Further updated: Yes, really

17 06 2020

We read this jaw-dropping news with nothing more than incredulity. We simply could not believe the story. How is it possible for this regime to think that every Thai citizen is a complete moron? Why does the regime treat its people as so insignificant? Of course, the answer is that the regime and its people are used to impunity, getting away with murder and considers itself a law unto itself.

Here’s the story, from the Bangkok Post: “Former transport permanent secretary Supoj Saplom has been appointed as a member of a sub-committee tasked with studying an industrial estate for rehabilitation and development of inmates just months after completing a jail term for filing false asset declarations…”.

The responsible minister is Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin. He said “he had invited individuals from various professions including former senior state officials to give their input on the proposed establishment of the facility.”

Supoj was “released from prison in the middle of last year after serving 10 months for filing false asset declarations…. The Supreme Court … [found] he failed to declare assets worth over 20 million baht.”

Supoj. From the Bangkok Post.

But there’s more to the story than this. Readers can click through to PPT’s several posts on Supoj. The last time we posted on Supoj, we said that we were “winding up of a story that began some time ago.” Little id we think that Minister Somsak would push Supoj back into “service” and into the news.

The original story of Supoj’s ill-gotten gains involved fantastic amounts. In late 2011, as huge floods bore down on Bangkok, Supoj’s house was burgled. At the time he was permanent secretary at the Ministry of Transport and chairman of the State Railways of Thailand and was in that position under the previous government. Earlier he was Director of the Highways Department. Such positions are honey holes for the corrupt.

A report at the time stated that while Supoj was at his daughter’s wedding, a dozen burglers tied up two maids and took off with loot. Supoj told reporters that “the valuables taken by the robbers were not in fact worth much, though they also took cash. He believed the robbers heard about his daughter’s bridal price so they wanted to steal it.” Soon after, there was a report that one of the culprits “allegedly confessed to stealing more than 200 million baht in cash from the house of transport Supoj Saplom.” That’s quite a bride price!

But the story became even more interesting. One of the suspects claims “that when the gang entered the house, they found between 700 million baht to 1 billion baht in cash stuffed into bags.” Supoj responded, pleading poverty, claiming that the burglars were defaming him! He explained that he “was smeared by the suspects who claimed he might have hidden as much as Bt1 billion at his home,” adding, “… I don’t have that much money…”.

Even the police seemed to agree: “Police Major General Winai Thongsong, chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, said that CCTV videos of the robbery showed the group leaving the house with large bags, indicating that a large amount of cash had been stolen.”

Later, in 2012, as he scrambled for excuses for being so stupendously “unusually rich,” Supoj claimed “he earned the millions of Baht working a second job…”. He began shifting assets to relatives as investigations loomed. At the time, the Anti-Money Laundering Office “revealed that money found in the transport permanent secretary Supoj Saplom’s home is related to construction contractors in the Northeast – including one from Buriram province – which were involved in the bidding for construction contracts on government projects in several provinces.”

But, by the time the case reached the National Anti-Corruption Commission and then commissioner Klanarong Chanthik announced a seizure of some assets. He was convicted when the “Civil Court ruled in January, 2014, that 46.14 million baht in assets should be seized from Supoj and his family for being unusually wealthy.”

Then there was the verdict of the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders holding Supoj guilty “of deliberately avoiding to mention Bt17.5 million in cash and a Bt3 million Volkswagen in the declaration of his assets on five occasions.” Yes, the millions claimed to have made Supoj “unusually wealthy” led nowhere. It was expunged, deleted, and was made to go away, like magic. All Supoj was convicted of was a problem with his asset declarations. It was whittled down because the suspects who were arrested only had “Bt18 [17.5] million in cash and gold ornaments…”. How convenient. He got 10 months in jail and the 18 million was seized. It took seven years to get Supoj into prison to serve that 10 months. It was only this year that the 17.5 million was given to the state treasury. We have no idea what became of the other 46 million baht.

More to the point, what happened to the bags of money the burglars claimed to have taken? Readers can probably come up with some excellent guesses on that. But presumably one could think of cops getting their hands on it (think Saudi gems), corrupt officials and judges, influential people or even much higher ups being paid off.

Okay, as a former inmate, perhaps Supoj has something of a perspective on “an industrial estate for rehabilitation and development of inmates,” but somehow we doubt it. It seems much more like paybacks or a mutual backscratching exercise.

So here we are, with a military-backed government that not only has a convicted heroin smuggler as a deputy minister, but it’s also appointing a man who may hold a national record for moving state funds into private hands.

Update 1: While dealing with the corruption being embedded in the regime, we note that the Department of Special Investigation’s acting chief has disbanded six special investigation teams that he set up only about six weeks ago. The teams were responsible for investigating money laundering via illegal casinos, misconduct by Stock Exchange of Thailand-listed companies, factories causing environmental and public health damage and producing substandard cosmetics or dietary supplements, land encroachment and unlawful land title deeds, and and price collusion involving state projects. Almost all of those arenas seem to have resonances for the regime’s ministers. Is it a coincidence that these events are in Justice Minister Somsak’s ministry?

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that the private sector Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand has “submitted an open letter to Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, voicing opposition to the appointment of Supoj Saplom … to sit on a sub-committee tasked with studying a project for rehabilitation and development of inmates.” The report noted:

The ACT said in the letter that the constitution of Thailand bars people who lack morality, ethics and good governance from taking part in the country’s administrative affairs.

Since people expect the Justice Ministry to be a model for righteousness and justice, it should appoint only people who are not tainted with corruption to work for it, the letter says. The appointment of Mr Supoj violates this principle.





Crony senate

14 05 2019

As simply everyone expected, a Senate has been unveiled by the military junta that is packed full of junta supporters, backers and lackeys:

Khaosod reports: “Military top brass and the junta’s inner circle dominate the full list of 250 appointed senators unveiled to the public on Monday, ending months of secrecy.”

The Nation states: “Many of the newly appointed senators are from the ruling junta and people close to its key figures.”

The Bangkok Post: “The Royal Gazette on Tuesday published an announcement on the royally-approved list of 250 senators, including 66 army generals…. The Senate list includes the names of 105 people with ranks in the military or police….

None of this is a surprise. Perhaps some hoped that the members of the junta might demonstrate at least a pinch of political decorum, but that is misplaced as the military junta has repeatedly demonstrated that is has no shame at all.

Some other quotes from the reporting linked above are worth preserving here, demonstrating that the junta is a chip off the 1991 coup group and operates as a representative of yellow-shirt interests. (Those who imagined that the red-yellow divide was gone should look more carefully at the manner of the junta’s operations.):

The list – mostly handpicked by junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha – includes generals, loyal government technocrats, 15 ex-ministers who served under Prayuth until their resignation last week, and even a younger brother of the junta leader.

Hardline critics of ex-leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who remains a popular figure among opposition voters, also made it to the final cut. They include poet and activist Nawarat Pongpaiboon, former anti-corruption chief Klanarong Chanthik, and royalist law scholar Kamnoon Sitthisamarn….

The announcement dated on Saturday included Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha, younger brother of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Adm Sitthawat Wongsuwon, younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, Klanarong Chantik, former secretary-general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), former deputy prime minister Chatchai Sarikulya, former national reform member Khamnoon Sitthisaman, former foreign trade director-general Duangporn Rodphaya, and former national security council secretary-general Thawil Pliensri.

Among other senators were Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, former president of the National Legislative Assembly, former NACC chairman Panthep Klanarongran, forensic expert Khunying Porntip Rojanasunan, former deputy agriculture minister Luck Wajananawat, and former tourism and sports minister Weerasak Kowsurat.

More than a third of  the newly appointed senators have military or police backgrounds….

But one surprise is this for the conflict of interest and nepotism it involves:

Some of the new Senate’s members sat in the committee tasked with nominating senatorial candidates to be selected by the National Council for Peace and Order.

More than 100 of them are retired or active high-ranking officers from the armed forces and the police, including 70 from the Army, 12 from the Navy, eight from the Air Force and 12 from the Royal Thai Police.

Many new senators are family members of people in power.

These include General Preecha Chan-o-cha, who is the younger brother of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha; Air Vice Marshal Chalermchai Krea-ngam, who is the younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam; Admiral Sitsawat Wongsuwan, who is the younger brother of Deputy Premier and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan; and Som Jatusripitak, who is the elder brother of Deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak.

Nothing more or less can be expected from the military junta. Be prepared for this kind of cronyism to breed deeper corruption. After all, that’s the pattern of past military-dominated regimes.





Junta, death and airports

21 09 2014

PPT was sent a news story from Z News/india.com: that at first seemed difficult to believe. However, redialing to allow for the idiosyncrasies of military dictatorship, we accepted this odd story as real.

It begins: “Anyone found guilty of causing closure or damage of an airport in Thailand could face the death penalty under new proposed law by the military junta.”

The Dictator’s handpicked National Legislative Assembly is reported to have “already passed the first reading of the new bill proposed to replace the 1978 and 1995 laws.” In the first reading bill, “[f]orcing the closure of an airport, damaging airport facilities or aircraft at an airport plus any action that maims or kills someone in an airport would result in the death penalty or a life sentence…”.

Bangkok-Airport-ClosedOf course, anyone who follows Thailand’s politics will know that the royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy occupied both of Bangkok’s airports in late 2008.

At the time, as well as being supported by members of the Democrat Party, when the incumbent government requested the then Army commander, General Anupong Paojinda to clear the airport, he reportedly mutinied by refusing a lawful order.

Interestingly, the mutinous Anupong is now Interior Minister in General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s junta-appointed cabinet.

The idea of such legislation does seem a bit odd until it is considered that the military gets worried when there are political mobilizations that it can’t necessarily control.

Not unexpectedly, PAD-associated appointee to the junta’s National Legislative Assembly Somchai Sawaengkarn muttered that “putting someone to death for causing an airport’s closure might be too harsh.” He then lied: “Personally, I don’t support the closure of airports.” We know this is a lie because he immediately added: “in some cases an airport operation needs to be shut down for other reasons…”. And his example was 2008.PAD

Another PAD-associated NLA appointee, Klanarong Chanthik “said some articles in the proposed bill were not realistic…”.

In the recent demonstrations by anti-democrats in 2014, PPT recorded at least two declarations that airports were to be targeted (here and here).

As far as we can tell, the cases under the previous legislation against PAD airport occupiers continues but without much seriousness.

Interestingly, as a footnote, we did find one mention of a policeman who headed up that “investigation” for a while, before resigning from it. Guess who? None other than current top cop, appointed by The Dictator, Police General Somyos Pumpanmuang. Supporting the royalists has been significant for his career advancement.

 





Puppets meet

8 08 2014

The crown prince opened the military dictatorship’s National Legislative Assembly yesterday. In these circumstances of a puppet Assembly, PPT has faced the problem of not knowing the collective noun is for puppets. There is some debate on this, but an “avenue” seems dull. Perhaps, given the Assembly’s provenance, it is best we use a “troop of puppets.” When we looked for the collective noun for puppet masters, the New Statesman’s suggestion of a “a posse of puppeteers” seems quite appropriate and seemed to fir the idea of rounding up a troop.

The prince made what might be considered the stock speech for the representative of the king, where he “stressed the need for members of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to be scrupulous in carrying out their duties for the sake of the country.” His statement that “the congregation of the assembly heralds a good start for all NLA members to work on drafting the new permanent constitution and legislation to restore democracy, national stability and security,” might be a bit more of a pointer to the palace’s political position.Puppets and clowns

Interestingly, the people who are said to be suspicious of the prince’s politics and capacities are forced to hail him: “NLA member Klanarong Chantik, a former National Anti-Corruption Commission member, said he believed NLA members had taken heed of the Crown Prince’s remarks and will devote themselves for the good of the country.” This is the dilemma that faces royalists everywhere. They may not like him, but they find that the ultra-royalism of the dictatorship and palace means they have to support him.

The Post reports that he chamber has a big “no politicians allowed” sign on its door “as it becomes home of the military council’s all-appointed National Legislative Assembly.” Hence, it is no surprise to notice that the puppet master-in-chief was there: “Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [they mean the military junta], led the 197 NLA members in welcoming the Crown Prince at the throne hall before the ceremony.”

There is not a snowflake’s chance in hell that the puppet assembly can be anything other than Prayuth’s play thing.





Puppet assembly

1 08 2014

As expected, the military dictatorship has appointed a puppet National Legislative Assembly packed with military and police and anti-democrats. (In fact, only anti-democrats could agree to serve as military puppets in this way).

The king apparently received the list on Thursday and almost immediatley approved it. This action suggests considerable coordination between the palace and military junta. The list of those appointed was immediately published in the Royal Gazette (the link is fixed and clicking downloads a PDF in Thai).

Puppets and clowns

Puppets and clowns

There are 10 senior police and “105 military officers, 67 are from the army, 19 each from the navy and the air force.” The Leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s brother was even appointed, just to keep some of the puppetry in the family.

The military/police bloc is a majority of the 200 appointed and will remain so even when 20 more are appointed and if none are military. But the notion of majority hardly matters for this puppet assembly.

This is because everyone in the assembly is going to dance to the military’s tune and to the strings it tugs.

The unelected senators group, composed of anti-democrats from the appointed part of the last senate got their reward for their longstanding opposition to elected governments, and can now join the puppetry as junior cast members.

Likewise the anti-democrat presidents of nine universities that also did their job in bringing down the last elected government, following the orders from higher up.

So too the business flunkies, including the military accolyte Narongchai Akrasanee, chairman of MFC Asset Management, Boonchai Chokwatana, chairman of Saha Pathanapibul Plc who is close to Anand Punyarachun and was once said to be funding the anti-democrats and a bunch of other royalists.

Colgate-Palmolive appears to have its hands being dirtied by one of its well-paid executives “serving” in the military’s puppet parliament, which is probably not a good look for an international company that advertises its dedication to “good governance.”

Other puppets include many with links to the anti-democrat, anti-election, anti-Thaksin and anti-Yingluck campaigns. They include Klanarong Chanthik, the notorious anti-foreign campaigner and wealthy scion of a corrupt military family, Songsuda Yodmani, and Kittisak Rattanvaraha, the “deputy chairman of the Thai Farmers’ Network who led protesters to pressure the Yingluck government to repay farmers under the rice-pledging programme.” In other words, the anti-democrat stooges are now puppets for the junta.

Finally, General “Ood Buangbon, former defence permanent secretary and close aide to Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, was also appointed.” Who was suggesting the palace wasn’t involved in this coup? Oh, yes, it was Prayuth….

Now we will will be treated to a show as the puppets dance for their masters.





Complaints, corruption, coups

8 07 2013

PPT is behind on a pile of posts we’d like to get out, so this is a summary post of issues worth noting:

At the Bangkok Post: The issuance of a government decree empowering the Ministry of Finance to acquire up to 2 trillion baht in loans for infrastructure development is claimed to be a constitutional violation. This is according to Law Reform Commission chairman Kanit Na Nakhon. Anything like this speaks to a constitutional challenge, the Constitutional Court and a judicial coup, so worth watching.

The Nation comments on the royalist corruption mantra (readers will see this word often over the next few posts).

The paper’s report refers to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) selecting provincial members. The story then morphs into a political attack that mirrors yellow shirt complaints. And why not, for it comes from anti-Thaksin Shinawatra campaigner and NACC member Klanarong Chanthik, who says: “Corruption is badly undermining the country’s economic, political and social systems. Irregularities in Thailand tend to get more serious and complex…”. Then diehard monarchist and anti-Thaksin organizer  Vasit Dejkunchorn is given a platform, saying that “greedy politicians” are “kleptocrats” and “warned that, if nothing is done to rein them in, they might eventually turn Thailand into a kleptocracy – a country ruled by thieves.”

To put some of this together, readers might want to also peruse an op-ed by David Streckfuss at the Bangkok Post, where he compares Thailand’s 2006 coup and the recent coup in Egypt. This caught our collective eye:

In Thailand, Thaksin increased his own power in the name of his large majority wins in the House of Representatives, and similarly, in part to exert more civilian control over the military. The courts annulled one election, removed two prime ministers, and banned members of Thaksin’s political party. The coup government enacted its own constitution and efforts to amend it have run into judicial blocks and threats of military coups.

The occurrence of coups is a sign of unresolved and conflicting visions of the distribution of political power in a society as well as, of course, of a powerful and unaccountable military. Democracy _ participation in elections and acting in accordance to a constitution that defines the rules of the game _ creates the space and framework necessary to work these things out.





The judicial coup continues I

14 06 2012

If anyone thought the judicial coup was over, think again. The process, a la post-coup to 2008, continues. Why premier Yingluck Shinawatra and her leadership lot think they can negotiate a deal with the unrepentant opponents remains a mystery:

From the Bangkok Post: The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has ruled that Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit committed malfeasance by certifying the sale of monastic land to a golf course developer.

Mr Yongyuth had certified the sale of land belonging to Wat Thammikaram temple to Alpine Real Estate Co and Alpine Golf & Sports Club Co on March 13, 2002, while Mr Yongyuth was deputy interior permanent secretary, NACC member and spokesman Klanarong Chanthik said yesterday.

Klanarong has been in the lead on anti-Thaksin Shinawatra legal actions. He is close to Constitutional Court President Wasan Soypisudh.

Also from the Bangkok Post: The Office of the Attorney-General has filed malfeasance charges against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and 26 others in a case involving 11.58 billion baht in loans from Krung Thai Bank.

State-owned KTB had provided the loans to subsidiary firms of a real estate conglomerate.

Attorney-General Julasingh Vasantasingh yesterday submitted 17 boxes containing 150 files of documents concerning the charges to the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.

PPT makes no judgement on the alleged cases, but simply points out that the timing of these cases, the re-emergence of the king,and the (lost by cave-in)  battle with the Constitutional Court seem not coincidental.





Court president as royalist warrior

8 06 2012

The Nation performs a useful service with a profile of Constitutional Court president Wasan Soypisudh, who has made it clear that the Court has its royalist marching orders. PPT picks out the significant points (all are quotes from The Nation except where there are brackets for PPT’s comments):

  • When asked if the Constitution Court was acting as a tool of the “ammart” (aristocrats), Wasant said the real head of the ammart was the prime minister, as she was the most powerful person in Thailand [PPT: He means the somnolent Yingluck Shinawatra, who is scorned by the real amart].
  • At the age of 20 he graduated with an honours degree. One of his classmates was Klanarong Chantik, now a member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission. [PPT: Klanarong has also been one of the leading anti-Thaksin officials/activists. He was a member of the military junta appointed Assets Scrutiny Committee].
  • Wasant became a trained lawyer at the firm of MR Seni Pramoj, the former premier and Democrat Party leader.
  • He passed the Thai Bar examination before turning 21. A classmate at this time was Apichart Sukhagganond, the current Election Commission chairman. [PPT: Like the other EC commissioners, Apichart was appointed the day after the 2006 military coup, and the EC has been a major player against pro-Thaksin parties].
  • Wasant was one of the judges who convicted Thaksin Shinawatra in the Ratchadapisek land case, which saw the former PM given a two-year jail term.
  • He was also a judge on the case involving members of the anti-corruption commission, who gave themselves a pay hike. The Supreme Court’s division for political office-holders sentenced the NACC members to two-year suspended jail terms.
  • Wasant voiced his opinion at a Supreme Court judges’ general meeting that the ballot booth should make the marking of voters’ ballots secret and others should not be allow anyone to see how people vote. His idea led partly to nullification of the April 2, 2006 election.
  • Wasant was also a defendant’s witness when Prasong Soonsiri was sued by a majority of Constitution Court judges for criticising the ruling that found Thaksin not guilty of concealing his ownership of shares in 2001. [PPT: Prasong is a self-proclaimed member of the palace-military cabal of coup planners in 2006 and a remarkably outspoken royalist].
  • Wasant was selected to be a Constitution Court judge on May 28, 2008.

That’s quite a royalist pedigree. It is clear why he apparently feels no qualms in breaking the law for the monarchy.





We are still not surprised

21 05 2011

Following up on PPT’s earlier post, the Bangkok Post has a story that says: “Yingluck Shinawatra, Pheu Thai’s top party-list candidate, has the right to stand in the July 3 general election as long as she has not been convicted of a criminal offence or sentenced to imprisonment, Election Commission chairman Apichart Sukhagganond says.”

But the devil is in the detail of the report.

The EC’s Apichart “said the EC was obliged to accept her application if there was no such court ruling on the day she applied. Pheu Thai’s candidates on the party list system were registered with the EC on Thursday.” He then added that “any complaint against Ms Yingluck’s candidacy must be filed with the EC within 10 days of registration. After that, the EC would endorse her candidacy and any complaint against it has to be filed with the Supreme Court.”

Apichart stated that Yingluck’s involvement in the Thaksin Shinawatra assets seizure case “does not amount to a criminal case.”

As we noted yesterday, veteran anti-Thaksin campaigner Kaewsan Atibhodhi, a former member of the junta’s Assets Scrutiny Committee, said Yingluck could face three charges of perjury. He “also called on the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to take legal action against Ms Yingluck.”

The Post reports that “NACC member and spokesman Klanarong Chanthik yesterday said the authority to handle the perjury case against Ms Yingluck rests with the Office of the Attorney-General…”.

In addition, even if Yingluck was found guilty of perjury, the Post reports a source saying this “would be only a civil offence, which would not affect her candidacy.”

PPT doesn’t think the yellow-hued will let this rest yet. The Post cites “Wirat Kalayasiri, a Democrat [Party] candidate in Songkhla, said the party would not ask the EC or the relevant authorities to look into Ms Yingluck’s alleged involvement in the Thaksin assets seizure case.” Very nice of them, perhaps, but he added: “others might come forward and lodge complaints.” And Democrat Party fellow traveller and rabid campaigner against all that is red-shaded, “Bangkok senator Rosana Tositrakul said that even if Ms Yingluck did not violate the law directly, it cannot be said that she is faultless in this case.”

PPT is looking for a fat lady who can sing, but we can’t see or hear her yet.





Juxtaposed outcomes

19 07 2010

For those seeking double standards, two reports in the Bangkok Post could provide further confirmation. PPT doesn’t know any more than is in the reports, but the juxtaposition of them makes for interesting reading:

17 July 2010: “Watchdog says Thaksin culpable in TPI scheme.” The report states that arch-Thaksin Shinawatra enemy Klanarong Chanthik “said yesterday an NACC inquiry panel found that in 2003 Thaksin, then prime minister, endorsed the Finance Ministry’s bid to apply to be an administrator for TPI’s rehabilitation plan.” The essence of the story is that the Ministry of Finance stepped into the festering sore of corruption and double-dealing at TPI. Wrong it seems, so Thaksin gets another charge on a 6-2 vote in the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

19 July 2010: “DSI drops case against TPI.” The highly politicized Department of Special Investigation that operates hand-in-glove with the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime in all of its political machinations has dropped the case against “TPI Polene Plc – alleged to have violated the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Act of 1992 by giving 258 million baht to the Democrat Party through an advertising company – for lack of evidence, DSI chief Tharit Pengdit said on Monday.” Tharit has been a real beaver in digging up all kinds of “evidence” against red shirts and against “anti-monarchists,” but not against the bosses in the Democrat Party. His evidence this time: “TPI’s annual report and a contract made with Messiah Business and Creation Co…”. Recall that this is the same “investigator” who used a government sketch map to bring in all kinds of people he says are part of the anti-monarchy movement.

One could easily conclude that there is something rotten in the state of Abhisit’s Thailand.