Democrat Party assets

5 10 2012

Most political commentators consider that the Democrat Party possesses few political assets. However, the recent release of wealth declarations by Democrat Party leaders when in government shows they had plenty of economic assets. The Nation reports that the National Anti-Corruption Commission is required to collect assets data for former ministers, one year after they leave office.

The former members of the Democrat Party-dominated Cabinet are not short of a baht, dollar or Euro. And, as noted below, some (all?) of them are worth a heck of a lot more but have done deals with family to spread the wealth about while maintaining control over the assets of the family-cum-company. We won’t list them and just draw attention to a few.

Wealthiest is Korn Chatikavanij who declared personal assets with his wife of 865.909 million baht or about US$28.6 million, apparently a “Bt4.5 million decrease from the amount he declared when leaving office.” Korn’s supposed to be a sharp investor, so the drop in assets, when the market has been rising seems a bit odd.

Second richest is Chaovarat Chanweerakul of the Bhum Jai Thai Party, with declared assets 754.237 million baht. Chaovarat’s family is much wealthier than this. His son (อนุทิน ชาญวีรกูล) and daughter-in-law Sanongnut (สนองนุช ชาญวีรกูล) are the major shareholders of the family firm Sino-Thai Engineering, and together hold shares just in this company valued at almost 4.8 billion baht and there are plenty of other family members listed as shareholders.

The third richest is former the deputy finance minister Pradit Pataraprasit, worth 681.258 million baht.

Former justice minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga also has a bit of loot, being worth 629.88 million baht. He’s the one with three flight simulators (F-18, F-16 and F-14 fighter jets) worth almost $2 million. Porntiva Nakasai, says she has assets worth 117.03 million baht. We wonder if that includes any of the massage parlor empire?

Former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared assets worth 53.944 million baht while his former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban proves that debts may also be a measure of wealth as he declared outstanding debts of 347.578 million baht and assets of 210.95 million. When he left office, Suthep declared assets worth 95.64 million baht, up from 81.607 million when the military hoisted Abhisit’s government into power. It seems that his assets and debts have increased very substantially. Suthep said he owed 248.57 million baht to the Islamic Bank of Thailand. We wonder if his loan their followed The Islamic Bank of Thailand Act, B.E. 2545, which stipulates that the bank operates a financial business that are not related to interests
(riba) or against Islamic principles?

The other surprise is former defense minister General Prawit Wongsuwan who has assets worth 79.063 million baht, sharply up from the 9.39 million he declared a year ago. It never ceases to amaze that poorly paid generals can do so well. A 70 million gain in a year suggests Prawit is a financial genius who has found a second skill late in life (probably not).





Monarchy and Bhum Jai Thai Party

21 04 2011

In The Nation, as the Election Commission readies a “new rule banning mention of the monarchy in any way during election campaigning,” claiming any mention of the monarchy is “improper,” it worries that “political parties were increasingly taking advantage of the monarchy for their political benefit.”

Responding to this governing coalition partner Bhum Jai Thai Party proclaimed that it wanted to be able to campaign to “protect the monarchy.”

With Bhum Jai Thai leader and Minister of Interior Chaovarat Chanweerakul defended the “party’s policy of defending the monarchy and denied it was trying to cite the institution for political advantage.” He asked: “I wonder why it is now improper to defend the monarchy. Since when was defending tantamount to insulting?” Just more of the double standards that define the years since the 2006 coup.

More significantly, the question has been asked whether the party’s printing and distribution of 1.5 million photos of the king was somehow inappropriate ore amounted to a political use of the monarchy. On this, PPT previously posted:

In the [a recent] story, Newin takes up the loyalty challenge and with his party is setting off around the country to dish out photos of the king. There are 1.5 million being given away. Don’t all Thai households already have them? That’s the usual propaganda.

In any case, Newin has emphasized his party’s “My Family Loves the King” project. This is meant “to help the Thais who cannot themselves come to pay homage to the King at Siriraj Hospital for various reasons.  So the party is bringing the photos along with books for them to sign, and will return the books to the Bureau of the Royal Household to honour the King.”

Bhum Jai Thai responded to criticism by producing “a document from the Royal Household Bureau to reject an allegation that the party had His Majesty the King’s pictures published without permission.” The letter, “signed by Royal Household Bureau deputy secretary Dissadhorn Vajarothai, said Bhum Jai Thai could publish and distribute 1 million copies of the King’s photo for distribution…”. The Bureau added that this was approved because “that picture attached in the letter seeking permission has been widely available”.

A spokesman claimed: “Bhum Jai Thai does not want this matter to be politicised,…” and added, “The party has never tried to draw the monarchy into politics…”.

Perhaps the real question is why the Royal Household Bureau – if it really wants to be seen as “above politics” – allowed a political party to use the king’s photo in political campaigning? Any claim that this was not campaigning carries no weight in the context of Thailand’s recent politics.





Who pays the parties?

28 03 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other supporters include:

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

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

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





Security, body armor and red shirts

28 11 2009

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has been harassed by red shirts in many of few provincial visits he has made since becoming premier. We think ministers should be able to visit the countryside. However, it is a measure of the current political conflict and of the dissatisfaction with the manner in which the Democrat Party and Abhisit came to control government that the prime minister can only visit some parts of the country with a huge security force.

The Nation (29 November 2009: “Ministers also cancel Chiang Mai trips”) reports that after Abhisit canceled his Chiang Mai visit, so did coalition partner Interior Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul and Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai. The big name Democrat who did show up was ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan, who seems to be a kind of prime ministerial shadow, following Abhisit around and now de facto filling in for him.

The tactic of chasing ministers out of various areas or preventing them speaking was pioneered by the People’s Alliance for Democracy in the south. At that time, the Democrat Party’s leaders like Suthep Taugsuban considered such events as an expression of public sentiment (see the Bangkok Post and Nation for July 2008). Now that they are being chased about, Democrat ministers and their coalition allies seem to see conspiracies rather than any expression of public views….

The Nation’s report adds that “security has been stepped up for Abhisit in Bangkok. During his visit with “students, volunteers and soldiers to clean up the city moats” he was reported to be wearing “soft armour” under a T-shirt. It is also said that some security personnel were deployed to “high buildings to safeguard him.” Would this be snipers of the kind seen in American movies?

Meanwhile, red shirts from Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, Phrae and Nan staged a rally in Chiang Mai. The report says that police maintained a heavy presence in Chiang Mai (related, see this video). They were said to have set up “many checkpoints on highways leading to the city to scrutinise protesters who were travelling to join the protest.” The idea was to check for “arms and illegal items, but [they] did not find any.”

Update: Prime Minister Abhisit has “denied reports that he had donned a bullet-proof vest while performing official business on Saturday, saying he wore only a T-shirt and singlet.  He insisted that if reporters had asked him, he would have proven that he was not using body armour.” He suggested that maybe he was gaining weight (Nation, 30 November 2009).

The forever “acting government spokesman” Panitan Wattanayagorn said the premier “did not wear soft protective clothing even though there had been reports of a possible assassination attempt. His security guards also insisted he did not wear such a thing.”





Violence predicted, again

3 09 2009

It is becoming too predictable.

The red shirts want to protest, the government gets worried, and then tries all means to derail them. The government then claims the red shirts (or a “third hand”) will incite violence. Hence the government has the military jackboot come out to protect its rule. Use the search for our site to see some of these “predictions” of violence.

The Democrat Party-led coalition government has stated that the reds will be violent every time they rally. They were violent in April, but not without some provocation.

As PPT mentioned in an earlier post, the Democrat Party leadership is again threatening to stop the red shirts rallying and predicting violence. The Democrat Party leaders have seen that invoking the ISA is a convenient and effective means of repression.

In an article in The Nation (3 September 2009:  “Sept 19 rally will be peaceful, Jatuporn says”), red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan has stated that the “red-shirt rally planned for September 19 to mark opposition over the 2006 coup will a one-day event…” adding that the rally peaceful and short.

He criticized the government for their inflammatory predictions and for measures that were excessive.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, however, stirred the pot of fear. While he said he was optimistic that the government could control the rally and asked ” people not to speculate about the rally, saying that would cause undue concern,” he then speculated himself. He “vowed to keep the peace and prevent the crowd from turning unruly, saying he would put every contingency in place, including possible enforcement of the security law.”

Menwhile, Interior Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul worried about September and October as politically fragile months and “former prime minister Chuan Leekpai said the government should be careful about the red shirts’ protest on September 19, as nobody would forgive them if chaos erupted again like that in Pattaya in April.” Oops, he speculated and not for the first time.

Abhisit’s government continues down the right-wing and repressive road.





Abhisit, PAD and the UDD

3 08 2009

Saritdet Marukatat, a Bangkok Post opinion page writer, has an interesting take on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Sondhi Limthongkul assassination case (Bangkok Post, 3 August 2009: “PM’s handling of police chief has backfired”).

Saritdet sees Abhisit as being too compliant on PAD: “But the most surprising move was from the prime minister who has been dancing to the tune called by the PAD leader in recent weeks.” He points out: “The prime minister has unnecessarily got himself into trouble. After handling the Patcharawat case, Mr Abhisit will not have more enemies. But he will have fewer admirers.”

Meanwhile, Abhisit seems to have decided that he needs to attack the red shirts and their supporters. It is noticeable that all talk of reconciliation has gone as Abhisit has come to realize that the Democrat Party is losing electoral ground. In a Bangkok Post (3 August 2009: “Abhisit threatens to sue UDD over petition”) report, Abhisit says that he “will take legal action against United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leaders if they are found to have coerced people into making false statements in signing a petition to seek a pardon for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.”

This view is odd. Previously, Abhisit claimed people were “misled.” Now he claims coercion. However, PPT has seen no reports of alleged coercion but we may assume that such cases will now be manufactured.

Abhist was being interviewed by television host and PAD ally Chirmsak Pinthong, and said that if the “UDD filed the petition with the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, the office would seek a reaction from the government and the government must verify the petition.” He stated: “The government must check, no matter how many signatures there are, who they are, where they live and if they really have that intention…”. If there are 4-5 million signatures, this will take a very long time to complete. Again, the Democrat Party PM is implying a threat to those who sign up in what is a completely legal activity. Abhisit, though, takes the disingenuous view that the petition is “improper and contradicted legal principles.”

Abhisit asserted that “The persons who file [the petition] must make sure that the petitioners really express that intention and understand the content before signing it. Otherwise, they [persons filing the petition] will be considered as luring other people or filing a false statement.” And he threatened, “If the investigation found any wrongdoing, the government would take legal action against those involved…”. He then adds an interesting point: “the wording does not seek a pardon…” and claims that this is wrong.

Abhisit is again in tune with PAD on this issue. PAD’s Suriyasai Katasila, said that the “UDD had misled people into believing that with a large number of signatures, His Majesty the King would pardon Thaksin.” Suriyasai claimed that “UDD leaders know the move does not meet the criteria for a royal pardon, but used the activity as a tool to mobilise support for Thaksin.”

He urged the government to take the matter very seriously as he believed that it “could escalate from a political conflict into a national security problem.” In other words, an attack on the monarchy.

Those supporting the petition have responded. Peua Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit is reported in The Nation (3 August 2003: “Govt to check names seeking royal pardon for Thaksin”) as saying that “the people were entitled to appeal to His Majesty the King according to Article 91 of the Constitution and the government should let them exercise their rights.”

PPT believe that he refers to Article or Section 191, not 91. Section 191 states: “The King has the prerogative to grant a pardon.”

Prompong also said that “the party would file a complaint on Wednesday with the National Anti-Corruption Commission against Interior Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul and the ministry’s permanent secretary Wichai Srikwan for instructing governors and district chiefs to oppose the petition and urge people to withdraw their names. He accused the two of malfeasance for violating Articles 157 and 259 of the Criminal Code.”

Thaksin has also phoned in to a “community radio program in Chiang Mai attacking the government for depriving citizens of their rights for the move to block the petition.”

Meanwhile, a “group called “Thais who love peace”, led by Dr Wallop Yangtrong, held a press conference to attack the Council of University Presidents of Thailand for opposing the signature drive, saying the people have the right to seek royal mercy and it is the royal prerogative to make that decision.” The rectors action was questioned as “a possible offence to the power vested in the monarchy.”








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