CP’s power

27 07 2021

Thai Enquirer has taken a look at CP with an op-ed entitled “Exploring the close ties between Thailand’s CP Group and the Chinese Communist Party.”

Recently said to be worth over $30 billion, up $3 billion over 2020,* CP and its Chearavanont family are Thailand’s wealthiest, after the monarch, and “CP’s domination of the Thai economy continues to grow…”. Its political influence is legendary.

Prayuth and the bosses

Its growth has much to do with expansion in China since 1978, so that focus in the Thai Enquirer article is worth reading.

*The article is in error on wealth accumulation.





Virus failure

5 05 2021

Readers may recall that, a couple of days ago, in posting on military budgets, we observed that key supporters of the current regime were Sino-Thai oligarchs and their conglomerates. They are handsomely rewarded for their loyalty to military and monarchy.

As we noted then, several times already this group has come to the rescue of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime, most recently offering more virus help to the government in a mass rollout of Covid-19 vaccination from June. Special mention made of billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont’s Charoen Pokphand Group.

With the developing virus cluster around Klong Toey, it is reported that Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) has “launched a mass vaccination scheme to support the government…”.

The conglomerate has “set up a mass vaccination facility at Lotus Rama IV, aimed at vaccinating at least 1,000 people per day, said Suphachai Chearavanont, CEO and executive chairman of CP Group.” This will go on for a couple of weeks

This is described as “a model of collaboration among the private sector, social activists, and state agencies to minimise risks and curb the outbreak…”.

Rather, it is a statement of the regime’s vaccine rollout failure, bedrocked in the king’s “vaccine” company. More than this, as Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha gave himself total control and authority over the virus response, it is his personal failure.

Of course, CP is also a vaccine company, owning a Chinese producer. Can we assume that the vaccine it is using is from its own stocks?





Military, dictators, and money

2 05 2021

There’s a story at something called the Atlas Institute for International Affairs which sounds very 1960s and argues that militaries kept “fed” with taxpayer funds don’t intervene politically. This long discredited notion is in part based on work on Thailand. The fact that coups in Thailand bear no relationship to that military’s ability to grab loot from the taxpayer should alert the authors. Think of “self-coups,” coups against military leaders and other rightists, and, most recently, the coup against Yingluck Shinawatra, when spending on the military increased.

That said, there’s no doubt that Thai military leaders love kit and money. One graph in the Atlas story demonstrates how the military has benefited by sucking the taxpayer of the people’s money.

Military spending

What is clear, is that following the 2006 and 2014 coups, the military has been rewarded and the taxpayer filched. We might also observe that military and military-backed regimes also shovel taxpayer funds to their ally, the monarchy.

The other group that does well following military political interventions is the Sino-Thai capitalist oligarchy and their conglomerates. They get to such at the taxpayer teat via the contracts and concessions doled out by the regimes that reward their loyalty to military and monarchy.

Several times already this group has come to the rescue of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime. And as Prayuth’s mafia coalition struggles with the virus, once again, Thailand’s top business groups “offered to join the government in a mass rollout of Covid-19 vaccination from June as the Southeast Asian nation grapples with its worst coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began.”

Gen Prayuth’s faltering vaccine “strategy” has the support of “the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Thai Bankers Association and the Tourism Council of Thailand,” with special mention made of “[b]illionaire Dhanin Chearavanont’s Charoen Pokphand Group and VGI Pcl…”. VGI is the profitable advertising arm of the Skytrain enterprise owned mostly by the Kanjanapas family.

It seems that these groups plan to not only prop up the regime, but the king’s vaccine company as well:

Thai owners of malls, commercial real estate and industrial parks will provide spaces for vaccination camps once the country receives more vaccines from June, while other businesses will assist in distribution and logistics, communication with the public and procurement of more doses….

The Bangkok Post – which is interlinked with the conglomerates through directors and major shareholders – manages to come up with the outlandish claim that, like frontline health workers, the “men in suits turn saviours,” joining “medical heroes in trying to give [the regime’s] slow vaccination drive a shot in the arm…”. These are, it claims, “a crop of saviours stepping out of their boardrooms to rally behind vaccine procurement and national vaccination efforts…”.

Observing that the “country’s economic powerhouses are being seen as an emerging sturdy force that can help prop up the government…”, the Post doesn’t acknowledge that, so far, they haven’t actually done anything apart from prop up their regime.

Of course, more vaccination is also good for business, so the tycoons are in a win-win-win situation. And, propping up the Gen Prayuth and his limping regime of hucksters, criminals, and thugs, guarantees profits, concessions, and contracts.

Money greases a lot of wheels, but the benefits flow mostly to military, money, and monarchy.





King’s reward

2 02 2021

Usually the monarchy and military get most of our attention. But we have long posted about the tripod of oligarchy and power in Thailand, with the third leg being Sino-Thai tycoons. They’ve given billions to the monarchy and lots of ideological support and they’ve done the same for Thailand’s nasty military regimes.

In an announcement a couple of days ago, the king provided rewards for quite a bunch of the plutocrats.

The Bangkok Post reports highlights that “Suthikiati Chirathivat, chairman of the board of Bangkok Post Plc and chairman of the board of Central Plaza Hotel Plc. He is one of seven people awarded the Knight Grand Cordon (First Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand.” The capitalists love these awards because they show acceptance and put them close to the monarchy and all the benefits that provides and has provided them for decades.

It reports that others who were repaid for their “loyalty” included:

Prasert Prasarttong-Osoth, the founder of Bangkok Dusit Medical Services Plc; Santi Bhirombhakdi, executive chairman of Boonrawd Brewery Co; … Chattip Tanthaprasas, president of Nitipeerachat Law Office; Polapee Tulyasuwan, managing director of Nitipeerachat Law Office, and Aswin Techajareonvikul, chief executive officer of Berli Jucker Plc.

We are not sure what services the Nitipeerachat Law Office provided. Maybe a reader knows?

But this report is somewhat sneaky, leaving out the big names. Prachatai (in Thai) reproduces the Royal Announcement and the names include all the whales of the Sino-Thai tycoons. First listed is CP’s Dhanin Chearavanont, second is Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi of ThaiBev, third is Charoen’s wife, Wanna, and the others on Thailand’s rich list follow: a bunch of Lamsams, more Chearavanonts, more from the Sirivadhanabhakdi clan, more Bhirombhakdis, Pornpraphasand so it goes on.

Whole families seem to have been royally anointed. This appears as a thank you award for Sino-Thais supporting the king.

We wonder if those not listed aren’t being urged to do more?

 

 





Further updated: Thanathorn and lese majeste

21 01 2021

When a security guard at the luxury IconSiam shopping mall – partly royal owned – slapped a university student who was holding a lone protest in front of the center, it seemed kind of “normal” for royalist Thailand. What the student was protesting was anything but normal.

A member of the activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, the student was holding a sign inscribed “Vaccine Monopoly is PR for the Royals.”

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak highlighted the message saying: “This person came out to campaign on behalf of the interest of the people…”. As has been known for some time, the Crown Property Bureau will make the “vast majority of vaccines to be used in the [virus] inoculation campaign…”. The CPB’s wholly-owned firm, Siam Bioscience, has been handed the contract.

Now, after comments about Siambioscience, the regime has gone royalist  bonkers spilled their lese majeste marbles:

The Digital Economy and Society Ministry (DES) will file a criminal complaint of defaming the monarchy against … Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the ministry said on Wednesday.

The complaint against Mr Thanathorn under Article 112 of the criminal code will be filed on Wednesday afternoon, according to an official ministry memo sent to reporters.

Then, Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit “slammed the government for its tardiness in providing Covid-19 vaccines and pointed out that the company tasked with manufacturing the vaccine locally is owned by the King.”

Thanathorn

Thanathorn concluded that “the government has been careless in negotiations for the vaccine…”. He pointed out that Siam Bioscience “is tasked with producing 200 million doses per year. Of this, 176 million will be sold to other countries in the region, while the remainder will be sold locally.” He added that the regime “has announced it will give Siam Bioscience Bt1.44 billion for the project.”

He claimed Siam Bioscience was only “established in 2009 with an authorised capital of Bt48 billion, but over the past 11 years, the corporation has made losses worth Bt581 billion…”.

And, he “pointed out that Siam Bioscience was only added to the plan in the second quarter of 2020 – when anti-establishment protesters began holding their rallies.” This, he said, may make the “AstraZeneca-Siam Bioscience deal is politically motivated.”

This led the Public Health Ministry to “clarify.” Permanent secretary for Public Health Kiattiphum Wongrajit defended the deal with Siambioscience and rejected “accusations that the government had delayed the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine, as it was expensive, and had failed to cover the public.”

One official explained:

Our deal with AstraZeneca company isn’t just a regular vaccine deal, but also involves technology transfer during the crisis period. The company that receives knowledge of the technology needs to be qualified and ready for it. Only Siam Bioscience is capable of receiving the tech from Oxford University. Even Thai Pharmaceutical Organization does not have  enough potential because of the  use of modern technology….

He added that:

Anutin unmasked. Clipped from Der Farang.

the Public Health Ministry, the NVI and SCG, as well as the government had  collaborated in the negotiations and showed the potential of Siam Bioscience, which originally produced only biological material or drugs to increase blood cells in patients with renal failure. The vaccine production plant will get Bt500-million support from the government and Bt100 million from SCG to buy the required equipment.

In other words, Siambioscience wasn’t ready to receive the technology. A deal was done. He confirmed this saying: “This success is built on a potential base.”

Then it went royalist propaganda and decidedly weird:

There is a misunderstanding about our support. I insist that it is our work in accordance with the philosophy of King Rama IX, under which Thailand has laid the health foundation and built medical expertise over 10 years.

An initial reaction from the regime came from the erratic Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul who criticized Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn, “accusing him of not being grateful to the ‘Mother Land’ for his alleged attempt to politicize the government’s procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.”

Anutin went full royalist, suggesting that Thanathorn was onto something:

Anutin … said that Thanathorn appears to know everything, but doesn’t know how to be grateful to the late King Bhumibol, who set the foundation for medical and health development in Thailand for the betterment of his subjects.

He suggested that royal PR and royal business were inseparable, damning Thanathorn, asking/accusing:

… whether he knows that the 20 mobile laboratory units, being deployed across the country to carry out pro-active COVID-19 screening, were sent by the Bureau of the Royal Household.

He further said that the PPE being used by medical personnel also came from the Palace, adding that funding, amounting to several billion baht, was donated by the late King for the development of hospitals and medical services in the countryside for the benefit of rural people…. He also said that, this afternoon, he will take delivery of 770,000 PPE suits, donated by the Palace for use by medical personnel.

All of this royalist madness suggests there’s much to hide.

Mad as hell Anutin was followed by his boss, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, who “warned Tuesday that legal action will be taken against people, in mainstream and social media, who distort facts about the deal to procure COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca by the government…”.

The predictable result was an allegation of lese majeste that will inevitably lead to charges:

The complaint accused Thanathorn of making 11 separate counts of critical remarks about the monarchy during his Monday night’s Facebook Live titled “Royal Vaccine: Who Benefits and Who Doesn’t?,” in which he questioned the role of Siam Bioscience, a Thai firm wholly owned by King Vajiralongkorn, in the production of coronavirus vaccines in Thailand.

“His comments can cause misunderstandings in society,” vice minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Thotsaphon Pengsom said. “It can create intolerable damage to the country and the works of the government.”

He added, “Therefore, we must take legal action immediately and we will go after each and everyone who shared it.”

… The vice minister said the complaint filed today also accused Thanathorn of violating the Computer Crime Act for spreading false information, which carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison.

Because Siambioscience is so opaque it is impossible to know if any of the claims made about its capacity or lack of it are true. As far as we can tell, Siambioscience makes two products under license. But, the regime’s hostile reaction suggests that there’s plenty going on in this deal done in secret and announced in sparse press releases, none of which appear at the company’s website. We could not find an announcement of the Siambioscience deal at the AstraZenca global site.

But let’s just add a bit to this mix.

In December 2020, it was announced:

Bangkok-based Siam Bioscience signed a letter of intent with AstraZeneca late last month to make 200 million doses of the British pharmaceutical firm’s COVID-19 vaccine, AZD1222, said Nakorn Premsri, director of Thailand’s National Vaccine Institute.

Thailand’s Public Health Ministry and the local conglomerate SCG [another firm with a major palace shareholding], with its packaging and chemicals divisions, also joined the deal.

Nakorn said most of the doses would head abroad.

Thailand will secure only 26 million doses. We may ask for more, but it will not be a big part, so maybe more than half of that [200 million] can be exported,” he told VOA.

Thailand did order more, but still only sufficient for half the population, and that was only after criticism mounted. The Chinese vaccine is linked to CP, but only a minuscule amount has so far been ordered.

There’s much in this story that needs explanation. The relish with which the regime went after Thanathorn needs no explanation.

Update 1: It is somehow “fitting” that the quisling Suporn Atthawong, now vice minister to the military PM’s Office, was the one filing the lese majeste complaint at the Technology Crime Suppression Division. Who can forget that Suporn’s own lese majeste charge evaporated when he flipped to the dictators.

Update 2: Unbowed, Thanathorn responded: “Prayut has always used the royal institution to hide the inefficiency of his administration, saying that he is loyal to the monarchy and protecting it…. Is this not why many people are raising issues with the monarchy institution?”





Protecting CP

7 01 2021

PPT has posted several times on the relationship between Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime and the biggest, richest Sino-Thai tycoons (here, here, here, here, and here).

Khaosod reports on yet another “bonus” provided to the already hugely rich. It states that Bangkok’s health officials “omitted references to a convenience store chain owned by one of Thailand’s largest corporations when publishing coronavirus patients’ travel history ‘due to legal concerns’.”

In a remarkable turn of events, Siriporn Thongphu, an officer at Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s infectious control division, said: “We have representatives from the legal department to review the travel history of patients before announcing them…”.

The result is that the travel history of a virus infected person was wiped of a trip to one of CP’s thousands of 7-Eleven convenience stores.

CP All, the operator of 7-Elevens rehearsed its PR:

The company said there is no report of anyone contracting the virus from its 7-Eleven stores to date. Bangkok has about 4,500 branches of 7-Eleven, according to available information.

“Customers only spent a few minutes in our stores, so there’s very low risk of infection,” the statement said. “However, we have instructed our staff to disinfect all the surfaces every three hours to ensure safety of our customers.”

Khaosod states:

The practice of scrubbing any mention of 7-Eleven stores seems to be exclusively adopted by Bangkok authorities, since travel timelines of coronavirus patients published by provincial agencies outside the capital explicitly mention names of each establishment visited by the individuals, including 7-Eleven.

But here’s the rub: CP has made a fortune during the virus crisis, not least because its thousands of convenience stores were permitted to stay open when almost everything else was closed. CP gets special treatment from the junta/post-junta.





Prayuth’s poverty regime

17 11 2020

A story in the Bangkok Post reports that Jinanggoon Rojananan, deputy-secretary general of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), “11.4 million households are at risk of falling into poverty from the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, with the unemployment rate rising…”.

Today, there “are 637,000 households dependent on public and private financial assistance” with 467,000 of them reporting lower incomes today. These “households work in sectors that are more prone to job losses such as tourism or self-employment.” Jinanggoon claims that poverty fell between 2018 and 2019.

That poverty is claimed to have decreased between 2018 and 2019 may not be a huge surprise as the junta poured money into “buying” votes through all kinds of programs it once lambasted as “populist” or as “policy corruption.” But Jinanggoon seems to be warning of a dire downturn in 2020.

But the story of the Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha regime over several years needs to be told. Back in March, the World Bank reported:

Between 2015 and 2018, the poverty rate in Thailand increased from 7.2 percent to 9.8 percent, and the absolute number of people living in poverty rose from 4.85 million to more than 6.7 million. The increase in poverty in 2018 was widespread – occurring in all regions and in 61 out of 77 provinces. In the Central and Northeast, the number of poor increased by over half a million in each region during the same period. The conflict-affected South became the region with the highest poverty rate for the first time in 2017.

In suggesting why these increases in poverty have occurred, the World Bank states:

The population at the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution is not sharing as well in prosperity, and in the recent period of 2015-2017, consumption and income growth in this bottom 40 percent were negative. The reversal in trend among this bottom 40 during this period is related to declines in all forms of labor incomes, including a stagnation in wage growth and declines in farm and business incomes.

The full report can be downloaded as a PDF. For an academic discussion of this report and its implications, another PDF is available.

Meanwhile, some of the filthy rich are doing well, with CP having a massive rise in profits.





Media, students and monarchy II

23 08 2020

The Bangkok Post reports on a backlash against the ultra-royalist Nation TV (warning: clicking the link opens rabid rant). Khaosod has a related report.

According to the Post, those rallying against the regime have mounted social media campaigns against the rabid ranting television broadcaster, calling out those businesses that advertise with them. It says the boycott of Nation TV and its advertisers began from deceptive reporting:

In this case, it started with a lapse of professional ethics by a journalist assigned by the pro-establishment TV station to cover the youth-led rally for political change at Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue last Sunday.

When she asked a demonstrator for an interview, the suspicious protester asked: “What news outlet are you from?”

Fearing she would be turned down given the pro-democracy tone of the demonstration, she lied, saying she came from a little-known news outlet.

The interview showed up later that day on the TV station of the well-known media group to the surprise, and then rage, of the interviewee who refused to keep quiet.

Reporting this as a “lapse” seems to downplay the fact that Nation TV regularly “reports” in biased and deceptive ways.

The parent Nation Multimedia Group defended deception by claiming “its reporters have in the past been intimidated, verbally abused and pressured by protesters at several rallies.” It attacked pro-democracy rally goers as “opponents” while fibbing that the station always reported the “facts”and criticizing them for “hate speech,” which is actually Nation TV’s brand.

The campaigners quickly circulated lists advertisers and these were widely shared: the companies and brands included Unilever, Osotspa, the CP Group, Central Group, Muang Thai Life and Foodpanda. Twitter users wanted companies to “acknowledge their Thailand branch is supporting dictatorship…”.

The quick outcome was that the “companies on the list have since issued statements denying involvement with the TV station and insisted they are politically neutral.” In the report it is stated that “only insurer Muang Thai Life said it would stop advertising with the group.”





A winner!!

14 08 2020

Remember when The Dictator-cum-Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was babbling about getting help from Thailand’s richest tycoons? Remember the sclerotic ideas he received from some of the tycoons? Charoen Pokphand’s patriarch was one who proposed ideas that served CP’s interests.

Perhaps to the surprise of many, in the era of virus economic crisis, CP has done very nicely. Khaosod reports that: “Charoen Pokphand Foods PLC (CPF) reported Baht12,139 million in net profits in the first half of 2020, a jump by 45% from the corresponding period a year earlier…”. It reported increased sales, including in Thailand.

Even in a crisis where there are so many who have lost so much, there are winners.





All hail the rich!

5 07 2020

Bloomberg reports that the regime’s “plan to target high-spending foreigners to kick-start its travel sector,” as promoted by the CP tycoon, “has a green light after winning Cabinet approval and additional support from the nation’s aviation regulator.”

Now with an almost total ban on foreign travelers the “Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand added a clause to also allow those who have ‘special arrangements’ with the government.” We thought king and queen and any guest or the Army boss. But, no, this is for the filthy rich of the world.

Chula Sukmanop, director general of the CAAT, “explained”: “Many in the high-spending, high-income groups avoided direct impact from the pandemic, but couldn’t come here because of travel restrictions…”. Trust royalists to take advantage of the class nature of the virus crisis and make it explicit.

Chula added: “I’ve spoken with private aircraft operators who said they have plenty of potential customers looking to charter a plane to here.” And he sounds ecstatic about the prospect of the wealthiest landing in Thailand:

The “special arrangement” group widens the market for “big spenders,” whose applications could be treated on a “fast-track basis that requires case-by-case approval,” Chula said. The biggest proportion of visitors in the initial phase will qualify through one of the travel-bubble agreements Thailand makes with other nations, he said.

Somprawin Manprasert, chief economist at Bank of Ayudhya, observed: “This won’t do much to help the many small hotel operators in the country…”.

Despite Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s lame denials that his regime does favors for his favorite Sino-Thai tycoons, when it comes to the domestic super-rich, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of wealth enhancement projects in the works.

The Nation reports that the “Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry has announced plans to establish 3,000 foreign investment funds to support Thai farmers and deal with food shortages.” That’s shortages outside Thailand.

Deputy Minister Prapat Pothasuthon said his “ministry is in talks with the Capital Trust Group and related private agencies on plans to establish 3,000 foreign funds to enhance agricultural businesses in Thailand and create food sustainability…. This move also aims to boost [Thai] farmers’ liquidity by creating channels that connect them with institutional investors worldwide managing total assets of US$40 trillion…”.

This won’t do much to help many small farmers in the country. Watch the financial whales breach and grasp the profits.

Then there’s the “megaprojects” being developed by the giant bag of loot also known as the Ministry of Transport: “eight motorway-railway projects linking economic zones with Thailand’s border regions…”. Minister Saksayam Chidchob added “double-track rail projects would be constructed to link the economic zones with border checkpoints around the country…”.

Buriram relatives  and party faithful must be rubbing their hands and the super-rich will be the contractors.








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