Updated: Mafia control of ruling party

19 06 2021

As expected, convicted heroin trafficker and Deputy Agricultural Minister Thammanat Prompao has been “elected,” unopposed to be secretary general of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP).

The rise of the criminal to one of the top positions in the party confirms the descent of the country into the hands of a mafia of murderers, drug traffickers, and royalist thugs.

The rise of the criminals pushes aside all pretenses of “normality” in a party concocted to keep the military junta of 2014 and associated royalists in power.

Convicted drug trafficker Thammanat is elevated to this position because he is the son of party don and corrupt Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

Corruption lives

Gen Prawit is party boss and Thammanat is his consigliere. Gen Prawit has virtually adopted Thammanat as a son, placing him in line to run the mafia party’s next election campaign. He chose Thammanat because it is not votes that will win the election, but the pilfering of candidates from opposition parties and converting them into seats for the mafia party.

That job requires an enforcer, a moneybags, and a persuader all rolled into one. Or, as the Bangkok Post puts it, “Thamanat … [is] a skilled political fixer…”. It observes:

The Phayao MP’s rise to the new position underlines the increasingly dominant role of the Prawit camp in the party and the diminishing power of the Sam Mitr group. The change was widely anticipated after Thamanat had been assigned to take charge of by-elections contested by party candidates.

The party is now officially the party of Thailand’s mafia, which stretches across military and police and into the palace, all profiting from rents, protection and monopoly.

The extent of Prawit and Thammanat’s control of the party/mob is shown in the fact that the latter “was unopposed in the voting for secretary-general as his was the only one name proposed. He received 556 votes, with 14 voided ballots and 23 abstentions.”

Thammanat has emerged as a key political operative whose skills are valued by Gen Prawit. He is said to control a faction of a dozen or more northern MPs, and he has also made some forays into the South, to the dismay of the Democrat Party,,,”.

Thammanat explained the power structure: “We have Gen Prawit Wongsuwon as the centre of power. We have to consult him on everything that will move us forward…”. The aim will be to snaffle sufficient MPs from other parties that Palang Pracharath will get a majority in the next parliament.

Thai PBS says that the “ruling party’s latest internal reshuffle indicates it desperately wants to win the next election, amid speculation that the national poll will be called early.” To do this it needs “Thammanat, who is ‘decisive, fearless and reliable’, to inject confidence and trust [and fear] into its own MPs, politicians from other parties and voters.” He’s and “influential” figure, a dark influence: “an influential charismatic person in charge of election campaigns in constituencies…”.

As reported by the Bangkok Post, the third leader of the mafia is Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, and the mafia party unsurprisingly announced it will support him for another term. If this comes to pass, Gen Prayuth will be prime minister for at least 14 years. 

The choice of Thammanat reflects the arrogance of the former military bosses Prawit and Prayuth and the desperation of the royalist bloc to maintain control. As it did in the 1980s, this requires an alliance of palace, military, and dark influences. However, the alliance developed by Palang Pracharath, bringing two of the three into the party as leaders, arguably strengthens the party. At the same time, it makes Thailand a mafia state, in the hands of thugs and criminals.

Update: To see how some others feel about the gangster and the gangster party, try Cod Satrusayang’s op-ed on the arrogance of the mafia regime as it rigs the system for yet another rigged election.





Gangster swagger

3 06 2021

One of the things about “dark influences” – Thailand’s mafioso – is that their behavior is often a display of power and brutishness. They can’t help themselves.

And so it is with the convicted heroin trafficker and Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thammanat Prompao.

As the Bangkok Post recently reported, the reprehensible Thammanat has had to deny that “he made a parliament police officer kowtow to him after an argument with a member of his entourage.”

He and his minders “advisers” were said to have “had an argument with a parliament police officer on Monday when the House was in session to deliberate the national budget bill.”

Thammanat stated that “he had only two people with him” when he arrived for the parliamentary debate but “his team” were denied entry as the police were “enforcing public health regulations that limit the number of people allowed to enter with a cabinet minister to one.”

Thammanat

Convicted heroin smuggler

Unused to not getting his way, “the deputy minister was upset and later called a director connected to parliament security to meet him.” We can imagine how that was handled. He reportedly “reprimanded the director for not treating him and his team with dignity and instructed the policeman to kowtow to him as a way of repenting.”

Thammanat sidekicks were reportedly miffed that they did not get the respect that is due them as the thugs of the powerful and dangerous boss. “His team” was angered “after the officer had spoken sternly to them.” No one can speak sternly, officiously, or loudly to the boss’s offsiders.

He said he later met the officer concerned,  advised him to take a gentler tone when talking to people, and “his team and the policeman apologis[ed] to each other with a wai.”

Thammanat ” insisted the policeman did not kowtow to him. Impossible as this “would have been an overreaction.” Well, not for a dark influence; it would have been “normal” for an offended mafia boss.

He babbled something about he was “aware of people watching him with distrusting eyes and assuming he was the aggressor whenever friction occurred.”

Interestingly, House Speaker Chuan Leekpai appeared to rebuke Thammanat when he “reminded members of the Thai parliament to comply with its rules and regulations, saying that they are lawmakers and should behave as role models for other people.” Chuan “offered moral support to the unnamed parliament police…” and he “instructed the secretary-general of the House of Representatives enter the incident into the formal record…”.

This event looks like the typical thuggish behavior associated with dark influences. Thammanat knows he’s now a big man and powerful. He flaunts his wealth and his power.





The Prasit affair

23 05 2021

Readers may recall our recent post about the fraudsters who bore remarkable similarities to the massive Mae Chamoy scam of the 1970s and 1980s. The similarities were royal and military.

Prasit 1

Prasit displaying loyalty

Following the negotiated surrender and arrest of fraudster-in-chief Prasit Jeawkok, the Bangkok Post had a recent editorial calling for the military to reveal its links with Prasit. As ever, self-censorship, fear and misplaced loyalty prevents the Post asking about palace links.

A couple of days ago, Thai PBS provided some background on Prasit. For those who can read Thai, we suggest going to the source of much in this report – the grifter’s own website. All of our photos are clipped from that website, where there are plenty more.

The report observes that the “wealthy businessman” was once considered “a saint and a model of success” by the yellow-shirted brigade. He is now outed as a fraudster who may have nicked more than a billion baht. As seen in the Mae Chamoy scam, such fraudsters usually share with influential people in military, police, and even palace.

As can be seen at his website, Prasit made much of his links to the palace and its activities and displayed the loyalty expected of  “good people.”

Prasit 10

Prasit claims he is a “reformed gangster” who abandoned his criminal past to establish a “billion-baht business empire” from which he now “gives back” to society. He claims a rags to riches story.

Like so many of his ilk, he’s made many influential connections.

Prasit 8

Prasit has also “given back” as a royalist and as a supporter of the military and its ruling regime.

He’s “been linked to the Thai military’s so-called ‘information operations’ (IO), which critics say target the government’s opponents and propagandize for the powers-that-be.” Opposition politician Pannika Wanich of the Progressive Movement accuses “Prasit of being instrumental in the Army’s IO by allowing free use of computer servers under his control.”

Prasit admits “”to owning phone applications and servers used by the military but said his goal was to combat fake news by spreading facts about His Majesty the King’s kindness.”

Like many rogues, Prasit promotes “his royalist credentials. Appearing on a talk show in early December, he unbuttoned his shirt to reveal the words “Long Live the King” tattooed on his chest.”

Prasit also makes much of his relationship with the late Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, former Cabinet members and, of course, senior military leaders.





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.





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?





Further updated: The company they keep

6 02 2021

Readers might have noticed that the Bangkok Post had a story about police arresting Sia Po Po-arnon – aka Apirak Chatharnon and Apirak Anon- described as “a net idol, former celebrity boxer, former House adviser on gambling…“. He was taken in on “charges of organising online gambling.”

At his house, it is reported that “police also arrested his follower, Pacharapol Chansawang, and 25 Myanmar workers, and seized a gun and 11 bullets for examination.”

We don’t usually follow “celebrity” news, but this one got our attention because of his links to the regime and royalism.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

It was in August last year that “a House working group on whether to legalise online gambling invited … [Sia Po] to participate in its deliberations as an adviser.” At the same time, Palang Prachachat appointed “another possible [sic] gambling tycoon Pol Lt-Colonel Santhana Prayoonrat to advise the task force…”.

As we recall it, it was a regime party that issued the invitation for Sia Po. It came from “Palang Pracharat Party MP Arun Sawasdee” who wanted advice the committee because Sia Po had “earned a name for himself for being a successful gambler in international casinos.”

The international gambler said: “I will accept the position of adviser, but will not get into politics” before saying he didn’t accept it. With such vagaries, who knows what was really going on. What we do know is that the military’s party was inviting gangsters to advise them.

What kind of dark influence is Sia Po and how does he fit in with the great and the “good”? We only searched the Bangkok Post and came up with plenty.

The first report we found was from early 2018, when he was arrested at the home of Wiphakorn Sukpimai when he claimed he “answered a distress call from her…”. He said his arrest was a set-up as she had “lent him more than 50 million baht in a gambling venture and now want[ed] the money back…”. Describing him as a “celebrity boxer and social media personality,” he was said to be armed.

He seems to have been engaged in some kind of standover operation and was in dispute with the equally shady Wanchalerm Yubamrung also over gambling money. Sia Po and Wanchalerm are Thonburi gangsters.

Not long after, Wiphakorn “posted images of her former lover, Sia Po …, taking drugs. She added she was helping police with inquiries into claims that Sia Po and his ‘gang’ liked to give unwitting victims drugs, film them secretly, and blackmail them.” Sia Po later admitted that the images were of him, but claimed he was in Cambodia at the time.

The next time we see him in the press is as a leader of a vigilante group and behaving very much like a mafia gangster, “demanding 24 men detained there for Sunday’s intrusion at Mathayomwatsing School apologise for disrupting the university entrance exams.” He led a gang of “about 100 supporters,” declaring that the “men who raided the secondary school had defied the law. He and other people from Bangkok’s Thon Buri area decided to visit the men and warn them about their behaviour.”

In another pro-law-and-order stunt, in late 2019, Sia Po was associated with a “100 million baht cash handout to flood victims in the Northeast, money he claims was raised from unnamed casinos across the border.” He posted images of himself “unpacking bundles of used 1,000 baht notes ready to hand out to flood victims.” Some said he was “trying to rehabilitate his image” after the drugs, standover, money laundering, and gambling events described above. He was supported by arch-royalist Bin Bunluerit.

Somehow or other, the next time we see him, SIa Po is promoting a skincare product and then complaining that “fraudsters on the net are impersonating his name in the venture and siphoning off customer’s money.” They must have been either brave fraudsters, willing to risk the wrath of the Sia Po gang, or in cahoots with him in scamming the public. But, the plot thickened. He trotted off to the police saying “11 customers had been deceived with total losses of about 10,000 baht.” Really? And he offered a reward 10 times that amount. Fishy? You bet.

Then, in May 2020, we find Sia Po at odds with Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s supporters. A couple of weeks later, described as “well known as a donor to worthy causes,” he’s blaming “a falling out with a politician for his latest troubles with the law, after police told him he is facing money laundering charges stemming from an online gambling case.” He grumbled that the unnamed politician had “tampered with a picture online to make it look as if I was bad-mouthing the monarchy, and took an old clip of me encouraging Thais to gamble and spread it about the net to defame me further…”. In tru godfather style, Sia Po said “he was confident his case doesn’t qualify as money laundering.” He “explained: “It’s true that I gamble across the border, but Thai law doesn’t apply there and I don’t bring the money back.”

Soon after, Sia Po “was arrested after he turned himself in to police for questioning about a wild shootout in Bangkok in which two men were wounded.” He went to the police station at 3am, with “Santhana Prayoonra, a former deputy superintendent of Special Branch Police.” It is standard practise for influential persons to get influential police or military figures to attend police stations with them – it is about pressuring smaller people.

It is stated that Santhana:

was sacked from the police force for serious disciplinary violations and stripped of his rank, effective Oct 31, 2002, and his royal decorations were recalled. The announcement was published in the Royal Gazette on Oct 30, 2018, as reported by Thai media.

The report states Sia Po: “was accused of shooting and wounding two men in front of Saree Sauna&Spa shop on Ratchaphreuk Road in Bang Wa area, Phasicharoen district, on Tuesday night.” This happened as rival gangs met. Sia Po told police:

… he was a regular customer at the massage shop. He was there with three friends. His brother Khemmathat had made an appointment with two rival men, identified only as Tang and Tua, to meet at a liquor store on the same road, not far from the massage shop.

The talks broke down and afterwards Mr Khemmathat and about 10 friends came to meet him at the massage shop….

A shootout ensued, apparently involving more than 200 gang members and scores of shots fired. Of course, Sia Po claimed he was unarmed. Even so, police “arrested him on charges of colluding in attempted murder, illegal possession of a firearm, carrying it in public and firing shots.” Two men were taken to hospital, one shot in the mouth and another shot in the backside.

He was released on bail, with Santhana acting as “guarantor.” It is stated: “The Thon Buri Criminal Court granted him temporary release on bail with a surety of 350,000 baht. No conditions were set for his release.”

Royalists together

Not long after, Sia Po “found himself an unwitting accomplice after a disgraced senior policeman accused a well-known rescue worker of helping himself to public funds.”

It all revolved around a royal donation/self promotion scam campaign: “Sia Po had offered to donate money to a royal fund-raising project at Siriraj Hospital after he was contacted by Bin Binluerit … asking if he would like to help…. In return for his cash, the hospital, which is raising funds for a building in honour of King Rama IX, would issue pink T-shirts with the royal insignia for Thais to wear.”

It is all way too complicated – the royal association makes for weird reporting – but it seems Sia Po said he would stump up “20 million baht to help Thais wanting to turn out to see His Majesty.” We assume the live king, not the dead one. It also seems that the company supplying the shirts for Siriraj had produced hundreds of thousands and was not shifting them. Not by coincidence, the businessman behind the Siriraj scheme was reportedly the owner of the factory pumping out the shirts. So big buyers were needed to shift the royal shirts (not an unusual practice). Sia Po was to take 300,000.

But the whole scam scheme came undone when “Sia Po was arrested for the shooting outside the Saree Sauna&Spa shop…”. When he was bailed, his:

guarantor was his friend Santhana … who was to play a role in the hospital funds drama…. In May 2018 he was also charged with extorting money from vendors at Don Muang New Market. Sia Po found that with the legal case pending he could no longer transfer funds….

Reportedly, as happens in gang wars, Santhana began to lean on Bin. Using his connections in the police, and said to be accompanied by Sia Po, “Santhana … asked police to look into Bin’s role in the fund-raising effort.” As expected in a corrupt set of arrangements involving police, the dismissed Santhana:

… saw the newly appointed national police chief, Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, on Dec 9, and … followed that up with a visit to the Crime Suppression Division where he sought to lay charges against Bin of attempted fraud, asking for donations without consent, Computer Act offences, and making false claims on behalf of the monarchy.

The Post account added “a new twist to a strange affair” with Sia Po and Santhana suddenly donating “2 million baht to Siriraj Hospital’s fund-raising campaign, along with 20,000 pink T-shirts to be distributed to the public.”

Still described as a “net idol and former celebrity boxer,” Sia Po then took up his role as “adviser” to a “working group of the House select committee on law, justice and human rights, which is mulling changes to the gambling law,” pitching for legalized online gambling. With a straight face, Sia Po explained that his role was not political: “I don’t want to mess with politics. I want to protect my honesty…”. The honest crook’s role was explained:

Arun Sawasdee, Songkhla MP from the Palang Pracharath Party, who sits on the panel, said MPs wanted to know if online gambling could be controlled better.

Members invited Sia Po, who faces charges of money laundering and enticing Thais to gamble online, and is well known for his ties to casinos across the border, to speak to MPs, because of his “knowledge” in this area.

Guess who else was invited to provide information to the panel: “They also invited another city identity with a colourful past, former deputy superintendent of the Special Branch Police Santhana Prayoonrat, to testify.” What a surprise!

This is not an unusual situation. What is unusual is the level of reporting. We have only scratched the surface in one English-language newspaper. It tells us how deeply-rooted corruption is within this regime. We do not say that similar situations were not evident in earlier regimes, but this story well and truly shows the links between regime, police and criminals (dark influences). Put this together with a regime party that has deputy ministers who are convicted heroin traffickers and political quislings and you see that the whole structure is rotten to the roots.

And the rottenness infects everything right up and into the palace. Older readers will recall that Prince Vajiralongkorn had to repeatedly deny his involvement with crime figures.

Update 1: A reader asked for a source for Vajiralongkorn denying he was a mafia boss or associated with criminal gangs. Here’s a UPI report.

As we finished the above post, another gambling report came out in the Bangkok Post. This report concludes with this:

The CIB chief made it clear this police action had nothing to do with the arrest of Siapo Po-arnon, a professed gambler who advised a House panel on the possible legalisation of online gambling.

Siapo, real name Apirak  Chat-anon, 29, was arrested at his house on Phetkasem Road in Phasicharoen district of Bangkok on Thursday morning. He allegedly operated an online gambling website.

Maybe. It sure sounds like a scam he’d be associated with and the arrest sounds very similar to Sia Po’s own arrest a few days earlier. Perhaps it is just the police cleaning out competition for their own scams? Who knows, this is murky and getting murkier. There are interesting elements to the report. One is that the information is coming from Pol Lt Gen Torsak Sukvimol, the CIB chief.

Last time we saw his rank, Torsak was deputy head of the CIB. Now he’s reported as boss. Of course, he’s also head of the king’s “Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King’s Guard 904.” He’s also reported to be the “younger brother of the King’s highly trusted Air Chief Marshal Sathitpong Sukwimol (secretary to the Crown Prince, Director-General of the Crown Property Bureau and the Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau).”

Torsak stated that the operation had “more than one billion baht in bets in circulation…”.

Update 2: It is reported that, following his arrest last week, Sia Po remains in jail, denied bail. It also reports that his mother is being sought by police for involvement in his schemes and scams. While all of this is interesting and reflective of the deep-rooted corruption among the elite in Thailand, we can’t help wondering about royal involvement. This feels somewhat like earlier purges of powerful criminals following falling out at the top. No evidence, just observing a feeling we have.





Land of (no) compromise III

17 12 2020

Having been in power since the 2014 military coup, the arrogance of the regime is sometimes breathtaking. It feels it has seen off six months of opposition rallies and remained strong and in control. Like its mad monarchist allies, the regime feels that “internal conflicts” and a lack of a “clear goal” mean that the protesters are done and defeated. Just a few more lese majeste charges, and it will all be over.

Clipped from Khaosod

The arrogance of power is such that those who in any normal regime might be considered a liability are feted as great men. Convicted drug trafficker, thug, serial liar, fraudster, fake degree holder, nepotist, misogynist, “dark influence,” and the remarkably unusually wealthy Thammanat Prompao is lauded for his political “skills” of using wealth and “influence” to deliver seats to the regime and to hold his people in line with the regime. All of these “qualifications” make him a favorite of the regime’s highest mafioso don, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

For all of the things that should make Thammanat toxic for anything other than a mafia government, he’s was to be given an award by the mafia gang, the Royal Thai Army. Khaosod reports that Thammanat was nominated to receive a Dao Chakra 64 award for impeccable behavior and remarkable virtue; something of a model for the RTA.

This award was to be given on the anniversary of the 63rd Military Preparatory School on 27 January in Nakhon Nayok, at a ceremony to be attended by Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

There now seems to be some backsliding, based on Thammanat’s “record,” but the idea that the RTA could even consider such an award points to both arrogance and a rottenness that underpins the military-monarchy regime.





Convicted heroin trafficker rises

13 07 2020

The Palang Pracharath Party was morally bankrupt from the moment it was formed at the behest of the military junta. Yet it is proving it can dive deeper into the political muck.

NNT reports that after being its puppet master since it was an idea, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s move to the formal leadership of the military’s puppet party, sees his men and women being moved into top administrative positions in the party.

Gen Prawit “has appointed 10 new deputy leaders at the first meeting between Gen Prawit and party MPs.” They are listed as: “Mr Santi Promphat who also acts as party director, Capt Thamanat Prompow, Mr Suriya Juangroongruangkit, Mr Nataphol Teepsuwan, Mr Somsak Thepsutin, Mr Puttipong Punnakanta, Mr Wirat Ratanaset, Mr Nipan Siritorn, Mr Paiboon Nititawan, and Mr Suchart Chomklin.”

This is an interesting mix of money, yellow-shirted ideologues from the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, and local “influentials” with criminal links.

With convicted heroin trafficker Thammanat Prompao rising in the party it would be no surprise were he to be promoted from deputy minister to minister.

Such a rise would be reminiscent of the case of Narong Wongwan:

After the coup d’état of 1991 and ahead of the election in March 1992, he joined with other provincial businessmen, bureaucrats and supporters of the military coup group to form the Justice Unity Party, of which he became the chairman. The party won the election and Narong was designated prime minister, when media alleged that the United States had refused him entry admission due to … [suspicion] of involvement in drug trafficking. The US government threatened that relations between the two countries could worsen in case that Narong became head of government. He had to relinquish premiership and the parliament instead nominated the putschist General Suchinda Kraprayoon. Really, Narong had not been prosecuted as there was no sufficient evidence.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Narong rose during the time of another unelected military prime minister when he “joined the government of prime minister Prem Tinsulanonda, becoming deputy interior minister in 1980, deputy minister of agriculture in 1981, rising to be minister in 1983.” Also unlikely to be a coincidence, Narong represented the Phrae area in parliament. Thammanat represents the adjoining province of Phayao.





Patrolling boundaries III

12 07 2020

In late April, PPT posted on efforts by rightists and royalists in Nakorn Ratchasima tp protect the “honor” of the legend and monument to Thao Suranari, a statue created by an Italian sculptor and put in place in January 1934 and known as Ya Mo in Korat.

What we said then was that the statue had become a part of a royalist “protection” racket and the royalist legend has been widely consumed in the province.

So it is that officials jump into action whenever a transgression is imagined. This past week there was another paroxysm.

The Bangkok Post reports that the “Real Ghosts television programme is facing scrutiny over its controversial depiction of local historical figures in one of its episodes.” Channel 8 took the show off-air “following criticism.”

Tewan Liptapanlop, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, has crowed that “Channel 8 will face legal action for ‘distorting history’.”

Tewan, who “oversees the National Office of Buddhism … said the show’s depiction of Thao Suranari … and her adopted daughter was offensive.” He ordered the NOB to make a case against the program and have the “provincial administration, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and the Fine Arts Department” investigate.

The head of the Chart Pattana Party, Tewan transformed the monument into something Buddhist. That probably has something to do with the show being about the supernatural – ghosts. Of course, no Thai Buddhist could possibly have any interest in ghosts.

Tewan claimed many were “angry.” He declared: “The authorities will take legal action against it.” He seemed to poke Korat’s people into action: “The Korat people and I want to file lawsuits against the [channel].”

More ominously, Tewan called for more patrolling of the political and ideological boundaries: “This case is a lesson for other programmes that make historical references…”. He reportedly ordered “provincial Buddhism offices across the kingdom … to take part in monitoring the production of supernatural TV shows in their respective areas in the future.”

As a bit of background, this politically and ideologically correct Tewan is the younger brother of Suwat, one of the gravel haulers and dumpers who made a fortune from military contacts back in the 1970s and 1980s, becoming locally “influential.” Suwat’s father was an associate of Gen Arthit Kamlang-ek, who “provided the Liptapanlops’ company with military construction contracts. Most of the projects were in the province of Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat), so the company and family that were responsible for building infrastructure and hospitals won considerable influence there…”.

It is somewhat ironic that the provincial influential persons are patrolling the state’s ideological boundaries.





Poverty, emergency rule and the military-backed regime

1 07 2020

No one really needs “critics” to explain the reasons for the regime has further extended its “virus crisis” emergency rule by another month.

As the military powerbrokers who have run the regime since the 2014 coup exert control over their party, they also prepare for sharing the spoils of their control of the state.

Think how much wealthier the local dark influences like convicted heroin smuggler and minister Thammanat Prompao can become as they keep the generals safe in power. Emergency rule provides the cover for the deals being done.

How’s that working out for the rest of the country? Not so well it seems, with the World Bank forecasting “it will take Thailand at least two years to resume its pre-Covid real growth level…”. But, that was “already one of the lowest in the region at 2.8% in 2019…”.

The World Bank has said the economy will contract by at least 5% this year. The Asian Development Bank  and International Monetary Fund (IMF) reckon it will be a 6.5% contraction. But the “Bank of Thailand (BOT) is more pessimistic … revis[ing] its gross domestic product (GDP) estimate downwards to a 8.1% contraction, worse than the 7.6% contraction of 1997…”.

What really matters is the impact on average people. The World Bank says the “number of those living on less than US$5.5 per day (the World Bank’s definition of ‘economically insecure’) in the kingdom has more than doubled from 4.7 million in the first quarter of 2020 to 9.7 million in the second quarter.”

Over the period of the junta, Thailand’s the poverty rate had already expanded from 7.2%  to 9.9%. Since the virus crisis lockdown, poverty has expanded from the agricultural sector. According to the World Bank, it “is now reaching to the traditional economically secure or middle-class households in services and manufacturing.”

Some estimates are that a quarter of people lost jobs or were laid-off during the shutdown.

While the regime put a number of relief programs in place, many of these support the already wealthy – even the super rich – and others are overly bureaucratic and miss many of the most vulnerable people.

It seems the regime knows that the suffering is widespread. Its response is consolidation and probably more repression.