Managing the corruption system

1 02 2023

As often happens when authoritarian governments are in place for a long time, corruption becomes embedded, systemic, and necessary for keeping the corrupt together and supportive.

Of late, reports of corruption have been legion. Yet the Bangkok Post has a jubilant headline, “Thailand improves in corruption survey.” Seriously? It turns out that Transparency International has ranked Thailand 101 out of 180 in its ranking. The Post says the country’s score went up one point and adds:

In 2014, the year Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha staged a military coup, the country was ranked 85th, an improvement from 102nd in 2013. Its ranking rose to 76th in 2015 but plunged to 101st place the following year. It recovered to 96th in 2017 but then began a downward move to 99th in 2018, 101st place in 2019, 104th in 2020 and 110th in 2021.

Let’s be realistic. This is a ranking that puts Thailand among a bunch of dubious places. We’d guess that if perceptions were surveyed today, they’d plummet, largely thanks to the mafia gang known as the Royal Thai Police and the mammoth horse trading by the coalition parties.

Rotten to the core

While on the corrupt cops, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has mumbled something about a few bad apples in the police. He has “insisted that any police officers involved in extorting money from a Taiwanese actress during her trip to Thailand early this month must face legal action.” He added: “Don’t let the issue ruin the reputation of the whole police organisation.”

We are not sure which reputation he refers to. As far as we can tell, the organization is rotten to the core.

Gen Prayuth reckons “we must get rid of rogue ones…”. Our guess is that if he was serious – he isn’t – just about every senior officer would be gotten rid of. The corruption system siphons money up to the top. There’s been little effort to follow up on data revealed when the regime established its post-coup assembly. Back then, the average declared assets for the top brass in the police was a whopping 258 million baht.

Even when senior police display their loot, nothing is done. Who remembers former police chief Somyos Pumpanmuang? He stacked loot in public! He’s still wealthy.

The Post has another headline: “Court lets ‘Pinky’ remove electronic tag.” It reports:

Actress Savika “Pinky” Chaiyadej on Tuesday won approval from the Criminal Court to remove an electronic monitoring (EM) device she was required to wear after her release from jail on Nov 30 last year.

She is on bail, accused of defrauding millions in the Forex-3D ponzi scheme.How did her lawyers convince the judge?

Her lawyer lodged a request for the court’s permission to remove the EM device, saying it was an impediment to her show business career.

Of course, there’s no such leniency for lese majeste and other political prisoners when they eventually get bail (some, of course, never do). Double standards? You bet!

Double standards and corruption are a feature of the monarchy-military regime. Part of the reason for this is mutual back-scratching. Much that the regime does makes the bureaucrats more or less untouchable. The judiciary is always there in support on the important issues.

We note that another junta and Prayuth supporter, former charter writer Udom Rathamarit, has been appointed to the Constitutional Court. That is an important part of the whole corrupt system.





Nothing much changes

25 01 2023

Under the monarchy-military regime nothing much changes, even as the arrangement of the regime’s deckchairs is changing. There are so many recent stories that fir the “here-we-go-again” scenario that has marked the years since 2006. Here’s a selection from the past few days, leaving out the myriad of what are now everyday corruption stories:

At the Bangkok Post: It is 13 Years since the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime permitted the Royal Thai Army, commanded by Gen Anupong Paojinda and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, to murder red shirts. On Monday, former red shirt leaders “called on national police chief Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas to speed up investigations into the deaths of red-shirt protesters during their 2010 clashes with the military.”

“Speed up” is an interesting term given that since the 2014 military coup, there’s been no progress. We assume that Gen Prayuth’s administration has ordered that nothing be done.

At least 62 cases of remain unresolved. The regime has no interest in doing this as when cases were investigated, it was clear that the Army killed protesters.

From Thai Newsroom: Gen Prayuth has been urged to give up his free house currently provided by the Army:

Thai Liberal MP Napaporn Petjinda insisted that Prayut, who is seeking to retain power for two more years after the next general election, leave the army house in the premises of the First Infantry Regiment in Bangkok provided as free accommodation for him since the last several years.

Others who get taxpayer-funded housing on Army bases are Gen Anupong and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. Why? Who knows.

The report adds: “Those who are contesting the general election including members of cabinet are legally prohibited from using government property or personnel during their electoral campaigns.” One of the tame “anti-corruption” agencies that never finds against the regime once declared this corrupt practice to be fine and dandy.

Good people can be as bad as they like.

From The Nation: Some of the unelected dolts in the Senate reckon the regime, in all its splintering parties, might need some “legal” vote-buying by suggesting that every voter be given 500 baht for voting. Of course, Thailand regularly has very high voter turnout, but these brainless dyed hairs probably reckon that the “voluntary” voters are not the right ones, so an incentive is needed.

We don’t think this proposal will go anywhere, but it reflects the growing anxiety about the election and demonstrates (again) the vacant craniums the are strewn around the regime’s house of parliament.

From Thai PBS: The great fear that opposition parties might win an election is rattling the Thai PBS news desk. They reckon “[m]any were surprised to see master powerbroker Thammanat Prompow kneeling on stage to present a garland to Palang Pracharath leader General Prawit Wongsuwan, in a symbolic apology and show of remorse.” We assume that by “many,” they mean the Thai PBS news desk because everyone knew this was about to happen. But their real story is the fear that Thaksin Shinawatra is coming back.

Ho hum. Every campaign leading up to coup and election since 2006 has run this line. It remains to be seen if this call to yellow arms will again rally the faithful anti-Thaksin crowd.

From Prachatai: Reader might recall the case of Tun Min Latt and others arrested on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering, and the “lucky” escape of one of the junta’s approved senators Upakit Pachariyangkun. This report is about a court case, but the “fun” is in the details about what seems like Thailand’s largest criminal organization, the Royal Thai Police:

On the same day of the arraignment, the Inside Thailand news show reported that Pol Maj Kritsanat Thanasuphanat, the officer in the Metropolitan Police who took charge of the arrest of Tun Min Latt and the others, was ordered to be reassigned from Bangkok to an equivalent position in the northeastern province of Chaiyaphum. The news show interpreted this as a form of retribution for his bold performance.

“Bold performance” means doing what the police are usually empowered to do. Not running scams, cooperating with criminals, organising wealth extraction, running all kinds of crime activities, torturing and murdering people, arranging escapes for the rich and powerful, and all the other stuff that is reported on a daily basis as the Royal Thai Police’s “normal work.”





112 reform

29 10 2022

It is reported that the Move Forward Party has reiterated its “unwavering” policy support for the”amendment to the draconian lese majeste law.”

Apparently, the party was responding Bhum Jai Thai Party semi-leader and Deputy Prime Minister/Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and Chart Thai Pattana Party leader and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa who recently declared they were opposed to any effort to amend the law.

Parit Wacharasindhu announced that the party “will resolutely put forward concerted moves to amend the lese majeste law, also known as Section 112 of the Criminal Code, in order to uphold social and political justice and foster constructive relationship between the people and constitutional monarchy.”

Parit said the “law has been abusively and unjustly enforced by one party’s political opponents under the pretext of maintaining the highly-placed honours and prestige of the monarch and royal household.”

Interestingly, he also pointed to “some corruption-riddled government projects under the excuse of running what may be officially called ‘royal honour-celebrating projects’.”

The Move Forward Party is proposing limited reform: a maximum of  one year in jail or a maximum of 300,000 baht in fine for Article 112 convictions.

Abolition of the ridiculous law would be much better.





How corrupt are Thailand’s police?

20 09 2022

Very corrupt. Thailand ranks a low 24th of 100 countries included in Index Mundi’s Police Corruption Perceptions Index.

As explained at the website: “The purpose of the Police Corruption Perceptions Index is to provide a subjective measure of the level of corruption in a given country as perceived by its inhabitants.” The survey used asks: “How big of a problem is police corruption in the country where you live?”

Added to its in-bred corruption is the junta/military-backed regime’s politicization of the police since the 2014 military coup and the palace’s interventions in who gets to the top of one of the world’s most corrupt police forces.





Corrupt and powerful IV

6 09 2022

Yesterday, PPT’s post finished by linking to Rangsiman Rome’s comments on people in the police holding paid but non-existent positions. We added that we didn’t think this was confined to the cops. We said think the armed forces and the bureaucracy as well. And we asked who is pocketing the billions?

And, as we mentioned in that post, the Bangkok Post is taking a particular interest in the unfolding story. Today, the Post has more to say in an Editorial:

The phenomenon of “ghost recruitment” has cast a long shadow over how the government spends tax money to recruit staff to work in restive southernmost provinces.

The government cannot and must not treat this shameful phenomenon as just more of the same bureaucratic corruption. To prevent the scandal becoming a crisis, a fair and reliable probe must be launched to clear the air about recruitment practices at the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) — a pillar of our national security apparatus in the deep South….

We doubt that many will consider the Cold War era organization a “pillar” of anything much at all. It has been a semi-secret parallel administration that operates for the military. The secrecy associated with it and the more or less unbridled power it wields are the attributes that make it corrupt. It’s role as the military’s Gestapo means that its power and influence has penetrated all aspects of Thai politics as it works to maintain the royalist regime. To do that, its leaders are allowed to harvest the corruption crop. Just think how much loot is harvested when ISOC has 50,000 personnel – well, let’s say funded positions – in the deep south alone!

We can but wonder why the Post thinks “Isoc has handled some vital and risky missions with expertise and deserves its budget and resources.”





Updated: Corrupt and powerful I

30 08 2022

Several stories that have been developing demonstrate that the regime is rotten to the core.

The Bangkok Post reports that Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT), has raised questions regarding “the circumstances surrounding the case of an alleged maid-abusing police corporal.”

This is, of course, no ordinary corporal, but a well-connected one:

Mana pointed to the fact that not only had Pol Cpl Kornsasi Buayaem herself joined the police on the strength of a connection within force but she had then used her own influence to secure a military role for her former employee.

It had also been found that Pol Cpl Kornsasi had enjoyed the benefits afforded those who work full time at the agency without there being any record of her actually performing any duties.

He also asked how she could be recruited to “serve” in the southern region, where extra benefits are paid but had never been there.

Mana concluded: “The more I delve the more I have found distortion that desperately needs the reform of the police, the military, state administration, laws and the justice system itself…”. PPT has been writing of this for a decade.

Of course, the unspoken bit is that she’s connected to the family of regime bosses.

Mana “criticised groups of influential people who have become notorious for abusing their positions of authority to ensure that their members, including politicians, senators, police, soldiers and lobbyists, are taken care of.” It is the way the regime has operated from the very beginning.

Another Bangkok Post story is equally emblematic. After several years of claims, charges and slow legal processes, Deputy secretary-general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) Prayat Puangjumpa “has been sacked as over an asset concealment case against him.”

NACC chairman Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, a junta friend and appointee, sacked Prayat on 26 August:

The sacking came about three years after Mr Prayat was found by the anti-graft agency to have amassed vast wealth amounting to 658 million baht and failing to declare some of the assets.

According to the NACC probe, he omitted assets worth 227 million baht from his mandatory declaration to the NACC. The undeclared assets were found to be held by Mr Prayat’s wife, Thanipa.

These assets were divided six items, four of which were overseas.

The two in Thailand were a Kasikornbank bank account with 10,000 baht in it as well as 20,000 shares in the Palm Biz Corporation worth two million baht.

The four overseas assets were three bank accounts kept at Bangkok Bank’s London branch with a total of £237,959.46 (about 10 million baht) in them and a townhouse on Kensington High Street in London worth an estimated £4.5 million (168 million baht).

Back in August 2019, following a 9-month investigation, it was first reported that Prayat was crooked. At the time, Prayat said it was all a “misunderstanding and that his wife was holding the apartment for other people.” He didn’t say who.

At the time, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha had “vowed to stamp out corruption…”.

That report reminded its readers that Gen “Prawit Wongsuwan, dubbed the ‘Rolex General’, came under fire for a luxury watch collection worth an estimated $1.2 million…. The NACC dismissed the case last December, citing ‘no grounds’ for corruption as the watches were lent to Prawit by a wealthy businessman.” Yes, really

Another report from 2019 pointed to Prayat’s efforts to use regular excuses used by Thailand’s corrupt:

Prayat, reportedly, cited misunderstanding, stressing that he never intended to conceal his assets and that last year he re-submitted the asset declaration.

The apartment and the bank accounts in London belong to his wife….

Not held for others? These kind of people lie and expect that they can get away with it. It is the way the “system” works (for the rich).

The miracle is that the NACC “recommended Prayat should be indicted for assets concealment.”

Update: One of the social media rumors is that Pol Cpl Kornsasi is the mistress of one of the big P’s. It is probably more accurate to suggest that she’s the mistress of on of the Big P’s brothers, which would explain how a mere corporal in the police could get away with all manner of things.





Police and impunity

20 01 2022

A few days ago, PPT asked about Pol Col Thitisan “Joe” Uttanapol or “Joe Ferrari,” caught on camera suffocating a man to death. We asked: Whatever happened to that case?

As if by magic, there’s a new report. It says that the “former Muang Nakhon Sawan police chief testified before the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases on Wednesday during a court trial.”

Pol Col Thitisan testified that “he used the plastic bag to intimidate the suspect and did not wrap it too tightly.” He’s angling to get out of this. That he’s not on trial fro murder suggests that some think he can get away with murder.

In reading this we were reminded of a book PPT read some time ago about Patani. It makes clear that the “methods” used in the 1940s are similar to those used today. In other words, Joe did as he was trained: torture, murder, corruption, impunity. Here’s some quotes from the book:

With the police, a criminal who was caught could with case be safe and free if he gave them a bribe…. [W]hen a Malay was accused of friendship with bad elements, he was immediately arrested by the Siamese police, taken to a lonely place, and beaten before he was taken to the place of detention. This also happened to Malays accused of taking part in political movements critical of the government. They were always threatened and slandered in various ways by the Siamese police, arrested, or simply beaten without bothering to take die matter to court.

Siamese police went to this village to arrest Malay youths and proceeded to torture them in various ways in order to find out who among them was the murderer.

On 26 September 1947 Miss Barbara Wittingham-Jones, an English reporter, visited Patani for the first time since the end of the war. She traveled through 250 miles of the country in order to study and observe the condition of the 700,000 Malays under the oppression of the Kingdom of Siam.

In her words “Wherever I went, I found principles of oppression applied in an organized manner and an intentional movement launched to Siamize die subjects of the country.”

“Every level of Siamese officials take bribes…”.

“Malays are often summarily shot without further investigation or mysteriously disappear without leaving a trace or further reports.”

Nothing much has changed.





Rotten to the core

25 11 2021

Rotten to the core

A Bangkok Post editorial expressed considerable concern over the disappearance of Sahachai Jiansermsin, known as Joe Pattani.

It states:

The disappearance of a tycoon at the centre of an oil smuggling and money laundering racket in the South just hours after his arrest early this month dealt a heavy blow to the Royal Thai Police (RTP). His high-profile escape drew public attention and tarnished the battered reputation of the justice system.

As of now, the whereabouts of … Joe Pattani…, who was nabbed on Nov 4 in the Huai Khwang area of Bangkok in accordance with an arrest warrant approved in February by the Songkhla Provincial Court, remains unknown. It’s believed he left the country after being released without charge.

The Nov 4 arrest was initially based on a money laundering charge related to a 2012 oil smuggling case in which police seized more than 2,000 litres of oil and 48 million baht of cash in Songkhla. A police investigation showed his firm also sold more than 400 million litres of oil. He was initially charged with oil smuggling and money laundering. However, prosecutors early this month did not indict him….

How can it be that such a significant arrest could just slip away? Well, this is a “justice” system where the rich by the “justice” they want.

Surprisingly, the matter had become a cold case. Police recently admitted the Pattani court warrant had never been recorded in the system, which technically prompted Sahachai’s release from the arms of the law. The RTP has ordered a probe into police processes in Pattani while the officer who “forgot” to file the warrant in the system has been transferred pending investigation results.

As in so many other cases where the rich and influential can just melt away, there corrupt officials involved:

Yet it’s hard to believe his presumed escape was just an innocent mistake by the police. Sahachai is an influential tycoon. A police investigation of his phone records shows he was in contact with high-ranking officers and some politicians.

The Department of Special Investigation, in collaboration with the Revenue Department and Isoc, had discovered a list of state officials in several agencies, including officers in the 9th police region, who received kickbacks from him. The payments were said to have been made to bank accounts held by the wives of those officials.

Naturally enough, the Post recalls that other case where the rich and influential walk away, bend rules, pay off officials and others, and continue to live well:

Such a blatant case reminds one of the mishandling of the infamous hit-and-run saga involving the Red Bull scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya by police and public prosecutors.

The Post focuses on the police, and it is true that the cops have been hopelessly corrupt for decades. Yet, corruption now runs deep through this regime. So many cases have been brushed aside. And, the leadership of the police has, since the 2014 coup, has been purged and every leader of the police has been chosen for loyalty to the regime. The police boss is even given a free seat in the senate. So, we’d say the focus should be on the regime. It has allowed corruption as a means to reward police and to ensure its political loyalty.

And, just as an aside, there’s much that the regime is doing to promote further corruption. Think of the fate of Hualampong station. Watch the money flow for a prime piece of central Bangkok real estate. And who has been getting huge contracts in the eastern seaboard developments? Who benefits from a telecoms merger? Watch the money flow.

No transparency means corruption is growing and infecting all parts of the regime and the state apparatus. It is rotten to the core.





The Alps beckon (again)

13 11 2021

Hugely wealthy, erratic, dim and tone-deaf, King Vajiralongkorn has been supported by military leaders past and present, security services, and the judiciary in seeing off the popular calls for him to back away from his path to restored absolutism.

Confident he’s won the battle, the king has jetted off to his Germany, his preferred location. It was all done secretly, but leaked.

We had mentioned this trip a couple of times, pointing to Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Facebook posts, but wanted to wait for more verifiable details before posting. Now the poodle is out of the bag, with Bild (in German) and several other newspapers reporting his travels, his entourage, and his harem.

Bild journalists reported being threatened by the king’s “security” detail.

The Guardian reported: “Thailand’s King … Vajiralongkorn has reportedly flown to Germany in what is believed to be his first trip abroad since pro-democracy protests escalated last year, breaking long-held taboos to call for reforms to the monarchy.”

The SCMP had this: “He’s back and is feeling at home with his poodles in his favourite kingdom of Bavaria,” Bild wrote, adding he had brought 30 poodles with him from Thailand. The Guardian adds that the king and entourage “booked an entire [4th] floor of the Hilton Munich airport hotel for 11 days.”

Several aircraft were used to transport the entourage and the huge amount of “luggage” they “need.”

This is why protesters have criticized the king for his extended trips abroad and called for changes to curb his powers and wealth, many of which he’s grabbed since he took the throne.

Who pays?

On Facebook, “some criticised the king’s luxurious lifestyle, saying it struck a poor contrast to the struggles of the pro-democracy activists.”

It is unclear how long he’ll stay in Germany, with some saying he should return soon for the seasonal costume changing ceremony for the Emerald Buddha. Yet with quarantine requirements in Germany, that would been further quarantining. But perhaps he’s not worried as the amount of stuff taken to Germany suggests an extended stay and short trips to Thailand, re-establishing his previous pattern.





Corrupt+corrupt=very corrupt

29 10 2021

Officially declared non-corrupt by the hopelessly biased regime poodle known as the National Anti-Corruption Commission, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has again worked to maintain the status of convicted heroin trafficker, former murder suspect, and former deputy minister Thammanat Prompao.

He does this because Thammanat is his “boy” and because Thammanat is critical for electioneering in the north and northeast. Gen Prawit knows that without Thammanat , the Palang Pracharath Party may lose an election, even if held in the usual unfair manner. So the crooked Thammanat gets another free political pass.

Last month, Thammanat and Narumon Pinyosinwat were sacked from cabinet by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha for working against him as premier. But due to Gen Prawit’s support he stayed on as secretary-general of Palang Pracharath. That was appropriate as it meant a corruption maintained its hold over a corrupt party.

On Thursday, following a crisis party meeting, Gen Prawit announced “that no change was made to the executive team.” That is, the heroin smuggler kept his position.

Intense internal conflict “was resolved at a meeting on Wednesday between the party leader, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, and the party’s MPs…”. It seems Gen Prawit threratened to resign if Thammanat was not kept on. As the Bangkok Post explained: “Gen Prawit Wongsuwon has intervened as leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) to resolve an internal conflict involving controversial figure Capt Thamanat Prompow by ensuring he stays on as its secretary-general.”

It now remains to be seen how Thammanat and his faction of cronies will respond. He may be willing to bring down the regime to get his snout ever deeper into the public trough.








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