Updated: Reflecting the regime II

27 08 2021

Continuing with our posts about  things that define the regime’s royalist Thailand, there have been several reports in the last few days that do just that.

The Thai Enquirer’s Cod Satrusayang responded to the release of a video showing a senior police officer suffocating an alleged drug dealer while demanding a large bribe.

Of course, the video went viral, with an investigation launched. But there was a here-we-go-again feeling. We’ve been here before. We’ve seen and heard it before. And there was cynical resignation as many on social media predicted another cover-up. As Cod says, “we should be more surprised and shocked at the footage rather than nod along grimly.

After all, police and military enjoy impunity and the levels of corruption are legendary. Just think of the Red Bull hit-and-run case, the Korat killings, the Saudi Blue Diamond saga, the 2010 murder of red shirts, the forced disappearing and murder of numerous political figures, the shooting of Chaiyapoom Pasae, the Tak Bai deaths, and we could go on and on.

Cod puts it this way: The time has come to ask whether officers like this murderer is the exception or the rule.” He adds: Given the reality of things and given how endemic corruption is within the police force maybe the time has come to consider not just reforming the police but dissolving the force altogether.”

AP adds on this story, detailing the crimes. Police Col Thitisant “Joe” Uttanapol or “Joe Ferrari” who was caught on camera suffocating a man to death. It was Joe who tortured Jeerapong Thanapat, a 24-year-old drug suspect, attempting to extort two million baht from him. Like Red Bull scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, Joe is on the lam.

It isn’t just murderous police who define the “good people” regime, but this regime is defined by failed/compromised institutions.

The police are hopeless, with allegations of police brutality and corruption common. The video was leaked to lawyer Sittha Biabangkerd who “received a complaint from a junior policeman in Nakhon Sawan…”. That policeman reported the usual cover-up:

When the suspect died, Thitisan allegedly ordered his men to take the body to the hospital and tell the doctor the death was caused by a drug overdose. The junior policeman said the woman was released but told not to say anything about it, and that Thitisan paid the victim’s father to remain silent.

The Bangkok Post reported that the “junior police officer … sought … help in forwarding the clip to the national police chief.” More revealingly, that junior officer and his fellow officers feared they would be killed!

The Royal Thai Police is a failed institution, operating more as a criminal gang than a police force.

But what about the rest of the bureaucracy which abet the police (or fear them)?

The “state-run Sawanpracharak Hospital, which issued a death certificate for the dead drug suspect, have defended their finding that ‘methamphetamine poisoning’ was the cause of death.” This after a “forensic examination.” Police told was “a private hospital that the man fell down and lost consciousness while he was running away from police who were chasing him during a drug crackdown.” Corruption? You bet.

How big is the corruption? Huge. Found at Pol Col Thitisan’s 60-million-baht house in Bangkok were 29 luxury cars worth more than 100 million baht. It is impossible that this great wealth could have been missed by anti-corruption agencies. After all, Ferrari Joe boasted about it on social media.

But, the hopeless NACC is now on the job, belatedly “probing the unusual wealth of Pol Col Thitisan…”.

A police source said Pol Col Thitisan wasn’t this rich from the beginning but he has built his own wealth out of some grey area businesses including trading edible bird’s nests while he was a deputy sub-division chief at Narcotics Suppression Division 4, overseeing drug suppression operations in the South.

The photos below are from the Bangkok Post, showing just some of Joe’s assets.

The story continues:

He later moved on to making money out of suppressing the smuggling of luxury cars and supercars in the South. He earned a lot of money from rewards offered for seizing such cars — 45% of the value of the car confiscated — and handing them over the Customs Department for resale through an auction….

Not bad for a cop earning less than 50,000 baht a month. But no one should bat an eyelid, for there are dozens of army generals, navy admirals, air force air marshals, and police generals who have declared unusual wealth to the NACC, and it has done nothing, zilch. That was in 2014.

So there’s a range of corrupt institutions. The NACC is at the pinnacle, rejecting any number of cases against the regime.

Thai Enquirer points out the obvious:

Somehow the Office of the Inspector General, the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) keeps missing these high-earning cops and generals.

Do we trust these organizations to investigate the case further? See if this is part of something bigger? Doubt it.

The NACC repeats is compromised inaction again and again. As The Nation reports, it can’t “reveal Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam’s assets…” despite being “asked by the Official Information Commission to reveal what assets had been declared by Prayut and Wissanu when they took office.” According to Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, NACC president, “the commission can only store information and investigate if there are any discrepancies, but cannot reveal details.”

But what about all those generals? Nothing. What about the fabulous wealth of convicted drug dealer/deputy minister Thammanat Prompao? Nothing.

Of course, “nothing” protects the “good people.”

And another related story. why is it that cabinet “approved the proposal by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration to amend the prime minister’s order regarding the procurement of antigen test kits (ATK) by the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO)…”.

That order “stipulated that the antigen test kit the GPO would purchase must be approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and by the Thailand Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

That’s now ditched so that Chinese kits can be purchased from Beijing-based Lepu Medical Technology. That contract is for about 600 million baht for kits “banned in the United States due to a high risk of false results.”

The regime is rotten to the core.

Update: The murdering cop story gets worse by the day by the actions of the most senior police. Those bosses are appointed by the regime because of their political positions and based on links to powerbrokers, including the palace.

Joe Ferrari has been taken into custody. As usual, he was not tracked down, but negotiated a surrender to police in one of the most corrupt jurisdictions, Cholburi.

Startingly, national police chief Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, himself worth almost 105 million baht, then gave the murderer a national stage. In allowing the suspect to speak to the nation via national television, Gen Suwat appeared to support Pol Col Thitisan when he “said social media had been reporting that Thitisant was trying to extort the dead drug dealer so he wanted people ‘to hear what happened from the mouth of the person who had committed the crime’.”

Parts of Thitisant’s speech to the nation is reported in the linked post.

What was Gen Suwat thinking? Cod Satrusayang provides something of an answer, suggesting that Thailand is “an alternative Nazi-inspired universe”:

You see Joe Ferrari is one of the good people. Despite murdering an alleged drug dealer in cold blood, with a plastic bag, while his men held the guy down, he is a good person. Never mind that this is the kind of scene you’d expect to see in a Nazi movie, Joe is a good person.

You see Joe is a good person because he is a “relentless crime fighter,” because he volunteers with royalists, because he is polite and clean cut. He is a good person.

He is not a bad person like the unruly protesters who do not know their place, who dare to question the establishment.

He adds, that the contrast with anti-monarchy/pro-democracy protester Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak:

I was in the newsroom when police arrested Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak in the middle of the night, put him in an unmarked van, and sent him to a police station in the suburbs for processing.

There was no press conference, there was no fanfare, it was the Thai deep state working efficiently to suppress, gag, and detain those that would question the current establishment.

It was chilling, frustrating, Kafkaesque.

It made me question how I ever bought into the land of smiles lie, that Thailand’s paternal autocracy was built to work for and protect its people.

The regime is loathsome, rotten to the core, festering, bloated, and putrescent.

Anti-monarchy graffiti and royal wealth I

18 10 2013

Regular readers will know that PPT sometimes has writers who have been off trawling academic papers. Yesterday, our post included a link to a paper on populism. It was while looking for this paper that PPT came across an article that we are sure will be of considerable interest. “Working Towards the Monarchy and its Discontents: Anti-royal Graffiti in Downtown Bangkok,” is authored by Serhat Ünaldi of the Department of Southeast Asian Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. It is available (for a fee, free to subscribers or through universities that subscribe) at the Journal of Contemporary Asia.

PPT has posted on another article by the same author, on a related topic, here.

The latest article is surely about anti-royal graffiti but it is also about much more. Below we include excerpts so that readers can get a feel for the article, where the abstract states:

This article examines the desacralisation of royal charisma in contemporary Thailand. Over the past few years an underground discourse has emerged among critics of royal ideology and supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra that directly confronts the power of the monarchy. The images, metaphors and linguistic devices used in the process are difficult to study because they rarely appear in public. This article focuses on an unprecedented demonstration of rage against the monarchy on September 19, 2010, when red-shirted demonstrators painted anti-royal graffiti on a construction hoarding at Ratchaprasong intersection in downtown Bangkok. In analysing the Thai political crisis as a battle of different charismatic groups, the article will present the September 19 event as the first open strike against the sacred charisma of the Thai monarchy. This charisma has hitherto been protected by royalists from all walks of life who were “working towards the monarchy.” With their attacks on the monarchy the red-shirts were challenging a legitimacy-conferring system which had benefited wide sections of the Bangkok populace in the past. At the same time, a competing charismatic movement has emerged around Thaksin, who himself has to take into account the charisma he conferred upon his followers.

We felt the charisma and Max Weber stuff was overdone in the article but we understand that academics are looking for the theoretical angle. Yet we found the empirics far more interesting. The first couple of sentences set the scene:

The spread of anti-royal graffiti in downtown Bangkok on September 19, 2010 was a watershed moment in recent Thai history that has remained almost unnoticed in analyses of the country’s political crisis. On that day, thousands of protesters donning red shirts gathered at Ratchaprasong intersection in central Bangkok. The rally took place in commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the 2006 coup against then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (p. 1).

PPT’s post from that day in 2010 may still be of some interest. What is certainly of interest is the focus in this new article on the anti-monarchy graffiti of that day and the analysis the author does of the ownership of the Rajaprasong area. On the latter, this is interesting:

The space examined here is a major part of downtown Bangkok…. Based on land ownership the area can be divided into two. The western part is privately owned by Princess Sirindhorn who, as the landlord, earns the income generated from property rents directly. The eastern section is owned by the Crown Property Bureau (CPB) which manages the assets of the monarchy as an institution but whose generated income is “paid at the King’s pleasure” (p. 8).

As few researchers have ever dared publish on the private assets of the royals, this account is interesting. We will save this detail for another post and here concentrate on the graffiti. Of this, Ünaldi states (p. 15):

For the purpose of this study a sample of 63 graffiti items were assembled, 51 of which appeared on September 19, 2010 on the construction fence at Ratchaprasong intersection, four at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument during a protest on October 10, 2010, and three, and five, respectively, during gatherings on November 19 and December 19, 2010.

Some of the messages from the graffiti are worth repeating, reflecting a “ta sawang/awakening” moment (p. 17):

The use of the word fa was not limited to this one graffiti but occurred frequently: fa ta diaw (one-eyed sky); fa bo kan (the sky is no barrier, …); mueng mai chai fa mang khue ma thi nasomphet (you are not the sky, [but] more likely a pathetic dog); hia sang kha fa mai mi ta phro fa ta bot (the “monitor lizard” ordered the killings – the sky has no eyes because the sky is blind). Like hia, ma (dog) is one of the strongest insults in the Thai language.

More attacks on the monarchy related to ownership, stewardship and sufficiency (p. 18):

“the country does not progress because there are no good people. Bad people were taken to rule the land because heaven has no eyes, because the eyes are blind. [They] see damn animals [ai sat] as good people. I ask for real, you damn blind man [ai bot],when will you die?” Some red shirts were aware that their protest site was owned by the monarchy and suspected this to be the reason for their violent expulsion from the area in May: thi khong khot pho-mae mueng rue thueng ma kho khuen phuen-thi (Does the area belong to your ancestors so that you demand it back?). By painting some graffiti on the asphalt of the street the red shirts marked Ratchaprasong as their territory: ku khoey non yu thi ni [I once slept here]. Other street artists took issue with the king’s sufficiency economy: kha daeng yang pho-phiang (killed enough/sufficient red [shirts]); pho-phiang tae ku yang mai pho kin (sufficiency but I didn’t have enough to eat). To this commentator, the idea of sufficiency seemed to sound cynical given his or her own struggle for survival. Next to the official sign for the sufficiency economy on the fence at Ratchaprasong one red shirt commented ironically: pho-phiang ko mai tong tham bai (sufficiency, so don’t produce a poster). These comments were probably the strongest signal of the breakdown of royal charisma: The king was no longer seen as benefiting the people and his “sufficiency economy” model was debunked.

Queen Sirikit was a target for graffiti (p. 19):

Red-shirts poked fun at her weight, her makeup and rumours about her involvement in the disappearance of the “Blue Diamond,” a gem which was stolen in 1989 from the Saudi Arabian royal family. Several items depicted the queen as a blue whale, hiding a gemstone in her mouth. Next to one such painting someone had written: Sa-u ha phet mai joe khrai ru bang (the Saudis are looking in vain for a diamond. Who knows anything?). Another graffiti mimicked the prohibition signs on the fence and depicted a crossed out whale, adding khet plot pla-wan (whale-free area). Someone else had written: Ai bot kap i pla-wan jombongkan tua jing (The damn blind man and the damn whale woman are the real dictators).

This is certainly a paper worth reading. In our next post we will look at what this paper says about property and royal wealth.

Blue diamonds

31 05 2012

This is PPT’s weekend post that  we hope is kind of serious but also draws a bit of a laugh. Other reactions are also possible. It comes early this week.

A reader pointed out this official government page and a new emblem designed for Queen Sirikit’s 80th birthday.

Readers will no doubt notice the use of blue gems for the stylized 80 (in Thai numerals) at the bottom of the logo? Many will see a significance in this that may not have been intended by those who put the design together. readers may recall the Wikileaks cable that mentioned the “curse of the blue diamond” and concluded:

Although Thai authorities recovered some of the stolen jewelry, the package returned to Saudi Arabia in March 1990 contained a number of pieces that proved to be fake, including the Blue Diamond. According to the MFA, about 50 percent of the jewels were recovered and returned to the Saudi royal family; some media reports say that as much as 80 percent of the returned jewelry was fake. Soon after the incident, some wives of Thai elites, particularly police commissioners and generals, were photographed wearing jewelry strongly resembling the stolen Saudi jewels at various official or high-society events. While the Blue Diamond itself had been spotted several times on the wife of a police general in the 1990s, since the 2006 coup a number of anti-monarchy web boards and activists have alleged that the most recent sighting of the Blue Diamond was on Queen Sirikit.

The curse of the blue diamond

11 03 2011

Aftenposten in Norway has a Wikileak that is about the long-running Saudi gems case in Thailand.

For earlier PPT posts on the case, see herehere and here.

There is not a lot to this leak other than allegations (highlighted below) and reports from the media summarized. What is relatively new is the claim from the current Abhisit Vejjajiva government that the murder of Saudis in Bangkok is related to a feud with Hezbolah. Let’s see if any evidence of that emerges. See Bangkok Pundit’s account also.




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Classified By: DCM James F. Entwistle, Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (SBU) Summary: In the latest chapter of a two decade-long saga which has long soured Thai-Saudi relations, the Royal Thai Government (RTG) Office of the Attorney General on January 12 indicted five police officers in connection with the 1990 murder of a Saudi Arabian businessman with family ties to the Saudi royal family, just weeks before the expiration of the 20-year statute of limitations. In 1989, a Thai worker in the Saudi Arabian royal palace stole a large quantity of jewelry and smuggled it back to Thailand, including a 50-carat blue diamond. The graft, murders, and kidnappings that followed this incident resulted in a rift in the Saudi-Thai relationship that has lasted to the present day, compounded by the murder of four Saudi diplomats in 1989-1990 in circumstances never clearly explained publicly. In their effort to respond to Saudi demands for justice, the RTG seeks to hold senior members of the Royal Thai Police (RTP) accountable for their part in the drama and, in doing so, normalize relations with Saudi Arabia and possibly reap economic benefits through expanded trade and investment with gulf states.

2. (C) Comment: Tales of intrigue, theft, kidnapping, murder, police misconduct, economic interests, and sectarian feuds, mixed in with possible ties to royal families in two kingdoms, are rich material for writers and conspiracy theorists, but not always conducive to effective and transparent investigation, let alone justice. The Thai media has persisted in mixing up the strands of the jewelry theft story with the separate story of the Saudi diplomat murders, which almost certainly were part of a Saudi feud with Hezbollah. Even linkages between the initial 1989 jewelry theft and later murders of the Saudi businessman in 1990 and family mem3e=[!zntability in Thailand for crimes committed by those in authority, in this case the police. The moves could also help normalize Thai-Saudi relations, but may not be enough. According to the Saudi Charge to Thailand, King Abdullah assured him that he would elevate the Charge to Ambassador — thereby restoring normal diplomatic ties between the two countries — provided the Charge could make progress on the businessman murder and jewelry theft cases. At the moment, there is progress on the former, but not on the latter. END SUMMARY AND COMMENT


4. (SBU) In 1989, Kriangkrai Techamong, a Thai working in the palace of Prince Faisal (son of then-King Fahd) in Riyadh, stole an estimated 200 pounds of jewelry worth approximately $20 million from the palace and smuggled it back into Thailand. Among the jewels was a 50-carat blue diamond, a prized possession of the Saudi royal family. Kriangkrai was ultimately convicted of theft in Thailand in 1990, and received a five-year sentence (he served almost three, before being released in 1994).

5. (SBU) In the course of the investigation of the theft, sale, and dispersal of the jewelry, the wife and child of Santi Sithanakhan, a jewel trader involved in the case, were kidnapped, held hostage, and ultimately killed in 1994. The Bangkok Criminal Court found a group led by Royal Thai Police (RTP) officers guilty in 2002; the police allegedly kidnapped the family members in order to pressure Santi to reveal information about what happened to the jewels. The police gang had demanded a ransom of several million baht but killed the hostages after receiving the ransom payment to cover up

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their illicit behavior.

6. (SBU) During the subsequent prosecution of the kidnappers, two judges, one from the appeals court and one from the supreme court, attempted to extort millions of baht from the ringleader of the kidnapping plot, RTP Lieutenant General Chalo Koetthet. Both judges were charged with corruption and fired in 2001. After the original 2002 conviction was appealed, the Appeals Court implemented much stricter sentencing in 2004, including a death sentence for the ringleader, LTG Chalo. The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence in October 2009, as well as sentences of varying degrees of severity for the accomplices. While some of the defendants have been acquitted, or had the charges dismissed against them as the case worked its way through the judicial system, at least one of the accused has died in prison. Many superstitious Thai citizens theorized that the Blue Diamond was cursed.


7. (SBU) In February 1990, another presumed victim in this tangle of intrigue, Saudi Arabian businessman Mohammad Al-Ruwaily, went missing in Thailand. A group of policemen, led by now RTP Lieutenant General Somkhit Boonthanom, were initially arrested in the Al-Ruwaily case, though the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) dismissed the case against them. In 2009, the Abhisit government directed the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) to reopen the investigation, and on January 12 DSI and the OAG announced the indictments of five police officers, including LTG Somkhit, on abduction and murder charges, for beating and killing Al-Ruwaily.

8. (C) Saudi Arabian Charge to Thailand Nabil Ashri told the Naval Attache at a January 27 dinner that he had been personally instructed by Saudi Arabian King Abdullah to make progress on the Al-Ruwaily case, as well as the jewelry theft. According to Nabil, during an audience with King Abdullah, the King had assured him that he would “make him an Ambassador if he made progress on this.”


9. (C) Even before the jewelry theft and dispersal was devolving into a morass of corruption, extortion and murder, a Saudi Arabian diplomat was killed in Bangkok in January 1989; and another three were killed in February 1990, close in time to the Al-Ruwaily murder. Thai authorities initially arrested Thai Muslim businessmen and charged them with the diplomat murders, only to have the Supreme Court dismiss the charges against the defendants. In the 20 years since, Thai media have routinely conflated the jewelry theft case story lines with the four diplomat murders, though a January 16 Bangkok Post expose on the tangled tale of Thai-Saudi relations did mention that the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) “has now concluded the murder of the diplomats was linked to sectarian disputes.”

10. (C) During a January 15 lunch with visiting Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro, Dr. Panitan Wattanayagorn, Deputy Secretary General for Prime Minister Abhisit and Acting RTG Spokesman, was more emphatic in delinking the various Saudi-Thai cases. Panitan stated that it was commonly accepted by Thai security and intelligence officials that the four Saudi diplomats had been killed by Hezbollah, supposedly in retribution for bungled attempts by the Saudi government to assassinate Hezbollah operatives. Panitan said there was no clear reason why this information had not been made public in the face of media confusion, other than that the RTG had been cautious about the association with Hezbollah and Iran.

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11. (SBU) The January 12 indictments triggered positive responses from both human rights advocates and the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. Veteran human rights attorney Thongbai Thongpao, who successfully represented both defendants in the Saudi diplomat killings cases, told us he believes that this indictment will encourage the RTP to respect better the rule of law. Despite the lengthy period of inaction on the case, he emphasized to us that it was standard operating procedure to reopen proceedings if new evidence or witnesses emerged. Similarly, human rights lawyer Wibun Ingkhakun told us he believed that DSI and OAG had discovered sufficient new evidence to revive the case. While he did not see a hidden domestic political agenda behind the indictments, he did acknowledge to us the role played by Saudi Arabian pressure.

12. (SBU) A press release from the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Bangkok praised the RTG efforts and stated that Saudi Arabia “has been waiting for this day for almost 20 years.” While enthusiastic in tone, it sounded a cautious note, in expressing “hope that Thai authorities will maintain these efforts and momentum on the two other cases which are equally important.”

13. (C) However, Suepsakul Common, MFA Director in the Department of Middle East and African Affairs (and previously a Saudi Arabia desk officer for six years) told us that despite the press release, the Mohammad Al-Ruwaily case was the only truly pending case. While there has been no conviction in the cases of the murdered diplomats, he believed both nations agree that those murders were the result of “conflict in the Middle East” and not a result of Thai actions. Therefore, while the Saudis want Thai authorities to continue to gather evidence in these cases, they recognize the complications that the RTG faces in doing so, according to Suepsakul.


14. (C) Panitan from the PMs office emphasized the importance of resolving the Saudi businessman murder case to Thailands strategy of economic recovery through targeting new markets for Thai agricultural products and labor and sources of investment, including the Gulf States. Panitan said that PM Abhisit had visited Qatar; Bahrain and the U.A.E. were also on Thailands radar, but the key to better relations with all the Gulf states would be fixing the relationship with Saudi Arabia.

15. (C) Prior to the jewelry theft and its aftermath, more than 250,000 Thai workers sent remittances back from Saudi Arabia to Thailand, and Saudi tourists flocked to Thailand, Panitan noted. Afterwards, the Saudi government sent most of the workers home, and restricted the ability of Saudis to travel to Thailand, cutting tourism by 80 percent. Sarasin Viraphong, Executive Vice President of the CP Group, Thailands largest multi-national, also present at the January 15 lunch with A/S Shapiro, confirmed that whenever he needed to travel to Saudi Arabia, the approval process took six weeks – facing a longer wait than any for other country his business executive colleagues visited world-wide.

16. (C) In describing the “new beginning” for the two nations, which would commence with a reopened dialogue with Saudi Arabia, MFA Director Suepsakul insisted that the possible benefits would go beyond increased Saudi tourism to Thailand, new markets in crude oil and gas, or the influx of Thai laborers back to Saudi Arabia. More importantly, better relations with Saudi Arabia could result in better relations

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with the Muslim world and, in particular, Thai Muslims.


17. (C) Although Thai authorities recovered some of the stolen jewelry, the package returned to Saudi Arabia in March 1990 contained a number of pieces that proved to be fake, including the Blue Diamond. According to the MFA, about 50 percent of the jewels were recovered and returned to the Saudi royal family; some media reports say that as much as 80 percent of the returned jewelry was fake. Soon after the incident, some wives of Thai elites, particularly police commissioners and generals, were photographed wearing jewelry strongly resembling the stolen Saudi jewels at various official or high-society events. While the Blue Diamond itself had been spotted several times on the wife of a police general in the 1990s, since the 2006 coup a number of anti-monarchy web boards and activists have alleged that the most recent sighting of the Blue Diamond was on Queen Sirikit. Where exactly the Blue Diamond is may well remain a mystery, even if the 20 year trail of death which followed it is ultimately resolved. JOHN

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