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.





No transparency, royal privilege, corruption

21 09 2021

There’s been almost no mainstream discussion of how it is that a jumped-up royal plaything like the so-called Chulabhorn Royal Academy (CRA) became a player in the country’s virus vaccine program. That’s not unexpected in a country run by a dictatorial royalist regime. No discussion of the hows or whys. No discussion of appropriateness. And, no discussion of how this “institute” can traipse off and conclude contracts here and there with no public scrutiny.

That lack of transparency and scrutiny is why the “Academy” can be spoofed and used for corrupt activities. Sure, there have been other examples of corruption in the virus response, but this “Academy” is above scrutiny and investigation simply because it is the plaything of a self-indulgent royal.

But things got so bad, that the only body that can talk about corruption is the so-called academy itself. As The Nation reports, the “Academy” has gone to the Department of Special Investigation after it “learned about a group of fraudsters that has tricked people out of millions by posing as the Chulabhorn Royal Academy…”.

Academy deputy secretary-general Wanlop Yutithamdamrong “said the group had created fake CRA Line and Facebook accounts to dupe people into paying for their alternative Covid-19 shot. The group insisted all transfers be made via PromptPay, which is not used by the actual CRA.”

He claimed that the “fraudsters had stolen a list of people who had been vaccinated by hacking into a hospital’s system. The hospital, which is part of the CRA vaccination campaign, filed a complaint when it learned of the hacking.”

Sounding suspicious yet?

The Bangkok Post adds that the fraudsters had received “millions of baht.”

Wanlop tells us that the “Academy” has known of the scam for a very long time: “We obtained information that the scammers began using social media accounts to deceive people after the CRA imported the first lot of Sinopharm vaccines.” But guess what? “[W]e had no clear evidence against them. They talked to groups of people via the accounts about the acquisition of the vaccine and persuaded them to place orders and transfer payment, claiming the buyers would get the vaccine at a lower price than that set by the CRA…”.

The “Academy” is being scammed and there are fake websites and social media accounts but “no clear evidence.” Sounds suspicious to us.

As an aside, we noticed that in photos accompanying the reports of the DSI visit, the “Academy” people are wearing lapel badges of Princess Chulabhorn. We hadn’t seen these before – maybe we weren’t looking. Previously badges of Prince Dipangkorn designated being close to the king. It seems Chulabhorn has decided to develop her own labels of loyalty. They, too, can be scammed.

Previous cases of royal scamming have sometimes come to light and have led to lese majeste charges.





Fascist-like culture wars

6 09 2021

Thana Boonlert of the Bangkok Post has an op-ed on the junta-appointed Senate that is worth considering.

Hardly noticed, the unelected senators convened to consider “a motion for the virtuous council…”. Huh? Yep, the unelected swill of military backers, ultra-royalists and assorted conservatives “sought to reform the national culture to ensure its progress, discipline, and morality.”

Senator Sirina Pavarolarvidya “attributed the current social conflict to the generation gap and proposed that the virtuous council be established to provide role models for every sector of society.” By this she means the youth have lost “gratitude, discipline, honesty, sufficiency, and a volunteer spirit…”. That all of this is imbued by thick-headed royalism is revealed when she says these “virtues” “are born out of the love for nation, religion, and king.”

Berlin, Germany….. Two heads that bow as one, Herr Adolf Hitler, Dictator of Germany (left), bids bon voyage to King Prajadhipok of Siam, when the latter, accompanied by his queen, left Berlin following their extended visit to Germany’s capital. This modern ruling family does all its traveling by airplane, while in Europe, at least.

She sounded decidedly Fascist when she said that “…[w]hen people are virtuous and healthy, they acquire knowledge and skills.”

Thana sees historical links with “the government of Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram issued cultural mandates to strengthen Siam in the context of the global war.” That Phibun was attracted by Fascist models was not unusual, with many entranced by authoritarianism, militarism and strong leaders.

The morality demanded, Thana says, “is like a balm for those in power who are under threat from the pro-democracy movement.” Such a “campaign for virtue justifies and sustains the regime that rose to power from a military coup in 2014,” which Thana sees as an effort at “refashioning itself into a bastion of virtue…”. It’s the ridiculous “good people” justification for all political and social repression and corruption. Thana expounds on this.

Than observes that “the virtuous council is an expression of fantasy of those in power.” For PPT, it sounds a bit like a version of the “deep state” argument that the judiciary was needed to carry on the then (near dead) king’s interventionism. In this version, it seems like an effort to replace the (now) dead king’s alleged “moral” leadership.

None of the “blatant misconduct, nepotism, and corruption” is necessarily negated by culture wars directed by “good people” royalism and moralism.





Failure upon failure

2 08 2021

One of the things about a military and palace-backed regime is that, except in the most dire of circumstances, it tends only to get shaky when it loses the support of the upper crust. Is the regime led by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha reaching that point? It should be as failure after failure piles up, while the regime concentrates on political repression rather than virus suppression.

As infection numbers look set to go over 20,000 a day in the official tally, the government stumbles along like a drunk without shoes. Just this weekend, it has extended the lockdown after earlier extending emergency powers. The problem for many is that these powers seem to do nothing to stem the virus but do seem to add to repression. In addition, the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed swell by the day. The regime seems to lack a plan for any other measures to mitigate the virus or to help those impacted.

But the failures and fumbles keep increasing. The botched vaccine rollout continues to suffer supply constraints – thanks in part to the failures at the royal Siam Bioscience. On the weekend, a “shortage in supplies of Covid-19 vaccines led to the weekend closure of 25 vaccination centres in Bangkok, while the “Mor Prom” app also cancelled all bookings scheduled for Friday and Saturday and has yet to resume offering new appointments.”

This horrid effort is made worse by corruption. Most recently, it is reported that “[a]t least 7,000 people have bought Covid-19 vaccination slots at Bang Sue Grand Station that were illegally acquired through a loophole in the the national vaccine recipient’s database…”. Forgive our cynicism, but the cops said several days ago that they had cracked the case, so should anyone be surprised if this isn’t a higher-ups scam? It seems 7,700 shots have been sold at 1000 baht each.

Despite the increased repression, nationwide protests were held on the weekend, mainly involving people in cars and on motorcycles. On protester spoke for many:

“We can barely make a living now, all of my family members have been affected,” said a 47-year-old protester speaking from his car who only gave his first name “Chai”, for fear of government repercussions.

“The government failed to provide vaccines on time and many of us haven’t had any vaccine yet,” he said. “If we don’t come out to make our calls, the government will simply ignore us.”

Red shirts back. From Thai PBS

According to Thai PBS, the “car mob” rally saw:

the gathering together of well-known leaders of anti-government and anti-establishment groups, such as Nattawut Saikua, former secretary-general of the now defunct United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) or the Red-Shirt movement, Ratsadon leaders Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Anon Nampa, Chatupat Boonpatthararaksa, aka Pai Daodin of the “Thalu Fah” group, Sombat Boon-ngarmanong of Sombat Tour and Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, leader of the We Volunteer (Wevo) guards.

Nattawut said “the Red-Shirt movement is back in business and demanding the ouster of the prime minister.”

What will the powers-that-be do as the movement gains support as the government flails in failure?





Wealth, power and the corruption of justice

10 07 2021

With all of the virus stuff going on, we are a bit late getting to this post. However, as it concerns the seemingly never-ending saga of corruption and double standards in the judicial system, it merits a late post.

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post reported that all members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) have been ordered to “sit on a newly formed panel that is tasked with investigating 15 senior police officers, prosecutors and investigators who mishandled the 2012 hit-and-run case involving Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidh­ya, the Red Bull scion who has managed to escape prosecution so far.”

Apparently, after almost 10 years, the case is officially considered “high profile.” We guess that for all of the previous nine years the case has involved the high profile but that the judicial system was doing its well-paid best to do deals to get Boss off.

Vorayuth Red Bull

An AFP photo clipped from ChannelNews Asia

NACC chairman Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit has also decided, after all these years,”that the investigation must be wrapped up in a timely fashion…”. Right. But, then: “As required under Section 48 of the National Anti-Corruption Act, the NACC must conclude the probe within two years. It will be allowed by law to extend the investigation for another year at most, if more time is needed…”. So that could be 2024…. Timely… not.

The report reminds readers that there are “currently two other committees probing the issue.” We figure that “probing” is an over-statement.

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post states that this NACC “investigation” is “welcome news.” It notes the damage the case’s cover-up has done to the judicial system: “The anti-graft body would do a great service to the justice system and country at large with a swift investigation. It should also make sure to avoid all the mistakes by other agencies that performed at snail’s pace over the past nine years.”

Well, maybe. Of course, the NACC has generally been hopeless on almost all the cases sent to it, “investigating” with double standards and political affiliation always in mind. The rest of the judicial system has been equally biased and corrupt to boot.

The wheeling and dealing has been huge. Even before the NACC commissioners got to “work,” it seems that “one member, Suchart Trakulkasemsuk, withdrew from the panel.” Why? Because as a member of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly “he had been a member of NLA’s subcommittee on justice and had received a petition from Vorayuth’s family…”.

It turns out that the fabulously wealthy and immensely powerful Yoovidhya family were “allowed 14 appeal attempts … which is unprecedented.”

The Post concludes with the obvious: “the suggested three-year period seems far too long, taking into account the fact the case had dragged on for nearly a decade.”





Lockdown, failures, and fools

9 07 2021

With virus infections surging, the regime looks hopeless. Some say it might have corrupted its vaccine procurement program.*

The anticipated lockdown has arrived, but remains limited in scope, suggesting that the regime is non-comprehending that the lockdown announcement will see even more infected people decamping to their villages. In this sense, and whatever one thinks about lockdowns, the delays in securing a lockdown means that it likely becomes a superspreader event. But this isn’t the first time, with the failure to limit movement at Thai new year likely also spreading the virus.

The greatest impact will, as ever, be on the poor. They are the least able to get through a lockdown. The economy is already staggering, and it is likely that this new restriction will crush the lives of many of those who have struggled to make ends meet over the last year or so.

But, never fear, the dolts running the country (into the ground) are doing their bit:

I am listening but can’t hear

Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha has announced that he will give up his salary for three months, to help those suffering from COVID-19, while some other ministers then announced that they will do the same….

Currently, the prime minister earns 125,590 baht per month, which includes 75,590 baht salary, plus a 50,000 baht position based allowance. This means that the prime minister will be giving up a total of 376,770 baht.

After the prime minister’s announcement, Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, Social Development and Human Security Minister Chuti Krairerk, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob and Digital Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn also announced that they will give up their salaries.

This is buffalo manure. Gen Prayuth and his ilk have done so much damage that giving up spare change means nothing. But perhaps some PR guru told them that a symbolic gesture is necessary. But it’s an empty gesture, with the damage already done. The damage on the vaccines was predicted (and rejected) last year.

*On this, we wondered if the data presented in an article about the new, large Sinovac purchase is correct or if someone is on the take. That article states that “cabinet on Tuesday approved a proposal to procure 10.9 million additional Sinovac vaccine doses at 6.1 billion baht.” With our poor math, we calculated a cost of 560 baht a dose. That seems roughly double the going rate. Sinovac is already very expensive when its relatively low efficacy is considered.





General corruption

16 06 2021

About a week ago it was reported that The Dictator’s brother, Gen Preecha Chan-ocha is being investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Commission for his assets declaration back in 2014.

His alleged false declaration involves his new, luxury house in Phitsanulok and a bank account belonging to his wife.

In a follow-up, the Bangkok Post, referring to him as “Senator Preecha,” has it that Gen Preecha, who had claimed he had “explained everything,” is now expected to turn up at the NACC “some time this month to acknowledge charges of concealing assets belonging to him and his wife.” In fact, he has been “summoned to hear the charges, and the agency is expecting the senator to show by the end of the month.”

We can’t wait! But we may have to. The report states that:

Once Gen Preecha meets with NACC, he will be given 15 days to come up with a rebuttal, he said, before adding Gen Preecha can seek an extension with the NACC if he needs one.

After that, NACC commissioners will decide whether to forward the case to prosecutors or not.

This is a real test for the NACC if it is to turn itself into something other than a regime tool.








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