Never ending “investigation”

19 10 2021

Impunity and cover-ups sometimes become even more farcical than usual when there are multiple, sometimes competing, “investigations.” This is particularly the case when powerful interests are involved and various “investigations” drag on for years and years.

The Red Bull scion murder of a policeman is one such case as officials give the impression that they have been bought and sold several times over the years.

An AFP photo clipped from ChannelNews Asia

The Bangkok Post reports that yet another committee has been formed to “investigate.” A “seven-member committee has been set up to conduct a serious disciplinary probe against former deputy attorney general Nate Naksuk over his decision to drop the charges against Red Bull scion Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya in the infamous 2012 hit-and-run case.”

Pachara Yutidhammadamrong, chairman of the Public Prosecutors Commission (PCC), said “expressed confidence in the committee members, saying the panel has full authority and independence in doing its task.”

Such has been said of several committees. This new “panel is expected to wrap up the investigation in 60 days, but it can extend the deadline twice, but not exceeding 180 days in total, if it needs more time…”.

This is also likely to involve yet another “investigation” of how prosecutors managed to change “the reported speed of the car driven by Mr Vorayuth. It is believed that the greatly reduced speed estimate was an important factor in the decision by prosecutors to drop the charges against Mr Vorayuth.”

Seldom do we hear of any “investigation” of the motivations involved in diddling the evidence and allowing Boss to go free. That might explain something about how bent the whole justice system is.





Police “truth”

14 09 2021

If there was ever a prize for “fake news,” the police would win, streets ahead of their many official rivals.

The most recent example of the police blatantly making stuff up involves a police van running down a pedestrian late on Sunday.

According to Thai PBS:

Bangkok’s Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) denied today (Monday) an accusation by anti-government protesters that a police truck had hit a “Talugas” protester and then fled the scene at Din Daeng intersection during a protest on Sunday night.

MPB Commissioner Pol Lt-Gen Pakapong Phongpetra told a news conference this morning that the alleged hit-and-run incident occurred at almost midnight on Sunday as a police van, used to hold suspects and driven by a police lance corporal was heading back to a police station.

He said that the sound of explosions was being heard periodically at the time and a group of about 7 protesters suddenly dashed onto the road, forcing the officer to brake aggressively, but the van hit one of the protesters.

According to the police officer’s statement, the victim managed to stand up and flee the scene, so he sped away in the truck, for fear that he might be attacked if he had stopped.

Pol Lt-Gen Pakapong insisted that [the] driver did not deliberately drive into the small group of protesters as alleged and, hence, his action did not constitute a hit-and-run incident.

He also said that the officer subsequently filed a complaint with Din Daeng police, accusing the protesters of attacking the police truck and attempting to assault him adding, however, that the accident victim can also file a complaint with the Din Daeng police.

The Nation reports this way:

An investigation has been launched into an incident on Sunday when a police vehicle hit a protester while allegedly trying to flee a group of attackers. The vehicle was seriously damaged, and police are collecting evidence to take action against the perpetrators….

[Police] said initial investigation shows that the vehicle belonged to the Plubpla Chai 1 Police Station and was being driven by Sergeant Noraset (last name withheld).

Sgt Noraset arrived at the intersection when a group of six or seven people ran towards his vehicle and began hitting it with sticks and other objects. They also shattered the windscreen on the driver’s side.

Sgt Noraset said he kept hearing “explosions”, so decided to speed away. However, he ended up hitting a protester who suddenly showed up in front of the car. The crash made a tyre burst and brought the vehicle to a standstill.

Clipped from The Nation

None of this appears to be entirely truthful.

Thai Examiner reports:

A police detention vehicle ran into a protester during protests at Din Daeng intersection, police confirmed Monday.

The moment at 11:55 pm Sunday was captured in footage published on Facebook Livestream by online news agency The Reporters.

It shows a police van accelerating through an intersection, before braking just as it hits a man running across the road, knocking him down. The van then stops some way down the road while passers-by help the man off the road, before the clip ends.

The footage remains at The Reporters Facebook page and does not appear to support the police version of events. Looks like more official fake news to us. Having said that, we also need to put this in the context of police (and other officials) habitually lying and making stuff up. It is a pattern born of impunity.





Updated: Arrogance rewarded

2 07 2021

Anyone following social media will have noticed the flood of complaints and invective associated with the photo below, clipped from The Nation. It shows Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and “his entourage dining at a beachside restaurant in Phuket on Thursday.”

Corrupt and arrogant

While the regime brings charges against protesters, almost all masked up, for flouting the emergency decree that is lodged in virus control, he and his “entourage” can flout the decree with impunity.

The photo shows these arrogant men “eating and sitting close together, while some members of the party are without a mask.”

Meanwhile, today authorities reported 61 virus-induced deaths – a record – and 6,087 new infections – the second highest recorded for the country.

Of course, Phuket is not currently a red zone, but these are people who are meant to set an example. In any case, many are from Bangkok, which is a red zone.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul stumbled along, defending the miscreants boss, blabbering about “everybody in the photo was actually sitting a fair distance from one another and that they have all been vaccinated against Covid-19.” So we guess that the message is that anyone who is vaccinated can skip off to Phuket, avoid quarantine, and do as they wish.

The general/prime minister is arrogant. He obviously knows he is untouchable. After all, the Constitutional Court has again let Gen Prayuth off a case on a technicality. The Constitutional Court seems to belong to Prayuth. His control of parliament and “independent” institutions fertilizes his arrogance.

Update: For the seriousness of the situation in Bangkok, see a couple of stories in the Bangkok Post. One begins:

While the government is upbeat about its Phuket reopening scheme, health personnel in Greater Bangkok are struggling to deal with a surge of new Covid-19 infections and deaths.

Another story slams the regime and Siam Bioscience:

The Rural Doctors Society yesterday called on the government to enforce the law to require Siam Bioscience, a local authorised pharmaceutical manufacturer, to deliver vaccine supplies as planned.

On its Facebook page, the network claimed Siam Bioscience was likely to deliver only 4 million doses of vaccine this month, instead of 10 million doses as planned by the government.

That’s the king’s company, and we guess the situation is dire if normally royalist doctors make such calls. Just in passing, we note that the monarch is scarcely seen.

That rises to 10 million doses per month from July until November, with the last 5 million jabs arriving in December.

The society said “the government was deemed reluctant to negotiate with the company or enforce any legal tools to secure the delivery of 10 million doses per month.”

That’s because it is the king’s company.

So, in the end, we have a failed vaccination strategy, a king’s company seemingly unable to communicate or deliver, a regime unable to pressure it, and a prime minister off with the fairies in Phuket.





The virus and the rich and powerful

7 06 2021

Thailand’s mass vaccination program has officially begun today. The Ministry of Public Health reckons it probably has “enough” vaccine for the first days and weeks as “the government has brought in more Sinovacs vaccine … to last through June before production of AZ vaccines pick up in July.”

That means “the public will not be able to pick what vaccine they receive in June because we won’t know what vaccine we get from the government until one or two days before the vaccination date,” says a “private hospital administrator who asked to not be named.”

Even so, “many hospitals are postponing their vaccination appointments due to shortages.” These shortages have been officially confirmed and is linked back to the king’s Siam Bioscience:

Sathit Pitutecha, Deputy Minister of Public Health, said the Public Health Ministry had learned that many hospitals had postponed vaccinations booked for today as they were afraid they would not receive enough doses.

“We were aware of this problem, so we will try to ensure the elderly and those with the diseases who registered through the Mor Prom application get their jabs first.

”After that, the ministry will deliver the additional vaccines that we’ve received from the AstraZeneca company,” he said.

The ministry has yet to receive clear information about when the company will deliver.

“The company is trying its best to deliver. They might give us 300,000–500,000 doses at a time. It depends on them,” he said.

As a reminder of how things went wrong with the virus, the Bangkok Post has published a New York Times article on Thailand’s virus wave by Hannah Beech and Muktita Suhartono.

Naturally enough, it begins with the Thonglor clubs favored by Bangkok’s wealthy men, which seemed to ignite the latest wave.

Krystal 2

Krystal Club promotional photo

When the VVIP customers disembarked from their limousines at the Krystal Exclusive Club, young women in tiaras, angel wings and not much else sometimes greeted them.

The VVIP clientele were whisked to the VVIP rooms, with their padded walls and plush sofas. Thai government bigwigs partied at Krystal [and Emerald] … as did diplomats, army officers and business owners. For much of the pandemic, coronavirus restrictions did not stop the fun.

Krystal 1

Krystal Club VIP room

The clubs, their staff, and the wealthy patrons became :

the epicentre of what is now Thailand’s biggest and deadliest coronavirus surge, according to health ministry officials. Scores of people linked to the clubs have tested positive, including an ambassador and a government minister. Police officers and women who worked at the clubs have been infected, too.

The “privileged few catalysed Bangkok’s latest coronavirus outbreak…”. At the same time, the nightclub cluster again “highlights the impunity of the rich in a country with one of the largest wealth gaps among major economies.”

The virus “has now radiated from luxury nightclubs that cater to powerful and wealthy men to the … slums …, prisons, construction camps and factories.” It is Thailand’s third and largest wave.

Responsibility? Never:

When cases involve high-profile tycoons or politicians, though, investigations in Thailand have a habit of fizzling. Murder charges do not materialise. Well-connected individuals slip into exile. Thailand’s three waves of coronavirus infection have crested in the shadowy zones where the rich profit from questionable businesses and defy Covid protocols.

First outbreak: “traced by virologists to a Bangkok boxing stadium operated by the country’s powerful military, which makes money on sports gambling.”

Second outbreak: “tracked by health officials to a sweatshop seafood business, which depends on immigration officers turning a blind eye to workers trafficked from neighbouring countries.”

Chuwit Kamolvisit, who ran massage parlors and paid off police and other officials says: “In Thai culture, we can smile and lie at the same time…”. He pithily describes “Krystal [as] like another Government House, because it’s so popular with those people…”.

Now, as the poor suffer the brunt of the outbreak, a “few wealthy Bangkok residents have boasted on social media about buying vaccination cards from the city’s most desperate residents.” One observer laments: “The rich who are already privileged are stepping on the poor…. They believe their money can buy anything.”

It got them two coups and the authoritarianism they so desired.





Us and Them

13 05 2021

Over the virus era there has been increasing attention to borders all around the world. Some places have had downright racist responses, such as in the new hermit kingdom, Australia.

In Thailand, recent attention has been to the “threat” posed by migrants. Quoting “medical professionals,” the Bangkok Post headlines: Porous borders ‘our biggest threat’

While we understand the borders “argument,” this approach encourages chauvinism and xenophobia. Think of the horrid decision to lock migrant workers in their poor housing a couple of months ago. At the same time, the borders threat argument actually obscures the real threat.

Saksayam

Virus minister. From The Nation

For PPT, that threat is from the rich and powerful. As far as we can tell, every major outbreak in Thailand has had a lot to do with these groups, acting with impunity. Even the most recent outbreak in Bangkok has been tracked to the bars frequented by the wealthy Bangkok, attended by the high and mighty, including ministers and ambassadors. The former has seen a Ministry of Transport cluster.

As we look back at other clusters, they result from corrupt military (boxing stadiums) and other corrupt practices from the past that have continued during the virus crisis (gambling and people trafficking). Such activities have always required official “support” and have long made officials wealthy.

Migrant workers are critical for some important industries in Thailand; industries that generate enormous profits:

An estimated 400,000 migrants work in Thailand’s seafood processing sector in the province of Samut Sakhorn. Thailand produces approximately 40 per cent of global canned tuna, as well as frozen shrimp and other seafood products.

Trafficking migrants and greasing the wheels of bureaucracy generate wealth to police and bureaucrats. The military has long been involved in this business. This means the threat to Thailand is from those who rule and profit with impunity.





Absolutist infection

24 03 2021

When a regime feels in total control it leads to odd behavior that seems infectious of those at all levels of government. Falsehoods become normal because regime leaders and their minions feel the power of impunity. Arrogance breeds contempt and, in some cases, results in stupidity on a grand scale.

Think of the police bosses. In recent days they defended “harsh actions against protesters at Sanam Luang on Saturday night amid mounting criticism from activists and academics.” An unnamed deputy commissioner and spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Bureau essentially declared, “we did nothing wrong.” Indeed, despite evidence to the contrary, police “insisted …  that their … were in accordance with international standards.”

A couple of days later, after an uproar, the “national police commissioner, Pol.Gen. Suwat Jangyodsuk, offered a public apology today (Monday) for the police’s rough handling of some of the anti-establishment protesters…”.

But the “apology” was weak and only referred to “some mistakes,” resulting from orders he personally gave. He promised an “investigation.” That is, he’s promising an investigation of his own actions and conducted by his subordinates. That’s buffalo manure.

We were perfect, we were wrong, but none of it matters as the police can do whatever they want.

Then there’s the acting chairperson of the completely discredited National Human Rights Commission who reckons that the further deferral of the agency’s application for re-accreditation with the United Nation to be something positive. Only a dope or a junta ideologue would consider Thailand’s 6-year long downgrade extending for another 18 months to be anything other than a slap to the regime’s face.

Then there’s Thailand’s unelected/selected prime minister. In being “relaxed” that constitutional change is off the agenda for a while, Gen Prayuth Cha-ocha. He’s quoted in a Bangkok Post story:

“If people are concerned that I will prolong my stay in power, they are free to proceed with charter amendments. They can choose between voting or not voting for me. I’m fine with it,” he said.

He seems to think that he’s an elected prime minister rather than a coup leader who seized power and then rigged a constitution and an election that he didn’t stand in. Delusional? Perhaps. Arrogant? For sure.





Army impunity

24 01 2021

The impunity enjoyed by officials has a long history in Thailand but it is undeniable that it has expanded and deepened since the the 2006 military coup. Under the current regime there is essentially zero accountability for officials. Sure, there are occasional “crackdowns” and the odd prosecution, but the rule that officials can get away with stuff – even murder – holds.

In a Bangkok Post editorial, questions are raised about the Royal Thai Army, which celebrated “its strength and solidarity” on Armed Forces Day.

The editorial asks the public to “keep in mind that military officials still owe a few explanations on its pledge to reform, following several cases, including the Korat mass shooting last year that left a huge stain on its image.”

Clipped from Khaosod

It points out that on 8-9 February 2020, a disgruntled soldier “shot and killed 29 innocent people and wounded 57 others in Nakhon Ratchasima…”. The killer’s problem was “a property dispute” with “the soldier’s senior officer and his mother-in-law…”. In other words, “the army’s side dealings [were]… the root cause.” It adds that “analysts” say that “some army officers enter into private business dealings — and it’s an open secret.”

A few days later, “then army chief Apirat Kongsompong promised to investigate the problem…”. In fact, he did nothing to change the underlying situation. Indeed, this corruption continues. The Post mentions an alleged “illegal allocation of over 70,000 rai of forest land in Nakhon Ratchasima for a real estate project involving senior army officers.”

Yes, the very same province as the mass shooting. The Post adds that there “have been no reports of an investigation, let alone progress and punishment of culprits.”

The Post then recalls the unexplained death of a military conscript – there’s been more than one case – and asks: “How can the RTA restore public trust when it is entrenched in scandals? Why should the public trust a force of armed men who can barely be transparent in their affairs?”

How many times have we heard such pleading. In fact, it is as many times as reform has been rejected by the military as the Army maintains it impunity and its control.

We should note that the Post editorial mistakenly states that the Korat shooting “is considered the deadliest mass shooting in the kingdom’s history.” This mistake reflects some big omissions.

The biggest is the murder of almost a hundred red shirts and bystanders in April and May 2010. Who has been held accountable? No one from the Army.

Who killed protesters in 1992? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered civilian protesters at Thammasat University on 6 October 1976? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered civilian protesters on 14 October 1973? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered people at Kru Se in 2004 and Tak Bai the same year? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

What about the enforced disappearances of activists and unexplained murder of civilians like Chaiyapoom Pasae? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

The list could go on and on and on.





Harder repression

18 01 2021

While the big protests are on hold, guerrilla-style actions have continued. Over the past few days, it has become clear that the regime is taking advantage of virus restrictions to take a hard line against protesters.

The reporting on this include stories on an action at the Victory Monument “organised for protesters to write their opinions on a long fabric banner about Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s failures in handling crisis situations, as well as urging the abolition of lese majeste law, also known as Article 112, as symbolised by the 112-metre long banner.” The police surrounded protesters and quite violently arrested two leaders “of the pro-democracy group Guard Plod Aek … on Saturday afternoon…”.

Those arrested were “taken to Phya Thai Police Station and charged with violating the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations and the Communicable Disease Act, before being sent to Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Pathum Thani province.” Other participants were aggressively dispersed by the police.

Demonstrators also gathered near the Samyan Mitrtown complex on Saturday evening. There were reportedly “about 10 anti-establishment protesters were rallying on the ground floor of Sam Yan Mitrtown, opposite Chamchuri Square, to demand the release of their colleagues, being held at the Region 1 Border Patrol Police Bureau … for various offences related to [the earlier] protests…”. They were targeted by unknown assailants who lobbed an ping-pong bomb that injured two – a citizen and a reporter – or four people – “anti-riot police officers and a reporter were slightly injured” – depending on the report read. A later report seemed more definitive stating that those injured were “two policemen, a reporter for The Standard online news site, and another civilian…”.

Prachatai reports a third “flash mob” at the Ministry of Education, and states that at least eight people were arrested at the two sites, for demonstrating, not bombing. It also reports on the aggressive policing, stating that the small demonstration at Samyan was met by “several hundred crowd control police arrived at the scene and took control of Sam Yan intersection. The police also brought in many detention trucks.”

Police later stated that the explosive “device was similar to the type used on November 25th in front of The Avenue Ratchayothin, following a rally by the Ratsadon protesters…”. They reportedly found “nails, wire and black electrical tape at the scene of the explosion.” Prachatai claims that the police have “detained 4 suspects, 2 men and 2 women…”.  iLaw reported “that their phones were seized and they were not informed where they would be taken.” It is unclear who these people are.

Prachatai refers to a change in police tactics:

The overwhelming police reaction involving the deployment of large numbers of officers, aggressive engagement, and the speedy arrest and despatch of suspects to Pathum Thani for interrogation is a shift in their modus operandi against pro-democracy activities.

This response was seen at the shrimp-selling activity staged by the WeVo group on 31 December, 2020, where around 500 police aggressively dispersed and arrested people who were trying to help struggling shrimp farmers sell shrimps.

No law currently allows the police to transfer arrestees for interrogation to the facility of their choosing. The severe state of emergency, which did enable them to do so, was withdrawn in October 2020. The Criminal Procedure Code authorizes police to detain and interrogate people only at the police station responsible for the area where the alleged offence occurred.

The regime is lawless and operates with total impunity.





HRW on Thailand’s human rights decline

16 01 2021

When you are near the bottom, going deeper requires particular skills in dark arts.

Human Rights Watch has recently released its World Report 2021. The summary on Thailand makes for depressing reading, even after more than six years of military junta and now a barely distinguishable post-junta regime.

The full report on Thailand begins:

Thailand faced a serious human rights crisis in 2020. Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha’s government imposed restrictions on civil and political rights, particularly freedom of expression, arbitrarily arrested democracy activists, engineered the dissolution of a major opposition political party on politically motivated grounds, and enforced a nationwide state of emergency, using the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext.

And the rest of the report is pretty much a litany of repression. There’s discussion of the State of Emergency, restrictions on freedom of expression, torture, enforced disappearance, impunity on state-sponsored rights violations, the persecution of human rights defenders, a continuation of human rights violations in the south, mistreatment of migrants and refugees, and more. Surprisingly, there’s only a paragraph on lese majeste, which is now the regime’s main weapon in silencing dissent.

Readers of PPT will know all of the sordid details of the regime’s efforts to stifle criticism, but read the report to be reminded of how dark things have remained despite the rigged election and the existence of a parliament. The latter has, in 2020, been pretty much supine as the regime has used its ill-gotten majority and its unelected Senate to stifle the parliaments scrutiny of the regime.





Blame thyself

11 01 2021

A couple of days ago PPT pointed to an article discussing the long-standing failures of the police.

There’s an another article on police corruption, concentrating on anti-democrat Kaewsan Atibhodhi. Oddly, Thai PBS refers to this royalist propagandist as an “academic,” but that seems par for the course in the mainstream media.

He blames the current virus outbreak as a product of “COVID mafia.” This term refers to “corrupt officials who work hand in glove with local influential figures involved in illegal gambling, in eastern region of Thailand, and with human trafficking gangs, who smuggle migrant workers from Myanmar into Samut Sakhon province and illegal Thai workers from Myanmar back into Thailand.”

Kaewsan

Kaewsan claims that the “mafia system” is a “network” between “state officials and local influential figures…”. He reckons “that the influential figure in Rayong province has managed to buy the entire police force, be it the local police and the Bangkok police, including the Crime Suppression Division, by dealing with just one group of state officials.”

He went on to lament that “he didn’t expect the police will ever be reformed under the present government, and there is no real opposition in the parliament either, but only the vengeful group of politicians and another group bent on toppling the Monarchy.”

We do not disagree with Kaewsan’s assessment. However, as a lamentable royalist and a supporter of two military coups, he misses the most significant point: Kaewsan and his ilk bear considerable responsibility because it is they who, as anti-democrats, have supported the system that promotes this corruption and the impunity enjoyed by military, police and officials. By supporting regimes that roll back notions of responsibility and accountability and make impunity a central element of governance, they reinforce this kind of corruption.

Since the 2006 military coup and especially since the 2014 coup, the police force has not been cleansed or reformed. Rather, as we have said, it has been made royalist and junta/post-junta regime friendly. Constant corruption operates as a reward for loyalty and a lubrication for the the hierarchy.

Because of his complicity, Kaewsan is unable to speak the truth.








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