Down the shute

4 03 2021

PPT doesn’t always post on rankings, but the Freedom House index struck us as telling of Thailand’s descent into a dark era. Freedom House’s report now ranks Thailand as Not Free. While one might dispute such indices, it is clear that the country now languishes with some sad companions in these “league tables,” looking far more authoritarian than democratic.

Freedom House’s report on Thailand begins:

Thailand’s status declined from Partly Free to Not Free due to the dissolution of a popular opposition party that had performed well in the 2019 elections, and the military-dominated government’s crackdown on youth-led protests calling for democratic reforms.

It goes on

Following five years of military dictatorship, Thailand transitioned to a military-dominated, semi-elected government in 2019. In 2020, the combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy provoked the country’s largest anti-government demonstrations in a decade. In response to these youth-led protests, the regime resorted to familiar authoritarian tactics, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation, lèse-majesté charges, and harassment of activists. Freedom of the press is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.

Read it all here.





Updated: Where there’s smoke…

22 02 2021

Which fire will the police bosses want to extinguish? There’s the gambling fire, the drug smuggling fire and the elephant ticket inferno.

Of course, the latter inferno can’t be touched as it directly involves the monarchy, so lese majeste repression is the way the regime has jumped, trying to shut down talk that has spread like wildfire. The gambling scam is well known and the cops have been getting away with it for decades, so the usual response is a few transfers a couple of arrests, a period of studied silence, and then back to normal corruption. The funds from gambling go throughout the force and beyond and are absolutely necessary for the “normal” operation of the police.

However, it is reported that the drugs scam might get some attention. The problem is that it also involves the monarchy.

National police boss Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk is reported to have “ordered a probe into opposition claims during last week’s censure debate that a police colonel and a police lieutenant general were involved in the smuggling attempt of 1.5 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine in Tak that was foiled on Oct 18, 2019…”. Naturally enough such lower-ranked officers would normally be working for higher-ups in the force.

But then we learn that the “investigation” will be completed by week’s end. We can’t help but wonder. For many investigations, the cops take years and decades. A cover up? Perhaps. After all, “police spokesman Pol Maj Gen Yingyos Thepchamnong responded … during the censure debate” saying that “although it was difficult to prove the involvement of the officials, police ‘would try their best’ to establish what had happened.”

But then there’s the neat bit:

Torsak

Last Wednesday, Pol Lt Gen Torsak Sukwimol, commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), assigned Pol Lt Col Ekkasit To-adithep, a member of the bureau’s working group on special crime suppression, to file a defamation charge with the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) against the administrator of a Facebook page called Sanap Sanun Patibatkan Tamruat (“We support police operations”).

Pol Lt Col Ekkasit said the Facebook page published details and a photo of Pol Lt Gen Torsak in a manner that misled the public about Pol Lt Gen Torsak’s alleged role in the 2019 drug case.

Provincial Police Region 6 had already investigated Pol Lt Gen Torsak’s alleged involvement in the case and at the time he was cleared of any wrongdoings.

We all know who Torsak is and the power and influence he has amassed being close to the palace. He was mentioned in the censure debate. But the thing that PPT recalled was that earlier post we had on Torsak. In it we stated:

Torsak has been moving up for several years.He now finds himself in demand for all manner of activities and clearly enjoys the limelight. One of the most intriguing reports we located was his association with the Chinese-Thai Global One Belt One Road Association, formerly known as Hokien International Chinese Cultural Association, formerly chaired by the Democrat Party’s Alongkorn Ponlaboot.

We wonder why all those links have been removed….

Update: Khaosod has an excellent reflection on some of the issues mentioned above. Police spokespersons went to ground. Among other things it states:

During Friday’s no-confidence debate, Rangsiman said 20 police officers were exempted from the official criteria for a promotion and fast tracked to a higher position after their names were listed in “The Elephant Ticket.”

The ticket is said to be a document signed by Royal Household Bureau sec-gen Sathitpong Sukvimol, who asked a certain institution for permission to vault those men up their ranks.

The promotions were granted, even though Sathitpong – whose previous positions include the head of the Crown Property Bureau – does not currently have any formal position in the police force.

Mentions of the “Elephant Ticket” appear to be mentioned for the first time in an investigative report by MGR Online news agency back in 2017.

“The best kind of Ticket, or promotion recommendation letter, that has never been refused, no matter what the requested positions are, is called Elephant Ticket,” the article said. “This fact is only known within the police circle.”

 





The royal elephant in the room

20 02 2021

Reading a report at the Thai Enquirer on Move Forward’s Rangsiman Rome and his speech in parliament requires insider knowledge.

Reporting that he “showed the four-page document from 2019, when the Royal Thai Police force was under the leadership of [Gen] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] and of current Deputy Prime Minister [Gen] Prawit Wangsuwan,” it is left to the reader’s imagination and inside knowledge to work out what this is about, adding:

The so-called chang or elephant ticket is allegedly a list of police officers assured of promotion. The ticket, according to Rome, is a vehicle for positions and connections within the police, bypassing the official merit-based system for promotion.

Immediately the hashtag #ตั๋วช้าง began trending, used millions of times.

Like an earlier politician forced into exile, Rangsiman spoke of the patronage system. Rangsiman implied “Prayut and Prawit were aware that such corrupt practices were taking place, accusing the administration of allowing the police to indulge the ‘godfathers’ operating gambling dens and the drug trade, while cracking down on pro-democracy protestors like criminals.”

The closest the newspaper gets to talking about the elephant in the room is when it reports that the MP said “he was aware that he was breaching a dangerous taboo against some of the country’s most powerful vested interests.” That’s code for the monarchy and that he was speaking of the involvement of the palace in police promotions and corruption was clearer – but still unstated – when he said:

This is probably the most dangerous action I’ve ever taken in my life,” he said during the hearing. “But since I have been chosen by the people, I will fight for the people…. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I have no regrets over the decisions that I have made today.

It is Khaosod that reports the speech more directly, helped by the slimy lese majeste bully Suporn Atthawong.

According to this report, Rangsiman’s “bombshell revelation” was that “a handful of government favorites and a royal aide can dictate appointments and removals within the police force at their whim…”.

He went further, saying that the documents showed that “police officers can gain immediate promotions without going through the formal route if they manage to obtain a ‘Ticket,’ a document signed by Maj. Gen. Torsak Sukvimol, the commander of the Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King’s Guard 904.” That’s the younger brother of the king’s most important official.

The link to the palace is clear:

The MP said the scheme is run by Torsak’s brother, Sathitpong Sukvimol, who serves as Lord Chamberlain to the royal palace. Documents shown by Rangsiman shows that Sathitpong in 2019 wrote to a certain institution asking for 20 police officers to receive either new ranks or titles.

The slimy Suporn has rushed in with Article 112 allegations:

We have transcribed every word and letter of the speeches that Mr. Rangsiman Rome referenced the monarchy…. Our legal team has looked into it and concluded that the information is sufficient for prosecution under Article 112.

Of course, the king’s previous interference in police promotions has been well-documented. A recent academic piece, drawing on Wikileaks, summarizes this, stating that Vajiralongkorn twice “intervened in matters to do with the appointment of the national police chief, in 1997 and 2009, both seemingly with personal motives…”. We also know that there were several periods when the king was crown prince that there were rumors that he was involved with crime figures.





Clubhouse panic

19 02 2021

Minister for Protecting the King and Royal Family Buddhipongse Punnakanta, who doubles as Minister of Digital Economy and Society, has another digital platform to worry about in performing his main duty. Clubhouse has landed in Thailand and exploded.

As Thai Enquirer puts it:

Clipped from Vox

Clubhouse is a golden opportunity for free, open discussions to flourish in Thailand. Through the new voice-based app, Thai users are able to now access information and debates that are otherwise controlled and sometimes punishable by the state.

Of course, the topic that is bringing thousands into Clubhouse is the monarchy:

A large number of Thai users have joined Clubhouse in recent days after Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a … critic of the Thai palace, started discussing the monarchy, with some of the thousands of listeners chiming in with questions and opinions.

Buddhipongse said “authorities have followed Clubhouse usage in Thailand and warned legal action could be taken against those who violate laws,” suggesting that he has state spies in the system or plans to. He fumes and threatens:

Political groups and others have used the application to express opinion and give distorted information, create damage, and potentially violate laws.… Authorities are ready to proceed according to the law, the same as with other social media platforms.

More lese majeste charges coming…. By our count, the regime has now charged more than 60 persons under Article 112.





Further updated: 112 updates

9 02 2021

It is reported that lese majeste case No. 58 of the current round of repression has been lodged – we seem to have missed cases 56 and 57 – with a 37 year-old man being charged “with the royal insult, or lese majeste, for allegedly mocking the monarchy at a shopping mall in December…”.

A fanatical royalist from Thai Pakdee accused Pawat Hiranpon “of feigning to genuflect and saying ‘Long Live Your Majesties’ at Siam Paragon on Dec. 20 when several pro-democracy activists were walking past him…”. The mad monarchist thinks he was being sarcastic.

At about the same time, UN human rights experts are reported to have “expressed grave concerns over Thailand’s increasingly severe use of lèse-majesté laws to curtail criticism of the monarchy, and said they were alarmed that a woman had been sentenced to over 43 years in prison for insulting the royal family.”

They stated: “We are profoundly disturbed by the reported rise in the number of lèse-majesté prosecutions since late 2020 and the harsher prison sentences…”. They added: “We call on the authorities to revise and repeal the lèse-majesté laws, to drop charges against all those who are currently facing criminal prosecution and release those who have been imprisoned…”. The regime will not heed such calls. It never has. It heeds the king, and it is he who has directed this repression strategy.

Meanwhile some better news, with the Criminal Court having “dismissed a petition by the Digital Economy and Society Ministry to remove a clip criticising the government’s Covid-19 vaccine policy by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.” The ministry claimed it constituted lese majeste. He criticized the secret deal between regime, the king’s Siam Bioscience, and AstraZeneca.

After being ordered to take down his half-hour analysis, Thanathorn challenged the order. He was successful after the full clip was played in court, with the court “saying no part of the clip clearly showed he criticised or raised questions in any way that could be deemed insulting to the monarchy.” It added: “There is no clear evidence it affects national security…”.

The court asked Thanathorn why he used the term “royal vaccines”. His reply was wonderful, pointing out that “he was not the first to use it.” He pointed out that: “It was Gen Prayut and government agencies who first used or implied it that way…”. They were milking propaganda for the king and that was turned back at them, and the court agreed: “The court viewed the term was borrowed from what the government had said earlier about the local vaccine production to show the mercy of the king. Mr Thanathorn’s use of the word was therefore not a lie, which could cause damage to the king.”

Of course, the regime is now scrambling on vaccines, issuing statements that seem designed to mollify growing criticism. For a useful report of further questioning of the king’s Siam Bioscience, see Khaosod.

Update 1: Prachatai reports on the 112 case facing Pawat (using Phawat ‘Pocky’ Hiranphon). It states that the “charge was filed by Acting Sub Lt Narin Sakcharoenchaikun), a member of Thai Pakdee…”. Further,

the investigator gave as the reason for the complaint to a cosplay activity at Siam Paragon on 20 December 2020, where Phawat was seen paying respect by bowing, giving a ‘wai’ (the Thai greeting) , saying ‘Long live the King’, and presenting flowers to Parit Chiwarak and Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, who cosplayed King Rama X and the Queen wearing crop tops.

The investigator alleges this was an act of mockery toward people paying respect to King Rama X.

Phawat is seeking evidence to file a complaint against Narin, as he sees the complaint as politically motivated and damaging to his reputation and income. Narin also is not the one offended by Phawat’s action.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post has an editorial calling for the regime to get on with vaccination rather than defending itself. The editorial notices:

Bombarded by criticism that it has been too slow and overly reliant on two sources, AstraZeneca and Sinovac, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha tried to explain the government’s immunisation strategy last Sunday.

The PM was far too keen on defending the government than shedding light on the crucial vaccine drive. Although he addressed some of the main points of criticism, the PM offered no new information.

His claims and promises also appeared unsubstantiated, with little or no detail at all.

Self-censoring, it doesn’t say much at all about the king’s Siam Bioscience.

The public health minister has only made things worse. Bent on protecting himself and the government, Anutin Charnvirakul essentially told people to keep quiet and stop questioning the vaccine procurement and immunisation plan. He also told other politicians who are not in the government to keep their advice to themselves.

Mr Anutin’s tantrum only reinforced his image as being out of touch.

Self-censoring, it doesn’t say much at all about the king’s Siam Bioscience.





Grasping and interfering monarchs

9 02 2021

The interfering tendencies of King Vajiralongkorn and his father before him is well-known. Despite efforts to portray themselves as real constitutional monarchs, neither is or was. Vajiralongkorn has been most obvious in his interference with government, being like a bull in a china shop, demanding all kinds of constitutional, legal and military advantage.

But most monarchs tend to be secretive, wealthy and interfering. Two major reports in The Guardian, looking at the Queen of England, make this clear. The reports are worth reading for anyone interested in reform of Thailand’s monarchy.

Revealed: Queen lobbied for change in law to hide her private wealth” is an account of how “royal prerogative” was used to prevent the people of the UK from knowing how wealthy their royal family was. The queen claimed it had something to do with “embarrassment,” but what she wanted was to hide her huge wealth. The intervention with ministries, departments, and ministers was extensive, and governments colluded in maintaining secrecy. A second report “How Queen’s consent raises questions over UK democracy” asks how these interventions challenge Britain’s democracy.

Obviously, things aren’t exactly the same in Thailand, but the two stories have important resonances.





Thanathorn’s defiance brings more charges

7 02 2021

Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit showed up at a Criminal Court hearing on Thursday “support[ing] his petition asking the court to rescind its order to remove, from social media, his comment criticizing the government’s vaccine procurement plan, via Siam Bioscience…”.

He’s not backing down:

Before attending the hearing today, Thanathorn insisted that, since the monarchy is a part of Thai society, it is the right of Thai people to comment about the institution, so long as such comments are made in good faith, with no ill intention toward the institution and are for the good of society.

As a result, rabid royalists and the regime are piling on charges.

The mad monarchists at Warong Dechgitvigrom’s personal party/pressure (small) group Thai Pakdee brought another lese majeste complaint against Thanathorn. Warong claimed “Thanathorn was dragging the monarchy into his criticism of the vaccine deals between Thailand and British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca…”. Warong reckons that Thanathorn is “trying to manipulate the facts…. Don’t forget that this is a deal between AstraZeneca and the government. But he [Thanathorn] tries to link it to the monarchy.”

In fact, the regime’s “defense” has been that the deal is between AstraZeneca and the king’s company. But Warong gets plenty wrong.

Interestingly, the regime’s handing of the vaccine deal to the king continues to get it in vaccine trouble. It is left out in Southeast Asia and globally by its rejection of the Covax arrangement, “co-led by Geneva-based vaccine alliance Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation, to accelerate the development and manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccines…”, and which provides allocations of vaccines.

The regime has decided to bring even more charges against Thanathorn while also going after his family.

Like previous politicians who have been seen as anti-monarchy, Thanathorn’s life is to be made difficult, strewn with claims, accusations, and charges.





Music video recalls the disappeared

7 02 2021

Prachatai is where we saw this video, posted to YouTube on 3 February. คนที่คุณก็รู้ว่าใคร (You know who) by วงสามัญชน is a re-arranged version of an earlier song from 2020 “by the Commoner Band, a music band promoting democracy, human rights and state welfare through music.”

The video includes “photos and footage of the victims of enforced disappearances from 2016 until the very present in 2020. All of them either fled Thailand after the 2014 coup or from criminal charges that followed their criticisms of the government and the monarchy,” including photos of the body bags like those when the bodies of Kraidej Luelert, or Kasalong, and Chatchan Bupphawan, or Phuchana, self-exiled political activists who were kidnapped, brutally murdered and thrown in the Mekong River.

It also includes photos of the real body bags, the disappeared, their families, and remembrances and demonstrations.

Making it clear who “You Know Who” is, the video also shows “Sarinthip Siriwan, a famous actress who mysteriously disappeared in 1987.” It has long been rumored that the then crown prince had her disappeared.

 





Further updated: The company they keep

6 02 2021

Readers might have noticed that the Bangkok Post had a story about police arresting Sia Po Po-arnon – aka Apirak Chatharnon and Apirak Anon- described as “a net idol, former celebrity boxer, former House adviser on gambling…“. He was taken in on “charges of organising online gambling.”

At his house, it is reported that “police also arrested his follower, Pacharapol Chansawang, and 25 Myanmar workers, and seized a gun and 11 bullets for examination.”

We don’t usually follow “celebrity” news, but this one got our attention because of his links to the regime and royalism.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

It was in August last year that “a House working group on whether to legalise online gambling invited … [Sia Po] to participate in its deliberations as an adviser.” At the same time, Palang Prachachat appointed “another possible [sic] gambling tycoon Pol Lt-Colonel Santhana Prayoonrat to advise the task force…”.

As we recall it, it was a regime party that issued the invitation for Sia Po. It came from “Palang Pracharat Party MP Arun Sawasdee” who wanted advice the committee because Sia Po had “earned a name for himself for being a successful gambler in international casinos.”

The international gambler said: “I will accept the position of adviser, but will not get into politics” before saying he didn’t accept it. With such vagaries, who knows what was really going on. What we do know is that the military’s party was inviting gangsters to advise them.

What kind of dark influence is Sia Po and how does he fit in with the great and the “good”? We only searched the Bangkok Post and came up with plenty.

The first report we found was from early 2018, when he was arrested at the home of Wiphakorn Sukpimai when he claimed he “answered a distress call from her…”. He said his arrest was a set-up as she had “lent him more than 50 million baht in a gambling venture and now want[ed] the money back…”. Describing him as a “celebrity boxer and social media personality,” he was said to be armed.

He seems to have been engaged in some kind of standover operation and was in dispute with the equally shady Wanchalerm Yubamrung also over gambling money. Sia Po and Wanchalerm are Thonburi gangsters.

Not long after, Wiphakorn “posted images of her former lover, Sia Po …, taking drugs. She added she was helping police with inquiries into claims that Sia Po and his ‘gang’ liked to give unwitting victims drugs, film them secretly, and blackmail them.” Sia Po later admitted that the images were of him, but claimed he was in Cambodia at the time.

The next time we see him in the press is as a leader of a vigilante group and behaving very much like a mafia gangster, “demanding 24 men detained there for Sunday’s intrusion at Mathayomwatsing School apologise for disrupting the university entrance exams.” He led a gang of “about 100 supporters,” declaring that the “men who raided the secondary school had defied the law. He and other people from Bangkok’s Thon Buri area decided to visit the men and warn them about their behaviour.”

In another pro-law-and-order stunt, in late 2019, Sia Po was associated with a “100 million baht cash handout to flood victims in the Northeast, money he claims was raised from unnamed casinos across the border.” He posted images of himself “unpacking bundles of used 1,000 baht notes ready to hand out to flood victims.” Some said he was “trying to rehabilitate his image” after the drugs, standover, money laundering, and gambling events described above. He was supported by arch-royalist Bin Bunluerit.

Somehow or other, the next time we see him, SIa Po is promoting a skincare product and then complaining that “fraudsters on the net are impersonating his name in the venture and siphoning off customer’s money.” They must have been either brave fraudsters, willing to risk the wrath of the Sia Po gang, or in cahoots with him in scamming the public. But, the plot thickened. He trotted off to the police saying “11 customers had been deceived with total losses of about 10,000 baht.” Really? And he offered a reward 10 times that amount. Fishy? You bet.

Then, in May 2020, we find Sia Po at odds with Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s supporters. A couple of weeks later, described as “well known as a donor to worthy causes,” he’s blaming “a falling out with a politician for his latest troubles with the law, after police told him he is facing money laundering charges stemming from an online gambling case.” He grumbled that the unnamed politician had “tampered with a picture online to make it look as if I was bad-mouthing the monarchy, and took an old clip of me encouraging Thais to gamble and spread it about the net to defame me further…”. In tru godfather style, Sia Po said “he was confident his case doesn’t qualify as money laundering.” He “explained: “It’s true that I gamble across the border, but Thai law doesn’t apply there and I don’t bring the money back.”

Soon after, Sia Po “was arrested after he turned himself in to police for questioning about a wild shootout in Bangkok in which two men were wounded.” He went to the police station at 3am, with “Santhana Prayoonra, a former deputy superintendent of Special Branch Police.” It is standard practise for influential persons to get influential police or military figures to attend police stations with them – it is about pressuring smaller people.

It is stated that Santhana:

was sacked from the police force for serious disciplinary violations and stripped of his rank, effective Oct 31, 2002, and his royal decorations were recalled. The announcement was published in the Royal Gazette on Oct 30, 2018, as reported by Thai media.

The report states Sia Po: “was accused of shooting and wounding two men in front of Saree Sauna&Spa shop on Ratchaphreuk Road in Bang Wa area, Phasicharoen district, on Tuesday night.” This happened as rival gangs met. Sia Po told police:

… he was a regular customer at the massage shop. He was there with three friends. His brother Khemmathat had made an appointment with two rival men, identified only as Tang and Tua, to meet at a liquor store on the same road, not far from the massage shop.

The talks broke down and afterwards Mr Khemmathat and about 10 friends came to meet him at the massage shop….

A shootout ensued, apparently involving more than 200 gang members and scores of shots fired. Of course, Sia Po claimed he was unarmed. Even so, police “arrested him on charges of colluding in attempted murder, illegal possession of a firearm, carrying it in public and firing shots.” Two men were taken to hospital, one shot in the mouth and another shot in the backside.

He was released on bail, with Santhana acting as “guarantor.” It is stated: “The Thon Buri Criminal Court granted him temporary release on bail with a surety of 350,000 baht. No conditions were set for his release.”

Royalists together

Not long after, Sia Po “found himself an unwitting accomplice after a disgraced senior policeman accused a well-known rescue worker of helping himself to public funds.”

It all revolved around a royal donation/self promotion scam campaign: “Sia Po had offered to donate money to a royal fund-raising project at Siriraj Hospital after he was contacted by Bin Binluerit … asking if he would like to help…. In return for his cash, the hospital, which is raising funds for a building in honour of King Rama IX, would issue pink T-shirts with the royal insignia for Thais to wear.”

It is all way too complicated – the royal association makes for weird reporting – but it seems Sia Po said he would stump up “20 million baht to help Thais wanting to turn out to see His Majesty.” We assume the live king, not the dead one. It also seems that the company supplying the shirts for Siriraj had produced hundreds of thousands and was not shifting them. Not by coincidence, the businessman behind the Siriraj scheme was reportedly the owner of the factory pumping out the shirts. So big buyers were needed to shift the royal shirts (not an unusual practice). Sia Po was to take 300,000.

But the whole scam scheme came undone when “Sia Po was arrested for the shooting outside the Saree Sauna&Spa shop…”. When he was bailed, his:

guarantor was his friend Santhana … who was to play a role in the hospital funds drama…. In May 2018 he was also charged with extorting money from vendors at Don Muang New Market. Sia Po found that with the legal case pending he could no longer transfer funds….

Reportedly, as happens in gang wars, Santhana began to lean on Bin. Using his connections in the police, and said to be accompanied by Sia Po, “Santhana … asked police to look into Bin’s role in the fund-raising effort.” As expected in a corrupt set of arrangements involving police, the dismissed Santhana:

… saw the newly appointed national police chief, Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, on Dec 9, and … followed that up with a visit to the Crime Suppression Division where he sought to lay charges against Bin of attempted fraud, asking for donations without consent, Computer Act offences, and making false claims on behalf of the monarchy.

The Post account added “a new twist to a strange affair” with Sia Po and Santhana suddenly donating “2 million baht to Siriraj Hospital’s fund-raising campaign, along with 20,000 pink T-shirts to be distributed to the public.”

Still described as a “net idol and former celebrity boxer,” Sia Po then took up his role as “adviser” to a “working group of the House select committee on law, justice and human rights, which is mulling changes to the gambling law,” pitching for legalized online gambling. With a straight face, Sia Po explained that his role was not political: “I don’t want to mess with politics. I want to protect my honesty…”. The honest crook’s role was explained:

Arun Sawasdee, Songkhla MP from the Palang Pracharath Party, who sits on the panel, said MPs wanted to know if online gambling could be controlled better.

Members invited Sia Po, who faces charges of money laundering and enticing Thais to gamble online, and is well known for his ties to casinos across the border, to speak to MPs, because of his “knowledge” in this area.

Guess who else was invited to provide information to the panel: “They also invited another city identity with a colourful past, former deputy superintendent of the Special Branch Police Santhana Prayoonrat, to testify.” What a surprise!

This is not an unusual situation. What is unusual is the level of reporting. We have only scratched the surface in one English-language newspaper. It tells us how deeply-rooted corruption is within this regime. We do not say that similar situations were not evident in earlier regimes, but this story well and truly shows the links between regime, police and criminals (dark influences). Put this together with a regime party that has deputy ministers who are convicted heroin traffickers and political quislings and you see that the whole structure is rotten to the roots.

And the rottenness infects everything right up and into the palace. Older readers will recall that Prince Vajiralongkorn had to repeatedly deny his involvement with crime figures.

Update 1: A reader asked for a source for Vajiralongkorn denying he was a mafia boss or associated with criminal gangs. Here’s a UPI report.

As we finished the above post, another gambling report came out in the Bangkok Post. This report concludes with this:

The CIB chief made it clear this police action had nothing to do with the arrest of Siapo Po-arnon, a professed gambler who advised a House panel on the possible legalisation of online gambling.

Siapo, real name Apirak  Chat-anon, 29, was arrested at his house on Phetkasem Road in Phasicharoen district of Bangkok on Thursday morning. He allegedly operated an online gambling website.

Maybe. It sure sounds like a scam he’d be associated with and the arrest sounds very similar to Sia Po’s own arrest a few days earlier. Perhaps it is just the police cleaning out competition for their own scams? Who knows, this is murky and getting murkier. There are interesting elements to the report. One is that the information is coming from Pol Lt Gen Torsak Sukvimol, the CIB chief.

Last time we saw his rank, Torsak was deputy head of the CIB. Now he’s reported as boss. Of course, he’s also head of the king’s “Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King’s Guard 904.” He’s also reported to be the “younger brother of the King’s highly trusted Air Chief Marshal Sathitpong Sukwimol (secretary to the Crown Prince, Director-General of the Crown Property Bureau and the Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau).”

Torsak stated that the operation had “more than one billion baht in bets in circulation…”.

Update 2: It is reported that, following his arrest last week, Sia Po remains in jail, denied bail. It also reports that his mother is being sought by police for involvement in his schemes and scams. While all of this is interesting and reflective of the deep-rooted corruption among the elite in Thailand, we can’t help wondering about royal involvement. This feels somewhat like earlier purges of powerful criminals following falling out at the top. No evidence, just observing a feeling we have.





Looking at 112

4 02 2021

In a quite useful article on lese majeste, Bloombergdiscusses the multiplication of lese majeste cases in recent months.

Academic Tyrell Haberkorn is quoted:

If the authorities ran through Twitter and Facebook, they could find thousands of people who could be charged…. Part of why the government hasn’t arrested all of the youth protesters is that someone somewhere in the state apparatus realizes that that will bring a really loud outcry.

Political activist Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, facing several charges is also quoted:

For 40 years of my life, I’ve never been charged — I’ve never been prosecuted, not even one case…. But since I started politics, there are countless cases against me…. It’s because we challenge the status quo, we challenge the establishment.

The only quibble we have with the article is its statistics:

We checked the historical data. The data we have indicate prosecutions rising from an average of about 4 per year before the 2006 coup to about 105 cases per year under the Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s military dictatorship in 2014-16, before reducing in 2017-18:

  • 1984-2000: 67 lese majeste prosecutions resulting in 56 convictions (83.6%), with an average of 4.19 cases prosecuted per year.
  • 2001-2005: 14 cases prosecuted and 13 convictions (85.7%), and an average of 2.8 cases prosecuted per year.
  • Between the 2006 coup and 2013: 295 cases prosecuted, with an average of 36.9 cases prosecuted per year.
  • 2014-2016, 316 cases were prosecuted, with an average of 105.3 cases prosecuted per year.

The data in Bloomberg’s graph looks roughly right after that. No point in underplaying the sharp increase under the military junta. After all, the purpose then was roughly the same as it is now: political repression.