Further updated: Capturing universities

25 06 2014

What happens when a university comes to be controlled by yellow shirts who become anti-democrats? As you’d expect, they promote yellow shirts and anti-democrats.

PPT posted on how the so-called Council of University Presidents had been captured by royalists and ultra-royalists. Some “academics” also got involved with the anti-democrats as speakers and leaders, often reproducing misogynist rants. Not all academics are anti-democrats, but like academic medical departments, many university leaderships have been taken over by anti-democratic royalists.

Naturally enough, at Chulalongkorn University, the ultra-royalist takeover wasn’t required. It was always in the hands of the royalists. Hence, a regular reader informs PPT of a royalist stunt, supporting the anti-democrats and the military coup at this venerable sink hole of academic yellowness.

Chulalongkorn seems to have an event that Americans refer to as “Commencement” and those of the British persuasion might call “Graduation.” These events usually involve getting some venerable soul to come along and say useful and/or sage things to the graduating class, wishing them a thoughtful future based on all of the learning they are meant to have done. Admittedly, there are times when some dopey university administration decides to invite a looney or some politically partisan speaker. Yet, most good universities will usually try to stick with people who have something useful and wise to say.

So who would you guess the royalist coven that administers Chulalongkorn would decide to get for this event this year? The answer is that Chulalongkorn have decided to invite the young, filthy rich anti-democrat Chitpas Bhirombhakdi, once a spokesperson for the decrepit Democrat Party and then a celebrity protest leader for the anti-democrats. Naturally enough, she is also from a family that is fabulously endowed and that was reported several times as being one of the big funders of the very expensive anti-democrat rallies that paved the way for the current military dictatorship.

Our reader tells us that she’s a speaker at the Chula commencement ceremony on 3 July. The reader observes that this is another case of Chula sycophants/supporters of PDRC doing their bit for the anti-democrat/pro-royalist cause. This reader explains that there is a lot of opposition but it looks like Chula’s administration “is in on it.” Of course they are.

It seems like another case where wealth is more important than capacity. And it is certainly a case where anti-democrat royalism and airheadedness trumps all.

Update 1: We got this a little wrong. She has been selected as the student to make a speech. This is because, somehow, in amongst all of the protesting and whistling, she completed an M.A., even without attending class too much. Many of her peers aren’t too happy, some will boycott. The yellow-shirted academics are beaming.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that lecturers at Chulalongkorn University have announced that they will boycott the graduation ceremony where the anti-democrat Chitpas will speak for her fellow graduates.





Updated: Political crisis and the rich

7 06 2014

The 14 June 2014 issue of Forbes lists the 50 richest Thais/Thai families. With all of the political turmoil in Thailand in recent years, most of it claimed or asserted to be in support of the wealthy elite – recall the remarkable Vice clip of rich dipsticks in Ferraris – it might be thought that the wealthiest might have seen a decline in their fortunes. After all, the economy has struggled, several of the richest families kicked in loot to back the anti-democrats, and things just haven’t seemed conducive for the rich to add hugely to their fortunes. So what has happened?

Most years PPT has posted a list of the wealthiest, always noting that the list leaves off the wealthiest family. That’s the “Mahidols,” also known as the royal family. In 2011, the Forbes list was:

  1. Dhanin Chearavanont,  $7.4 billionmoneybags
  2. Yoovidhya family, $5b
  3. Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi,  $4.8b
  4. Chirathivat family, $4.3b
  5. Ratanarak family,  $2.5b
  6. Aloke Lohia,  $2.1b
  7. Bhirombhakdi family,  $2b
  8. Vichai Maleenont,  $1.5b
  9. Isara Vongkusolkit & family,  $1.4b
  10. Praneetsilpa Vacharaphol & family,  $1.05b

The combined wealth of this top 10 was $32.05 billion, still quite a lot less than the royal family’s Crown Property Bureau.

What does the list look like in 2014? With a little adding together of the same families listed twice and lengthening to show changes, it is:

  1. Sirivadhanabhakdi family, $12.9bmoney
  2. Chirathivat family, $12.1b
  3. Dhanin Chearavanont, $11.5b
  4. Yoovidhya family, $9.9b
  5. Ratanarak family, $5.1b
  6. Chaiyawan family, $3.9b
  7. Bhirombhakdi family, $2.8b
  8. Prasert Prasarttong-Osoth, $2.3b
  9. Vichai Maleenont, $1.7b
  10. Shinawatra family, $1.7b
  11. Chatri Sophonpanich, $1.6b
  12. Thirakomen family, $1.5b
  13. Thongma Vijitpongpun, $1.4b
  14. Prayudh Mahagitsiri & family, $1.4b
  15. Keeree Kanjanapas, $1.4b
  16. Bencharongkul & family, $1.3b
  17. Aloke Lohia, $1.2b
  18. Osathanugrah family, $1.2b
  19. Wichai Thongtang, $1.1b
  20. Isara Vongkusolkit & family, $1.1b

Praneetsilpa Vacharaphol & family dropped to No. 25 on the list but increased its wealth to $1.1b. Of the top 10 families in 2011, all but the Vongkusolkit family had increased their wealth, most of them very substantially.

By 2014, the combined wealth of the top 10 on the list had rocketed to $63.9 billion. We have no way of knowing what the current assets of the royals and CPB are at present – they don’t have to provide such trivial details to the public. All we can note is that the wealth of the top 10 is now about double the 2011 assets of the CPB.

The wealth of the Shinawatra family increased 4.25 times between 2011 and 2014, outstripping the growth of the top 10. However, others did well to. The Chirathivat family wealth increase by about 3 times and the Chaiyawan family at about the same rate as the Shinawatra family.

Update: Our writer yesterday has been admonished and, in the spirit of “good order,” was made to stand outside her condo displaying a dangerous 3-fingered salute for neglecting to link this post about the richest with those who were thought to have funded the anti-democrat movement. He is truly sorry.





Women and political civility

9 03 2014

It was International Women’s Day on Friday, a day observed since the early 20th century.

Of course, in Thailand, this year’s observance was somewhat overshadowed by political conflicts between those who support Thailand’s first-ever woman prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and anti-democrats who are trying to bring down her elected government and to prevent elections that she has called.

The Nation reports that the Woman’s Voice group, led by Puea Thai Party MP Laddawan Wongsriwong, made a call for an end to “[rights] violation[s] and insults directed at the country’s women leaders.” She might have added threats of violence to them and their families. These threats and insults have been directed at women on both sides of the political divide.

Most notably, because it has been so high profile, the misogynist attacks on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra have been savage. Laddawan pointed out that Yingluck had suffered “rights violations, insults and threats” and yet the National Human Right Commission (NHRC) had done nothing. Woman’s Voice called for the NHRC members to resign.

They are unlikely to heed the call at the NHRC, which PPT has long described as a hopeless cabal of politicized flunkies with little interest in their mandated tasks.

Woman’s Voice “wanted all agencies to ensure justice to all sides and all women to be united and co-exist despite differences in opinion.” That would seem reasonable.

Meanwhile, the fabulously wealthy Democrat Party member and anti-democrat protest high-profiler Chitpas Bhirombhakdi, who has been using the family name Kridakorn (sometimes with that royalist-linked “na Ayutthaya” added), led another event. She led women anti-democrat protesters in an appropriately feudal rally that went to Wat Phra Kaew “to vow to join fellow anti-government protesters in fearlessly defending the motherland from offences or bids to divide the country.” Apparently she “gave a speech slamming caretaker PM Yingluck Shinawatra for damaging the country over the past two years and accused Yingluck for causing injury to protesters who rallied peacefully without weapons, which had lead to deaths and injuries.”

That’s about what would be expected from Chitpas. An attack on Yingluck bolstered by the lie about “peaceful” and “unarmed” demonstrators.

Both sides made the expected political claims and both were focused on Yingluck. Women’s Voice attempted some conciliation. Chitpas spewed vitriol.





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.





Updated: Questions from the news

20 12 2013

PPT has been busy in recent weeks and struggling to keep up with a large number of interesting and insightful newspaper reports on Thailand’s current political situation. Academics in the West have come up with accounts that consider that recent events are a struggle of liberalisms, the death throes of Thai paternalism and more. Some Thai academics have pointedly remarked that the struggle is against a political fascism.

As much as we’d like to, we can’t get to all of these views yet we are sure readers have seen them and don’t need our commentary to consider their flaws and contributions. We have to say that the liberalisms notion was a curve ball, and we don’t really get it, but the other perspectives seemed to offer some food for thought.

Rather than commentate, then, we want to ask some questions about items in the news of late.

Question 1: When a bunch of aged generals get together and talk of the “side of righteousness” should we take them seriously? After all, haven’t these military officers been responsible for thousands of political murders and for repressing democracy movements? Maybe the emphasis is not on righteousness but on right-wing extremism.

Question 2: When The Nation, in the same story, says the military reactionaries were joined by Prasong Soonsiri and describe him “a former member of the constitution drafting assembly,” should this newspaper be given a bollocking for outright bias, incompetence, stupidity or all three? After all, Prasong is another of the Dad’s Army of aged and disgruntled schemers who hate elections and democracy. As well as being one of the men behind Suthep Thaugsuban, Prasong has worked to bring down every single elected government since 2001. Indeed, he claims to have been involved with the planning of the 2006 coup.

Question 3: Should we believe the bosses at the Boonrawd Brewery when they distance themselves from the walking selfie, royalist and rightist Chitpas Bhirombhakdi? To be honest, we don’t know, but at least the bosses recognize that her Marie Antoinette-isms when damning every single rural voter as an idiot are damaging to the company. Santi Bhirombakdi made the excellent point that “the company is in debt to the customers…”. We doubt that a spoiled rich girl will listen to any kind of sensible discussion.

Question 4: How is it that the Election Commission can continue to ask for the election to be delayed? Their bleating seems designed to encourage Suthep’s anti-democrats to acts of sabotage against the election and the (un)Democrat Party to boycott. Their call seems unlawful. But that never seems to bother this lot.

Question 5: Has Bangkok Post op-ed writer Veera Prateepchaikul completely lost his marbles? His latest propaganda-piece-posing-as-an-op-ed actually suggests that readers should read rants by the most bizarre self-appointed commentators on the planet and take them seriously. This link is pure Sondhi Limthongkul and People’s Alliance for Democracy. For a while in 2011-12, PAD and ASTV were avid followers of Veera’s Tony Cartalucci. His blog has been Land Destroyer, which provides no information on funding, but as a reader at Prachatai pointed out at the time, it:

[l]inks to Infowars.com which is Alex Jones. Infowars.com accepts advertising from Midas Resources (http://www.midasresources.com/store/store.php?ref=62&promo=specialOffer) which is “One of the world’s premiere precious metals firms, parent company of The Genesis Communications Network, proud sponsor of the Campaign For Liberty and creator of the Ron Paul Air Corps.”

The Ron Paul initiated Campaign for Liberty (http://www.campaignforliberty.com/about.php) draws inspiration from a range of conservatives and libertarians and localists. According to University of Georgia political scientist Keith Poole, Paul had the most conservative voting record of any member of Congress from 1937 to 2002 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Paul).

Midas Resources was founded by Ted Anderson. Ted Anderson and Alex Jones are collaborators, with Jones appearing on the Genesis Communications Network, where Anderson is the CEO (http://www.gcnlive.com/contact.php). It was established to promote the sale of precious metals (http://www.gcnlive.com/faq.php). Its front page advertisers include Christian holster sellers and a range of survival products (for surviving the coming global food crisis) along with Ron Paul sites and Russia Television/Russia Today. GCN has interviewed right-wing, anti-Semite Lyndon LaRouche (http://www.larouchepub.com/lar/2008/interviews/080401jack_blood_genesis.html), seen as a political extremist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyndon_LaRouche). LaRouche also has a fan in another link at Land Destroyer in F.W. Engdahl, yet another conspiracy theorist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._William_Engdahl), who believes in global cooling (not warming).

Jones and Anderson have promoted conspiracy rants by people associated with the extremist John Birch Society (http://mediamatters.org/blog/201101290003).

Companies linked in these groups, such as Free Speech Systems (http://freespeechsystems.com/) provide no links or information; certainly not practicing what they preach.

Land Destroyer links to a range of other conspiracy theory websites that never provide any details about funding. One of these is to the site of long-time conspiracy theorist Webster Tarpley who has a remarkable Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webster_Tarpley). Another is to anti-fluoride, anti-vaccination, Bin Laden is alive (Alex Jones too), and conspiracy theorist Jim Corr who is also on about the threat or One World Government (http://www.jimcorr.com/).

In the LaRouche Wikipedia page, in the section on “Selected Works,” it might be noted that LaRouche wrote a book with Uwe Von Parpart in 1970. Several sites note that he later worked at Asia Times and The Manager magazine owned by Sondhi Limthongkul. Interesting connections.

Question 6: Recalling that Veera’s op-ed is supposed to be a lecture on democracy but cites sources like Cartalucci, LaRouche and the John Birch Society should we consider Veera’s notions of democracy on a par with fascists, racists and mad conspiricists?

Update: As might be expected The Nation has also begun reporting the bile of fascists, racists and mad conspiricists as if they were real journalists. It seems difficult for many of those associated with The Nation to distinguish between claptrap and professional journalism. Interestingly, this story cites a journalism lecturer who appears to know little of his professed trade, and yellow-shirted academic Charas Suwanmala, who has “raised concerns that comments by academics given to foreign media were often becoming targets of harsh criticism in social media.” He makes some useful points but is then quoted as saying:

“Academics should not be condemned as long as they honestly opine academically and independently,” he said. “But if they are academics who have sold their souls, are being paid by some people to support one side, give comments without considering the facts or without caring for what is right or wrong, then they deserve to be condemned.”

Hold up the mirror. Charas has effectively been a propagandist for PAD from the beginning and cooperated with the military junta and its government. His political views are rabidly anti-democratic and pro-monarchy.





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.





Rich, rich, rich I

4 07 2013

Only a day or so ago, PPT posted about inequality and the political power of the rich. Interestingly, this coincided with Forbes posting its list of Thailand’s billionaires. The top 10 are:

1. Dhanin Chearavanont & family worth $12.6 B, from agribusiness and more, and ranked in the top 60 richest on the planet.1000baht

2. Chirathivat family worth $12.3 B mostly in the retail sector

3. Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi of beer, liquor and property, worth $10.6 B

4. Yoovidhya family of Red Bull fame and fast car notoriety, worth $7.8 B

5. Krit Ratanarak, of Bank of Ayudhya and with television interests, worth $3.9 B

6. Chamnong Bhirombhakdi & family, worth $2.4 B, mainly from beer, and with a scion in the Democrat Party

7. Vanich Chaiyawan, worth $2.1 B, in insurance and a big shareholder in Charoen’s Thai Bev

8. Vichai Maleenont & family in media and entertainment, worth $2 B

9. Prasert Prasarttong-Osoth, worth $1.8 B from medical, health and aviation investment

10. Thaksin Shinawatra & family, worth $1.7 B, from various investments in property, mining and more.

Most of the list are paid-up monarchists and some have been active politically, using their wealth in various political ways. PPT isn’t sure if politics earns money for Thaksin or costs him a pile of loot at present. It certainly cost him plenty under various royalist governments.

Of course, the richest tycoon family in Thailand is actually the king and his family. With the stock market rises and boom in tourism, PPT’s back of the envelope calculation will have the rich royals at about $35-45 Billion this year.

PPT will have a follow-up post on the Forbes stories on these tycoons.





After the king, who are Thailand’s richest?

30 08 2012

As usual, Forbes list of Thailand’s richest leaves off the king and royal family. However, they usually include them in the richest royals list out later in the year.

This year’s richest list generally sees the richest getting richer. As Forbes observes:

For a country seen by some outsiders to be beset by political turmoil and rural insurgency, never mind last fall’s calamitous flooding, Thailand has done remarkably well by its richest. Their collective wealth is up by better than 20% for a second straight year….

Many of Thailand’s wealthiest are looking to take on international rivals, on the strength of an expected 6% growth in the Thai economy this year.

The list of Thailand’s richest is here. The wealthiest is Dhanin Chearavanont who “boasts an estimated net worth of $9 billion.” He’s followed by the Chirathivat family with $6.9 billion, Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi worth $6.2 billion, the Yoovidhya family with $5.4 billion, Krit Ratanarak with $3.1 billion, the Bhirombhakdi family with $2.4 billion and the Maleenont family worth $1.8 billion. Quite a few royalists and Democrat Party supporters amongst this lot.

If the wealth of the top ten in the Forbes list is combined, then the total comes out roughly the same as the assets of the Crown Property Bureau.

 





Royalist no shows

29 01 2012

In an earlier post PPT noted that the inaptly named People’s Alliance for Democracy, associated with the disingenuous and anti-democratic Sondhi Limthongkul, and the equally inaptly monikered Democrat Party were organizing a ceremonial “reconciliation” as they maniacally declare an anti-monarchy plot is underway.

Jitphat or Chitpas Bhirombhakdi, a deputy Democrat spokeswoman and hieress to the Bhriombhakdi family fortune, called for a mass rally of people loyal to the monarchy and opposed to the Nitirat proposals on reform. Essentially, royalists were to come together to swear alliegance to the monarchy as if an absolute monarchy had been re-established in Thailand.

At the Bangkok Post, Chitpas is reported to have “led a public campaign against the movements to amend Article 112 by the Nitirat group.” She presumably wants to lock more people up. So too we assume does her PAD/multi-color buddy Tul Sitthisomwong who also showed up.

Interestingly, the Post reports that the “gathering, held at the Royal Plaza, was attended by around 50 people.” We assume that the ultra-royalists will be as shocked by this tiny number as we are, and they they will organize additional rallies to show that they are more than political pawns.

Chitpas, Tul and 50 others opposing lese majeste reform (a Bangkok Post photo)

Chitpas claimed

she was speaking on behalf of a group called the Facebook Network of People Who Love the King. She said the group would also gather signatures of people who disagree with the movement to amend Article 112. She said she understood the country has to change but changes must be based on sound reasoning, not malice.

Perhaps she should also explain how it is that the Democrat Party can for years associate with PAD and Sondhi Limthongkul, a fount of malice and venom against political opponents, outspokenly opposed to electoral democracy, and who repeatedly lies to the public for political gain?





Democrat Party and PAD embrace

27 01 2012

Like former lovers reunited, the Democrat Party and the People’s Alliance for Democracy have announced that they are back together and plan a public embrace on lese majeste and “loyalty.”

Of course, they were never really apart, have surreptitious but passionate meetings during their supposed separation on things like Cambodia.

Democrat Party deputy spokesperson Jitphat (or Chitpas) Bhirombhakdi has joined the Nitirat bashing and political use of the monarchy (again) by calling on “Thais to rally to pledge loyalty to His Majesty the King and to oppose amendment to the lese-majesty law.”

We guess pledging loyalty to a monarch is fine while a monarchy pledging loyalty to a constitution is like unprotected sex, a no no.

Jitphat has called the rally at the Royal Plaza on Saturday. She added “that it was her personal campaign and had not been sanctioned by the Democrats.” Hopefully she has resigned. Probably not, but nobody believes this bogus claim anyway.

Her plan, supported by PAD acolytes like Tul Sitthisomwong will take part. They will join hands and “pledge loyalty to the King” before signing “names to express opposition to the planned amendment of the Criminal Code Article 112, which the Nitiraj group is pushing for…”.

Jitphat seems to think that the Nitirat proposals “violated the monarchy.” Others planning to join the royalist engagement apparently “include students of Chitralada School and members of the We Love the King Facebook page.”

Have the students at the palace school replaced the Privy Council in providing palace sanction for these events and alliances?

We are sure that the public reconciliation will be an important event as it is showing the kind of royalist coalition that was so significant prior to the coup in 2006 and again when PAD were supported in their parliament and airports occupations.