Rubbery figures

6 01 2020

Convicted heroin smuggler and teflon-coated deputy minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives Thammanat Prompow says he will press ahead with his “plan”  to “give away 30 million latex pillows to support rubber farmers hit by low prices.”

Clipped from Khaosod

Thammanat is asking cabinet to approve “an initial allocation of 4 billion baht from a central budget to procure the first batch of 3 million pillows to be distributed to the public and 433,702 pillows to state agencies … from Feb 1 to Nov 3.” By our calculations, that’s about 1,165 baht (about $39) for each pillow.

Expensive? Bangkok Latex retails high-end latex pillows for about 1000 baht or about $30. Alibaba advertises them for around $4-$10 or 120-300 baht. So we guess that someone or a gang high up in the hierarchy and/or government could be raking in $20 or so on each pillow or more than $68 million.

But that calculation assumes the figures in the story are correct and that PPT’s poor math skills are up to the task. A later line in the story is that Thammanat wants the scheme to run until 2023 at a cost of 18 billion baht for 30 million pillows, suggesting a cost of just 600 baht per pillow. Even that lower figure would suggest “commissions” and “takes” of about 50% or 9 billion baht or $300 million.

This idea is advertised as being about raising the latex price for farmers, so perhaps not all the loot is being pocketed by the big boys. But, here, the data provided suggests that farmers will be getting an extra 20 baht on top of the current market price of around 40-45 baht per kilogram.  That still leaves plenty of loose change for the already powerful and wealthy.

In addition, other state funds will go to shoring up the Marketing Organization for Farmers, providing additional skimming opportunities.

Having a convicted crook running a ministry where taxpayer funds can be easily diverted to private pockets is not a new scam, but Thammanat seems to be able to get away with murder.

Wasn’t the Yingluck government the subject of criticism, demonstrations, violence and a military coup for shoring up rice prices as around the same rate?





Defining 2019

1 01 2020

Several recent topics, actions and reports have defined 2019 under the junta, its military-backed “elected” government and the ever more powerful monarchy:

Law for the rich and powerful

Suchanee Cloitre (clipped from LePetitJournal.com)

Reporters Without Borders has condemned a “draconian two-year jail sentence that Thai journalist Suchanee Cloitre … received for allegedly defaming an agribusiness company [Thammakaset] in … Lop Buri in a tweet more than three years ago…”.

This is the maximum sentence given and its for an old tweet in an old case, where the journalist for Voice TV told the truth – the company was treating its workers as if they were slaves.

Her tweet was about a court “ordering Thammakaset to compensate 14 migrant workers who had been forced to work up to 20 hours a day on the company’s chicken farms while being paid less than the minimum wage and no overtime.”

When she referred to “slave labour,” the company sued.

In criminal defamation cases, truth is irrelevant. These cases flutter about like confetti as the rich and powerful use their law to silence critics. This includes the current regime. The media is so cowed by such cases that almost no one is prepared to tell the truth.

Going backwards

Khaosod reports on yet another effort directed by King Vajiralongkorn to erase all symbols of the 1932 revolution. This is the latest in a string of secret, then semi-secret and now brazenly open efforts by the palace to de-memorialize 1932 and replace it with symbols of the monarchy.

History is being re-constructed as we watch.

In this instance, memorials to two leaders of the 1932 revolution – Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena and Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram – “are due to be removed from public view…” at a military base in Lopburi.

Apparently, the statues will be sent to a museum. We fear they will be destroyed.

It is no surprise that the statues will be replaced by “a new statue depicting the late King Bhumibol…”. No one will be permitted to contest the palace’s actions. A military spokesman stated that the two statues were “commoner statues [and] have to make way for the new [royal] statue…”.

In addition, the military base which “bears the name of Phahol Pholphayuhasena, will also be renamed to King Bhumibol Base per an instruction from the current monarch…”.

When will Thais stand up for their history?

Royal Household Bureau via Khaosod

An op-ed writer in Manila has bought the monarchist nonsense piled high in Thailand. He seems to believe that Thailand is “stabilized” by a “revered” monarchy.

Vajiralongkorn hopes this monarchism infects the citizens of Thailand to facilitate his reign, rule and grasping.

So far, he’s getting his way. And the king seems very intent on getting his way: land, money, laws, constitution, wives (who come and go) and much more. The more he gets the more he wants.

The missing … and “protecting” monarchy and regime

Vajiralongkorn and his henchmen in the military seem to have gotten his way on disappearing some of his opponents – probably meant as a “message” to anyone who dares speak against the monarchy. They should not be forgotten.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

When they are not being murdered, political opponents are bashed .It is this regime of fear seems to have replaced the use of lese majeste.

Clipped from VOA News

We feel that this strategy has been devised by the palace in an effort to maintain both monarchy and military-backed government.

Regime gangsters

All of this “protection” serves monarchy and regime well (at least for the moment).

After manufacturing an election “victory,” the razor-thin majority that allowed the military junta to steal government, it has protected ministers and members who are needed to maintain the huge, unwieldy and Election Commission manufactured coalition.

Perhaps the best example of protection is deputy minister Thammanat Prompao, a convicted heroin smuggler. He also flaunts fake university degrees. But he’s not just a political fixer for the government’s Palang Pracharath Party who is being protected. He claims connections to the top.

When under arrest in Australia, he “told police he had worked as a bodyguard for the then crown prince of Thailand, had been an army spy…, and ran a side business while serving as an assistant to a top general.” That’s how it works in Vajiralongkorn’s Thailand.

Then there’s Palang Pracharath MP Pareena Kraikupt and her father. Her recent case of acquiring and using land that is supposed to be for poor farmers and/or national park seems unlikely to go anywhere as a cover up goes on.

The only thing keeping the issue in the cowed media is her father’s penchant for hit-and-run driving and mad media conferences, filled with lies. Once he’s quiet, watch Pareena squeeze out of her own problems. The regime prefers no criticism of it or its MPs.

Again, the rich and powerful can get away with murder (probably literally in Thammanat’s case), heroin smuggling, theft and other misdemeanors.

Make overs for the evil

Perhaps the weirdest of all news reports in late 2019 was when local “anti-corruption agencies awarded the Thai army for having the highest score on transparency and integrity among government agencies at an event held to commemorate the International Anti-corruption Day on Dec 9. It scored 97.96 points out of 100.” Weird, unbelievable and very silly. However, the point is the whitewashing. The powerful seem to relish whitewashing almost as much as it relishes ill-gotten gains.

Eating the state

Corruption is a bit old-hat these days as there are plenty of ways to feed at the breast of the private sector as it exploits the state and Thai taxpayers.

We couldn’t help noticing that on 15 December it was reported: “Airports of Thailand (AoT) is likely to scrap bidding to run duty-free pick-up counters at Don Mueang airport after only one company [King Power] expressed interest in the contest.” Of course, AoT didn’t. A few days later it was reported that the “board of Airports of Thailand Plc has awarded a 10.5-year duty-free concession at Don Mueang airport to King Power Duty Free Co, which offered a yearly 1.5-billion-baht minimum return…”. King Power, the current monopoly duty free store at all airports now has new 10-year contracts for all those airports.

There must be many in various military and state offices – right to the top – who will benefit from these new contracts.

Somehow we doubt that 2020 will be better than 2019.





Updated: Open-mouthed disbelief I

11 07 2019

Several stories caught PPT’s collective eye over the past couple of days.

The first is about Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the Watchman,” who has been clearing his office at the Ministry of Defence to make way for Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha.  But little else seems to have changed for for Gen Prawit.

A story at Khaosod of another bit of “casual corruption” associated would be funny if it wasn’t so reflective of a regime that has descended into old ways of military-bosses-cum-politicians.

Serial complainer Srisuwan Janya, who operates off social media posts in making his hundreds of petitions, has “filed a complaint to probe the police’s purchase of a 1.14 billion baht jet for ferrying deputy junta chairman [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwan and his entourage…”.

Srisuwan’s complaint plagiarizes social media “outrage at photos of the junta’s second-in-command exiting a private [police] jet with a flight attendant in tow…”.

The little bit of tycoon lifestyle for Gen. Prawit tripping about in a Dassault Falcon 2000S is said to have been purchased “by the police … [for] about 350 million baht more than the global market price.”

The price for a new one is about $30 million. That is a lot of taxpayer loot for a force that usually buys vehicles like the Toyota Camry and, for its pampered bosses, a BMW 5 or a Mercedes 600. Its aviation division has a Fokker 50 turboprop airliner in addition to the Falcon and more than 70 helicopters.

Srisuwan asks – we presume rhetorically – “Why does Thailand like to buy things at a higher price than other people? Or was there some special [deal] that they haven’t revealed to the people?”

Clipped from Khaosod

The jet is said to have cost 1.14 billion baht, which seems about 159 million baht over the list price. Expect the police to say that the extra cash went to fit-out, training and/or spare parts rather than into any boss’s pocket.

So far, the efforts of the police spokesman are laughable, claiming the “plane was a sound investment,” and saying it carried not just Gen Prawit and “the police commissioner and other high-ranking officials.” What a life! They don’t have to deal with the hoi polloi in regular planes or put up with noisy turboprops. The spokesman adds that the new plane can fly when helicopters can’t (but so can the Fokker).

Not only that, but the Falcon can be used for other “important assignments … like government inspections, drug raids, and to follow up crucial investigations.” A $30 million business jet for “investigations”? Right, but probably not investigations of police corruption.

While on the police, we notice that they have, as claimed several times, been hard at work on the cases involving the assault of political activists. Indeed, they have brought charges! Khaosod reports that police have

arrested … eight Facebookers accused of spreading [allegedly] false reports on social media that the police were behind the attack on June 28 that left pro-democracy campaigner Sirawith [Seritiwat] in critical condition. All of the suspects were charged with cybercrimes….

The report adds that police claim that the eight “confessed to claiming on Facebook that deputy police commissioner Chaiwat Ketworachai sent four men under his command to attack Sirawith.”

No one expects the police to arrest the thugs responsible for the cowardly attacks but the Facebookers, slapped with computer crimes charges that can mean up to seven years in prison.

As PPT predicted, “investigations” into the attack on Sirawith is being “hampered” because “some cameras were out of service and failed to capture the assailants’ flight from the scene…”. That’s the usual excuse when a cover-up is underway.

A third story that causes open-mouthed disbelief is also at Khaosod. Just confirmed as Deputy Minister for Agriculture is “dark influence” Thammanat Prompao, a member of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party.

Deputy Prime Minister under the junta and now under the “new” junta-engineered government, Wissanu Krea-Ngam has said that Thammanat’s “eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary.” The story continues, with Wissanu claiming:

In the past, there was an MP who had been prosecuted in Hong Kong for drug trafficking, but his status was not affected in Thailand…. Although his reputation among many things might have been impacted, his deeds and ethical standards have to be considered separately.

On Thammanat, it is known that he’s allegedly been involved in all kinds of activities that many consider “shady.” As the report states:

Thammanat was once stripped of his military rank for alleged involvement in a murder case in 1998, but was reinstated after the court acquitted him.

The latest allegations against Thammanat came after an opposition politician claimed he was previously convicted of a crime in a foreign country. No public records of such conviction could be found as of publication time.

Now that a government has been formed – it still has to present its policy to parliament – look to all kinds of internal jostling for a place at the trough.

Update: In another report staggering under a mound of buffalo manure, police claim that they have not – yes, they haven’t – demanded an exchange of police protection for Sirawith being politically silent. Not only that, but the police claim they would never, ever, never ask a political activist not to engage in political activity. Well, it wasn’t the police saying it, but Deputy Defence Minister Gen Chaichan Changmongkol. But we guess that the Army speaks for the police these days. But, really, this is just the usual lies from senior figures. This kind of buffalo manure will only cease to flow when such idiocies and the dolts who make such claims are called out, again and again. The truth is out there, but these fools work with manure rather than truth.





Shaky regime IV

25 06 2019

It is possible that the junta and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha are simply not interested in convening a government or cabinet. Or it might be that the regime, despite all of its efforts is simply unable to do either.

At present, three months after the junta’s “election,” Gen Prayuth seems more or less invisible. What’s he doing or – more to the point – what is he not doing?

Around him, political grenades are going off. Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and the anti-democrat Democrat Party are in dispute. And it is a personalized dispute. And other coalition “partners” are grumbling that promises are being broken.

Meanwhile, junta lackey Wissanu Krea-ngam says the process is moving on, with “background checks had begun for those chosen to be cabinet members.” He grumbled that eligibility is being checked “according to the law and general suitability.”

Does that mean no crooks? That hardly seems likely in a huge coalition of crooks and anti-democrats.

Speaking of crooks, is anyone keeping count of the number of huge contracts being heaved out to junta friends in this supposedly interim period.

 





Shaky regime II

19 06 2019

In an earlier post, PPT commented on claims that the junta’s regime is in trouble. There, we discussed how a weakened regime might use the military.

The Dictator has admitted that:

the new cabinet lineup may be less than perfect, as there is little he can do about the proposed candidates who have been criticised for their public image.

“Public image” has to do with the fact that, like governments of the late 20th century, look like a buffet for crooks. One example is the blatant nepotism of Capt Thammanat Prompao, a Palang Pracharat MP for Phayao and chief of its strategic committee in the North. He’s considered a crook controversial figure, so can’t be a minister. His response is “let a family member take a ministerial post.” So slippery, so easy, so corrupt.

The junta, like juntas before it, seize power and then they and their buddies graze on the taxpayer funds and budgets.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, responsible for the “rules” that now envelop him, says of the political allies, crooks, party hacks, friends and relatives who will make cabinet is what he has to deal with: “We cannot reject anyone.” He babbled something about “democracy,” but he’s talking weak coalition government. And that is exactly what he and his junta “designed” in their efforts to defeat “Thaksinism.”

If things go bad, Gen Prayuth says he can reshuffle cabinet, in the manner of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda in the 1980s. Like Prem, he can also hope that he can rely on the military and repression.

And, as an article at Prachatai points out, following suggestions by rabid anti-democrat Paiboon Nititawan, Gen Prayuth’s yet to be convened government could look at using the Senate if it falls into minority status in the lower House.

If we at PPT were prone to gambling, in the short-term, we’d be betting on military-backed repression and pressure on recalcitrant MPs and ministers. If that fails, look for a “self-coup” to return power to a junta.





Junta hard at work

14 06 2019

Still working to get a government together, the junta remains very active. There’s no such thing as a caretaker government when the “new” government to be is also the junta’s.

The Dictator yesterday “exercised the all-powerful Section 44 to bring more than 20,000 illegal hotels and accommodation services nationwide under better state control and boost safety for guests.” That order is said to be “aimed at making accommodation services which have violated laws related to land use, city planning, building control and hotel businesses legal.” At about the same time, a military task force, led by the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) Region 4, and supported by police, “raided a cluster of 23 luxury hilltop villas on Koh Samui found to be illegally operating as a high-end hotel.”

Here’s the rub of dictatorship: The Dictator wields dictatorial powers and the military is running raids for which they are unaccountable. That the two acts contract each other is neither here nor there because Gen Prayuth Chan-och can do whatever he wants and it’s “legal.” We can’t help wondering what he will do after he’s got a government in place. We guess he’ll resort to threats and violence.

On the high-end resort, could we guess that this is a kind of mafia action. After all, the place has been high-profile and operating for eight years. Something’s happened to suggest that the usual pay-offs may be being re-routed.

Meanwhile, the same military boss has used Article 44 to “suspend the process of selecting new members of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC)…”.

The order comes as the “three mobile operators — Advanced Info Service, True Move H Universal Communication and Total Access Communication — are due to submit proposals to buy 700MHz spectrum licences, meant for the 5G network, on June 19.”

We are only guessing, but assume that deals have been done, kickbacks arranged, and so there is a need to maintain the existing “partnerships.”





Helping friends and supporters

19 04 2019

The military junta has managed to stare down efforts to investigate its corruption. It has been able to do this by intimidation and because it has made puppets of all the state and “independent” agencies that are meant to investigate corruption. And, of course, the friends, supporters and companies that benefit are happy to pocket the gains.

So it is quite something to see that a private sector peak body has “slammed the government for giving Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) latitude in handling the controversial duty-free shop bidding, demanding accountability for a process that would damage the country.”

For a decade, duty free has been a monopoly, commanded by the King Power group (search out tag for additional posts), massively enriching the late Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and his family and provided additional sustenance for associated political, military and royal “partners.”

This huge value of duty free stores is why there is now great competition to get hands on the goose and its golden eggs. And, it is why there’s some voice being heard about the shenanigans over the bidding (both open and behind closed doors).

It is why Worawoot Ounjai, president of the Thai Retailers Association, has slammed “the latest ruling on the bidding process for the duty-free shop concession [that] will allow the AoT to arrange the bidding by itself.” Worawoot states: “As this [junta’s] administration comes to an end, we’ve witnessed much news about its decisions that benefit several business groups,…”.

He mentions a range of recent junta decisions and wheeling and dealing, “from high-speed trains and telecom to duty-free shop concessions,” and he pointedly says that “Thais have to ask this government if it will be responsible for future actions that bring damage to the country…”.

When business groups start demanding “accuracy and transparency,” you know that shady deals are being done. Worwoot declares:

We’ve seen poor results from this type of bidding before and called on the government for accuracy and transparency. But the answer comes as expected. We have to get over it because this is the state of our country.

If the election tinkering goes as expected and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party control government, bet on this situation worsening.