With two updates: Open-mouthed disbelief V

10 09 2019

It is now clear that having been an international heroin smuggler is no bar to being a minister in Thailand.

Indeed, several deputy prime ministers and the prime minister himself have supported Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao, a convicted drug trafficker. In common with the mafia-like Thammanat, most of those supporting him are military men, and used to operating with absolute impunity.

Gen Prayuth

In the Bangkok Post, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, speaking after a cabinet meeting, “said that he would no longer comment on legal cases against cabinet ministers because they had been clarified by those involved.”

“Clarified” seems to mean he accepts Thammanat’s all too obvious public lies.

Gen Prayuth, who relies on Thammanat as an enforcer in his coalition, told reporters to forget the story. He considered that they should look at previous governments and their faults and problems. As well, he “explained” that “all [current] cabinet ministers were subject to background checks.”

Background checks seem to count for far less than staying in power. Staying in power requires thugs like Thammanat.

Meanwhile, Thammanat himself seemed to believe that lies can be doubled down with more lies. He reportedly claimed that that “the Australian drug case had occurred more than 30 years ago and he had already clarified the matter.”

“Clarified” seems to mean he accepts Thammanat’s all too obvious public lies.

Thammanat, clipped from Khaosod

Despite the evidence sourced from the Australian court, “Thamanat insisted that he never confessed because he had done nothing wrong.” Wow! He went on: “He … dismissed as untrue the Australian report which cited court files.”

We assume that such lies are made on the basis of two beliefs. First that Thammanat reckons that Thais are a collection of morons who will believe any buffalo manure he serves up. Second, he expects to enjoy the impunity that is afforded to all big shots in Thailand.

Thammanat then further manipulated the truth saying he “was convinced that the report was written by someone in Thailand as part of a move to discredit the government, and had instructed his lawyers to prepare civil and criminal suits against those involved.”

Are police and military now in search of these evil people? Sadly, they probably are and will seek to frame someone.

Thammanat also threatened to sue the Australian newspapers that published the court reports. That seems like bravado and buffalo manure.

In Australia, The Age has an editorial (also in The Sydney Morning Herald) that says its “expose of the dark past of one of its [Thailand’s] new ministers shows the challenges facing its threadbare democracy.” It notes the role of the military and monarchy in crushing democracy in the country.

Thammanat is representative of both (or claims to be). As the prime minister and several deputy prime ministers have shown, he certainly represents this military-backed government.

Update 1: An anonymous correspondent tells PPT that one reason Thammanat is feared by journalists (and others) is because he has been seen to sport the loyalty logo that the king gives out to the most trusted and appreciated royal servants. We don’t know and the correspondent didn’t say, but assume it is this one (left). Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong sports one and so does Chirayu Isarangkun, Gen Prayuth and more. We haven’t seen this particular logo on the chest of the convicted heroin smuggler but the king link is in the stories, as told by Thammanat himself when he was busted.

Update 2: Watching television news and discussion shows today it is interesting that – at least in those seen – that while the Australian drug trafficking and Thammanat’s conviction and jailing was mentioned, it seemed the big deal was Thammanat’s denigration of coalition politicians. He’s Palang Pracharath’s fixer and in a recent interview likened his job not to a mafia enforcer but to a monkey trainer constantly handing bananas to his coalition monkey politicians. As a result, one micro-party pulled the plug on the coalition.

It still seems that the media is paralyzed by the threat of lese majeste and fear of the king.





Another royal money move

16 03 2018

Reuters reports that “Thailand’s king now has a stake worth nearly $150 million in the country’s biggest industrial conglomerate, Siam Cement Group Pcl, according to stock exchange data, while his close aide is in line for a board seat.”

As background, readers might recall that it was last October that it was reported that the Crown Property Bureau’s shareholding in Siam Commercial Bank suddenly declined by 3.33%, amounting to about 17 billion baht. It was then reported that these shares had been transferred to King Vajiralongkorn from the Crown Property Bureau.

The latest move on Siam Cement followed the same pattern: “The 0.76 percent stake in the king’s name in Siam Cement was acquired on Feb. 8 while there was a matching reduction in the stake of the Crown Property Bureau, which manages palace assets…”.

In total, the shares previously held by the CPB and now transferred to the king’s portfolio amounts to about $690 million. These holdings would produce a “dividend yield [of]… more than $25 million per year.”

The report continues by commenting on the secretiveness of these transfers: “The terms of the transfers have not been disclosed in public. Neither company nor the Crown Property Bureau would comment on them…. The palace has a policy of not commenting to media.”

The CPB remains the largest shareholder in Siam Cement, holding 30% of the company.

Since taking the throne, outside the CPB, the king has become “the 15th largest shareholder in Siam Cement and the sixth biggest in Siam Commercial Bank…”.

At Siam Cement, “Air Chief Marshal Satitpong Sukvimol, a close aide to the king who was made director general of the Crown Property Bureau this month, is recommended for a board seat at a March 28 annual general meeting.”

Satitpong, 69, has been responsible for managing the king’s personal affairs and assets for some time. He reportedly “became personal secretary to then-Crown Prince … Vajiralongkorn in 2005, and served on the board of national flag carrier Thai Airways International from 2009 to 2013.” The then-prince had a long relationship and “position” with Thai Airways, as well as having a personal  interest in several women with the airline.

The SCG annual report for 2017 (clicking downloads a PDF) lists former CPB boss Chirayu Isarangkun as a director of the company since 1987 until 1999 and then since 2007. The board is a coterie of old royalists, with an average age of 72. Of the 24 listed as directors and management in the company, only one is a woman. A look through the CVs of the directors reveals that most have long royal links and serve on other royal-owned companies, including those making, managing and investing the personal wealth of Vajiralongkorn and Sirindhorn. Details of retirements and nominations for the SCG Board can be downloaded as a PDF. According to this document, Chirayu will remain on the Board.

Speculation about the reasons for the king needing to control large personal stakes in two of Thailand’s largest listed companies is rife. One reason suggested is his lavish lifestyle and the need for cash rather than relying on the CPB, although the king now has more or less personal control of the CPB. Another suggestion is that he plans grand palace construction in the expanding royal precinct.

The various reports note that the CPB remains huge. The usual estimate of its assets is around $30 billion. But that’s a figure Forbes came up with back in 2011. Yet an earlier estimate by an academic came up with more than $40 billion in 2005. Since then Thai shares have performed reasonably well and land prices have increased substantially.  Our guesstimate is that the CPB, if it has done as well as the rest of Thailand’s wealthy Sino-Thai tycoons, should now be valued at between $50 billion and $70 billion. (It is possible that the CPB has been underperforming, but its operations are a secret, as is its worth.)





New privy councilor and the CPB

12 03 2018

After the unceremonious sacking of Wirach (or Virat) Chinvinitkul  earlier this month a new privy councilor has been appointed.

King Vajiralongkorn “has issued a Royal Command appointing Mr Chirayu Isarangkun na Ayuthaya as a privy councilor effective as of March 11.”

Chirayu has been Lord Chamberlain of the Bureau of the Royal Household for about a year has long been director-general of the Crown Property Bureau, In fact, since 1987, when the then king plucked him from a corruption scandal in the Prem Tinsulanonda government.

The big news is that taking Chirayu out of the CPB allows the king to appoint Air Chief Marshal Sathitpong Sukwimol director-general of the Crown Property Bureau. This means the king now has “his man” in charge of the CPB and all its loot and assets.

Sathitpong was the king’s secretary when he was made caretaker and manager of his personal assets and interests in early 2017. Considered a trusted confidant, back in 2014, Sathitpong played the role of secretary to the prince and was involved in bringing down the family of the estranged wife, then Princess Srirasmi and in reorganizing the palace’s troops.





More changes at the palace

30 01 2017

When the last king died, the palace was essentially in the administrative hands of a bunch of old men, many of them who had been around as long as the king himself.

When the prince became king, he moved some of the old men off the Privy Council and replaced them with serving military personal – serving mainly in the junta.

Some other changes are coming just because old guys are falling off the perch. Following the death of his twin brother Keokhwan in September 2016, the Bangkok Post reports that Grand Chamberlain Khwankeo Vajarodaya died at the age of 89 last Saturday, essentially of old age.

His funeral will be managed by the Bureau of the Royal Household, with the king assigning Privy Counselor Palakorn Suwanrath as the royal representative at the bathing rite. That seems a bit odd, given his brother has Princess Sirindhorn preside. In fact, the new king and the Vajarodyas have not always got on. Royal watcher Andrew MacGregor Marshall had this to say:

One of the most prominent families of palace officials is the Vajarodaya clan (the surname is sometimes transliterated as Watcharothai). The octogenarian family patriarch Kaeokhwan Vajarodaya was a childhood friend of King Bhumibol, and has been Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau since 1987. This means that — officially, at least — he is in charge of the sprawling palace bureaucracy of several thousand officials that manages royal affairs, but in fact, as a leaked U.S. cable noted in 2009, Kaeokhwan is senile, and for many years the Royal Household Bureau has been run by his sons Ratthanwut and Watcharakitti. Meanwhile, over the past two decades, Kaeokhwan’s nephew Disthorn Vajarodaya has become particularly close to Bhumibol. The same leaked U.S. cable named him in 2009 as one of the very few people in the king’s innermost circle of confidantes, and another cable describes him as a “well-known associate of the King”. Disthorn was chairman of the king’s Rajanukhrao Foundation and a Grand Chamberlain in the Royal Household Bureau. Over recent years he has usually been at Bhumibol’s side when the king makes his rare public appearances. He has become a familiar face to most Thais who have often seen him on royal news broadcasts, accompanying the king.

Last week, the Facebook page กูต้องได้ 100 ล้าน จากทักษิณแน่ๆ, which regularly shares leaked information from within the junta, published a copy of an extraordinary order from the crown prince. It stated that Disthorn Vajarodaya was instructed to attend a special training course so he could learn to perform his duties properly, and thereafter he would serve as a private page of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. He would be banned from ever again running any of the agencies in the Royal Household Bureau. A couple of days ago, a photograph was published on กูต้องได้ 100 ล้าน จากทักษิณแน่ๆ showing Disthorn and his cousins Ratthanwut and Watcharakitti apparently undergoing their special training — the three elderly men appear to be doing some kind of drill in military uniform, looking distinctly uncomfortable.

Vajiralongkorn clearly intends to publicly shame the three palace officials, and then continue to torment them indefinitely afterwards. Disthorn, for years one of the closest friends of King Bhumibol, suddenly finds himself forced to obey the whims of Vajiralongkorn, first in a humiliating training course and then as the crown prince’s personal page. It is a dizzying fall from grace, and will be an ongoing nightmare for him.

On Khwankeo’s sons, Thaanit was a “special expert of the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, and … Dissathorn … [was] a high-ranking executive of the Bureau of the Royal Household.”

In another consolidation, the Bangkok Post reports that the king “has appointed ACM Sathitpong Sukwimol, the King’s secretary, as caretaker and manager of his personal assets and interests.”

Back in 2014, Sathipong played the role of secretary to the prince and was involved in bringing down the family of the estranged wife, then Princess Srirasmi and in reorganizing the palace’s troops.





Re-ordering the palace

26 09 2016

As we and others have posted over the past couple of years, as the health of the king has gone from bad to worse, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn has been re-arranging palace affairs.

He has changed the command relationships associated with troops assigned to the palace. He got rid of an unwanted consort and her family. Although we cannot be sure, he seems to have been behind several of the efforts to clean away various royal hangers-on, through lese majeste cases.

A recent reshuffle of the royal household suggests that the slow, slow succession continues. The Bangkok Post reports that a “Royal Command has been issued to appoint Chirayu Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya the Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau.”

Chirayu was previously a Grand Chamberlain and is the head of the Crown Property Bureau.

While the announcement follows the recent death of Lord Chamberlain, Keokhwan Vajarodaya, a couple of the new appointments are getting attention.

The Post states that the “royal command, issued on Sept 23, 2016 and countersigned by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, was published in the Royal Gazette on Sept 25.” Normally it would also be stated that the king signed the command. This may be an oversight at the Post.

It also states that “eight other persons have been appointed to positions in the Royal Household Bureau…”. In fact, as can be seen below (and here), several of them have held these positions for several years. Presumably the order derives in part from the prince’s re-ordering of the palace.

The appointments are:

1. ACM Satitpong Sukvimol to be Grand Chamberlain for policy administration and operations.

From Wikileaks: Separately, Niphon Promphan (Secretary General to the Prime Minister and a close associate of the Crown Prince) told us that he had met on March 2 with the Secretary to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, Air Chief Marshall Satitpong Sukvimol, and had relayed our concern that Bout would receive assistance from the Crown Prince’s office (reftel). Niphon told us that Satitpong denied that he or others in the Crown Prince’s entourage had any association with Bout. Satitpong said he would use his resources to investigate this false claim of ties to the Palace.

2. Lt Col Somchai Kanchanamanee to be Grand Chamberlain for royal residences.

We can’t find any information. Maybe readers can assist?

3. Pol Gen Jumpol Manmai to be Grand Chamberlain for security and special activities.

Jumpol or Chumpol is a former National Intelligence Director when Thaksin Shinawatra was premier.

From Wikileaks: the ongoing dispute over appointment of a new National Police Chief [link added by PPT] and the possible resignation of PM Abhisit’s Secretary General Niphon Promphan, who also works for the Crown Prince. At the Crown Prince’s direction, Niphon opposed Abhisit’s choice, GEN Patheep, in favor of the Crown Prince’s choice, GEN Chumpol Manmai. The inside story on why the Crown Prince wanted Chumpol so much, and risk criticism for intervening in a high level personnel choice against the evident wishes of the PM, is that Chumpol allegedly served as Thaksin’s bag man, personally delivering to the Crown Prince monies skimmed off the proceeds of the lotteries involved in the current court case. While such a story cannot be reported in the Thai media due to Lese Majeste concerns, the Crown Prince-Chumpol connection underscores the sense of lottery critics that Thaksin launched the lottery scheme to create a government slush fund which he could use to fund not only populist schemes like scholarships but also pet projects off the books for personal and political gain, without any accountability.

4. Khwankeo Vajarodaya to be Grand Chamberlain.

Has held this position for several years. His recently deceased brother, Keokhwan, was previously Grand Chamberlain.

5. Narongrid Snidvongs Na Ayuthaya to be Grand Chamberlain.

Has held this position for several years.

6. Jintana Chuensiri to be Grand Chamberlain for finance.

Has held this position for several years.

7. Songkram Supecharoen, M.D., to be Personal Physician to His Majesty the King.

Has held this position for several years.

8. Pol Gen Pongsak Rohitopakarn to be Grand Chamberlain.

Has held this position for several years.





Prem and corruption in high places

12 12 2015

The Bangkok Post has a quite interesting op-ed by Nopporn Wong-Anan, who is deputy editor of the Post.

The op-ed is ostensibly about Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda and his campaign against corruption.

It begins in a laudatory manner, observing that the grand old man (meddler) is “physically and mentally healthy for a 95-year-old…” and says that “the older he grows, the more active the nonagenarian is in campaigning against corruption.”

When we read the next paragraph, we were taken aback:

Seen as clean, honest and royalist, the former army chief and former prime minister — as well as the cabinets he led during 1980-1988 — barely faced any allegations of corruption.

Hold on, we thought. And then Nopporn gets it right:

Though his political opponents attempted to launch a censure motion against him and his administration on charges of graft, they were foiled by men in uniform.

Prem never faced any parliamentary scrutiny when he was premier, being protected by monarchy and military. When corruption claims were made or ministers were criticized, including against then minister Chirayu Isarangkun, who is now head of the Crown Property Bureau, they were always seen off with little debate and lots of covering up.

Prem was the butt of considerable criticism before being parachuted into the Privy Council when some critics threatened to reveal his “private life” and other matters associated with his government.

Nopporn then makes another point that few have ever taken up. Prem has occupied “Baan Si Sao Thewes — the official residence of the army commander-in-chief that he has occupied for over 30 years…”.

As far as we know, he pays no rent or tax on this publicly-funded perquisite. Nor does he pay for other houses the military has built for him in the provinces.

Nopporn also observes the somewhat curious relationship Prem has with the military and other hangers-on:

Invited to the receptions [at his home] are the “children” and “grandchildren” of Pa Prem, an affectionate term he uses for his subordinates, who take advantage of the occasion to show the soft-spoken, kind and fatherly man respect and gratitude for his blessings and support.

On corruption, Prem has “called on society to eliminate the ‘disgusting creatures’ who perpetuate corruption.” He says they are “bad guys” who are “robbing the country every day.” Nopporn observes that “Prem also criticised Thailand’s centuries-old, deep-rooted patronage system.” Yet his “critics see him as a patron for many young, newly-commissioned officers in the armed forces.” Some position him at the center of the patronage system.King-Queen-Prem

Nopporn lists Prem’s mantra on corruption and then observes:

Gen Prem’s remarks hit the nail on the head, but is it easier said than done in the current political context? Has the government been transparent in the way it has handled the Rajabhakti Park scandal?

Are the ruling generals abandoning subordinates who were allegedly involved in the suspected corruption? How many alleged corrupt officers are on the run? Will they ever be brought to justice?

Is this military-run government taking swift and drastic action against colonels and generals accused of robbing the country?

What mechanisms does Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha have in place to check on cabinet ministers’ honesty? If he or she is accused of taking a bribe, will the junta chief fire him or her on the spot rather than transfer the person to an “inactive post”?

Even in the circles of civil servants and military personnel, one doubts if the selection is based on meritocracy. Is the patronage network the deciding factor?

Exactly the questions that need to be asked and positioned with Nopporn’s last and telling observation:

Gen Prayut, as one of Pa Prem’s outstanding children and the country’s most powerful man for now, should act and prove that I am totally wrong.

What Nopporn forgets, is that there is “good” corruption carried out by “good people.” This means the powerful and royal connected, and obviously includes the exceptionally wealthy top brass in the military. Bad corruption seems limited to elected politicians and their associated civil servants, who are not morally well-located in royalist circles.





Updated: More divorce news

15 12 2014

With the Thai stock market plummeting for a time today and the prince making a concerted effort to clear the decks and with lese majeste charges being thrown about like never before, as PPT noted yesterday, we have the impression that there is an underlying cause yet to be revealed. In the meantime, more palace news.

First, the Bangkok Post reports that the “Crown Property Bureau has acted upon a request to allocate funds to Than Phuying* Srirasm Suwadee, formerly princess Srirasm, as desired by … Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn…”. [*Other newspapers say that this title has not been awarded.]

Interestingly, it was Finance Minister Sommai Phasee, who chairs the CPB, who made the announcement rather than Chirayu Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, its Director-General.

Sommai stated that the CPB “had complied with the request from the Crown Prince for money to be provided to Than Phuying Srirasm for living expenses and to care for her family.” No amount was stated.

It is added that a “press release also urged the media not to publish inappropriate news about the former royal.”

Khaosod reported that the “palace did not identify the reason for Srirasmi’s decision to shed her royal status,” and added that the “Royal Household Bureau has not addressed the status of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and Srirasmi’s 9-year-old son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti.”

Another Bangkok Post report states that 202 “police officers promoted by disgraced former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayapan [one of Srirasmi’s relatives] are expected to be transferred to remote posts outside the mainstream in a massive reshuffle at the CIB.”

Update: Perhaps connected with “unfounded rumors,” the Royal Household Bureau has announced that the king “has been cured of an intestinal infection…”. His condition is said to be “improving.”





Who is Sonthiyan?

26 06 2013

In our last post, we wrote of Sonthiyan Chuenruethainaitham as one of the business leaders behind the white mask royalists?  Who is Sonthiyan?

Not that long ago he appeared on the “Thiang hai rurueang” public debate show on ThaiPBS. More interestingly, back in 2008, he was said to be an adviser to the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, and commented that political “divisiveness occurs when the government is weak and surrenders to the will of massed supporters who have been mobilised by people who spread misinformation to provoke confrontation.”

He seems to be making an elitist claim that is in the PAD tradition and to be happy to spread misinformation.

While we don’t know how accurate it is, we located a post at the deeply yellow, anti-Thaksin, 2Bangkok Forum on lese majeste. We won’t quote it in full as the spelling is awful, but we summarize and correct the spelling. It seems to be from April 2011.

Sonthiyan’s T-News is said to be “ceaselessly run[ning] news … about unmasking the Anti Monarchy movement via both NBT and T-News Satellite TV.” It seems he had allocated to himself the task of protecting the monarchy from alleged “smears,” claiming it is “the real duty of T-News to come to protect HM as the Loyal subjects by unmasking those who run anti monarchy movements.”

At the time, red shirt iconoclast Sombat Boonngamanong “condemned T-News” as behaving like the radio station that incited the massacre on 6 October 1976.

Sonthiyan stated he was convinced that there were red shirt anti-monarchy movements because, as a former communist with the CPT,  he “learned all about urban warfare before becoming a Loyal Subject.” He claimed that the anti-monarchy movements were made up of:

ex- left-wing activists and ex-CPT men whose REFUSE to accept the total defeat when Communist Party of China and Communist Party of Indochina withdrew support fro the CPT after recognizing His majesty and his government as the legitimate rulers of Thailand.

The post claims that Sonthiyan’s “old comrades … plan to revive CPT using UDD men as the alliances.” Interestingly, it turns out the ex-CPTers who keep showing up at anti-government rallies are apparently his men:

The most important thing of all, the ex-CPT men who hate the mean capitalists of Ai Maew [the bastard Thaksin] have become the main allies of T-news so they can track down the movements of fellow CPT men who want to overthrow Thai monarchy.

The post also notes that Sonthiyan has worked with Dr. Chirayu Isarangkun, the boss of the Crown Property Bureau and that “T-news was on Crown Property Bureau land in Nonthaburi.” It adds: “No wonder, he is the Loyal left wing who come to protect the king.” No wonder indeed!





Wikileaks: All in the family

10 06 2012

PPT has finished a first cull of the Wikileaks cables, and we have posted commentary on those that seemed of interest. We are now going back through the Cablegate database more systematically, and again we will gradually post comments on those that strike us as revealing. Apologies if we sometimes post on a cable we have had up before; there are a lot of them.

Given all of the material belching from the international media on England’s jubilee and the post on the Ananda Mahidol idolatry, a cable from 2 February 2005 seems worth some commentary. In it, Ambassador Ralph Boyce writes almost breathlessly about the then “latest news” on the royal family. The Embassy and State Department were eagerly royal-watching. If readers find tabloid-like “revelations” distasteful, read no further, for it is of that style.

Boyce reports on a 27 January 2005 ceremony with the king and Princess Sirindhorn leading to “a private audience” for Boyce and a couple of others.

The first big news item is that “the King showed great interest in all exchanges.” The second item is that a discussion of “mental health and family stability” animated him. Boyce says: “These issues are obviously near and dear to the heart of the King, and while involved in this free-flowing conversation, he made several notable remarks.”

On family stability, Boyce states that the king commented:

I understand how important it is to have both a mother and a father in a family unit. I lost my father at a very early age, and was raised by my mother. While she did a wonderful job of raising her children, she could not, alone, replace the role of a father.

Some might read into this the his own search for a father-figure, first amongst the old and senior princes who fought against the 1932 Revolution, followed by his adulation for General Sarit Thanarat, who reciprocated and overturned much that had been done post-1932 to reduce royal power.

On his kids, he is reported as stating:

I have four children. But she (Sirindhorn) is the only one who ‘sits on the ground with the people.’ She never married, but she has millions of children.

Not really anything new or startling in this reporting, but Boyce then turns to a conversation when he “called on Dr. Chirayu Isarangkul na Ayuthaya, Director-General of the Crown Property, on February 1, 2005.”

First, and, Boyce says “most significantly,”  Chirayu “said that the Crown Prince’s wife … is pregnant.” PPT isn’t sure why this is significant for he also says that this was widely known. Perhaps the significance is in the unstated hope for a boy that would allow the dynasty a line. Otherwise, the only boys were from the disowned Yuvadhida Polpraserth, who lives in exile in the U.S., with her 4 sons, having been thrown out of Thailand by the prince several years ago.

Chirayu mentions “the Crown Prince’s former consort, Mom Yuvathida (aka Mom Benz),” saying that:

Prince, Yuvadhida and kids in earlier times

on the Queen’s last visit to the United States she had agreed to an audience with Mom Benz and her children, but that Mom Benz had not made contact with the royal traveling party. Subsequently, Ambassador Sakthip was asked to travel to Florida to meet with Mom Benz and her children, but Mom Benz declined the meeting. Apparently, there is an issue of medical expenses for Mom Benz’s third son; the Crown Prince reportedly has made it clear that he will cover these expenses and that he does not want his mother or father to be burdened with the issue of his former family.

On the family itself and the favorite Sirindhorn,

Chirayu noted that it said as much about the failings of the King’s other three children as his fondness and respect for Princess Sirindhorn. The other three had tried to carryout their royal responsibilities, but clearly were not as capable or interested as Princess Sirindhorn.

On the king’s eldest daughter, Chirayu said that:

he had had to undertake much of the bitter legal mediation between Princess Ubolratana and Peter Jensen. He noted that their separation and divorce had been quite nasty and that Mr. Jensen had not come to Thailand to attend his son’s funeral. Chirayu said that he fended off queries as to where Mr. Jensen was by joking that he was afraid to come to Thailand because the Crown Prince would beat him up.

Ubolratana

This is an interesting comment, for at the time there were rumors that Jensen had arrived in Thailand but had been turned away and the comment about the prince was widely circulated. It seems the palace knows how to score advantages from the rumor mill.

Remarkably, in a diplomatic cable, Boyce then adds his own re-statement of a rumor:

We have heard that Mr. Jensen borrowed money from several Thais and Thai banks prior to his divorce from Princess Ubolratana and that these funds have never been repaid.

The rumors usually have it that Ubolratana was a keen borrower.

It is sometimes commented that the royal family is dysfunctional. However, as the above rather odd diplomatic cable seems to indicate, while there are spats and disappointments, it seems to indicate that accommodations are made and the meatier things of conspicuous consumption and political and economic life probably hold sway over the squabbles.





Advancing royalism

18 02 2012

Every so often, especially when they feel somehow threatened or they feel the need to promote royalism, officials, royalists and various posterior polishers sit around and ask, “What can we do to remind the plebians about how great they have to think the monarch is?”

Often the answer is to reinvigorate the promotion of the homily called sufficiency economy. This time, however, the parroting of sufficiency economy comes at a time when ultra-royalists are reinventing “Thai-style democracy” as “sufficiency democracy.”

Of course, wiser heads than us at PPT have always cautioned that hyphens and prefixes linked to democracy usually mean no democracy at all. That’s very true in this case.

At the Bangkok Post, the most recent effort to put a bit of spit on the sufficiency economy claptrap and buff it is reported. This time the posterior shiners wheeled out are a mix of aged royal knee-walkers, an yellow-shirted senator and the star of the show is former Democrat Party politician Supachai Panitchpakdi.

Supachai is remarkable for being boss of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), an organization that was once exceptional but has fallen into virtual oblivion under his uninspired leadership and bureaucratic style. He’s usually brought to Thailand when the Democrat Party is thinking about a new leader.

The Post begins its account with a remarkable bit of nonsense that poses sufficiency economy as an alternative “system that can replace a capitalist democracy…”. This is attributed to Supachai who seems to see sufficiency economy as addressing “imbalances include economic inequalities, global warming and food security.”

Recall that the place most likely to be interested in this “theory” is Thailand, with the highest inequality in Asia and relatively high levels of greenhouse gases, along with agriculture that has long struggled to improve productivity.

Supachai was speaking at a two-day “international conference” on “The Meaning of the Sufficiency Economy”. If they don’t know by now….

He came up with unremarkable notions about “shifting the emphasis to a household perspective, the informal economy and personal values such as a a sense of self-support, compassion and community spirit.” Along with “prudence” and “moderation,” the latter values are common to most of the world’s religions, so nothing definitive for sufficiency economy there. Thailand’s informal sector is huge, and that’s one reason why incomes are relatively low and inequality is high.

Then Supachai forgets himself and the wrap he is meant to be giving sufficiency economy and speaks of a “new ideology which values global trade and investment, allowing a flourishing middle class and is more accommodating to the masses, is also in the making…”. We wonder if he means social democracy? That would have little to do with the anti-democratic ideas about sufficiency economy and sufficiency democracy.

Other polishers of the royal “theory” included none other than the president of the fabulously rich Crown Property Bureau, Chirayu Isarangkun, who spoke of the “value of moderation has to be upheld.” We guess that having $37 billion in the CPB kitty speaks to that.

Another participant was privy councilor General Surayud Chulanont, who has large collections of houses, millionaire watches and a penchant for expensive  cars. Also there was Paiboon Wattanasiritham, a minister in the junta-appointed government of aged men in 2006 and the yellow-hued Rosana Tositrakul.

The last time sufficiency economy was in the news and paired with sufficiency democracy was when Abhisit Vejjajiva bleated about it at the U.N. That soon faded from memory and we assume that this current effort will follow the same path.