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.





Tax evaders, tycoons and the palace

3 04 2017

When the subject of tax comes up, one thing can always be taken for granted in Thailand: the elite will not lose anything for they are skilled tax minimizers and evaders.

In the Bangkok Post to day there are a couple of stories that can be brought together. First, we have news that “[e]vading taxes worth 10 million baht or more, or fraudulently filing for tax refunds of 2 million baht or more through collusion, shall be considered a money-laundering offence…” under a new law.

The notion that tax evasion is money laundering strikes us as strange, but you get the picture. The tax authorities want to be seen as going after tax evaders, something they have never done much of in the past, except in politicized cases.

So, we should see the Revenue Department go after “politicians” from previous regimes. We should also expect that the Department will examine the taxation records of the unusually wealthy who report huge wealth when they get junta perk positions. We can be pretty certain none of them paid tax on it.

That set us thinking. What about Police General Somyos Pumpanmuang? He is now head of the Thailand Football Association,  had long 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. Has he ever been taxed?

We can also wonder whether the 50,000 baht a month that was claimed and then unclaimed as income by metropolitan police chief Pol. Lt. Gen. Sanit Mahathavorn  was ever taxed? The lucky Sanit was on the payroll of the giant alcohol and beverage producer Thai Beverage Plc owned by one of Thailand’s wealthiest Sino-Thai tycoons, Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi. Sanit’s total income was also claimed to be mammoth. Was that taxed?

While on companies and wealth, we wonder how much tax is paid by Charoen and his other fabulously wealthy fellow tycoons? They get great business deals from the corrupt state and from their unusual relationships, but how much do they “give back”? And we don’t mean the piddling corporate social responsibility ruses, we mean real tax.

Readers might recall the contract for the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center which went, without going to a bid or to any significant renegotiation, to N.C.C. Management & Development Co., a company in the gargantuan business empire of Charoen, reputedly worth almost $14 billion. Naturally, he’s also close to the palace.

Which brings us to another Bangkok Post story. Charoen has revealed “plans to develop a new mixed-use project to be called ‘One Bangkok’ on the 104-rai of land that formerly housed Suan Lum Night Bazaar on the corner of Witthayu and Rama IV roads.”

It seems odd that the “development will be joint venture by two companies owned by Mr Charoen, TCC Assets (Thailand) Co and Frasers Centrepoint Limited (FCL).” There must be a tax deal there somewhere.

The mammoth development will be on a lease the “TCC Group secured … from the Crown Property Bureau in 2014.”

Before the site was the Suan Lum Night Bazaar from 2001 to 2011, it was the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School, established in 1958 “next to Lumphini Park in Bangkok…”. It moved in 2000, and allowed the tacky Night Bazaar to be built. Now, how did that land get back to the CPB? Was the military paying a peppercorn rent? Or was it “returned” to the CPB as so many other properties were. Did the CPB pay any taxes?

These deals can be exceptionally lucrative. Princess Sirindhorn is estimated to personally rake in about $54 million a year from the property she owns around the Siam-Rajaprasong area, and we know she isn’t paying tax.

Tycoons as royalists and royals, along with their helpers in the senior reaches of the civil and military bureaucracies don’t ever seem to be “threatened” with taxation.





Another junta crook gets off

15 03 2017

No corruption allegations ever sticks to the military junta’s allies, or so it seems.

In the case of Pol Lt Gen Sanit Mahathavorn, everyone, and we mean everyone, knows he did it. But, as The Nation reports, he is let off without a charge or even a slap on the “ethics” wrist.

The Office of the Ombudsman has given up or been pressured to give up its “probe into city police chief Lt-General Sanit … allegedly earning Bt50,000 a month as an adviser to the country’s biggest producer of alcoholic drinks, Thai Beverage…”.

The Ombudsman seems to have decided, as it often does, except where junta political opponents are involved, that “there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the case.”

Sanit’s “excuse” is that declaring the payment was an error. He claimed “that there was a mistake on his asset declaration as a new member of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA).” What kind of mistake? “He said he had asked others to handle the declaration for him and he had never worked for the firm.”

So the claim is that some underling conjured up his illicit payment from ThaiBev. He or she just had a dream and wrote it on the boss’s declaration. That’s buffalo manure, but the dolts and political flunkies at the Ombudsman “believe” it because there’s no “evidence” to the contrary (apart from the declaration).

More importantly, Thai Beverage “said in a letter to the office that it did not hire Sanit as an adviser.” They are fibbing too. Of course they pay him, and plenty of other cops too. Everyone knows they do this. But it is “good business practice,” and “everybody” does it and all the junta boys are on the take too.

The tough pussies at the “Ombudsman’s Office sent a notice to Sanit warning him to be more careful in the future by thoroughly checking documents when complied by another person on his behalf and submitted to an official body signed by him.”

So the company and the cop get away with it.

Can it get any more pathetic than this?





Corruption updates

13 03 2017

Two interesting reports, both suggesting how muddy the waters are around both cases, with the authorities being the ones throwing the mud.

First, and one of our favorites in recent times, the case of Pol. Lt. Gen. Sanit Mahathavorn. Sanit at first disclosed that he was receiving 50,000 baht a month from ThaiBev, owned by one of Thailand’s wealthiest Sino-Thai conglomerates. When questions were asked, he took some time to think up a story. Finally, a story was produced: Sanit claimed there was a “mistake” in his asset declaration. He claimed he had never been an adviser for the alcoholic drink giant, Thai Beverage Plc. And that story was relayed by the Office of the Ombudsman.

Khaosod reports that Sanit’s story doesn’t work for everyone. Now the Ombudsman says they don’t accept the lies claims. It says it has “obtained his original financial disclosure document and found it certified with his signature.” In other words, he was getting the payment.

The Ombudsman is only looking at “ethics rules.” Sanit, like many other top cops will be confused by this word “ethics.”

Given that both Sanit and ThaiBev have denied any financial relationship, some serious questions should be asked. We doubt anyone will ask any.

Second, the Rolls Royce saga continues with continuing confusing reporting. The Bangkok Post reports that “National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) plans this week to discuss the scope of an investigation into the alleged bribes paid to 26 former Thai cabinet ministers and executives of Thai Airways International (THAI) in the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal.”

The report adds that “the three NACC members and the NACC secretary-general will discuss the probe framework this week with the sub-committee tasked with finding facts in the alleged bribe payments.” They reckon they might need some more “evidence.”

And, oh yes, the “NACC will focus on the third phase of the bribery scandal that occurred between 2004 and 2005…”. That seems to mean they will only look at that period, when the government was with Thaksin Shinawatra. No politics here, of course, because the NACC says this is the only period not outside the statute of limitations on such alleged crimes.

What of that “ethics” word? Unlike the Ombudsman, the NACC seems to have forgotten it or never seen it. What about the idea of naming and shaming those in earlier periods? That might be a bit difficult for the NACC because they’d be up against the “great and good” who are strong allies of anti-democrats and military junta.





Money for nothing III

1 03 2017

Remember that case of the big liquor and beer firm ThaiBev paying the Metropolitan Police Bureau chief Sanit Mahathavorn a 50,000 baht a month advisor’s fee?

Well, we are now told it never happened! Just like magic, the allegation and even the policeman’s self-declaration is gone! Poof!

The Bangkok Post reports that Sanit “claims there was a ‘mistake’ in his asset declaration and insists he has never worked as an adviser for the alcoholic drink giant, Thai Beverage Plc…”. And that’s according to Thailand’s Office of the Ombudsman.

When you are a top cop it must be difficult to keep track of all the ill-gotten gains. There’s just so much of it.

Oh, and it wasn’t his declaration. “Pol Lt Gen Sanit claimed his asset declaration submitted to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) contained a ‘mistake’ because he did not prepare it himself, which caused a misunderstanding among his staff.”

And guess what? The company supports him! “In fact, Pol Lt Gen Sanit claimed he has never done the job in question, an assertion now backed up by the beverage giant itself.”

Whew! We are so pleased that’s all sorted out. We just wonder what Sanit’s next magic trick will be. It is such a wonderful performance. And to have the country’s richest as a supporting act is just so, well, revealing!

We imagine that any documents pertaining to the non-position and non-salary are now non-documents.

Seriously, Sanit and his business buddies must think the Thai public a bunch of dolts if they think that such a ridiculous, cobbled together nonsense can be believed. But what these crooks do know is that they expect impunity.