Punishment and pleasure

27 09 2020

Ever since the 2006 military coup, various rightist regimes have sought to lock up Thai Rak Thai/Puea Thai politician Watana Muangsook. Several failed attempts have accompanied numerous charges and several short stints in prison, a police cell or a re-education camp.

A couple of days ago the Bangkok Post reported that the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions has now “found him guilty over his role in irregularities in a low-cost housing project.” He was found guilty on “11 counts of corruption, which carry up to 99 years in prison.” In Thailand, that means 50 years as it is the legally maximum jail time.

Watana and Yingluck

The article is pretty opaque on exactly what he did that the court considered illegal, but “abusing power and demanding kickbacks” are mentioned for the time Watana was minister. “Abusing power” seems to mean anything the court wants it to mean. Demanding kickbacks is clearer, but no details are provided.

Several others considered close to Thaksin Shinawatra were also sentenced to jail time and fines. Anti-Thaksinism would seem to be a motivating factor as the original investigation after the 2006 coup, “initiated by the now-defunct Assets Scrutiny Committee…”. That seems to have gone nowhere for some time. It was later taken up by the post-2014 coup “National Anti-Corruption Commission which forwarded its findings to the Office of the Attorney-General in Nov 2016 after deciding to implicate [prosecute?] Watana for alleged violations of the Criminal Code.”

Watana made bail and he can appeal.

At about the same time, the Bangkok Post editorialized that the junta’s Election Commission (EC) decision “to clear 31 political parties of illegal borrowings could cause further confusion regarding the organic law on political parties.” It pointed out the double standards involved when compared to the Constitutional Court’s dissolution of the Future Forward Party on similar charges.

The editorial says the “logic for this [decision] appears fuzzy when looked into in detail.” But “fuzzy” is the EC’s usual mode of operation and any notion of law and logic goes out the window.  The Post reckons the whole deal smells of rotting fish. The editorial has more, and the EC has responded, also reported by the Bangkok Post but it doesn’t satisfy the logic test.

As far as we can see, the vendetta continues, even if the Thaksin clan seems to be engaging in considerable royal posterior polishing as it seeks more control over Puea Thai.





Justice system compromised

17 09 2020

We have been posting about this for years and it will not be news for PPT readers, but a Bangkok Post editorial has said this in reflecting on the Yoovidhya case:

It doesn’t help matters that individuals who were found to have helped the wealthy culprit are heads of organisations, most of whom are top mandarins whose duty is to uphold the rule of law. Their misconduct has shown that Thai law enforcement agencies are nothing but paper tigers….

The public is expecting the unscrupulous officials to at least be punished and the saga to lead to an overhaul of the justice system. Anything less would simply not be acceptable.

As we said in a recent post, the most obvious question is: who paid and/or rewarded these officials to act in the interests of the rich? Will we ever learn the truth? Will those offering the payoffs be charged?

Then there’s the question of double standards. Not only is there a justice system that is essentially up for sale to the rich and influential, but one that has dished out different judicial standards for the supporters of the rich and powerful – and especially the monarchy and military – and those who oppose this corrupt and decaying system. No amount of reform will fix the work that has been done by two military coups, political purges of the bureaucracy, the destruction of the independence of “independent agencies” and devious, elitist judges.





Updated: Who paid?

9 09 2020

A Bangkok Post editorial claims “[t]he public was left stunned last week when the results were unveiled by Mr Vicha [Mahakun], a former national graftbuster” that investigated the “mishandling in the hit-and-run case involving Red Bull scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya…”.

Frankly, we think that no one was stunned by the revelations but perhaps some were stunned that an investigation got close to the truth. Everyone in Thailand knew that the police and justice system were doing all they could to ease things for the filthy rich Yoovidhya clan.

That the investigating panel immediately found “eight groups of individuals who conspired and committed malpractice that resulted in the dropping of all charges against Mr Vorayuth…” confirmed what everyone had guessed.

That both police and public prosecutors were identified was no surprise but perhaps the accusation that “members of the junta-installed National Legislative Assembly and politicians of intervening in the investigation” are also identified might have been something of a surprise.

Then there were the expected conclusions that “lawyers and witnesses [gave] … false testimony…”.

It was, as most knew, “a conspiracy” for the rich extending over eight years. This is how the judicial system works for the rich. This is the double standards that are normalized.

The editorial hints at ongoing cover-ups: the panel cleared the prosecutor who finally dropped the charges. It was only after a public outcry that anything was done to reverse the downward spiral that favored a scion of the richest.

The next and most obvious question is: who paid and/or rewarded these officials to act in the interests of the rich? Will we ever learn the truth? Will those offering the payoffs be charged?

Update: Khaosod reports on leaked conversations between police and the public prosecutor. Published by Isra News, the phone conversation “discussed ways to amend the speed Vorayuth … Yoovidhya was driving when he … killed the policeman.”The classic bit:

“I kindly ask the commander since the prosecutor office wants to help. We want them to feel relieved. They intend to help as much as they can, so I want to ask you frankly.”





Updates on subs, Sineenat, Kra, Boss and students

2 09 2020

Usually PPT updates its posts by adding to the original post. However, there are a number of updates for various posts over some time, so we thought we’d update them all in a single post.

Submarines: The Chinese submarine purchases might be delayed following the public outcry, but the Royal Thai Army is going ahead with more purchases. That’s if the bumbling – he got India’s flag wrong – and tone deaf Chutintorn Sam Gongsakdi, Ambassador of Thailand to India, is to be believed. He’s gone public in a big way, declaring that “Thailand’s Royal Thai Army is in the process of placing an order for 600 military trucks with Tata Motors.” He’s saying that over 600 TATA LPTA military trucks will be purchased for Thailand. No prices are provided, but a military trucks are usually purchased with spare parts, so we may assume that this is quite a significant amount of money being spent.

Sineenat: Both the New York Post and the Daily Mail reports on the former royal concubine who the king has had returned from a Thai prison to his harem in Germany. The Post’s headline is notable: “Thai king frees jailed concubine to join ‘sex soldier’ harem amid pandemic.”

Both stories build on a Bild story that produced a picture of the king – the “playboy monarch – greeting his concubine at the plane: “On Saturday morning, the king himself is said to have picked her up wearing his customary tank top at Munich Airport.” It is reported that the “king and his entourage then drove straight to the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl in the German resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen…”.

The BBC reports that all of her honors and awards have now been reinstated by the king.

Kra IthmusBloomberg reports that the regime has kicked the “land bridge” back onto the policy agenda. It is no surprise at all that a Chidchob is promoting the huge project with its potentially mammoth commissions. Transport Minister Saksiam Chidchob reckons that the Malacca Strait “has become quite congested…” said in an interview with Bloomberg News last week. Yet it is probably no more congested now than it was in recent years and there have been measures to improve separation. The proposal is for “two deep seaports on either side of the country’s southern coasts, and link them via highway and rail…”. Some reports are that the move away from a canal is another “major shock to China.”

If there can’t be a canal, then other money makers are available. Not exactly a new idea. And, as Wikipedia puts it,

there the construction of a land bridge across the isthmus was started in 1993. A superhighway was built that crosses the isthmus, but as the location of the harbours at either end were undetermined, Highway 44—the only finished part of the project—does not end at the sea. The highway’s two lanes were built 150 m apart to leave space for railroad tracks and eventually also a pipeline.

The other Boss: The Bangkok Post reports that there was massive “negligence in the handling of the 2012 hit-and-run case involving Red Bull scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya.” There was also massive corruption. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was quick to buffalo manure his explanation of this, blaming individuals and “saying it was not the entire justice system that failed in the handling of this case.”

Actually, the justice system has worked as it is meant to: double standards and privileges for the rich and powerful.

Warning the kids: Various warnings directed at student activists continue to urge them to be “nicer” and more “conciliatory.” There are also warnings that they must remain non-violent. In fact, it is the the state, the military and the rightists who are the main perpetrators of violence and haranguing the students suggests a failure to understand this basic fact of Thailand’s political life. When, like the linked op-ed, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are cited as examples, then we wonder if the author has read much about the latter’s support for violent revolution and the former’s acknowledgement of violence.





The rich get away with murder

28 07 2020

It is reported that “police have opened an internal investigation after charges were dropped against the billionaire Red Bull heir … amid outrage over a perceived culture of impunity for the rich…”. We see this as nothing more than a part of a continuing effort to kid the public that the police are interested in justice. It is also about the regime’s “management” of discontent.

While in a source PPT doesn’t usually read, we felt that Benjamin Freeman’s op-ed was useful in reflecting on the question: “Why do the rich and powerful get away with murder?

Commenting on the Red Bull-Vorayuth Yoovidhya saga, Freeman states: “And so it goes in a country where the rich and powerful can get away with murder — literally so, as this case indicates.”

The author agrees with Pol Col Kissana Phathana-charoen who explained that dropping charges against the rich, Ferrari-driving, coked-up Vorayuth did not mean that the police were “applying double standards…”. Freeman observes:

We have to take him at his word. In order for there to be double standards, there need to be some real standards in the first place. But what exactly are the standards of Thailand’s law enforcement and judicial system?

Strikingly, he links (in)justice to broader political events:

This is a country, after all, where a citizen can be sentenced to long years in prison merely for exercising freedom of speech by making critical comments about the government or the monarchy on social media on grounds that doing so undermines national security.

Meanwhile, the generals that spearheaded a military coup to overthrow an elected government in 2014 not only do not need to fear any prosecution for what was an act of treason by international standards but they remain in charge of the country, acting as they please.

Freeman explains:

The system of justice in Thailand has long stayed mired in a regressive state where the laws apply only to those who don’t have enough money or influence to be able to flout them at will.

The result is a vastly unequal society where the “little people” remain under the thumb of the rich and powerful who can do as they please with no one to hold them to account.

He might have added that this inequality of wealth, power and justice is exactly what the tycoons want and is why they support dictators, military and monarchy.





Updated: Red Bull facts

27 07 2020

A story at Thai Enquirer notes that:

Red Bull’s parent company in Thailand, TCP Group, released a public statement distancing itself from Vorayuth Yoovidhya who was revealed this week to have been acquitted for a traffic incident which left a police officer dead.

It adds:

The case also sparked scrutiny of Thailand’s large income divide, the Yoovidhya family is estimated to be worth $13.1 billion in a country where the average daily income is slightly more than 10 dollars per day.

Red Bull’s parent conglomerate TCP Group, facing a social media boycott, stated:

TCP Group would like to clarify that Mr. Vorayuth Yoovidhya has never assumed any role in the management and daily operations of TCP Group, was never a shareholder, nor has he held any executive position within TCP Group….

It is almost impossible to verify these claims for a private company that operates in a remarkably opaque manner.

Noting that, in 2002, the family-run “Red Bull GmbH produces the world’s leading energy drink. More than a billion cans a year are sold in nearly 100 countries,” Reference for Business states that “Red Bull holds a 70 percent share of the world market for energy drinks…”.

Known as Krating Daeng in Thailand, it has been “produced since the early 1970s by the T.C. Pharmaceutical Co., founded in Thailand in 1962 by Chaleo Yoovidhya [Xǔ Shūbiāo] …. T.C. Pharmaceutical eventually formed the subsidiary Red Bull Beverage Co. Ltd…”. Dietrich Mateschitz was the foreign partner in Red Bull GmbH who worked for Blendax, a German manufacturer of toothpaste that Chaleo marketed in Thailand.

As a private company in Thailand and internationally, there is almost no information on the company. But, we know: “Today, Red Bull GmbH is 51 percent controlled by the Yoovidhya family, who own the trademark for the drink in Europe and the United States of America…”. The only public information about the parent company in Thailand is a list of six members of TCP’s board of directors. Five of the six listed are named Yoovidhya. The sixth and Chair of the Board, Pavana Langthara, is one of Chaleo’s daughters.

An AFP photo clipped from ChannelNews Asia

Back in 2012, when Vorayuth killed the policeman, it was widely believed Vorayuth would go free:

Vorayuth Yoovidhya, a grandson of the late founder of Red Bull, billionaire Chaleo Yoovidhya, had initially fled the scene but later confessed to hitting the policeman, police said. He was released hours later on 500,000 baht ($16,000) bail.

Though Vorayuth has yet to appear in court, there seemed little faith among the public that justice would be served.

“Jail is only for the poor. The rich never get punished. Find a scapegoat,” said one of a stream of comments posted on the popular Thai website, Panthip.com.

It was also reported that Vorayuth “tested positively for cocaine in his blood…”.

Where did Vorayuth flee to after the crash?

Police took Vorayuth Yoovidhya, 27, for questioning after tracing oil streaks for several blocks to his family’s gated estate in a wealthy neighborhood of the Thai capital.

The family prevented police from accessing the compound for some time, allowing covering-up to begin. Recall that the cover-up began when a police investigator “initially tried to cover up the crime by turning in a bogus suspect.”

Then the family sought to pay off the dead policeman’s family: they “struck a deal that will pay the officer’s siblings less than US$100,000.”

In other words, TCP/Red Bull is a Sino-Thai family-owned, private company completely dominated by the Yoovidhya family. For the family to claim that Vorayuth is not on the board or in management is a nonsense. He is, as he was long-described, an heir to the family fortune, made from Red Bull. His family stood by him early in the legal processes and it would be absurd to think the family did not know of his legal tactics and evasions.

In another “fact check,” we noted a Thai PBS report that Constitutional Court judge Thaveekiart Meenakanit “urged Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to investigate alleged mishandling, by the police and the public prosecutors, of the Red Bull heir hit and run case…”.

Obviously, the case is not constitutional, but the judge worried that “Thailand’s justice system has been rendered meaningless, after the prosecutors’ decision to drop the charges against the suspect and the police’s failure to challenge that decision.”

The judge fretted that it “the suspect was spared prosecution, apparently because of his economic and social status, is unprecedented and incomprehensible.”

We wonder if Thaveekiart has been asleep fro the past 15 years? Has he missed the double standards applied to red shirts? Has he missed the way the poor are locked up and the rich go free all the time? Has he slept through his own court’s politically-biased decisions? Has he snored through the massive impunity enjoyed by the murderous military?

The judge is right that “the majority of the people now see that the law is no longer sacred or to be respected” but he’s a decade and half late in recognizing it. But when he says that the current regime “can now only lean on law and order to justify its existence…”, he’s completely out of touch. The regime’s existence depends on the illegal 2014 military coup.

While sleepy, his point that this travesty of (in)justice “is the beginning of the end of the Government…” reflects the manner in which the royalist regime has relied on the judiciary to legitimize its rule. He’s warning that allowing the Red Bull lot to get away with murder is threatening to the regime’s claims to legitimacy, even if we know that legitimacy is based on double standards and impunity.

Remarkably, the judge explained “that many people believe that the Prime Minister’s reported acceptance of a 300 million baht donation from the Red Bull empire a few months ago, might be related to the decisions of the prosecutors and the police concerning the case.”

Now, that’s a question worth asking!

How high can the junta pile it?

Update: Helpfully, in an op-ed at the Bangkok Post, Ploenpote Atthakor that the buffalo manure that passes for justice in this case is “the rule not the exception.” She adds: “I need not tell you why there are such blatant double standards. If I do, I’ll only end up sounding like a broken record…”.

Meanwhile, following Thaveekiart’s advice, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has ordered “an inquiry into the prosecution’s decision to drop a reckless driving charge against Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya following public outrage over the news…”. Yet he betrayed his affinity for the filthy rich when he doled out buffalo poo by calling “on critics and media outlets not to seize on the controversy and distort facts or cause misunderstanding…”. The only misunderstanding seems to be among the relevant authorities! Laughably, he declared “he has never intervened in the justice administration process and the prosecution works under no political pressure…”.

Posterior covering reigns, with the prosecutors and Office of the Attorney General leaking:

New specialist and motorist witnesses who made statements that Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya did not drive his Ferrari over the speed limit and that the policeman who was killed abruptly cut in front of his vehicle are the key factors which convinced prosecutors to drop charges against the Red Bull scion.

In a leaked document outlining public prosecutors’ reasoning for their decision to drop the charge against Mr Vorayuth of reckless driving causing death, information from the new witnesses was given more weight than previous evidence, including forensic results.

It is astounding to think that after eight years of being unable to find Vorayuth, the authorities found new “witnesses.” To add to the “story,” the prosecutors blamed the victim.

Why the Office of the Attorney-General has now “set up a seven-member fact-finding panel to investigate the decision, by Thailand’s Office of Special Prosecutors for Criminal Litigation, to drop charges” seems bizarre when “Nate Naksuk, chief justice of the Department of Appealate Litigation in his capacity as acting attorney-general, signed the order to drop the charge.”





Astounding legal action II

24 07 2020

PPT has had a couple of recent posts about the continuing double standards that define the politicized judiciary.

In the past day or so, however, we have seen another stupendously corrupt decision by regime authorities. As everyone now knows, the police have let it be known that the rich and powerful can literally get away with murder.

Well, readers will say we have known this from 1976, 1992, 2010 and other events where the military has gunned down citizens.

But the revoking of all “local and international arrest warrants … for Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya after prosecutors dropped the last charge in his fatal hit-and-run case…”. is breathtaking because the police are accepting the murder of one of their own.

Party time for Boss (clipped from The Daily Mail)

Vorayuth, driving his Ferrari, struck and killed a motorcycle policeman in the early morning of 3 September in 2012 on Sukhumvit Road. After the driving his car over the policeman and dragging his body for a considerable distance under the car, Vorayuth hid behind the gates of the family mansion. Forensic police concluded he was driving at 177 kilometers per hour. He may have been drunk and/or drugged up at the time.

Known as Boss, as a fugitive, Vorayuth was reported to have at least two passports and a complex network of offshore bank accounts. Using these he lived a luxury life, traveling the world with impunity. He reportedly cruised Monaco’s harbor, snowboarded Japan, and celebrated his birthday at a swanky restaurant in London.

Now, Pol Col Kritsana Pattanacharoen, a spokesman for the Royal Thai Police Office, tannounced that prosecutors “decided late last month not to press the remaining charge of reckless driving causing death against Mr Vorayuth, and police agreed with the prosecutors.”

This means “police revoked local warrants for the arrest of Mr Vorayuth and told Interpol to lift its red notice…”. Police say that “Vorayuth could now return to Thailand without any problem.”

Wow! Breathtaking. Astounding.

Even more so when, as the Bangkok Post explains: “The National Anti-Corruption Commission earlier found police intention to exempt Mr Vorayuth, from prosecution on the charges.” Now they have.

There must be some who are now counting large piles of baht. Money and justice seem intertwined, and in a terribly corrupt way.





Astounding legal action I

23 07 2020

The use of “double standards” is so common in post-2006 Thailand that it gets little commentary in the local media; it just gets reported as a matter of fact event.

To begin this short account of double standards, consider that no leader of a successful coup or any successful coup group-junta has ever been held to legal account.

Then consider the most recent case against Yingluck Shinawatra, reported in the Bangkok Post.

It seems the junta’s National Anti-Corruption Commission “has found grounds to the accusation that former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and two other former officials committed offences and abused their authority by rolling out a roadshow campaign to publicise infrastructure development projects in 2013.”

Along with Yingluck, “former prime minister’s secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva and then PM’s office minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan stand accused of violating two laws — Section 151 and Section 157 of the Criminal Code and Section 12 and Section 13 of the law on offences relating to the submission of contract bids to state agencies.”

The NACC said that the “alleged offences are related to the 240-million-baht Building the Future of Thailand in 2020 project launched in 2013 at her [Yingluck] instruction as prime minister.”

The events included “exhibitions, seminars, and other public relations activities to promote an infrastructure investment scheme…”.

On “March 12, 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled the bill sponsored by the Yingluck government to authorise the Finance Ministry to seek 2 trillion baht in loans for infrastructure development projects was unconstitutional.”

According to the NACC, this means that the 2013 events were “effectively rendered null and void, and the 240-million budget already spent on the campaign was wasted, causing damage to the state…”.

The NACC will now ask the Office of the Attorney-General to take legal action in the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.

It doesn’t take a legal eagle to observe that the action against Yingluck and her colleagues is driven not by law but by vindictiveness.

Meanwhile, actions by an illegal junta and its manipulations since the 2014 coup get a pass and are never investigated.





Double standards again and again

22 07 2020

Double standards are the politicized judiciary’s only standard. In another case of blatant double standards.

Khaosod reports that three men “who participated in a symbolic protest against the junta-sponsored charter referendum in 2016 were sentenced to four months in prison by a court on Tuesday.” The Criminal Court “found activists Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, Jirawat Ekakkaranuwat, and Songtum Kaewpanphreuk guilty for ripping a ballot paper in a polling station and posting a video of the protest on the internet.”

While the sentence was suspended, “the defendants were fined 4,000 baht each.”

Piyarat said: “My feelings today remain unchanged. It was civil disobedience that I have to receive the consequences of today…. If I could turn back time, I would do it all over again. I’ve never regretted doing it.”

It was Piyarat who declared: “Down with dictatorship, long live democracy!” as he ripped up the ballot.

Why do we say double standards? It is worth recalling that, back in 2010, in a case from the 2006 election, rightist and yellow-shirted Chulalongkorn University political science lecturer Chaiyan Chaiyaporn was acquitted after he tore up ballot papers. The court found a technicality that meant it could let Chaiyan off the hook as he blatantly used the courts to highlight his anti-Thaksin Shinawatra campaign.

And then there’s the issue that the charter was a junta scheme for prolonging its rule – as has proved the case. That draft charter was put to a bogus referendum. But even after that the junta changed several sections, demonstrating that it was bogus. The changes were mostly prompted by the king’s desire to live in Germany and to control his palace world.





Odd stuff

10 07 2020

A reader reckoned it was odd that PPT has been ignoring the ructions in the Palang Pracharath Party. While we have linked to a couple of stories on this, our view has been much as the Thai Enquirer has it:

The former party leader of Thailand’s ruling party and three other senior officials resigned from the party on Thursday signalling a possible cabinet shake up and the consolidation of power by the army wing of the ruling party.

We’d just add that it has always been a military-backed party. Recall that it was formed to allow Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his military junta to stay in power following a rigged election. The plan is to have the military pulling the string for up to 20 years.

On that 20 year period that The Dictator once called this “national reform.” It was a long-term plan to keep the military in politics and the monarchy in place.

Perhaps because the regime seems to feel it remains in control, as the Bangkok Post reports, no one seems particularly interested, demonstrated when a “Lower House sitting on national reform was cancelled yesterday for the lack of quorum.” The meeting was meant to “discuss progress on reform plans, which require a report and debate in parliament every three months.”  mainly because the .

For some grasping at “democratic” straws, see Prachatai.

Finally, the regime has ditched the ridiculous lie that the American general and his entourage had quarantined for 14 days prior to arrival in Thailand. Rather, it has sought to downplay the obvious double standards.

The Bangkok Post reports that:

Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said the delegation … would not be quarantined because health officials were confident of controlling any disease they may have….

Taweesilp added:

Thai officials who accompanied the visitors would also not have to be quarantined for 14 days subsequently, because they knew well how to protect themselves, kept a distance from the visitors, and had experience gained in handling returnees who arrived by plane….

Funny statement when Taweesilp has carved out those accompanying the US military delegation and those meeting with it. We don’t recall Gen Prayuth or Gen Apirat Kongsompong “handling returnees.” There are still glaring double standards at work, most especially when the regime maintains an emergency decree.

Rounding out a series of cockeyed reports, Gen Apirat is reported to have “insisted the US did not ask to use Thailand as a place to build a base.” He warned: “Don’t stir up issues that might create conflict in the region…”. Tell us more!