More trouble in the palace

21 02 2017

A few days ago, PPT posted on the troubles facing Jumpol Manmai, a former deputy police commissioner and palace grand chamberlain.

Another palace official is in trouble, this time the incident is not so vague and he has clearly displeased the touchy king.

In yet another report that notes that “details of this article has been been omitted to comply with the criminal royal defamation law [lese majeste]…”, it is stated that “Air Vice Marshal Chitpong Thongkum, who served in the King’s bodyguard unit,” has been “fired … for alleged misconduct damaging to the royal household.”

Chitpong was “also stripped of his military ranks and royal decorations” for “offenses include stealing royal property, disclosing [the king’s] personal health records and failing to report to duty as required.” He lost “the eight royal decorations he had [previously] received.”

We guess that means a lese majeste charge will follow.

The royal household announcement at the Royal Gazette continued:

[Chitpong] disobeyed his supervisors and conducted himself in a manner inappropriate for his rank and duty…. Furthermore, he slackened, neglected and skipped his duties. He conducted himself undeservingly of His Majesty’s trusts, doing grave damage to His Majesty’s Household.

The announcement did not “give specific details about Chitpong’s alleged wrongdoing.”

The report states that “Chitpong, as well as serving in King Vajiralongkorn’s bodyguard unit, worked as a physician and started his own health supplement company in November 2016, which he described in a video as a ‘direct sales’ business” called Richkarherbs and he “made references to suggest that [the king] personally approved of his organic health products.” The website for that company now says: “This account has been suspended. Either the domain has been overused, or the reseller ran out of resources.” There’s still a Facebook page as we write this post and a YouTube marketing video for the company’s business.

Another report adds that “Chitpong is the latest in a string of people close to Vajiralongkorn to have been publicly stripped of their titles or seen legal cases brought against them.” There have been dozens over the years, including now former consorts and their families.

Because the king is paranoiac, erratic and a narcissist, and because so many hangers-on seek to profit from the royal relationship, we would expect these events to remain regular for this palace.





Palace problems

17 02 2017

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post reported that the police were investigating “encroachment of forest land in Thap Lan National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima allegedly committed by former deputy national police chief Jumpol Manmai and two other suspects.”

The details are in the report.

But, the report did not say much about Jumpol. As Jumpol is known as a “special” policeman and official, this is odd.jumpol

However, Khaosod, after a delay, has reported some of the truth. It’s report is headlined: “Grand Chamberlain Investigated for Land Encroachment.” The story begins:

A man who at the height of his career served in the innermost circle of the royal palace is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

Jumpol Manmai, a former deputy police commissioner and palace grand chamberlain, is accused of building a luxury mansion in a national park without permission, police announced earlier this week. The news came as a shock to many because he is said to be one of the closest confidantes of … the King.

The report adds that the police are “tight-lipped.” We guess this is because they don’t quite know what to do and how to deal with the case. It isn’t clear to them what’s happening.

In fact, no one is clear. Has Jumpol fallen out with the prince. Vajiralongkorn has a penchant for destroying those who fall out with him. Yet Jumpol only became Grand Chamberlain in September 2016.

Another possibility, and this is startling, is that someone is going after the king. Perhaps a delayed succession crisis?

Back to what is known. Deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul is quoted as saying the investigation is a “confidential matter.” He added: “All of the details are in the case file, I cannot talk about them right now.”

It is also reported that “the authorities” told the media “not to report about Jumpol’s case before the police made official statements.”

It was Thai Rath that “broke ranks and briefly posted a story about Jumpol’s mansion in Thap Lan National Park and a possible police investigation into the alleged intrusion Friday afternoon before deleting it without explanation an hour later.”

Jumpol has quite a history. For one thing, after being sidelined as a Thaksinite following the 2006 military coup, he was back by 2009. This is what Khaosod says:

A policeman by trade, Jumpol is better known as a well-connected political player with links to both former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the influential tycoon-turned-politician and de facto leader of the Redshirt movement, and the traditional establishment.

While he served as deputy police commissioner, Jumpol was considered for the top job at the police force in 2009, but did not make the final cut.

He’s considered by many political analysts to be a rare figure who can serve as a liaison between the Shinawatra clan and the palace circle.

After retiring from the force in 2010, Jumpol came back to the limelight in September when he was appointed deputy director of the Royal Household Bureau, a title also known as the Grand Chamberlain.

The job appeared to be tailor-made for him; the title of deputy director in the royal household did not exist prior to Jumpol’s appointment.

There’s more than this. Jumpol was rumored to be the then prince’s “candidate” for police chief back in 2009, which saw a major standoff with then premier Abhisit Vejjajiva. One result of this crisis was the resignation of secretary-general to PM Abhisit, Nipon Promphan, related by marriage to Suthep Thaugsuban.

Wikileaks has several cables that tell various elements of the police chief saga and the rumors of links between Jumpol and Thaksin: 21 Sept 2009, 24 Sept 2009, 28 Sept 2009, 6 Oct 2009.





A country for old men?

22 09 2009

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With so much happening in Thailand’s politics in the past few weeks, it has been difficult to keep up. Seeing the bigger picture is a challenge.

Following our retrospective on Thailand three years after the 2006 palace-military coup, where we attempted to be positive, we now offer some observations regarding the current situation.

We begin with the police chief debacle. Why has this appointment been so drawn out and so conflicted? Of course, there are the related views that Thaksin Shinawatra controls the police or that the police support Thaksin. Another view is that there was a tug-of-war going on between coalition partners. There is truth in both perspectives. However, PPT suggests that there is more to this dispute.

Reports suggest that Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda (b. 1920) is at work. We won’t go into great detail for Bangkok Pundit has collected some of the comment on the police chief saga and most especially on the latest debates on who should get the job, including from ASTV/Manager and the Bangkok Post (17 September 2009: “New twist in police drama”) where there were guarded comments “new influential players.”

Police General Jumpol Manmai, the “alternative” candidate is known to be close to Prem and The Nation (17 September 2009: “Top Cop : Deadlock remains”) had stated that Jumpol “is known to have very strong backing outside the Police Commission, and lobbying was said to have reached fever pitch in the past few days.”

So is it Prem who is lobbying? Probably. Why? We suggest it is because, for some years, the palace and Privy Council have been trying to get increased control over the legal system. There has been a heightened urgency to this in the battle to root out Thaksin and his “regime.” Retired judges have been brought onto the Privy Council.

In what has clearly been a deliberated strategy, five of the last seven appointments to the Privy Council have been from the courts. The odd ones out were Admiral Chumpol Patchusanont (Former Commander of the Royal Thai Navy) and General Surayud Chulanont, who was appointed after he left the army and stepped down to be premier appointed by the military and then went back to the Privy Council when that guest appearance ended.

The former judges on the Privy Council are: Sawat Wathanakorn (appointed 18 July 2002 and a Former Judge of the Supreme Administrative Court); Santi Thakral (15 March 2005, Former President of the Supreme Court of Justice); Ortniti Titamnaj (16 August 2007, Former President of the Supreme Court of Justice); Supachai Phungam (8 April 2008, Former President of the Supreme Court of Justice); and Chanchai Likitjitta (8 April 2008, Former President of the Supreme Court of Justice and Minister of Justice). That so many judges are appointed send a clear message regarding intent. The king’s speeches to judges confirm the palace’s intentions. That such links to the judiciary have been put to use in the battle against Thaksin is seen in the ample evidence of meddling in the courts.

The palace has also been keen to have its people at the top of the police. In recent years, Police General Seripisut Temiyavet was said to be a palace favorite. When the military took over in 2006, Seri was made acting and then Police Commissioner and became a member of the junta’s Council for National Security.

At about the same time, long-time palace favorite Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn, once the Chief of the Royal Court Police for the Thai royal family, was put in charge of a review of the police force. At the time, this was reported as an attempt to clean up the notoriously corrupt force and to break Thaksin’s alleged political hold over it. As late as just a week or so ago, the Democrats had Vasit look into corruption in the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority.

Michael Montesano says this of Vasit: “Briefer of CIA director Allen Dulles during the latter’s late-1950s visit to Thailand, veteran of anti-Soviet espionage in Bangkok, long the Thai Special Branch’s leading trainer in anti-Communist operations, and palace insider at the time of his country’s most intensive counter-insurgency efforts, Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn ranked among Thailand’s most important Cold Warriors.” His own background in the shadows of the Cold War did not prevent him from being of an office holder at Transparency International in Thailand. Vasit remains a warrior for the palace in his columns in Matichon and as a royalist speaker. For a very short time Vasit was deputy interior minister for Chatichai Choonhavan being raised from his position as deputy police chief.

Vasit is 79 or 80 (thanks to a reader for this information), been “retired” for years, but keeps popping up in strategic locations. His political views reflect the position of the palace. For examples of his royalism and extreme views, see here and here.

Meanwhile, over at the Democrat Party, at present it seems that chief adviser Chuan Leekpai (b. 1938) is the power behind Abhisit. In recent years, Chuan has been increasingly outspoken in support of Prem. In recent days, Chuan has become the link between Prem and the government. For example, just a few days ago, as PAD fired up on Preah Vihear, Prem became involved, with the Bangkok Post reporting that “Gen Prem is reportedly concerned about the possibility of tensions spinning out of control if it is not attended to properly. A source said former supreme commander Gen Mongkol Ampornpisit, one of Gen Prem’s closest aides, paid a visit to Chuan Leekpai, the former prime minister and chief adviser of the ruling Democrat Party, at the party’s headquarters in August, to convey Gen Prem’s concern over the border developments.” The Post considers that Prem’s concern nudged Abhisit to send Foreign Minister Kasit to arrange a broadcast “assuring the Thai public that the country has not yet lost a single inch of land area in regard to the Preah Vihear dispute.”

As PPT shown in recent postings, Abhisit has been promoting increasingly nationalist and royalist causes. We won’t detail all of this again, but it is clear that Abhisit is not stupid. His emphasis on right-wing, conservative and nationalist strategies is a reflection of the views of his strongest backers. We see this backing as involving Chuan, Prem and the palace more generally. It seems Abhisit doesn’t have much support within his own party, so this backstopping, is keeping him in his position, has to be acknowledged. So Abhisit, with the support of important and highly conservative and royalists, adopts measures that hark back to a darker past.

Of course, the recently launched project called “Thai Unity” reflects the views king (b. 1927) and currently in hospital. His call for “unity” is a conservative refrain heard since the days when the king feared he might lose his throne to communists.

Abhisit’s calls to nationalism and patriotism may seem anachronistic and even dim-witted but they are an accurate reflection of the fact that the conservatives are bereft of new ideas. Hence, we have loyalist Anand Punyarachun (b. 1932) promoting nonsense like the interview with Stephen B. Young, the “Patronizing White Man With Degree Reassures Thai Elites With Unexamined Rhetoric” upon Thailand and believing that he makes sense and has something to say. What he actually says is that these old men haven’t a clue what the new Thailand is about.

The result is that all they can do is fall back on projects that are emblematic of the military-authoritarian governments of past generations.

Related, the huge effort to protect Prem in recent days is also to be understood as a part of this conservative project (see here and here).

Add in the remarkably expensive efforts to “protect the monarchy” through the use of lese majeste and computer crimes laws and the debt to the elders adds up to a government that is becoming increasingly conservative, more repressive and is normalizing authoritarianism.

While PPT points to this authoritarian slide, we also celebrate and support the courageous struggles of those within Thailand who continue to speak out even as they are watched by the current surveillance state. In 1997, Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi urged those outside Burma to “Please use your liberty to promote ours.” Comparing the current waves of royalism and the increasingly repressive Democrat Party-led state to the Burmese military regime would be factually incorrect and politically dangerous, yet there seems a determination to take Thailand back.

Thailand is now at a precipice between, as we noted in our coup anniversary post, the potential for deepening democratization, and the potential for unbridled repression at the hands of state, para-state, and royal actors. It is important to continually observe and criticize repression, and call for justice – especially for those jailed by repressive laws and those awaiting trial. A democratic Thailand will be a place where these old authoritarian men have a place, but it won’t be a place that celebrates their anachronistic ideas through government programs that enhance repression.

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