The heroin minister and protecting “the system”

10 05 2021

We decided to wait a couple of days to see how the Constitutional Court’s decision to protect Thammanat Prompao, deputy minister and convicted heroin trafficker, liar, nepotist, and thug before commenting further.

It seems he is untouchable. We assume this has something to do with the claim he made when arrested for heroin smuggling in Australia:

When Thammanat was sitting across from detectives making a statement in Parramatta jail on November 10, 1993, the first thing the young soldier put on the record was his connection to royalty.

After graduating from army cadet school in 1989 he “was commissioned as a bodyguard for the crown prince of Thailand” as a first lieutenant. “I worked in the crown prince’s household to the beginning of 1992,” he said, staying until deployed to help suppress a political conflict that culminated in an army-led massacre in Bangkok.

The crown prince is now King Vajiralongkorn, but the name landed like a thud: the judge made no mention of it when sentencing Thammanat over his part in moving 3.2 kilograms of heroin from Bangkok to Bondi.

Among the first reactions came from the reprehensible Wissanu Krea-ngam. Wissanu, who operates as a mongrel cross between Carl Schmitt and a Reich Minister of Justice, long ago proclaimed that Thammanat’s “eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary.”

The court agreed. No surprise there.  Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam stated that “the court’s decision does not contradict the opinion of the Council of State, the government’s legal adviser, regarding MPs’ qualifications.”

The “Council of State said a person jailed for two years in Thailand or abroad is not eligible to be an MP within five years of being released…”. We have to admit that we did not see this in the reporting of the court’s decision.

Wissanu made the extraordinary claim that “the decision does not ‘whitewash’ the PPRP MP’s [Thammanat] standing.”

The Bangkok Post had an Editorial on the decision. It begins by noting that the court’s decision did not surprise: “After all, society has become used to surprises from our judicial system that run contrary to public sentiment.” It is pulling its punches for fear of offending regime and court yet still makes some useful observations:

In layman’s terms, Thai law permits people with a drug conviction in a foreign country to become a politician or hold public office in Thailand — the Land of Smiles and Land of Second Chances — at least in the case of Capt Thamanat.

It notes that the “court ruling might prolong the meteoric political career of Capt Thamanat as a deal maker and de facto manager of the PPRP. Yet it will come with a hefty price for the government and society as a whole.”

It thinks “the government, and especially the PPRP, still have a little leeway to prevent a complete meltdown in public trust and defuse this time bomb.” The Post is grasping at straws.

Many have lost hope:

People are losing confidence in the government of General Prayut Chan-ocha because of their continued mismanagement, corruption, and repression.

They are losing their faith in the justice system which has propped up this regime – a heartless system that would sooner jail students and watch them die than adjudicate impartially.

…This week, the country’s highest court made the situation worse, if that were possible.

The appalling decision to allow a convicted drug dealer to continue as a cabinet minister shows that this government no longer cares about saving face or pretending to be filled with ‘good people.’

The double standards are observed: the regime considers one crime overseas significant: lese majeste. And, what about a justice system that “still sees it fit to hold the students in jail, without bail, under a draconian law…”, but has a former drug trafficker as a minister? It continues:

Thailand is rapidly approaching the borders of becoming a failed state, a joke-nation where the institutions only serve to reinforce the rule of the few and the elections are a sham run by the whims of generals.

There are examples of anger. This op-ed declares the dire need for change:

Thailand is at a crossroads. We have come to that point in every nation’s history where the decisions of today have massive ramifications for tomorrow….

At stake will be who we are as a nation, not who we were, and what we want to aspire to. Centuries old superstition, entrenched governing structures, a destructive military culture, and an impasse between those that want rapid change and those that want to preserve what it is that they think makes Thailand special….

The generals, the drug dealers, the marijuana growers, the promise breakers that were put in government did so on a broken system drafted and put in place by men in army fatigues.

And now we have arrived at the crossroads and there are three choices which will determine what will become of Thailand.

The op-ed calls for “reform” but far more is needed to root out the military and destroy the privileges of crown and oligarchs. Thais need to get off their knees. That’s exactly what the protesters have been demanding.





Virus of double standards V

15 04 2021

The Bangkok Post has a useful editorial that points to the double standards being applied by the regime in dealing with the virus outbreak.

It refers to “growing concerns over possible foul play in the investigation process concerning the [Thonglor] clubs where the bug spread.” It mentions “blatant breaches of the law by the management of two exclusive clubs, namely Krystal and Emerald, as well as its staff and patrons.”

It doesn’t discuss how it is that these clubs can be so blatant but everyone knows that the police collect “rents” from all entertainment venues to “allow” rules to be bent and to enrich senior police.

The editorial then moves on to the main issue the minister involved. No names, but it is probable they mean Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob. It is stated:

Instead of ordering a probe into a Covid-infected minister who was said to have visited one of the clubs — with all of their reckless violations of disease prevention measures — and who may potentially be a super-spreader, Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha chose to protect his minister. He made a tongue-in-cheek comment, saying cabinet ministers shouldn’t be naughty.

The police sprang into action to cover their posteriors and those of higher ups by charging the clubs’ managers – employees, not owners. But:

Instead of taking a harsh line, the police seemed to adopt a low-key approach, which is unusual given the high-profile nature of the case.

The managers were sentenced in record time, with this action causing “suspicion to arise that the quick action was intended to avert public attention from the real culprits.” And guess what?

The owners are said to have strong connections with the powers-that-be, particularly a high-ranking police officer, Pol Maj Gen Pantana Nuchanart, who is known to be a shareholder in one of the clubs. The officer, attached to the Central Investigation Bureau, told Isra News Agency he was only a partner in a restaurant of one of the clubs.

The editorial focuses on the police and says little more about the “naughty” minister or ministers. Why is Saksayam permitted to apparently skirt laws that other Thais must follow. Why are so many police now infected and/or quarantining? Is the super-spreader responsible? Why is it only small fry and demonstrators who seem to be under the law?





Virus of double standards IV

14 04 2021

With virus numbers spiking all across the country, increasingly the culprits for this outbreak are seen to reside in the regime. It has been infected by not just the virus but by double standards, arrogance and dopey decision-making.

Saksayam

Surprisingly, after a shaky start in 2020 and even with a flaky Health Minister, the regime did quite well, allowing medical technocrats to run the health response to the virus.

Now, all that is being undone. Part of it is due to a privileged minister who refuses to follow the rules and is being protected by regime and some health officials in his family’s fiefdom in Buriram.

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob is a disgrace. Half the cabinet, many in his ministry, police and many more are now infected or in quarantine. And Saksayam still does as he pleases, according to his “standards.”





Virus of double standards III

12 04 2021

As the virus surges across the country, even more double standards are revealed. One is highlighted in a Bangkok Post editorial that questions Thailand’s lagging vaccination program, where the king’s company, subsidized with taxpayer funds, is still several months away from producing any vaccine.

The program was, in principle, meant to target “frontline health workers [as]… the top priority, followed by vulnerable groups such as patients with acute and chronic diseases, people with possible exposure to Covid-19, those who live in particularly at-risk areas, and also people living and working in tourism destinations set to open for foreign visitors.”

But, as usual, the powerful are cutting in and grabbing the shots ahead of everyone else. The expected “celebrity” shots have included The Dictator and some royals – we guess that the rest of the latter have been vaccinated. When the execrable Princess Sirivannavari got her first AstraZeneca shot, the accompanying story “explained” that the shot was “suitable for those who have a high risk of infection from interacting with patients or those who travel frequently and interact with many different people,” suggesting an odd reason for the Princess jumped the queue.

But it is the generals and other junta-appointed supporters of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha in the Senate who get the Post’s attention.

Japanese cats

Senators voting

The Post reports that “wrong priorities sparked an outcry from several MPs who raised the matter with House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, asking why MPs have not been vaccinated, like those in the Upper House.” This complaint revealed “that those 250 military-appointed senators have received their jab, while many more deserving groups have missed out.”

While almost everyone in the country thinks politicians should join others in getting the vaccine when it is due to them, the Post points out that elected MPs “who have to meet their constituents think they deserve early vaccination. That’s quite different from appointed senators who are not responsible to voters in any constituency.”

In fact, the unelected senators are responsible to The Dictator they dutifully selected as prime minister and to their bosses in the military.

Of course, there’s now considerable speculation that, “[a]s all Covid-19 vaccine distribution is controlled by the government,” there must be “someone powerful” who allocated “500 doses of the vaccines (two doses a person) to a group not on the priority list.”

The editorial concludes:

The privilege afforded this special political class is appalling…. It’s a shame that the 250 senators acted selfishly, taking supplies that would have been been saved for those on the frontline. And anyone who had a hand in this happening must also be condemned.

Indeed, but this is just another example of the double standards that infect the royalist-military cabal.





Absolute hypocrisy

12 03 2021

Thailand’s military-backed regime had its Ministry of Foreign Affairs issue a statement where it “called for the release of detainees in Myanmar and urging all parties to seek a peaceful solution for Myanmar and its people through dialogue.”

The hypocrisy is breathtaking even for this regime of military murderers, coup makers, heroin traffickers, masters of double standards, and nepotists.

As it rounds up so many political prisoners that its prisons are overflowing, it beggars belief that the regime that overthrew an elected government and has held power since May 2014 cannot see the ridiculousness of this call.

What else can we say?





Bail double standards

26 02 2021

A couple of days ago we posted on the limp response on bail by one who should do better. The observations there become even more stark as yellow shirts, found guilty of sedition, stroll away with bail while four lese majeste defendants are repeatedly refused bail and may be kept in jail “indefinitely.”

The former People’s Democratic Reform Committee leaders, including three serving ministers, given their posts as “repayment” for paving the way to the coup in 2014, were sentenced on Wednesday. As Khaosod had it, those convicted were:

… former Democrat Party executive Suthep Thaugsuban and five others on charges of insurrection for their roles in street protests against the elected government back in 2013 and 2014.

Suthep was sentenced to 5 years in prison for the protests, which culminated in the military coup that toppled Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration in May 2014. The court declined to suspend their sentences, though it is not clear as of publication time whether Suthep and others would be granted a bail release while they appeal the verdict.

Defendants who were given jail sentences alongside Suthep include Digital Economy Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, and Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senniam.

Buddhipongse and Thaworn were sentenced to 7 and 5 years in prison, respectively, while Nataphol got 6 years and 16 months.

In all, 25 PDRC leaders and members were sentenced for treason and sedition. Other key PDRC leaders were given jail sentences were:

  • Issara Somchai – eight years and four months
  • Suwit Thongprasert, formerly Buddha Isra – four years and eight months
  • Chumpol Julsai – 11 years
  • Suriyasai Katasila – two years

Today, the Appeals Court granted bail to at least eight: “Suthep Thaugsuban, Issara Somchai, Chumpol Julsai, Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, Suwit Thongprasert and Samdin Lertbutr.”

But, for those who have not been convicted of anything remain in jail as further charges are piled on. They are detained pending trial which means they are detained indefinitely until the trial is over or until bail is granted.

Double standards? You bet.





With 3 updates: Violence and double standards I

15 02 2021

There has been some banter about students, protesters and violence, mainly on social media. For example, Cod Satrusayang has an op-ed at Thai Enquirer stating:

On Saturday, student protesters confronted police officers in front of the Bangkok City Shrine. Led by vocational students and the We Volunteer protest guards, the protesters hurled rocks and homemade firecrackers at the police.

The police responded with batons, mass charges, and mass arrests. The security officials were indiscriminate in their response – infamously beating high school students, volunteer medics, and journalists in their bid to get to the agitators.

There was no excuse for the action of the police that night. Numerous “international norms” were violated by the security operations.

But there was no excuse for the student guards to needlessly confront and provoke the officers either….

There has been an increasing and alarming tendency in recent weeks by protesters to resort to violence or threaten violence in their confrontations with the police.

Is this reasonable? Should protesters simply remain punching bags and targets for arrest and jails? And is it reasonable to compare “student guards” tactics with those of heavily armed and aggressive police and military, including the use of plainclothes officers on the student side, provoking and arresting?

The protesters “reiterated its peaceful stance but said protesters had a right to retaliate against violence by authorities.”

Even the conservative royalist commentator Veera Prateepchaikul refers to Saturday as involving “a minor scuffle during in which stones, smoke bombs and firecrackers were hurled at the police by the protesters.” Did such a “minor scuffle” need a violent response? Should a volunteer medic have been attacked, kicked, beaten and arrested? These are, of course, rhetorical questions.

Others have been more willing to question the imbalance of power. For example, the Rural Doctor Society demanded “an explanation and legal action against the officers involved [in the beating of the volunteer], saying it was a violation of human rights.” Why is it that mainstream media aren’t showing some of the truly violent police responses?

Pravit Rojanaphruk has posted a considerable amount of it on Facebook, but none of it has yet appeared at his newspaper. Why does Cod post a link to video of a few rocks being thrown, most of them not even reaching the main police line, but nothing of consequence about police violence?Newspapers report 20-25 police officers injured but say little about protesters, some of who have been dragged off to a secret prison.

Double standards? We think so.

Prachatai has a report worth reading. It is balanced, covers the whole event and is a useful account of the ways that the authorities provoke and how protesters respond.

Update 1: Khaosod finally has some updates posted. One report is of the top Bangkok cop saying “a police officer was behaving properly when he shot live rounds over the weekend in a bid to fend off a crowd of pro-democracy protesters.” Of course he does. But, the same cops have charged the volunteer health worker they beat to unconsciousness and arrested at the same rally. The charge is that he breached the virus emergency decree. The cops really are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Double standards? You bet!

Update 2: Further to our point above about the inequalities in comparing protesters and state authorities, Prachatai has a useful report on the events of the rally and confrontations, with numerous examples of “crowd control police carrying firearms,” contradicting claims by “Pol Lt Gen Phukphong Phongpetra, the Metropolitan Police Chief, that the police did not use tear gas or rubber bullets against protesters on 13 February.”

Update 3: For a video showing the large numbers of military/police infiltrators and “third hands,” look at this video at Facebook.





Bail inequality

13 02 2021

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both expressed “concern over the bail denial of the 4 prominent activists as an abuse of the judicial process to silence peaceful critics.”

Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat ‘Bank’ Saraiyam have been charged with lese majeste and sedition and banged up in pre-trial detention, denied bail. As has happened before:

After the court denied them bail, four of them were taken to the Bangkok Remand Prison to be held in custody pending the trial. They shall remain in custody until the court grants them bail or until the trial is concluded or until the cases against them are dismissed by the court, the length of time which is undeterminable.

Clipped from Khaosod

In response, the Bangkok Post reports that “126 law academics and legal experts have issued a statement condemning a court decision denying bail for protest leaders.” They declared:

We are of the strong opinion that a person’s right to bail is a crucial principle that the judicial institution — which has legal, social and humanitarian duties and is the final beacon of hope for the people — must uphold to support the basic rights and freedom of the people….

This action by the Criminal Court is in sharp and stark contrast to the bail swiftly granted to Somchai Jutikitdecha aka Longjoo Somchai “who is accused of being the man behind illegal casinos linked with a recent Covid-19 outbreak in the eastern provinces…” The court is said to have “brushed aside police objections and granted Mr Somchai bail on Thursday night.”

Double standards? You bet!





With 3 updates: Gen Prayuth’s court let him off

2 12 2020

In a move that was never in doubt – forget the rumors of the last few days – the politicized Constitutional Court, with double standards in neon lights, let The Dictator off.

The Constitutional Court was never going to find Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha of malfeasance for having violated the constitution by staying on in his Army residence long after he officially retired from the Army.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

The Nation reports that the court “ruled that military regulations allow former officers to remain in their Army residence after retirement.”

The opposition had “accused Prayut of breaching the Constitution by staying on at an official Army residence in the First Infantry Battalion of Royal Guards … after his military retirement at the end of September 2014.”

He stood “accused of violating Sections 184 and 186 of the Constitution that forbid a government minister from ‘receiving any special money or benefit from a government agency, state agency or state enterprise…’.” It is clear that such free accommodation violates these  articles.

But the Constitutional Court has regularly ignored the constitution. We can recall then Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej being ousted by the court for “expenses” totaling about $2,350 for appearing on his long-running television show a “Tasting and Complaining.” Gen Prayuth’s gains far exceed that paltry amount. Free rent, free services, free servants, etc. etc.

The Army “informed the court that the residence was provided to Prayut because he is PM and deserves the honour and security it provides.” It added that “[s]imilar housing has been provided to other former Army chiefs who are members of the Cabinet, the Privy Council and Parliament…”. In other words, the Army rewards its generals who serve as privy councilors, ministers – like Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda – and appointed senators. It is a corrupt cabal, with the Army ensuring its people are never “tainted” by regular society.

The Army, the Constitutional Court and the regime are corrupt.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post failed to produce an editorial on this story. We can only guess that the editor’s desk is having to get their editorials approved by the owners. How else could they have missed this? We’ll look again tomorrow. The story it has on Gen Prayuth’s free pass from his court summarizes the Constitutional Court’s “reasoning,” resulting in a unanimous decision by this sad group of judges:

His occupancy was allowed under a 2005 army regulation, which lets army chiefs stay on base after they retire if they continue to serve the country well, according to the unanimous ruling read out at the court in Bangkok on Wednesday afternoon.

The court said the regulation had come into effect before Gen Prayut was the army chief, and other former army commanders have also received the same benefits.

The court said Gen Prayut served the country well as army chief, and the army regulation allowed its former commanders to use such houses, and subsidised utility bills.

“When he became prime minister on Aug 24, 2014, the complainee [Gen Prayut] was also the army chief in active duty. He was therefore qualified to stay in the house in his capacity as the army chief. When he retired on Sept 30, 2014, he was still qualified to stay as a former army chief. A prime minister who had not been army chief could not have stayed at the house,” the court said in its ruling.

Being a prime minister is an important position and security for him and his family is important. The state must provide appropriate security and an accommodation that is safe and offers privacy enables him to perform his duties for public benefits. It is therefore necessary to prepare accommodation for the country’s leader when Baan Phitsanulok is not ready, the court said.

The free utilities also do not constitute a conflict of interest since they are part of the welfare that comes with the housing.

In other words, the Court accepted every major point made by Gen Prayuth and the Army. It is easy to see who is the master and who is the pet poodle.

Just for interest, this is what Sections 184(3) and 186 of the constitution state:

183. A Member of the House of Representatives and Senator shall not:

… (c) receive any special money or benefit from a government agency, State agency or State enterprise apart from that given by the government agency, State agency or State enterprise to other persons in the ordinary course of business;…

186. The provisions in section 184 shall also apply to Ministers mutatis mutandis, except for the following cases:

1. holding positions or carrying out acts provided by the law to be the duties or powers of the Minister;

2. carrying out acts pursuant to the duties and powers in the administration of State affairs, or pursuant to the policies stated to the National Assembly, or as provided by law….

Compare that to the “reasoning” summarized by the Post and it is easy to see that the court has made yet another political decision for the regime and the social order it maintains.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post has now produced an editorial. It actually says things that could easily have been made a day ago, but we guess lawyers and owners had to have their say. It notes:

Many observers have said the ruling did not surprise them in the least. This is not the first time the court, appointed by the military regime in accordance with the 2017 charter, and endorsed by the military-leaning Senate, has cleared up political trouble for the prime minister. Before this, there was the incomplete oath-taking case and the ruling that Gen Prayut, while serving as premier after the 2014 coup, was not a “state official.”

And on this verdict makes – as others have – the point that should never be forgotten:

In its not-guilty verdict regarding the welfare house, the court judges cited a 2005 army regulation, which lets army chiefs stay on at a base after they retire “if they continue to serve the country well”. The court said the regulation came into effect before Gen Prayut was army chief, and other former army commanders have also received the same benefits.

However, the court stopped short of explaining why a military regulation can overrule the country’s supreme law.

Constitutional Court judges make a ruling

The explanation has to do with the nature of the court – politicized – the nature of “justice” – double standards – and the power of the military (in alignment with the monarchy).

Update 3: As night follows day, the Constitutional Court has assigned Pol Cpl [a corporal? really? why keep that moniker with one’s name?] Montri Daengsri, the director of the Constitutional Court’s litigation office, to file charges with the Technology Crime Suppression Division against Parit Chiwarak for Facebook posts that the court considers “contempt of court.” Parit condemned their ridiculous legal contortions.

Cpl Montri also stated that Parit’s speech at the protest rally after the verdict was “defamatory in nature and violated the Criminal Code…. Police investigators were looking to see what charges would be pressed…”.

The court’s litigation office was also “looking into a stage play allegedly poking fun at the court over its ruling at the rally site.” No sense of humor as well as dullards and sham “judges.”





Red Bull wealth and the missing

28 11 2020

Remember the recent media kerfuffle over the cover-up over the hit-and-run case involving Red Bull scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya? The big investigation confirmed what everyone in Thailand already knew: the police and justice system were doing all they could to ease things for the filthy rich Yoovidhya clan. The investigating panel found eight groups of individuals, including police, public prosecutors, members of the junta-installed National Legislative Assembly and other politicians, conspired and committed malpractice that resulted in the dropping of all charges against Vorayuth. Lawyers and witnesses gave false testimony. That’s how the judicial system works for the rich. This is the double standards that are normalized.

None of this has harmed the family.

The Guardian reports that “Red Bull has paid out more than €550m (£493m) to its founders, including the [Yoovidhya] family…”.

The company “has paid €211.4m in annual dividends to the family of Chaleo Yoovidhya, the drink’s inventor, who died in 2012” and €343m to Dietrich Mateschitz, Austria’s richest, who helped make the drink an international phenomenon.

The company “is registered in Austria as Red Bull GmbH” and “sold a record 7.5bn cans of Red Bull last year – almost one for each person on the planet.”

According to the report, “Mateschitz stills owns 49% of the company, while another 49% is shared by 11 members of Chaleo Yoovidhya’s family. The final 2% is owned outright by Chaleo’s eldest son, Chalerm.”

All that wealth was no doubt “useful” in getting the now failed cover-up in place. It probably also keeps Vorayuth living the high life wherever he is. Readers may have noticed that the trail has again gone cold, the regime is silent and the police are apparently ignoring the crime and the “investigation.”