Further updated: King’s vaccine delayed

24 05 2021

Probably based on a royalist ideological position, the military-backed monarchists of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government initially decided to put all of its vaccine eggs in just two baskets. One was the the Sino-Thai tycoon’s Chinese vaccine. The other was the king’s vaccine, where with state support a little known company, Siam Bioscience, owned by the king, was allocated the task of producing the AstraZeneca vaccine.

While the Chinese vaccines have been rolling in – some of it reserved for Chinese citizens – AstraZeneca production has been slow. Some now say it is delayed:

Covid vaccinate

Clipped from The Rand Blog

Public hospitals such as Vajira, Chulabhorn, and Thammasat announced that they were short of vaccine stock over the weekend and will thus be delaying their scheduled shots, The Standard reported.

The report did not give details on the shortfall. Representatives of Siam Bioscience were not available for comment.

The news comes after earlier reports that the Siam Bioscience is not on track to fulfil its commitment to produce 6 million doses by the end of June. The schedule also states production levels of 10 million per month from July until the end of the year.

Dr Satit Pitutaecha, assistant governor to the Ministry of Public Health in an interview with The Standard explained that the initial 1.7 million doses for May will not be ready in time because the ministry had requested a change from the original production schedule.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Monday that he had made no commitment to having vaccines available by June 1, only to start administering them on June 7.

As might be expected of a small and inexperienced company, there would appear to be problems in scaling up production, with some reports suggesting “production levels in June were likely to be around half of what was scheduled…”.

The plan of having Thais vaccinated by the king’s graces seems to have stumbled and fallen.

Update 1: Following reports of delays, “health authorities” have said that “more AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine will be delivered by schedule next month…”. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has announced that “Thailand would take delivery of another lot of AstraZeneca vaccine in June.” He then added: “that this did not mean they would be available on June 1,” saying: ““If the shots made in Thailand are not ready, the company is bound to find them from somewhere else to fill our order as stipulated in the contract…”. So it seems pretty certain that locally-produced vaccine will fall short.

Concerns about delays were also exacerbated when it a plan was announced to delay “AstraZeneca second shots by four weeks for an interval of 16 weeks instead of 12 originally.” While doctors say this is based on health research, most people read it as a delay. Reports from readers suggest that the best way to get AstraZeneca is to connive with the health personnel currently offering AstraZeneca as an alternative to Sinovac for a payment of several thousand baht.

Update 2: Anutin is at it again. He’s reported in this way:

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul insists the government will be ready to launch a massive Covid-19 vaccination programme as promised from June 7 using AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

… Speaking after meeting with company representatives on Tuesday, the deputy prime minister said that AstraZeneca had given him updated information and the discussion had been very positive.

Whoopie! Jabs to come. But:

He did not specify the exact date the company would deliver its first vaccine batch to the ministry but said the company would provide further deliveries every month.

And he went on to be imprecise:

What we can say right now is that the company will be able to send its vaccine continuously every month…. The amount will be based on discussions between the company and the Department of Disease Control (DDC).

A couple of days ago he was talking about a contractual requirement…. And his evasion went on:

We can’t say the exact date we will get our first delivery from the company but we are confident that it will be ready by June 7.

Even the Bangkok Post is not finding Anutin very convincing. We hope the vaccine is available and distributed free as promised rather than “auctioned” as it is currently being done in some places.





(Not) Taxing the crown

14 02 2021

One of the points of the announcement that he king was taking full and formal control of all crown wealth was that he’d pay tax. In its “explanation” of the secretly legislated changes the king had the junta make in 2017, it is stated:

Regarding the liability for duties and taxation, the Crown Property Act, BE 2560 (2017) stipulates that matters related to either liability for, or exemption from, duties and taxation shall be determined and regulated by the specific legislations covering the relevant types or duties and taxes. Such provisions differ from those under the previous statute which exempted the Crown Property Bureau completely from all types or duties and taxes. In implementing the new Statute, His Majesty made the decision to make the “Crown Property Assets” be subject to the same duties and taxation as would assets belonging to any other citizen Therefore, if the assets were to remain in the name of the Office of the Crown Property Bureau, they would have retained the exempted status under the current taxation laws since the Office of the Crown Property Bureau is designated – still, as an entity exempted from duties and taxation. “Crown Property Assets” are now given a status on par with that of any other legal person. The removal of exempted status was accomplished in line with His Majesty’s Wishes.

Like much that emanates from the palace, there seems clarity in this but there’s also plenty of ambiguity if the details are dissected. Of course, the question of whether the king actually pays taxes is opaque and one of the reasons why protesters have been calling for reform.

In a recent discussion at Prachatai, and attempt is made to cut through the secrecy, smoke, and mirrors. The result is an enlightening article, well worth reading, but the result is that the taxpaying public still doesn’t know if the king pays tax, on what, and how much. The report makes this statement:

the Crown Property Bureau still has not disclosed its annual report on its website, as was previously done during King Rama IX’s reign, so we do not have any information on the income of the Crown Property Bureau, especially on the transfer of real estate which used to be crown property and public property to become the property of King Rama X to be administrated, preserved, managed, and operated all at the King’s discretion.

That’s only partly true. There was an annual report for a few short years, but it contained no financial information. Now, however, the reporting on the CPB is missing but the financial information has always been kept a secret.

With regard to the billions of baht of taxpayer funds shoveled into the royal family and palace – some detailed by Prachatai – again, there’s no clarity on the taxation status.

For real estate, the report states that the 2019 Land and Building Tax Act sets a “rate of 0.01-3% of the estimate property value, depending on the category of land/building.” However, a Ministerial Regulation on Property Exempted from Land and Building Tax in 2019 exempted crown property and the property of members of the royal family for the following purposes:

(a) for use in governmental affairs, royal affairs or any royal agencies

(b) for use in any other affairs of the King and royal family members or for public benefit

(c) for use as a religious place of any religion to perform religious activities or public activities or as the residence of monks, priests or clergymen of any religion, or as a shrine.

The Prachatai assessment concludes:

The information given here cover only the facts and laws that are common knowledge, and the interpretation is based on the author’s understanding. It is difficult to confirm whether tax is collected as interpreted in this article or not. Ever since the changes in the administration of the Royal Offices and crown property there has been no clear explanation on the newly amended laws, and details about the crown property are not disclosed to the public. These questions therefore remain in society, as long as the people do not have access to sufficient information to answer them.

In other words, the king’s personal grab of crown property was propagandized as him paying tax. The result is less clarity than ever.





Thanathorn’s defiance brings more charges

7 02 2021

Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit showed up at a Criminal Court hearing on Thursday “support[ing] his petition asking the court to rescind its order to remove, from social media, his comment criticizing the government’s vaccine procurement plan, via Siam Bioscience…”.

He’s not backing down:

Before attending the hearing today, Thanathorn insisted that, since the monarchy is a part of Thai society, it is the right of Thai people to comment about the institution, so long as such comments are made in good faith, with no ill intention toward the institution and are for the good of society.

As a result, rabid royalists and the regime are piling on charges.

The mad monarchists at Warong Dechgitvigrom’s personal party/pressure (small) group Thai Pakdee brought another lese majeste complaint against Thanathorn. Warong claimed “Thanathorn was dragging the monarchy into his criticism of the vaccine deals between Thailand and British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca…”. Warong reckons that Thanathorn is “trying to manipulate the facts…. Don’t forget that this is a deal between AstraZeneca and the government. But he [Thanathorn] tries to link it to the monarchy.”

In fact, the regime’s “defense” has been that the deal is between AstraZeneca and the king’s company. But Warong gets plenty wrong.

Interestingly, the regime’s handing of the vaccine deal to the king continues to get it in vaccine trouble. It is left out in Southeast Asia and globally by its rejection of the Covax arrangement, “co-led by Geneva-based vaccine alliance Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation, to accelerate the development and manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccines…”, and which provides allocations of vaccines.

The regime has decided to bring even more charges against Thanathorn while also going after his family.

Like previous politicians who have been seen as anti-monarchy, Thanathorn’s life is to be made difficult, strewn with claims, accusations, and charges.





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?”





Royalists, academics and palace propaganda

10 01 2021

A couple of days ago we posted on advice to protesters. That advice was well-meaning. At the Asia Times Online, however, academic Michael Nelson of the Asian Governance Foundation, writes the protesters off: “[Gen] Prayut [Chan-ocha] does not seem to be in danger. The royal-military alliance seems to be unassailable…”. He adds: “The protesters, though big on Facebook, also have little backing in the population. And now, the government is getting tough with them…”.

That seems somewhat premature, even if the regime has the “benefit” of a virus uptick and can use the emergency decree to good ill effect. In any case, as far as support is concerned, we recall the Suan Dusit survey in late October that seemed rather supportive of the protesters. Things might have changed given the all out efforts by the regime and palace, but we think the demonstrators have had considerable support.

Another academic is getting into the fray to support the regime and palace. At the regime’s website Thailand Today, pure royalist propaganda by “Prof. Dr. Chartchai Na Chiang Mai” is translated from The Manager Online. For obvious reasons, the regime loves the work of this royalist propagandist who tests the boundaries of the term “academic.” But, then, Chartchai is “an academic at the National Institute of Development Administration or NIDA,” a place that has played an inglorious role in recent politics and where “academic” seems a loose term used to describe a person associated with NIDA.

Royalists ideologues posing as academics have been well rewarded. Chartchai is no different. His rewards have included appointment to the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee and its National Reform Council. In these positions, he opposed any notion of an elected prime minister and supported the junta’s propaganda activities on its constitution. He has also been a propagandist for “sufficiency economy,” a “theory” lacking much academic credibility but which is religiously promoted as one of the “legacies” of the dead king.

Self-crowned

His latest effort is a doozy. Published in November 2020, “Resolute and Adaptive: The Monarchy in the Modern Age” is a defense of a neo-feudal monarchy. It seeks to dull the calls for reform by claiming that King Vajiralongkorn “has already been reforming the institution of the monarchy to adapt in a modern context, even before protesters were making their demands for reform. Moreover, His Majesty’s approach has always been people-centred.”

This sounds remarkably like the royalist defense made of King Prajadhipok after the 1932 revolution, suggesting he was thinking about granting a constitution before the People’s Party, a claim still made by royalist and lazy historians. In the current epoch, if the king is “reforming,” then the calls for reform are redundant.

Reflecting the good king-bad king narrative, in a remarkable contortion, Chartchai warns that the bad king should not be compared with his father. He declares this “unjust” and “unfair.” The bad king is “preserving those achievements, but to also work with all sectors of the country to extend these accomplishments even further, as he carries his father’s legacy onwards into the future.”

That’s exactly the palace’s propaganda position on Vajiralongkorn.

How has Vajiralongkorn “sought to reform the monarchy”? Readers may be surprised to learn that the king has been “adjusting royal protocol by closing the gap between himself and his subjects, allowing public meetings and photo-taking in a more relaxed manner which differs greatly from past practices.”

Of course, this is recent and the palace’s propaganda response to the demonstrations. Before that, the king worked to distance the palace from people. Not least, the king lived thousands of kilometers from Thailand.

A second reform – again a surprising construction for propaganda purposes – is the “reform of the Crown Property Bureau…”. The king officially taking personal control of all royal wealth and property through new, secretly considered, laws demanded by the king is portrayed as intending to “demystify the once conservative and disorderly system the King himself found to be corrupt. The Bureau is now made more transparent to the public and prevents any further exploitation of the old system.”

There’s been no public discussion of this CPB corruption and nor is there any evidence that there is any transparency at all. In our research, the opposite is true.

We are told that the king’s property acquisitions were also about corruption and “public use.” The examples provided are the “Royal Turf Club of Thailand under the Royal Patronage” and military bases in Bangkok.

The Royal Turf Club was a which was a “gathering place for dubious but influential people” and has been “reclaimed as part of the royal assets is in the process of being developed into a park for public recreational activities.” That “public use” is a recent decision, with the palace responding to criticism. Such plans were never mentioned when the century old racecourse was taken. It is also “revealed” that the military bases that now belong personally to the king will be for public purposes. Really? Other “public places” in the expanded palace precinct have been removed from public use: the zoo, parliament house, and Sanam Luang are but three examples. We can only wait to see what really happens in this now huge palace area.

Chartchai also discusses how “[r]Reform of the Rajabhat University system or the Thai form of teachers’ college, has also slowly and steadily been taking place, with the King’s Privy Counsellor overseeing the progress.”

Now we understand why all the Rajabhats have been showering the queen with honorary doctorates. The idea that this king – who was always a poor student and didn’t graduate from anything – knows anything about education is bizarre. How the king gained control of the 38 Rajabhats is not explained.

What does this mean for the protests? The implication is, like 1932, those calling for reform are misguided. Like his father, the king “is the cultural institution and must remain above politics and under the constitution.” Is he under the constitution when he can have the regime change it on a whim and for personal gain?

Chartchai “explains” that “the monarchy is constantly adjusting itself…”. He goes full-throttle palace propaganda declaring the monarchy a bastion of “independence, cultural traditions, and soul of the nation, is adjusting and fine-tuning itself for the benefit of the people.” As such, Thais should ignore the calls for reform and properly “understand, lend support and cooperation so that the monarchy and Thai people sustainably and happily co-exist.”

For an antidote to this base royalist propaganda, readers might enjoy a recent and amply illustrated story at The Sun, a British tabloid, which recounts most of Vajiralongkorn’s eccentric and erratic activities.





CPB corruption

11 12 2020

PPT has no idea of the connection between Thanathorn and Sakulthorn Juangroongruangkit apart from the fact that they are brothers. Clearly, though, the House’s committee on law and justice, dominated by the Palang Pracharath Party, reckon they can get some political advantage by summoning “a public prosecutor in for questioning to find out why the department did not indict Sakulthorn … for his involvement in a case in which two people were jailed for taking bribes.”

We are more interested in the agency involved. One of the two convicted “was an official from the Crown Property Bureau…”. The report adds:

The bribery case was sent to the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases, which in November 2019 convicted Prasit Aphaiphoncharn, a Crown Property Bureau official, and Surakit Tangwithoowanich, for taking bribes and forging documents while acting as a land-lease deal middleman.

Both were found to have lined up a deal that scammed Sakulthorn. They were “said to have convinced Mr Sakulthorn they could help him bypass the Crown Property Bureau’s land-leasing process in return for a payment of 20 million baht.” They forged documents that claimed they would pay money to “the deputy director of the Crown Property Bureau, who is also a state official, in a bid to influence this official to make a favourable decision in granting a land lease to the Real Asset Development company, without entering the official bidding process…”

The obvious question: was this a one-off deal? We doubt it. How much corruption has there been in the CPB. With no transparency, how could we know and how can we trust such an agency?





Further updated: Royalist skulduggery v. The People’s skulduckery

26 11 2020

Social media is better than the mainstream media on last evening’s rally at the Siam Commercial Bank HQ. Social media is reporting shots fired, people wounded, infiltration of the protesters by “third hand” elements, probably from the military, and royalist counter-rallies boosted by the king and queen.

Khaosod does report that “[s]hots were fired by unidentified assailants at pro-democracy protesters as they were leaving their rally at the headquarters of Thailand’s oldest bank on Wednesday night, wounding at least two people.” It adds some details:

Eyewitnesses said they heard a loud explosion, followed by 3-4 gunshots, at about 10.15pm, soon after the protest in front of Siam Commercial Bank’s main office concluded. One of the assailants was apprehended while he was trying to run away with others; the rest reportedly managed to flee the scene.

Sombat Thongyoi, one of the volunteer guards who provided security for the protesters, said two people were shot. Both of them were sent to hospital.

“We cannot yet establish whether it was a personal matter or politically motivated,” Sombat said.

Forensic police at the scene said they found traces of bullets; police also said they found a handgun on the man apprehended by the protest guards, though it is unclear as of publication time if it was the same firearm used in the shooting.

Khaosod reports a little on the rally:

The target was switched to the Siam Commercial Bank, a publicly held company in which King Vajiralongkorn is the biggest shareholder. The bank’s headquarters are in a different area of Bangkok, far from the district hosting the Crown Property Bureau and other royal and government offices.

Ducks and some chickens. Clipped from SBS News

An international report has more:

Thousands of Thai democracy activists have rallied in Bangkok to demand the king give up control of his multibillion-dollar fortune, turning their protest movement directly on the once-untouchable monarchy’s vast wealth….

Protest leaders have struck a defiant tone in response, with human rights lawyer Anon Numpha – who is among the 12 summoned for questioning [on lese majeste charges] – telling Wednesday’s protest “the reform of the nation has started whether you believe it or not”.

“Many Thais who had never dared question the monarchy now have started asking question about this king,” he said.

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, a student leader also called for questioning, told AFP he was not afraid and said the summons under section 112 would simply encourage more people to join the movement.

“Does this mean the monarchy has declared an all-out war with the people – is that right?” he said.

While some of the time the atmosphere of the protest was light-hearted, the speeches were also making important points. Thisrupt reports:

… Ratsadon’s leading activist Anon Nampa stood on a truck in a yellow duck costume. Thousands of people gathered, spilling out onto the other side of the street.

Cries of “ooh” and “ahh” went up now and then. Not because Anon was cursing hell, fire, and brimstone from the truck. Instead, he was educating minds, provoking thoughts, and inspiring changes.

That’s why he’s Thailand’s most dangerous man. It’s no wonder General Prayut Chan-o-cha is bringing back Article 112, the lese majeste law.

There was also the moment when the aged Sulak Srivaraksa, “aided by a walking stick and an assistant, made a surprise appearance.”

In his brief address, Sulak said he would speak on just one issue, the lèse majesté law, or Section 112 of the Criminal Code. He said HM the late King Bhumibol once said that the invocation of Section 112 amounts to an assault on him and its use will undermine the Monarchy.

“Why doesn’t Prayut comply with the late King’s wish?” he asked, adding that HM King Vajiralongkorn has instructed the attorney-general and the president of the Supreme Court, in writing, to stop invoking Section 112.

He accused the prime minister of undermining the Monarchy and bullying HM the King by invoking Section 112 against protest leaders, as he demanded the prime minister’s ouster.

We have few doubts that Sulak is wrong on his interpretation. In his actions, the king has made it clear that the anti-monarchism of the protesters has to be eradicated. His most recent PR outing included another meeting with Warong Dechgitvigrom, leader of Thai Pakdee. At something seemingly belonging to the ultra-royalists and called The Truth, there’s a story about the meeting, quoting the king as whispering in Warong’s ear to say: “Thank you. We must help the people see what is wrong, what is bad, what distorts and what is fake news.”

It is clear that the king believes he can defeat the rising tide of anti-monarchism. His support for the ultra-royalists unleashes their fury. Hence the attempts to stoke conflict at anti-regime demonstrations.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post, which has more or less not reported from the rally at the SCB, has reported on the shooting. It recounts the police story that “shooting heard after the protest at SCB Park ended on Wednesday night involved students from rival vocational schools who worked as guards during the rally…”. Given that vocational students have been involved with yellow shirts, there remains room for some skepticism on the reporting. We’d like to hear from the rally organizers before deciding what happened. We are still waiting to hear more about the previous shootings.

Update 2: Our skepticism in Update 1 is born out in a Thai Enquirer report, where a “leader of several groups of protest guards denied on Thursday and Friday police claims that violence that occurred during the end of Wednesday’s protests was due to infighting by several vocational protest groups.” If this leader is believed, then the next question would be: Why did the police make their announcement? Possible answers are: they are an incompetent bunch of dolts, which they have previously demonstrated. Another could be that someone has paid them off, which has happened many times in the past. And another might be that they have been ordered to make false claims, which is standard practice and was seen several times in the past when red shirts were framed.





Updated: Confrontation looms

25 11 2020

The use of lese majeste and the multiple threats of arrest today have mounted. The regime has seemingly calculated that the events at police headquarters and the royal family’s PR blitz and its “demonstrated generosity,” that a crackdown on protesters targeting the king and his wealth may not earn them “too much” public derision.

Police and military are preparing for tonight’s rally at the Crown Property Bureau. Razor wire is up and the so-called “royal” exclusion zone established. That the military has been active with helicopters suggests preparations for a confrontation.

Thai PBS reports that “increased helicopter activity, heard over several areas of Bangkok on Monday night,” and “which went on for hours” was described  by Army Chief Gen Narongphan Chitkaewtae as “part of security arrangements for the motorcade of … the King and Queen…”. We fear it is preparations for tonight, especially when he added that while “it is the police’s responsibility to deal with the rally,” the army is prepared to “help” if “there is a request from the police.”

The Free Youth have also upped the anty, publishing this statement:

Meanwhile the regime is doubling down. Neo-fascist member of the Democrat Party coalition party, Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senniam declared that the regime arrest Progressive Movement’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul for being responsible for the uprising and anti-monarchism.

He “explained”:

“As a Thai citizen and a Democrat MP, I will perform my duty to protect the Nation, the Religion, the Monarchy and the democratic system with the King as the head of state,” said Thavorn, claiming that 90 percent of the Thai population agree with him.

As “evidence” he “showed the media today a video clip of Piyabutr giving a speech at the University of London, on the topic of “Is Thailand in a Deeper State of Crisis?” on June 11th, 2016.” Yes, that’s more than four years ago.

On Thanathorn, Thaworn says that “in several speeches, has stressed the need for reform of the Thai Monarchy, adding that the founding of the Future Forward Party, which was dissolved by the Constitutional Court, was intended to achieve that goal.”

He went on to accuse “Thanathorn and Piyabutr of spending more than eight months brainwashing and inciting hatred of the Monarchy among Thai youth, with the intention of turning the protests into riots and, eventually, civil war.”

In fact, Thaworn is simply reflecting the views of ultra-royalists and rightists who are baying for blood.

It will be a difficult evening as the regime, at this point, seems to have drawn its line in the sand and the rally is likely to test that.

Update: As has happened previously, the anti-government protesters have changed their rally site, reducing the prospect of a clash. The new location is related as the rally will be at the Siam Commercial Bank HQ, with the king being the biggest shareholder in the bank.

We are not sure that the change was to avoid a clash and the inordinate efforts the regime had taken to seal off the area around the CPB, or just a prank to make the regime expend effort and look a bit silly.

The regime has barricaded the area around the CPB, with “[r]olls of razor wire and steel barricades…”, mainly shipping containers stacked end-to-end and two high. These efforts caused huge traffic jams. In addition, “[s]oldiers in plain clothes were seen deployed around the CPB…”.





Manipulating law

24 11 2020

PPT understands that pointing out abuses of the law by the current regime is not of much consequence. Double standards, impunity, bloody crackdowns, arrests on trumped up charges, making stuff up, and so on are just grist for the dictatorship-in-parliamentary-guise’s repression. But here goes.

A story in the Bangkok Post has this line about an upcoming demonstration at the Crown Property Bureau:

Pol Lt Gen Pakkapong Pongpetra, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, on Monday warned protesters not to go within a 150m radius from the office. Assembling within the distance from palace grounds is prohibited under the Public Assembly Act.

At Thai PBS there’s a sightly different version:

Pol Lt-Gen Pakkapong Pongpetra, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, also warned the Ratsadon group to abide by the law, when they stage their protest at the office of the Crown Property Bureau this Wednesday.

He insisted that, in previous protests, the police were unarmed and did not resort to violence which, he alleged, was started by the protesters. He suggested the Khana Ratsadon group not venture within 150 metres of the Crown Property Bureau.

Another story, at Thai Enquirer, has Gen Prawit Wongsuwan quoted as having “reminded the protestors that they must not enter within a 150 meter radius of a government building under the Public Assembly Act.”

Social media and the Post tell us that police are now marking out a zone of 150 meters around the CPB’s offices, designating a “palace area.”.

As far as we can tell – and there’s not a lawyer among us – none of this fits the deliberately vague Public Assembly Act. There is a bit on palaces:

Section 7. No public assembly shall be held within the radius of one hundred and fifty meters from the boundary of the Grand Palace, Royal Palace, Royal Residence of the Heir to the Throne or of His or Her Royal Highness Prince or Princess, Royal Palace Up-Country or Royal Mansion or from the place where the King, the Queen, the Heir to the Throne or His or Her Royal Highness Prince or Princess stays or resides, or from the place of Royal Visitors.

As far as we can tell, the CPB is not a palace under this definition.

Then there’s Section 8:

No public assembly shall obstruct gateway of, impede the performance of duties of, or hinder access to service of, the followings:
(1)    State agencies’ office;
(2)    airport, wharf, rail station or any other public transport station;
(3)    hospital, education institution and religious establishment;
(4)    embassy or consulate of foreign State or office of international organization;

The CPB isn’t a state agency or any of the other things.

However, Section 8 comes with another point:

(5)    other places as notified by the Minister.

We guess that this allows the minister to designate any place he/she pleases. But we do not think we have heard any news on such a designation. And if such a designation is made, these restrictions would need to be “interpreted.”

Rather, what we hear is the ultra-royalist, from Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha telling the media “to ask the anti-government protest leaders why they have to go to the Crown Property Bureau” to threats:

The pro-monarchy Phalang Phaen Din Siam group, led by Bancha Panniwat and Sumet Trakulwunnu, issued a statement announcing their own plans to stage retaliatory events on Tuesday and Wednesday near the Education Ministry to disrupt the anti-government rally at the nearby Crown Property Bureau.

If the People’s Movement protesters want to go to the bureau, they must wade through the Phalang Phaen Din Siam group, whose leaders have said they will no longer allow any disrespectful behaviour towards the monarchy.

Mr Bancha said his group would demonstrate near the bureau beside the Education Ministry from 3pm on Tuesday, insisting that they were not looking for a confrontation of any kind.

He also called on supporters show up at the same spot at 8am on Wednesday.

“They can rally anywhere but not here,” Mr Bancha said.

He also said that many other royalist groups would be joining the Phalang Phaen Din Siam demonstration but vowed that violence would not be used against members of the People’s Movement.

As has been the case recently, we somehow doubt the ultra-royalists will be arrested for breaching the (fake) “palace zone.” It will be yet another manipulation of the law.

The purpose seems to be to have the ultra-royalists continue their attacks on the anti-regime rally goers.





With a major update: Palace PR at full throttle II

22 11 2020

One of hundreds of pieces of graffiti attacking the king and royal family

As we said in an earlier post, the palace public relations machinery has long had to “manage” Vajiralongkorn’s mostly self-inflicted PR disasters, ranging from his erratic and vengeful behavior to rumors of violence, illnesses, philandering and associations with crime. These PR exercises have mostly involved strategies that had “worked” for his father.

King, queen and ultra-royalist

However, as popular criticism of the monarchy has reached levels that no one can recall in their lifetimes, what we have called the Hello! strategy has emerged, mostly revolving around the women currently closest to King Vajiralongkorn: Queen Suthida, Princess Sirivannavari, and chief concubine Sineenat.

The king is now almost always seen arm-in-arm with Suthida, as she guides her often shaky looking husband around crowds of royalist well-wishers, encouraging the “common” touch of selfies, autographs and statements of encouragement to selected ultra-royalists. The queen is seen as the one recognizing the ultra-royalists,  beaming and fist-pumping to supporters, and directing the king to them.

Sirivannavari as “one of us”

Meanwhile, Sirivannavari is high profile, fostering a kind of “people’s princess” image, seeking to link to younger people. This effort has not always been successful. Protesters know that Sirivannavari has been officially promoted and the recipient of “award” just because she’s the king’s daughter. And, protesters know that she’s cycled through a series of expensive “career choices” that have cost the taxpayer plenty. We recall she was the top student at university, a national badminton player, a diplomat, a Paris fashion designer, etc. That knowledge has led to the princess being spoofed by protesters.

Clipped from LA Times. Photo credit: Jack Taylor AFP / Getty Images

Sineenat has sometimes been seen making up the royal triplet in public, but has recently been off in the countryside, also cultivating a “people’s” semi-royal persona. Yet her troubled, on-again, off-again relationship with the king is well known and rumors of her role in palace and royal family tensions are also widespread.

The general idea seems to be to show that the palace is not really aloof, hugely wealthy, grasping, erratic and uncaring, but is really at one with the people. This is a strategy that carries high risk. After all, making the monarchy “popular” challenges the most basic premise of royals as special, divine, blue-bloods. It is blood and position that counts, not popularity.

But when a royal house is challenged, it is often a spur to make the royals “popular.” And the challenges are coming thick and fast.So strong is the anti-monarchism that even the Hello! strategy is having to be surpassed with publicity that shows the grasping king as “generous.”

In the most high profile PR effort to date, the Bangkok Post reports that the king will “give royal land title deeds worth ’10 billion baht’ to four educational institutes in a handover ceremony.” (That the Post puts the figure in quotation marks suggests a need for caution.)

Our first thought was that this declaration is a response to pro-democracy demonstrators having announced that their next rally will be outside the Crown Property Bureau on 25 November. The palace is trying to pre-empt that demonstration by showing that the king and CPB are “generous.”

Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Minister Anek Laothamatas reportedly said:

… ownership of royal title deeds covering more than 100 rai of land along Ratchawithi Road in Dusit district would be handed over to two universities and two schools [Rachawinit elementary school and its secondary school] already located on the land…. Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University will receive title deeds covering more than 60 rai, while Suan Dusit University will be granted more than 37 rai, Mr Anek said, adding that the value of the land was estimated at about 10 billion baht.

That statement is not at all clear. Is there a difference between “ownership of a royal title deed” and ownership of land? How much is “more than”?

We recall that, in 2018, there were reports that these universities had been told that they would need to relocate. The CPB kind of confirmed this.

The Post claims, seeming to cite Anek, that the “land where the universities are located originally belonged to the King and the land is part of Dusit Palace, which is a complex of royal residences.” This means prior to 1932 for it was after that revolution that the new regime used (took over?) some of the land “for educational purposes…”. As Wikipedia has it: “In 1932 the absolute monarchy was abolished and part of the Dusit Palace was reduced and transferred to the constitutional government. This included the Khao Din Wana (เขาดินวนา) to the east of the palace, which was given in 1938 to the Bangkok City Municipality by King Ananda Mahidol to create a public park, which later became Dusit Zoo.”

It seems that the current king is the one who has had this land “returned” to him.

The zoo comes into the Post story: “Apart from the handover of the deeds, the royally-owned land where Dusit Zoo, the country’s first public zoo, was once located will be used for the construction of a public hospital.” It seems to us that this is a recent decision designed to reduce the criticism of the palace’s grasping. Add to that the “Nang Loeng racecourse in Dusit district [which did belong] to the Crown Property Bureau (CPB) … is now to be “transform[ed] … into a public park in commemoration of … King Bhumibol…”. Yes, another one. As far as we can tell, this is another new idea.

Clearly the ideological war is expanding.

Update: The Nation has a listing of the “grants”, saying the king “granted nine land title deeds to government agencies and educational institutions.” Hopefully there’s someone out there who knows more about this than PPT, but the PR on this story seems to overwhelm what seems to have been going on. And we are not sure we know, but we smell fish.

The report states that the “King and Queen arrived at Amporn Sathan Throne in Dusit Palace to hand over land title deeds of royal properties in Bangkok and other provinces to use as government workplaces and educational establishments.” That doesn’t quite sound like the land is changing ownership.

When one looks at the properties involved, it gets fishier still. There are plots of land that have long been occupied and used by government bodies, the military and the Border Patrol Police. Take the latter as an example. The report states:

Commissioner of the Royal Thai Police, Pol General Suwat Jangyodsuk, received a land title deed for an area of 185 rai, 1 ngan and 85.20 square wah, in Cha-am district of Phetchaburi province for use as a working place for Naresuan Camp Border Patrol Police headquarters.

Commander of the Border Patrol Police, Pol Lt-General Wichit Paksa, received a land title deed for an area of 275 rai, 3 ngan and 57.20 square wah in Cha-am district of Phetchaburi province to use for Border Patrol Police headquarters, Rama VI Camp (Maruekhathaiyawan Palace) in Phetchaburi, which was in addition to the land bestowed in 2017.

As far as we know, the BPP has been occupying and using these plots of land since the early and mid 1950s. It isn’t clear to us who owned the land back then, but one source states:

Before building Naresuan camp in Hua Hin, the camp site had been allocated to the army’s royal guard to provide security to the royal family but as soon as [the CIA’s] Bill Lair proposed the site for building a camp for PARU, both Phao and the royal family agreed to give the land to Lair and PARU instead of the army.

Lair and the king. Clipped from Amazon

That seems to suggest that the land might have once belonged to the royal family. It remains unclear to us whether there was any official transfer back then. Another source states that Lair “used an old Imperial Japanese training camp in Hua Hin to train a select crew of Thai police in guerrilla warfare, including parachuting.” It is clear that the king developed quite a jolly relationship with the PARU/BPP and with Lair.

So it seems like the king is acknowledging longstanding occupation and use, if not “ownership.” It remains unclear if receiving the title deed amounts to transferring ownership.








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