The other Vichai story

31 10 2018

With all the eulogies for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha being wholly laudatory, BBC Sport Editor Dan Roan is in a spot of bother after being caught “talking about Vichai[‘s]… personal assistant Nusara Suknamai.” He said: “As opposed to the mistress who died in the crash, otherwise known as member of staff, i.e. mistress… family man…”.

Nusara has been described as a “[f]ormer beauty queen who was runner-up in Thailand’s Miss Universe.”

Fans of Leicester City attacked Roan, variously describing him as despicable and an enemy of the club. He was told by some that he was no longer welcome at the club. These fans lauded Vichai and hated the fact that the BBC editor had, well, told the truth.

The claims by others were uncritical and blur truth. It was Britain’s Prince William who stated:

My thoughts today are with the family and friends of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and all the victims of the terrible crash at Leicester City Football Club…. I was lucky to have known Vichai for several years. He was a businessman of strong values who was dedicated to his family and who supported a number of important charitable causes.

Vichai is next to the tall lad in red

There’s no evidence that Prince William’s claims are anything other than a repetition of the spin that has been associated with Vichai and King Power in recent years. The BBC mistress slip is just one aspect of this.

Lauding Vichai as something of a hero in the context of Leicester and Leicester City is understandable. Spin from a royal polo partner are also no surprise.

But the failure of the media to investigate more is disappointing.

After all, Vichai’s business history is of virtually inexplicable, very sudden and huge wealth. Yes, King Power is known, but the company and its founder are secretive. What is known suggests he may have grifted his way to great wealth, not least by polishing the right posteriors. Once he had great wealth, he selectively polished his own posterior by carefully managing his and the company’s limited media profile.

On the mistress claim, it is not at all odd to learn that a Sino-Thai mogul would hire an “assistant” who is a former beauty queen. That she might be a mistress is also pretty much “normal” in Thailand. Most Sino-Thai tycoons have a stable of mistresses.

And, of course, not just tycoons and not just Thailand.

But in Thailand, there’s a normalization of such relations. Politicians and military types are good examples. Gen Sarit Thanarat had a bevy of mistresses. Whispers about other leaders are only sometimes revealed, usually in squabbles over their ill-gotten gains. Examples included Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong, Chatichai Choonhavan and Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.

And, of course, there’s the massive official silence in Thailand about the current king’s “troubled relationships with a succession of wives and mistresses.”

It is about power. For the tycoons, wealth means power and having a mistress is “normalized.” But that link between wealth, power and mistress should not be ignored.





Updated: Regressive politics

5 10 2018

Not that long ago, one of Thailand’s oldest generals briefly got himself back in the spotlight. Former Prime Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, sitting with Jatuporn Promphan of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, the official red shirts, he opposed an election.

He proposed an interim or national government “to solve the country’s problems and the 1997 constitution should be revived with some changes…”. He’s suggested a national government umpteen times.

It seems he was provoked by The Dictator’s plans for future control of politics following a rigged election.

The leader of the 2011 election’s military-backed party Bhum Jai Thai Anutin Charnvirakul observed, “next year’s election is a foregone conclusion…”. We are not sure whether he meant the election itself or the outcome. Probably both.

But at least five people took up Chavalit’s call and decided to petition the kin, asking him to ditch out the junta. Now, this is feudal bizarre, but the reaction from the military regime was predictably unrestrained.

Police arrested the five, dragged them off to a police station, along with their flag and portrait of the king, before presenting them to the military. The military whisked them off to the 11th Military Circle base for “attitude adjustment.”

Running to the king and calling for a national government are equally regressive political acts, but this is where Thailand is located, thanks to the junta.

Update: Khaosod reports that the arrested would-be royal petitioners have been released from military custody. The group “was taken to an army base for questioning before they were freed without charges at 5pm on the same day, military sources told the media.” The arresting officers claimed that the group “violat[ed] the junta’s ban on political gatherings.” It seems the king is not above politics.





Military partying

2 02 2018

Khaosod reports on the announcement of a new political party that many consider may become the vehicle for ensuring The Dictator’s path to “election” as premier well into the future.

It points to the new Citizen Power Party, established by Samphan Lertnuwat, an ageing military minion who says his as yet unregistered party will discuss supporting Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister after elections are held…” whenever that might be. Samphan said he “… think[s] it’s a long way off.”

When asked about his party’s policies Samphan ” espoused values reminiscent of Prayuth’s message of reconciliation and unity.” He added a little populism to the mix saying the party would put the “stress on helping the poor,” explaining that this would be “particularly in the rural areas…”. He claimed to have filched “about 30 former members of parliament” for his party, many of them targeting the northeast.

An eight-time MP, who’s been with several parties, he’s been an MP-for-hire. In 1991, he was with the Samakki Tham Party that was a military surrogate and the vehicle for “then-military dictator Gen. Suchinda Kraprayoon [who became] … prime minister for a short period before a bloody revolt in May 1992 that ended the strongman’s political career. Under Suchinda’s government, Samphan was a deputy commerce minister.”

He was also close to old military political meddler General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and many of the new party’s “members” seem to be linked to the New Aspiration Party, which was the vehicle for Chavalit briefly becoming an ignoble premier for a year in 1996-97.





Updated: The yellow threat

4 09 2017

About a month ago we suggested watching the People’s Alliance for Democracy. The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions clearing of 2008 prime minister Somchai Wongsawat and three others over their role in an attempt at clearing of PAD protesters had the (former) members of PAD agitated.

The Bangkok Post reports that the former “co-leader and spokesman of … PAD … Parnthep Pourpongpan, is warning of the possible return of yellow shirts if justice [sic.] is not served in a case concerning the 2008 deadly dispersal of the group’s demonstrators.”

This is obviously a political threat. It is an attempt to influence the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), seeking to force it to “appeal against the ruling…”. The NACC has refused and PAD says that’s a “political” decision.

PAD’s threat includes “lawsuits to be filed against the NACC members concern abuse of authority…”.

Panthep claims that there may have been “collusion between government figures and the NACC … to shield some people from legal action…”. He regards this “as organised crime.” He warns that PAD will sort this out. Another threat.

If that is the case, he says, then PAD may have to deal with it. Another threat.

“In the end, if no justice is served [he means PAD gets what it wants], no one can tell whether the PAD will return or not (to an active protest role)…”.

Just to turn the knife a bit more, Panthep went after The Dictator. “He said the government has not yet overcome the influence of the Thaksin system as it has failed to win over the hearts and minds of the people.”

Panthep reckons that the “regime’s policies were rolled out to mainly help capitalists or big entrepreneurs rather than the general public, which widens social disparity…”. There’s something in that. And it’s another threat.

The PAD man warns that the “military regime could seek a compromise with Thaksin’s system as a potential partner in holding political power.” That would surely bring the PADistas back. So it’s another threat.

Update: We should have mentioned that the NACC had 15 days to appeal. It has decided to appeal on just one of the four PAD crackdown cases. The Nation reports that the NACC “agreed with the court’s acquittal of the first three defendants…”. That’s Somchai, his deputy Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and then-police chief Pol General Patcharawat Wongsuwan. The NACC is appealing the case of former metropolitan police chief Pol Lt-General Suchart Muankaew. That is not enough for PAD.





Updated: PAD excited and angry

2 08 2017

Yellow shirt social media has erupted, complaining bitterly about the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions has acquitted Somchai Wongsawat, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and two others for their role in seeking to move protesters seeking to block parliament.

The details are still vague and incomplete, but it should be recalled that the “four men were charged with abuse of authority in 2015 by the National Anti-Corruption Commission.”The charges related to the dispersal of People’s Alliance for Democracy protesters in 2008, with the junta pushing the charges forward.

It was the same NACC that claimed that Abhisit Vejjajiva, Suthep Thaugsuban and General Anupong Paojinda had no case to answer for their role in the events leading to the deaths of more than 100 red shirt protesters and others in 2010.

The court ruled that the “authorities had no intention of causing injuries or loss of life when they launched the operation to clear away the protesters.”

Given that Abhisit and his lot got off so easily, the fact that the NACC took Somchai and others to court raised a serious question of double standards. With Yingluck Shinawatra’s case also coming to a conclusion, the courts and junta faced a dilemma that could have unleashed a political backlash. They appear to have both backed off and followed the law. That’s an innovation.

The backlash now seems to be coming from the yellow shirts.

Update: Angry yellow shirt “leaders have called on the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to appeal yesterday’s acquittal of four defendants in a case stemming from the fatal 2008 crackdown.” Suriyasai Katasila, a former PAD leader “disputed arguments that the dispersal of the protest had been conducted in line with international practices, that the demonstration was not peaceful or unarmed, and that the defendants had no intention of causing casualties.”





“Election” readiness II

22 07 2017

In an earlier post PPT, commented that preparations for the military junta’s election were moving along and that the signals for this were getting stronger. They included the anti-Election Commission that the junta could arrange its election sometime from August 2018. Another signal were the efforts to neuter the Shinawatra clan and Puea Thai Party, with the cases against Yingluck Shinawatra is drawing to a close next month.

The Bangkok Post reports that other cases at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions are scheduled for rulings with “three major cases involving politicians from the Pheu Thai Party” also scheduled for next month.

One is Yingluck’s case. A second case “involves a group of 28 people including former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom and former deputy commerce minister Poom Sarapol. It deals with their involvement in government-to-government rice sales to China.” All are from the Yingluck government that was thrown out by the 2014 military coup.

The third case, set to be ruled on 2 August, involves a set of senior figures associated with the pro-Thaksin People’s Power Party government from 2007-08. Included are former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who was deputy prime minister in charge of security under then premier Somchai and two senior policemen of that period.

They are on trial for their roles in the crackdown on the People’s Alliance for Democracy which had had its protesters lay siege to Government House from 20 June 2008, seeking to force the pro-Thaksin elected government out of office. Despite a court order for the eviction of protesters, the siege continued. To bring further pressure on the government, PAD laid siege to parliament, to prevent Somchai from making a legally required policy speech in the assembly. On 7 July 2008, police announced that they would use tear gas and clear protesters. Clashes continued for several hours, with two deaths and 471 people injured. One of the deaths was a PAD supporter who accidentally blew himself up.

Students of Thailand’s double standards will recall that former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban and General Anupong Paojinda were charged with malfeasance and murder for their crackdowns on red shirt protesters in April and May 2010 resulting in a 100 deaths and thousands of injuries. Several courts denied that they had jurisdiction, the National Anti-Corruption Commission ruled they had acted lawfully and the case did not go to the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.





Doubling down on double standards

5 05 2016

PPT was interested to read a story in the Bangkok Post that reports there is yellow-shirted opposition to a “move by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to withdraw a case against former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, and three other senior figures who are charged with malfeasance in connection with the bloody crackdown on yellow-shirt [People’s Alliance for Democracy] protesters in 2008…”.

The report states that NACC chairman Watcharapol Prasarnratchakij set up a panel to study the legal possibilities of charging the senior figures under “Section 157 of the Criminal Code for malfeasance and dereliction of duty and related clauses in the NACC Act and the 2007 charter.”

This is a long-standing case for the NACC since then NACC boss and anti-democrat sympathizer Panthep Klanarongran “made tremendous efforts to push the case to reach the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political-Office Holders.”

The Office of the Attorney-General which initially refused to indict the four defendants (“former deputy prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, former police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwon, who is the younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, and Pol Lt Gen Suchart Muenkaew, former metropolitan police chief” and Somchai). The NACC “then ignored the OAG” and went ahead with the case.

Another Bangkok Post report is about the PAD response. PAD lawyer Nithithorn Lamlua, PAD members and “relatives of those killed and injured Oct 7, 2008 at parliament, submitted the petition to Suthi Boonmee, director of the NACC’s Information and Special Affairs Office.” They oppose the case being dropped.

As we recall it, one person was killed, apparently when hit by a tear gas canister and another was blown up in his own car, which carried explosives. Some serious injuries were seen to result from PAD’s use of ping pong bombs and the use of tear gas. At the time, PAD was trying to “prevent then-prime minister Somchai from delivering his policy statement at parliament on Oct 7, 2008.”

Nithithorn stated that if the NACC dropped the case against Somchai, PAD would bring a malfeasance case against the NACC.

Carefully tip-toeing around claims that the case was being dropped because Police General Patcharawat is the younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit, Nithithorn said the family name “had nothing to do with” the case. He did say that “the government would be in trouble if this case was treated in a way to destroy the justice process.”

Panthep Puapongpan, a PAD core member, was more upfront when recognized that the NACC is a junta puppet agency when he “said he believed the NACC would not withdraw the case as doing so would destroy the legitimacy and credibility of the government because the present members of the NACC were appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order [he means the military junta].” He declared that if General Prayuth Chan-ocha and General Prawit “turned a blind eye to this matter, PAD core members would regroup to demand justice…”.

The junta is already known for nepotism, so it may well sweep this case aside.

But think a bit about this and the double standards involved.

For all of the bleating about this case being “highly sensitive,” important for fighting “corruption,” for the “reputation” of the NACC and so on, all the charges against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban were dropped on the basis that they had no case to answer. They ordered attacks on red shirts that resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries.