Reaction to the NACC’s Prawit decision II

29 12 2018

The Nation reports “widespread criticism after the [National Anti-Corruption Commission] commissioners decided to drop charges against [Gen] Prawit [Wongsuwan]’s controversial collection of 22 luxury watches…”.

A Bangkok Post editorial states the NACC ruling “is unconvincing and dubious due to its weak rationale behind the decision and and its half-baked probe into the case.” It adds that “given its half-hearted commitment to pursue the case in the first place, the public has reason to suspect that the intention was to let the deputy prime minister and defence minister off the hook easily.”

Interestingly, the Post points to a similar case where an official was convicted:

In 2011, when it probed former transport permanent secretary Supoj Saplom’s possession of an undeclared asset, a 2.9-million-baht car, which he claimed belonged to a friend, the NACC ruled against him, saying such high-value lending was not possible. It also ruled that Supoj was guilty because he was the one who actually used the car, even though the registration papers stated that his friend was the owner….

Conveniently for Gen Prawit and the military junta, the NACC now seems to have reversed itself and it now says that holding and using watches worth millions is okay.

Other reactions:

Anti-corruption activist Srisuwan Junya … issued a statement … alleging malfeasance on the part of the five commissioners who had found Prawit innocent and declared he had gathered 20,000 signatures to get them sacked.

Activist Veera Somkwamkid said … he will file [a] lawsuit against the NACC for letting Prawit walk free.

Meanwhile, Puea Thai Party deputy spokesman Wattanarak Suranatyut asked if others face a similar situation do they now just say the valuable item is “borrowed” from a “friend“?

The Democrat Party’s Charnchai Issarasenarak said “the NACC appeared to have found an excuse for General Prawit, instead of finding facts regarding the controversial collection.” He added: “The NACC was incapable of finding facts about the 25 watches. This is a disgrace for the agency and could end up being a catastrophe for it…”. Worse for the NACC, Charnchai”accused the NACC of lying to the public by claiming it could not find out who had bought these watches.”

In another Bangkok Post report, Khattiyaa Sawasidipol, deputy spokesperson of Thai Raksa Chart, said “the NACC’s resolution would allow people suspected of assets concealment to cite being on loan as an excuse.”

In The Nation’s report, the NACC is reported as “defending” its decision. NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon insisted its decision was “based on evidence shown in the case file…”.

That is about as weak as it can get. However, it matters little for the puppet NACC. It does as it is told and then returns to its protective shell – the military junta.

Reaction to the NACC’s Prawit decision I

28 12 2018

The Bangkok Post has a story reporting negative reaction to the National Anti-Corruption Commission decision to clear Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. It states the NACC:

found itself in the hot seat after it cleared Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon of wrongdoing in the luxury watch scandal, ruling by a majority vote that he did not make a false asset declaration.

It cites Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, who said:

the NACC failed to show transparency in investigating the case. It did not say what the charges were and initially declared Gen Prawit did not evade asset declaration. It was only after reporters asked whether he could be violating the law about accepting a gift of over 3,000 baht that the NACC said it was another issue.

… He also questioned the investigation process and conclusions of the NACC. “We can ask whether the laws contained loopholes for the asset declaration requirement. In that case, the laws need to be amended,” he said, adding that he wanted to see the individual verdict report of the five NACC members who cleared Gen Prawit of wrongdoing, and the three members who only said there was not enough evidence.

“In the justice procedure, the defendants can say anything but it depends on whether police seek to find the truth or not. Likewise, today we have to look into how the NACC works. But for the defendant, society has judged him already,” Mr Mana said.

The ruling was denounced by activist Thicha Nanakorn. She referred to: “This unscrupulous act by the NACC and the political office-holder will go down in history…”.

There’s more on the NACC “investigation.” On the diamond rings the NACC seems to have considered “some were considered lucky charms.” What does that mean? No value?

The NACC reckons it “sought information from various sources including local dealers of luxury brand watches, the Customs Department, the Foreign Ministry, and from overseas luxury watch manufacturers.” Why and about what is not clear.

An interesting aspect of this report is that while the NACC only located 20 watches, it apparently found scant evidence of the dead business tycoon having purchased the watches:

The investigators found Mr Patthawat bought one from a dealer overseas and two from other people. The NACC could not find purchase documents for the remaining watches and with dealers overseas refusing to give information the agency could not verify the origin of the rest.

This is why the NACC could only assume that the watches actually belonged  to the businessman. That assumption led to NACC concluded “he lent the 21 watches to Gen Prawit.”

Quite an “investigation.”

Updated: NACC supports Prawit

28 12 2018

Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has been found to have no case to answer for his luxury watches and jewelry collection.

This outcome was exactly as expected. No one considered, even for a moment, that the National Anti-Corruption Commission would find against their boss’s boss. No one expected that the NACC would depart from its track record of finding nothing corrupt about the military junta.

Fittingly, it was only yesterday that the Bangkok Post ran an editorial headlined “Who trusts the NACC?” It asks this after Japanese courts found former executives of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems guilty of bribing Thai officials in February 2015. The Post complains that the work of the Japanese justice system:

is a sharp contrast to other investigations in Thailand. Probes into several corruption cases that involved Thai authorities do not seem to be going anywhere, which speaks volumes about the graft agency’s limited ability to detect irregularities or foul play.

Of course, a large number of cases that go to the NACC, especially over the past decade or so of political turmoil have seen a politicized NACC. The great, rich and good (defined by their yellow hue) get lenient treatment while opponents are often rapidly found to have been “corrupt.”

The Post editorial also mentions cases that have gone from quiet to missing. One is the Rolls Royce corruption case, which has disappeared.

Almost a year ago, PPT reminded readers not to forget several things from 2017. This list included:

Corruption. The junta seized power and campaigned against corruption it identified with “politicians.” Yet it was its own corruption that was a theme of 2017. Any number of corruption allegations against the junta and even longer-standing corruption have all been covered up in a cloud of silence. While General Prawit Wongsuwan’s unusual watch collection will continue to cover up in 2018, other cases have disappeared (Rolls Royce, insider trading with Sino-Thai tycoons, military purchases, nepotism, and much more). The junta’s cover ups are likely to deepen in 2018.

The Post editorial also mentioned the notorious luxury watches case:

But what has really made the public lose trust in the graftbusting [sic.] agency is the way it has dragged its feet in the luxury watch controversy involving Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.

The controversy erupted in December 2017 when the so-called “big brother” of the military was spotted wearing an expensive Richard Mille watch that he had failed to declare in his assets list. Gen Prawit was later found to have donned over 20 flashy time pieces including brands such as Rolex and Patek Philippe over the years. The findings were not from the NACC but from the work of active netizens using a cloud-sourcing technique. Not one of the watches had been declared to the NACC. Instead, the agency extended various deadlines for the embattled DPM to file documents supporting his claim they had been borrowed from a friend.

Giving the Deputy Dictator more than a year to get his luxury watches story sorted out was a great help to the NACC.

It allowed it to conclude that the General “had no intention of making a false assets declaration by omitting 22 luxury watches he had been seen wearing.” Which is a strange conclusion as determining intent is not really what was bothersome. Rather it was his possession of luxury watches and jewelry that was not declared.

The NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon revealed that the agency had given Prawit four chances to “explain” his possession of the watches, with him eventually claimed he had “borrowed” the watches from a rich and conveniently dead Patthawat Suksriwong.

The NACC found that the Deputy Dictator had now “returned them all.” Even if that is true, it hardly seems surprising that Prawit would have done this over more than a year. After all, his story depended on it.

Apparently one watch was missing from the “returned” watches, but the NACC “assumed that Gen Prawit had also borrowed it from Patthawat, given Patthawat’s mentioned generosity to his friends…”. So where is it? The NACC seems to have just ignored this.

We should add that the report is somewhat garbled on numbers of watches, referring to 20, 21 and 22 watches. If it is the NACC that has the numbers wrong when only going to two digits, we doubt it could ever deal with millions and billions.

The super-sleuths at the NACC discovered that “Patthawat had been a rich businessman and collected luxury watches.”

More interestingly, it also found that this very rich businessman “had often offered financial help and lent luxury watches to old friends from Saint Gabriel’s College, including Gen Prawit…”.

How’s that work? How much did Gen Prawit get from the businessman, in addition to 21 or 22 watches “on loan”? When did he get loans? How much? Did he pay interest? Was he in the businessman’s pocket?

The NACC concluded that as “20 luxury watches and a warranty for another watch” were at the dead businessman’s former residence, then “it believed that Gen Prawit had borrowed the 21 watches.”

How thick do they think the Thai public is? Next week the watches could be at Prawit’s residence….

Three of the eight NACC commissioners voted against the decision to clear Prawit, wanting the “NACC to expand its investigation into the matter because they felt the existing information was insufficient…”.

It was, but the whole process seems to have been designed to allow a very reluctant Deputy Dictator to get his story straight and to then get the “evidence” in the right place.

We assume the military junta is pleased that Gen Prawit will remain available to manage the massive military and security force that is deployed to campaign for the devil parties and to disadvantage other parties in the junta’s rigged election.

Update: The Nation has more on the 20-21-22 watches counting problem mentioned above. It reports that “NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon yesterday told a press conference that the agency had found 21 of the 22 watches in question had belonged to Patawat.” That’s not quite true or if it is suggests fudging, as only 20 were located at the rich man’s house. The 21st watch was not found, but a warranty card was found, and that was apparently sufficient for the NACC. “That left one watch whose ownership could not be confirmed, but the NACC believed it may also have belonged to Patawat…”.

The question now would seem to be what kind of “investigation” did the NACC conduct? As far as we can tell, they had written “evidence” from Gen Prawit denying accusations he fudged his assets declaration and some of the watches back where Gen Prawit said they came from, after more than 12 months. Perhaps there’s more, but the NACC seems to have maintained its reputation as an ineffective and politicized puppet agency.

Watching the NACC

26 12 2018

The only surprising thing in a Thai PBS report on the National Anti-Corruption Commission’s “investigation” of Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s luxury watches is that its “secretary-general Worawit Sookboon was on Wednesday evening booed by a large group of reporters who were disappointed by his refusal to discuss the controversial issue…”. That was at 6.30 pm.

He “told the reporters who had been waiting at the NACC head office since 9 am that the board had not discussed the issue yet and would discuss it tomorrow morning…”.

The delay – one of hundreds – was allegedly because “a member of the board, Pol Gen Sathaporn Laothong, was sick but he would be able to attend the meeting tomorrow.”

So, sometime on Thursday, we should have a report from the NACC on its “investigation.”

NACC missing in inaction

21 12 2018

The National Anti-Corruption Commission is a politicized and partisan organization. Meant to be an independent agency, it is a tool of the military junta and other anti-democrats.

The Bangkok Post reports that a legal pressure group has pushed the NACC “to speed up probes into irregularities in police station construction projects, saying the anti-graft agency would be held to account if they failed to do so.”

“Speed up” is a euphemism for “do something!”

The case referred to is the “construction of 396 police stations in question, worth 6.67 billion baht, was part of a project endorsed by cabinet members during the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration.” Of course, this (non)investigation by the NACC involves then “deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban was accused of not having consulted fellow ministers regarding changes made later to the project. He allegedly granted PCC Development & Construction the right to be the sole contractor, which was accused of abandoning the project later.” THe question is, who pocketed the money. No prizes for guessing.

So, exactly how long has the NACC been (not) investigating? The report states the “NACC in 2013 set up a panel to determine whether Mr Suthep had breached Section 157 of the Criminal Code by committing misconduct or dereliction of duty regarding his handling of the project.”

Sometime in some junta-inspired fairy tale, the NACC said it would wrap up “the case by the end of this year.” They have another 10 days.

We wonder if the (non)investigation of Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s dead man’s watches is going on for another four years? We guess that if the junta pulls of its stolen election, four years would be just about enough for another junta-led government to see out its term.

But there’s a twist to Suthep’s (non)investigation. Just a few days ago, completely out of the blue and following two acquittals, Tharit Pengdit, formerly of the Department of Special Investigation, changed a plea to guilty in a defamation suit against him by Suthep, lodged in 2013.How’s that work? Who threatened Tharit?

We can only marvel at how the “justice system” works so well for the great and the good, implementing double standards and protecting big shots in business, politics and the civil and military bureaucracies.

The junta just adores such pliable non-independence.

Further updated: No law for the junta’s party I

21 12 2018

The junta’s main devil party, Palang Pracharath, held a big bash for “supporters” to give it hundreds of millions of baht. The Nation reports that the fund-raising bash “featured 200 banquet tables and was aimed at raising around Bt600 million for the pro-junta party.” In fact, the party’s deputy leader Nattapol Teepsuwan said the “actual take was nearly Bt650 million, against an outlay of Bt3 million.”

The whole event had a dubious legal status, but as we know, law doesn’t bother the military junta and its acolytes.

As pointed out by two other party hierarchies, even holding the event seems illegal. Puea Thai’s Phumtham Wechayachai pointed out that his party cannot “organise a fundraising event in that fashion because the organic law governing political parties does not permit fundraising [until] after a royal decree announcing the election takes effect.” He noted that the decree is not expected until 2 January.

Phumtham suggested that the Election Commission and the National Anti-Corruption Commission “investigate the feast following reports that government officials and political office holders contributed to the campaign.”

His position was supported by Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva who “called on the PPRP [Palang Pracharath] to disclose the names of its supporters at the fundraising banquet for the sake of transparency and in compliance with the law.” He observed that “people who donate 100,000 baht or more to a campaign are legally required to disclose their identities. Those who paid for the tables [at the Palang Pracharath shindig] are considered to be the party’s financial contributors.”

One of the legal questions relates to “how Cabinet ministers and civil servants were able to afford seats at an extravagant fundraising dinner run by the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party on Wednesday.” Well, maybe not how they could afford tables but where the money came from. In addition, the “law on political parties prohibits state agencies from giving them donations of any kind or participating in their activities.”

The devil party and the junta needs to “explain” how tables that cost Bt3 million each “were reserved in the names of the Finance Ministry and state agencies including the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).” Twenty tables were reserved for the Finance Ministry (60 million baht) and three for TAT (9 million baht), meaning that just these two state agencies poured 69 million baht into the junta’s political party.

Finance permanent secretary Prasong Poonthanet “insisted yesterday that no state funds had been expended.” He did not explain how the Ministry had and paid for 20 tables.

In addition, “[f]our tables, worth a combined Bt12 million, were reserved in the name of Phalang Pracharat secretary-general Sonthirat Sonthijirawong, who is commerce minister in the military-led government.”

Reacting to this obvious breach of rules, “activist Veera Somkwamkid said yesterday the National Anti-Corruption Commission should determine how many active civil servants attended the fund-raiser and how they obtained tickets.” He added to the legal mire by pointing out that if civil servants had seats given to them, “they should be scrutinised for illegally receiving a gift worth more than Bt3,000. And if they paid for themselves, they should be scrutinised for being ‘unusually rich’…”.

Because this is the junta’s party and enjoys reflected impunity and because the EC and NACC are essentially puppets of the junta, we would be surprised if they did anything much at all.

Update 1: For more information on who reserved tables at 3 million baht a pop, see the Thai-language ISRA News site. It lists names and numbers of tables. One important omission from the above news stories is the Bangkok Administration with 10 table (30 million baht). Naturally enough, the governor of Bangkok is a junta appointee and other senior members of that administration are deep yellow junta supporters.

Update 2: The Nation reports that the TAT has said it is “impossible” that “it spent Bt9 million on banquet tables at a fundraising dinner for pro-junta party Phalang Pracharat.” TAT director Yuthasak Supakorn declared his “agency had nothing to do with the dinner” adding that he “might take legal action against those reporting the false news for defaming the agency.” A Palang Pracharath official concurred and “rejected the report that the finance ministry and TAT had made donations and joined the fundraising dinner on Wednesday.” He added that “the fundraising process was transparent and the party would disclose the names of the donors in a couple of weeks.” We are pleased that’s sorted out then. Or that it will be fudged “in a couple of weeks.”

Corruption park back in the news

17 12 2018

Rajabhakti Park or Corruption Park, the military’s giant and expensive posterior polish for “great kings” was in the news before the funeral of the last king.

One of the last times that the park was in the news was when the Bangkok Post reminded the military junta and its readers that the “funeral occurred in the midst of political questions which now will return to the fore.” At that time, the Post said that several of these “questions” are “urgent.” It listed these:

These include the running scandal of Rajabhakti Park‘s improvement plan. The Prachuap Khiri Khan site of the massive statues of the seven great kings has been under a cloud from its inception. The latest controversy is a two-part “improvement”. These consist of what seem to be the most expensive 52 toilets ever installed at a government-supported facility, and five shops. These will cost yet another 16 million baht in “donations” — a word which has become synonymous with “scandal”. In countering the allegations about massive overspending, army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad said the military is ready to disclose full financial details about the project which was investigated once by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). He should realise the public anticipates getting the details.

We don’t recall the puppet NACC doing anything at all to seriously investigate anything at all related to the junta. The  NACC is as reliable as the Election Commission in maintaining its uncritical support of the military dictatorship.

It took a while and, as usual, required a few brave anti-junta activists to resurrect it, but as Khaosod reports,

Sirawith “Ja New” Seritiwat of the New Democracy Movement and 13 other anti-junta activists have been “intercepted Sunday while traveling to the army’s historical park in Prachuap Khiri Khan, which was engulfed in corruption scandals.”

They were twice blocked by official junta thugs – police and soldiers – on their way from Bangkok to the Rajabhakti Park.

Local police and soldiers openly admitted that the junta had ordered them to harass and prevent “a political movement … [from] heading to the park…”.

The report notes that the park “features gigantic statues of seven former Thai kings” and that its construction had “irregularities in its funding – including unusually expensive materials and shady commissions.”

The last time the activists wanted to get to the park was in 2015, when they were also prevented from reaching it.

Nothing changes much when it comes to the corrupt military junta, even when it has “lifted” political restrictions. That was a pretend “lifting.”