GT200 conviction and the cover-up continues

11 10 2018

Not that long ago we had some posts on the ongoing GT200 corruption scandal.

As a follow-up, Khaosod reports that the military’s middleman on all these deals has been convicted again:

Sutthiwat Wattanakij and his company Ava Satcom Ltd. were guilty of fraud for selling the so-called GT200 devices worth 6.8 million baht to the ministry’s Central Institute of Forensic Science from 2007 to 2009.

The ruling came two weeks after he was handed down the same sentence for selling the devices to the Royal Thai Aide-De-Camp Department in 2008.

Again, no official seems to have been investigated.

We recall that back in 2010, we posted on a story by Pravit Rojanaphruk at The Nation who suggested that “superstition trumps logic in this country.” He asked:

How else can one explain Army chief General Anupong Paochinda and forensics department chief Pornthip Rojanasunand insisting on using the so-called bomb detectors even though a Science Ministry test had proved that they are basically useless?

We also recall that Pornthip is always claimed to be Thailand’s leading forensic scientist and that her support for the GT200 was enthusiastic.

At the time we suggested that corruption was a better answer to Pravit’s question.It still is, but because all three of the most senior junta generals – Gen Prayuth, Gen Prawit and Gen Anupong – were involved, there’s no investigation.





Doubling down on double standards IV

2 10 2018

We have posted a lot on the GT200 debacle. Even so, the Bangkok Post’s recent editorial on the military brass and their impunity deserves attention.

It points out that the retailer of the useless non-devices to the military and other government agencies has twice been found guilty for selling the lumps of plastic. With just two employees, his AVA Satcom Co Ltd. managed to sell large quantities of the junk to the government and military.

(Reminds us that this is not unusual. The non-flying waste of money Sky Dragon was sold to the same military brass by a penny company in the USA. It’s now more than a year since that “investigation” was begun and nothing’s been heard that we know of.)

The Post states that the “military men involved in this shameful saga more than 10 years ago have never been brought to justice.” Why not? The Post “answers”: “They include several of those in high positions in the military regime and National Council for Peace and Order.” (So does the Sky Dragon non-case.)

More than this, Sutthiwat lawyer “claims that Sutthiwat only imported the GT200 … because the army told him to do so.” And more: “Credibly he claims army officers approached his client with instructions, and specific specifications to buy, import and resell the items to the army.”

If it wasn’t a theft of taxpayer funds, this would be funny. It is corruption, managed and directed by senior military officers. And to repeat, as the Post said: “They include several of those in high positions in the military regime and National Council for Peace and Order.”

The Post makes it clear that the “lawyer’s claim is credible because this is the way the Royal Thai Armed Forces do their foreign buying.”

A total of 535 sets of the useless GT200 were purchased by the Army, costing the taxpayer 642 million baht, with”four army commanders in a row spoke glowingly and positively of their effectiveness.” That’s Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who led the 2006 coup and Gen Anupong Paojinda, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan who all led the 2014 coup and now lead the military junta.

Double standards define the military junta.





Hopeless, politicized and corrupt

29 09 2018

We don’t know exactly when General Prawit Wongsuwan “instructed all relevant units to expedite the cases” in the GT200 scandal. Deputy Defense Minister Gen Chaichan Changmongkol made the claim only in the past 48 hours.

On cue, all agencies have now reported in the media that all is finished or almost finished. Wow. Imagine what they could do investigating the Deputy Dictator’s luxury watches, now “returned” to a dead man.

The Department of Special Investigation has finally worked out that the lumps of useless plastic were a scam. That’s only 8 years after the UK banned the devices from export.

Ever wonder why the Thai military and other authorities have been so slow? Think commissions, saving face and impunity.

So now the distributors in Thailand are said to have “deceived government agencies into buying GT200 bomb detectors…”. The DSI found “evidence of fraud and deception by the sellers in the cases…”.

One can only be amazed that the agencies – not a single one of them – did anything more than spend lots of loot and some counted the kickbacks.

Under the junta, who have senior members who were involved in the purchases and/or defended the devices, DSI “made no mention whether any government officials were involved as it concluded the investigation into the decade-old scandal on Friday.”

Between 2004 and 2009 the buyers were: “the Central Institute of Forensic Science [obviously science went out the window with theses non-devices], Royal Thai Army Ordnance Department, Customs Department, Provincial Administration Department, Royal Thai Aide-de-Camp Department, Provincial Police of Sing Buri and Chai Nat, Songkhla Provincial Administration, Royal Thai Navy Security Centre and authorities in five provinces: Phitsanulok, Phetchaburi, Phuket Yala, Sukhothai.”

Money, money, money, must be lovely…. But we digress.

Then there’s the National Anti-Corruption Commission. In a false headline, Thai PBS has it that “NACC breaks silence on GT200 investigation.” Of course, it was only a month ago that the NACC’s Surasak Keereevichiena babbled that “[i]t is difficult for the nation’s anti-graft agency to conclude whether there was any wrongdoing in the Bt1.13-billion purchase of fake ‘remote substance detectors’…”.

Now it says “it had recently received a copy of the verdict by the British court against the British fraudsters of the useless but costly devices.” That, we think, is from a case concluded on 20 August 2013. So the NACC has stalled and grovelled for 5 years. Now, NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon says the NACC “had ordered probes into the procurement of the devices by five state agencie, namely the Air Force Ordnance Department, the Army Ordnance Department, the Forensic Science Institute, the Chainat provincial police and the Customs Department.He claimed that the probes of these procurement deals were 80 percent completed.”

At that rate, these half-wits at the national cover-up agency will complete their “investigation” in about two years from now, if they get a move along. They have only “reported” now because they look hopeless, cowed, politicized and dumb.





Updated: NACC is hopeless, cowed, politicized and dumb

27 09 2018

A reader drew our attention to a report on the GT200.There’s another report here.

Readers will recall that it has taken the National Anti-Corruption (Cover-up) Commission more than a decade to decide to make no decision on whether a lump of plastic with an old-fashioned car aerial stuck in it is really a scam when the military and 12 other agencies bought 1,358 of them (GT200 and Alpha 6 “detectors”) for 1.137 billion baht.

Not that long ago, Surasak Keereevichiena, a member of the NACC, stated that “[i]t is difficult for the nation’s anti-graft agency to conclude whether there was any wrongdoing in the Bt1.13-billion purchase of fake ‘remote substance detectors’…”. He then added that “it was likely that officials had decided to purchase the devices because they believed the devices would work.” Making this dopey statement dopier still, he babbled that “[s]ometimes, it is not about the value of devices. It’s more about belief, just like when you buy Buddha amulets…”.

(Recall that it has taken about 10 months for the same NACC to not decide if the Deputy Dictator has failed to declare luxury watches.)

Yet the linked report above states that a “court on Wednesday sentenced a businessman to nine years in prison for selling phony bomb detectors to a royal guard unit.”

Sutthiwat Wattanaki and his company Ava Satcom Ltd. sold just 8 of the magic wands to “the Royal Thai Aide-De-Camp Department in 2008. He was also fined 18,000 baht for the deal, which cost the state over 9 million baht.” That’s more than 1 million baht each; pretty much at the top of the prices paid for the plastic non-devices.

The reports states that the “royal bodyguards later realized they did not work as advertised and filed charges.” We guessed that many other purchasers are with Surasak at the NACC and still think the plastic non-device works.

But that would be a wrong guess. Apparently this is the “the third legal action judgment Sutthiwat and his firm. In August, a civil court ordered the company to compensate the royal guards for the fraudulent deal. Last week, a court also sentenced him to 10 years in prison for selling GT200 devices to the army at a price of 600 million baht.”

So the NACC is just a waste of space. Hopeless, cowed, politicized and dumb. Why does it behave like this? Our best guess is that the military leaders who pocketed commissions don’t want to be “investigated.”

Update: The Nation reports that “All military units have taken legal action against their suppliers of GT200 bomb/narcotics detectors after they were found not to work.” Defense Ministry spokesman Lt-Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich said the “… Ministry started legal proceedings after their overseas sales representatives were convicted of fraud around 2013…”. Do we believe him? No.

It was in 2013 that soon-to-be The Dictator was quoted:

Thailand’s army chief general Prayuth Chan-ocha has asked the public to stop making comments or criticisms about the controversial bomb detector GT200 procurement.

… Commander-in-Chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has requested the public to stop fueling criticisms and leave the case to be investigated by Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the Thai court. He added that the army has already stopped using the devices for 2-3 years. However, he admitted that some military personnel still use them since there is no other alternative instrument.

When asked whether the procurement possibly involved fraud, the military leader responded that the buying of the equipment was done carefully by the responsible committee, and that any allegation of corruption should be made based on solid evidence.

Earlier, in mid-2012, reporters asked “army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha if the GT200 had actually been taken out of service.” The response was an emphatic no. Then the now premier and more than fours years as The Dictator, stated: “I affirm that the device is still effective. Other armed forces are also using it…”.

And what happened to the “more than 400 people have been locked up – some for up to two years – on the basis of spurious evidence gleaned by the device, which is at the centre of a British fraud probe”?

Indeed they were, including in the south, where people were arrested based on “tests” using the GT200. Prayuth “insisted the GT200 has proven to be effective in the army’s operations in the past. But he would respect any scientific test if it proves otherwise.” Of course, those tests had already been conducted. The (future) Dictator believed the GT200 worked. Full stop.

When asked, Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday “maintained that the armed forces did nothing wrong in purchasing the useless devices.” He “explained”: “At that time, our testing teams said the devices worked…”.He might have added, “and the commissions have been spent.”

If the Army really was convinced of the the uselessness of the GT200, how come they didn’t tell the NACC to update its cover-up story?





Updated: Saving a tree

31 08 2018

It has taken the National Anti-Corruption (cover-up) Commission more than a decade to make no decision on whether a lump of plastic with an old-fashioned car aerial stuck in it is really a scam when the military and 12 other agencies bought 1,358 of them (GT200 and Alpha 6 “detectors”) for 1.137 billion baht. It has taken about 9 months for the same NACC to not decide if the Deputy Dictator has failed to declare luxury watches.

But others in the Thai government can leap into action on other stuff. Prachuab Khiri Khan governor Pallop Singhaseni has “sent a letter of clarification to the interior minister and asked for a pardon from HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn” because a senior monk decided to get rid of what he thought was a dead tree. He’s also ordered an official probe into this heinous act.

Heinous? Yep, wrong tree! It is a tree claimed to have been “planted by the late King Bhumibol about 60 years ago.” Horror of horrors! Forget the floods and have endless meetings to save what’s left of the almost dead tree.

Nothing changes much in ridiculous royalist Thailand.

Update: So ridiculous is royalist Thailand that this one tree is being “rescued,” DNA tested, regenerated, fertilized, fungicized, and absurdly venerated. In royal shirts of the new uniform, dozens of officials are involved in the rescue mission for the “royal tree.” And, “a fact-finding panel had been set up into the cutting down…”.  So fearful are provincial officials that they are doing an inventory in “all districts to locate and list trees planted by the late king. There were about 300 trees, but the survey has not yet been completed.” Never have so few trees been so important for so many officials in Thailand.





Fearful, covering up or just thick?

30 08 2018

The military junta has emphasized Thailand’s “uniqueness.” Thailand is probably the world’s only military dictatorship, it “protects” the monarchy more intensely than almost any other constitutional monarchy, its lese majeste law carries higher sentences than anywhere else and more.

It is probably not unique that it has officials and appointed members of assemblies who say some of the dumbest things that could possibly be imagined. They do this with straight faces, without a smile and appear to believe the daft things that flow from their mouths, seemingly disconnected from anything resembling a brain.

Likewise, we don’t think it is unique when the main “anti-corruption” bodies prefer to obfuscate, lie and cover-up for their bosses/friends/dictators.

But combining those “anti-corruption” bodies with officials saying the dumbest things may be unique.

As a case in point is Surasak Keereevichiena, a member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission reportedly stated that “[i]t is difficult for the nation’s anti-graft agency to conclude whether there was any wrongdoing in the Bt1.13-billion purchase of fake ‘remote substance detectors’…”.

That’s bad enough, but what was the reason for this outrageous claim? Get this: Surasak “said it was likely that officials had decided to purchase the devices because they believed the devices would work.” Making this dopey statement dopier still, he babbled that “[s]ometimes, it is not about the value of devices. It’s more about belief, just like when you buy Buddha amulets…”.

Now what is Surasak prattling about? None other than the plastic handled scam wand, the GT200.

Wikipedia’s page says this:

The GT200 is a fraudulent “remote substance detector” that was claimed by its manufacturer, UK-based Global Technical Ltd, to be able to detect, from a distance, various substances including explosives and drugs. The GT200 was sold to a number of countries for a cost of up to £22,000 per unit, but the device has been described as little more than “divining rods” which lack any scientific explanation for why they should work. After the similar ADE 651 was exposed as a fraud, the UK Government banned the export of such devices to Iraq and Afghanistan in January 2010 and warned foreign governments that the GT200 and ADE 651 are “wholly ineffective” at detecting bombs and explosives. The owner of Global Technical, Gary Bolton, was convicted on 26 July 2013 on two charges of fraud relating to the sale and manufacture of the GT200 and sentenced to seven years in prison.

For Thailand, where the prices paid reached the maximum, this story goes back beyond the early days of this blog. Our first post was in early January 2010, when General Pathomphong Kasornsuk reportedly wrote a letter to then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to urge that a committee investigate the army’s procurement scheme for GT200 “bomb detectors.”

But the news reports of early 2010 point to an earlier purchase of the GT200, by the air force in 2004 or 2005.  Wassana Nanuam, writing in the Bangkok Post (18 February 2010) says future 2006 coup leader ACM Chalit Phukpasuk was commander at the time. 2006 junta boss Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, then army commander and chairman of the Council for National Security (CNS), was impressed with the device and it was used at that time by a unit which provided security for then prime minister Surayud Chulanont.

The Wikipedia page says this about Thailand:

The GT200 was used extensively in Thailand. Reportedly, some 818 GT200 units were procured by Thai public bodies since 2004. These include 535 bought by the Royal Thai Army for use combating the South Thailand insurgency and another 222 for use in other areas, 50 purchased by the Royal Thai Police for use in Police Region 4 (Khon Kaen), six bought by the Central Institute of Forensic Science, six by the Customs Department, four by the Royal Thai Air Force, and one by Chai Nat police. Other agencies such as the Border Patrol Police Bureau and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board use a similar device to detect drugs, the Alpha 6, procured from another company, Comstrac. According to the Bangkok Post, the Royal Thai Air Force first procured the GT200 to detect explosives and drugs at airports, followed by the army in 2006.[30] According to Lt Gen Daopong Rattansuwan, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Royal Thai Army, each GT200 bought by the army cost 900,000 baht (£17,000/US$27,000), rising to 1.2 million baht (£22,000/US$36,000) if 21 “sensor cards” were included with it. In total, Thailand’s government and security forces have spent between 800–900 million baht (US$21 million) on the devices. Figures updated in 2016 claim that the Thai government spent 1.4 billion baht on the purchase of 1,358 devices between 2006 and 2010. Even after the efficacy of the device was debunked by Thai and foreign scientists, Prime Minister Chan-o-cha, then army chief, declared, “I affirm that the device is still effective.” The Bangkok Post commented that, “The GT200 case was a unique scandal because the devices…seemed to fool only the people closely connected to their sale and purchase.”

Tests and experiments conducted in Thailand and in the UK showed that the GT200 and similar wands were an undisguised scam.

Wassana Nanuam, writing in the Bangkok Post (18 February 2010) pointed out that it was Army commander Anupong Paojinda “who approved the purchase of more than 200 of these so-called bomb detectors at the price of 1.4 million baht each in 2009.” As we know, he is now Minister of Interior and part of the junta.

She says that the GT200 was first purchased by the air force in 2005, when future coup leader Air Chief Marshal Chalit Phukpasuk was commander. “After that, [2006 coup leader] Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, then army commander and chairman of the Council for National Security (CNS), became impressed with the device. He asked that two of them be sent for trial. They were used at that time by a unit which provided security coverage for then prime minister Surayud Chulanont.”

Despite the legal cases elsewhere and the tests, Anupong, Prayuth and others refused to acknowledge that the GT200 didn’t work. They mumbled about soldiers finding them useful. Questions were raised about the commissions paid.

In mid-2012, reporters asked “army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha if the GT200 had actually been taken out of service.” The response was an emphatic no. Then the now premier and more than fours years as The Dictator, stated: “I affirm that the device is still effective. Other armed forces are also using it…”.

Indeed they were, including in the south, where people were arrested based on “tests” using the GT200. Prayuth “insisted the GT200 has proven to be effective in the army’s operations in the past. But he would respect any scientific test if it proves otherwise.” Of course, those tests had already been conducted. The (future) Dictator believed the GT200 worked. Full stop.

He was supported by then Defence Minister ACM Sukumpol Suwanatat under the Puea Thai government. Dense and commenting on a report that the Department of Special Investigation was investigating whether the devices were purchased at exorbitant prices, he “said: “The GT200 detectors can do the job and they have already been tested…”. He also babbled that the DSI “should also ask those who are using the detectors because if they don’t work I want to know who would buy them.”

By April 2013, the Bangkok Post reported that investigations in Thailand have shown that “13 agencies to buy 1,358 GT200 and Alpha 6 detectors worth 1.137 billion baht.” It added that fraud charges are being considered by the NACC.

More than 5 years later, Surasak has come up with his ludicrous claims that mimic his bosses in the junta. He added that the junta-shy NACC would “come up with a clear-cut conclusion on the matter ‘at an appropriate time’.”

He said: “if soldiers in the field … have faith in the bomb-detectors and believe they work, then they would consider the equipment worth the money spent. But he admitted that there are people who question their worthiness considering the prices paid.”

We are tempted to conclude that Surasak is dumber than a sack of hammers, but that would do damage to hammers. We should consider that he may be fearful of The Dictator and his team of military thugs. He might love them and feels the need to cover up to protect them. Or some combination of these.





Updated: Selectivity in the judicial system

22 05 2018

“Selectivity in the judicial system” is another way of expressing the notion of double standards. Several recent stories in the Bangkok Post highlight the junta’s continued emphasis on legal mechanisms to selectively repress its political opponents.

The first Bangkok Post story is about a civil court having “temporarily disposed of a civil case against Suthep Thaugsuban and 39 others for impeding the 2014 general election, pending the outcome of a criminal case against them.” Essentially, the court decided to ease the pressure on Suthep while other criminal cases are ever so slowly sorted out.

One of the oddities of this case is that it is brought by the EC which itself managed to impede the election through the decisions and actions of its then members.

A second Bangkok Post story tells of Puea Thai’s Watana Muangsook, Chaturon Chaisang and Chusak Sirinil being “charged on Monday with sedition for holding a press conference” that criticized the military dictatorship. It is the military that filed the case.

The notion that rights that even appear in the junta’s own constitution are ignored by the junta to claim sedition for relatively mild criticism is yet another example of double standards.

Five other party leaders were charged with violating the ban on gatherings for attending the press conference.

Pheu Thai’s secretary general Phumtham Wechayachai was mild in his response to the charges: “This government abuses the laws. They use laws to prevent people from investigating (them)…”. He added that none of those charged had broken the law.

But that’s the point. Under a military dictatorship the law is whatever the junta decides it will be.

Phumtham asked why it was that speaking “about the government’s performance for the last four years and how unsuccessful they are” should constitute an attempt to overthrow the regime or to incite insurrection.

Well, again, the dictatorship can decide what it wants. There’s no “legality” involved, just the whim of The Dictator. In this instance, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, campaigning vigorously to defeat parties that may not campaign, sees a chance to stick yet another dagger into the country’s most successful political party.

And finally for this account of double standards, the third Bangkok Post story is of three junior officials being charged by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) “the illegal purchase of Alpha 6 narcotics detectors 10 years ago.”

In fact, these devices are more or less the same at the GT200. Both are devices shown to have failed and to be scams, but widely purchased by official agencies including the military. Some 1,358 GT200 and Alpha 6 detectors worth 1.137 billion baht were bought by various agencies. Their use was vigorously defended by senior Army officers, including Gen Prayuth, and Army spokesmen

Five years ago, following convictions in the UK on these scam devices, PPT asked: will the Thai military brass and bosses of other agencies that purchased – often at inflated prices – will also be held accountable. The answer seems clear: not when the military runs the show.

Double standards and legal selectivity rule. Ask Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. One of his “borrowed” luxury watches costs more than an Alpha 6 at inflated prices. Maybe there’s a connection?

Update: We are pleased to note that the Bangkok Post has an editorial that takes up most of the points we made above.