Military business is always corrupt

19 09 2017

With virtually all of the various corruption complaints made since the military came to power through its illegal coup in 2014 having been dismissed, perhaps it is no surprise that the military is now using its taxpayer-funded facilities in money-making ventures.

Of course, some of this has been seen in the past, with military property used by state enterprises in the past, including for airports. The corruption that dogs Thai Airways and the Airports Authority are, in part, a result of the military connection.

Of course, as absolutely everyone knows, under the military dictatorship, the National Anti-Corruption Commission is not concerning itself with military corruption. The NACC does not want to be bothered by anyone other than Shinawatras and certainly doesn’t want to get in trouble with its political bosses.

But, really, is no one officially interested in the already rewarded submariners in the Navy constructing “a new ferry terminal at Chuk Samet deep-sea port in Sattahip, part of the infrastructure development for the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC)”?

Why on earth is the Navy investing taxpayer money for the development of “a port serving cruises, cargo vessels and ferries linking Pattaya, Chon Buri and Rayong with other destinations, including Koh Chang in Trat and Hua Hin district across the Gulf in Prachuap Khiri Khan province”?

The land is also state land, paid for by taxpayers.

The investment space “will have souvenir shops, a food court, ticket counters and boarding areas…. It one of 13 projects with total estimated cost of 2 billion baht to be undertaken by the navy under the EEC blueprint.”

Now we know why so many business suits are Navy blue. But, seriously, this sounds like a recipe for more military corruption.





The Dictator and the media means repression

3 05 2017

There’s been a spate of reporting saying the military dictatorship was prepared to “compromise” on the controversial media control bill.

For example, the Bangkok Post stated that “National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) Monday endorsed a controversial media bill after making changes to two controversial issues in an apparent attempt to ease pressure from the press and critics.”

The Post reported that the revisions meant the “contentious plan to license individual journalists was dropped. However, journalists would be required to obtain certificates from their respective media companies.” Whatever that means.

It also reported that “the much-criticised 15-member national media profession council, which would include permanent secretaries from the PM’s Office and Culture Ministry, state representatives will serve on it during the five-year transitional period.” Again, this could end up meaning whatever the junta wants it to mean.

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post responded to this move, basically saying the whole bill should be flushed down the nearest drain.

Thailand’s Chaplinesque Hynkel, The Great Dictator, known more widely as General Prayuth Chan-ocha, even prattled about having ” a forum to hear the views of members of the media on the controversial media bill…”. But this is window dressing. The Dictator stated: “”Don’t worry. All issues of concern will be jointly discussed. The bill has both positives and negatives…”. Whatever one thinks of this verbal manure, Prayuth wants control and limits on the media.

At the same time that he was babbling to the media, he was also criticizing the Navy for giving too much information to the media, claiming that “no other country has ever had to disclose this much information about military hardware procurement as Thailand just did.” This is just a lie. But the point is, Prayuth wants secrets kept so that his people can do what they want.

Then there’s the abduction of critics. No one may speak ill of the junta.

Bigger than this, though, is the desire to control the history that Thais know, not to mention the protection of a new palace regime of toadies and other supplicants in the service of a king who simply can’t be trusted.

We have speculated that the king is responsible for the removal of the 1932 commemorative plaque. So when the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) decided to hold a panel discussion on the stolen plaque, the dictatorship had a political heart attack.

The result was that on 3 May , the “FCCT announced on its Facebook page that it had received orders from the police to cancel [the] panel discussion…. The police advised that the order came from so-called ‘relevant officials’ who perceived the seminar as a threat to national security.”

The national security threat is presumably an admission that the king had the plaque stolen.

The FCCT went on to say that it “regrets to announce that the panel discussion ‘Memories of 1932: The Mystery of Thailand’s Missing Plaque’, … has been cancelled. The decision was made after the FCCT received a letter from the Lumpini Police asking for the event to be called off, after the police were contacted, they say, by ‘relevant officials’…”.

It added: “The FCCT has been given to understand that this cancellation is on the orders of the NCPO, and we have no choice but to comply.”

That’s the junta’s position: the media cannot be free because it and the palace has many secrets that may not be revealed to anyone, least of all the media. If anyone reports on these secrets, they risk years in jail or even the king’s private lock up.





Sub-optimal

2 05 2017

Despite much negative and regime weakening press and calls for its submarine deal to be scrapped, the Navy is really happy and thumbing its nose at the country.

The “Royal Thai Navy has said a new government can terminate the approved procurement of a Chinese-made submarine costing 13.5 billion baht, but it has to justify doing so as it will result in the loss of a 700-million-baht down payment by Thailand.”

Not only that, they have also said that the taxpayer can be screwed for more loot.

Navy Deputy Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Patchara Pumpiched “revealed” that the “deal to buy three Chinese submarines could cost more than Bt36 billion – the initial price given by the government – if the Navy believes it requires more advanced technology.”

He “explained” that there “might be additional costs if they [we assume he means the Chinese] enhance the capability of submarines in the future…”

“But,” said Vice Admiral Patchara, fear not for the navy is on the job…. He “revealed” that the navy will “also make sure that all equipment that we request in the agreement is obtained.”

What a good idea! Can we assume that it is usual for the military to not ensure it gets all the taxpayer paid for? GT200, Sky Dragon? On those deals they also got what they paid for: commissions and worthless crap.

The Vice Admiral was moved to declare: ““I don’t think any Defence Ministry or the Navy of any country would get a deal like we have…”.

Maybe. As far as we can tell, only two governments have purchased these subs, Thailand and Pakistan. The Thai purchase price does appear cheaper per sub, but the Pakistani deal includes building four of the vessels in Pakistan. Technology and  jobs are involved. But this is not a part of the Thailand deal and we doubt any of the commission jockeys even thought of it.

In fact, the Thailand “deal” apparently includes the Chinese “send[ing] staff to be stationed in Thailand for two years…”.

It was Navy chief of staff, Admiral Luechai Ruddit, who was also chairman of the navy’s submarine procurement panel who chuckled about having the next government over a 700 million baht barrel:

Adm Luechai admitted that the next government could revoke the contract, but before the new government is able to take office after an election expected in late next year, the down payment for the purchase of 700 million baht would have been paid.

Adm Luechai defended the purchase by “explaining” that Thailand doesn’t have submarines and others do. That brilliant piece of deductive reasoning was followed up with this:

“We want to have submarines so that we do not get tangled up in a war,” he said, adding that if the kingdom has submarines, other countries would hesitate to wage war on Thailand.

He seems to be eyeing those dastardly Malaysians and Singaporeans, both having submarines. Or maybe it is India an Pakistan as the navy claims to want to pen some of the submarines on the Andaman Sea side.

(It can’t be China he’s thinking of as they are supplying the subs…).

Or maybe it is the Americans. The Admiral babbled:

“As for those wondering if the [average] depth of 50 metres in the Gulf of Thailand really can accommodate a submarine, such a medium-sized vessel can easily navigate through the gulf as some from the US and its allies did several times during World War II in operations causing substantial damage to Thailand,” he said.

(If any reader has information on submarine attacks that caused “substantial damage to Thailand,” we’d be interested. We can find none. Perhaps the Admiral is confusing submarines with bombers?) For those interested in a similar Navy effort to get submarines, in 1934, this might be of use.

The deal is the Navy gets subs and the taxpayer gets slugged.





When the military is on top I

25 04 2017

The military on top means remarkable arrogance in the use and abuse of power.

The Bangkok Post reports the junta “has secretly approved the controversial procurement of a Chinese submarine costing 13.5 billion baht.”

Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Kongcheep Tantravanich stated: “… not all issues approved by the cabinet have to be conveyed to the press…”.

In fact, it isn’t entirely clear whether the decision was made by the junta’s cabinet or its Defense Council, both reported to have met around the time that the billions of baht were approved.

Kongcheep also gave an insight into the junta’s view of history, declaring that “60 years ago, Thailand had submarines so now the country is simply going to have them again.”

So conniving in the theft of an 80 year-old plaque commemorating constitutionalism would seem reasonable to this lot.

While on the Navy, PPT came across an interesting report at the website of the Thai Embassy in Washington, headlined “Navy investing in EEC ports, Phuket port expands.

It states that “The Royal Thai Navy is moving full steam ahead towards developing the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) with a nearly $60 million dollar investment in 13 projects including ferry ports…”. It goes on:

The Eastern Economic Corridor is a development zone that will showcase advances in Thailand’s economy and society and provide a home for higher-technology and green industries, research and development centers and more modern and environmentally friendly communities….

Developing the zone in and of itself should provide an important economic stimulus in terms of investment, both domestic and foreign, and through a robust building and construction program.

The Navy’s projects will include a business area covering five acres at Chuk Samet, Sattahip, along with two quays for ferries and cruise liners, a ferry terminal and multimodal transport links. The ferries will link the EEC with cities, towns, resorts and manufacturing centers along the … east coast on the Gulf of Thailand and the port will be expanded to handle cruise liners.

That investment is about 15% of a submarine.

It also shows how the Navy, like the Army and Air Force are businesses that deliver wealth to admirals, generals and air marshals, making them all unusually wealthy, at the taxpayers’ expense.

The arrogance of power is the source of corruption. But when there’s a military dictatorship, they can easily do these things. No transparency, no scrutiny.





Toys for boys

22 02 2017

PPT has been trying to find a “space” for this post for a few days. Now we have it.

An op-ed at the Bangkok Post comments on Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, who doubles as the Minister for Defense, and his confirmation that “the Royal Thai Navy will spend 13.5 billion baht for one Chinese-made submarine, delivery guaranteed in 2017.” Another 27 billion baht will be paid “for two additional subs have been approved in principle.”

The op-ed states that this is “a disappointing rejection of both public and expert opinion that opposes the long drawn-out plan to equip the navy with submarines on every conceivable ground imaginable.”

That’s about as strong a rejection as possible! It gets stronger, saying the junta’s justification for the sub purchase “should be grounds for immediate cancellation of the order.”

The reason given by the navy “has boiled down to a single reason: neighbouring countries have submarines. This justification is entirely unremarkable.” The author continues: “That other countries have submarines can have no real bearing on Thailand…. But there is no arms race in the region, no palpable threat of war — nothing to justify taking 40 billion baht from the public coffers to begin a brand new military branch.”

The op-ed then mentions other military purchases that have been farces: an aircraft carrier that carries no aircraft that can fly and the army’s dirigible, the ill-fated Sky Dragon that has never been operational and the GT200 magic wand that was said to be a “bomb detector” but was a fake.

No one has ever been held responsible for these (and myriad other) ridiculous purchases. Who got those commissions?

The author concludes:

It is becoming more difficult by the day to shake the thought that the coup of May 2014 was more about the coup-makers than the nation. The junta, the prime minister and every ministry has refused to engage the public on every decision — political, social and economic. The purchase of these costly boats for the navy are often derided as “toys for boys”. The lack of credible justification for the purchase of yet more non-strategic hardware makes that tough to refute.

That seems a reasonable conclusion about an unreasonable regime.





The sub money

10 10 2015

Long-time readers will know that PPT has, off and on, posted on the Navy commander’s desperation for commissions submarines.

A reader sent us the recent shenanigans:

Navy suspends submarine procurement 2 Oct 2015 | 09:58

The PAD preferred option on a used sub

The best option

Royal Thai Navy Commander-in-Chief Adm. Na Areenich disclosed that the suspension of submarine procurement was to allow the government to prioritize its economic concerns, especially problems faced by low-income earners.

That the economy is in trouble and that “consumption” of subs is unlikely to have any impact on the broader economy is reasonable. Certainly getting funds to the poor has impacts on broader consumption. Giving it to the already wealthy Navy commanders won’t help.

He also stated that the Navy had earlier proposed to buy three Chinese subs worth about 36 billion baht, “on the grounds that they can enhance Thailand’s defense capabilities.”

Royal Thai Navy will buy submarines 7 Oct 2015 | 07:39

Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan says the Royal Thai Navy’s project to buy submarines will not be stalled as it has been designed for the protection of Thailand’s natural resources.

Prawit changes tack. Take the money he says, because of the need to protect natural resources. Which resources are these? The few remaining trees? Gold mines? Potash mines? He claimed: “… it is important for the public to understand the importance of the protection of marine resources which are abundant in Thai waters.”

Marine resources? One definition of this is:

Under the broadest definition of the term, marine resources are the things that plants, animals and humans need for life that originate in the ocean. Different organisms derive different resources from the marine biome. Most organisms that require marine resources for survival live inside the marine ecosystem. However, some birds and land mammals also derive food from the ocean.

Fish. Nope, mostly gone for Thailand. That’s why slave-based fisheries are now mostly well away from Thailand, depleting the marine resources of others.

But go here, and scroll down a bit, and you see that some definitions include oil and gas. Given the royalist, yellow-shirt focus some years ago on Gulf of Thailand oil and gas resources, claiming Thaksin Shinawatra wanted them for personal gain, may suggest the need for subs to sink Cambodian any attempts to gain control.





Health and subs

6 07 2015

In a post a few days ago, PPT commented on The Dictator’s call for Thailand’s universal health care system to be “reformed.” His main claims were that it was too costly and that it was a populist policy, meaning it was Thaksinism.

Not surprisingly, Navy boss Admiral Kraisorn Chansuwanich said his lot had again decided to purchase submarines from China “through a government-to-government contract worth Bt36 billion and would propose for the purchase details to the Cabinet soon,” there were understandable comparisons between the alleged lack of funds for health but tons of money for military kit. Of course, the navy has been coming up with various schemes to get submarines for years.Beached sub

As a footnote to this story, it is reported that Prayuth advised that the “submarine proposal that had been planned for 10 years.” As our previous posts clearly show, he’s lying, as usual. Each time the proposal has come up, it has been rejected. There is no “plan,” other than to produce wondrous commissions.

The comparison between military greed and universal health care is so stark that self-appointed prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha “is attempting to shield himself from increasing criticism over the government’s plan to spend billions on the purchase of three submarines from China while dealing with a universal healthcare scheme running out of funds…”.

Prayuth said no “clear decision is yet to be made on either one,” and displayed his usual paternalism: “… do not link the healthcare scheme with the Navy’s plan to buy submarines. The government will consider the two matters with care…”. Trust me, I am The Dictator!

More threateningly, he used his usual claim of people behind those discussing the issue: “Do not make a mountain out of a mole hill or the ill-intentioned group may use it as a tool…”.

He probably means Puea Thai Party politician Watana Muangsook who wrote on this. “He said that Prayut[h]’s government would never do for the poor what it claimed it would, but would only benefit its cronies.” He added that the “government said it has no budget to help the farmer, but at the same time it has allocated more than Bt100 billion for the military officers who helped stage the coup last year…”.





General corruption

19 05 2015

PPT has been watching the Rohinga boat people reporting with considerable interest and concern. We were waiting to see how long it was going to take for the military to be mentioned. After all, there was the big story on this in Reuters and Phuketwan some time ago. The Navy sued.

If social media is any barometer, it is widely believed that the massive human trafficking that has been going on in the south for several years could not continue without military connivance (and profit).

We were interested to read that the police “investigating human trafficking rings smuggling boat people into southern Thailand believe a major general [from the Army] was involved.”

Unsurprisingly, the Army and The Dictator say “none of its officers are directly linked to the illegal activities.” The report says:

Evidence showing this unnamed military official’s possible involvement in Rohingya trafficking was found during a raid at a suspect’s home in Ranong’s Muang district last Wednesday, a security source revealed Monday.

The evidence included four receipts for money transfers to a bank account belonging to the major general and a document with the bank account and the major general’s name written on it, the same source said.

The trafficking of Rohingya and illegal migrant workers, from Ranong down to the southern border, has long been a very lucrative business because handsome bribes were paid to people in uniform, the source said….

“In this case, although police found evidence to prove the major general’s involvement in trafficking, no one dares do anything with this suspect. Of course, you know who is in power. So, who wouldn’t be afraid?” the source said.

An important observation.





Military corruption and politics

14 10 2014

When the story of three serving and retired naval officers being caught with millions of dollars of counterfeit U.S. banknotes in Cambodia, PPT didn’t have an opportunity to post about it. Now a longer and more detailed story at the Bangkok Post is available, we thought it warranted a brief comment.

As has become clear in recent days, the military brass in Thailand is riddled with corruption. Naval officers seem particularly adept at becoming “unusually wealthy,” as our clip from an earlier post indicates, there are at least four whales that need to explain their huge wealth.Navy

Of course, there may be no connection at all between whales and beached naval officers in Cambodia hauling around $7 million in counterfeit currency in cardboard boxes brought from Thailand.

Yet the U.S. Secret Service seems to think that “the huge bust points to a well-oiled and growing counterfeit operation in neighbouring Thailand, where identical notes had previously been seized.”

The navy has yet to comment in any detail.

We are reminded that the navy played a critical role in supporting and protecting the anti-democrats as they prepared the ground for a military coup. Prior to the coup in May, Naval Special Warfare Command (SEAL) commander Winai Klom-in was a strong supporter of the anti-democrats, providing serving and retired Seals as guards. All of this costs money, and we are sure that there is a need to pay some of this back.

The idea that the military brass is trying to cash up again following the coup is worthy of consideration, and this is sure to involve both personal and institutional funds expended in preparing for the coup through the support of the costly anti-democrat demonstrations.





Execution by hanging at the yardarm

16 03 2014

Everybody knows that Naval Special Warfare Command (SEAL) commander Winai Klom-in has been a mutinous supporter of the anti-democrats. So PPT wonders if it does him any harm when his strong ties to the most extreme of this movement are exposed.

Certainly, the recent report that the extremists of the Network of Students and People for the Reform of Thailand (NSPRT) has “asked the navy to review its impending transfer” of Winai is no surprise. Perhaps it is a little more startling that the extremists would “picket outside the navy headquarters” and petition the navy.

When the People’s Alliance for Democracy and student’s “adviser” Nittithon Lamlua rails that Winai should not be transferred for allegedly providing guards and perhaps even training, shooters and weapons to the anti-democrats because this is “allow[ing] politics to interfere” the alliance between Winai and the extremists is made especially clear. Nittithon fears losing a significant supporter, backer and strategist.

Winai says that if he doesn’t like his new position, he’ll quit the Navy. In the old days, mutinous naval officers faced “[e]xecution by hanging at the yardarm…”, not a gentle transfer.