Not Chinese whispers

5 09 2021

The Chinese often vow that they never intervene in the domestic politics of another country. But they seem unable to meet their self-mandated rule. In recent days, the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok “issued a statement, accusing some individuals and organizations in Thailand of attempting to discredit the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine…”. The statement claimed this was “harmful to the good wishes of China to support Thai people in the fight against the pandemic.”

In a Facebook post on Friday, the spokesman for the Chinese Embassy said: “Every dose of the Chinese vaccine represents the genuine friendship of the Chinese government and people toward the Thai government and the Thai people…”.

China was mainly carping about Thai politicians and activists.

The regime’s response was a marvel. So rapid was the response that it might have been coordinated with the Chinese. If not, the words were almost the same. None other than Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai “expressed concern that criticism of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine for political benefits could affect the relationship between Thailand and China.” Opposition MPs were chastised.

He was supported by the director-general of the Department of Disease Control, Opas Karnkawinpong. Opas sounded like a regime mouthpiece when he “said the China-made Sinovac vaccine has helped Thailand control the pandemic since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak last year, when the world was facing a vaccine shortage crisis due to huge demand and inadequate supply.”

We wonder what the Chinese think about the debate over Chinese-made Antigen Test Kits (ATKs), some two million of which are being delivered?

Dr Witoon Danwiboon, managing director of the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, has been engaged in sniping with doctors and others about a kit that doesn’t have US approval over worries about accuracy. Never mind, the regime’s Thai Food and Drug Administration has approved it. The Chinese company that makesthe SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Tests, Beijing Lepu Medical Technology, touts its effectiveness and accuracy.

What caught our attention was the World Medical Alliance, “the company authorised to purchase 8.5 million kits for the government,” threatening. Siriya Thepcharoen, described as “an executive with the World Medical Alliance,” said: “We will file legal action against any person devaluing our product with fake information.” As far as we can tell, Siriya’s experience is in real estate.

But the idea of piling in for profit is well established.





Silk purses from a festering sow’s ear

25 08 2021

The failures of the regime and the monarchy on Siam Bioscience and vaccination is not what the regime and palace had hoped for; they hoped for a propaganda victory. They wanted to role back growing anti-monarchism.

This means that regime tools have to go to work and concoct a victory for the monarchy and the royal family.

A recent example of this is from the royalist clique controlling the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Tana Weskosith, who is Deputy Permanent Secretary, has come up with “A Modern Monarch in Action: Mobilising Relief in a Pandemic.” This laudatory tale is posted at the MFA’s propaganda/PR site Thailand NOW, “operated by the Thailand NOW editorial team and is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

It begins with the usual blarney: “Friends of Thailand might be familiar with anecdotes about the Thai monarchy that has stood fast alongside the Thai people through thick and thin — from combatting poverty throughout the ages to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic since last year.”

Anecdotes indeed, but “through the ages” is just hyperbolic buffalo manure.

Looking after his own. Royal Household Bureau via Khaosod

The virus reference is startling, but is the reason for the royalist drivel peddled by the MFA.

The level of false claims comes with the statement that “the King and Queen … have continued to take this mission on board in all types of situations, whether they be during a crisis or in times of peace.”

The king has only been on the throne since 2016, and he spent most of this time in Germany, only returning to Thailand when he felt his throne was under threat last year. For much of his reign and, indeed, in recent months, he’s been invisible.

Tana recycles the claim that the “Royal Family works [with]… a simple but practical rationale, that all Thai people should have access to basic public services even in the most remote areas of the country, so that they are able to earn a decent livelihood in good health and happiness.”

This is nonsensical. The royal family has, like most royals, been interested in maintaining its position and building its wealth. The dead king spoke out against notions of social welfare. Like all rightists, the monarchy and the current king have willingly backed the military’s political domination and its murder of political opponents.

Tana recognizes that Vajiralongkorn has been pretty much invisible, so he makes the claim that the royal family “has been continuously devoting their energy and personal funds behind the scenes…”. The compulsory royal news on radio and television that drearily promote the royals suggests that Tana is simply making this up. And he babbles about “centuries” of such concern, and goes on to repeat the propaganda associated with all the royals from early in the 20th century.

But he then gets going on the pandemic, proudly declaring:

The King’s Father, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great, through the Crown Property Bureau, funded the establishment of Siam Bioscience Co. Ltd. in 2009, to specialise in manufacturing biopharmaceuticals.

Perhaps Tana thinks that linking the dead king to Siam Bioscience will reduce the justified criticism of the company.

He makes a remarkable claim:

The company’s excellence has since been internationally recognized…. Subsequently, in 2020, the British-Swedish pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, in its fast quest to set up a manufacturing base for its COVID-19 vaccines in Southeast Asia, found that Siam Bioscience was the only qualified choice as its local partner to produce AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for Thailand and Southeast Asia.

As far as we know, there is no evidence for this claim. This information is simply unavailable, with the whole enterprise being remarkably opaque. Tana quotes James Teague, Country President of AstraZeneca (Thailand) Ltd. on the highlighted claim, but these comments do not shed any light on why the small and inexperienced company was chosen. The guess can only be that it was chosen due to its royal connection.

Siam Bioscience. From the linked article

Why, with all this claimed royal effort, has the AZ vaccine rollout been such a disaster? Tana “explains” that:

… [d]espite these efforts, Thailand, as with many other countries, is temporarily facing a shortage of vaccines. This can be attributed to inequitable distribution of vaccines around the world, as well as an overall shortage of vaccine supplies, caused by circumstances in the global vaccine industry and supply chains….

That would seem laughable. But, like his bosses and other royalists, he knows that no criticism of the royals can be made. Nothing but buffalo poo for them.

Putting Siam Bioscience aside, Tana highlights other “contributions” ascribed to the mostly missing-in-action royals. He highlights and lists royal “donations.” As far as we can determine, such claims tend to be discounted when some research is done. Many of the “donations” are government-funded.

In short, Tana is weaving a royal silk purse from a festering sow’s ear.





Official human rights nonsense

17 08 2021

Thanks to a reader for pointing out a recent op-ed by academic Mark S. Cogan at the Southeast Asia Globe.

“Thailand’s human rights narrative runs contrary to reality, even at the UN” has the following sub-header:

Despite cases of lèse-majesté piling up and pro-democracy protesters facing serious charges like sedition, Thailand’s third time through the Universal Periodic Review later this year will most likely be as inconsequential as previous UN human rights inspections.

Thailand is due to have its human rights record examined in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in n November. This is Thailand’s third UPR. Cogan states that:

Back in February, in preparation for this upcoming human rights review, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai gave remarks during the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council, noting that Thailand would “recommit to our common core values in the promotion and protection of human rights”.

He adds that Don’s perspective has little to do with human rights as practiced in the country. In fact:

[p]ublic statements on Thailand’s human rights contributions often boast about the kingdom’s accomplishments…. But these … often mask Thailand’s true record on the ground – a record stained by draconian measures to cripple individual freedom of expression, curb press freedom, and silence regime critics.

Don’s “remarks” were meant “to ensure that the narrative on human rights was crystal clear to the UN – there were no human rights challenges in Thailand…”.

He and other Thai diplomats have almost Pavlovian retorts to any challenges, pointing to the “perceived failure to understand what it means to be Thai, [a] … lack of familiarity with the situation on the ground, or the more nationalistic refrain that highlights Thailand’s unique status as a country in Southeast Asia that has not been colonised.”

Cogan recounts a meeting between Don and three UN officials after the 2014 coup where he went to great lengths “trying to ensure that the trio also understood Thai culture and tradition, the Foreign Minister paused and remarked: “Actually, in summary, Thailand has one of the best human rights records in all of Southeast Asia.” He then “corrected himself and said: ‘No, no, no, Thailand has the best human rights record in Asia’.”

Not even Don believes such nonsense.

Lese majeste is of especial concern. Cogan notes that:

… for its second cycle UPR in 2016, the Thai government compared its lèse majesté law (Article 112) as comparable to libel law for commoners, adding that it is “not aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression or academic freedom” and it was implemented in “accordance with due legal process and those convicted are entitled to receive royal pardon”.

It is troubling to PPT that several human rights protectors and the media in Thailand now regularly refer to lese majeste as “royal defamation,” which seems to accept the authoritarians’ narrative. We say, call it by its name.

Lese majeste has seen hundreds locked up, including for Article 112 convictions that don’t even fit the law. As Cogan reminds us, “… Prawet Praphanukul, a human rights lawyer, [was]… locked up in prison after being held at the 11th Army Circle base in Bangkok…”. He spent 16 months in prison on lese majeste and sedition charges and when he was finally sentenced, the lese majeste charge was simply not mentioned, probably because, at that time, the erratic king was trying to minimize political damage.

Famously, Prawet bravely rejected the royalist courts. When he appeared in court in 2017 he stunned the court by stating: “Thai courts do not have the legitimacy to try the case. Therefore, I declare that I do not accept the judicial process in the case.” Prawet added that he would not participate in the case nor grant authority to any lawyer to represent him.

Clipped from Prachatai

More recently, Cogan reports, various UN experts were deeply alarmed over the harsh sentence of Anchan Preelerd, a 60-year old former Thai civil servant. She was given a 43-year sentence. In fact, she was sentenced to a mammoth 87 years in prison, with the sentence reduced because she finally agreed to plead guilty because she had already spent three years in prison pending her trial.

Yet the puppet-like Ministry of Foreign Affairs is straight-faced when it declares the lese majeste law is not “aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression nor the exercise of academic freedom or debate about the monarchy as an institution.” It “went on to suggest once again that the law exists to “protect the dignity of royal families in a similar way a libel law does for any Thai citizen.” That’s buffalo manure, and every single Thai knows this.

Cogan concludes: “Thailand’s third time through the Universal Periodic Review, because of its predetermined narrative about its own human rights record, will most likely be as inconsequential as its previous UPR.” Sadly, he’s right. In the years since the 2014 coup, Thailand’s human rights situation has deteriorated into a dark age.





Enforced disappearance and regime lies

8 02 2021

Readers may have noticed a report at Thai Enquirer where a regime official liar spokesperson from the hopelessly compromised Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

categorically denied the allegations and said that the country “prioritized the safety and well-being of all its nationals…. The allegations that Thailand has a campaign that forcibly [neutralizes] dissents are baseless, including allegations of the involvement of the government in enforced disappearances….

If it wasn’t so serious, this would be laughable. This lie comes in response to a recently released report from Freedom House. Here’s what Freedom House reported:

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

The Thai government is allegedly behind multiple assassinations and unexplained disappearances in Laos, renditions from Cambodia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, as well as an assault in Japan. The campaign appears to be a dissent-quelling strategy of the military-dominated government that first came to power in a 2014 coup,296 with the first documented case in 2016. It targets a narrow profile of individuals: all 11 people in cases documented by Freedom House were viewed by the government as engaging in anti-state actions in some form, including violating Thailand’s draconian lèse-majesté law. All participated in some form of political activism and all but one engaged in blogging or journalism, with YouTube, radio, and social media platforms being the most common mediums.

Freedom House documented fewer cases of transnational repression by Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, but campaigns by all three took place in Thailand. Thailand detained and rendered two Cambodian exiles in 2018 at the apparent request of the Cambodian government, and Laos is reportedly responsible for a rendition and an unexplained disappearance in Thailand. A prominent Vietnamese blogger and government critic was rendered from Bangkok in 2019. Separately, four Vietnamese activists in Cambodia suffered an acid attack in 2017, believed to have been ordered by Vietnamese authorities. Vietnam has also operated farther afield. Trinh Xuân Thanh, a Vietnamese businessman, asylum seeker, and
former Communist Party official, was kidnapped from Berlin’s Tiergarten park in 2017 along with a companion. The pair were rendered to Vietnam, where Thanh was sentenced to two life terms in prison. Vietnamese authorities apparently dispatched a seven-person intelligence team to carry out the operation.

Tanee Sangrat, a spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, declared: “It is not a crime to criticize the government and any insinuation that the government pursues enforced disappearances because of the victims’ anti-state activism is unfounded.”

Either Tanee is an unskilled liar or as thick as a brick. The number of arrests of the past 7-8 months have been enormous. We know that dullard puppets like Tanee will say that no one was arrested for criticizing the regime but for other “crimes.” But this fools no one. This is a corrupt and authoritarian regime, and, apparently also populated by dopes.





Floating on air

3 01 2021

Tanee Sangrat is a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and, in a now familiar defense of the indefensible, recently wrote to the South China Morning Post. He decided/was ordered to do this in response to critical reporting of demonstrations.

The letter has a measured tone, hitting the right notes, but full of distortions and fabrications. We won’t go through them all. but we will comment on the position taken on the monarch.

After babbling about the regime “respecting” freedom of expression, the monarchy comes in when Tanee says this is limited “to ensure that the exercise of such rights does not infringe upon the rights, safety or dignity of others.” Of course, those final words are code for censorship of discussion of the monarchy, which has now led to some 40 lese majeste charges.

How high?

Referring to the “demands of the protesters” as “political by nature,” the usual buffalo manure is dumped: “It would be wrong to involve the monarchy, which is above politics.”

And it gets piled higher:

The monarchy does possess moral authority built on mutual trust and respect between the institution and the people. This moral authority is so deeply recognised and revered that some political factions have tried to take advantage of it for their own gains. This must be avoided.

In other words, the monarchy cannot be discussed because it is somehow cultural, floating in some rarefied air, rather than a significant power in Thailand’s political economy.

This kind of disingenuous response to critical commentary is deadly, boringly familiar. It does suggest that not much has changed for the regime or for the palace.





On how to hail the king

8 07 2020

It isn’t often that we see an English-language example of the way in which, over several decades, officials have been tied to the monarchy. However, in one of the Bangkok Post’s paid PR columns, Asst Prof Dr Sommai Pivsa-Art’s rise to President at Rajamangala University of Technology Thanyaburi details of the effort to tie high-ranked officials to the throne. This has been particularly effective in the military but also in the judiciary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and among medicos and in universities.

Sommai;s appointment is said to be bestowed by “His Majesty the King.”

A ceremony was held for Sommai “to receive the Office of the Prime Minister announcement delivered by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sujira Khojimate Vice President.” The announcement stated:

As Mr Prasert Pinprathomrat on 4 December 2019 submitted his resignation from the President position at Rajamangala University of Technology Thanyaburi bestowed on 27 August 2017 and signed on 4 September 2017, Asst. Prof. Dr. Sommai Pivsa-Art was bestowed the position of President at Rajamangala University of Technology Thanyaburi by Appointment of His Majesty the King. His Majesty the King has issued a royal command to appoint him as President at Rajamangala University of Technology Thanyaburi, effective from 8 March 2020. The royal command is countersigned by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.

Sommai then responded to the “royal command,” saying:

As His Majesty the King bestowed the appointment on me, Asst. Prof. Dr. Sommai Pivsa-Art, to be promoted as President of Rajamangala University of Technology Thanyaburi, it is the highest honour for me and my family to be grateful for His Majesty’s kindness. On this occasion, I would like to extend best wishes to His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua for joyful longevity with excellent health and happiness during his reign. I, Asst. Prof. Dr. Sommai Pivsa-Art, President of Rajamangala University of Technology Thanyaburi, would like to take an oath to work with maximum capacity to serve His Majesty the King with optimum knowledge and skill, along with honesty, dedication, and diligence, to deliver work progress and gather Rajamangala University of Technology Thanyaburi people to create and develop the university to reach prosperity and receive wide recognition in society, communities and at national and international levels, following His Majesty the King’s footprints, and adhere to morality and virtue.

All hail the feudal lord.





Rising anger

12 06 2020

Two of the regime’s toady parties are in disarray and the Puea Thai opposition party is also having problems. This reflects the fact that political tensions are rising. Not only that, there seems to be rising anger against the military-backed regime and its symbiotic relationship with an erratic and absent king.

Some of this anger reflects disgust over the apparent enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit. As Thai PBS points out, he’s “not the first activist living in exile in a neighbouring country to mysteriously disappear since the 2014 military coup, and he may not be the last. It says that there are “at least 104 Thai political dissidents have sought refuge in other countries for coup-related reasons since the May 2014 military takeover.”

But Wanchalearm is the first of these activists who is not tagged as anti-monarchy, although the regime and its deep yellow supporters are trying to alter that. Wanchalearm is anti-regime. The reason he fled Thailand is because “after the 2014 coup, … he was summoned by the military. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) regime lodged a complaint when he failed to respond.” The regime then “issued an arrest warrant for Wanchalerm in June 2018 for allegedly violating the Computer Crimes Act…”.

 

Since the coup, the regime as junta and now as a post-junta military-backed regime, it has been repeatedly stated that the authorities are actively tracking down these exiles. Bigwigs like Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has often stated that his regime has been asking Lao and Cambodian officials to deport/extradite anti-monarchists and anti-regime critics.

 

Ii is probably no coincidence that, soon after the lese majeste law was put on hold by King Vajiralongkorn, “at least nine Thai activists who sought refuge in Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam, including Wanchalerm, have disappeared for unknown reasons and some were later found dead…”. (The report lists them. Note that the Thai Enquirer report below says 13 have disappeared.)

 

None of these cases has been resolved and the regime goes full Sgt Schultz – they know nothing. Worse, it does nothing. It allows the fear to fester and that fear is also associated with the king, who is widely believed to be a beneficiary of these disappearances and deaths.

 

But, as noted above, Wanchalearm’s case allows for a broader response within Thailand, with the dead weight of lese majeste missing. The report notes that:

 

Pressure from his family, local and international rights advocates, academics, student activists, politicians and several celebrities is mounting on both Thai and Cambodian governments, demanding that they investigate Wanchalerm’s abduction. On Tuesday, the Cambodian government … agreed to launch an investigation into the case.

 

Meanwhile, Gen Prawit “said that he had instructed the Foreign Ministry to look into the case…”. They won’t do anything.

 

Outside the regime, “Wanchalerm’s abduction has caught the attention of Thai citizens and netizens, with the hashtag #SaveWanchalerm trending on Twitter with more than 400,000 retweets last Friday.” Many have raised their voices. For example:

 

Former human-rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit has called on both the Thai and Cambodian governments to join forces in uncovering the facts of what has happened to Wanchalerm and making them public.

 

“Though he is in self-exile in Cambodia and holds opinions that are different from the government’s, as a Thai citizen, he should not be ignored otherwise the government may be suspected as an accomplice [in his disappearance],” she posted on Facebook.

 

Students, activists and ordinary citizens have gathered demanding information.

 

Even some who have opposed anti-monarchists are having second thoughts. The Thai Enquirer’s Cod Satrusayang, a monarchist in 2013, has decried the regime’s efforts to stigmatize Wanchalearm as involved in marijuana (so is the regime). He adds: “the fact is, the establishment will not stop trying to assassinate his character until there is enough reasonable doubt to dissipate the kidnapping rumours.”

Cod also says what everyone thinks: the disappearance of activists “who were critical of the establishment and the military … is too much of a coincidence to be random.” He adds: “It is likely that Thai security forces had some role in his disappearance.”

He laments that royalist, regime-loving hacks have celebrated Wanchalearm’s disappearance and created rumors to discredit him.

Is it a coincidence that this disappearance and the lese majeste-like charges against a young Twitter user come when the king is furious that he is being targeted in Germany? We are sure he blames exiles for his serenity in Bavaria being compromised.





Foreign minister dissembles

12 06 2020

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai is a tool. A tool of the junta when appointed. Yet he’s also a tool that enjoys the work he does for the junta/post-junta military-backed regime. The ministry he heads is a nest of elitists and royalists.

Recently, Rangsiman Rome of the Move Forward Party and a spokesman of the House committee on legal affairs, justice and human rights, asked parliamentary questions about Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s disappearance. Rangsiman said: “The government isn’t paying any attention. Since Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha came to power, nine activists have disappeared. But the government has not given any explanation…”.

Don (clipped from Bangkok Post)

Foreign Minister Don’s dissembling response was execrable. He lied that “Wanchalearm bears little significance in terms of international and security affairs, so he should not be considered a threat to security.” He didn’t explain why the regime had been chasing him since the 2014 military coup.

Regarding Wanchalearm’s disappearance, Don said “Cambodia is investigating the matter and all the Thai government can do is to ask Cambodia to follow up on the case…. We cannot speculate as to his whereabouts until we receive an answer [from Cambodia]…”. Of course, this sidesteps the issue that it was most likely Thai operatives who grabbed the man – “Cambodian National Police spokesman Pol Lt Gen Chhay Kim Khoeun insisted Cambodian authorities did not arrest the activist…”. Don’s response also ignores the questions regarding all the other disappearances and murders. Nothing done on them, either.

Commenting on the same parliamentary exchange, the Thai Enquirer reports that Don also felt moved to comment on Article 112, the lese majeste law. He claimed “that people affected by the enforcement of Article 112 … was not a priority and the majority of people simply didn’t care about the law.”

Rangsiman responded: “If the Minister says that [Article 112] is not important, allow me to ask, why was #Cancel112 a top trend on twitter then?”

Reportedly, Don lied that “various international organizations are reporting this issue … just to attract attention and call[ed] out foreign journalists for creating fake news…”.

Don’s lese majeste comments are a part of a wider campaign to denigrate Wanchalerm. By linking him with anti-monarchists, the regime seeks to limit the support his case has gained – when lese majeste is alleged, not only do rabid royalists begin wagging their tails, but censorship/self-censorship restrict discussion.

We also think that such dissembling is an admission that monarchy is a central issue in not just Wanchalerm’s disappearance, but that of the eight others who have been disappeared or killed. When the authorities refuse to be involved, this is more like confirmation of these unspoken admissions.





Monarchy, Bahrain and a refugee

7 05 2019

Paul Sanderson at The Sydney Morning Herald has a long article on coronation. But it is not the shallow accounts that mark discussion of the monarchy mainly because Sanderson has a unique hook for the story:an account of why “refugee and footballer Hakeem al-Araibi was imprisoned for more than two months on a Bahraini Interpol red notice that should never have been issued…”.

From The Guardian

We won’t recount the quite useful discussion of the rise to power of the current king, but will briefly deal with the al-Araibi story as it interweaves with the death of Vajiralongkorn’s father in October 2016. Vajiralongkorn didn’t take the throne for about six weeks, although that is not what the “record of reign” now says.

Sanderson states:

Stories of what happened in the weeks and months that followed Bhumibol’s death are only now emerging, whispered quietly by government officials and senior diplomats who fear that speaking openly will transgress the world’s strictest lese-majeste laws.

He says “what they say could provide at least a partial explanation” of al-Araibi detention and asks: “Was it related to the new Thai king’s endeavours to consolidate his political and financial power?”

Regular readers may recall that monarchy was mentioned in our first post on al-Araibi’s detention, although there was no information on exactly what was going on at the time that gave special focus to this unfortunate man’s detention.

Sanderson is more specific, asking “what role did a $1.6 billion commercial deal between the royal houses of Bahrain and Thailand play?”

Noting Vajiralongkorn’s various grasping land property deals in Thailand, Sanderson observes that it was when “the old king was in a coma, that his heir negotiated a deal with the royal family of Bahrain that would earn him nearly $1.6 billion.” The deal saw “Thailand’s Crown Property Bureau sold a 60 per cent stake in the Kempinski Hotels Group for €1 billion to the Bahraini royal family.”

PPT earlier posted on the opaque deals that gave Kempinski to the CPB.

As Wikipedia has it, “Effective 16 February 2017, the two existing shareholders of Kempinski AG formalized previous plans for an equity transfer between them. The majority shares of Kempinski AG shall be held by the existing Bahraini shareholder while the shareholder from Thailand will now own a minority.”

This deal was more than a year before the footballer was snared at Bangkok’s main airport, but the business dealing between the two royal houses remains and Vajiralongkorn’s purse was swelled substantially by the deal.

This may help explain al-Araibi’s 76-day detention. As Sanderson states, “one of the biggest mysteries was why the south-east Asian kingdom persisted with the case to refoul him long after a wrongly issued Interpol red notice was revoked.”

Obviously, the Bahrain monarchy wanted him. But what was Thailand doing?

Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs only spoke in code. The country, it said, “finds itself in the middle of a case involving two countries competing for Mr Hakeem’s custody”. The ministry repeatedly stressed the case could not be dropped once it had started.

Thai Immigration Police chief Surachate Hakparn was a little clearer. He said the order to keep Araibi in detention came from “above”. He has since been removed from his post. Rumours abound that he offended the king in another matter.

Academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a former diplomat, puts it this way:

It’s not just about feeling Thailand owes Bahrain…. This is beyond skin deep because it’s between two royal families. The Thai king is in the process of wanting to be respected by other royal families. Being a diplomat in Thailand, the number one priority is not about maintaining good relationships. The number one priority is about making sure you serve the royal family…. This royal family travels. Fifty per cent of our operation [in the Foreign Ministry] is about the monarchy, we have to serve the monarchy before anything else.

Kempinski remains a private company and little public information is available. However, published data continues to list two Thai members of its supervisory board are from royal agencies.

Other relations between royals in each country are topics of speculation. It is stated that “a senior Bahraini royal was in Thailand in the days after Araibi’s arrest.” It remains unclear how the relationships between countries and between royal houses has been impacted by al-Araibi’s case.





Further updated: Ministry jumps for the junta

9 04 2019

Many readers will have seen photos of the representatives of foreign embassies and other international organizations attending and observing the police reporting and charging of Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

The response from the junta has been to spur the Ministry of Foreign Affairs into action that is hugely damaging to the already battered reputation of both the junta and its “election.”

The MFA’s first jump was when spokeswoman Busadee Santipitaks, pointing a crooked finger at Future Forward, “told the media on Sunday she had information claiming the international bodies had been invited to the event.”

We weren’t aware that MFA was an investigative agency, but, heck, anything’s possible these days when Thailand is at the bottom of the slippery slope.

Future Forward did indeed have contacts with embassies and the like, but so does every party, and the case against Thanathorn is so emblematic of a junta fix/stitch-up/frame-up, that these embassies and organizations just had to be interested.

Diplomats from “Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the US, as well as EU and UN human rights officials, went to the [police] station as observers.”

By Tuesday, junta foreign minister, Don Pramudwinai, decided that his ministry should attempt the high jump.

Don declared that “the diplomats’ actions amount to ‘interfering‘ with Thailand’s justice system.” He stated that “foreign dignitaries are only allowed to observe legal proceedings involving their nationals, not Thais.” And he added: “This kind of incident has never happened in other countries, and it cannot happen [here]…”.

Then going for the whip, he further declared that:

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will invite them for a discussion to ask for their cooperation and reach a mutual understanding to not let it happen again, because it’s against diplomatic principles.”

Over the past several decades, and most especially since the 2014 military coup, foreign diplomats have observed police and court procedures.

Don now says this is wrong and claims that they can only get information from the MFA alone. He went into a bit of a rant, declaring: “We will ask them to cooperate and not to do that again. It was against the diplomatic protocols of the United Nations…”.

We are not exactly sure which “protocols” Don is drawing on, but a bit of searching suggests he may not be entirely correct. For example, one document states that “it may be useful” for UN human rights observers “to notify the Government of the operation’s intent to send an observer to the proceeding.”

This may not be UN gospel, but it suggests that Don is manufacturing his response. And that action adds to the giant weight dragging Thailand down. MFA sunk below the pale long ago, defending all kinds of dictatorial practices, and continues to respond enthusiastically to the dictatorship.

It might also be noted that the MFA’s stand appears to coincided with a vitriolic set of attacks from anti-democrats and yellow shirts on the diplomatic observers. It is a little difficult to discern who is leading who here. But, then, there seems little space between the junta and the rising (again) anti-democrats.

Update 1: A story at The Nation muddies the story of the diplomats and Thanathorn. Pol Gen Srivara Rangsibhramanakul has stated that the diplomats did not attend “the interrogation” of the politician but “were invited to a briefing after the interrogation … finished.” Did Foreign Minister Don yelp before knowing the “facts”? Or is he still barking because he is part of the junta plot to bring down Thanathorn/steal the “election”?

Srivara said the 12 diplomats “began to ask many questions after the questioning of Thanathorn finished. Police then invited them to a briefing…”. He also showed documents to the diplomats. He adds: “They asked, we answered. No problems at all…”. Tell that to Don.

Update 2: Another story at The Nation states that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “yesterday summoned foreign envoys one by one to accuse their embassies of taking sides in Thai politics.” The Nation cites the aide memoir presented by MFA: “Regardless of the intention, the presence of embassies’ representatives at the police station, with such visibility and [with] the publicity it generated, was clearly an act of political significance, seen by the Thai public largely as a show of moral support for Mr Thanathorn…”. The response has been, in diplomatic terms, “interesting. The US Embassy told reporters that “attendance at legal prosecutions is standard practice.” The Embassy stated: “The US interest in this case, as in many other cases, is to observe the judicial process and obtain first-hand information about the handling of the case…”. In Thailand, and particularly under the junta, there have been so many “political” cases that foreign embassies have been run off their feet monitoring these.








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