Updated: Masters of repression II

16 07 2021

Lawfare is a tool authoritarian regimes use for political repression. Thailand’s military-backed/monarchist regime has become particularly adept at this means of silencing criticism. There’s been a blizzard of cases of late, even excluding the obvious and odious lese majeste cases.

Just in the past days or so, there have been several cases that warrant attention.

One case involves the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, reported by Reuters to have “initiated a defamation suit against the prominent chairman of a private hospital operator over his criticism of its procurement of Moderna (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccines.” He’s been a critic so he’s targeted. Interestingly, after this criticism, the GPO seemed to suddenly get moving on procurement. All vaccine procurement – and not just in Thailand – remains incredibly opaque.

A second case is reported by The Nation and involves the Royal Thai Army. Army chief General Narongpan Jittkaewtae has bellowed that “eight Facebook users and one Twitter user will be arrested over defamation charges” and can expect jail time, fines or both. His anger is because they shared information suggesting that “Thai soldiers were being flown to the United States for Covid-19 booster shots.”

censorship-1

The army claims that the soldiers were not heading off for the “Strategic Airborne Operation at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.” The army didn’t help its case by initially declaring that the soldiers were involved in Cobra Gold, which has nothing to do with travel to the USA.

A third case is reported in two related stories at Thai Enquirer and Prachatai. The toady National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission has ordered Voice TV “to take its programs off the Video To Home 9 TV (V2H9TV) channel…”. The NBTC claims the channel infringed “regulations when it aired … programs on April 27 which covered the protests Standing Still to Stop Incarceration (ยืนหยุดขัง), the White Ribbons (ผูกโบว์ขาว) and the Let Our Friends Go (ปล่อยเพื่อนเรา)…”. Other live protest broadcasts are reportedly being “investigated.”

In other words, the regime is using the NBTC to prevent Voice TV from providing live coverage of protests.

The NBTC has fined the MVTV company 50,000 baht for airing Voice TV’s “Voice Go” programme, “claiming that the content of the programme affects national security.”

The broadcast on the PSI satellite network on 27 April “was a report on the protest in front of the Supreme Court, in which a group of student activists from Thammasat University occupied an area on the footpath to demand the release of student activists then under detention. The programme also featured interviews with protesters on the reasons for their activities.”

The NBTC “stated that the content of the programme affected national security, peace, and public morals.” In fact, the reason for these moves is to remove opposition criticism.

A fourth case involves more defamation and sedition charges as the regime seeks to shutdown critical commentary on its botched vaccine rollout.

In this case, the regime has gone after veteran politician Sudarat Keyuraphan, with red shirt traitor and now regime flunky Seksakol [Suporn] Atthawong and spineless regime doormat, Sonthiya Sawasdee, adviser to the House committee on law, justice and human rights filing charges.

Sudarat’s Sang Thai Party has been campaigning to sue the “murderous government” for “mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis.”

She’s accused sedition and defamation.

The regime’s mouthpiece Seksakol claims that Sudarat has been “wrongly accusing the government of poorly managing the Covid-19 crisis. This was defamatory, according to Mr Seksakol.” He’s an idiot working for a ridiculous regime, making ridiculous claims while botching the crisis. Only diehard regime supporters would think that the regime’s recent virus work has been anything other than a deadly farce.

The execrable Seksakol made it clear that the charges were to prevent “disharmony in society.” In other words, support the regime or else.

Update: On the attack on Sudarat, consider the commentary by Thitinan Pongsudhirak, which is highly recommended as a full read:

Thailand’s vaccine rollout is evidently a complete shambles due to questionable procurement, supply shortage, and misallocation amid a deadly surge of the Covid-19 “Delta” variant. The situation has been going from bad to worse with no end in sight as a poorly conceived strategy unfolds into a national calamity. As public anger mounts with fast-spreading calls for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s ouster, the Covid-19 pandemic is becoming Thailand’s political game-changer more than anyone could have anticipated.

Instead of the youth-led political movement or the parliamentary opposition’s demands for reform, fundamental political change in this country will likely cascade from the Prayut government’s gross mishandling that is claiming lives, inflicting daily hardships, and causing unhappiness nationwide. When the time comes to pick up the pieces with more abundant and efficacious vaccines with virus control under way, a national inquiry for public accountability will be imperative….

What sets Thailand apart are what appears to be inherent nepotism and vested interests where people suspect there is more than meets the eye behind the country’s vaccination procurement. For inhabitants of this country, it matters less that other countries are suffering the same conditions, but that the country they live in can and should be doing much better. What’s worse, the Prayut government keeps repeating the same mistakes and making matters worse by the day.

Is he up for a state defamation action too?

 





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?





The heroin minister and protecting “the system”

10 05 2021

We decided to wait a couple of days to see how the Constitutional Court’s decision to protect Thammanat Prompao, deputy minister and convicted heroin trafficker, liar, nepotist, and thug before commenting further.

It seems he is untouchable. We assume this has something to do with the claim he made when arrested for heroin smuggling in Australia:

When Thammanat was sitting across from detectives making a statement in Parramatta jail on November 10, 1993, the first thing the young soldier put on the record was his connection to royalty.

After graduating from army cadet school in 1989 he “was commissioned as a bodyguard for the crown prince of Thailand” as a first lieutenant. “I worked in the crown prince’s household to the beginning of 1992,” he said, staying until deployed to help suppress a political conflict that culminated in an army-led massacre in Bangkok.

The crown prince is now King Vajiralongkorn, but the name landed like a thud: the judge made no mention of it when sentencing Thammanat over his part in moving 3.2 kilograms of heroin from Bangkok to Bondi.

Among the first reactions came from the reprehensible Wissanu Krea-ngam. Wissanu, who operates as a mongrel cross between Carl Schmitt and a Reich Minister of Justice, long ago proclaimed that Thammanat’s “eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary.”

The court agreed. No surprise there.  Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam stated that “the court’s decision does not contradict the opinion of the Council of State, the government’s legal adviser, regarding MPs’ qualifications.”

The “Council of State said a person jailed for two years in Thailand or abroad is not eligible to be an MP within five years of being released…”. We have to admit that we did not see this in the reporting of the court’s decision.

Wissanu made the extraordinary claim that “the decision does not ‘whitewash’ the PPRP MP’s [Thammanat] standing.”

The Bangkok Post had an Editorial on the decision. It begins by noting that the court’s decision did not surprise: “After all, society has become used to surprises from our judicial system that run contrary to public sentiment.” It is pulling its punches for fear of offending regime and court yet still makes some useful observations:

In layman’s terms, Thai law permits people with a drug conviction in a foreign country to become a politician or hold public office in Thailand — the Land of Smiles and Land of Second Chances — at least in the case of Capt Thamanat.

It notes that the “court ruling might prolong the meteoric political career of Capt Thamanat as a deal maker and de facto manager of the PPRP. Yet it will come with a hefty price for the government and society as a whole.”

It thinks “the government, and especially the PPRP, still have a little leeway to prevent a complete meltdown in public trust and defuse this time bomb.” The Post is grasping at straws.

Many have lost hope:

People are losing confidence in the government of General Prayut Chan-ocha because of their continued mismanagement, corruption, and repression.

They are losing their faith in the justice system which has propped up this regime – a heartless system that would sooner jail students and watch them die than adjudicate impartially.

…This week, the country’s highest court made the situation worse, if that were possible.

The appalling decision to allow a convicted drug dealer to continue as a cabinet minister shows that this government no longer cares about saving face or pretending to be filled with ‘good people.’

The double standards are observed: the regime considers one crime overseas significant: lese majeste. And, what about a justice system that “still sees it fit to hold the students in jail, without bail, under a draconian law…”, but has a former drug trafficker as a minister? It continues:

Thailand is rapidly approaching the borders of becoming a failed state, a joke-nation where the institutions only serve to reinforce the rule of the few and the elections are a sham run by the whims of generals.

There are examples of anger. This op-ed declares the dire need for change:

Thailand is at a crossroads. We have come to that point in every nation’s history where the decisions of today have massive ramifications for tomorrow….

At stake will be who we are as a nation, not who we were, and what we want to aspire to. Centuries old superstition, entrenched governing structures, a destructive military culture, and an impasse between those that want rapid change and those that want to preserve what it is that they think makes Thailand special….

The generals, the drug dealers, the marijuana growers, the promise breakers that were put in government did so on a broken system drafted and put in place by men in army fatigues.

And now we have arrived at the crossroads and there are three choices which will determine what will become of Thailand.

The op-ed calls for “reform” but far more is needed to root out the military and destroy the privileges of crown and oligarchs. Thais need to get off their knees. That’s exactly what the protesters have been demanding.





Updated: Thammanat and his bags of loot

16 11 2020

The story about the nepotism involved in Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s dishing out of a lucrative taxpayer-funded seat to one of convicted drug smuggler Thammanat Prompao’s wives has caused many to shrug their shoulders. “It’s just what they do!” say not a few observers.

We think the indignation should be far louder. After all, Thammanat and both his wives are fabulously wealthy and hardly need more money sucked from the body of the Thai taxpayer. Yes, we know, the king and the leeches of the royal family do the same.

Thai PBS provides some more detail on the great wealth of Thammanat, his registered spouse Arisara Prompow, and his 25 year-old common law spouse Tanaporn Srivirach.

The latter was “[c]rowned Miss Thailand in 2016,” and was “handed a job in the Secretariat of the Prime Minister on November 10.” Tanaporn is reportedly “among a quota of 20 government staff who must be nominated and endorsed by the premier.”

Arisara is reported to be “worth Bt189 million according to the assets declaration Thamanat filed last year when he became an MP.’ Tanaporn was declared to be worth “about Bt63.6 million in assets…”.

And, former inmate now minister, Thamanat “is worth a whopping Bt886 million…”.

An example of a Hermes bag priced in Euros. Sourced from the internet.

That’s a total wealth of almost 1.14 billion baht. We can only guess at how it is that someone who spent four years in prison can be so fabulously wealthy.

Tanaporn’s declared assets included some “42 ultra-expensive designer bags,” including a “Hermès Kelly 28 in black croc worth nearly Bt2 million, a shiny Hermès Constance in alligator leather worth Bt1.4 million, and a Chanel 2017 rocket worth Bt680,000, among others.”

She “also has a taste for luxury cars: her garage reportedly houses a Mercedes-Benz worth Bt5.8 million and a Bt8.9-million Porsche.”

Tanaporn is among a quota of 20 government staff who must be nominated and endorsed by the premier.

As we have said before, it beggars belief that the National Anti-Corruption Commission just accepts asset declarations and never asks how it is that those making the declarations came by their loot.

Update: The Bangkok Post has got around to criticizing Tanaporn’s appointment and the regime’s “response” is lambasted. An editorial states: “It’s not clear how her experience would benefit her new position as an official in the prime minister’s secretariat office.” We suppose that her relevant experience is being the crooked Thammanat’s wife. He’s a big shot and gets what he wants (and says what he wants – his lies).

It is not clear why the Post thinks Thammanat’s heroin trafficking conviction in Australia is “alleged” or why this is described as a “still unresolved scandal.” Nothing is unresolved and “alleged” is wimpish when the Post has seen the official documents from Australian courts. Nor is it apparent to us why the Post decides to portray Thanaporn’s appointment as showing that there is “the possibility that nepotism was at play.” Possibility? Seriously?

Most of the rest of the editorial is on target. Thammanat should have been sacked months ago and investigated for unusual wealth. That hasn’t happened because he’s a crucial enforcer and fixer for the regime.





Updated: Nepotism and Thammanat

11 11 2020

How odd that we recently mentioned convicted heroin smuggler and government minister Thammanat Prompao in a post just a couple of days ago. He’s back in the news, with one of his wives – 30 years his junior a former Miss Thailand – suddenly being allocated a position within the Prime Minister’s Office.

Clipped from Thai Newsroom

Deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul announced that on Tuesday, “the cabinet approved the appointment of Ms Thanaporn Sriviraj as a government official, with immediate effect.” Traisuree “said Thanaporn has been actively working as her husband’s personal secretary before the proposal was made to the cabinet.”

Clipped from Khaosod

Presumably she thought this claim would remove the awful smell of nepotism and corruption. But that’s difficult with a deputy minister with a heroin trafficking conviction, fake degrees and a gangster reputation, not to mention the murder case he got off.

According to Wikipedia, “Thamanat’s parliamentary declaration of assets in August 2019 listed two wives, seven children, and a net worth of about A$42 million, including a Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Tesla, and Mercedes-Benz along with 12 Hermès and 13 Chanel handbags, luxury watches, and Thai Buddha amulets.” That declaration also listed dozens and dozens of bank accounts.

Funny how the National Anti-Corruption Commission is uninterested in how Thammanat came to be so fabulously wealthy.

Isra News Agency, which has more details on the “interesting” assets declaration, says that Thanaporn drives a Porsche and owns dozens of luxury watches and handbags.

And, how is it that Thammanat is so wealthy? See above and add in gangster lottery contracts and similar shady deals.

So, why does Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s administration do him favors and appear so hopelessly tone deaf? We have the answer here.

Is this appointment going to look a bit like the Thungyai hunting scandal? It should.

Update: Wissanu Krea-ngam seems to enjoy rolling in slime. Once again, he has come out to support the cabinet’s convicted heroin smuggler. Like a mobster’s corrupt lawyer, Wissanu has defended the indefensible:

Wissanu asked reporters “why can’t it be done?” after being questioned about Tuesday’s controversial move. When pressed if the appointment of spouses and family members into government positions was appropriate, Wissanu said it wasn’t illegal.

Of course, others have also defended the cabinet’s “Don” and Palang Pracharath’s northern enforcer. In 2019, several deputy prime ministers and the prime minister supported Boss Thammanat. Back then, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, speaking after a cabinet meeting, “said that he would no longer comment on legal cases against cabinet ministers because they had been clarified by those involved.” Clarified means denying that anything happened in Australia, despite all the legal documents and Thammanat’s four years in prison.

Nepotism is, it seems, legal in Thailand. Just like unusual wealth, murder (if you are rich or in the military), shoveling funds to Sino-Thai conglomerates, etc.





O brother, where art thou?

17 04 2020

Criminals, oafs and grifters escaping a prison chain gang, the 2000 film of our headline by the Coen brothers had comedy and strange turns in the plot going for it, not to mention hillbilly music.

When it comes to the post-junta military-dominated government, however, there’s little comedy, much confusion and no music as criminals, oafs and grifters all escape prison and continue with more of the same.

As the poor struggle under the state of emergency – how much of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s time in power has relied on such exceptional powers? – the post-junta gets on with its nepotism and repression.

We know where Gen Prayuth’s grifting brother is because Khaosod reports that:

Clean hands?

More than half of the newly-appointed Senate Committee on Tourism are military officers turned senators – including PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s younger brother.

The list of 23 members, among them Gen. Preecha Chan-o-cha, was announced in the Royal Government Gazette on Thursday. Besides Gen. Preecha, other 14 military generals named to the post include former deputy PM Gen Thanasak Patimaprakorn, who will chair the senate committee.

Of course, Gen Preecha has a sordid past in nepotism and corruption. One can only imagine that a committee with 14 generals (Prachatai says 13) only exists for the meeting allowances and, perhaps,in the future, overseas junkets. No one could seriously think that such a committee would be of any public use or value. As we know from past “performance” Gen Preecha seldom shows up.

Meanwhile, the military and police are arresting thousands for alleged curfew violations. Now before the frightened middle class get huffy at PPT’s characterization, telling us how dangerous it is for people to be outside when the virus is lurking, consider that the reported arrest toll under the emergency decree is already over 8,500. Then consider how harsh the sentencing is, especially for the poor.

Par for the course when it comes to brothers-in-arms.





Nepotism in Bangkok

11 04 2020

As we mentioned in a previous post, authoritarianism seems to be spreading faster than the virus. The latest diktat issued in Bangkok bans alcohol sales for 10 days.

On this, the Bangkok Post’s Ploenpote Atthakor says:

I, like many other people, am baffled about the latest move: How it can help the country, Bangkok in particular, fight the disease? Unfortunately, no one can explain this to me sensibly or rationally.

But the thing that caught PPT’s attention was that Capt Pongsakorn Kwanmuang, spokesman of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), announced the ban at the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

The spokesman, Capt Pongsakorn just happens to be the son of junta-appointed governor Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang.

It might be just another example of the nepotism that is so common in Thailand’s junta a post-junta regimes, but there should be questions asked. Or is nepotism now normalized?





Police chief’s fibs

20 02 2020

Chakthip (clipped from The Nation)

Regular readers will recall that earlier in the month national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda was fibbing about his nepotism. That complaint was pretty quickly buried and seemingly easily forgotten – after all, nepotism is a norm for the regime.

He’s now been found to be fibbing again, this time to parliament.

He reportedly told the House committee on law, justice and human rights that he had not applied a different standard in securing the anti-regime Wing Lai Lung (‘Run to Oust the Uncle’) event in Bangkok last month…” when compared with a pro-regime rally.

He declared: “Soldiers did not meddle with my work…”.

A military puppet

That’s improbable, but as a puppet of the regime he obviously knows what the regime and the military wants.

He went on:

Pol Gen Chakthip insisted that he gave one order to all of his subordinates at the event, as well as to those assigned to secure the at the pro-regime Dern Cheer Lung (“Walk in Support of Uncle”) which was held on the same day in Lumpini Park. The “Uncle” in both events’ names, refer to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

To give just a few examples of the partisanship of the police and to illustrate Chakthip’s fibs, we can point to several reports.

First, in the period before the event, the Wing Lai Lung was harassed by police. In one report:

The “Run Against Dictatorship” launch event was previously scheduled to be held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT), but that had to be cancelled after reported police pressure.

The police even denied this pressure, but the FCCT confirmed it. A statement from FCCT said that “the police asked them to cancel the group’s booking and threatened FCCT with ‘serious consequences’ if they did not comply…”.

Next,

The press conference was then re-scheduled to today (16 December) at 10.00 at Rattanakosin Hotel. However, Tanawat Wongchai, one of the organizers, said that the hotel informed him that they have been pressured by “those in power” into cancelling their booking.

That may have been the military working hand-in-glove with the police. There were no such reports of pressure on the Dern Cheer Lung organizers.

Next, the Wing Lai Lung event was forced to relocate:

Authorities have been attempting to block spin-off Run Against Dictatorship events in at least three provinces, while the main Bangkok event has been forced to move from Thammasat University to Wachirabenchathat (Rot Fai) Park.

In several cases, the police called in provincial organizers and attended their homes – obviously measures meant to threaten them. For example:

three students from the University of Phayao who were organizing a Run Against Dictatorship event in Phayao were summoned by the police….

These students suffered repeated acts of repression. There were no such reports of pressure on the Dern Cheer Lung organizers.

When the event began, in several provinces, both police and military harassed participants, with wide reporting on social media.

And the latest police act of extreme bias was to charge the organizer of the Bangkok Wing Lai Lung event:

Tanawat Wongchai, one of the organisers of the “Run Against Dictatorship” in Bangkok, has been summoned by Bang Sue Police Station for organizing a public assembly without notifying the police according to the Public Assembly Act.

Tanawat … insisted that a race is exempted from the Public Assembly Act and that this is a case of harassment of the political opposition.

Pol Gen Chakthip is a serial fibber.





With 3 updates: Corrupt military

15 02 2020

The calls for reform of the Army following the Korat murders are almost deafening. Some are from those who previously more or less supported the 2006 and 2014 military coups. Other critics are ardent yellow shirts.

But, really, wasn’t all of this corruption known before? It was for us, and we have posted on it dozens and dozens of times. The unusual wealth, free digs for senior officers, the use of the lower ranks as slaves by the top brass, “commissions,” scams, nepotism, the impunity on torture and murder, etc. It has all been widely known.

Clipped from Khaosod

Naturally enough, the criticism of the military flows across into the military-backed regime, led by generals. One reported comment was an expression of “hopelessness” at responses to Korat from both Army and regime. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was seen as gruff and uncaring in his response while Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s tearful media conference was seen by some as theatrical.The two are seen as part of the same regime and they are both men who have benefited greatly from the corrupt system.

Of course, Apirat’s response is also political as he is angling to take the premiership after Gen Prayuth, to continue the Army’s political dominance.

One of the public responses has been skepticism that “the army chief’s vow to bring transparency to the barracks” is real. As one person commented to reporters, “there is no reason why those in power will make sacrifices…”.

We at PPT are not so skeptical because Gen Apirat obviously views the current criticism as an opening for critics and a threat to the Army’s role in the economy and politics. For the moment, he is unable to shut down critics. And, he needs to respond. He’s said:

There are many projects among army personnel who collaborate with businessmen including real estate and loan sharking businesses. I know that and there will be generals down to colonels who will go jobless this month and in the coming months….

Sacking underlings is one thing. Attacking the toxic culture of a feudal military requires much more that this.

But the political threat to the military is acknowledged by Gen Apirat and he knows he has to be seen to be doing something.

As the Bangkok Post reports. “[p]olitical activists are pushing for an investigation into what they describe as the army’s administrative errors, which they believe was the root cause of the massacre in Nakhon Ratchasima…”.

The Future Forward Party and other opposition parties are demanding investigation and reform.

A group known as The People’s Party for Freedom, Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) called on the “House of Representatives’ committee on military affairs” to conduct “an investigation into the army’s alleged mismanagement” of armories and poor security. More significantly, it also demanded “that businesses run by the army, especially those managing army-owned land for commercial purposes” be investigated.

This is a big deal. Consider, for example, the role of the military in the Eastern Economic Corridor, controlling the airport and port in the project as well as tracts of land that are being converted to commercial use. And, the military controls millions of rai of land.

The group also demanded “that the authorities look into certain members of top brass, who have abused their authority for the benefit of themselves and their families.” Here the group is pointing to the “military housing project … in which the gunman was reportedly cheated by his superior and his superior’s family, [as]… clear evidence of blatant abuse in the army…”

But there’s much, much more. Think of the crony Senate and the nepotism of Gen Preecha Chan-ocha, among many, many others. Consider how it is that Can anyone remember the Rolls Royce corruption case and how nothing happened? Does anyone recall the corruption allegations over the Army’s expensive Rajabhakti Park homage to dead kings?

And then there’s the declared wealth of the military members of the junta’s administration, showing huge and unusual wealth in 2014:

If a general in the armed forces, your assets average about 78 million baht.

If you managed to become an admiral in the navy, you sail away with average assets of about 109 million baht.

The top money secretes to the top police …[where] the average for the top brass in the police is a whopping 258 million baht.

Even declared unusual wealth was never investigated. For confirmation of this, for readers with access, a recent academic article detailed some of this. This is what the paper’s abstract states:

After the military coup of 2014, 143 serving and retired generals of the Royal Armed Thai Forces submitted asset declarations to the National Anti-Corruption Commission on being appointed to the military junta’s National Legislative Assembly. By analysing these declarations, this article demonstrates that a cohort of wealthy generals has emerged, which leads to the article’s central concern: how is it that despite the political reform project of the 1990s, military leaders were able to evade scrutiny and become wealthy? It is argued that behind the lack of scrutiny of the military’s wealth accumulation was a structure of fear that severely undermined the capacity to enforce regulations and which enabled the military to evade the constitutional forms of scrutiny elaborated in the 1997 Constitution. That structure of fear emerged in a context of an elusive political settlement when the apparatuses of the state were occupied by competing regime framers, leading to a re-assertion of military power.

The Korat event has led to an outpouring of accusations and complaints, some of it from soldiers:

Lawyer Atchariya Ruangrattanapong said he was compiling a list of soldiers who had made similar complaints about being caught up in shady loans or real estate deals with superior officers.

“There are plenty of cases at the moment…”.

Atchariya also praised the military for transferring Col. Uthai Fangkratok and Lt. Col. Tee Permpol to “inactive duty” within the Second Army Region, which covers Thailand’s northeastern region where the rampage took place.

“Thank you commander of the Second Army Region for the actions after we exposed the scam,” he said in a Facebook post on the Help Crime Victims Club page.

Despite our comment above, there’s ample reason for skepticism about the “optics” around “doing something.” Critic Titipol Pkadeewanich of Ubon Ratchathani University declares: “It is just a show…”.

For one thing, Gen Apirat is not allowing any independent investigations. He has:

… ordered 2nd Army commander Lt Gen Thanya Kiattisan to conduct a “straightforward” and speedy investigation into the shooting, said a source who asked not to be identified.

Two other working teams have been told to look into soldiers’ welfare provisions and businesses run within the barracks as well as take action against any personnel found to be involved in dishonest deals, the source added.

Maj Gen Rachit Arunrangsi, chief of the Army Welfare Department, and Lt Gen Ayut Siwiset, chief of the Directorate of Personnel, are in charge of the two panels.

While he has “threatened to suspend any business-oriented army projects that are found to have irregularities,” again, it is an internal investigation.

Bolstering skepticism, it has been widely reported that Gen Apirat’s statement that “retired army officers must move out from their official residences…”, has exceptions. No prizes for guessing that Gen  Prayuth, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda will be first among those keeping their Army-supplied houses. This is because they make a “contribution to society.”

Other “retired generals who now serve as Senators; and retired army generals in the Privy Council” also have taxpayer-funded free accommodation on bases, cloistered from the rest of the population, feeling comfortable among the groveling and hierarchy of the forces, using military slaves and more.

While they suck on the public teat forever, they are being “recognized” for their “contributions” to the military, conducting military coups, strengthening impunity and slaughtering red shirts. And, they have strengthened the military’s systematized corruption.

Who can forget the taxpayer-funded years of free accommodation  for now dead Privy Council President Gen Prem Tinsulanonda in a house that the Army has since “donated” to the king. Where does current Privy Council President Gen Surayud Chulanont live?

It is not just that those at the very top engage in nepotism, corruption and sweet deals, setting a poor example, but it is systematized: those at lower levels engage in corruption that funnels funds up into the higher ranks.

Update 1: Is it only a coincidence that Gen Prayuth has ordered the Fine Arts Department to produce “shows” on “Thailand’s war history to bolster patriotism among Thais.” The aim is to strengthen “unity” and promote “awareness of the roles of key institutions — the nation, religion and monarchy — in helping overcome crises…”. Given that most of the propaganda will be about the military, their “reputation” will also be bolstered.

Update 2: The op-eds criticizing the military are raining down like political confetti. Some of them seem to express surprise at the size of corruption revealed, while neglecting to mention some of the biggest military scams or to ask why it is that the military brass gets away with murder and crime. Other op-eds get right to the point: “The Thai army is a closed system governed by feudal authoritarianism which breeds corruption and abuse of power.” Read them all.

Update 3: Prachatai reports on a rally of:

a hundred people [who] gathered in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) yesterday (13 February) for a candlelight vigil to mourn the victims of the Nakhon Ratchasima mass shooting … and to demand that Gen Apirat Kongsompong take responsibility by resigning from his position as army chief.





Updated: Lie of the day: No nepotism

4 02 2020

According to Wikipedia, nepotism is:

Nepotism is the granting of jobs to one’s relatives or friends in various fields, including business, politics, entertainment, sports, religion and other activities. Nepotism is the act of using one’s power to secure better jobs or unfair advantages for a family member [or friend] when they may not have the right skill, experience or motivation compared to others.

Nepotism is rampant in Thailand. It is common in business – think of all those family-owned firms where young scions suddenly become vice presidents of huge firms. It is common in the military – a recent example involving Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his brother Gen Preecha. Preecha delivered lots of “contracts” to his sons and had them promoted. It is seen in politics, where “political parties” are made and filled by families that often have local “influence.” And, it is seen in the bureaucracy.

Chakthip (clipped from The Nation)

The most recent case to emerge involves national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda. We guess this allegation has emerged because of the ongoing clashes within the police.

After Pol Gen Chakthip’s son was promoted to inspector and to the rank of Police Major, the police officially declared that Pol Capt Chanant Chaijinda had been “promoted to inspector on merit, and not because he is the son of national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip…”.

Several news reports “questioned his qualifications for the double promotion.” It is pointed out that:

Pol Capt Chanant, the police chief’s eldest son, has served as sub-inspector for less than four years in the Border Patrol Police Bureau, the stories said. Regulations required that an officer must have served at least seven years as sub-inspector before being eligible for promotion.

Earlier, it is reported that the “Police Commission earlier stopped short of approving Pol Capt Chanant’s promotions because he did not satisfy the criteria.”

So what happened? As might be guessed, the promotion “was referred to the cabinet last year, and it agreed to ignore the minimum service tenure criteria and later gave the green light to Pol Capt Chanant’s promotion.”

Gen Chakthip was the military dictator Gen Prayuth’s choice for police chief and was also supported by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. Despite being the least senior among the five deputy police chiefs, he got the job because of his relations with the junta and his ant-red shirt credentials. He also had support from the palace.

Yesterday, the police had to pronounce that the facts didn’t matter and that “Pol Capt Chanant was qualified for the new rank.” It was admitted that the tenure regulations were not met. So, he wasn’t qualified, but what the heck, he’s the boss’s son and the junta loves the boss.

Business as usual.

Update: Khaosod has more on this story and includes a defense of the promotion by Gen Prawit. It is reported that the promotion took place in April 2019 and it seems that the dispute within the police force, linked above, is why the story has just leaked.

It also appears that his son’s promotion was fast-tracked by Pol Gen Chakthip. It was “a decision by the police commissioner to promote his own son to a senior police rank despite not meeting one of the criteria.”

Gen Prawit defended the promotion, saying “there were grounds for exception in the case of Capt. Chanan…”.He said: “They can do that, it’s supported by regulations…”. When asked “whether it’s appropriate for a police commissioner to approve fast-tracking his own son,” Prawit not only defended nepotism but seemed to acknowledge it in this instance: “Do you love your son, too? Do you?”

Meanwhile, police spokesperson Krissana Pattanacharoen defended the unusual promotion “saying the police command had the authority to grant promotion to individuals who show talents and valuable knowledge.” The reference was to Chanan having undertaken “multiple training programs, including anti-terrorism and parachuting courses.” These included a “sniper course in Israel and received training from the FBI in the United States…”.

No doubt his father helped out in getting him these prized gigs.