Updated: Wages of corruption

7 08 2020

Anyone who follows Thailand’s politics soon comes to learn that nothing surprises. Most especially, it is the buffalo manure spilled by bureaucrats and the military and police brass. Thus, three recent examples should not lead to open-mouthed disbelief.

One: We just posted on AOT. Now we read that “The Finance Ministry is considering summoning Airports of Thailand (AoT) executives to explain the agency’s decision to alter its duty free concession contracts, which it feared could hurt the AoT’s projected revenue…”. Really? Heck, the people at the Ministry must think the country is full of morons. As we have shown, most of the top management of the AOT is from the Ministry of Finance, including its Chairman, Prasong Poontaneat is also Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance. Prasong will be summoning himself. What nonsense.

Two: Then there’s the obedient lads at the Police’s Immigration Bureau who have “lifted travel restrictions on Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhaya after the Red Bull scion’s hit-and-run charges were dropped late last month.” Of course they did! Who ordered this? Anyone making money on the deal?

Three: Speaking of cover-ups, there’s the case of a gambling den where a cop gambling there was shot. A senior police officer, Metropolitan Police Bureau commissioner Pol Lt Gen Pakapong Pongpetra, having seen a “blood-stained Baccarat table … dumped behind the building,” still managed a straight-faced statement: “if police had solid evidence the place operated as a casino, its owner would be charged.” Of course, gambling dens are all paying off police, so these police are busy covering up.

It gets better/worse:

… Pakapong … said yesterday his officers were still trying to discover how a police officer was killed, along with three others, at the illegal casino on Rama III Road.

The officer who was shot dead was Pol Maj Watthanaset Samniangprasert, 32, an interrogation inspector at Samae Dam station, who is reported to have frequently gambled at the venue.

Pol Lt Gen Pakapong said every CCTV camera appeared to have been removed by the time police arrived at the scene 30 minutes after the shooting.

CCTV cameras going off at critical times and cameras or video “disappearing” is a regularly-used excuse used by the military. In this case, there were more than 20 cameras. We are betting that little more will be heard of this case.

Update: The Bangkok Post has a useful editorial on the gambling den cover-up.

Cocaine blues for the clowns in brown II

5 08 2020

According to recent reports, the panel of prosecutors hurriedly put together as a regime mechanism to deal with the political fallout of the effort to exonerate Red Bull scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, has recommended “charges of cocaine abuse and reckless driving causing death…”. Yes, the things that were all mentioned in reports in 2012. The police and prosecutors have come full circle.

Described as a “dramatic turnaround,” the posterior covering was sensational. Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) spokesman Prayut Petcharakhun “explained” that in dropping all charges, “Nate Naksuk, deputy attorney-general responsible for cases with justice complaints, had initially made a sound decision against arraignment based on available evidence and witnesses.” That is, of course, a pile of buffalo manure.

How high?

Prayut then further “explained” that the evidence by Sathon Wicharnwannarak, a Chulalongkorn University physics lecturer “who worked for forensic police, [and] had concluded that the speed of the Ferrari at the time of the crash was about 177kph. However, the conclusion had not been included in police investigative report relating to the case.” Now why was that? Most would guess that pressures, influences and greased palms might have been involved.

An what of the “alleged cocaine abuse?” OAG’s Prayut “said that a blood sample taken from Mr Vorayuth’s blood on the day of the crash indicated that he had abused cocaine. However, police had not raised the matter in their past investigative report…”. What a surprise!

Neither did police and prosecutors include “the charge of driving under the influence of alcohol because a test showed the Red Bull scion must have drunk after the crash — because his blood alcohol level was so high, he would have been unable to drive.” Yeah, right.

Prayut went on to describe all the omitted stuff as now somehow being “new evidence” that “justified the fresh investigation in the hit-and-run case.” See above for buffalo manure. The hopelessness of this claim of “new evidence” is shown to be manure in a Bangkok Post report that notes that “the new evidence involved the statements made by two experts … at the time of the fatal crash.”

Perhaps the only piece of reasonably good news is that a committee will “look into the financial transactions of people involved to determine if any irregularities were present.” That may not reveal much as most corruption money goes up the line. But at least the panel has thought of it.

Further updated: Yes, really

17 06 2020

We read this jaw-dropping news with nothing more than incredulity. We simply could not believe the story. How is it possible for this regime to think that every Thai citizen is a complete moron? Why does the regime treat its people as so insignificant? Of course, the answer is that the regime and its people are used to impunity, getting away with murder and considers itself a law unto itself.

Here’s the story, from the Bangkok Post: “Former transport permanent secretary Supoj Saplom has been appointed as a member of a sub-committee tasked with studying an industrial estate for rehabilitation and development of inmates just months after completing a jail term for filing false asset declarations…”.

The responsible minister is Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin. He said “he had invited individuals from various professions including former senior state officials to give their input on the proposed establishment of the facility.”

Supoj was “released from prison in the middle of last year after serving 10 months for filing false asset declarations…. The Supreme Court … [found] he failed to declare assets worth over 20 million baht.”

Supoj. From the Bangkok Post.

But there’s more to the story than this. Readers can click through to PPT’s several posts on Supoj. The last time we posted on Supoj, we said that we were “winding up of a story that began some time ago.” Little id we think that Minister Somsak would push Supoj back into “service” and into the news.

The original story of Supoj’s ill-gotten gains involved fantastic amounts. In late 2011, as huge floods bore down on Bangkok, Supoj’s house was burgled. At the time he was permanent secretary at the Ministry of Transport and chairman of the State Railways of Thailand and was in that position under the previous government. Earlier he was Director of the Highways Department. Such positions are honey holes for the corrupt.

A report at the time stated that while Supoj was at his daughter’s wedding, a dozen burglers tied up two maids and took off with loot. Supoj told reporters that “the valuables taken by the robbers were not in fact worth much, though they also took cash. He believed the robbers heard about his daughter’s bridal price so they wanted to steal it.” Soon after, there was a report that one of the culprits “allegedly confessed to stealing more than 200 million baht in cash from the house of transport Supoj Saplom.” That’s quite a bride price!

But the story became even more interesting. One of the suspects claims “that when the gang entered the house, they found between 700 million baht to 1 billion baht in cash stuffed into bags.” Supoj responded, pleading poverty, claiming that the burglars were defaming him! He explained that he “was smeared by the suspects who claimed he might have hidden as much as Bt1 billion at his home,” adding, “… I don’t have that much money…”.

Even the police seemed to agree: “Police Major General Winai Thongsong, chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, said that CCTV videos of the robbery showed the group leaving the house with large bags, indicating that a large amount of cash had been stolen.”

Later, in 2012, as he scrambled for excuses for being so stupendously “unusually rich,” Supoj claimed “he earned the millions of Baht working a second job…”. He began shifting assets to relatives as investigations loomed. At the time, the Anti-Money Laundering Office “revealed that money found in the transport permanent secretary Supoj Saplom’s home is related to construction contractors in the Northeast – including one from Buriram province – which were involved in the bidding for construction contracts on government projects in several provinces.”

But, by the time the case reached the National Anti-Corruption Commission and then commissioner Klanarong Chanthik announced a seizure of some assets. He was convicted when the “Civil Court ruled in January, 2014, that 46.14 million baht in assets should be seized from Supoj and his family for being unusually wealthy.”

Then there was the verdict of the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders holding Supoj guilty “of deliberately avoiding to mention Bt17.5 million in cash and a Bt3 million Volkswagen in the declaration of his assets on five occasions.” Yes, the millions claimed to have made Supoj “unusually wealthy” led nowhere. It was expunged, deleted, and was made to go away, like magic. All Supoj was convicted of was a problem with his asset declarations. It was whittled down because the suspects who were arrested only had “Bt18 [17.5] million in cash and gold ornaments…”. How convenient. He got 10 months in jail and the 18 million was seized. It took seven years to get Supoj into prison to serve that 10 months. It was only this year that the 17.5 million was given to the state treasury. We have no idea what became of the other 46 million baht.

More to the point, what happened to the bags of money the burglars claimed to have taken? Readers can probably come up with some excellent guesses on that. But presumably one could think of cops getting their hands on it (think Saudi gems), corrupt officials and judges, influential people or even much higher ups being paid off.

Okay, as a former inmate, perhaps Supoj has something of a perspective on “an industrial estate for rehabilitation and development of inmates,” but somehow we doubt it. It seems much more like paybacks or a mutual backscratching exercise.

So here we are, with a military-backed government that not only has a convicted heroin smuggler as a deputy minister, but it’s also appointing a man who may hold a national record for moving state funds into private hands.

Update 1: While dealing with the corruption being embedded in the regime, we note that the Department of Special Investigation’s acting chief has disbanded six special investigation teams that he set up only about six weeks ago. The teams were responsible for investigating money laundering via illegal casinos, misconduct by Stock Exchange of Thailand-listed companies, factories causing environmental and public health damage and producing substandard cosmetics or dietary supplements, land encroachment and unlawful land title deeds, and and price collusion involving state projects. Almost all of those arenas seem to have resonances for the regime’s ministers. Is it a coincidence that these events are in Justice Minister Somsak’s ministry?

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that the private sector Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand has “submitted an open letter to Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, voicing opposition to the appointment of Supoj Saplom … to sit on a sub-committee tasked with studying a project for rehabilitation and development of inmates.” The report noted:

The ACT said in the letter that the constitution of Thailand bars people who lack morality, ethics and good governance from taking part in the country’s administrative affairs.

Since people expect the Justice Ministry to be a model for righteousness and justice, it should appoint only people who are not tainted with corruption to work for it, the letter says. The appointment of Mr Supoj violates this principle.

Corrupt army thugs II

7 06 2020

Just a few days ago, we posted on the fate of military whistle blower Sgt Narongchai Intharakawi, an ordnance corps clerk, who spoke out about corruption in the Army.

He had been threatened and the Army went after him, declaring him a “deserter.”

Khaosod reports that an Army investigation of Sgt Narongchai’s complaint of fraud in the Army “had some truths.” The Army was sending “the case” to the “National Anti-Corruption Commission for further inquiry.”

Headed up by reliable junta appointees, with police and Army generals among the commissioners and a poor track record when investigating those in power, there is probably not much hope that anything much can come from the NACC.

Meanwhile, Sgt Narongchai is still facing Army “disciplinary action and a trial in the military court for allegedly deserting his post…”. The report states that “Sgt. Narongchai faces up to seven years in prison and a dishonorable discharge for being absent from his duties for more than 15 days.”

The Army treats the public with disdain, coming up with outlandish “explanations” for its actions. It is reported that “Army spokesman Col Winthai Suvaree has denied reports that a sergeant is facing punishment for exposing alleged graft in an army unit.” He claims that Sgt Narongchai “faces disciplinary and criminal action for dereliction of duty in violation of the Military Disciplinary Act…”.

That Narongchai has claimed and there’s video evidence of him being intimidated and threatened “for exposing graft at the centre involving military allowances” seems to count for nothing. Indeed, the military had already moved against Narongchai, having “accused [him] of disrespecting a superior,” with an Army disciplinary panel sentencing him to “detention for seven days on March 18-24 this year…”.

Everyone knows that Narongchai is being punished for breaking the Army’s “rule” that no one may upset the gravy train that benefits senior officers.

Further updated: Watching the watchman

2 06 2020

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s “borrowed watch” case before the supine National Anti-Corruption Commission was heard while the agency was headed by one of his cronies. No one was surprised when the NACC dismissed the case.

Seventeen months ago, Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a member of the Puea Thai Party, wrote to the NACC, asking it “to explain why it did not find Gen Prawit guilty of failing to declare 22 watches he claimed to have borrowed from a friend…”.

He’s now received a reply from Sukij Boonchai, the acting NACC secretary-general:

The letter says the NACC commissioners acknowledged that Pattawat Suksriwong was the owner of the watches and had lent them to Gen Prawit. It also confirmed that Gen Prawit had returned the watches, worth tens of millions of baht, to Pattawat after he used them.

“The borrowing is a ‘loan for use’. While a loan for use is a liability, it is not the type the NAAC requires to be declared in its (asset declaration) form,” Mr Sukit wrote.

The NACC’s definition of liabilities only covers money, not loans for use, in which the assets have been returned to the lenders in their original form (with no money involved), he added.

“Therefore, Gen Prawit is not obliged to declare the borrowed watches as liabilities in his asset declaration form,” he concluded.

Former finance minister, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Thailand, and qualified accountant Thairachai Phuvanatnaranubala has written that the NACC’s “interpretation” of “liabilities” offended “common sense,” noting that the “prevailing interpretation of liabilities is anything of monetary value, not just something where real money is involved.”

He implied that the NACC has concocted something “special” for Gen Prawit.

Some of Prawit’s loot

Meanwhile, law academic Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, a leader of the Progressive Movement, observed that the NACC’s Prawit rule amounted to a “trick” that “would open the door for widespread asset concealment.” He said:

The NACC’s interpretation destroys the checks and balances of politicians and government officials and renders useless the requirement that they declare assets and liabilities…”.

Luxury assets such as accessories, rings, necklaces, watches, sports cars, etc need not be declared anymore. “All you have to do is get a rich friend of yours to say it is their assets and then explain the properties were borrowed from him.”…

“The interpretation of the NACC today has given politicians and officials a new channel to hide their assets.

To protect the heart of the military regime, do we really need to trade it with the checks and balances we have so painstakingly built since 1997?”

Not Prawit’s watches

Usually supportive of rightist regimes, Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand pointedly asked: “Are we adhering to the rule of law or do we simply use it to favour some influential people? ” That’s really a rhetorical question; of course, there’s no rule of law in Thailand, just support for the ruling clique and their supporters.

The regime’s efforts to protect the aged Gen Prawit are likely to go up a gear as he maneuvers his way to the leadership of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, giving the military even more control over the party. A couple of days ago:

Eighteen of the 34 members of the executive committee of the main coalition party Palang Pracharath resigned on Monday, paving the way for the election of a new party leader and executive committee in 45 days.

This paves the way for Gen Prawit to take full control of the party, supported by fascists, anti-democrats and crooks like Paiboon Nititawan, Buddhipongse Punnakanta and Thammanat Prompao.

Gen Prawit channeled his inner Sgt Schultz, lying that “he was not involved in the mass resignation of executives” from his party where he’s officially “chief strategist.” He added: “I don’t know…. I’m not involved with them.”

Truly, these dolts seem to “think” the country is composed of people dumber than they are. Everyone in the country seems to believe that this is nothing more than a military power grab. Party members have already declared that Gen Prawit will be nominated for the “vacant” position.

It actually seems that this was a “deal” done when the party was patched together and to minimally camouflage its military base. As MP for Bangkok Sira Jenjaka explained:

… current party leader and Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana, and secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong, who is also the Energy Minister, will no longer have the power to run the party’s affairs.

Asked what was behind “the changing of the guard”, Mr Sira said that this was a deal when the party was formed that the current executive committee members were given one year to work, and their performance would then be assessed.

“They now must admit that it is time for a change,” Mr Sira said.

A cabinet reshuffle will follow and will see a reallocation of lucrative positions as payback for support.

Update 1: Thai Enquirer quotes Paiboon Nititawan on one of the reasons he wants Gen Prawit at the helm of the junta party. He says Prawit “has a lot of influence and prestige and is very generous…”. The generosity of a man who had to “borrow” watches from a wealthy friend raises the question of who funds Prawit’s generosity? There may be several sources. One is the funds that corruption in government provides. Another is the taxpayer funds. And, perhaps, the tycoons who get all kinds of benefits send loot his way. As an example of favors provided, think of the most recent benefit, as land and building taxes are slashed. Who benefits? Not smallholder farmers. Not single home owners. Nope. The beneficiaries are the wealthy:

… the cuts mainly benefit corporate owners of farmland, people who can afford more than one house, as well as owners of vacant land, or commercial/industrial properties.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post appears to confirm that the “generosity” of Gen Prawit has to do with “control the Finance Ministry which is to oversee a 1-trillion-baht Covid-19 relief plan…”. All that loot! It is reported that:

Of the 1 trillion baht, 600 billion is for financial aid and health-related plans for those whose jobs and businesses have been hit by the pandemic. The remaining 400 billion is for economic and social rehabilitation via projects aimed at creating jobs, strengthening communities and building infrastructure.

From the 400-billion-baht portion, the 273 government MPs will receive 80 million baht each while the 207 opposition MPs will receive 40 million baht each. There will still be almost 300 billion baht left over and this is why the finance minister post is being eyed by the PPRP factions….

One of the factions maneuvering for control of Finance is that led by convicted heroin smuggler and serial liar Thammanat.

Junta-style business (as usual) V

10 05 2020

There is much that is “usual” about the junta/post-junta military-backed regime. Several reports over the past few days point to this.

The first report we read that caused us to think twice was at The Nation. During the period of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s emergency decree, it is announced that “[c]ompany owners are prohibited from shutting down their business …[and] staff are banned from going on strike…”. This announcement is from the Ministry of Labor. The announcement added that “those owners who had closed their business before the announcement was published, [had] to reopen their business. Likewise, employees who had struck work previously were ordered to return to work.”

We had not heard of workers striking in this period; maybe we missed it. We have heard of workers losing jobs as businesses go under for lack of customers, and there may be scams associated with this – not paying workers their legal entitlements – but is does seem like the horse is out of the field and bolted over the hill before the Ministry decided to order the unenforceable (for owners).

Corruption continues to be ignored. A report in the Bangkok Post tells of a former Garuda CEO in Indonesia who has received an 8-year sentence and a fine of $1.4 million from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) “over payments from a businessman via a third party for the procurement by Garuda of Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines and Airbus A320 and A330 planes.” We doubt this could ever happen in Thailand. As the report notes:

In 2017 Rolls-Royce agreed to pay authorities more than US$800 million to settle charges after an investigation by the US Justice Department and Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) into alleged bribery of officials in six countries in schemes that lasted more than a decade.

Those countries included Thailand, where some $18.8 million paid by Rolls-Royce to “regional intermediaries” ended up in the pockets of “agents of the State of Thailand and employees of Thai Airways”, the SFO said at the time.

It is added that the National Anti-Counter Corruption Commission “is still investigating the allegations.” It would be a laugh to see a list of alleged crimes the NACC “is still investigating.” That agency is run by junta cronies and pigs will fly before it does any serious investigations.

For the optimists, a reaction to the regime was (again) provided by students. The Thai Enquirer reports that the “Student Union of Thailand submitted an open letter on Thursday to the Ministry of Finance demanding a universal aid program to help Thais afflicted by the coronavirus outbreak.” The associated student unions “demanded assistance to all Thais, 18 years and over, to receive aid of at least 3,000 baht per month for three months.” Activist Parit Chiwaak declared: “The people that pay tax to this country are the owners of this country, we all should receive aid.”

Masks and managing media

13 04 2020

Khaosod reports that there’s considerable online support for the whistle blower Facebook page that exposed a mask hoarding scandal. Why is the support needed? Of course, because the hopeless police are seeking to charge the owner of the site.

One of those near useless political police, Pol Maj Gen Panya Pinsuk, who doubles as political puppet and deputy chief of the Central Investigation Bureau, said:

A puppet cop

investigators are seeking the owner of the Facebook page “Queen of Spades” after it posted photos showing what appeared to be a sale of up to 200 million face masks to buyers in China admit an acute shortage in the country.

Police said the posts, which implicate businessman Sornsuvee Puraweeratwatcharee in the alleged deal, are false.

The (not) super sleuths claim that by posting information from Sornsuvee, they page posted “false information.” And, as the ridiculous police state: “Therefore, the page is punishable under the Computer Crime Act.”

Why is this “false information”? Well, it seems because “Sornsuvee later said that he didn’t actually possess 200 million masks and claimed that he was boasting to attract investors.”

The corrupt cops seem intent on demonstrating time and time again that there is no justice in Thailand.

Naturally enough – for the political police – the events involved the now invisible Deputy Minister for Agriculture, inveterate liar and convicted heroin trafficker Thammanat Prompao.

The cops claims get more tortuous in terms of law and logic: “Metropolitan police’s chief investigator Santi Chainiramai said Sornsuvee is only a middleman in the mask hoarding ring which is linked to Paradonraphab Party’s chief strategist Phanyot Akkhara-amornpan.”

But not a word on Thammanat!

The cops say that “Phanyot set up a company called Thai Health International to illegally sought the masks from Sornsuvee before repacking and selling them at higher prices.” All the mask dealing, they say “yield[ed] more than 14 million baht in cash.”

Yes, Phanyot and Sornsuvee were dealing in masks and profiteering. Both are well-connected to political leaders. But the dopes in uniform must crack down on those who expose the crime. This is what people now expect from the police and regime.

And, as expected in the (in)justice system, Phanyot was arrested on Wednesday and released on bail on the same day.

What happend to aide to minister Thammanat, Pitinan Rak-iad, who was shown in a video on the offending Facebook page, “discussing the sale of masks with Sornsuvee.”

Convicted heroin smuggler

Nothing it seems. He’s “distanced himself from the allegations, saying that it was merely a negotiation which has nothing to do with the controversial stockpile.” Of course, like his boss, Pitinan is unable to speak any truth.

As for Thammanat, after claiming he had the virus and was going into hiding, which he said was isolation.

Meanwhile, the Thai Enquirer has a story on a “high-priced international ‘public strategy firm’ [that] has been sending out press releases defending the Thai government’s coronavirus response.”

Mercury LLC has apparently been hired to provide some order to the regime’s inept and contradictory virus response. Seemingly engaging in propaganda and fake news, Mercury claims that the regime “has kept infection rates low through a combination of top-down government measures, bottom-up social changes,” and as the report points out, “most strangely” that there have been “high levels of testing.”

In fact, Thailand’s rate of testing is 1,030/1 million of population. That’s lower than Vietnam and Malaysia, among others. According to the report, “Thailand has only conducted 71,860 tests since the outbreak began despite having the capacity to conduct 20,000 tests per day.”

Despite Mercury’s claims for the regime, no one admits to hiring them.

Police business

4 04 2020

Pol Gen Somyos and some of his loot

Over the years, PPT has posted quite a bit on police and their often unusual wealth.

Readers may recall the seemingly never investigated story of Thailand’s post-coup police boss Gen Somyos Pumpanmuang who was involved with the owner of the Victoria’s Secret Massage parlor back in January 2018. He claimed to have “borrowed” 300 million baht from the brothel boss. He even appeared with a stack of money that was claimed to be the same 300 million.

Somyos declared in 2014 that he had amassed assets of almost 375 million baht. We have previously posted on his connections with shady business groups that use men-in-black to harass villagers.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission has been deathly quiet on this case.

He’s not the only one. As the 2014 assets declarations showed, top cops averaged a whopping 258 million baht each. Back then, current Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda declared almost 1 billion baht in assets. Current head of the NACC, Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit declared almost 470 million baht in assets.

Pol Gen Wirachai

This is a long introduction to the case of Pol Gen Wirachai Songmetta.

Readers may remember him from the Big Joke police dance in January 2020, when Pol Gen Chakthip came into conflict with Surachate Hakparn, a former immigration chief who, back in April 2019, was quickly and surprisingly taken into custody, removed from his posts and then made a civilian before being resurrected as a cop assigned to Government House. After he claimed shots were fired at his car and that all of the kerfuffle had to do with money associated with a biometric equipment deal, Chakthip suddenly transferred two of his two deputies, Pol Gen Chaiwat Kateworachai and Pol Gen Wirachai.

Adding to the spice, King Vajiralongkorn expelled both officers from the royal police bodyguard corps and ordered that the two were not to wear medals that bear the emblem of the royal guards.

But, then, to our surprise, Pol Gen Wirachai just appeared in the Forbes list of Thailand’s richest, with a photo of him in his uniform. Forbes states “Wirachai Songmetta entered the ranks of Thailand’s richest following the November 2019 IPO of Absolute Clean Energy, a renewable energy producer” and values his fortune at $585 million. It adds that the company “operates 14 biomass power projects with a combined capacity of 212 megawatts…”. (We wonder why Pol Gen Chakthip is not listed?)

Forbes observes that “[h]is ex-wife chairs the company while two of his three sons have board seats.” You can get a look at them here, while noting that one of the sons has been listed as a director of companies associated with Wirachai since he was 18. (That’s how the rich operate in Thailand where family trumps any sort of skill.)

The company claims another 19 projects under development throughout Thailand.

PPT was stunned. Maybe we are naive, but we hadn’t realized that serving cops could own large companies and actively engage in business. ACE is publicly-listed with Wirachai holding more than 22% of the shares and people with the same family name holding almost 80% of the shares.

Another report explains how ACE became big. It built on his family’s earlier business as “the nation’s leading producer of hardboard and wood chips, and the residue of that process is used to fuel the biomass power plants…”.  ACE reports a bunch of associated companies, all family-held and mostly in energy and tree plantations. An example is Shaiyo Triple A, claiming to have “been invited to invest in overseas markets such as China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines, Malaysia, and Australia.”

Being a top cop can only have assisted Wirachai in grabbing land for plantations.

While he’s been a cop, Pol Gen Wirachai has been active in business, including undertaking trips overseas for his companies. In one, in 2018, he was hosted by the Chairman of Thua Thien Hue Provincial People’s Committee in Vietnam, Phan Ngoc Tho with “a reception for President of Shaiyo Triple A group Wirachai Songmetta and delegation. Also attending the working session were relevant departments and agencies.”

Wirachai for himself. Clipped from Thua Thien Hue Portal.

Shaiyo Triple A claims to have 2.5 million contracted farmers supplying it. It, too, has several subsidiaries. One recent report states that the “Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT) has teamed up with Asia Clean Industrial Park Co (ACIP) to develop a new industrial estate in Chon Buri to serve novel investment projects in the Eastern Economic Corridor.” That investment is “located on a plot of 1,300 rai in Ban Bung district with a development cost of 3 billion baht.” ACIP itself “has a registered capital of 1.8 billion baht and Songmetta Corporation owns a 99% stake.” ACIP is reportedly “an affiliate company of Shaiyo Triple A Group, the international conglomerate headquartered in Thailand, with core businesses in agriculture, clean and renewable energy, logistics services, industrial land development, engineering procurement and construction services, and international trading.”

Back at ACE, the Executive Committee includes Pol Lt Gen Adul Narongsak, formerly Deputy Commissioner of Metropolitan Police Bureau. Its Board of Directors includes Charoon Intachan who lists his positions as a member of the Council of State, member of the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee, and a term as President of the Constitutional Court. He was the presiding judge at the Court when it dismissed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office for abuse of power in 2014.

Well connected you might say. With connections to the judiciary and police, the provincial operations of the various companies associated with Pol Gen Wirachai are well lubricated. But politically-connected businesses also carry political risks, especially when the monarch gets involved. When Wirachai was removed to the PM’s Office, the “share price Absolute Clean Energy Public Company Limited (ACE) hit the floor in the morning session on January 24, 2020,” diving almost 30 percent.

We find it troubling that a serving policeman so obviously has other interests and business. More so because there are conflicts of interest involved in the businesses being operated while he is a policeman. The junta was and Prayuth regime is unconcerned by such activities because all of them – police and military – benefit from this and similar activities.

Thai Airways, masks, poor policy

31 03 2020

This is a bit of an update post on things we’ve posted on recently.

Criticism of the regime’s virus blunders and policy failures and flip-flops continues, not least because as the virus takes hold, parts of the country are burning in an emergency that has been ongoing for months.

Meanwhile, one of the chief bunglers, Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsomgpong told a meeting of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration it needed “to achieve the 90% travel cut goal to flatten the curve of new infections.” That’s a bit rich from a man who deserves derision for his (in)actions. Essentially the regime is happy for the poor to be completely screwed. Apirat hates them because they can’t be trusted politically.

Don’t believe us on how tone deaf, arrogant and self-centered the military leadership is? Then consider a proposed military purchase:

General Chaichan Changmongkol, permanent secretary of Thailand’s Ministry of Defence, had prepared to propose the procurement of an amphibious assault ship, at an expected budget of more than 6.1 billion baht, at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday. But it appears that General Chaichan had already removed this proposal from the meeting’s agenda.

He only pulled it after huge criticism “from opposition parties and the public…”.

As airlines everywhere are collapsing and begging for bailouts while laying-off almost all their workers, according to “Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak … the government will not allow ailing flag-carrier Thai Airways International Plc (THAI) to collapse and dismissed rumours of impending lay-offs as a result of the coronavirus crisis.” We guess this is partly because the airline needs to continue to chauffeur the king and his major wife back and forth to Europe.

Finally, we hope that there’s a math mistake in a Bangkok Post report. However, as published, the horrid military posterior polisher and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has announced that the mask problem has been “solved.” How’s that? Masks are being made locally. Yes, we realize that everyone already knew this. But here’s the bit that caught our attention. On N95 masks, the report states that “400,000 of them have been procured from China in a government-to-government deal costing 1.5 billion baht …”. Our math suggests that this G-to-G deal is costing 3,750 baht per mask. Really? Is that possible? Is Thammanat Prompao organizing this?

Anti-monarchism growing (again)

31 03 2020

The Korea Herald has a story about K-pop fans and the monarchy as fans began “using memes and lyrics to express their discontent” with King Vajiralongkorn’s silence and extravagance as he holed up in a luxury hotel in Germany with a bevy of concubines.

One fan stated that the news of this “surprised” many, including “Thai K-pop fans, [and] attracting a lot of interest…”

Another fan added: “While we are risking lives with a shortage of medical supplies, he rents a luxury hotel funded by the public’s tax money.”

This led some to use “sarcasm and K-pop references to take a subtle jab at the king in safer ways than directly mentioning his name.”