Archaic laws and feudal laws

29 09 2017

A report at the Bangkok Post caught PPT’s attention. It began with this: “Thailand needs to amend restrictive laws and regulations to achieve its road map for national reform and its vision of Thailand 4.0…”.

It wasn’t the Thailand 4.0 that got our attention, although we would like to know what Thailand 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 were.

Rather, it was the notion that “restrictive laws and regulations” are to be perused. The story even mentioned “archaic” laws, so we wondered, just for a moment, if feudal laws like lese majeste were up for consideration. After all, this is a law that dates to the absolute monarchy, and its “updates” have simply made it more deeply feudal. It is also a law that is highly restrictive of free speech, free thinking and, indeed, the collective mind of the Thai people, who must always self-censor and ensure that they do not leave themselves open to suggestions of not showing sufficient “respect.”

We were even gobsmacked to read that “Kobsak Phutrakul, a member of the government’s economic reform committee, said legal reforms are necessary to embrace what authorities have dubbed the fourth industrial revolution, noting the country has an undue share of anachronistic regulations.”

But that moment of reflection and hope passed very quickly. Of course, lese majeste is thought so critical to the edifice that is the ruling class that no change can be contemplated for fear that the whole structure will be undermined and will crumble and fall.

It turns out that the junta’s legal minions are only looking at laws and regulations that “pose as obstacles because the economic environment has changed.” A new committee headed by none other than lawyer for hire Bowornsak Uwanno will take eight months “revising those laws that handicap businesses.” Bowornsak will at least be in a job. And just think of all those opportunities for business flow-ons, directorships and so forth.

Borwornsak reckons “graft and corruption in part stems from these restrictive laws.” Solving corruption, he says, means “abolish[ing] the laws that impose unnecessary restrictions,” and which business must get around. Tell that to all those unusually wealthy colleagues of Bowornsak who sit on junta assemblies and committees and declare wealth far beyond that which might come from their real positions as police and military officers. Their unusual wealth comes from commissions and from sitting near the top of a hierarchy that suck ill-gotten gains to the top.

We also can’t help wondering if business is even worried by such laws. Thailand’s richest barely blink as they speed past laws and regulations and continue to pile up vast fortunes.





Military business is always corrupt

19 09 2017

With virtually all of the various corruption complaints made since the military came to power through its illegal coup in 2014 having been dismissed, perhaps it is no surprise that the military is now using its taxpayer-funded facilities in money-making ventures.

Of course, some of this has been seen in the past, with military property used by state enterprises in the past, including for airports. The corruption that dogs Thai Airways and the Airports Authority are, in part, a result of the military connection.

Of course, as absolutely everyone knows, under the military dictatorship, the National Anti-Corruption Commission is not concerning itself with military corruption. The NACC does not want to be bothered by anyone other than Shinawatras and certainly doesn’t want to get in trouble with its political bosses.

But, really, is no one officially interested in the already rewarded submariners in the Navy constructing “a new ferry terminal at Chuk Samet deep-sea port in Sattahip, part of the infrastructure development for the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC)”?

Why on earth is the Navy investing taxpayer money for the development of “a port serving cruises, cargo vessels and ferries linking Pattaya, Chon Buri and Rayong with other destinations, including Koh Chang in Trat and Hua Hin district across the Gulf in Prachuap Khiri Khan province”?

The land is also state land, paid for by taxpayers.

The investment space “will have souvenir shops, a food court, ticket counters and boarding areas…. It one of 13 projects with total estimated cost of 2 billion baht to be undertaken by the navy under the EEC blueprint.”

Now we know why so many business suits are Navy blue. But, seriously, this sounds like a recipe for more military corruption.





Sorting out corruption, deaths, theft

17 09 2017

PPT was pleased to note a Bangkok Post editorial on the case of the young Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae who was killed by soldiers about six months ago. The Post refers to this as an “extra-judicial killing in broad daylight…”.

The events of the killing have been muddied by the authorities, with “some cabinet ministers [having] made an attempt to defend the soldier who gunned down Chaiyapoom.” The “evidence” the junta’s officials and the military claimed is hidden, unavailable or concocted. The “footage from CCTV that captured the moment when the shooting took place” has not been released.

Junta boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered “a probe.” Like many such “investigations” under the junta, “to date [it] has seen no progress with the case seeming to disappear into thin air.” The handling of the case has been secretive, even furtive. The state has also sought to implicate Chaiyapoom’s relatives and have threatened locals in order to further muddy the waters.

The case is now in the courts. They are so opaque, politicized and in the pocket of the junta that there is little chance that the state’s “obligation to bring justice to Chaiyapoom and his family” will be fulfilled.

On corruption, Suphawatchara Malanond who is Dean of the Law Faculty at the Prince of Songkla University, has an opinion piece at the Bangkok Post that raises many issues regarding state enterprises.

Among these, corruption scandals is worthy of consideration, not just for the traditional state enterprises but for corporations where the state maintains investments.

The 11 “key corporatised state enterprises” are: “PTT Plc, TOT, CAT Telecom, MCOT Plc, Thai Airways International Plc, Airports of Thailand Plc, the Transport Co, Dhanarak Asset Development Co (a state enterprise under the Treasury Department), Thailand Post Co, the Syndicate of Thai Hotels & Tourists Enterprises Ltd and Bangkok Dock Co.”

That reminds us: What happened to all those “investigations” into Rolls Royce engines at Thai Airways and PTT’s commissions?

The failure of “investigations” under the junta is definitional of the regime.

That’s probably why the Bangkok Post reports that Interior Minister General Anupong “welcomes” an “investigation” into the deflated blimp.

At the same time, the general and “the army have defended the worthiness and performance of the army’s controversial 340-million-baht aerial patrol project, including an airship, which has been decommissioned only after eight years in service.”

As the general explains, “its performance was effective or not must be assessed by the army,” suggesting that any “investigation” is likely to be fudged. After all, loyalty is usually valued in the military.

General Anupong set the tone by undervaluing the airship by seeking to value the blimp as a balloon rather than as an equipped machine.That’s the start of the fudge.

But, again, Anupong feels under some pressure. It remains to be seen how far The Dictator is prepared to go in protecting his former boss. Loyalty?





Sky Dragon dies, corruption ignored

15 09 2017

It is now an old story of military corruption, irresponsibility, saving face, commissions and so on, but worth bringing to its conclusion, at least at this blog.

Sky Dragon has been officially and secretly deflated and will presumably go to landfill or some vacant hangar (unless some military entrepreneur can work out a way to make more money from its carcass). We certainly don’t expect any “investigation” of this useless purchase.

An earlier photo when the Sky Dragon was inflated and operated

The Bangkok Post says that the zeppelin has had “eight years’ service during which time the blimp crashed once while it was mostly grounded the rest of the time as it was plagued by various defects.”

In this sense, “service” means being flat as a tack in a hangar. Its “service” was to those who got benefits from its purchase from a 1-cent company in the U.S.

The Post reports that those involved in the dirigible’s procurement plan and “operations” included General Prayuth Chan-ocha, General Prawit Wongsuwan and General Anupong Paojinda. These three now run Thailand after they murderously gunned down red shirts in 2010 and staged their military coup in 2014.

Naturally enough, these fugitives from justice (in the sense that they have impunity and an iron grip on repression, so do not need to flee), “were tight-lipped when asked by the media Thursday whether the airship was really worth the money spent and the additional amounts spent on maintenance.” The total cost is estimated to be at least 1 billion baht, including purchase, maintenance and operational costs.

There’s no need for reticence. The answer is no. It even seems that this purchase was small beans in the commissions game, so the tight lips are about saving face and protecting hierarchy for these small minded military dictators.

The decommissioning of the blimp was accidentally revealed to the media. Sky Dragon has not been in the air since 2012. It was purchased under Abhisit Vejjajiva’s regime. It is reported that:

The purchase of the controversial airship previously triggered a dereliction of duty allegation against former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban….

Citing the dereliction of duty allegation, Pheu Thai petitioned the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to impeach Mr Suthep, but the NACC later on Dec 24, 2015 dismissed the request.

That seems par for the (military) course. Only those in parties close to Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra seem of interest to the NACC. Certainly, as noted above, under the military dictatorship, we can’t imagine any agency wanting to investigate the bosses.





Watching and repressing for profit

30 07 2017

The National Human Rights Commission is not known for protecting human rights. For the past few years, despite the efforts of a couple of commissioners who tried to do their job, the NHRC has been a sinecure for junta buddies and has ignored the military dictatorship’s abuses.

That’s why it is surprising to see a newspaper report where the NHRC actually seems interested in human rights abuses.

The report states that the NHRC has warned local opponents of a “new potash mine in Sakon Nakhon’s Wanon Niwat District” that they are “being monitored by the police and military…”.

We guess that the locals already know this, but the fact that the NHRC confirms it is worthy of note for this moribund clique.

The NHRC notes that state officials and business people are teaming up against locals “throughout the region, and urged the government to change their stance on local activism and assure public participation for the sustainable development of the region.”

There’s little chance of that under the junta but it is worth saying it out loud.

The “NHRC and Amnesty International Thailand on Wednesday led a media tour of the potash exploration site in Wanon Niwat District, as they said it was a vivid example of the freedom of expression and communal rights violations in North Eastern Region.” Just in this one district, according to “Sakkaphon Chaisaengrat, a lawyer for local people,… 120,000 rai of land … is currently granted to China Ming Ta Potash Corporation to survey for the possibility of opening a new potash mine in the area.” Locals know almost nothing of the firms operations.

It turns out that this is an official Chinese enterprise: “We are the representative of China’s Mineral Resources Department, so the people can trust our mining standards,” said a company representative. Mining is polluting and dangerous in China and has a poor reputation in dealing with locals, but is expert in teaming up with local officials to get its way.

The report continues:

He said that activism during the administration of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was not easy, as the people in the North Eastern Region were usually seen by authorities as the main supporters of the former government Pheu Thai Party. Activism in the region is often treated by officers with great concern.

He said local authorities are friends of the investors, so they usually protect the interest of the company rather than the people’s rights, which has caused many lawsuits against local activists.

There are at least two defamation and Computer Crime Act violation cases against local people and another case of violation of the Public Assembly Act. Local resident Satanont Chuenta said that the company has already violated people’s rights by intruding into the private land to make a potash survey without the landowner’s consent and protesters were also terrified by the military personnel.

Both officials and the company threaten anyone they think may be activists or threats to their “work.” The lawyer stated: “The military officers often visit our communities and their presence makes the people feel insecure and makes them distrust the authorities.”

NHRC commissioner Angkana Neelapaijit, one of the few serious commissioners, “said that the agency has received many complaints on the issues and the NHRC has already made recommendations to authorities to improve the situation.” No one is interested it seems. She makes the mistake of thinking that it “is the government’s duty to protect the people’s rights and ensure that they can participate in managing local resources.” The military dictatorship has no such role. It sees its job as making loot for its tycoons and allowing its minions to get on the gravy train.

Angkana said that NHRC “statistics showed complaints about rights violations in the justice system were highest in the North Eastern Region, as 26 per cent of all complaints in this region were about unfair treatment by officers, planting false allegations, or injustice in the justice system.”

The military junta is defined by such acts.





Military traffic

23 07 2017

There are several stories going around that congratulate the military regime for finally managing to get some of the bigger human traffickers into court and having them convicted with long sentences.

The regime has attempted to get its “ranking” up in the annual U.S. report on human trafficking.

The Asia Times has some of the detail on the case that finally saw some of the bigger fish in what it calls a “brutal trade” brought to court. In all, of the 103 people charged, 62 people were convicted of human trafficking and other crimes.

The details of this gang of traffickers, led by officials, are grim. Correctly, the report notes that the “[c]amps set up by traffickers in the jungle on the Thai-Malaysian border to hold Rohingya and other ‘boat people’ existed for many years prior to government crackdown in mid-2015 that curtailed the brutal trade…”.

One estimate is “that more than 500 people died in the camps where the people in this particular trafficking chain were held, and that the camps were probably there for at least five years or more.”

The most senior official caught in this ring is “Lieutenant General Manas Kongpaen … who was sentenced to 27 years jail…”. As the report notes, it was Manas, then a Colonel, who “was involved in the notorious ‘pushbacks’ affair in December 2008 and January 2009, when vessels carrying hundreds of Rohingya were towed back into the Andaman Sea and set adrift.”

Remarkably, “Manas admitted using funds from the International Organization of Migration (IOM) to help pay for the ‘pushbacks’, which sparked a global furore, as hundreds were believed to have died at sea.”

At the time, during the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration, the government vehemently denied a push-back policy and ignored the rise of human trafficking gangs. Manas was promoted two ranks after this time. Manas was widely reported and defended his actions. The BBC noted that Manas was “the regional commander of the Internal Security Operations Command.” That report added that he was also “one of three officers blamed by a Thai court for a massacre of Muslims five years ago.”

The IOM is now “investigating whether Lt-Gen Manas … could have diverted any money from IOM humanitarian projects and used it to fund a criminal operation to tow boats out to sea.” It is also possible he used funds from IOM and, more likely, from the state for funding his own camps.

The report also reminds readers that journalists and Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison who documented human trafficking were challenged by the Royal Thai Navy who brought a defamation case against them.

The pressure to cover-up was huge, with one senior policeman decamping to Australia and never returning.

At the time, the Army and The Dictator declared “none of its officers are directly linked to the illegal activities.” The police admitted they were afraid to go after Manas.

As Morison explained, “Everyone knew about it. And few people thought it was wrong. We were shown big houses in Ranong and Kuraburi, where locals claimed they were constructed from the proceeds of trafficking.”

One big shot in jail does not change the system of exploitation and corruption. Recall the Saudi gems heist saw senior police jailed yet the police have remained a corrupt organization.





Military and police corruption

2 07 2017

Think of all those corruption cases that have been processed by the military dictatorship and those that have simply disappeared into silence and nothingness.

On the one hand there are all those cases against members of the former government. On the other there is empty space.

Unusual wealth is simply not an issue. Rajabhakti Park? Nothing there. General Preecha Chan-ocha’s nepotism? Gone. Rolls Royce and other related corruption cases? Silence. Money for nothing at the NLA? That’s fixed. Weapons trafficking? Empty space. Being paid by tycoons for favors? That’s normal. The use of recruits as slaves? Normal and expected. No bid contracts? They seem the norm. That’s just over the past few months.

We could go on and on. And we haven’t gone beyond the corruption that is money-making. What about Jumpol Manmai? After his conviction, is he being held in an essentially private jail on a piece of the king’s property? What has happened in the investigation of the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae? What happened to the investigation of the death in custody of Private Yuthinan [Yutthakinant] Boonniam? Why aren’t officers being held responsible? Silence.

The whistleblower anti-democrats clearly weren’t interested in corruption when they brought the military to the gate and opened it.

Two recent reports point to the scale of corruption and how the junta assists it and even promotes it.

The Nation has an all-too-brief report on police corruption. It seems the “national police chief has ordered police nationwide not to take bribes from illegal workers and their employers or risk stiff penalties.” This is a biased report, but not against the police. Most migrant workers know that police will have their collective hand in the migrants’ pocket whenever they like.

The story of how the junta changed the law on migrants and is now critical of it and The Dictator is thinking of using Article 44 to postpone the law because of the chaos created by it is weird. Yet think of the money-making opportunities it creates! Everyone associated with migrants can be squeezed by the police, again and again, simply because of the legal chaos the junta has created. Police are as happy as pigs in mud.

Then there’s the story of the Army colonel and all the trucks, buses and cars. Foolishly portrayed as a kind of isolated case, and referred to as “Mr” not “Colonel,” Phopkrit Phanyos, a deputy director of the Army Transport Department, has illegally registered some 1,136 vehicles. And that’s just based on a few documents. Buses, truck and cars are included.

No one else in the Army Transport Department seemed to notice. Right….

None of these vehicles were said to be Army vehicles. In that case, the Army Transport Department is simply a criminal gang, laundering vehicles for the local market and pocketing loot that gets channeled up the hierarchy to the leaders of the military.

In these cases, the reader is taken back to how it is that all those military and police bosses get so wealthy. It is because their system is a corruption conveyor belt, sending the loot to the bosses from the bottom of the system.

The military and the police are not about defense or law and order. They ignore both.