Seals and frogs

30 05 2021

If one believes the palace and regime propaganda, Princess Sirivannavari is a multi-talented phenomenon rarely seen in Thailand or anywhere else in the world. Everything she fancies and tries her hand at, she’s just fantastically brilliant.

Of course, this kind of buffalo manure has also been showered on other royals, not least King Bhumibol. But, probably reflective of her “special” relationship to her father, this woman gets more propaganda manure than most.

The Bangkok Post carries yet another story that polishes this royal posterior. It tells us that the:

Royal Thai Navy has presented a navy Seals insignia to Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya for providing special lectures to naval academy students and initiating a project to conserve coral reefs and marine life in Thai waters.

A Navy spokesman, Admiral Chettha Chaipiem, said “the princess was a special guest lecturer for a course on diving for the conservation of coral reefs and marine life in Thailand.”

As indicated in this picture, she’s also credited with having “helped train naval academy students in scuba diving sessions.”

Of course, this is all royal backside burnishing. The Navy has divers far more skilled than a part-time, tourist diver like the princess. When she goes diving, she stays at luxury resorts, used luxury yachts, and uses the Navy to shut down all other activities in her area so she can have everything for herself and a coterie of pampered friends. Her renowned selfishness extended to demanding that an island be renamed for her. She’s never been shy about flaunting royal power or royal wealth.

But, over the years, we have come to see that Sirivannavari relishes the propaganda caress. After all, not only does she see herself as exceptionally beautiful, but she seems to accept the propaganda that she is exceptional at everything she tries.

After topping her class at Chulalongkorn University, the sycophantic Thai media claims she’s a talented designer, with her own Paris shows and has her own fashion brand. She was once a member of Thailand’s national badminton team and, just like her grandfather, received a gold medal at the SEA Games in 2007, despite the fact that she normally played on a secondary circuit. And she is also said to be an international class equestrian. And, for a while she was a diplomat.

Only the gullible and the royalist butt burnishers believe this propaganda.





Fake military

25 12 2020

The Bangkok Post tells us that the “Royal Thai Armed Forces (RTARF) is preparing a three-year operation plan for safeguarding the country’s sovereignty and national interests.”

This “plan” is said to have been “unveiled after a meeting between Chief of Defence Forces Gen Chalermpol Srisawasdi and leaders of the three armed forces and the national police chief…”. We guess they could have just chatted in the Senate as all of them have nominated seats there, to defend Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime.

Fake military

The operations plan is said to be “in accordance with the national strategic plan…”.

So what does it cover? No prizes for  guessing that this ridiculous military “plan” has little to do with anything recognizably military.

The Royal Thai Army babbles about recruitment while continuing to conscript slaves young men from poor families to “serve” the brass.

The Royal Thai Air Force will “enhance cyber technology and prepare its personnel to deal with space security.” In fact, the main activities of the RTAF is transporting VIPs, including taxpayer sponging royals. Getting the right on-board loo seems far more important than territorial defence.

The Royal Thai Navy is more interested in royals than anything else. It “plans to promote Sat Phra Racha Su Kan Phatthana Yang Yangyuen (The King’s Knowledge for Sustainable Development) among its personnel and the general public by setting up learning centres at 10 naval units across the country, including Bangkok, Chon Buri, Phangnga and Trat.”

In Thailand, the words “professional” and “military” cannot be used in the same sentence. In many ways, Thailand’s military is a fake military, focused on monarchy, politics, internal repression, ceremony and corrupt money-making.





Updates on subs, Sineenat, Kra, Boss and students

2 09 2020

Usually PPT updates its posts by adding to the original post. However, there are a number of updates for various posts over some time, so we thought we’d update them all in a single post.

Submarines: The Chinese submarine purchases might be delayed following the public outcry, but the Royal Thai Army is going ahead with more purchases. That’s if the bumbling – he got India’s flag wrong – and tone deaf Chutintorn Sam Gongsakdi, Ambassador of Thailand to India, is to be believed. He’s gone public in a big way, declaring that “Thailand’s Royal Thai Army is in the process of placing an order for 600 military trucks with Tata Motors.” He’s saying that over 600 TATA LPTA military trucks will be purchased for Thailand. No prices are provided, but a military trucks are usually purchased with spare parts, so we may assume that this is quite a significant amount of money being spent.

Sineenat: Both the New York Post and the Daily Mail reports on the former royal concubine who the king has had returned from a Thai prison to his harem in Germany. The Post’s headline is notable: “Thai king frees jailed concubine to join ‘sex soldier’ harem amid pandemic.”

Both stories build on a Bild story that produced a picture of the king – the “playboy monarch – greeting his concubine at the plane: “On Saturday morning, the king himself is said to have picked her up wearing his customary tank top at Munich Airport.” It is reported that the “king and his entourage then drove straight to the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl in the German resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen…”.

The BBC reports that all of her honors and awards have now been reinstated by the king.

Kra IthmusBloomberg reports that the regime has kicked the “land bridge” back onto the policy agenda. It is no surprise at all that a Chidchob is promoting the huge project with its potentially mammoth commissions. Transport Minister Saksiam Chidchob reckons that the Malacca Strait “has become quite congested…” said in an interview with Bloomberg News last week. Yet it is probably no more congested now than it was in recent years and there have been measures to improve separation. The proposal is for “two deep seaports on either side of the country’s southern coasts, and link them via highway and rail…”. Some reports are that the move away from a canal is another “major shock to China.”

If there can’t be a canal, then other money makers are available. Not exactly a new idea. And, as Wikipedia puts it,

there the construction of a land bridge across the isthmus was started in 1993. A superhighway was built that crosses the isthmus, but as the location of the harbours at either end were undetermined, Highway 44—the only finished part of the project—does not end at the sea. The highway’s two lanes were built 150 m apart to leave space for railroad tracks and eventually also a pipeline.

The other Boss: The Bangkok Post reports that there was massive “negligence in the handling of the 2012 hit-and-run case involving Red Bull scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya.” There was also massive corruption. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was quick to buffalo manure his explanation of this, blaming individuals and “saying it was not the entire justice system that failed in the handling of this case.”

Actually, the justice system has worked as it is meant to: double standards and privileges for the rich and powerful.

Warning the kids: Various warnings directed at student activists continue to urge them to be “nicer” and more “conciliatory.” There are also warnings that they must remain non-violent. In fact, it is the the state, the military and the rightists who are the main perpetrators of violence and haranguing the students suggests a failure to understand this basic fact of Thailand’s political life. When, like the linked op-ed, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are cited as examples, then we wonder if the author has read much about the latter’s support for violent revolution and the former’s acknowledgement of violence.





Updated: Sub standard

23 08 2020

As many will know, more Chinese submarines are on the way for the Royal Thai Navy even when the economy is in deep trouble.

Coalition MPs sparked a public outcry on Friday by voting to purchase two more submarines as the economy sinks under the impact of Covid-19.

The subcommittee for procurement, ICT, state enterprises and revolving funds, which is vetting the annual budget bill for 2021, voted 5:4 on Friday to spend Bt22.5 billion on two more submarines.

It adds that this is part of a “planned purchase” approved by the “military-backed government of [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha to buy three subs from China. The first submarine was purchased in 2017 and will be delivered in 2024.”

Social media lit up.

The resulting social media storm has pushed the Navy to respond, trying to refute Puea Thai Party allegations:

An informed RTN source said Sunday that a clarification is necessary, because the opposition Pheu Thai party has given misleading information about the 22.5 billion baht acquisition.

The Pheu Thai party claims that the procurement contract, which was signed by then Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Luechai Rootdit, is not a government-to-government agreement and is invalid because it was not signed by the Thai Defence Minister, who is also the Prime Minister, representing the Thai Government, said the source.

It added that the Navy:

will also explain the strategic need for Thailand to have the submarines and that it does need extra taxpayers’ money, but will use only the budget, as allocated by the Government, to procure the submarines, while postponing its plan to procure surface ships and aircraft.

That will be interesting.

Update: And “interesting” it was. The Bangkok Post reports that the best Navy chief of staff Adm Sittiporn Maskasem could come up with was the statement that “the navy needed more submarines as part of its defence strategy…”. He also listed other countries in the region that had submarines, all of them ASEAN allies. It isn’t clear how allies are threatening, except that the Navy may feel it needs to keep up with its friends and neighbors, a bit like buying a new car after the neighbors display their new Benz. The Post does not mention that the Navy used a Nation TV “poll” to claim it has public support. Of course, Nation TV “polls” are nothing more than a user-pays call to its rightist viewers to support the Navy.

That recent claim that senior military appointees must be “intelligent, ethical, dedicated and loyal to the monarchy” is demonstrated to be a lie. The Navy chief is shown to be a dolt, and is hardly likely to be ethical or diligent, but may well be “loyal.”





Say no more

22 05 2020

The Bangkok Post reports:

The navy will sign a contract next month with BBS Joint Venture to build the 290-billion-baht Eastern Airport City Project at U-tapao airport which is one of five megaprojects under the government’s infrastructure development in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC)….

The BBS consortium, which comprises Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction, Bangkok Airways and BTS Group Holdings, offered the best return to the state at 305 billion baht under a 50-year contract.

It never ceases to amaze us at PPT that the military can engage in such business deals with barely a critical word from the media. But, hey, this is royalist Thailand under military domination.

And then there’s Sino-Thai Engineering, which has the following at its corporate website:

Wikipedia has a profile of Minister Anutin, leader of the Bhum Jai Thai Party, a key partner in the ruling coalition. Bhum Jai Thai is a party formed by Anutin’s family in alliance with Buriram’s “influential” Chidchob family. The Ministry of Transport is headed by Saksayam Chidchob, Secretary-General of Bhum Jai Thai.

Monty Python gets it right:





Military business

18 02 2020

There’s quite a lot of useful discussion of military business following the Korat shootings.

The Bangkok Post has a story on the remarkably – almost unbelievably – quick transfer of a range of land and business holdings to the Treasury:

The army has struck a deal with the Finance Ministry’s Treasury Department on the management of its commercial welfare projects and its commercial use of state land to ensure transparency and regulation compliance.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on Monday will pave the way for the transfer of state land and commercial businesses to the Finance Ministry and allow most of their revenue to go into state coffers.

Among the assets under the MoU were more than 100 petrol stations, retail shops, flea markets, boxing stadiums, golf courses, horse racing tracks and hotels — located on army land leased to it by the Treasury Department.

The Treasury Department is also expected to step in to tackle problems of encroachment on 700,000 rai of army land by the public. The illegal occupants will be allowed to continue to use the property but be required to pay rent under a three-year contract.

This is all a bit too startling to believe, not least because all other reports have been that money would continue to flow to the Army. And the, in the same report, we read:

army chief-of-staff Gen Teerawat Boonyawat said the MoU paves the way for the discussions about how these commercial entities will be managed going forward.

We hope some investigative journalists are watching and tallying this exercise.

Meanwhile, Prachatai has two excellent reports on the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project. As one of the two headlines has it, “No coup, no project.”

While there’s a lot that’s wrong with the EEC, one element of it has been the land grabbing by the military and the conversion of military facilities into commercial ventures.

Much more needs to be known about the role of the military in the EEC.

And then there’s the Bangkok Post comment about Deputy Dictator PM Gen Prawit Wongsuwan:

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, … has turned a gigantic army welfare housing into the Office of the Five Provinces Bordering Forest Preservation Foundation under his long-standing chairmanship. The 75-year-old deputy prime minister defiantly disputed claims that he resides there, saying he is only using it as the foundation’s office. Is this correct? Or is Gen Prawit enjoying undeserved privileges? The army has to clarify this, too.

The military only seems to be revealing what it feels it needs to in a PR exercise. There needs to be independent oversight of exactly what’s going on.





Very (North) Korea-like

9 01 2019

It may be just us at PPT, but we feel there’s been a considerable uptick in royal propaganda in recent weeks. Perhaps it has to do with the cool season and the fact that royals seem to mainly be in-country and getting out. Or perhaps it is in tandem with the standoff over “election” timing.

PPT has tended to ignore most of this palace propaganda. As we have posted previously, much of it feels like a 1970s refrain: “Meet the new king, Same as the old king” kind of stuff. But the new king uses image and manufactured aura of the old king to his advantage, and as it is done, it continues mantras that seem cut from the North Korean cult of personality playbook.

The latest “report” is perhaps appropriately (North) Korean in that it is about the Navy and Korean vessels.

Remarkably, a serious newspaper actually parrots Family Kim-style propaganda in declaring it was “a day of overwhelming joy for the navy when Government House informed them early this month that two new ships were named by His Majesty the King in remembrance of the late King Bhumibol.”

The captain of the newly-named HTMS Bhumibol Adulyadej blubbered: “We were all overwhelmed. We never thought the vessel would be given a name that means so much…”. The ship, he said, was the “pride of the Royal Thai Navy.”

Like so many non-thinking royalists, the captain declared: “The name has been given by His Majesty the King and it means so much to the Thai people.” How does he know? He’s had it drummed into him from birth.

The fine print is that the new frigate had another name, selected by the Navy, but that’s now ditched. Of course, as many old salts know, changing the name of a vessel brings bad luck. We assume the Navy will perform all kinds of superstitious ceremonies to ward off the bad luck.





When the military is on top XXVIII

5 10 2018

The junta and the Army have inserted themselves into a land dispute. that goes back years and decades.

In the middle of a public meeting and seminar, discussing “unjust land expropriations within three Eastern Economic Corridor provinces,” [that’s the junta’s big plan] being held at Tambon Yothaka, local affected people, land rights activists and the Thai Society of Environmental Journalists found their meeting invaded by “military personnel from Infantry Division 11, high-ranking officers of Chachoengsao Provincial Internal Security Operation Command (Isoc) and the NCPO.” That’s the junta.

The Army “had notified local people beforehand,” but as the troops descended, the “seminar was suddenly paused and then taken over by the commander of Infantry Division 11 and the NCPO representative in Chachoengsao, Maj-General Worayuth Kaewwiboonphan, along with the deputy director of Chachoengsao Isoc, Maj-General Panit Siriphala.”

The land dispute is between between the residents of Tambon Yothaka in Chachoengsao’s Bang Nam Priew district and the state and military.

Explaining the intervention, Maj-Gen Worayuth said the troops were deployed “to broker a peaceful resolution to the conflict over 4,000 rai of land in four villages in Tambon Yothaka between the members of old communities and the rightful land owner, the Royal Thai Navy (RTN).”

Maj-Gen Worayuth went on to “explain” that there was no “land-grabbing … by wealthy investors for industrial expansion within the EEC provinces” but an effort by the Navy to use the land. He said the Navy agreed to rent lad to the farmers once they gave it back.

He pointed out that despite the Navy having secured the rights to revoke rental agreements on the disputed land, the NCPO and the Army had negotiated with the Navy that the affected tenants be allowed to continue leasing 300 rai of land. He therefore “asked” locals “to refrain from arranging public gatherings and organising protests over the … issue.” Most especially, they should not rally in Bangkok.

Apparently, the Navy purchased 4000 rai of land back about 1948 and people have used it ever since. It isn’t clear in the report who paid for the land back then.

Locals rejected Maj-Gen Worayuth’s call and demanded that the Navy negotiate with them. They have been ordered to vacate the land.

This is how Thailand “works” under a military dictatorship.





More privy councilors

2 10 2018

The king can have up to 18 privy councilors. Until today we think he had 13, mostly former military men and former judges. He now has three more, each with junta connections.

The Bangkok Post reports that a “former cabinet secretary and the former commanders of the army and the air force who retired on Sunday have been appointed privy councillors, effective immediately.”

The Royal Gazette announced that “Ampon Kittiampon, a former cabinet secretary, Gen Chalermchai Sitthisad, former commander of the Royal Thai Army, and ACM Johm Rungswang, former commander of the Royal Thai Air Force, have been appointed privy councillors.”

Ampon “was adviser to Gen Prayut before the appointment.” Gen Chalermchai “was secretary-general of the National Council for Peace and Order and the 40th army commander.” ACM Johm is a “classmate of Gen Chalermchai, was the 24th air force commander and board member of Thai Airways International.”

The links between the Privy Council and the junta are further strengthened.





An interfering monarchy II

13 07 2018

Just over a week ago PPT commented on the cave rescue and the king’s self-selected role.

We noted that the king had ordered – a “royal order” – that “cave search-and-rescue training will be introduced to the curriculum of all branches of the armed forces…”. That was announced by The Dictator. The report cited went on to say that the king was “[w]eighing in on how the nation’s armed forces should be trained…”, and ordered that “the skills and knowledge used to rescue 12 boys and their football coach be incorporated into their training…”.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha immediately did as decreed, declaring: “[We] can adapt the rescue plan into diving and swimming lessons for the special operation forces in the future.”

We asked what business does the king have in “decreeing” how the military should be training? We also asked how many similar emergencies are there likely to be in the next few decades?

But in royalist Thailand, he who must be obeyed gets what he wants. Naval Special Warfare Command chief Rear Admiral Apakorn Yukongkaew has stated that “[s]kills unfamiliar to Thai Navy Seals but key to the successful rescue” of the kids and their coach in the cave “will be added to the training regimen of the Navy’s elite unit to better prepare them for unexpected situations.” He says that the operation prompted thinking “about arming themselves with the skills needed to navigate flooded, dark and murky passageways.”

We doubt that. This is coming from up high. When Rear Admiral Apakorn was asked “to name a priority for his Seal unit after returning from the cave rescue mission” he states that “Seals need cave-diving training…”.

To be honest, this is a bizarre response that only makes “sense” in the context of the royal command. And that makes very little sense.

Perhaps there’s also some nationalism at work when it is reported that the Navy team “handled the risks and pressure at Tham Luang well, but they still needed to be guided by world-renowned cave divers who also joined the rescue operations.” Nationalism is dangerous in such circumstances and the administration’s quick action in calling in experienced cave divers from all over the world was exactly the right thing to do.

We think the BBC gets it right too when it asks and answers:

Could the Thais have done this on their own?

No, and few countries could. Cave diving is a very specialised skill, and expert cave rescuers are even rarer.

Thailand was fortunate that an experienced caver Vern Unsworth has explored the Tham Luang cave complex extensively, and lives nearby.

He was on the scene the day after the boys disappeared, and suggested that the Thai government needed to invite expert divers from other countries to help.

The Thai navy divers who went down initially struggled, because both their experience and equipment were for sea diving, which is very different. They were driven out of the caves by rapidly rising flood water, and finding the boys seemed a hopeless cause.

Once foreign divers arrived, from many different countries, the Thai authorities allowed them to devise first the search, and then the enormously complex rescue. It was a huge logistical operation involving hundreds of people, building guide rope and pulley systems, putting in power and communication cables.

It is to Thailand’s credit that it was organised so well, and there was no attempt to diminish the foreign contribution.

So when a king who wasn’t at the scene and has no experience in caves or rescue operations provides daft advice, he should be ignored, not blindly followed. Monarchs need to be kept in their legal and constitutional place.