Babble on bling

13 12 2017

The Dictator has vigorously defended his Deputy Dictator, seeming to blame the media for General Prawit Wongsuwan’s bling problem and accusing it of seeking to split the two dictatorial generals.

General Prawit, who has so far failed to “submit a letter clarifying the acquisition of the watch and ring to the NACC…”, was defended by General Prayuth Chan-ocha who told “the media to refrain from attacking Gen Prawit, saying the matter must be dealt in compliance with the judicial process.”

In other words, give the military junta space while it buries the allegations and are forgotten.

Meanwhile, the reasons for the allegations of corruption are dismissed as a political attack on The Dictator:

Many people target him, and want him to be divided from me. You [the media] all know this very well…. If nobody is beside me, I will tell you, I will be fiercer. I will fully exercise my power….

That sounds like a threat.





Updated: Pots and kettles II

12 12 2017

In another pots and kettles post, we have to comment on The Dictator’s claims reported in the Bangkok Post recently. The self-appointed prime minister “urged all sectors of Thai society not to tolerate corruption…”.

He added that “Thai people must reject and no longer tolerate any kind of corruption.”

General Prayuth Chan-ocha then said: “I can assure you that I never befriended corrupt people or received any benefit from them…”.

The Bangkok Post also reports that Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan will tell the National Anti-Corruption Commission that his luxury watch was “lent” to him by a very rich businessman who is a friend and that his huge diamond ring was inherited from his mother.

The Dictator seems to have associated with Gen Prawit and may even have befriended him.

He certainly also associated with General Anupong Paojinda, who has seen a corruption case associated with him disappear into bureaucratic nothingness.

The Dictator is also friendly with his brother, who has miraculously survived all kinds of corruption and nepotism scandals.

Do we need to mention Rajabhakti Park and commissions on military purchases and the cover-ups of military murders of civilians?

Then there’s all those generals and admirals in the puppet agencies who report huge wealth that is far in excess of what might be expected when their official salaries are considered.

Update: The Nation reports that the NACC has told “the public” to butt out and not speculate on Prawit’s jewels. Prawit has said he will not tell the public his reasons for having so much expensive bling.





Updated: A corrupt general and his bling

7 12 2017

Just yesterday we noted that when the new cabinet convened for a group photo in front of Government House a social media storm erupted over Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan wearing a watch worth more than four times his annual salary.

It is not uncommon for generals are often obsessed by expensive watches. They are also attached to bling, with, for example, Prawit often seen wearing expensive diamond rings that cost a small fortune and he wears heavy gold chains and amulets.

Khaosod reported that versions of the Rolex watch worn by Prawit can sell for up to 24 million baht, with even the lowest priced models in this range go for 11-12 million baht.

Caught out, the “second in command of the ruling junta said … he’s willing to discuss his taste for luxury wristwatches with an anti-corruption agency, but not the public – and certainly not reporters.”

Of course not! We might add that dozens of cases involving this regime have gone to the National Anti-Corruption Commission but none have resulted in any action. Dozens more cases of unusually rich members of the junta and its puppet legislators have never been investigated.

When pushed, Prawit refused to “specify if he obtained the watch before or after taking office.” He responded:

“Don’t know. I won’t answer. I will answer to the NACC. I don’t know why I should answer to you people. If I answered, the media will elaborate on it,” Prawit said, insisting he has not been involved in any corruption.

The media soon revealed that the seemingly pricey watch (we doubt he’d wear a fake) was not included in the Deputy Dictator’s 2014 asset declaration. This led the junta’s NACC to state that it “plans to launch an investigation into … Prawit Wongsuwan’s possession of what appears to be an extravagantly luxurious watch, which has not been declared in his assets.” Previous experience suggests a whitewash is likely.

The Bangkok Post did more digging on social media and online and added that the diamond ring worn by Prawit (he’s been wearing it for months) was worth about 4 million baht. In other words, in the group photo, Prawit was wearing bling worth from 16 to 30 million baht.

The Post also compared Prawit’s 2008 and 2014 asset declarations. In 2008, he reported assets of almost 57 million baht and salary/income of about 830,000 baht. In 2014, his assets grew to about 87 million baht and his income rose to 874,000 baht. Almost all the change in assets was in cash in the bank, which increased by about 28 million baht over the six years. The NACC didn’t see reason to ask how that increase happened.

We will not be holding our breath waiting for the NACC to come up with an “explanation” for Prawit’s expensive trinkets.

Update: While it is widely known, the Bangkok Post actually reported that NACC president Police General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit was not just appointed under the junta (which only appoints the “trustworthy”) but a “a close aide of Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwon, younger brother of Gen Prawit, when Pol Gen Patcharawat served as the police chief.” It adds:

After the May 2014 coup, Pol Gen Watcharapol was appointed secretary-general handling political affairs for Gen Prawit who became deputy prime minister. After being selected later as NACC president, Pol Gen Watcharapol assured the public that the NACC would be independent and transparent under his presidency, saying the NACC welcomed any attempt by the media to hold it accountable.

That’s how military dictatorship rolls.





Callous to all

29 11 2017

Thailand’s military is a barbarous institution, built on violence and behaving violently towards the nation’s citizens and, it has shown, to its own recruits as it barstardizes them to blind compliance with hierarchy and orders.

“Barstardization” is an Australian term used by one of our correspondents, and it struck us as sadly appropriate for this horrid bunch of thugs.

As an example of how base the organization is, The Nation reports that a “military-appointed fact-finding committee investigating the recent death of a teenage cadet at a military academy has refused to give a timetable for its inquiry…’.

The thugs claim this is because they are going to be “transparent,” “honest” and “clear.”

The military’s committee has “already started interviewing witnesses and checking CCTV recordings.”

We are reminded that the military has seldom been “transparent,” “honest” or “clear” in anything. Think of the “investigation” of Chaiyapoom Pasae’s murder. That also included attention to CCTV.

As far as we can tell, that “investigation” went nowhere and the murderers remain free while the military rid itself of one young activist.

The military leadership is callous to all. It makes no distinctions.





Only double standards II

4 11 2017

Back at the end of October, the Bangkok Post ran what seems to us like an advertorial on the National Anti-Corruption Commission. We say it is an advertorial because it is full of glosses, fibs and outright lies.

On the 18th anniversary of its establishment, the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission is a failure. It is a politicized puppet of the military junta.

It claims to have zero tolerance for corruption, but as this blog has repeatedly demonstrated, this is a lie. For example, it has not taken action in any of the corruption allegations made of the military dictatorship. For the junta zombies, this inaction translates this way:

During the past two years, the ONACC has worked laboriously with the sole purpose of correcting the corruption culture and has brought about satisfactory results on all three aspects of their duty – anti-corruption, inspection of assets and liabilities, and prevention measures.

All of this is a nonsense. Hundreds of junta appointees have levels of wealth far in excess of their salaries. Not one investigation or case. Nepotism claims go unheeded. Big corruption cases languish in NACC twilight.

The NACC claims to have “conducted more in-depth investigations which have resulted in a 4.5-fold increase in total seizure and forfeiture of property due to official malfeasance.” But, as far as we can tell, none from the ruling junta.

The NACC “vision of Zero Tolerance & Clean Thailand” is a sad joke.

Just a few days later, Wasant Techawongtham the Bangkok Post’s former news editor had an op-ed slamming rising corruption:

When the military junta took over the government, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha proclaimed to loud cheers an age of reform.

Henceforth, there’d be no more bad politicians, no more bad officials, no more disharmonious squabbles and no more corruption. Hallelujah!

Only good people would have a rightful place in society. No more division of red and yellow, only good and bad. Needless to say, those who followed the junta’s lead are good.

The bad people either have to have their attitudes adjusted or, in the worse case, be put away in jail where they would not be able to spoil the rest of us.

Result? The “supposedly good people in government do something that calls into question their definition of goodness.” They are corrupt, snouts in the trough.

Gen Anupong Paojinda and General Preecha Chan-ocha are just two serial offenders. Then the most recent cases of nepotism involving General Preecha and Meechai Ruchupan.

No accountability, no embarrassment about being hypocrites, no help from anti-corruption organizations and the media remains hamstrung by the dictatorship.

As Wasant says, these stories “could be just the tip of the iceberg.”

But if it is, there’s not much chance the NACC will do anything. It is nobbled.

We can be certain of this. The puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has appointed former national police chief Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwan to a panel scrutinising the draft organic law on the NACC.

We can be pretty sure that virtually every senior policeman has been corrupt during his service. We say this because police generals are even wealthier than their corrupt military counterparts.

This general is also the younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.

He was appointed with Pol Lt Gen Boonrueng Polpanich, a member of the NLA. Both have been accused of unusual wealth.

They are supposed to be under investigation by the NACC, yet it was their buddy NACC chairman Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit who “came out to defend the appointment of two legislative panelists…”. He revealed that the “two cases have not yet reached the inquiry stage…”.

We can be pretty sure they never will be seriously investigated. We can be pretty sure of this because it is reported that those “cases” go back to 2010.

The NLA, the NACC and the junta are now covering up.





Only double standards I

3 11 2017

We have pointed to the double standards that operate in Thailand hundreds of times. So many times, that it seems that double standards are the only standards used by the military dictatorship and its puppet agencies, including the judiciary.

Two recent examples involve judicial action against student activists and, somewhat differently, in actions against provincial governors for royal funeral failures.

In the first instance, the Bangkok Post reports that a Khon Kaen Court has found student activist Sirawith Seritiwat guilty of contempt of court. He was sentenced to six months in jail, suspended for two years, and fined 500 baht, put on probation for one year and ordered to do community service for 24 hours.

Another six activists of the anti-coup Resistant Citizen and Dao Din groups were put on probation for one year and ordered not to assemble or organize similar activities. They were also put on probation for six months.

Their “crime” was to gather on 11 February near the court “to show support for Jatupat Boonpattararaksa. They held ‘Free Pai’ posters in the court’s compound.”

On the face of it, this sentencing may seem rather similar to the case of anti-democrats sentenced a few days ago. But that is indeed superficial. These students – seven in total – were engaged in a peaceful and quiet show of support for a friend who was charged in a ludicrous lese majeste farce case before a kangaroo court.

The anti-democrats – more than 100 of them charged – were involved in a threatening and violent occupation of PTT building during anti-democrat street rallies in 2014, causing considerable damage.

There’s little comparison that can be made between the two sets of sentencing, except for the double standards and political persecution.

Then there’s the case of two provincial governors who are “facing a formal investigation into their alleged mishandling of dok mai chan (sandalwood flower) laying rites during the late King’s cremation ceremony on Oct 26, while three district office chiefs in Bangkok have been transferred to inactive posts for similar reasons.”

Because this is monarchy stuff, Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda sprang into action, setting up investigations to be completed within seven days. This apparently all based on social media and newspaper reports. The accused are alleged to be guilty of “poor management.”

The double standard is the response. Monarchy stuff, even rumors, lead to official action within hours.

Compare this with murders, graft, nepotism, torture, enforced disappearances, and more, all associated with the military, the junta and the elite. In these cases almost nothing happens (apart from cover-up). Think of:

  • The the missing/stolen/vandalized and enforced historical lobotomy of the “missing” 1932 commemoration plaque and its associated lese majeste cases.
  • Military murders remain unresolved, with a recent tragic example of Chaiyapoom Pasae, shot by troops in very opaque circumstances and with the “investigations” adding farce to tragedy.
  • And who killed Ko Tee in Laos?
  • The ongoing corruption and pathetic excuses for abysmal decisions from former Army boss and Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda.
  • The nepotism of generals, constitution drafters and other puppets and grifters.
  • There’s plenty of land and infrastructure deals and shady, opaque stuff going on. And in the corruption in-tray there are all those cases around Rolls Royce that have never seen an out-tray. Just stalling, burying, hiding.

As we said, double standards are the only standards.





Updated: After the funeral, more of the same

30 10 2017

The funeral is officially over but the hagiographical syrup and royalist nastiness and threats continue to flow.

As in other periods where ultra-royalism is boosted by the military state, it becomes dangerous for anyone who might dare to express different opinions.

The military regime may also be emboldened by the continued rise of ultra-royalism, which obviously feeds into its political ambitions when it decides to call its “election.” Presumably the coronation will add to all of that political use of royalism.

In the meantime, we might also expect cowed and submissive politicians to become warily more active.

A Bangkok Post editorial has a bet each way. It drips royal loyalty for a couple of paragraphs, observing what should be obvious: “The expiration of the mourning period returns the country to a semblance of normality…”.

It strokes the military dog:

The members of the government under Gen Prayut deserve a respectful thank you for their care and attention to the events brought to a grief-stricken climax last Thursday. The preparations for the funeral of the great King Bhumibol Adulyadej provided impeccable grace, and splendour remarked on around the world. When he seized power three and a half years ago, Gen Prayut promised to unite Thais. Last week, Thai people were united as never before.

In fact, the funeral was fitting in that it marked a crescendo of military-backed monarchism that has defined one of the most politically repressive eras in Thailand’s modern history, with that repression being in the name of the monarchy and claimed to be protecting it.

The funeral was fittingly militarized but few have bothered to think about what this means for Thailand going forward (well, backward, under the junta).

(If one watches the Ananda Mahidol funeral and compares it with the recent event, the military dominance and precision of the latter is clear.)

The Bangkok Post then reminds the junta and its readers that the “funeral occurred in the midst of political questions which now will return to the fore.”

It adds that several of these “questions” are “urgent.”

It lists:

These include the running scandal of Rajabhakti Park‘s improvement plan. The Prachuap Khiri Khan site of the massive statues of the seven great kings has been under a cloud from its inception. The latest controversy is a two-part “improvement”. These consist of what seem to be the most expensive 52 toilets ever installed at a government-supported facility, and five shops. These will cost yet another 16 million baht in “donations” — a word which has become synonymous with “scandal”. In countering the allegations about massive overspending, army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad said the military is ready to disclose full financial details about the project which was investigated once by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). He should realise the public anticipates getting the details.

Then there is the ongoing corruption and pathetic excuses for abysmal decisions from former Army boss and Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda. His latest mess is over  laser, speed-detection guns at hugely exorbitant prices.

But, really, is that it? Of course not. As the Bangkok Post itself reports, “[l]ocals in eastern Thailand are opposing the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s [the junta] order to reorganise city planning in Chachoengsao, Rayong and Chon Buri provinces to bring it in line with the government’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) policy.”

There’s plenty of other land and infrastructure deals and shady, opaque stuff going on. And in the corruption in-tray there are all those cases around Rolls Royce that have never seen an out-tray. Just stalling, burying, hiding.

But what about the political repression that has juveniles charged with lese majeste. There is the old man potentially charged with lese majeste for comments about legendary events. And there is the law student, singled out by the military dictatorship for lese majeste for sharing a BBC Thai story that was also shared by several thousand others. What of the mothers and others jailed for scores of years on pathetic lese majeste charges? Protection of the monarchy means crushing many and threatening everyone.

Then there’s the missing/stolen/vandalized and enforced historical lobotomy of the “missing” 1932 commemoration plaque and associated lese majeste cases.

Military murders remain unresolved, with a recent tragic example of Chaiyapoom Pasae, shot by troops in very opaque circumstances and with the “investigations” adding farce to tragedy.

And who killed Ko Tee in Laos? We can all guess but probably the assassins, speaking Thai, will never be revealed. That’s the impunity that official murders enjoy.

We could go on and on and on…. After all, the ninth reign saw thousands of state crimes against the people.

Update: Readers will be interested in two views of the events and legacy of the ninth reign at New Mandala. Both are reasonably tame and the first quite lame.