would act as adviser.

Other supporters were said to include “high-ranking officials, from the police and military whose names could not be revealed because they were still in office.”

Sounds like Dad’s Army to PPT. Most of these persons have palace connections and have long been agitating against all pro-Thaksin governments.Dad's army

At Bangkok Post the usual claims – they were made about red shirts as well – that protesters are being paid are trotted out. We seldom put much stock in such claims although it is known that keeping a rally going is not cheap. In this case, it is easy enough to mobilize a couple of thousand aged and die-hard royalists and anti-Thaksinites. The government’s claim is that: “The money’s from businessmen who work in construction in Bangkok and nearby provinces. They have billions of baht to spend in an effort to topple the government…”.

The Democrat Party is opposed to anything from the government, so their tacit support of Dad’s Army is expected.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva states: “If there’s a clash between different groups of people, I want all sides to stay within the law. The one who can end the conflict is the government…”.

Meanwhile, his former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, “said his party will halt its parliamentary activities and join forces with anti-government protesters if a single person is killed in Sunday’s rally.” He added: “Do not threaten us. If a civilian is hurt or killed, I’ll be the one to topple the government and the prime minister [Yingluck Shinawatra] will have to pack her bags and live abroad.” No one was and there was not an incident. However, PPT wonders what Suthep and Dad’s Army has in mind, especially as Suthep seems so excited.

A clearer statement of Democrat Party involvement in the planning of the Dad’s Army rally is provided by loudmouth People’s Alliance for Democracy supporter and Democrat Party member and former foreign minister Kasit Piromya. Unaccountably, this unguided missile was interviewed by a usually respectable Australian news program, and he kept referring to protesters as “we.”

Also at The Nation, Thaksin is quoted as ridiculing the Dad’s Army rally, “saying many core leaders were people without noteworthy achievements. The Democrats were reprimanded for siding with the protesters. The opposition bloc should relax and wait for its turn to form the government, he said.” He added that: “Many leaders of anti-government campaigns were retired senior military or police brass with ‘broken hearts’ from missing out on key positions during reshuffles when they were still in the service.”Democrat lead protests

Update: Above we alluded to the Democrat Party’s support for the People’s Aged Army. It is now clear why Suthep was excited and why Kasit was talking about the PAA as if partners. The Nation reports that:

Democrat Party’s heavyweights on Wednesday are walking from Uruphong Intersection towards Parliament, accompanied by thousands of anti-government protesters. Former prime minister Chuan Leekpai were seen beside Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajia.





Rightist rifts

13 07 2013

A few days ago PPT posted on the tired and lost who remained defiant. In that post, PPT commented that the bedraggled group of protesters at Sanam Luang seemed to have lost its way.

In an effort to revive its flagging support, the leadership, under People’s Alliance for Democracy’s Chaiwat Sinsuwong, former aide to Privy Council leader Prem Tinsulanonda, Admiral Banawit Kengrian and a tired soldier Air Marshal Watchara Ritthakanee, decided to try to prevent Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra getting to the Ministry of Defense. The small group failed.

Behind the scenes, there was a bigger failure. The Nation reports that:

when the Thai Patriotic Front asked Comrade Pichit, aka Thongdee Namsaengkot, leader of Palang Thammatippatai, to join the rally at the Defence Ministry, … their request was turned down.

The “Thai Patriots” then decided “it needed to review its position…” which means they are going home, “citing conflicts with other anti-government groups…” after claiming to have raised and spent about 5.5 million baht.

At Khaosod Chaiwat explains that the Palang Thammatippatai had “greatly offended him by refusing to lend their hands in his group′s protest at the Defence Ministry and even ‘sabotaging’ the group′s campaign.” He blasted his former friends having “also contributed to lack of attention from the public toward their activities…”.

With the only long-standing but very small anti-government rally now at an end, the royalist right appears disorganized. Even so, we expect that the big bosses of the royalist opposition will be able to mobilize street protesters “when the time is right.”





Stashing loot

4 04 2013

We are sure readers will find this report, from the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists of interest, especially the account of Thailand’s rich stashing their loot in offshore accounts. The story is much bigger than Thailand. The Thailand account begins:moneybags 1

Nearly 600 Thais have owned offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and other havens.

Politicians and billionaire business magnates are among the prominent Thais listed in secret documents as owners of offshore holdings in tropical tax havens.

The list includes the former wife of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a sitting senator, a former high-ranking defense ministry official, Forbes-listed tycoons, and a former government minister whose assets in the United States are frozen because of her alleged links to Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.

Most of the report concentrates on Nalinee Taveesin and Thaksin’s former wife, Pojaman, and her brother Bhanapot Damapong, which is understandable for journalists with the anti-Thaksin bit in their teeth and wanting to demonstrate ever more political corruption, but the other 598 names are also of some interest, especially as business tycoons hide some of their wealth with gay abandon.

Nalinee is now under investigation for corruption, who we thought was briefly in Yingluck Shinawatra’s cabinet in 2012, and whose webpage hasn’t changed since then, but is still reported as a minister in some accounts, or she portrays herself as such.

Of course, this report will come as no real surprise for anyone who follows Thailand closely, for it has long been assumed that wealthy Thais stash their money in places like Singapore, Hong Kong and Taipei for decades. And, in the investigations of the Thaksin transfers over the sale of Shin Corp, overseas tax havens featured. However, this report names some names from what must be still a mine of information:

The ICIJ unearthed details of the offshore holdings through an analysis of about 2.5 million files largely associated with two offshore services providers, Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet and British Virgin Islands-based Commonwealth Trust Limited.

Among the hundreds of other Thai names that appear in the ICIJ data is Admiral Bannawit Kengrian, “the former deputy permanent secretary of defense, who is listed as one of many shareholders in the British Virgin Islands company Vnet Capital International Co., Ltd in 1998” with 2006 coup connections and who is described in a Wikileaks cable as an acolyte of Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda.

Also listed are “members of the Chirathivat family” who own the Central Group and are the second – well, third, if the royal family is included – in the 2012, Forbes list of Thailand’s richest, the Vongkusolkit family, also amongst Thailand’s richest, and Yuenyong Opakul or Add Carabao who has business interests that include the energy drink company Carabao Tawandang.

There is plenty more at the website of the ICIJ and there must be tons more interesting detail of the networks that span Thailand’s ruling class.





Wikileaks: Thaksin’s Chamlong and palace problems

23 12 2012

PPT finally has time to get back to Wikileaks cables and is trying to look through the 6,000 or so cables and see what we missed in our past searches of them. We are doing this in a systematic way, trying to ensure that we don’t double-up and re-post something we’d commented on previously.  At present, we have worked through 2005 and are now slowly getting through 2006.wiki

In a cable dated 21 February 2006, Ambassador Ralph Boyce discusses Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s political problems, including mounting opposition from the palace. He concludes that “[t]hings are getting worse for the Prime Minister.” Boyce states that Thaksin’s options are few as “the opposition,” while “not enormous, just won’t quit.”

Boyce sees the “anti-Thaksin coalition” as boosted by “Chamlong Srimuang, a retired general and former governor of Bangkok, was a prominentpolitical figure in the 1980’s and 1990’s” and a “prominent leader of the 1992 democracy movement” joining. He says Chamlong has “star power” and adds that his “criticism of Thaksin is especially noteworthy as he was the PM’s first political mentor…”.  Chamlong’s “Dharma Army” was set to participate in an upcoming anti-Thaksin rally. Boyce says the opposition “smells blood.”

Part of the reason for this change and polls showing a decline in Thaksin’s popularity is attributed, Boyce says, to “the modest but notable shift in the media…. Papers that formerly ignored political stories or toed the government line are cautiously increasing their coverage of criticism, particularly of the Shin Corp deal.”

Boyce then refers to “a surprisingly candid comment from a Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defense…. Admiral Banawit … noted that the [anti-Thaksin] demonstration on Sunday would be big and that ‘the government would fall’ because ‘Chamlong is very effective.’ He seemed pretty cheerful about it.” PPT assumes this is Admiral Bannawit Kengrian for Boyce comments: “Banawit is an acolyte of Privy Council Chairman Prem Tinsulanonda, which makes his enthusiasm for Thaksin’s downfall doubly interesting.” This move to palace and Prem opposition is what Boyce sees as “interesting.”

Boyce also mentions a meeting with Thaksin adviser Pansak Vinyaratn where the ambassador asks “what would happen if the situation got worse and something provoked an intervention by the Palace.” Pansak is reported to have said “TRT would not allow this to happen, tacitly acknowledging that such an intervention would be inimical to Thaksin’s interests.”

While Boyce says he can’t see any “sign as yet that the King or his closest advisors want to get drawn into this kind of political role,” the simple fact that he asks Pansak and the link to Bannawit and Prem says that the palace is deeply involved in political scheming and suggests a link to the anti-Thaksin opposition.





With a major update: Clash escalating towards real war

8 02 2011

The border “skirmish” between Thailand and Cambodia continues to expand and grow. As ever, The Thai Report is providing a host of useful links to stories, tweets and video.

On the Thais side, there appears little way to back down. Readers can go back to our earlier posts on the relationship between PAD and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government for comments on the need to be “tough” in a tug-of-war for the nationalist yellow supporters. The military continues to run its own show with little or no effective civilian oversight and seems to line up in ways that provide considerable support for the yellow nationalists.

The Phnom Penh Post has several stories from the Cambodian side.

Update: As the armed forces seem to control so much, including the way the border clashes go with Cambodia – perhaps towards more martial responses, in The Nation, Democrat Party MP Thepthai Senapong gets upset that red shirt leader and Puea Thai Party MP Jatuporn Promphan has again talked of coup plots. Of course, Jatuporn isn’t the only one making these claims. Admiral Bannawit Kengrien, a yellow-hued supporter of the 2006 coup and (a former supporter) of the current government has talked of coup too.

Thepthai says Jatuporn “fabricated an alleged coup plot in order to drive a wedge between the government and the armed forces…”. Well, the fact is that the army is the dog and not the tail in this relationship, so if there is a breech, perhaps it is reflective of the tail not being adequate for wagging. He claimed that “the government had a good working relationship with the armed forces. This was in stark contrast to the situation when Pheu Thai was in power and failed to win the respect of top military leaders…”. Thepthai neglects to mention that the government is beholden to the armed forces. It stays in power while the military wants it there.

Jatuporn alleged that a  “coup plot was being hatched by five figures.” He named  the plotters as: “tycoon Prayad Boonsung, Army Chief-of-Staff General Dapong Rattanasuwan, retired General Saprang Kalayanamitr, businessman Piya Malakul and People’s Alliance for Democracy Sondhi Limthongkul.” All names that we’ve heard from before and potentially associated with a coup, some of them not for the first time.

The events on the border and the actions of PAD should be seen in the context of rumors of splits and coup plotting.

 





The fear factor

10 10 2010

In our last post, PPT mentioned a Bangkok Post editorial that raised questions about the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s ratcheting up of alleged threats, saying that these claims are part of “the politics of fear that is taking root in Thai society.” PPT noted the Post’s comments on the claims regarding a team of so-called red shirt terrorists-in-training who will likely turn out to be nothing of the sort and will soon fade from the collective memory apart from the idea that there are trained assassins “out there.” The stirring of fear is a tactic used by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government since it came to power (for very early PPT posts on this see here, here and here).

And it just gets worse.

Admiral Banawit Kengrian (pick the howler in this bio), a former deputy defence permanent secretary, and aide to Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda, is cited in The Nation with a truly bizarre claim.

The admiral states that he has “confirmed a report that armed militia are plotting assassination of leaders and attacks in the capital during the next 20 days. Bannawit said he had learnt from military intelligence officials that tens of foreign armed militia from a neighbouring country’s Seals, with the same capability as the Royal Thai Navy’s Seals and the Royal Thai Army’s Special War Command or Red Hat, are planning terror strikes.” Somehow Bannawit links this claim to the Nonthaburi explosion and adds that his “report was based on facts and militias had infiltrated several spots in Bangkok to commit sabotage.” He claims that army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has these groups being followed and has warned the government.

Adding threat upon threat, Bannawit says 4 RPGs “found near the old headquarters of the opposition Pheu Thai Party could be linked to a Parliament attack.” It seems “near” is good enough for Bannawit. Evidence counts for little when the desire is to instill fear and loathing.

Bannawit is joined as a contestant on Fear Factor by Democrat Party Spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks, who has a long record of unfounded claims and accusations. Maybe that’s his job, but he often sounds a couple of salung short of a baht. He reckons the government is about to round up a bunch of bombers involved in: “plotting sabotage at Santirat Withayalai school, the Bhum Jai Thai Party [PPT thought the alleged bombers were already in custody?], and the military camp in Chiang Mai [see our earlier post]; the group linked to the missing weapons from an arms depot in Lop Buri [likewise, we understood that the thieves were already in custody]; and trained militia [no idea who he means here, but more conjuring and stunts are possible].”

And just for good measure, “First Army Region commander Lt-General Udomdet Sitabutr confirmed the reports that ill-intentioned groups were planning attacks. He called on the public to tip off security officials to prevent rogue elements from striking terror.”

A yellow shirt senator and hard-core royalist Somchai Sawaengkarn chimed in, claiming “that sabotage was planned against basic infrastructure such as power plants.”

PPT wonders if there is any point to observing that red shirts are pretty much leaderless and that the lese majeste bomb threats, bombs, explosions, “terrorists-in-training” and weapons seem remarkably convenient this reconvening collection of royalist, pro-government and privy council alarmists.