Wealth, power and the corruption of justice

10 07 2021

With all of the virus stuff going on, we are a bit late getting to this post. However, as it concerns the seemingly never-ending saga of corruption and double standards in the judicial system, it merits a late post.

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post reported that all members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) have been ordered to “sit on a newly formed panel that is tasked with investigating 15 senior police officers, prosecutors and investigators who mishandled the 2012 hit-and-run case involving Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidh­ya, the Red Bull scion who has managed to escape prosecution so far.”

Apparently, after almost 10 years, the case is officially considered “high profile.” We guess that for all of the previous nine years the case has involved the high profile but that the judicial system was doing its well-paid best to do deals to get Boss off.

Vorayuth Red Bull

An AFP photo clipped from ChannelNews Asia

NACC chairman Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit has also decided, after all these years,”that the investigation must be wrapped up in a timely fashion…”. Right. But, then: “As required under Section 48 of the National Anti-Corruption Act, the NACC must conclude the probe within two years. It will be allowed by law to extend the investigation for another year at most, if more time is needed…”. So that could be 2024…. Timely… not.

The report reminds readers that there are “currently two other committees probing the issue.” We figure that “probing” is an over-statement.

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post states that this NACC “investigation” is “welcome news.” It notes the damage the case’s cover-up has done to the judicial system: “The anti-graft body would do a great service to the justice system and country at large with a swift investigation. It should also make sure to avoid all the mistakes by other agencies that performed at snail’s pace over the past nine years.”

Well, maybe. Of course, the NACC has generally been hopeless on almost all the cases sent to it, “investigating” with double standards and political affiliation always in mind. The rest of the judicial system has been equally biased and corrupt to boot.

The wheeling and dealing has been huge. Even before the NACC commissioners got to “work,” it seems that “one member, Suchart Trakulkasemsuk, withdrew from the panel.” Why? Because as a member of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly “he had been a member of NLA’s subcommittee on justice and had received a petition from Vorayuth’s family…”.

It turns out that the fabulously wealthy and immensely powerful Yoovidhya family were “allowed 14 appeal attempts … which is unprecedented.”

The Post concludes with the obvious: “the suggested three-year period seems far too long, taking into account the fact the case had dragged on for nearly a decade.”





An NACC surprise

10 06 2021

After more than six years, PPT has been surprised that the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has finally acted on an clear breach of the assets disclosure rules by The Dictator’s brother and currently appointed senator, Gen Preecha Chan-ocha.

The Bangkok Post recently reported that the NACC commissioners voted 9-0 to ask Gen Preecha “to acknowledge charges of concealing assets belonging to himself and his wife.” Indeed, “Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, the NACC deputy secretary-general, told Isra [N]ews Agency the NACC was in the process of laying charges against the accused.”

Following that, Gen Preecha is expected to “give further statements to the commission before the case is concluded. After that the case will be submitted to the commissioners who will decide whether to forward it to prosecutors.”

This case goes back to 2014, when Gen Preecha was appointed to the military junta’s National Legislative Assembly. Then he was said to have “falsely declaring his assets and liabilities…”.  According to this report:

corrupt-preecha

Clean hands?

The alleged false declaration has to do with Gen Preecha’s failure to include his house in Phitsanulok and a bank account belonging to his wife, Pongpuan, in the couple’s asset list.

Gen Preecha claims to have “explained everything to the commission in January and February and would let the law run its course…. He insisted that he filed his assets and liabilities properly.”

PPT’s first post on Preecha and his assets declaration is from October 2014, when he declared assets of almost 80 million baht, but already there were errors in his declaration. As he does now, back then the Assistant army chief Preecha “defended his declaration of wealth … saying everything can be explained.” His explanations then were bizarre and entirely unlikely.

About a year later, with Preecha now Defence Ministry permanent secretary, an “investigation” by the NACC was reported and seemed to have to do with his declared assets. When and if there really was an investigation was unclear, but the NACC declared Gen Preecha squeaky clean, even praising his “honesty.”

The NACC secretary-general was reported as revealing that the general and his wife held 10 bank accounts and all were included in the file the general submitted although he stumbled over the details and admitted that the general had filled out the form strangely.

Since then there’s been plenty of reporting about alleged nepotism and family corruption, not to mention Gen Preecha collecting taxpayer-funded allowances and salary for not doing his appointed job.

We can but wonder why the case against Gen Preecha has suddenly re-emerged and why it has taken so long. Can the NACC really have turned? Is this all about intra-coalition bickering?





Red Bull wealth and the missing

28 11 2020

Remember the recent media kerfuffle over the cover-up over the hit-and-run case involving Red Bull scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya? The big investigation confirmed what everyone in Thailand already knew: the police and justice system were doing all they could to ease things for the filthy rich Yoovidhya clan. The investigating panel found eight groups of individuals, including police, public prosecutors, members of the junta-installed National Legislative Assembly and other politicians, conspired and committed malpractice that resulted in the dropping of all charges against Vorayuth. Lawyers and witnesses gave false testimony. That’s how the judicial system works for the rich. This is the double standards that are normalized.

None of this has harmed the family.

The Guardian reports that “Red Bull has paid out more than €550m (£493m) to its founders, including the [Yoovidhya] family…”.

The company “has paid €211.4m in annual dividends to the family of Chaleo Yoovidhya, the drink’s inventor, who died in 2012” and €343m to Dietrich Mateschitz, Austria’s richest, who helped make the drink an international phenomenon.

The company “is registered in Austria as Red Bull GmbH” and “sold a record 7.5bn cans of Red Bull last year – almost one for each person on the planet.”

According to the report, “Mateschitz stills owns 49% of the company, while another 49% is shared by 11 members of Chaleo Yoovidhya’s family. The final 2% is owned outright by Chaleo’s eldest son, Chalerm.”

All that wealth was no doubt “useful” in getting the now failed cover-up in place. It probably also keeps Vorayuth living the high life wherever he is. Readers may have noticed that the trail has again gone cold, the regime is silent and the police are apparently ignoring the crime and the “investigation.”





Updated: Who paid?

9 09 2020

A Bangkok Post editorial claims “[t]he public was left stunned last week when the results were unveiled by Mr Vicha [Mahakun], a former national graftbuster” that investigated the “mishandling in the hit-and-run case involving Red Bull scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya…”.

Frankly, we think that no one was stunned by the revelations but perhaps some were stunned that an investigation got close to the truth. Everyone in Thailand knew that the police and justice system were doing all they could to ease things for the filthy rich Yoovidhya clan.

That the investigating panel immediately found “eight groups of individuals who conspired and committed malpractice that resulted in the dropping of all charges against Mr Vorayuth…” confirmed what everyone had guessed.

That both police and public prosecutors were identified was no surprise but perhaps the accusation that “members of the junta-installed National Legislative Assembly and politicians of intervening in the investigation” are also identified might have been something of a surprise.

Then there were the expected conclusions that “lawyers and witnesses [gave] … false testimony…”.

It was, as most knew, “a conspiracy” for the rich extending over eight years. This is how the judicial system works for the rich. This is the double standards that are normalized.

The editorial hints at ongoing cover-ups: the panel cleared the prosecutor who finally dropped the charges. It was only after a public outcry that anything was done to reverse the downward spiral that favored a scion of the richest.

The next and most obvious question is: who paid and/or rewarded these officials to act in the interests of the rich? Will we ever learn the truth? Will those offering the payoffs be charged?

Update: Khaosod reports on leaked conversations between police and the public prosecutor. Published by Isra News, the phone conversation “discussed ways to amend the speed Vorayuth … Yoovidhya was driving when he … killed the policeman.”The classic bit:

“I kindly ask the commander since the prosecutor office wants to help. We want them to feel relieved. They intend to help as much as they can, so I want to ask you frankly.”





Updated: Prawit, the rich and the death of a “witness”

31 07 2020

The Bangkok Post reports on the social media storm around The Watchman, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who is the head of the Palang Pracharath Party, a coup plotter and a corrupt old soldier.

Prawit has been forced to deny “that his family had influence over the decision to drop the manslaughter charge against Red Bull scion Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya…”.

Various reports have claimed that:

Gen Prawit’s brother, Admiral Sitthawat, was chairman of the now-dissolved National Legislative Assembly (NLA) committee when Mr Vorayuth’s lawyer, Samak, petitioned it to have the charge dropped.

The reports said the committee later asked prosecutors to send Vorayuth’s case file back to the police to reconsider his indictments, citing new witnesses. The move effectively killed the case against the young heir.

Gen Prawit’s denials were unconvincing and the view that the regime’s bosses have been involved is unlikely to be reduced.

This is especially the case when one of the “new” witnesses who the police and prosecutors have claimed to have provided “evidence” for dropping the charges against Vorayuth has been killed in a traffic accident. With echos of the Saudi gems scandal, which had a huge body count. Describing it as a “normal accident,” may not cut the mustard with a skeptical public.

Update: It just gets “better” and more “hilarious.” According to the Bangkok Post, Bangkok’s cops are now claiming “that illicit chemical substances, including cocaine, found in Red Bull scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya in the 2012 hit-and-run case were used for his dental treatment…”. They claimed that “a dentist confirmed he had administered medicines which had cocaine as a component for dental treatment.” Let us guess. It was the family dentist….

The garrulous cops were speaking before a parliamentary committee and had nothing at all to support this claim: “the police did not provide clear details and had no medical documents to prove that chemical substances found in Mr Vorayuth’s body were the result of dental treatment…”.

Just for fun, we looked briefly at cocaine in dentistry. We found a scientific article, “Cocaine in dental Surgery” in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). That was from 1885. There’s a Drugs.com entry that says, “Although cocaine is an acceptable topical anesthetic for dental procedures, it is no longer extensively used in dentistry because of its toxicity.” At Dental Economics there’s a history of local anesthesia and the use of cocaine in dentistry. It states:

Cocaine was abandoned because of inconsistency in efficacy, and it was difficult to obtain.

In 1905, Procaine (Novocaine) was introduced. To this was added Epinephrine, which reduced the dissipation of the drug. The “caines” developed subsequent to cocaine have no relationship to cocaine other than an etymological and pharmacological one in that they cause anesthesia.





The rich win again

9 01 2020

PPT’s collective memory chugged into action after we read a headline at the Bangkok Post. Wichit Chantanusornsiri’s op-ed carried the title “Rich get richer, poor get the picture.” We had a vague notion that we’d heard that phrase before, and a bit of searching reminded us that it is a song by the Australian band Midnight Oil. The band has been activist, especially on environmental and indigenous issues.

Naturally enough, we were also reminded of the news about Australia’s bush fires. But it isn’t just Australia that is struggling with climate change and its impacts.

In Bangkok, as a result of severe drought and much reduced water flows in rivers, residents are facing increasingly salty tap water as sea water intrudes further up the low-flow river systems. Meanwhile, “rice fields there are already withering and the government has now banned farmers [north of Bangkok] who are growing off-season crops from using water from the Chao Phraya and Pasak rivers from Jan 20.” And then there’s the pollution: “Bangkok on Wednesday recorded the world’s third worst air quality on Air Visual, a popular app monitoring pollution, while City Hall is on high alert for a predicted rise in PM2.5 levels until the end of this week.”

But Wichit’s not talking about the environment. Rather, he’s interested in the new land and building tax law. The new tax is mainly meant to impact the “super rich people who have owned land in amounts so vast that they would have to spend a good part of their life if they wanted to walk around every plot of their land.” This is essentially the first new tax in Thailand since 1992.

Wichit points out that:

the now-dissolved National Legislative Assembly (NLA), appointed by the now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order [the military junta], … passed the new property tax law, [and] watered down the rates recommended by the Finance Ministry and instead set more lenient applicable rates for the new tax regime that will mainly affect the rich (many of whom have served in parliament).

He explains:

In effect, this law will make the rich pay less than what they should do if the ministry’s proposed rates were adopted. For example, the NLA increased the appraisal value ceiling set on residential land and buildings, defined as principal homes, eligible for tax exemption to 50 million baht from the proposed ceiling of 20 million baht.

That means 99.96% of principal homeowners will enjoy such tax exemption because there are only about 10,000 people who own homes with an appraised value of more than 50 million baht.

While the op-ed loses focus, the point that the super rich have loopholes and got a better deal than they should have is clear enough. Of course, rewarding the rich in this way is standard practice for Thailand. The rich are indeed getting richer. We can’t imagine the king being asked for his full tax dues…. Meanwhile, the average Thai struggles on relatively low salaries, with little saving, a rudimentary welfare system and a rapidly deteriorating environment of choking air and water like fish sauce.

Midnight Oil’s lyrics do seem highly relevant, covering class, environment, war:





Denying constitutionalism, affirming neo-feudalism I

21 08 2019

“Modern” Thailand is looking increasingly like a neo-feudal kingdom. We know that the moniker “Kingdom” has become increasingly common as a kind of affirmation that Thailand has a monarchy. but that has usually meant a constitutional monarchy.

In the previous reign, the monarchy was steadily moved to a position of greater ideological, economic and political power and influence. In the current reign, which began under the military junta, more changes have been made that have further empowered the monarchy, including land grabs, new laws and constitutional changes.

Many of these changes have been enshrined in laws made in secret session by the junta’s appointed and puppet National Legislative Assembly. Others have a dubious legal basis in palace announcements (which the Constitutional Court has interpreted, in one case, as law).

Neo-feudalism enshrined

There’s also been the secretive destruction of symbols of the 1932 revolution. Such historical vandalism has been rightly interpreted as “announcements” of neo-feudalism.

The most recent “announcement” of neo-feudalism was Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s “solemn declaration before the King” legally meant to be made under Section 161 of the junta’s constitution. That section states:

Before taking office, a Minister must make a solemn declaration before the King in the following words: “I, (name of the declarer), do solemnly declare that I will be loyal to the King and will faithfully perform my duties in the interests of the country and of the people. I will also uphold and observe the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand in every respect.”

As everyone knows, Gen Prayuth read a different declaration:

I, (name of the declarer), do solemnly declare that I will be loyal to the King and will faithfully perform my duties in the interests of the country and of the people. I will also uphold and observe the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand in every respect.

Just for interest, a (random) look at other constitutions – here, the 1974 version – showed no difference in the required oath:

As far as we are aware, that oath has never previously been denied (at least when constitutions have been in place).

So, despite denials, this oath to the king rather than (also) to the constitution, is highly significant.

It is also clear that, if they can get away with it, Gen Prayuth and his regime (and the palace) are seeking to make the discussion of the unconstitutional oath go away, with no rectification and no winding back of this act of embedding neo-feudalism.

The Bangkok Post reports an opposition demanded parliamentary debate on the neo-feudal oath “will likely occur next month…”. This announcement came from the government’s Deputy Parliament President Supachai Phosu. It is said that it is “up to Parliament President [and member of the government coalition] Chuan Leekpai to fix a date for the debate, which will proceed without a vote.”

Whether it happens is open to debate. What is clear is that the parliament’s bosses are trying to delay and quieten things so that Gen Prayuth, his regime and the palace can get away with unconstitutional actions and the further embedding of neo-feudalism.

Meanwhile Gen Prayuth said “he is too preoccupied with work to explain” his actions.

Gen Prayuth made his oath ashe and the king intended. They seem confident that they can break the most basic law. As it was under the junta, Thailand remains essentially under a lawless regime.





Updated: Cheats cheating I

12 06 2019

As everyone knows, Thailand remains a military dictatorship and no government has yet been formed to replace it. Indeed, in a recent ranking, Thailand was determined as “unfree,” ranking between absolute monarchy Brunei and troubled countries with Zimbabwe and Iraq. The “unfreedom” will continue, with dozens of junta orders being converted into laws that will apply into the future, backing a backward constitution that permitted a rigged election.

That rigging has been a vast and expensive project that could, if unchecked, allow the odious cheat Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to remain as prime minister for another eight year as the unelected Senate he selected will vote again in four years if Thailand has another election.

The selection of the Senate has been a closely-held secret for months simply because of the thoroughgoing cheating it involved. Because the junta has gotten away with a coup, political repression, corruption, a fake constitutional referendum, a rigged and stolen election and more, it figures nothing can derail it now, so it has released some details of its cheating.

In the selection of The Dictator as premier, we know that every single unelected puppet senator voted for their boss (the Senate president abstained, but would have voted for his longtime boss if necessary).

We now also know that the “reserve list” of 50 senators, “publicized in the Royal Gazette, include Election Commission sec-gen Jarungvith Phumma, foreign minister Don Pramudwinai, former deputy governor of Bangkok Pol. Lt. Gen. Amnuay Nimmano, and former member of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly Prapan Koonme.”

The listing of the EC’s secretary-general indicates how just how flawed the EC is, run by junta puppets and automatons. Rigging an election requires a cheating EC. Having delivered the junta its “victory,” this puppet secretary-general will likely get his reward.

More cheating is confirmed by junta legal thug Wissanu Krea-ngam. It is reported that “[u]nder mounting pressure from transparency activists and political parties,” he has released “the identities of the selection committee who contributed to filling the 250-member junta-appointed senate.”

It should be surprising – but, then nothing is surprising any more – that:

Among the committee were six senators: former deputy PM Gen. Chatchai Sarikulya, former deputy PM Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, former deputy PM Thanasak Patimaprakorn, deputy junta head Adm. Narong Pipatanasai, former labor minister Pol. Gen. Adul Saengsingkaew, and former president of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly Pornpetch Wichitcholchai.

Wissanu has made unbelievable claims about the committee was “politically neutral” and that the secrecy about membership was to prevent “lobbying.” Of course, all the “lobbying” was actually the junta pulling all the strings.

He has also insisted – again unbelievable – that “members of the selection committee abstained from voting or attending the voting session if their name came up in the candidate roster,” while their brothers voted for them, saying “I can confirm that no member ever brought up their name in the selection process. Everything is on the record…”.

While we have no doubt that if he released “the record,” it would confirm his account. After all, the junta has scribes who can fabricate any record it likes. How Wissanu can say such things with a straight face is a measure of how low the junta – and Thailand – has sunk.

Now the cheating cheats have to ensure their continuing political domination for another eight years.

Update: The Bangkok Post has a few more details on the great Senate scam. The junta’s fixing panel that put the scam together had 10 members becoming nine when Pornpetch resigned. Six of them (see above) became members of the Senate they selected for the junta. The other four were Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Wissanu, Gen Anupong Paojinda, and deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak, all of whom are likely to be ministers in the “new” government. In other words, every one of the junta’s panel are now holding positions – or soon will be – in the junta’s “new” government as well as holding such positions under the junta. What can we say? The whole thing is a massive scam foisted on the nation by the junta. It seems there is no way of holding this bunch of election crooks accountable for any of their cheating.





On the road to nowhere (new)

24 05 2019

Is wasn’t hard to predict the final “election” result. PPT predicted a junta “win” a long time ago. The “win” was never in doubt as the whole process was rigged.

HRW’s Sunai Phasuk put it this way:

The March 24 general election was structurally rigged, enabling the military to extend its hold on power. While maintaining a host of repressive laws, the junta dissolved a main opposition party, took control of the national election commission, levied bogus criminal charges against opposition politicians and dissidents, and packed the Senate with generals and cronies who will have the power to determine the next prime minister, regardless of the election results.

What wasn’t clear is that the bumbling generals would be snookered by the electorate. Thai voters, despite all the rigging and repression still voted for anti-junta parties, with the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Puea Thai Party winning a plurality.

Despite this, the junta’s puppet party, Palang Pracharath, will head up a coalition of some 20 parties. While a great deal of bargaining has gone on, pro-military parties like Bhum Jai Thai and the anti-democrat Democrat Party were always likely to saddle-up with the junta – after all, they have supported it for years and worked for its coup back in 2014.

In a throwback to December 2008, when the military midwifed a government led by the Democrat Party’s Abhisit Vejjajiva, it is reported that there was:

a meeting between Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha], his deputy Prawit Wongsuwon, Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul and Democrat secretary-general Chalermchai Sri-on at a military camp in Bangkok…. They discussed coming together to set up a government with the PPRP as the main party, the sources said, adding that given the atmosphere of the meeting, the “deal” to form the next government is almost sealed.

The wheeling and dealing is over who gets what. Bhum Jai Thai wants a bunch of potentially lucrative cabinet slots that all seem focused on benefits for the Buriram clan. The Democrat Party wants anything at all that will allow it to look stronger than its horrid election result suggest.

Following the junta’s clear message, via the Election Commission and Constitutional Court, that it intends to grind the Future Forward Party into political dust, the deals were more easily struck, with most of the remora micro-parties and even the middle-sized parties rushing into the octopus-grasp of the junta.

How strong that grasp will be is yet to be tested. A 20-party coalition is a recipe for instability or for massive corruption in keeping it together. There’s also the “Prem model” who tried to ignore party and parliamentary bickering and ruled as a cabinet-led government. Like Gen Prem, Gen Prayuth has a tame Senate. In fact, the Senate looks rather like the puppet National Legislative Assembly of the past few years.

A weak coalition government with an autocratic premier suggests that The Dictator will require strong support from extra-parliamentary sources – the king and the military. Neither is likely to be maintained without cost and deals.

Back in the 1980s, the main threats and support for Gen Prem were extra-parliamentary, and despite the image of a period of stability, saw several coup attempts.





Keeping it junta

19 05 2019

As the junta’s Palang Pracharath party maneuvers stealthily toward establishing a “new” government there are several indications that very little is going to change.

We have already seen how the Senate has been packed with junta cronies, including relatives, generals and flunkies from the last junta-selected puppet National Legislative Assembly. Nepotism and cronyism were characteristics of the military dictatorship up until now. That’s only going to deepen and extend.

The senate

Part of the “negotiations” among junta-loving parties has to do with the allocation of cabinet slots. That’s because, as in the past, before the 1997 constitution, coalition governments were a grand buffet, with prime cabinet spots meaning a party could make cartloads of money to prepare for the next election or pay MPs to stay in line or both. That’s happening now.

As that happens, we read that The Dictator, who still hopes to be made premier by all his flunkies in the Senate, wants “the Defence and Interior ministries in the next government to ensure national progress…” to remain with junta figures. So it could well be that the aged watch-man Gen Prawit Wongsuwan remains in that post, to repress and sanction at will, and to use all the military’s resources to ensure the “new” government looks pretty much like the military dictatorship.

But don’t be surprised if its Gen Anupong Paojinda in that slot as the Deputy Dictator is struggling with health. If not defense, then Anupong probably stays at Interior where he’s been responsible for neutralizing the red shirts and helping out with election rigging.

And the repression, opacity and secretiveness of the regime is likely to continue.