Corrupt and powerful IV

6 09 2022

Yesterday, PPT’s post finished by linking to Rangsiman Rome’s comments on people in the police holding paid but non-existent positions. We added that we didn’t think this was confined to the cops. We said think the armed forces and the bureaucracy as well. And we asked who is pocketing the billions?

And, as we mentioned in that post, the Bangkok Post is taking a particular interest in the unfolding story. Today, the Post has more to say in an Editorial:

The phenomenon of “ghost recruitment” has cast a long shadow over how the government spends tax money to recruit staff to work in restive southernmost provinces.

The government cannot and must not treat this shameful phenomenon as just more of the same bureaucratic corruption. To prevent the scandal becoming a crisis, a fair and reliable probe must be launched to clear the air about recruitment practices at the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) — a pillar of our national security apparatus in the deep South….

We doubt that many will consider the Cold War era organization a “pillar” of anything much at all. It has been a semi-secret parallel administration that operates for the military. The secrecy associated with it and the more or less unbridled power it wields are the attributes that make it corrupt. It’s role as the military’s Gestapo means that its power and influence has penetrated all aspects of Thai politics as it works to maintain the royalist regime. To do that, its leaders are allowed to harvest the corruption crop. Just think how much loot is harvested when ISOC has 50,000 personnel – well, let’s say funded positions – in the deep south alone!

We can but wonder why the Post thinks “Isoc has handled some vital and risky missions with expertise and deserves its budget and resources.”

Updated: Dark business, wealth and the king

15 01 2022

At the end of last year, PPT posted on an odd story on dark power, the navy and self-punshment. We pointed to a whiff of royalism.

Now, Prachatai reports that Lt – Prachatai says he’s a Captain – Alongkorn Ploddee, the director of the Real Estate Division of the Sattahip Naval Base, is potentially facing lese majeste charges.

Capt Alongkorn is accused of claiming that “the King … knew him well.” In the past, several police and military officers claiming such links have been convicted under Article 112, been dismissed, and some have died.

Alongkorn “has been dismissed from service effective from 7 January.” In addition, it is stated that he “has been detained at a military camp in Sattahip, Chonburi, facing four charges and at risk of being charged with lèse majesté in a military court.”

He made his claims at a restaurant in Sattahip and earlier at a restaurant in the Ekkamai area. There, he claimed to he was in “Rama IX’s guard for 18 years. Rama X knows me well, just so you know that you are losers. I can remove you any time. No need to call anyone. I won’t go anywhere. I sit here. I’m the biggest in this country…”.

The navy also revealed that, as expected, Alongkorn was wealthy, having “at least 12 vehicles including one Isuzu, six Toyota, one Honda, one Porsche, one Ford, and two Mercedes Benz.” Reminiscent of Pol Col Thitisan “Joe” Uttanapol or “Joe Ferrari,” caught on camera suffocating a man to death. Whatever happened to that case?

It is stated that the “Sattahip Police Station has set up a committee to consider whether to charge him under the lèse majesté law.”

Interestingly, continuing the whiff of royalism, no relatives have come forward to provide bail. If things travel as they have in the past, little more may be heard of this case or of Capt Alongkorn.

Update: In another story, a similar effort to use royal connections, real or concocted, has come to light. It is reported that a complaint has been lodged “with Region 8 Police yesterday [12 January 2022] over police in Nakhon Sri Thammarat not taking any action to investigate a member of a “volunteer foundation” accused of misusing a royal insignia and a Royal Thai Police badge.” It is claimed that the unnamed “volunteer foundation” used a royal insignia, “called the ‘Phra Maha Phichai Mongkut’, and the police badge to stage checkpoints and force local residents to comply with other instructions given…”. The report adds: “The ‘volunteer foundation’ was not named in the report … but the actions described match those usually conducted by Civil Defense Volunteers, or ‘OrSor’.” PPT has posted on similar uses of royal connections previously. Several led to lese majeste convictions.

Arms trading

7 11 2021

Reports of arms trading from within the military are reasonably common but so little is done about it that a cynic might think that it is just another corrupt way for officers to acquire unexplained wealth.

A recent Bangkok Post report is about a “Crime Victims Assistance Club” that “filed a complaint with the House committee on military affairs, asking it to look into a case involving a soldier who allegedly sold army weapons to an illegal arms trafficking gang in a neighbouring country.”

Club chairman Atchariya Ruangrattanapong “said he previously filed a complaint with the army over the matter, and Col Sirichan Ngathong, deputy army spokeswoman, later said the culprit was sacked from the army and now faces legal action and the weapons have been retrieved.”

Nothing to see here (as usual).

Picture from The Nation

However, the army’s “action” seemed to have prevented a full investigation. Atchariya stated that “he believes some senior army officers may have been involved.” What a surprise!

According to Col Sirichan, Atchariya complaint “accused the 9th Infantry Division of dereliction of duty by turning a blind eye to the theft and smuggling of weapons and cars across the border for sale in Myanmar.”

Sounds normal to us, at least by the standards of the military.

Col Sirichan insisted that “anyone found guilty of the crime will face disciplinary punishment and legal action.”

Whoopee! Any charges? Nope, not yet.

But the army seems keen to bury the story. Wonder why?

Secret money

24 06 2021

A recent story in Thai PBS reveals the secret funds used mainly by the military. Of course, the existence of secret funds has been known and controversial for many years, but this report seeks to remind us of the corruption of parliamentary and budgetary processes by the power of the military.

Vaji's bahtBudget papers are voluminous and the budget vetting committee has limited time to scrutinize it. Even so, the opposition reckons it has found secret budgets worth more than Bt1 billion in the 2022 budget. These are funds allocated to state offices with no stated use. That is, their use is secret.

The budget vetting committee can cut some budget items but cabinet can reinstate them, and the committee can agree or not, but the budget still goes back to parliament. One way the committee can get some action is by drawing attention to some items members consider problematic. That seems to be what’s happening here.

In this case, it is reported that the budget bill “was criticized by both opposition and some government MPs for allocating large unexplained funds for national security and military purchases at a time when COVID-19 is crippling the economy.”

Puea Thai Party deputy leader Yuttapong Charasathien “cited the lack of details available for the budget allocated to several state agencies.” Mostly he refers to the military. The report states:

The Thai Army set Bt290 million for its secret operations, with Bt62 million going to the Navy, Bt30 million to the Air Force, Bt32 million to the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence, and Bt55million to the Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, said Yuttapong who is also a member of the budget vetting committee.

Military money

Add in the 20 million baht allocated to the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre, and the security operations account for a secret 427 million baht.

But that’s not all: “Also unexplained is the Bt558 million of spending for the Prime Minister’s Office, which supervises the National Intelligence Agency and National Security Council, who are set to receive cloaked budgets worth Bt232 and Bt50 million respectively.”

That’s at least 750 million baht for secret operations.

Yuttapong asked: “What is the purpose of the secret spending? Is it for information operations [IO] and to monitor opposition activities?” We take that as a rhetorical question.

Other unexplained secret funds go to the Foreign Ministry and Labour Ministry. No one seems to know why these ministries need secret funds.

Yuttapong states: “If agencies cannot explain their need for such funding, it should be cut…”.

Overall, the “national security budget worth Bt387.9 billion, or 12.5 percent of the total budget.” Meanwhile, spending for public health is 306.7 billion baht.

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.

Cops, virus and corruption

2 01 2021

In the first round of virus infection, much of it had to do with a super-spreader boxing match sponsored by the Army. As is normal for the military, no one senior was ever held responsible.

During this second round of locally-transmitted virus, it is again corrupt officials who have arranged super-spreading.

Just over a week ago, the Bangkok Post reported:

Rotten to the core

Authorities are closing in on local state officials implicated in the smuggling of illegal migrant workers into Thailand.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Thursday police were verifying the identities of several officials accused of being involved in the smuggling of migrants. The information has been supplied in tip-offs to the government by netizens.

We’ve heard nothing since then.

The recent news has been about casinos. Sadly, Khaosod reported that “the first death associated with the coronavirus since the new wave of outbreak struck a little over a week ago … was a 45-year-old employee of an illegal gambling den in Rayong province…”. Illegal casinos operate because police allow them to operate and profit from the operations, with corrupt funds flowing all the way up the police hierarchy.

Of course, the cops in Rayong “investigated”:

“We inspected this venue following rumors on social media and found no gambling activities,” Rayong City police chief Phatsarut Watcharathonyothin said Sunday. “We believe it is only a warehouse. Rayong City police have always been strict on gambling.”

And it is not just Rayong. It is reported that Chanthaburi’s virus outbreak has links to another illegal casinos. “Investigations” are again underway.

Corruption is not just about the virus. In rolling back the political clock, the regime has rolled back administration, putting officials in positions where they can gobble up corruption money with few impediments. This occurs because of the shift of power from the people to the officials.

No corruption in Fantasy Land

30 09 2020

As mentioned in a Bangkok Post editorial, the junta’s National Anti-Corruption Commission has released another “ranking” of government agencies, state enterprises and “independent” bodies for “Integrity and Transparency.”

The NACC lives in a junta bubble and last year’s ranking was a farce. This year, Fantasy Land’s National (Anti-)Corruption (Whitewashing) Commission provided an “A” ranking to “all branches of the military and the three courts, namely the Administrative Court, Court of Justice and the Constitutional Court…”.

If this wasn’t so corrupt, we’d be rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter. It gets worse/funnier.

“Independent” bodies – no such thing exists – that also got “A” grades were the junta’s hopeless Election Commission and, of course, the National (Anti-)Corruption (Whitewashing) Commission itself.

Even the Post is staggered that the EC could be finagled into this bizarre category and also notes that the NACC is a joke (our word): “As it is closely linked to the powers-that-be, the agency has found it difficult to shake off concerns about its credibility.”

Credibility is in short supply in the junt/post-junta’s Fantasy Land.

Corrupt army thugs II

7 06 2020

Just a few days ago, we posted on the fate of military whistle blower Sgt Narongchai Intharakawi, an ordnance corps clerk, who spoke out about corruption in the Army.

He had been threatened and the Army went after him, declaring him a “deserter.”

Khaosod reports that an Army investigation of Sgt Narongchai’s complaint of fraud in the Army “had some truths.” The Army was sending “the case” to the “National Anti-Corruption Commission for further inquiry.”

Headed up by reliable junta appointees, with police and Army generals among the commissioners and a poor track record when investigating those in power, there is probably not much hope that anything much can come from the NACC.

Meanwhile, Sgt Narongchai is still facing Army “disciplinary action and a trial in the military court for allegedly deserting his post…”. The report states that “Sgt. Narongchai faces up to seven years in prison and a dishonorable discharge for being absent from his duties for more than 15 days.”

The Army treats the public with disdain, coming up with outlandish “explanations” for its actions. It is reported that “Army spokesman Col Winthai Suvaree has denied reports that a sergeant is facing punishment for exposing alleged graft in an army unit.” He claims that Sgt Narongchai “faces disciplinary and criminal action for dereliction of duty in violation of the Military Disciplinary Act…”.

That Narongchai has claimed and there’s video evidence of him being intimidated and threatened “for exposing graft at the centre involving military allowances” seems to count for nothing. Indeed, the military had already moved against Narongchai, having “accused [him] of disrespecting a superior,” with an Army disciplinary panel sentencing him to “detention for seven days on March 18-24 this year…”.

Everyone knows that Narongchai is being punished for breaking the Army’s “rule” that no one may upset the gravy train that benefits senior officers.

Corrupt army thugs I

7 06 2020

There are a couple of stories about the military that deserve critical attention.

The first relates to Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s boxing stadium that created Thailand’s largest virus cluster. Back in March, a Bangkok Post editorial stated that the Army  “arrogantly chose to ignore a prime ministerial order dated March 3 that asked all parties to avoid organising sporting events as they could exacerbate the spread of Covid-19.”

At about the same time, columnist Veera Prateepchaikul at the Bangkok Post was pointed in his comments:

Clipped from Khaosod

Many people, myself included, doubt the probe will lead to any decisive punitive action against the “big fish”. There will, however, likely be some “small fry” who end up as scapegoats.

In his capacity as chairman of the boxing stadium, I wonder whether the probe team, headed by director of the Army Personnel Department, will dare to probe the army chief himself. Worse, we are yet to hear any public apology from him.

On cue, a Khaosod report provides an initial “answer.” It includes this:

Lumpinee Boxing Stadium is owned and operated by the Royal Thai Army as one of its commercial ventures. It is chaired entirely by army officers, including the army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong who sat as the “honorary chairman” of the stadium.

What has the Army committee decided? It has decided that it is the management of the stadium that is held responsible. Not the “big fish.” With the Army investigating itself, its came up with a verdict that everyone already knew. The:

inquiry committee found the officials in charge of the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium to have neglected disease control measures and allowed a match to go ahead on March 6 despite a closure order.

The management has been removed. Thai PBS reports:

Army Commander-in-Chief General Apirat Kongsompong ordered the removal of the entire board, including the stadium’s manager, Maj-Gen Rachit Arunrangsi, the chief of the Army Welfare Department…

Yes, it is the Army Welfare Department that was also implicated in February’s Korat massacre by a disgruntled soldier.

But the stadium’s president, Maj. Gen. Rachit “was not removed [from the Army], but transferred to an inactive post…”. It seems he will be allowed to retire this September, on schedule and with all his benefits.

Gen Apirat also “sacked” the stadium committee but all of them have been “transferred to other posts as punishment.” Is that punishment? Perhaps they can’t make as much loot in the “other posts.” Perhaps they might have to do some Army work in the “other posts.” But all Gen Apirat has done is transfer his underlings.

A Bangkok Post editorial observes:

There is no indication whether Maj Gen Rachit and the others involved will also face disciplinary action as the army has been tight-lipped on the matter.

One can only hope they will face action because simply relieving them of their duties is too light a penalty, given the damage it has caused the country.

It goes on to observe:

Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong has never offered any apologies to the public over this sorry affair. How can he distance himself from the controversy and take no responsibility?

This is not acceptable, since it was his subordinates who placed the whole country at risk from the pandemic, and were responsible for remedial costs.

Add in the Korat massacre and the message is of impunity and military privilege. Gen Apirat continues to condone and abet military corruption.

It’s still a military regime IV

3 06 2020

Just a couple of recent examples of the way the junta still operates in the post-junta regime.

First, it continues to work with its friends among other authoritarian states. Thai Enquirer reports that an application to Thai police for a small gathering outside the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok was rejected. The application was “for ten people to hold a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of the [Tiananmen massacre] crackdown on June 4…”. The application “was rejected by the police who said that there were concerns about the possible spread of coronavirus.”

That sounds remarkably like Hong Kong and it is not the first time the police have used the virus for political repression.

Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, one of the event organizers, was bemused: “The police also told me that they had previous discussions with the Chinese embassy about holding the protest and decided to reject my application…”.

Do the Thai police now come under the authority of the Chinese? Probably not. It is more likely that the junta/post-junta military bosses have told the police how to behave.

Second, we note the fate of a military whistle blower. Sgt. Narongchai Intharakawi, an ordnance corps clerk, who spoke out about corruption in the army has been threatened but vowed to continue speaking. The Army claims he has fled his position., declaring him a “deserter.” Sgt Narongchai said he was prepared “to face any legal repercussions for his actions.”

The Army has gone after him. It has “accused [him] of deserting his post … after he left his unit to lodge a complaint against an alleged fraud in the allowance money. The army soon launched an investigation whether Sgt. Narongchai broke any regulations…”.

This came just days after the above video went viral, showing Maj. Gen. Apichart Artsantia “reprimanding a soldier [Narongchai] who spoke out about alleged corruption in the ranks.”

Maj. Gen. Apichart harangues Sgt. Narongchai Intharakawi, telling him “to stop drawing public attention to the scandal and urged him to respect the unity within the armed forces.” He threatens:

You may be able to get away this time, but there’s no next time for you…. Don’t think like a civilian. Reporting this and that will only get you in trouble. If you want to succeed in your career, then adapt to it. I have given you one last chance. I’m disappointed because you destroyed the reputation of our unit.

Despite the fact that an “army-led inquiry committee has found substantial evidence to support Narongchai’s accusations,” the bosses are set to damage Sgt Narongchai.

Recall that it was only in February, following the Korat massacre, that Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong promised to clean up corruption in his forces. Nothing has changed.

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