Keeping tycoons with the junta

6 08 2018

We have posted a lot on the military junta’s campaigning and not enough on how The Dictator maintains his relations with the Sino-Thai tycoons.

Fortunately, the Bangkok Post has provided some insights on this process.

Before getting to that, however, a reminder of how well the really rich have done under the junta. A while ago we compared 2014 wealth – the year of the coup – and 2016 wealth. The totals for the top 10 show that their combined wealth has increased by almost $16 billion over that period. The top two families have increased by more than $9billion. Not bad pickings.

More loot awaits: “Activists and workers’ unions have demanded land development plans be immediately excluded from the terms of reference of the high-speed railway set to link Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao airports, alleging it would monopolise involvement in the megaproject down to ‘a few large firms’.”

Activist Srisuwan Janya said granting land rights to the firm that wins the rights for the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) railway project is “unnecessary.”

What’s necessary is throwing out infrastructure projects that produce great wealth for the big conglomerate that wins – we would bet on a CP or a Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi being involved. Based on previous experience, we might also expect that some bureaucrats and political leaders will also benefit.

Those funds lubricate a whole 1980s-like political system, dripping corruption.

In this case, the winning firm gets “both operation and land development rights under a 50-year concession.” That’s after the 200 billion project is completed.

Srisuwan explains: “These firms will just be receiving the land around the railway as an added bonus at cheaper rates, compared to the actual, substantially higher value of such land.”

The reports adds that the State Railways “must hand over the land it owns around the Bangkok-Rayong route to the winning firm, including 150 rai in the Makkasan area.” That’s smack bang in central Bangkok and a prime piece of real estate worth billions of baht.

That’s ample lubrication.





Updated: Party pilfering II

5 05 2018

The claimed non-political/apolitical/not headhunting/not seeking support campaign cabinet/junta visit to Buriram, home of the masters of the Bhum Jai Thai Party is upon us.

Newin Chidchob and Anutin Charnvirakul are beside themselves with anticipation and preparation for the non-political/apolitical/not headhunting/not seeking support campaign cabinet/junta visit.

The Bangkok Post reports that they have arranged for 30,000 people to greet The Dictator and his junta’s cabinet on Monday. Where? Of course, in Newin’s football stadium in the town Newin essentially owns before toddling off to the motor racing circuit Newin owns.

Both stadium and circuit are sponsored by Chang Beer, meaning that the Sino-Thai monster tycoons of the Sirivadhanabhakdi family get free advertising across Thailand during the visit and their name back The Dictator.

The ridiculous claims that the visit is non-political/apolitical/not headhunting/not seeking support campaign cabinet continued, as if every Thai is considered some kind of automaton unable to recognize the theft of an “election” that is underway.

Bhum Jai Thai’s Sanong Thep-aksornnarong led the way in feigned claim that “there was nothing unusual about the mobile cabinet visit on Monday.” He lied added: “I assure you there’s no special instruction from our party leader and Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha] wants to check the progress after a state budget of 100 million baht was approved for Thailand to hold the MotoGP here.”

Any question about why those funds were approved? Helping Newin and BJT? No, couldn’t be. Could it?

Sanong babbled on: “We don’t want to hear about MP-luring rumours because it’s not going to be easy here. We have dignity and was set up long before the new [military] party…”. True enough on timing, but its always been a party of the military and the military is rumored to have poured millions into it in 2011 in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the election of the Puea Thai Party.

Update: The lies (the practice of communicating lies is called lying, and a person who communicates a lie may be termed a liar) associated with the the sucking sound enveloping Buriram have become infectious. Gen Prayuth has joined the chorus of obvious deception. He trumpeted these disingenuous claims:

“There is nothing special. I am not going to strike a deal with anyone. I don’t want to meet politicians,” Prayut told reporters.

“But I don’t want to prohibit politicians from welcoming me either. If you want to, do it. Do you think I can bar people from greeting me?” he added.

Presumably he doesn’t think piling money into Newin’s ventures and visiting them to be “greeted” by 30,000 of Newin’s “people” is a problem either. Perhaps The Dictator feels this is what he deserves, and Newin sure knows how to spread on the political honey.

It is as if none of these men – and so far they are all men we’ve been hearing – has an ounce of truthfulness or dignity. In fact, though, they are displaying their utter contempt and disdain for the ability of the Thai people to discern fact and fiction.





Rolling back 1932 one piece of property at a time III

12 04 2018

PPT has been posting on the king’s and Crown Property Bureau’s efforts to (re)secure the so-called Royal Plaza, rolling back changes that were made when the monarchy was put in its (proper) place as a constitutional monarchy rather than a grasping, absolutist and despotic regime.

While the CPB “declined to confirm reports Wednesday that it was evicting two state universities built on land it owns in Bangkok,” Khaosod reports that the CPB was “formulating a response to reports the palace would terminate leases with Suan Sunandha and Suan Dusit universities when they expire in five years.” Apparently, the big shots were flummoxed that “the news got out.”

The report continues:

A former residence for King Rama VI’s family members, Suan Sunandha was turned into a university by the civilian government following the 1932 revolt that overthrew absolute monarchy. The same revolution also gave birth to Suan Dusit University in 1934.

The land abuts other plots the CPB has been reclaiming for the monarchy.

We should add that we think the final claim in the report is in error. It sates that with “more than 16,000 acres under its oversight, the Crown Property Bureau is the largest landowner of Thailand.” In fact, while its lands may well be the most valuable landholding, we believe the largest landowner title belongs to the Sirivadhanabhakdi family of beer and whiskey fame.





Further updated: More junta corruption

6 02 2018

Long-time readers will know that PPT has had considerable commentary on former police chief General  Somyos Pumpanmuang.

Much of that commentary had to do with corruption. General Somyos is now head of the Thailand Football Association,  where he claims to be battling corruption involving match-fixing. What a joke. The fox is in charge of the chickens. Somyos had long and arguably corrupt business relationships with mining companies, and at the time of his retirement as Thailand’s top cop, was one of its wealthiest policemen. Somyos was known to have ordered police to support companies he had previously worked with. He was so wealthy that he gave rewards to cops out of his own bag of money.

Now General Somyos tells Thailand that  “he had borrowed a huge sum of money from the fugitive owner of the Victoria’s Secret Massage brothel, Kampol Wirathepsuporn.”

PPT noted this relationship in mid-January, with photos.

Pol Gen Somyos says Kampol and he “were friends and the latter loaned him money on several occasions.” How much? Somyos says “about 300 million baht changed hands between them.”

That’s about 10 times more than the “borrowed” watches that General Prawit Wongsuwan claims to have had from “friends.”

Like the Deputy Dictator, Somyos “explains” that he and the massage parlor owner are “friends and of course friends do help each other. I was in trouble and asked him for help several times.”

We can only wonder what “help” Pol Gen Somyos provided for his friend.

At the same time, we can only remain puzzled as to how a man who reported assets of 375 million baht back in 2014 got that money and how he was still able to borrow 300 million from a flesh trader.

It should be noticed that none of the civil and military bureaucrats who have served the junta were almost all “unusually wealthy.”

Update 1: A reader thinks we should not be calling this case “junta corruption.” We disagree. Reporting has made it clear that Somyos “borrowed” these huge sums when he was police chief, working for the junta.

Update 2: Soonruth Bunyamanee is a deputy editor at the Bangkok Post and has a useful op-ed on this case. We agree with much that he says. However, we disagree with a couple of his points. To nitpick, we think it is a bit of a fudge to refer to this case as a reminder of how “deeply the patronage system is entrenched in Thai society.” In fact, this is another example of the deep corruption that underpins relationships between business and officials. More specifically, this is an example of how the police make money through the protection and shake-down rackets they run and how powerful businesses get more profits from the way these rackets are run. Almost all senior police become hugely wealthy from their positions and the manner in which they extract money. Of course, these relationships often become chummy or even “regularized.” One such “regularization” was seen in another case under the junta, where city police chief Pol Lt Gen Sanit Mahathavorn declared that the giant alcohol and beverage producer Thai Beverage Plc pays him 600,000 baht a year as an “adviser.” ThaiBev is controlled by one of Thailand’s richest, Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi. In the end, this instance of corruption was considered normal and not a crime.

The other nitpick we have is when Soonruth says, “it’s not wrong for Pol Gen Somyot to have the owner of a massage parlour as a friend.” We think this is wrong. According to reports on the case, this massage parlor was engaged in multiple illegal activities from paying off officials and police to stealing water and human trafficking. Why would any top cop want to be associated with such criminal activities? Of course, for the money!





CPB and more shopping

24 08 2017

A major reshaping of Bangkok’s Lumpini area is planned. The Crown Property Bureau is about to make another fortune. Yukako Ono reports on this at the Nikkei Asian Review.

The CPB has made several prime pieces of real estate available for large major urban redevelopment projects.

The biggest of these is with the TCC Group, “the family-owned conglomerate known for brewery subsidiary Thai Beverage,” owned by Sino-Thai tycoon and heavy investor in royal futures, Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi and his family.

The CPB is leasing land to TCC for up to six decades for its One Bangkok project, “the nation’s largest-ever private redevelopment project, valued at 120 billion baht ($3.6 billion).” Ono says this “vast mixed-use complex will cover 167,000 sq. meters along Witthayu Road, an area home to Japanese, U.S. and British embassies as well as luxury hotels. That prime location drew redevelopment proposals from 21 bidders.” It will include “[f]ive office buildings, five hotels, three condominiums and a shopping mall will take over the location, which used to field a Thai boxing stadium and a night market.”

Part of this land is an area that was an area that was taken from the royals after 1932 but returned to them at an undisclosed time.

Up the road, “hotel operator Dusit International has joined hands with Central Pattana, a property development unit of retail giant Central Group, to close the … Dusit Thani … hotel and replace it with a 36.7 billion-baht mixed-use project that is to include a new Dusit hotel and shopping mall. In extending its property bureau [CPB] lease for the land, Dusit was able to gain an additional 8,000 sq. meters of real estate.”

The property bureau [CPB] itself is participating in the redevelopment boom through fully owned subsidiary Siam Sindhorn. Its first project, an 89,600-sq.-meter hybrid facility, is set for full completion in 2019.

Siam Sindhorn opened a condo at the site earlier this year, which the company says contains interior furnishings and utilities from across the globe. A 30-year lease commands an average of 240,000 baht per square meter, about twice the average going rate for Bangkok’s city center. Siam Sindhorn has begun marketing the development to investors in China, Japan and Western nations.

More upscale shopping, more luxury condos, more luxury hotels. Remember the CPB propaganda about helping small shophouse owners?





Corrected: The tycoons and the junta

3 06 2017

This is a corrected post. We became aware that the search function we used at Forbes to list Thailand’s tycoons returned something other than a full list. We have now located a more reliable list at Forbes and have rewritten the post based on the correct data. Thanks to a reader for questioning us about the data, causing us to go back to the source.

At the same time, we remain cautious about the data given that the totals in the global list do not exactly match those in the Thailand list.

There’s been a lot of talk about the military dictatorship having done little for the economy. One group is benefiting. That’s the junta and its allies in state enterprises, those on the take, those raking in commissions and the various puppet appointments. But their takings, while huge by the standards of the average Thai, are not the measure of how the tycoons are doing.

That group are the richest Thais, mostly the Sino-Thai tycoons and a couple of foreigners who have made their fortune in Thailand.When we had the wrong data, we indicated that the wealth of the top 10 had decreased. This is corrected in the table below, showing a very large increase in wealth.

We know this from the listing in Forbes of the world’s US dollar billionaires and, now, from the list of Thailand’s billionaires. Over the years, we have listed the top 10, so we are sticking with that so that a comparison can be made.

The table compares 2014 wealth (Forbes 2015) and the year of the coup and the 2016 figures (Forbes 2017).

The totals for the top 10 show that their combined wealth has increased by almost $16 billion. The top two families have increased by more than $9billion.

When we had the data wrong we asked: How long will these economic whales put up with a military dictatorship that delivers economic decline? Now that the data has reversed the position, we can only imagine that the tycoons are loving the junta.





Making stuff up

17 05 2017

Two reports in Khaosod and one at The Nation should serve as reminders that Thailand under the military boot is a kingdom of lies.

The first Khaosod report is about infamous police chief Lt. Gen. Sanit Mahathavorn. He’s the one who produced an assets declaration that stated he received a hefty monthly payment from beer magnates. Then he denied this. It was a mistake. And, anyway, he didn’t fill out the form himself, but had minions do it. Presumably they made it up? Hardly. But, no one in the junta was bothered. Such payments are the norm and apparently not illegal, not corrupt and not unethical. Just normal for this bunch of corrupt bastards.

The Bangkok police commander has now lied again and covered it up with a wholly unbelievable story that suggests that he continues to believe that the public are a bunch of clowns and dolts.

As the story has it, the policeman “visited the site of an explosion that wounded two people and told reporters it was not an explosion at all, but a ‘explosive-like loud bang’ caused by a malfunctioning water pipe.” Not long after, “a police leak burst his implausible claim of an injurious water pipe, [and] Sanit admitted that he made up his original version of events. The lie was necessary to deceive the perpetrators, said the lieutenant general…”.

Equally unbelievable, this latest claim from this fraudulent official is remarkable for displaying his own lack of intelligence, coming up with “stories” about as believable as a grade school student blaming the dog for eating his homework.

This person is a serial liar and a disgrace. But he’s got plenty of company.

The second Khaosod report is about the still unexplained extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae. Two months after his death, the police say the Royal Thai Army has finally handed over video footage of the events. The Army says the kid was a drug smuggler and “resisted.” No evidence of any of these claims is available, but top military and police say the video footage “proved” their claims.

Yet it took almost two months for the video to be handed over. And, then, as a hard disk that the police say they can’t view because of a software issue. What software? They can’t say.

But if they do view the footage, what then? Police Maj. Gen. Thawatchai Mekprasertsuk says “the Official Information Act prohibits information disclosure if it can affect others…”. Presumably he means official killers might be affected.

They just make stuff up.

The final story is from The Nation. On 2 May the Thai Ambassador in Seoul sent an official letter to the chairman of the May 18 Memorial Foundation seeming to complain that lese majeste detainee Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa had been awarded the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.

In that letter the ambassador lied that Jatuphat was guilty of certain crimes. Of course, he hasn’t (yet) been convicted by one of the kingdom’s feudal courts.

Jatuphat’s parents demanded an apology and retraction by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Getting the junta to correct its lies is problematic, not least because the junta seems unable to discern fact from fiction.