Fudged to save well-paid relatives and buddies

24 02 2017

In an earlier post, we commented on the “clearing” of the seven puppet lawmakers who were “investigated” on allegations that they had failed to fulfill their required duties with the National Legislative Assembly. A report was said to be forthcoming that cleared the well-paid and senior friends of the junta.

PPT concluded by stating: We can’t wait for the report to see how this is fudged.

The Bangkok Post has now reported on this. It is another one of the junta’s concoctions to preserve nepotism, corruption and impunity.

NLA secretary general Vararat Atiphaet “told reporters on Friday that from Jan 1-Dec 31, 2016, NLA members voted 1,264 times in total.” She went on to confirm that “each member had to cast in at least one-third of the votes, or 421, to maintain their status.”

Helpfully, the Post constructed the table below:

From the Bangkok Post

For the table, a year of attendances is presented by the NLA and only “missed votes without prior leave-of-absence requests shall be counted as missed votes.”

As the Post points out, there’s hocus pocus going on: “the timeframe the NLA used in the calculation was 365 days even though its own regulation says the one-third rule applies to a 90-day period.” This sleight of hand went unexplained.

So the data is a pile of buffalo manure. Even so, the absences are remarkable! The next question is when those in the table (and others) are skiving off are they still “paid a position allowance of 71,230 baht and an extra allowance of 42,330 a month, totalling 113,560 baht.” And that doesn’t include “committee allowances.”

The answer seems to be that “If a member fails to attend half of the meetings scheduled each month, he will not receive the extra allowance for that month unless he is on a parliamentary trip approved by the NLA president.” So, the money for nothing seems to be 71,000 baht++.

Recall also, as the Post points out, these lazy thugs get an “allowance” so they can continue to collect other salaries:

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam said two years ago that a state official may not receive salaries from more than one source but may accept unlimited position allowances and other compensation so long as the payments are not called a salary.

The trough is filled with loot and is warm and inviting. These guys are swimming in it.





The Dictator on rights, liberties and democracy

11 02 2017

PrayuthThe self-appointed premier and The Dictator of Thailand, who heads a military dictatorship that jails political opponents on trumped up charges, and who launched an illegal coup and led troops in a murderous crackdown on protesters, while granting impunity to family and friends, has advice on rights, liberties and democracy.

Of course, The Dictator has no knowledge of such principles. And we would be laughing out loud if this situation wasn’t indicative of The Dictator’s desire to push his country into a monochrome and dark political “future.”

In another apparently angry retort, General Prayuth Chan-ocha demanded that the “general public not to be obsessed with democracy, rights and liberties, saying a preoccupation with this could lead to anarchy.”

He said he preferred “the people should take into consideration other principles, especially existing laws, to find proper logic.”

“Proper logic” is something that Thailand’s military probably thinks is found on a golf course or in a bag of “commissions.”

A clearly determined Prayuth warned people that they should not get “carried away with thoughts about rights, liberties and democracy in every issue…”.

What he intends is that the public should understand and accept that his regime has no plans to provide and rights, liberties and democracy.

The Dictator, seeming to speak to the 300 and more who signed a letter for the release of Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa and others beginning to gripe under the military boot, declared that his junta will “find a way to achieve its goals of reforms and national unity.”

In case anyone was confused, Prayuth added that his junta and its nearly identical government “cannot be swayed by the public’s feelings.”

Clearly the military junta’s political agenda is far more important than trifling notions of rights, liberties and democracy.





Corruption, nepotism and impunity

4 02 2017

In an op-ed at the Bangkok Post, Thitinan Pongsudhirak says this of corruption:

The reason corruption is not forcefully addressed in Thailand is because we don’t know where to start with the powerful few involved. Those at the top who are supposed to eliminate corruption must be clean and willing to confront and prosecute culprits in a networked society where the degrees of social separation are very small. Going after corruption means going after crooks you and your friends and family may know.

We could read this as suggesting there’s a cultural element to corruption, but we’d prefer to think of it as suggestive of nepotism.

PPT is sure that nepotism plays a role. Indeed, the royalist elite and Sino-Thai tycoons are a relatively small ruling class and there are plenty of kinship links. The military and royalist state has also spent a considerable time seeking to make and reinforce such links.

Tucked away in an academic book (Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, eds, Unequal Thailand: Aspects of Income, Wealth and Power, Singapore: NUS Press, 2016) is a chapter by Nualnoi Treerat and Parkpume Vanichaka on elite networking through “special executive courses.” As one reviewer explains:

The interviews with course attendees are of great value for understanding how it is that specific policies benefiting the oligarchy come to fruition. The inclusion of members of “billion families” into the courses brings to light some of the behind-the-scene mechanics of how an oligarch can connect with those in the parliament, military, bureaucracy, university sector, or the media.

Public-sector courses have been offered by the National Security Academy for Government and Private Sector (Po Ro Or), the Office of the Judiciary, the King Prajadhipok Institute, and the Election Commission. Two private-sector courses include the Capital Market Academy by the Stock Exchange of Thailand one by the Chamber of Commerce….

Throw in marriage, sucking up to the monarchy, elite schooling and all of the other things covered by Thailand Tatler and a coherent and connected ruling class is constructed and maintained.

All this lubricates and normalizes elite corruption as part of the process of entitlement. These people believe that they are Thailand.

At the same time, there’s a lot more than nepotism and entitlement at work. At least two other elements of corruption deserve attention. They are impunity and the nature of the “corruption system.”

Ruling class corruption and “unusual wealth” – in some cases, stupendous wealth – these people are also immensely powerful. This means they can literally get away with murder (the “connections” that display power are visible). The ruling class share impunity among themselves and their flunkies.

That’s why no one investigates the “unusual wealth” of those associated with the military junta. That’s why “both the chief of Bangkok police and the nation’s largest beverage company failed to respond to a state watchdog’s demand they clarify their financial relationship.” This refers to Police Lt Gen Sanit Mahathavorn and ThaiBev controlled by the Sirivadhanabhakdi family and the “adviser’s” allowance paid by the company to the cop.

(By the way, we think Khaosod is misreading the documents it links to on the General’s monthly salary; we think his annual salary is 1,425,600 baht, not his monthly salary.)

In addition to nepotism, entitlement and impunity, the mainstay of corruption is that it is a system. Business people, politicians, military and police and bureaucrats know what the system is, and they all benefit from it. The system channels corrupt funds from every level of the organizational hierarchies to the top.

That’s why, for example, cops and military brass are willing to literally pay for positions that see the greatest flows of funds. Think here of being permanent secretary at the Ministry of Transport and chairman of the State Railways of Thailand or police chief in Pattaya; the money flows like a giant river. Of course, shares taken at lower levels are the cement that holds the corruption system.





Depressing and familiar

17 01 2017

Reading the Bangkok Post this morning seemed like a trip back in time.

One story at the Post has the The Judge Advocate-General’s Department “seeking a further extension to a deadline to challenge a court ruling that revoked the dismissal of former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva from the army reserve.” He allegedly used “fake documents when applying to join the army as a lecturer at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in 1987. The job exempted him from military conscription and gave him the rank of acting sub-lieutenant.”

That story has been around for years now, and Abhisit has been cashiered once in 2012 and then the “Civil Court … ruled in 2015 that … Abhisit had used false documents when he applied for the job and that the Democrat [Party] leader had lacked the necessary qualifications.” An Appeals Court overturned the ruling last year and reinstated Abhisit.

It is a rather simple case that is important to Abhisit because it involves face and status. It is important to his opponents as an example of double standards.

Another Post story has General Prayuth Chan-ocha denying “a report stating the government will revamp the selection system of provincial governors by seeking experts, including those outside the Interior Ministry, to serve in the positions.”

This proposal was apparently recommended by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. Somkid reckoned he wanted “governors who have vision …, expertise, strength, … and initiative.”

As a former Thaksin Shinawatra minister, when CEO governors were promoted, it is easy to see why The Dictator has had to quickly respond to a wildfire of yellow-tinged alarm, denying any plan to change the time-honored, elite-supported manner for controlling local populations.  No “vision” or “initiative” required when repressing and managing the dangerous masses.

A third Bangkok Post story is of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) “investigation” of Thawatchai Anukul’s mysterious death in custody on 29 August 2016. This is the former official said to have worked with members of the elite to acquire land – an “normal” enough thing in Thailand. He somehow ended up being investigated and taken into jail. He then died. A first “investigation” concluded “Thawatchai strangled himself by wrapping his socks around his neck and attaching them to a door hinge.” The problem was that the police’s Institute of Forensic Medicine “reported in its initial autopsy result that Thawatchai died of abdominal haemorrhaging and a ruptured liver from being hit with a solid, blunt object together with asphyxiation from hanging…”.

Now the family says it can’t get an autopsy report because “the findings could not be revealed now as they might affect people involved in the case.” Perhaps results will be available for a court hearing in a month or so.

You get the picture. Impunity, cover-ups and complete incompetence are “normal.”

Yet another Post report is of “reconciliation.” General Prawit Wongsuwan has decided that “political parties and pressure groups will be asked to sign ‘a memorandum of understanding on national reconciliation’ as part of government efforts to heal the political divide…”. At the same time, he scotched discussion of an amnesty.

“Reconciliation” has been on the political agenda since the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. The problem has been that “reconciliation” has not involved justice. This time around, Prawit wants ideas from “representatives from all political parties and groups will be invited to contribute ideas, including academics, legal experts, senior military soldiers, and police officers.” After this the junta will “establish a set of guidelines that will promote unity.”

That sounds like what might be expected for “reconciliation” run by a military junta. As Prawit “explained,” the military can play a role in “reconciliation” processes because the military is not viewed as a party to political conflict! Gen Prawit said: “The military never has enemies. It has no conflict with anyone.”

Democrat Party leader Abhisit declared “there was a need to determine the truth behind political unrest” before reconciliation. He means a truth that suits him.

Perhaps surprisingly, Puea Thai Party and official red shirts were sounding enthusiastic. But, then, they desperately need an election as soon as possible.

Interestingly Puea Thai’s Sudarat Keyuraphan, observed that “success in fostering unity rests on the sincerity of those in power.” She added: “Those in power must show sincerity and maintain impartiality, and must avoid getting themselves involved in conflict themselves. They must listen to all sides equally, rather than invited parties involved in conflict only as a token gesture as before…”.

Related, and at the Bangkok Post, former Thaksin aide Suranand Vejjajiva observes that the military “regime will find it hard to achieve meaningful reconciliation if it is not committed to a return to full democracy and applying the rule of law.” He points out that the military’s “reconciliation” is embedded in the authoritarian “roadmap to democracy” and “its true authoritarian agenda to manipulate political outcomes after a new general election is held either this year or the next.”

Nothing will change the roadmap to authoritarian tutoring over a further 20 years. He says the junta “has to realise that only democracy can pave the way for political reconciliation.”

Suranand’s democracy is not one the military comprehends. It is establishing a 1950s version of Thai-style democracy.

He predicts that “[a]ny future meetings on national reconciliation that Gen Prawit expects to call will end up as a series of shows for the media, if representatives of political parties show up at all.”

That’s been the pattern: impunity, PR and repression. It is depressingly all too familiar.





Amnesty on the junta’s agenda

9 01 2017

There have now been several reports that the military junta is considering a political amnesty. A report at Prachatai states that the the junta is “currently reviewing the recommendations of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand before it forms its official policies on promoting reconciliation.”

After that review, the National Reform Steering Assembly will “recommend to the junta that future political amnesties be inapplicable to those suspected or guilty of violating the country’s anti-corruption laws, as well as Article 112 of Thailand’s criminal code — the lèse majesté law.” Political leaders will also be outside any amnesty and compensation will be available.

The exclusion of those accused of lese majeste and corruption continues a legal path where murderers and those involved in violence are considered less reprehensible than the “corrupt” and those who are anti-monarchists.

The NRSA is also likely to “recommend the establishment of a special committee tasked with deciding the merits of political amnesty on a case-by-case basis.” It will suggest that the amnesty be available for the period since 2004.

Amnesty has been a cause of political conflict, with an earlier amnesty bill – quickly withdrawn – under the Yingluck Shinawatra government sparking events that led to the 2014 military coup.

This version of amnesty is targeted to exclude the junta’s political opponents. Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra are excluded because of corruption charges. With lese majeste excluded, many of those politically charged and considered anti-junta activists will be outside “reconciliation.”

The exclusion of political leaders has no impact on Abhisit  Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban as the murder charges against them have all been dropped. Likewise, military criminals who have murdered and maimed continue to enjoy impunity. As for those leading the illegal coups of 2006 and 2014, they have already granted themselves amnesty.





Impunity for the rich

16 04 2016

A reader has advised us of an Australian radio story that is worth taking the time to listen to and consider.

Even if one knows the story, Bangkok dangerous: are Thailand’s rich above the law? is a terrible and terrifying story. Here’s the blurb:

A deadly high-speed crash caught on camera in Thailand has re-ignited public anger over impunity for the rich of Bangkok. Despite crashing at an estimated 250 kilometres an hour and killing two people, the driver refused tests for alcohol and drugs. But that’s not all an old case of the infamous ‘texting teen’ has re-surfaced further stoking public outrage.

The story is terrifying because it demonstrates how much power and influence the wealthy have in Thailand. Like the military who serve their interests, they can literally get away with murder. This fact is so well recognized that the story’s title hardly needs be a question. The fabulously wealthy can run down and smash their expensive cars into others, kill and maim them, and get away virtually scot-free.

There’s also a transcript of the story. We had some earlier comments on earlier instances, here, here and here.





Murderous thugs

12 04 2016

PPT has some readers who get agitated when we point to the fact that Thailand’s military has been, since its modern birth in the nineteenth century, a force for internal security. These readers get angry when we observe that this has meant that the military enjoys such impunity that it literally gets away with murder. Thousands have fallen victim to this murderous gang over the decades.

The most recent bunch of murderous thugs seized control of government in May 2014.

The Bangkok Post seems to agree on some of this, turning on the military over the death of a recruit as a result of torture.

The Post editorial begins with this:

It was a shocking revelation that the commander of today’s Royal Thai Army had to publicly order his officers not to murder or torture fellow soldiers. Yet that was the order issued last week by army commander Gen Teerachai Nakwanich, and shown to the public.

While suffering historical blindness, saying that the military has a tradition of “142 years of serving the nation,” the editorial seems shocked that the “army has officers and men capable of killing their own service members.”

This is faux shock. After all, torture is standard operating procedure for the military when dealing with the elite’s political opponents. More importantly, though, revelations about this kind of pathological behavior used against recruits have been around for decades. Ask any male villager who has been called up in the national draft and they can tell of such incidents. (The rich and even the middle class can avoid duty in the ranks through favors and pay-offs.)

The Post knows all of this. It rightly observes that “the army by its traditions treats such premeditated murders gently.” For torture and murder, the Army confines perpetrators to their barracks for 30 days. In other words, the corrupt military condones murder and torture and grants its murderers and torturers impunity. It does this because it must maintain servility and hierarchy. It considers the murderers and torturers loyal and that they are doing their duty.

And if it wasn’t clear enough, we can repeat it: murder is a “tradition” in this corrupt organization that values only loyalty, subservience and hierarchy. Murder is a tradition in the monarchy’s military.These thugs, murderers and torturers protect the monarchy as the cornerstone of an edifice of corruption, impunity, power and exploitation.

The Post also says this:

Gen Teerachai and his superior, Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, appear in denial about a key fact. The Royal Thai Army suffers and perhaps condones such vicious attacks on its men and women — and especially its recruits. “Incidents like this are rare,” said Gen Prawit, who is clearly at the top of the current military hierarchy. But this hardly fits the known facts.

Credit social media once again with quickly assembling a number of actual and recent videos of soldiers beating conscripts. Recruits often are forced to strip, and are beaten and kicked. The compilation is difficult to watch. The last video shows the beating death of Pvt Wichian Phuaksom, also in the South, in 2011.

The videos confirm such incidents are not rare, as Gen Prawit says. It is even worse, knowing that this is the filmed tip of this violent iceberg. One must guess how many beatings were not taped and completely covered up.

We have chosen not to link to the videos. It is crystal clear that General Prawit, one of the coup leaders and a leader of the military junta is a liar.

The Post is right to demand better: “the army must clean house on this despicable matter.” But here’s the rub. The Post cannot call a spade a spade:

The murder and beating were premeditated acts. They deserve courts martial, just as if they had occurred outside the army camp by civilians. The military is a unique institution, but it cannot harbour men who believe they have the right to kill and maim fellow soldiers. No such licence can exist anywhere in Thai society.

The fact is that Thailand’s military is corrupt and incapable of reform. It has political power and is run by thugs who got to the top of a rotten organization because they do what is required. They sit atop an organization that is the elite’s enforcers, torturers and murderers.

In this context, PPT wonders if the Post understands its own words:

In their high positions, Gen Prawit and Gen Teerachai represent the entire nation. They are commanding officers, men and women responsible for defending the nation against all enemies, including gross indecencies against their own fellow service members. Army discipline obviously needs full-scale reform. Pvt Songtham must be the last Thai soldier killed by his fellow men in uniform.

Thais should be ashamed that thugs “represent the entire nation.” Reform is a word much loved by the military junta. In Thailand it has come to mean a return to the values of loyalty, subservience and hierarchy that serve to maintain exploitation and subjugation, and it is this system that requires thugs, murderers and torturers.