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?





Updated: Where there’s smoke…

22 02 2021

Which fire will the police bosses want to extinguish? There’s the gambling fire, the drug smuggling fire and the elephant ticket inferno.

Of course, the latter inferno can’t be touched as it directly involves the monarchy, so lese majeste repression is the way the regime has jumped, trying to shut down talk that has spread like wildfire. The gambling scam is well known and the cops have been getting away with it for decades, so the usual response is a few transfers a couple of arrests, a period of studied silence, and then back to normal corruption. The funds from gambling go throughout the force and beyond and are absolutely necessary for the “normal” operation of the police.

However, it is reported that the drugs scam might get some attention. The problem is that it also involves the monarchy.

National police boss Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk is reported to have “ordered a probe into opposition claims during last week’s censure debate that a police colonel and a police lieutenant general were involved in the smuggling attempt of 1.5 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine in Tak that was foiled on Oct 18, 2019…”. Naturally enough such lower-ranked officers would normally be working for higher-ups in the force.

But then we learn that the “investigation” will be completed by week’s end. We can’t help but wonder. For many investigations, the cops take years and decades. A cover up? Perhaps. After all, “police spokesman Pol Maj Gen Yingyos Thepchamnong responded … during the censure debate” saying that “although it was difficult to prove the involvement of the officials, police ‘would try their best’ to establish what had happened.”

But then there’s the neat bit:

Torsak

Last Wednesday, Pol Lt Gen Torsak Sukwimol, commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), assigned Pol Lt Col Ekkasit To-adithep, a member of the bureau’s working group on special crime suppression, to file a defamation charge with the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) against the administrator of a Facebook page called Sanap Sanun Patibatkan Tamruat (“We support police operations”).

Pol Lt Col Ekkasit said the Facebook page published details and a photo of Pol Lt Gen Torsak in a manner that misled the public about Pol Lt Gen Torsak’s alleged role in the 2019 drug case.

Provincial Police Region 6 had already investigated Pol Lt Gen Torsak’s alleged involvement in the case and at the time he was cleared of any wrongdoings.

We all know who Torsak is and the power and influence he has amassed being close to the palace. He was mentioned in the censure debate. But the thing that PPT recalled was that earlier post we had on Torsak. In it we stated:

Torsak has been moving up for several years.He now finds himself in demand for all manner of activities and clearly enjoys the limelight. One of the most intriguing reports we located was his association with the Chinese-Thai Global One Belt One Road Association, formerly known as Hokien International Chinese Cultural Association, formerly chaired by the Democrat Party’s Alongkorn Ponlaboot.

We wonder why all those links have been removed….

Update: Khaosod has an excellent reflection on some of the issues mentioned above. Police spokespersons went to ground. Among other things it states:

During Friday’s no-confidence debate, Rangsiman said 20 police officers were exempted from the official criteria for a promotion and fast tracked to a higher position after their names were listed in “The Elephant Ticket.”

The ticket is said to be a document signed by Royal Household Bureau sec-gen Sathitpong Sukvimol, who asked a certain institution for permission to vault those men up their ranks.

The promotions were granted, even though Sathitpong – whose previous positions include the head of the Crown Property Bureau – does not currently have any formal position in the police force.

Mentions of the “Elephant Ticket” appear to be mentioned for the first time in an investigative report by MGR Online news agency back in 2017.

“The best kind of Ticket, or promotion recommendation letter, that has never been refused, no matter what the requested positions are, is called Elephant Ticket,” the article said. “This fact is only known within the police circle.”

 





Further updated: The company they keep

6 02 2021

Readers might have noticed that the Bangkok Post had a story about police arresting Sia Po Po-arnon – aka Apirak Chatharnon and Apirak Anon- described as “a net idol, former celebrity boxer, former House adviser on gambling…“. He was taken in on “charges of organising online gambling.”

At his house, it is reported that “police also arrested his follower, Pacharapol Chansawang, and 25 Myanmar workers, and seized a gun and 11 bullets for examination.”

We don’t usually follow “celebrity” news, but this one got our attention because of his links to the regime and royalism.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

It was in August last year that “a House working group on whether to legalise online gambling invited … [Sia Po] to participate in its deliberations as an adviser.” At the same time, Palang Prachachat appointed “another possible [sic] gambling tycoon Pol Lt-Colonel Santhana Prayoonrat to advise the task force…”.

As we recall it, it was a regime party that issued the invitation for Sia Po. It came from “Palang Pracharat Party MP Arun Sawasdee” who wanted advice the committee because Sia Po had “earned a name for himself for being a successful gambler in international casinos.”

The international gambler said: “I will accept the position of adviser, but will not get into politics” before saying he didn’t accept it. With such vagaries, who knows what was really going on. What we do know is that the military’s party was inviting gangsters to advise them.

What kind of dark influence is Sia Po and how does he fit in with the great and the “good”? We only searched the Bangkok Post and came up with plenty.

The first report we found was from early 2018, when he was arrested at the home of Wiphakorn Sukpimai when he claimed he “answered a distress call from her…”. He said his arrest was a set-up as she had “lent him more than 50 million baht in a gambling venture and now want[ed] the money back…”. Describing him as a “celebrity boxer and social media personality,” he was said to be armed.

He seems to have been engaged in some kind of standover operation and was in dispute with the equally shady Wanchalerm Yubamrung also over gambling money. Sia Po and Wanchalerm are Thonburi gangsters.

Not long after, Wiphakorn “posted images of her former lover, Sia Po …, taking drugs. She added she was helping police with inquiries into claims that Sia Po and his ‘gang’ liked to give unwitting victims drugs, film them secretly, and blackmail them.” Sia Po later admitted that the images were of him, but claimed he was in Cambodia at the time.

The next time we see him in the press is as a leader of a vigilante group and behaving very much like a mafia gangster, “demanding 24 men detained there for Sunday’s intrusion at Mathayomwatsing School apologise for disrupting the university entrance exams.” He led a gang of “about 100 supporters,” declaring that the “men who raided the secondary school had defied the law. He and other people from Bangkok’s Thon Buri area decided to visit the men and warn them about their behaviour.”

In another pro-law-and-order stunt, in late 2019, Sia Po was associated with a “100 million baht cash handout to flood victims in the Northeast, money he claims was raised from unnamed casinos across the border.” He posted images of himself “unpacking bundles of used 1,000 baht notes ready to hand out to flood victims.” Some said he was “trying to rehabilitate his image” after the drugs, standover, money laundering, and gambling events described above. He was supported by arch-royalist Bin Bunluerit.

Somehow or other, the next time we see him, SIa Po is promoting a skincare product and then complaining that “fraudsters on the net are impersonating his name in the venture and siphoning off customer’s money.” They must have been either brave fraudsters, willing to risk the wrath of the Sia Po gang, or in cahoots with him in scamming the public. But, the plot thickened. He trotted off to the police saying “11 customers had been deceived with total losses of about 10,000 baht.” Really? And he offered a reward 10 times that amount. Fishy? You bet.

Then, in May 2020, we find Sia Po at odds with Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s supporters. A couple of weeks later, described as “well known as a donor to worthy causes,” he’s blaming “a falling out with a politician for his latest troubles with the law, after police told him he is facing money laundering charges stemming from an online gambling case.” He grumbled that the unnamed politician had “tampered with a picture online to make it look as if I was bad-mouthing the monarchy, and took an old clip of me encouraging Thais to gamble and spread it about the net to defame me further…”. In tru godfather style, Sia Po said “he was confident his case doesn’t qualify as money laundering.” He “explained: “It’s true that I gamble across the border, but Thai law doesn’t apply there and I don’t bring the money back.”

Soon after, Sia Po “was arrested after he turned himself in to police for questioning about a wild shootout in Bangkok in which two men were wounded.” He went to the police station at 3am, with “Santhana Prayoonra, a former deputy superintendent of Special Branch Police.” It is standard practise for influential persons to get influential police or military figures to attend police stations with them – it is about pressuring smaller people.

It is stated that Santhana:

was sacked from the police force for serious disciplinary violations and stripped of his rank, effective Oct 31, 2002, and his royal decorations were recalled. The announcement was published in the Royal Gazette on Oct 30, 2018, as reported by Thai media.

The report states Sia Po: “was accused of shooting and wounding two men in front of Saree Sauna&Spa shop on Ratchaphreuk Road in Bang Wa area, Phasicharoen district, on Tuesday night.” This happened as rival gangs met. Sia Po told police:

… he was a regular customer at the massage shop. He was there with three friends. His brother Khemmathat had made an appointment with two rival men, identified only as Tang and Tua, to meet at a liquor store on the same road, not far from the massage shop.

The talks broke down and afterwards Mr Khemmathat and about 10 friends came to meet him at the massage shop….

A shootout ensued, apparently involving more than 200 gang members and scores of shots fired. Of course, Sia Po claimed he was unarmed. Even so, police “arrested him on charges of colluding in attempted murder, illegal possession of a firearm, carrying it in public and firing shots.” Two men were taken to hospital, one shot in the mouth and another shot in the backside.

He was released on bail, with Santhana acting as “guarantor.” It is stated: “The Thon Buri Criminal Court granted him temporary release on bail with a surety of 350,000 baht. No conditions were set for his release.”

Royalists together

Not long after, Sia Po “found himself an unwitting accomplice after a disgraced senior policeman accused a well-known rescue worker of helping himself to public funds.”

It all revolved around a royal donation/self promotion scam campaign: “Sia Po had offered to donate money to a royal fund-raising project at Siriraj Hospital after he was contacted by Bin Binluerit … asking if he would like to help…. In return for his cash, the hospital, which is raising funds for a building in honour of King Rama IX, would issue pink T-shirts with the royal insignia for Thais to wear.”

It is all way too complicated – the royal association makes for weird reporting – but it seems Sia Po said he would stump up “20 million baht to help Thais wanting to turn out to see His Majesty.” We assume the live king, not the dead one. It also seems that the company supplying the shirts for Siriraj had produced hundreds of thousands and was not shifting them. Not by coincidence, the businessman behind the Siriraj scheme was reportedly the owner of the factory pumping out the shirts. So big buyers were needed to shift the royal shirts (not an unusual practice). Sia Po was to take 300,000.

But the whole scam scheme came undone when “Sia Po was arrested for the shooting outside the Saree Sauna&Spa shop…”. When he was bailed, his:

guarantor was his friend Santhana … who was to play a role in the hospital funds drama…. In May 2018 he was also charged with extorting money from vendors at Don Muang New Market. Sia Po found that with the legal case pending he could no longer transfer funds….

Reportedly, as happens in gang wars, Santhana began to lean on Bin. Using his connections in the police, and said to be accompanied by Sia Po, “Santhana … asked police to look into Bin’s role in the fund-raising effort.” As expected in a corrupt set of arrangements involving police, the dismissed Santhana:

… saw the newly appointed national police chief, Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, on Dec 9, and … followed that up with a visit to the Crime Suppression Division where he sought to lay charges against Bin of attempted fraud, asking for donations without consent, Computer Act offences, and making false claims on behalf of the monarchy.

The Post account added “a new twist to a strange affair” with Sia Po and Santhana suddenly donating “2 million baht to Siriraj Hospital’s fund-raising campaign, along with 20,000 pink T-shirts to be distributed to the public.”

Still described as a “net idol and former celebrity boxer,” Sia Po then took up his role as “adviser” to a “working group of the House select committee on law, justice and human rights, which is mulling changes to the gambling law,” pitching for legalized online gambling. With a straight face, Sia Po explained that his role was not political: “I don’t want to mess with politics. I want to protect my honesty…”. The honest crook’s role was explained:

Arun Sawasdee, Songkhla MP from the Palang Pracharath Party, who sits on the panel, said MPs wanted to know if online gambling could be controlled better.

Members invited Sia Po, who faces charges of money laundering and enticing Thais to gamble online, and is well known for his ties to casinos across the border, to speak to MPs, because of his “knowledge” in this area.

Guess who else was invited to provide information to the panel: “They also invited another city identity with a colourful past, former deputy superintendent of the Special Branch Police Santhana Prayoonrat, to testify.” What a surprise!

This is not an unusual situation. What is unusual is the level of reporting. We have only scratched the surface in one English-language newspaper. It tells us how deeply-rooted corruption is within this regime. We do not say that similar situations were not evident in earlier regimes, but this story well and truly shows the links between regime, police and criminals (dark influences). Put this together with a regime party that has deputy ministers who are convicted heroin traffickers and political quislings and you see that the whole structure is rotten to the roots.

And the rottenness infects everything right up and into the palace. Older readers will recall that Prince Vajiralongkorn had to repeatedly deny his involvement with crime figures.

Update 1: A reader asked for a source for Vajiralongkorn denying he was a mafia boss or associated with criminal gangs. Here’s a UPI report.

As we finished the above post, another gambling report came out in the Bangkok Post. This report concludes with this:

The CIB chief made it clear this police action had nothing to do with the arrest of Siapo Po-arnon, a professed gambler who advised a House panel on the possible legalisation of online gambling.

Siapo, real name Apirak  Chat-anon, 29, was arrested at his house on Phetkasem Road in Phasicharoen district of Bangkok on Thursday morning. He allegedly operated an online gambling website.

Maybe. It sure sounds like a scam he’d be associated with and the arrest sounds very similar to Sia Po’s own arrest a few days earlier. Perhaps it is just the police cleaning out competition for their own scams? Who knows, this is murky and getting murkier. There are interesting elements to the report. One is that the information is coming from Pol Lt Gen Torsak Sukvimol, the CIB chief.

Last time we saw his rank, Torsak was deputy head of the CIB. Now he’s reported as boss. Of course, he’s also head of the king’s “Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King’s Guard 904.” He’s also reported to be the “younger brother of the King’s highly trusted Air Chief Marshal Sathitpong Sukwimol (secretary to the Crown Prince, Director-General of the Crown Property Bureau and the Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau).”

Torsak stated that the operation had “more than one billion baht in bets in circulation…”.

Update 2: It is reported that, following his arrest last week, Sia Po remains in jail, denied bail. It also reports that his mother is being sought by police for involvement in his schemes and scams. While all of this is interesting and reflective of the deep-rooted corruption among the elite in Thailand, we can’t help wondering about royal involvement. This feels somewhat like earlier purges of powerful criminals following falling out at the top. No evidence, just observing a feeling we have.





Updated: Tools

25 01 2021

There’s a slang term we heard recently, when a dope was referred to as a “tool.” We had to look it up and came up with this:

Someone who others normally refer to as a prick, dick, or schmuck.

Then there’s the version that is:

A guy with a hugely over-inflated ego, who in an attempt to get undue attention for himself, will act like a jackass, because, in his deluded state, he will think it’s going to make him look cool, or make others want to be like him….

Which brings us to Veera Prateepchaikul’s latest op-ed. Veera felt the need to boil over on the vaccine crisis. Veera, along with Somchai Jitsuchon, research director for inclusive development at the Thailand Development Research Institute, both defend the vaccine deal with the king’s company, Siam Bioscience.

Somchai said “he had come came across no evidence of Thailand paying too much, although he admitted he was no expert in the subject.” Somchai is an adviser to Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, a point not made by the Post. He did say “he did not know much about why Siam Bioscience Co was picked as local vaccine manufacturer for AstraZeneca,” but still defended the deal. You get the murky picture.

Veera, also no expert, and a sucker fish rather than an adviser, favored a more aggressive attack on Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit while posterior polishing the dead king.

After all that dirty work, Veera admitted that “Thanathorn raised a few valid questions about the vaccine deal between Siam Bioscience and Oxford-AstraZeneca,” which still haven’t been answered, but accused him of doing this “from the perspective of someone unaware of the background of the deal.” Now, this is an odd criticism when Thanathorn was raising questions about the secrecy and opacity of the deal.

Veera reckons Thanathorn “did not do his homework before talking publicly,” and essentially deserves a lese majeste charge or two.

Which brings us to Veera’s homework and here we don’t mean on how to polish royal ass while protecting your own. How’s Veera feeling about the Thai Enquirer report that “India offered to sell over 2 million doses of their AstraZeneca-licensed vaccine [but] was rejected by the Thai government…”?

How’s Veera feeling when he learns that:

According to sources within the Indian government, the offer to supply the same vaccine, at cost, to Thailand (up to 2 million doses initially) was also presented to Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai but was rejected outright.

We don’t imagine that Don is an expert on vaccines either.

What does Veera think when he discovers: “The Ministry of Affairs … told Thai Enquirer that it was ‘better’ to get local vaccines ‘from the Ministry of Public Health or the vaccine institute’.” Which institute would that be?

How’s Veera going with political analyst Arun Saronchai’s comment?:

“I think you’re seeing this dogmatic and stubborn approach because there are people that stand to benefit from the government maintaining its course and insisting on locally-produced AstraZeneca vaccines and importing SinoVac vaccines.”

Of course, this leads back to Siam Bioscience and CP investment in the China shot.

How is that Veera’s royalist homework didn’t lead to this:

According to local news reports and whistleblower statements from inside the government, Thailand is set to pay up to 60 per cent more per dose for both the SinoVac vaccine and the Astrazeneca vaccine drawing criticisms of corruption and embezzlement from the opposition parties.

Meanwhile, confirming that lack of transparency, the erratic Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul responded to Thanathorn’s “call for the government to make public the contract signed between AstraZeneca and Siam Bioscience, the local vaccine-making factory, saying that was impossible as both parties were private companies, not organisations under the government.” So how’s the deal work then and why is the government defending it so vigorously. And so the circle is completed….

Update: Remarkably, the Post has published what looks like a paid-PR effort by Siam Bioscience, which reproduces the limited information provided at its website. Interestingly, the company explains its lack of preparedness and tells of “the deal”:

The mission to manufacture this COVID-19 vaccine is supported by the National Vaccine Institute, Ministry of Public Health, with a budget of almost 600 million baht, with an additional 100 million baht budgeted by Siam Cement Group (SCG). This will enable preparation of the manufacturing facilities and processes. In return for the government support, Siam Bioscience will procure the AstraZeneca vaccine with a value equivalent to the funding it receives and will give the vaccine to the Thai government to support vaccine availability to the public.

Clearly, the regime must now release the details of the agreements made as this statement raises all kinds of issues that cannot be resolved when transparency is not provided.





Army impunity

24 01 2021

The impunity enjoyed by officials has a long history in Thailand but it is undeniable that it has expanded and deepened since the the 2006 military coup. Under the current regime there is essentially zero accountability for officials. Sure, there are occasional “crackdowns” and the odd prosecution, but the rule that officials can get away with stuff – even murder – holds.

In a Bangkok Post editorial, questions are raised about the Royal Thai Army, which celebrated “its strength and solidarity” on Armed Forces Day.

The editorial asks the public to “keep in mind that military officials still owe a few explanations on its pledge to reform, following several cases, including the Korat mass shooting last year that left a huge stain on its image.”

Clipped from Khaosod

It points out that on 8-9 February 2020, a disgruntled soldier “shot and killed 29 innocent people and wounded 57 others in Nakhon Ratchasima…”. The 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.”

A few days later, “then army chief Apirat Kongsompong promised to investigate the problem…”. In fact, he did nothing to change the underlying situation. Indeed, this corruption continues. The Post mentions an alleged “illegal allocation of over 70,000 rai of forest land in Nakhon Ratchasima for a real estate project involving senior army officers.”

Yes, the very same province as the mass shooting. The Post adds that there “have been no reports of an investigation, let alone progress and punishment of culprits.”

The Post then recalls the unexplained death of a military conscript – there’s been more than one case – and asks: “How can the RTA restore public trust when it is entrenched in scandals? Why should the public trust a force of armed men who can barely be transparent in their affairs?”

How many times have we heard such pleading. In fact, it is as many times as reform has been rejected by the military as the Army maintains it impunity and its control.

We should note that the Post editorial mistakenly states that the Korat shooting “is considered the deadliest mass shooting in the kingdom’s history.” This mistake reflects some big omissions.

The biggest is the murder of almost a hundred red shirts and bystanders in April and May 2010. Who has been held accountable? No one from the Army.

Who killed protesters in 1992? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered civilian protesters at Thammasat University on 6 October 1976? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered civilian protesters on 14 October 1973? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered people at Kru Se in 2004 and Tak Bai the same year? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

What about the enforced disappearances of activists and unexplained murder of civilians like Chaiyapoom Pasae? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

The list could go on and on and on.





Blame thyself

11 01 2021

A couple of days ago PPT pointed to an article discussing the long-standing failures of the police.

There’s an another article on police corruption, concentrating on anti-democrat Kaewsan Atibhodhi. Oddly, Thai PBS refers to this royalist propagandist as an “academic,” but that seems par for the course in the mainstream media.

He blames the current virus outbreak as a product of “COVID mafia.” This term refers to “corrupt officials who work hand in glove with local influential figures involved in illegal gambling, in eastern region of Thailand, and with human trafficking gangs, who smuggle migrant workers from Myanmar into Samut Sakhon province and illegal Thai workers from Myanmar back into Thailand.”

Kaewsan

Kaewsan claims that the “mafia system” is a “network” between “state officials and local influential figures…”. He reckons “that the influential figure in Rayong province has managed to buy the entire police force, be it the local police and the Bangkok police, including the Crime Suppression Division, by dealing with just one group of state officials.”

He went on to lament that “he didn’t expect the police will ever be reformed under the present government, and there is no real opposition in the parliament either, but only the vengeful group of politicians and another group bent on toppling the Monarchy.”

We do not disagree with Kaewsan’s assessment. However, as a lamentable royalist and a supporter of two military coups, he misses the most significant point: Kaewsan and his ilk bear considerable responsibility because it is they who, as anti-democrats, have supported the system that promotes this corruption and the impunity enjoyed by military, police and officials. By supporting regimes that roll back notions of responsibility and accountability and make impunity a central element of governance, they reinforce this kind of corruption.

Since the 2006 military coup and especially since the 2014 coup, the police force has not been cleansed or reformed. Rather, as we have said, it has been made royalist and junta/post-junta regime friendly. Constant corruption operates as a reward for loyalty and a lubrication for the the hierarchy.

Because of his complicity, Kaewsan is unable to speak the truth.