An NACC surprise

10 06 2021

After more than six years, PPT has been surprised that the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has finally acted on an clear breach of the assets disclosure rules by The Dictator’s brother and currently appointed senator, Gen Preecha Chan-ocha.

The Bangkok Post recently reported that the NACC commissioners voted 9-0 to ask Gen Preecha “to acknowledge charges of concealing assets belonging to himself and his wife.” Indeed, “Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, the NACC deputy secretary-general, told Isra [N]ews Agency the NACC was in the process of laying charges against the accused.”

Following that, Gen Preecha is expected to “give further statements to the commission before the case is concluded. After that the case will be submitted to the commissioners who will decide whether to forward it to prosecutors.”

This case goes back to 2014, when Gen Preecha was appointed to the military junta’s National Legislative Assembly. Then he was said to have “falsely declaring his assets and liabilities…”.  According to this report:

corrupt-preecha

Clean hands?

The alleged false declaration has to do with Gen Preecha’s failure to include his house in Phitsanulok and a bank account belonging to his wife, Pongpuan, in the couple’s asset list.

Gen Preecha claims to have “explained everything to the commission in January and February and would let the law run its course…. He insisted that he filed his assets and liabilities properly.”

PPT’s first post on Preecha and his assets declaration is from October 2014, when he declared assets of almost 80 million baht, but already there were errors in his declaration. As he does now, back then the Assistant army chief Preecha “defended his declaration of wealth … saying everything can be explained.” His explanations then were bizarre and entirely unlikely.

About a year later, with Preecha now Defence Ministry permanent secretary, an “investigation” by the NACC was reported and seemed to have to do with his declared assets. When and if there really was an investigation was unclear, but the NACC declared Gen Preecha squeaky clean, even praising his “honesty.”

The NACC secretary-general was reported as revealing that the general and his wife held 10 bank accounts and all were included in the file the general submitted although he stumbled over the details and admitted that the general had filled out the form strangely.

Since then there’s been plenty of reporting about alleged nepotism and family corruption, not to mention Gen Preecha collecting taxpayer-funded allowances and salary for not doing his appointed job.

We can but wonder why the case against Gen Preecha has suddenly re-emerged and why it has taken so long. Can the NACC really have turned? Is this all about intra-coalition bickering?





Us and Them

13 05 2021

Over the virus era there has been increasing attention to borders all around the world. Some places have had downright racist responses, such as in the new hermit kingdom, Australia.

In Thailand, recent attention has been to the “threat” posed by migrants. Quoting “medical professionals,” the Bangkok Post headlines: Porous borders ‘our biggest threat’

While we understand the borders “argument,” this approach encourages chauvinism and xenophobia. Think of the horrid decision to lock migrant workers in their poor housing a couple of months ago. At the same time, the borders threat argument actually obscures the real threat.

Saksayam

Virus minister. From The Nation

For PPT, that threat is from the rich and powerful. As far as we can tell, every major outbreak in Thailand has had a lot to do with these groups, acting with impunity. Even the most recent outbreak in Bangkok has been tracked to the bars frequented by the wealthy Bangkok, attended by the high and mighty, including ministers and ambassadors. The former has seen a Ministry of Transport cluster.

As we look back at other clusters, they result from corrupt military (boxing stadiums) and other corrupt practices from the past that have continued during the virus crisis (gambling and people trafficking). Such activities have always required official “support” and have long made officials wealthy.

Migrant workers are critical for some important industries in Thailand; industries that generate enormous profits:

An estimated 400,000 migrants work in Thailand’s seafood processing sector in the province of Samut Sakhorn. Thailand produces approximately 40 per cent of global canned tuna, as well as frozen shrimp and other seafood products.

Trafficking migrants and greasing the wheels of bureaucracy generate wealth to police and bureaucrats. The military has long been involved in this business. This means the threat to Thailand is from those who rule and profit with impunity.





One of the cover-ups

7 04 2021

Over the past couple of days, PPT has posted on a corruption story that the regime and judiciary hope will quickly disappear, fade away and be covered-up. Such publicity just holds up the money making that comes with office under a military-backed regime.

Interestingly, it is reported that one of the regime’s cover-ups has received some new attention, with “[a]nti-human trafficking advocates are calling on the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to indict the owner of the Victoria Secret brothel for human trafficking…”.

The Victoria Secret massage parlor case “was raided on Jan 12, 2018 and it was later revealed that minors and migrant workers had been forced to become sex workers on the premises.”

Like the Boss case involving the Red Bull scion, the owner of the parlor – said to be Kampol Wirathepsuporn – went into hiding.

The big story of the time, for us, anyway, was the link to top cops. Indeed, junta-appointed police chief Gen  Somyos Pumpanmuang, who went on to become head of the Thailand Football Association, was close to Kampol. Under pressure, In the moneySomyos revealed that he had borrowed a huge sum of money from Kampol.

Gen Somyos “explained” that he and the massage parlor owner were “friends and of course friends do help each other. I was in trouble and asked him for help several times.” One of those bits of “help” was a 300 million baht “loan” from the flesh trader.

Clearly the “help” was useful, for when he retired as Thailand’s top cop, he was one of the country’s wealthiest policemen.  He reported assets of 375 million baht back in 2014 when he joined one of the junta’s sham legislatures.

That’s how corruption cases tend to go for junta buddies – nothing much happens, apart from the covering up.





Corrupt justices, corrupt regime

6 04 2021

Yesterday, PPT posted on a possible corruption case involving “current and former Thailand Supreme Court judges, as well as to the country’s top finance and justice officials…”.

Such a bombshell has received muffled attention and another cover-up might be expected. Even so, as the Bangkok Post reports, the Courts of Justice have felt compelled to provide a comment, although it is of the usual slippery variety, telling the taxpaying public that “they will take action against any judges found to have taken bribes linked to a tax dispute involving a Thai subsidiary of automaker Toyota.”

Well, maybe, for the claims are dismissed: “the office said claims without grounds that judges involved with bribery often happen during legal disputes.” Such claims were described as “bogus.” In other words, like Mafia dons they say “forget about it.”

Helpfully, Suriyan Hongvilai, spokesman of the Office of the Judiciary, “explains” that:

… the case in the focus involves a tax dispute worth about 10 billion baht between Toyota Motor Thailand Co (TMT) and tax authorities over the imports of parts for Prius cars.

He said the Supreme Court’s decision to review the dispute was announced on March 29 and the case is now pending hearings and has yet to be finalised.

He urged the public to investigate and not to rush to conclusions when bribery allegations against judges emerge.

“The Supreme Court has yet to hear and rule on the case. It just agreed to hear it and the granting of the request is line with laws which allow the Supreme Court to hear the case when it sees fit,” he said.

So, the Supreme Court decided to “review the dispute” and announced this on 29 March, the very day that Law 360 published the story “Toyota Probed Possible Bribes To Top Thai Judges.” That was just 10 days after the first media report of the Toyota case. How convenient.

The clarification is in response to foreign media reports.

Thailand’s Mafia dons also appear in a separate Bangkok Post report.

Palang Pracharath Party leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has thrown his and his party’s “support behind former national police chief [Gen] Chakthip Chaijinda for the upcoming Bangkok governor election…”. The junta appointed the sitting governor, also a former top cop, and Gen Prawit expects to be able to maintain that control.

To get the job done, Gen Prawit has reportedly assigned Mafia boss, convicted heroin trafficker, and moneybags, Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thammanat Prompao to arrange the election for the party.

That’s a neat idea: a former felon will assist a former top cop. Cops are used to dealing with “dark influences” in Thailand, often working in partnership for mutual wealth creation.

One of the outcomes of coup and military dictatorship has been the alliance of the twin evils of dark influences and dark power.





Liars and murderers

29 03 2021

Thailand’s regime has been supporting its military counterparts in Myanmar as they murder and arrest. The Thailand military-backed regime lies that it isn’t supporting Myanmar’s marauding military murderers.

In a recent op-ed, Thai Enquirer has condemned Thailand’s regime for its support of the Myanmar military. It begins: “By sending a military representative to attend Myanmar dictator Min Aung Hlaing’s Armed Forces Day celebration this past weekend, the Thai army showed just how morally corrupt it is.”

The Myanmar regime is using military aircraft to attack civilians, it is shooting protesters, people in their houses and innocent people traveling on public roads. It is a military out of control. Yet Thailand’s military-backed regime supports it. It understands that, from the murderous military’s perspective, civilians are a threat and sometimes need to be murdered and always repressed.

Telling lies is the very foundation of military regimes. Look at how the Thai regime has lied to the international community.





This week’s Joke

13 03 2021

It was only a couple of days ago when Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha declared that “Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn, who was removed as Immigration Bureau commissioner in 2019, is being reinstated to an active post at the Royal Thai Police…”. But, he’s back.

The reason for Big Joke – his nickname – suddenly going from hero to villain “was never explained and remains a mystery.” Some time ago, The Nation had a summary of some of the events.

In 2020 Surachate “filed a lawsuit against Gen Prayut last year claiming he had been transferred illegally.” He was said to be “under investigation.” On Tuesday, Gen Prayuth said “the investigation … remained inconclusive,” but was continuing.

Within a few days, the Bangkok Post reported that the “Police Commission on Friday approved a new position at headquarters, amid speculation that it will be filled by Surachate Hakparn, who is poised to return after two years of mysterious exile from law enforcement.” The Post has some reminders of the murkiness:

Equally murky were the circumstances surrounding an incident in which shots were fired at the high-profile lawman’s Lexus SUV in January last year. He claimed the attack was related to the Immigration Bureau’s controversial procurement of an expensive biometric ID system, a decision he had opposed.

Another casualty of that incident was deputy national police chief Wirachai Songmetta. He was sacked after the release of an audio recording in which a senior officer, later identified as then-national chief Chakthip Chaijinda, was heard warning him to stay out of the Big Joke case.

Gen Prayut signed a transfer order on March 5 for the return of Pol Lt Gen Surachate to the police agency but the process has not been completed.

Now Big Joke “has been officially reappointed to the Royal Thai Police…”, with the transfer signed by Prayuth and he “is now regarded as being back in the police force, although his precise post has not been been decided.” It is stated that “… Surachate was entitled to retain his present rank and be reinstated to the last position he held before the transfer…. He is also qualified for promotion to assistant national police chief.”

We have to say that such secrecy and backroom wheeling and dealing usually reeks of palace. The return to position as “unblemished” reminded us of another event.





Absolute hypocrisy

12 03 2021

Thailand’s military-backed regime had its Ministry of Foreign Affairs issue a statement where it “called for the release of detainees in Myanmar and urging all parties to seek a peaceful solution for Myanmar and its people through dialogue.”

The hypocrisy is breathtaking even for this regime of military murderers, coup makers, heroin traffickers, masters of double standards, and nepotists.

As it rounds up so many political prisoners that its prisons are overflowing, it beggars belief that the regime that overthrew an elected government and has held power since May 2014 cannot see the ridiculousness of this call.

What else can we say?





Money for nothing

8 03 2021

Being a general in Thailand confers power and wealth. A general can amass huge wealth with seldom any investigation of that “unusual” wealth , can use slave conscripts around the house, might get free housing, electricity and water for years and decades, and can even murder with impunity. After all, for decades now the military has run the lucrative game show that is Thailand’s government.

In what has become an annual ritual, the Royal Thai Armed Forces have announced that they plan to slim down the number of generals and especially those who do nothing more than whack golf balls on military courses and collect the benefits.

The linked report states:

According to the Defence Ministry, out of the total, 400 generals work in the Royal Thai Army (RTA), 250 in the Royal Thai Navy (RTN), 190 in the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF), 250 in the RTARF and 300 in the Office of the Permanent Secretary of Defence.

As these numbers seem rounded, we suspect there are more of these suckers of the taxpayer teat.

The report says the “armed forces are embarking on an ambitious programme to trim the number of generals in its ranks by 25% by 2029, amid doubts that the plan will ever come to fruition.” There’s reasons to be cynical as the same claim is made every year and then drifts off into the mists of corruption and grasping.

In the coming year, the “target” ain’t that “ambitious” at 5-10%, but that will not be achieved.

One of the scams is explained:

Defence Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich insisted the downsizing of the armed forces actually started when the cabinet approved the employment of civilians in the Defence Ministry in June last year.

Under the scheme, those recruited by the military to serve in certain fields such as medicine, law, accounting or administrative affairs are not given military ranks, he said.

So there’s no downsizing. Gobbling up loot, “protecting” a ridiculous neo-feudalism, and repressing political opponents of the whole corrupt system is too important and too lucrative.





Army business, Army money

6 03 2021

Remember when, after the February 2020 massacre of 29 innocent people in Korat, the then military chief and now senior advisor to the king Gen Apirat Kongsompong vowed to

IThe killer’s problem was “a property dispute” with “the soldier’s senior officer and his mother-in-law…”. In other words, “the army’s side dealings [were]… the root cause.” It adds that “analysts” say that “some army officers enter into private business dealings — and it’s an open secret.”

Apirat (r) doing his duty for the king

A few days later, “then army chief Apirat Kongsompong promised to investigate the problem…”. He vowed to terminate “unsound” internal army projects, after shady transactions were raised as a possible motive behind a soldier’s shooting spree in Korat.

In fact, he did nothing to change the underlying situation. As we said back then, the corruption continues. He did nothing in the months that followed other than endear himself to the palace. The Army remains corrupt.

Indeed, how little has changed is on display in a recent Bangkok Post op-ed by Chuenchom Sangarasri Greacen who is “an independent energy researcher and a former policy analyst at Energy Policy and Planning Office, Ministry of Energy.” It is worth reading in full. Here are some tidbits:

An army plan to open its land for massive solar farm development, up to 30,000 megawatts, has attracted a large number of energy firms. On Feb 22, representatives of more than 30 firms lined up to meet Lieutenant-General Rangsi Kitiyanasap, President of Royal Thai Army Radio and Television Channel 5, to seek clarity on rules and criteria on how to win a slice of the massive solar farm pie.

Why the Army has the boss of their television propaganda machine negotiating this is unclear.

The author points out that many see “this pending deal as a new milestone of the military’s over-reach and a worrying departure from established protocols and rules.” He observes that the pending deal sidelines technocrats, the civil bureaucracy and the public:

… the sanctity of energy technocracy was in complete tatters when the 30 plus energy companies scrambled for a meeting with Lt Gen Rangsi for a slice of the 600 billion baht solar farm pie. Note that the meeting took place at Channel 5 Headquarters, not the Ministry of Energy.

Energy Ministry officials were excluded “from the closed-door meeting.” The author adds: “So does the ascendancy of military deal-making render the Energy Ministry redundant?”  Thailand’s existing over-capacity is explained: “In light of the already extreme excess reserve margin, a 30,000MW solar farm deal is outrageously disconnected from the reality of Thailand’s electrical needs.”

So what is going on? Of course, it is about lining pockets and paying off the hierarchy. And, it may even be illegal (not that illegality has ever bothered the khaki machine: “The supremacy of military deal making not only tossed aside an entire ministry, utility technocrats and guiding principles in power sector planning, it also likely skirts the existing rule of law.” He concludes: “While Thailand’s energy technocracy has its flaws, its replacement with closed door deal making by the military is arguably worse.”

But who pays?

Who will foot the bill for the army’s 600 billion baht deal, plus the cost to upgrade the power system to accommodate large-scale solar farms? If history is any guide, the Thai public as electricity users will likely end up shouldering the burden, thanks to Egat, the co-conspirator of the army’s deal, who will pass through costs directly to consumers.

How much money can the taxpayer be milked for? There’s the monarchy, the Army, the police, and the tycoons. They all bathe in the public trough.





Criminal ministers and palace (dark) influence

1 03 2021

Thai PBS recently reported on the jostling going on for cabinet slots after the conviction of the PDRC lot. It reports “intense lobbying and deal-making.” For those old enough to remember, this sounds remarkably like the late 1980s and early 1990s as coalitions moved around and alliances formed to seek political bribes and positions from government and party bosses.

Back then, the ones manipulating the most were locally-based dark influences. Who is it now? It seems it is local dark influences:

The spotlight is now on controversial Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thamanat Prompow, whose powerful faction in Palang Pracharath is reportedly jockeying for the vacant Cabinet posts.

Convicted heroin smuggler

After gaining fewest approval votes in last year’s no-confidence debate, Thamanat earned 274 votes this year — coming in second highest among the 10 targeted Cabinet members, matching the score of his party leader Prawit.

With changes in the Cabinet line-up in sight, Thamanat is eyeing the DES minister’s seat — which he tried but failed to secure when the government was first formed, according to a source.

Two other prominent figures in his faction are also pushing to “upgrade their positions”. Deputy Labour Minister Narumon Pinyosinwat is targeting the education portfolio, while Deputy Finance Minister Santi Promphat is seeking to swap seats with the Democrats to become deputy transport minister, the source said.

Thamanat’s faction has become much stronger since last year when his controversial past returned to haunt him. At the 2020 no-confidence debate, opposition MPs grilled him over his drugs-related conviction in Australia in the 1990s.

Now, though, Thamanat commands the loyalty of more than 40 Palang Pracharath MPs and has more allies in the opposition camp. The success of his network-building efforts was illustrated at the recent censure debate by the sizeable support he received

So Thailand now has a convicted heroin trafficker, one involved in all kinds of scams and businesses mostly known for their criminal connections, in a position to squeeze cabinet seats and power from the military-backed regime that is looking more like a gangster regime.

Speaking of gangsters, how’s the police promotion scam looking?

A Bangkok Post editorial shows that concern about police and regime gangsterism is beginning to worry some of those who are usually comfortable with military domination.

It worries that the illicit “fast-track promotion system where people, including the undeserving, avoid having to meet the criteria needed to earn promotion” is causing the police to remain at the top of most illegal ventures so that ill-gotten gains can be channeled around insiders..

This seems to include the palace, where the “promotion of Pol Lt Gen Torsak Sukwimol, head of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB),” raised eyebrows, even if it was widely known that the king and his minions intervened, as the previous king did as well.

The Post wants Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to come up with a “satisfactory response to the … allegations.” The fact is that he can’t. He sits before the giant cobra, unable to act. All he could do was complain that the leaking of the police documents “should not have happened.”No one in the regime seems ready to stand up to the erratic and grasping king and his palace gang.

It was only a day after that editorial that the Bangkok Post had more on the police promotion scam, seeking to calm things down, claiming things are getting better. Was the newspaper pressured? Who would know? It just seems really very, very odd.

Is the whole country now under the control of gangsters and a mafia?