When the military is on top I

25 04 2017

The military on top means remarkable arrogance in the use and abuse of power.

The Bangkok Post reports the junta “has secretly approved the controversial procurement of a Chinese submarine costing 13.5 billion baht.”

Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Kongcheep Tantravanich stated: “… not all issues approved by the cabinet have to be conveyed to the press…”.

In fact, it isn’t entirely clear whether the decision was made by the junta’s cabinet or its Defense Council, both reported to have met around the time that the billions of baht were approved.

Kongcheep also gave an insight into the junta’s view of history, declaring that “60 years ago, Thailand had submarines so now the country is simply going to have them again.”

So conniving in the theft of an 80 year-old plaque commemorating constitutionalism would seem reasonable to this lot.

While on the Navy, PPT came across an interesting report at the website of the Thai Embassy in Washington, headlined “Navy investing in EEC ports, Phuket port expands.

It states that “The Royal Thai Navy is moving full steam ahead towards developing the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) with a nearly $60 million dollar investment in 13 projects including ferry ports…”. It goes on:

The Eastern Economic Corridor is a development zone that will showcase advances in Thailand’s economy and society and provide a home for higher-technology and green industries, research and development centers and more modern and environmentally friendly communities….

Developing the zone in and of itself should provide an important economic stimulus in terms of investment, both domestic and foreign, and through a robust building and construction program.

The Navy’s projects will include a business area covering five acres at Chuk Samet, Sattahip, along with two quays for ferries and cruise liners, a ferry terminal and multimodal transport links. The ferries will link the EEC with cities, towns, resorts and manufacturing centers along the … east coast on the Gulf of Thailand and the port will be expanded to handle cruise liners.

That investment is about 15% of a submarine.

It also shows how the Navy, like the Army and Air Force are businesses that deliver wealth to admirals, generals and air marshals, making them all unusually wealthy, at the taxpayers’ expense.

The arrogance of power is the source of corruption. But when there’s a military dictatorship, they can easily do these things. No transparency, no scrutiny.





Chaiyapoom’s extrajudicial killing

23 04 2017

The Nation reports that Chiang Mai Police deputy commander Pol Colonel Mongkol Samparaphon says his “investigators” are “close to finishing the gathering of evidence” in the case of the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom  Pasae.

The policeman claims “almost all witnesses had been questioned and the final results of the autopsy had been delivered.” He adds: “… I can assure [the public] that the police have gathered many good pieces of evidence…”.

But not the CCTV evidence that The Nation described as “the prime evidence in the case, [which] still has not been handed over to police.” Readers may recall that 3rd Region Army chief Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop lied when he declared ages ago that the military had already sent the CCTV footage to the police. Or perhaps the police lie when they say they haven’t got it. Or perhaps the police and the military collude to ensure impunity for state murderers.

Centre for Protection and Revival of Local Community Rights (CPCR) director Sumitchai Hattasan disputed all that the policeman claimed. He also stated that witnesses were fearful because “interviews given by senior figures in defence of the soldier who pulled the trigger.” He means the junta and powerful and dangerous military figures.

Of course the jolly Pol Colonel Mongkol lied when he “said there had not been any threats against witnesses and authorities could ensure their safety.”





What happened to that?

9 04 2017

It is useful to recall the things that have quickly gone off the political boil and ask, what happened? We have no answers, for Thailand is a military dictatorship. Still, worth asking:

What happened to allow hundreds of unusually wealthy serve the junta as puppets? Have any of them been investigated? Have any of them paid tax for their wealth that far outstrips their official salaries?

What happened to the 50,000 baht a month that was claimed and then unclaimed as income by metropolitan police chief Pol. Lt. Gen. Sanit Mahathavorn? Will it ever investigated?

What has happened to Jumpol Manmai? After his conviction, is he really being held in a jail on a piece of the king’s property?

What has happened in the investigation of the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae? Big news for a while but now quiet. Whenever the police and military go quiet, you have to think they are “fixing” something in their own interests. Readers should follow two recent stories, in the Bangkok Post and at Prachatai.

What happened to the investigation of the death in custody of Private Yuthinan [Yutthakinant] Boonniam? Why is it that only underlings are being accused in this case? Why aren’t officers being held responsible?

Why is it that the state keeps murdering citizens with impunity? As a reminder of the extent of this killing, see this report (downloads a PDF that is probably illegal in Thailand).

What happened to the junta case against of ultra-nationalist and anti-democrat Veera Somkwamkid? The Nation had reported that “[p]olice are launching a manhunt for well-known political activist Veera … after he published an opinion survey’s result … saying the majority people lack confidence in the Prayut administration.” Since then, he’s been a regular in the news, giving media conferences. What happened there?

What happened to rich tycoon and Red Bull heir and cop killer Vorayudh “Boss” Yoovidhya? Oh, sorry, we know. He’s living the high life in London and no-one in the Thai (in)justice system gives a hoot. Is it possible they are all paid off?

That’s just the past few weeks of unresolved questions, all of which translate into failures of the justice system.





Tens, thousands, millions and billions

5 04 2017

How many extrajudicial killings have there been? No one seems to know precisely, although Prachatai has a story about some of them. One issue with the story is that the author repeats inaccurate figures on Thaksin Shinawatra’s War on Drugs, almost doubling the number killed in that grisly campaign. We would think the more accurate figure of about 1,300 was brutal enough and demonstrated the capacity of the police and military for extreme violence.

How many conscripts are slaves? With the recent attention to conscripts being treated to “strict discipline” involving inhumane beatings, torture and murder, and with the unusually wealthy Army boss doling out chump change of 100,000 baht to the family of the latest murdered conscript, the feudal system of conscription has come under scrutiny.

One interesting observation is at Prachatai, reporting a former Democrat Party MP, who states that “more than half of Thailand’s military conscripts end up as servants for high ranking military officers.” Compared with the men who die from “strict discipline,” these 40,000-80,000 guys are lucky. That said, they face the degradation of having to grovel before military thugs and their families. Anyone who lives near an officer knows that he or she will have 3 to 6 servants provided to them.

How much can they spend on military kit? Thinking about the commissions, there’s the 36 billion baht about to be forked out on Chinese submarines and then there’s the two billion baht spent on 10 extra VT-4 tanks from China to replace the decades-old M41 tanks from the USA. The earlier purchase of 24 tanks at about 5 billion baht. Expect more as the top brass cash in before an “election.”

How many read the BBC on the king? Readers will know that student activist Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa has been singled out for a lese majeste charge and rots in a junta cell awaiting his further framing. He was charged after sharing a BBC Thai story on the king, (some) warts and all. The BBC now says that its story “broke records as the site’s most popular story, accumulating millions of views despite the article’s eventual censorship.” It says it has “received over 3 million views and counting…”. Tell us again why the military dictatorship singled out Jatuphat? It can’t have much to do with this story! Watch a documentary on Jatuphat here.





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.





There is no justice III

2 04 2017

We recently posted on the death of Private Yuthinan [Yutthakinant] Boonniam who was was initially hospitalized with a swollen face and bruises before his death on Saturday. He is one of several army recruits who have died from beatings and torture by soldiers and officers.

The Bangkok Post reports that the “army chief has ordered a probe into the death of a 22-year-old private…”.

Army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree warned stated: “Please have confidence. If it is concluded that any officer did this, he will surely face legal and disciplinary actions to the full extent…”.

That’s an “if.” As in other “investigations,” the recruit might be found to have fallen…. As if to calm the social media speculation, Winthai bleated that the “army chief would monitor the issue closely to ensure fairness…”. He means “fairness” to the army.

And who is to conduct the “investigation”? Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisat “ordered the 45th Military Circle to conduct the investigation and promised severe punishment if any officer was found responsible for it…”. That’s another “if.” In case readers hadn’t noticed, the 45th Military Circle is the owner of the prison of the 45th Military Circle, where the unexplained death occurred.

So, again, the military not only investigates itself but the very military unit responsible is investigating itself.

That, we suppose, represents military “justice.”

Frighteningly, Colonel Winthai states: “In the meantime, a concerned army unit is taking good care of the family of the victim to ensure that all parties are fairly treated…”.





There is no justice II

1 04 2017

It isn’t that long ago that PPT commented on the odious case of Naritsarawan  Keawnopparat and defamation charges against her, brought because she wanted some accountability for the Army’s murder of her uncle, a conscript.

The details of that case deserve repeating:

According to an Army investigation, in 2011, her uncle, Wichian Puaksom, was tortured by other soldiers and officers. They accused of running away from military training. The Army report said Wichian was stripped down to his underwear and dragged him over a rough cement surface before being repeatedly kicked and beaten for several hours. The tormentors then applied salt to his wounds to increase his pain, wrapped him in a white sheet, tying his hands together as for a corpse and read funeral rites, before engaging in further beatings. He later died.

The Army seems to think that bringing attention to their murderous behavior is defaming them. The fact that the Army is a bunch of murderous thugs is to be taken for granted but must not be pursued as this might limit the military’s impunity.

The fact is that this brutal behavior is not unusual or the fault of a few “bad eggs.” Rather it is institutionalized and protected by those at the top because it maintains the hierarchy that allows power and wealth to be accumulated by the tycoons running the military.

The brutality of the Army is again in the news. The Nation reports that yet another conscript has apparently been beaten to death by his fellows and superiors:

An Army conscript has been beaten to death at Vibhavadi Rangsit Military Base in Surat Thani after violating military rules, it was reported in the social media on Saturday.

Private Yuthinan Boonniam was hospitalised with a swollen face and bruises before his death early on Saturday.

It is alleged that:

… the young man was imprisoned in military jail for violating military rules and that he was severely beaten…. It was further reported that Yuthinan seriously suffered from injuries of his internal organs. The medical team performed cardiac resuscitation four times but failed to save his life. He passed away at 5 am on Saturday.

The Nation adds:

Yuthinan was not the first serving conscript to be beaten to death. In April last year, Private Songtham Mudmad was beaten to death at a military base in Yala’s Bannang Sata district. In 2011, Private Wichian Phuaksom was tortured to death at a training camp in Narathiwat.

Wichian is Naritsarawan’s uncle. His niece has received no justice. We doubt Yuthinan’s relatives can expect justice from the corrupt system that brutalizes and kills recruits.

The reported cases are the tip of the iceberg. There are many more incidents of degradation, beatings, injuries and murder, all conducted against their own.

This brutalization is meant to ensure discipline and adherence to the hierarchy. Such brutality also means that the Army bosses can be sure that when it needs to murder citizens, as it has done regularly, it has a band of men who will follow the Army tycoons’ orders.