Updated: Judges and Toyota II

1 06 2021

Thailand’s judiciary is rotten. It is politically biased, engages in acts of double standards, and has been shown to be inhumane in its sentencing. Underneath all of this, it is corrupt, long “protected” by is association with the monarchy.

However, a bribery case in the USA and involving Toyota is shining a light on corruption alleged to be at the very top of the judiciary. For an earlier post on this developing case, see here.

About a week ago, Law 360’s Frank G. Runyeon reported that:Law360

“U.S. authorities are ramping up their Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation of Toyota, with federal prosecutors impaneling a grand jury in Texas as they seek any evidence the carmaker bribed top Thai judges to overturn a $350 million tax judgment, according to a U.S. law enforcement official and documents related to the investigation.

Ongoing investigations by both the USA’s Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission are poring over documents from Toyota, which self-reported, an internal company investigation conducted by WilmerHale, presented to American authorities by Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in April 2020.

Toyota suspected senior attorneys working for Toyota Motor Thailand “funneled bribes through a private Thai law firm to Thailand Supreme Court judges in an effort to influence the decision on a still-pending appeal of the tax judgment…”.

The grand jury proceedings are secret, but more details have been released regarding the internal investigation at Toyota:

The internal Toyota investigation found that TMT contracted with Annanon Law Office to help establish a backchannel to Thailand’s highest ranking judge via a former chief judge and an advisor, law enforcement documents show. TMT paid nearly $18 million on the $27 million contract, according to the documents, with $9 million to be paid if Toyota won the appeal, which relates to import taxes on Prius car parts.

Those potentially involved in the alleged bribery are named: “… Annanon law firm, … former Supreme Court of Thailand President Direk Ingkaninan and Supreme Court senior advisor Chaiyasit Trachutham…”. They were “to persuade high court president Slaikate Wattanapan to accept Toyota’s argument and have the court rule in its favor within a year, sometime after Slaikate’s term began in October 2019…”.

Runyeon reports that:

Thai government records indicate that around the time of the alleged bribery scheme Direk was a sitting senior judge and Slaikate was president of the Supreme Court. While the duration of Chaiyasit’s alleged tenure as a high court advisor is unclear, records show he was a senior judge on the Court of Appeal for Specialized Cases until at least October 2019…. Mr. Direk assisted TMT with the Prius case in the Primary Court and has been involved again in the current possible Supreme Court appeal.

Direk, 70, was the top ranking senior judge on the Supreme Court as of May 2020, government records show, and is eligible to serve until he ages out next September. Records show Chaiyasit, 70, reached mandatory retirement age in September 2020 after various judicial posts on Thailand’s appellate and supreme courts. Slaikate, 66, stepped down as Supreme Court president in September 2020, but retained senior judge status.

… The long-serving Toyota attorneys who law enforcement documents claim allegedly organized the scheme — General Manager Wichien Hirunmahapol, his deputy Sathit Tungjitpreechatai and Pornchai Saetachantana — left TMT in the midst of Toyota’s internal corruption probe and opened a boutique law firm, according to online biographies, the firm’s website and sources familiar with that investigation.

… A court official confirmed on Monday that Direk and Slaikate remain sitting senior judges on Thailand’s Supreme Court but did not immediately confirm Chaiyasit’s employment status. He referred Law360 back to an earlier public statement.

Soon after this report was noticed in Thailand, the Bangkok Post reported that the “Thai Court of Justice has vowed to take action against wrongdoers following a report the US Department of Justice is taking the Toyota bribery probe involving three top Thai judges to a grand jury.”

As always happens in such international cases of bribery and corruption, Thai authorities sought “information.”

Usually the “information is delayed, lost, misplaced for long enough that it fades away.

Suriyan Hongwilai, spokesman of the Court of Justice, stated that “if the Court of Justice found or could verify that the bribery had taken place, it would take disciplinary action, regardless of who the wrongdoers were or what positions they held by submitting the finding to the Judicial Commission.” He added that no one should “not to jump to conclusions before the cases were concluded in both countries.”

As we know, even if convicted of a crime in the US, the judges could turn to politics and become ministers.

LaughingAnother Law 360 report follows Suriyan’s media outing, claiming he stated that “[s]ince becoming aware of the matter, the Court of Justice has been trying to follow, verify, and gather all related information and facts both in the country and abroad…”. It seems they found nothing, knew nothing for Suriyan said: “Now that there has been a news report mentioning names and positions of some individuals, the Court of Justice will proceed to verify with the related affiliated agencies.” He added: “Further action would depend on the details of the obtained information…”.

It won’t be just PPT who will find such statements laughable. After all, as another Law 360 report says, it is “[m]ore than six months before Toyota disclosed concerns to U.S. authorities about possible foreign bribery in Thailand…” and two months since it was publicly reported.

Law360 says that the “protocol for the internal [Toyota] investigation was laid out in a 22-page document dated Sept. 30, 2019.” It was that document that “appeared to show that Toyota was concerned about possible corrupt payments to current and former Thailand Supreme Court judges, as well as to the country’s top finance and justice officials.”

It is stated that:

Toyota’s internal investigation focused on whether its employees made payments to any of eight Thai law firms or 12 individuals who may have played a role in the Prius litigation as the company was challenging the tax judgment in Thai courts. In addition to understanding if and how payments were made, the probe sought to confirm the amounts and whether any such payments were hidden, made indirectly, diverted to others, or “used or intended to be used for an improper purpose, and in particular, to influence the outcome of the Prius case.”

Another key question for reviewers was whether the recipients of any such payments had any connection to, influence over, or ex parte contact with sitting Thailand Supreme Court judges who might rule on Toyota’s case. WilmerHale also asked its team to flag any evidence that Toyota Motor Corp., the global parent company, knew about any “potentially improper payments to consultants.”

The response from the named judges began with threats of defamation cases. The aim was to keep their names out of reports in Thailand, including on social media. Isra News Agency reported:

that three Thai judges mentioned in a Law360 article about the possible bribery would ask the Court of Justice … to file a computer crime complaint with police to take legal action against those who mentioned them by name or shared such news on social media.

Thai PBS reports that “[f]ormer president of Thailand’s Appeals Court, Professor Chaiyasit Trachutham, has categorically denied allegations, reported by Law360, that he was among three senior judges implicated in Toyota Motors Thailand’s (TMT) bribery scandal.” He added that:

he was directly involved in the legal dispute between TMT and the Thai Customs Department, over import taxes on Toyota Prius hybrid cars,when he was a senior judge at the Appeals Court and was responsible for handling 10 case files…. After having carefully studied the case, he said that he felt that TMT had only a slim chance of winning the case….

The Bangkok Post reports that the Court of Justice moved a little further, and “has set up a 10-member panel to follow up on the Toyota bribery scandal…”. It was set up last Friday. So what the judiciary was doing before probably amounted to a hope that the story could be kept quiet.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reported that “Salaikate Wattanaphan, former president of the Supreme Court, has [also] denied any involvement in the bribery case…”. He “insisted that since he wasn’t in a position to make any decisions on Toyota’s appeal against the Appeal Court’s ruling in the tax dispute case, it is impossible that he would be offered as much money as claimed.”

Salaikate said “he was president of the court back then but wasn’t directly involved in the decision.”He reckons “… accusations that senior judges were paid US$19 million and later US$27 million were sketchy … who would ever be silly enough to pay that much money to them while not knowing how the decision [on the appeal] would turn…”. It seems he’s semi-serious in this observation.

Meanwhile, cases against those mentioning the report and judges are moving faster than any investigation of the bribery allegations.

Update: How fast can a judge move when named in a corruption case? In the kill-the-messenger sprint, it is with Olympic record speed. The Bangkok Post reports that former Supreme Court president Direk Inkhaninan and Chaisit Trachutham, a former senior judge in the Appeal Court, have already “filed a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division against Law360, a US-based legal news website, for defamation.”





Us and Them

13 05 2021

Over the virus era there has been increasing attention to borders all around the world. Some places have had downright racist responses, such as in the new hermit kingdom, Australia.

In Thailand, recent attention has been to the “threat” posed by migrants. Quoting “medical professionals,” the Bangkok Post headlines: Porous borders ‘our biggest threat’

While we understand the borders “argument,” this approach encourages chauvinism and xenophobia. Think of the horrid decision to lock migrant workers in their poor housing a couple of months ago. At the same time, the borders threat argument actually obscures the real threat.

Saksayam

Virus minister. From The Nation

For PPT, that threat is from the rich and powerful. As far as we can tell, every major outbreak in Thailand has had a lot to do with these groups, acting with impunity. Even the most recent outbreak in Bangkok has been tracked to the bars frequented by the wealthy Bangkok, attended by the high and mighty, including ministers and ambassadors. The former has seen a Ministry of Transport cluster.

As we look back at other clusters, they result from corrupt military (boxing stadiums) and other corrupt practices from the past that have continued during the virus crisis (gambling and people trafficking). Such activities have always required official “support” and have long made officials wealthy.

Migrant workers are critical for some important industries in Thailand; industries that generate enormous profits:

An estimated 400,000 migrants work in Thailand’s seafood processing sector in the province of Samut Sakhorn. Thailand produces approximately 40 per cent of global canned tuna, as well as frozen shrimp and other seafood products.

Trafficking migrants and greasing the wheels of bureaucracy generate wealth to police and bureaucrats. The military has long been involved in this business. This means the threat to Thailand is from those who rule and profit with impunity.





One of the cover-ups

7 04 2021

Over the past couple of days, PPT has posted on a corruption story that the regime and judiciary hope will quickly disappear, fade away and be covered-up. Such publicity just holds up the money making that comes with office under a military-backed regime.

Interestingly, it is reported that one of the regime’s cover-ups has received some new attention, with “[a]nti-human trafficking advocates are calling on the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to indict the owner of the Victoria Secret brothel for human trafficking…”.

The Victoria Secret massage parlor case “was raided on Jan 12, 2018 and it was later revealed that minors and migrant workers had been forced to become sex workers on the premises.”

Like the Boss case involving the Red Bull scion, the owner of the parlor – said to be Kampol Wirathepsuporn – went into hiding.

The big story of the time, for us, anyway, was the link to top cops. Indeed, junta-appointed police chief Gen  Somyos Pumpanmuang, who went on to become head of the Thailand Football Association, was close to Kampol. Under pressure, In the moneySomyos revealed that he had borrowed a huge sum of money from Kampol.

Gen Somyos “explained” that he and the massage parlor owner were “friends and of course friends do help each other. I was in trouble and asked him for help several times.” One of those bits of “help” was a 300 million baht “loan” from the flesh trader.

Clearly the “help” was useful, for when he retired as Thailand’s top cop, he was one of the country’s wealthiest policemen.  He reported assets of 375 million baht back in 2014 when he joined one of the junta’s sham legislatures.

That’s how corruption cases tend to go for junta buddies – nothing much happens, apart from the covering up.





Corrupt justices, corrupt regime

6 04 2021

Yesterday, PPT posted on a possible corruption case involving “current and former Thailand Supreme Court judges, as well as to the country’s top finance and justice officials…”.

Such a bombshell has received muffled attention and another cover-up might be expected. Even so, as the Bangkok Post reports, the Courts of Justice have felt compelled to provide a comment, although it is of the usual slippery variety, telling the taxpaying public that “they will take action against any judges found to have taken bribes linked to a tax dispute involving a Thai subsidiary of automaker Toyota.”

Well, maybe, for the claims are dismissed: “the office said claims without grounds that judges involved with bribery often happen during legal disputes.” Such claims were described as “bogus.” In other words, like Mafia dons they say “forget about it.”

Helpfully, Suriyan Hongvilai, spokesman of the Office of the Judiciary, “explains” that:

… the case in the focus involves a tax dispute worth about 10 billion baht between Toyota Motor Thailand Co (TMT) and tax authorities over the imports of parts for Prius cars.

He said the Supreme Court’s decision to review the dispute was announced on March 29 and the case is now pending hearings and has yet to be finalised.

He urged the public to investigate and not to rush to conclusions when bribery allegations against judges emerge.

“The Supreme Court has yet to hear and rule on the case. It just agreed to hear it and the granting of the request is line with laws which allow the Supreme Court to hear the case when it sees fit,” he said.

So, the Supreme Court decided to “review the dispute” and announced this on 29 March, the very day that Law 360 published the story “Toyota Probed Possible Bribes To Top Thai Judges.” That was just 10 days after the first media report of the Toyota case. How convenient.

The clarification is in response to foreign media reports.

Thailand’s Mafia dons also appear in a separate Bangkok Post report.

Palang Pracharath Party leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has thrown his and his party’s “support behind former national police chief [Gen] Chakthip Chaijinda for the upcoming Bangkok governor election…”. The junta appointed the sitting governor, also a former top cop, and Gen Prawit expects to be able to maintain that control.

To get the job done, Gen Prawit has reportedly assigned Mafia boss, convicted heroin trafficker, and moneybags, Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thammanat Prompao to arrange the election for the party.

That’s a neat idea: a former felon will assist a former top cop. Cops are used to dealing with “dark influences” in Thailand, often working in partnership for mutual wealth creation.

One of the outcomes of coup and military dictatorship has been the alliance of the twin evils of dark influences and dark power.





Judges and Toyota I

5 04 2021

At the end of March, Law 360 published the story “Toyota Probed Possible Bribes To Top Thai Judges,” written by Frank G. Runyeon. It is a story about Toyota investigating and reporting itself on possible corruption in Thailand.

It took more than six months of internal investigation “before Toyota disclosed concerns to U.S. authorities…” in April 2020.

It found that “its consultants paid off Thai judges and government officials in an effort to overturn a $350 million import tax judgment related to its Prius cars…”. The report states:

… documents obtained exclusively by Law360 and court filings in a related case show the company previously conducted its own investigation led by counsel at WilmerHale. Code-named “Project Jack,” it sought to determine whether Toyota Motor Thailand violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or the U.K. Bribery Act by making payments to outside law firms or consultants that may have been passed to or shared with Thai judges, court advisers or others in an effort to secure a favorable outcome in the Prius tax case….

Titled “TMC Thailand Inquiry: Background & Protocol for Document Review,” the guidelines were distributed to several teams of reviewers poring over millions of company documents dating back to 2012 with help from more than a dozen attorneys and translators. The protocol appeared to show that Toyota was concerned about possible corrupt payments to current and former Thailand Supreme Court judges, as well as to the country’s top finance and justice officials….

In the Prius matter, Thai customs officials had accused Toyota of shorting the government 11 billion baht, or about $350 million today, in import taxes over a two-year period because the company did not use Thai assembly lines to build Prius cars there and instead imported pre-assembled cars, according to a WilmerHale case summary. A loss for Toyota would make its import tax obligation skyrocket from 10% to 80% of the cars’ value.

Back then, Toyota challenged the tax judgment in the courts. Its investigation was to determine “if and how payments were made,” and also “sought to confirm the amounts and whether any such payments were hidden, made indirectly, diverted to others,” ore were otherwise illegally made.

In particular, a “key question for reviewers was whether the recipients of any such payments had any connection to, influence over, or ex parte contact with sitting Thailand Supreme Court judges who might rule on Toyota’s case.”

We guess the next question is whether this case will go the way of the Rolls Royce corruption when some $18.8 million was alleged to have been paid by Rolls-Royce to “regional intermediaries” and ended up in the pockets of “agents of the State of Thailand and employees of Thai Airways…”.





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.





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.”

 





Corruption deepens

31 01 2021

Transparency International released its 2020 perceptions of corruption report this past week.

Interestingly, as the Bangkok Post reports “Thailand has hit a new low in the latest global corruption index…”. When we first read that we were thinking Thailand did better, but it as we’d expect, the country actually declined further.

Thailand has fallen another three places and ranked equal 104th among the 180 countries surveyed, alongside Vietnam, Gambia, Albania and others.

The Post says it hasn’t changed much since 2012. But if one goes back to 2005, before the coup that set the country on its royalist, neo-feudal, military-dominated slide, the country ranked 59th of 159 countries surveyed.

In 2012 it ranked 88th of 176 countries and by 2018 Thailand ranked 99th of 180 countries.

The slide down the perceptions index shows that military domination, coups, mad monarchism, and oligarchy does the country no good at all.





Further updated: Another 112 arrest

14 01 2021

Prachatai’s Facebook page has reported another arrest of a student, accused of lese majeste:

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that Sirichai, a first year student at Thammasat University and a member of the student activist group United Front of the Thammasat and Demonstration, was arrested by officers from the Khlong Luang Police Station under a Section 112 charge, and was being taken to the Border Police [BPP] Region 1 headquarters.

When activists and friends arrived at the BPP headquarters they were told Sirichai was not there. He was located about an hour later “at his dormitory, and that a number of plainclothes officers have brought him there while they search his room.” Those who located him “demand[ed] that the officers wait for a lawyer to arrive at the dormitory before taking Sirichai elsewhere.” After a lawyer arrived, the “officers then presented a warrant from the Thanyaburi Provincial Court and said that they will be taking Sirichai back to the Khlong Luang Police Station.”

Later, his friends were told “that Sirichai is being held at the Khlong Luang Police Station. However, a TLHR lawyer asked officers at the police station, and was told that Sirichai is not there.”

The case is murky at this stage. If more information becomes available, PPT will update this post.

Update 1: Prachatai has an updated report on this case. It states that Sirichai is “a 1st year student at the Puey Ungphakorn School of Development Studies, Thammasat University, and a member of the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration…”. He was arrested in the middle of the night by Khlong Luang police and taken to the Khlong Luang Police Station. Sirichai reportedly “faces charges under Section 112 for spraying paint on a portrait of the King.”

It is added that “Sirichai was taken to the Thanyaburi Provincial Court on Thursday morning (14 January) for a temporary detention request. The court then ruled to allow him to be temporarily detained for 12 days. His lawyer is now requesting bail using a Thammasat University lecturer’s position as security.”

TLHR says that “Sirichai’s case is the first time since Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s announcement on 19 November 2020 that every law will be used against the pro-democracy protesters that a court issue[d] an arrest warrant for a Section 112 charge.”

Thai Enquirer has a powerful op-ed:

On Wednesday night, state security officials abducted New Sirichai from his dormitory. The officials were not in uniform, did not declare an arrest warrant, and took him to an undisclosed location.

Rights groups and politicians said that the arrest amounted to kidnapping because of the nature and timing of the abduction….

What made the situation worse was that police lied to lawyers and pro-democracy protesters about New’s whereabouts throughout the night….

[T]he arrest last night goes to show that we have become a nation where laws and the rights of the accused do not really matter.

No matter your position on the Lese Majeste law, the actions of the Thai police last night went beyond carrying out the enforcement of the law and was an act of intimidation and harassment by the state.

The ‘arrest,’ if you could call it that, was more reminiscent of a scene from the Sopranos than protocol accepted by the United Nations.

This government has shown time and time again that it is not above using the same tactics employed by dictators and despots. But this is hardly surprising given that this government was put in place by a military coup and has allied itself with international drug dealers and local mafiosos.

It concludes: “we are a nation of thugs being ruled by a government full of thugs.”

Update 2: Commentator Thitinan Pongsudhirak isn’t writing about lese majeste, but his assessment of Thailand under the current regime fits with the assessment above:

… moral turpitude has set in while the sense of moral backstop has faded. As this trend intensifies, Thailand risks suffering political decay, social decadence and economic stagnation, while impunity and immorality reign without boundaries….

The corruption and graft among government officials and military and police officers are likely to add fuel to the fire of social discontent among youth-led anti-establishment protesters and activists. When Covid restrictions are loosened, they probably will return to campuses and the streets to demand more competent and accountable rulers. When this happens, those who will ask again and again about who is backing such protests need to look at Thailand’s decadence, decay, and stagnation as the real backers. This is why the student-led protesters will keep going for their country’s better future and for themselves.








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