Rewarding royalists

3 02 2013

PPT spends quite a lot of time reading stuff about the monarchy from the syrupy and posterior polishing dross that come out daily to the most radical republican material. In this context, it was a bit of a shock when we came across something completely new to us. Or maybe we’ve just not read carefully enough, and readers can tell us.

At something called the Moodie Report, there is a report that made PPT think it was 1922:

His Majesty King Bhumibol of Thailand has bestowed the family name ‘Srivaddhanaprabha’ on Vichai Raksriaksorn (former surname), Group Chairman of King Power Group of Companies in Thailand and owner of UK’s Leicester City Football Club. The auspicious family name granted by His Majesty was published in the Royal Thai Government Gazette.

The report goes on to explain that:

Vichai is next to the tall lad in red (!!)

Vichai is next to the tall lad in red (!!)

In Thailand, royally granted family names have been bestowed particularly on the Monarch’s retainers since the reign of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI, who ruled from 1910 – 1925). It is a tradition of His Majesty to grant surnames to members of the royal family, government officers, and private citizens who have contributed significantly to the good of the country.

PPT knew that when family names were introduced in the 1920s that the king did hand some out to flunkies and retainers. What we didn’t know was that this has been revived.

It is rather fitting that this announcement involves one of the business families that has been more slithery than most in seeking royal recognition. Vichai, one of Thailand’s richest, is thus ecstatic to receive this recognition after 24 years building, appropriately enough, King Power:

“It is our family’s greatest honour to receive this royally granted surname…. The name ‘Srivaddhanaprabha’ conveys positive attributes to the industry and brings prosperity to our family. We have now officially changed our surname since it was published in the Royal Gazette in late 2012….

Royal recognition is usually a reward. We wonder if the reward is political, for in addition to all the polo nonsense for royals and their hangers-on, Vichai has been a political supporter of Newin Chidchob who was so critical to the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime and in opposing red shirts while holding the royal banner high.

Perhaps more significantly, Vichai is credited with having “plagiarized” the (now disgraced) Lance Armstrong and his plastic bracelets in Thailand and made them “Long live the king” bracelets and raised a fortune that he handed over to the palace.

For the Chinese business class in the 1920s, getting a royal family name was a sign of inclusion and acceptance. Today, it must be a fitting reward for a wealthy supporter of the wealthiest.

Updated: Sex, football and Newin

22 04 2012

Readers may have wondered what happened to Newin Chidchob after his Bhum Jai Thai Party did so poorly in the 2011 election. Even if readers didn’t wonder and dread the day – not too far off – when Thailand’s vote-buyer-in-chief is off suspension, PPT has some updates, and they all relate to sex and football.

Over the past week, there has been a flurry of news and blog posts damning politicians for semi-naked (lower half ) photos appearing on the parliamentary video screens inside the chamber and a Democrat Party politician for looking at erotic photos while attending a session of the parliament.

None of that seems to bother the provincial politician in Newin. Back in March it was revealed that he was about to bring famouse Japanese porn stars to his Buriram for Songkhran celebrations. There wasn’t much outrage expressed, even when Newin said that “the Japanese performers would not be any naughtier than local dancers…”. No outrage so he brought them in.

The Bangkok Post reports that the Tourism Authority of Thailand said the new year holiday generated about “4.5 billion baht of tourism revenue in 13 provinces” where it sponsored events. The report adds that the TAT said the celebration had been “very lively.”

A Bangkok Post photo

TAT didn’t sponsor the events in Buriram – that was left to the local boss – but it was particularly “lively” there.

In Buri Ram, XXX marked the spot, as seen in the photos, with the second depicting one of the most famous of Japanese performers in adult movies.

Why would Newin be up to these tricks, no pun intended? Certainly, he wants as much economic activity in Buriram as possible, and for him, porn stars and football seem to go together. It also further builds his nak leng reputation. Football and porn seem to be positioned as a kind of political alternative to the “populism” of the major political parties.

A Bangkok Post photo

In football, Newin has invested a fortune in his Buriram team, which has rocketed to the top of the Thai Premier League. That league has long been a corrupt organization, often under the wing of influential military men. But Newin has shaken it up.

In recent weeks, Newin has reportedly begun asking questions about “missing money” at the TPL. Remarkably, this leads The Nation to state: “the league needs a man like Newin, the politician-turned-football club owner who took the avatar of a whistleblower, to clean up and improve the league.”

The idea that Newin could clean up anything is remarkable. That he could clean up football suggests it’s pretty deeply flawed. But perhaps the important lesson is for Thaksin Shinawatra: if Newin can be rehabilitated time and again, Thaksin’s got to be thinking that his chances are also pretty good.

Enjoy this Sunday fun.

Updated: More Sunday fun as the Democrat Party defend their man of porn.

Further updated: True, CP and the Abhisit government

30 03 2012

When the Democrat Party was the Army’s surrogate ruling political party it often alleged that business deals done by Thaksin Shinawatra and his various governments wreaked of cronyism. There was certainly some of that.

But of course, so does the Democrat Party smell on these things. Worse, it had an enormous credibility problem in its arranged marriage of coalition parties with yet another Army crony party,  Bhum Jai Thai. That party managed a range of crony relationships while in government. In order to stay in power, the Democrat Party was complicit in a range of cosy deals.

One that has recently come to light is reported at the Bangkok Post. In this report, Information and Communication Technology Minister Anudith Nakornthap has intimated that:

True Corp’s 3G network deal with state-owned CAT Telecom has been found to have been tainted with irregularities which could result in the 6 billion baht agreement being scrapped….

The True-CAT network deal was signed during the Abhisit [Vejjajiva] administration, and through True’s purchase of  Hong Kong company Hutchison’s (Hutch) operations in Thailand, gave True the right to use the Hutch network and to aggressively market 3G wireless while “its major competitors _ Advanced Info Service (AIS) and Total Access Communication (Dtac) _ are still awaiting a decision on whether there will be a 3G licence auction this year.”

The ICT made “five points in its investigation of the True-CAT contract that raised questions about the legality and legitimacy of the deal” that were listed by Anudith:

First, the “panel found there had been an indirect political instruction on April 7, 2010” when former ICT minister Ranongruk Suwunchwee under Abhisit “for CAT to buy Hutch’s network in 25 provinces in the Central region from Hutch. Under a later ICT minister for the Abhisit government, Juti Krairiksh, the CAT-Hutch deal collapsed. “The collapse of the CAT-Hutch deal enabled True and CAT to enter quickly into a deal under a new business model drawn up by True and the state firm.” The contracts were “rapidly signed” on 26 January 2011.

Second, “CAT had bypassed the cabinet and the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) in terminating the CDMA mobile service in 25 central provinces with Hutch and its affiliate to enter into the new deal with True.”

Third, “CAT had violated the ICT Ministry’s work procedures in going ahead with the deal with True.”

Fourth, CAT didn’t consult the NESDB and the Council of State as required following “the go-ahead for its request to enter into a business deal with True on Dec 28, 2010.”

Fifth, CAT “asked the ICT to scrap the state enterprise’s original CDMA investment plan, and it switched to a new rental equipment agreement with True worth 12 billion baht.” It is stated that “CAT had no authority to enter into the new agreement. It could also be a violation of the 1992 Public-Private Joint Venture Act, which requires scrutiny of any public-private venture worth more than 1 billion baht.”

Not unexpectedly, True has “denied any wrongdoing.” The company’s vice-chairman Athueck Asvanund, said “the ICT report did not identify any specific points in the contract that violated the law.” he added: “The issues raised are political…”.

While PPT knows little about all the technical material, since the True representative raises “politics,” it is probably worth looking at this a little more.  At True’s website, the company describes itself in this manner:

Backed by Asia’s largest agro-conglomerate, the Charoen Pokphand Group (“CP”), with a shareholding of 30.02% as of December 2007, True has expanded its business from being a fixed-line provider to a total communications solutions provider, offering consumers, small and medium enterprises, and corporations a full range of voice, video and data services in solutions customized to meet their needs.  We are Thailand’s largest provider of Internet, consumer broadband Internet and pay-TV services, as well as the largest fixed-line service provider in the BMA, a leading online game provider and the number three mobile phone operator in Thailand.

True’s board, apart from being dominated by the Chearavanont family and a swathe of directors with long links to CP, includes some significant family names: Vejjajiva, Tulanonda and Srisa-an.

The Vejjajiva link is interesting, especially as Vitthaya Vejjajiva has a link to the Bangkok Post and projects like this one that brings together major royalist groups:

The project is advised by Visanu Krue-ngam (chairman), Borwornsak Uwanno, Tongthong Chandrangsu and Vitthaya Vejjajiva. It is sponsored by Bangkok Bank, the Central Group, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Jim Thompson, PTT, the Crown Property Bureau, Ch Karnchang Plc, Bangkok Expressway Plc and Thai Tap Water Plc.

True is part of the sprawling, patriarchal giant of a conglomerate known as CP, which at its website states it has:

businesses and affiliates operating within the agribusiness, retail and telecommunications markets, we currently employ over 250,000 people whom conduct our investments, operations and trading at factories and offices worldwide. Our sales at the end of 2010 were USD30 billion.

CP has three companies listed at the Stock Exchange of Thailand: True, Charoen Pokphand Foods and CP ALL. Directors at the latter two companies add to the significant names: Asa Sarasin is probably the most notable, as the king’s Principal Private Secretary, and mentioned in several Wikileaks cables around the time of the 2006 coup. Another is Police General Kowit Wattana, a Puea Thai big shot associated with the royalist Village Scout movement, who stepped down from CP when he became Deputy Prime Minister in the Yingluck Shinawatra government.

The point is that CP is very well connected. Most of its links, Kowit not withstanding, are with the royal establishment. In line with this, one website notes this for Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda, saying he:

… has served as a director and advisor for numerous large Thai companies. In early 2007, he resigned as chief adviser of the Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group in order to distance himself from a junta-led corruption investigation. The investigation concerned alleged bid rigging in a para rubber saplings supply contract granted during the Thaksin government when Prem had still held his position in the Group.

The resignation refers to the case – eventually dismissed – that involved Thaksin Shinawatra minister Newin Chidchob, who had flipped his support to the Democrat Party in 2008.

In this political context, was the deal done by the Abhisit government an example of cronyism?

Update 1: A regular reader has sent us two links that seem highly relevant for this post- see here and here. That the king receives Dhanin Chearavanont and other CP executives who are handing over money to be used at the royal pleasure is significant the task of gathering the money is usually assigned to other members of the family. The recognition that Dhanin deserves an audience with the king is exceptional and carries great meaning. The royal news at ASTV is also worth watching as it is something of a record at almost 37 minutes and after the king, features the women of the court on royal travel and others doing their local duties.

In addition, that reader points out another potential link to our post in the recent Democrat Party attacks on Minister Anudith, seeking to have him investigated for “unusual wealth.” Is this a pre-emptive strike against the minister?

Update 2: Another regular reader points out that in listing the Vejjajiva connection with CP, we should have pointed out that Abhisit’s father, Athasit, is a board member at CP Foods (see link above).

Updated: Newin, Japanese porn and Buriram politics

10 03 2012

Some time ago, PPT took to posting funny, odd or quirky posts related to politics on weekends. We haven’t done that for some time, but can’t resist it today.

The Wall Street Journal carries a rather odd story about Buriram’s political chameleon and champion vote buyer-cum-royalist-cum-football promoter Newin Chidchob. First some background and serious stuff.

Newin and Abhisit with their kit on

Newin is the politician who left the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra fold to have his allied politicians join the Army-brokered deal to hoist the Democrat Party to government and Abhisit Vejjajiva to the premiership in December 2008.

His supporters formed the Bhum Jai Thai Party that grabbed important ministerial posts under Abhisit and milked them for political, personal and financial gain. Newin’s blue shirts also played a significant role in instigating the initial violence that led to the red shirt’s Songkhran uprising. Newin also pioneered the contemporary mobilization of ultra-royalists through fostering a campaign that painted the crown as under threat.

Newin, whose 5-year political ban is coming to an end in May, has been concentrating his recent efforts on consolidating his control in his home province of Buriram after cracks appeared in the 2011 election. His promotion of football has been a big part of this effort.

Like many old-style and wealthy provincial politicians Newin has a thuggish nak leng/gangster chao phor character. Often arrogant, men of this ilk often do things that raise eyebrows and draw criticism.

Now to Newin’s latest “coup.” The WSJ claims that he “plans to import a team of Japanese adult video [porn] stars to liven up the Thai New Year celebrations in his hometown of Buriram.” He appears to believe that “having stars from Japan’s pornography industry dance and sing at Buriram’s celebrations” would be good for tourism.

Newin told “local television this week, … [that] the Japanese performers would not be any naughtier than local dancers…”. Newin said that celebrations of Songkhran were already raunchy in Thailand, so why not add the foreign porn stars. We doubt Newin will be getting naked in public.

It is one of those “huh?/”really?” stories from provincial Thailand that brings a chuckle but incredulity as well. As the report points out, it isn’t “clear why Mr. Newin is stirring up what he surely knows to be a hornet’s nest. He couldn’t immediately be reached for further comment.” The WSJ speculates on tourism and politics and embarrassing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra while she is in Japan, as well as simply getting attention.

The WSJ reckons this plan will cause Newin political damage. Somehow we doubt it. Newin wants crowds, and this wacky idea will do that for him.

Update: An eagle-eyed reader has pointed out that we missed an important connection for Newin, and not nearly so wacky as the Japanese porno link. This most serious link was reported a few days ago in Prachatai, referring to one of the thuggish twins Supot and Supat Silarat who were kind of jailed for bashing Nitirat activist Worachet Pakeerut.

Matichon reported on 6 March that, according to Somsak Puapan, Thanyaburi District Chief, in Nov 2010 Suphot registered a semi-automatic .45 pistol, which was distributed in a government officials’ welfare programme, using an identification card as a volunteer ranger attached to Ranger Taskforce 26 in Buriram province, issued by a colonel in May 2008 which expired in May 2010.

Suphat also used a similar identification card to register two semi-automatic 9mm pistols, a Beretta and an NZU 707 Glock, the latter distributed to officials of the Department of Provincial Administration.

Readers may recall that Newin has long mobilized “volunteer rangers” and some of these were said by some to be the core of the blue shirts. The idea that the twins could be Newin’s hired or “volunteer” thugs is highly likely.

Updated: Da Torpedo in court

17 10 2011

There’s a long report in the Bangkok Post regarding lese majeste victim Darunee Charnchoensilpakul (Da Torpedo)’s appearance in court where the Criminal Court read out the Constitution Court’s verdict that the closed trial of Darunee’s case was not unconstitutional. This is not just a reinforcement of the personal tragedy of lese majeste repression against Darunee but a huge black mark against Thailand’s legal and constitutional systems.

For Darunee, sentenced to 18 years in jail for lese majeste, her only hope seems to be a royal pardon.

That’s the way the system works, not just for one who doesn’t plead guilty. The symbolism is that the lese majeste victim is charged and sentenced often without the details of the charges ever being particularly clear, and then the “benevolent monarch” is seen to grant a pardon, with the media sometimes giving more attention to the pardon than to the case itself. So while nurturing and cherishing a draconian law, long periods of imprisonment and vicious repression that supports a monarchy that claims to need no such “protection” because it is loved by one and all, the monarch comes out smelling of roses. It is all a magician’s trick, but it helps maintain the facade.

Darunee is now calling on the court to “reschedule the delivery of its final verdict to before the end of November. Then she would at least become eligible for consideration for a royal pardon under the usual conditions.” She feels the “Criminal Court is unfairly denying her the chance of a royal pardon by delaying its final verdict until Dec 15, after His Majesty the King’s birthday.”

In fact, this is all part of the punishment for daring to speak out: long periods of delays and further incarceration.

All she can do is “live in hope that the court would show mercy and reschedule the reading of her verdict so she could at least be entitled to apply for a pardon.” She has already been in prison since 22 July 2008.

Commenting on the decree required for pardons, she said: “It’s time to measure the heart of the government, which was elected by the power of the red-shirt members. There are also other people such as Surachai and Somyot who should be also included in the list…”.

The report states that “there are 11 other lese majeste prisoners in Bangkok Remand Prison. Three of their court cases have already reached the final verdict.” She added: “The current government might forget that they are here now due to the sacrifice of many others.”

Interestingly, she revealed that “she remained thankful to Bhumjaithai Party de facto leader Newin Chidchob who had provided monthly financial support during the first 14 months, but after his party joined the Democrat-led administration, he stopped sending the money.”

While a dedicated red shirt, she pointed out that: “No politicians have ever visited me, neither the core leaders of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship. My spirit remains intact only because of my own brother’s weekly visit [which ceased when he was jailed in a forgotten and relatively minor case from 1999] and some individual red-shirt members who still care for me…”.

Meanwhile, the Criminal Court said that new judges could be involved in reading of the verdict, so delayed the reading until 15 December. Just one more venal act by a very nasty system that presides over lese majeste repression.

Update: Pipob Udomittipong has a brief account of the Constitutional Court’s decision that a secret trial is not unconstitutional at Prachatai.

Chalerm doomed to failure on lese majeste

14 09 2011


Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung is one of the “lovable rogues” who litter Thailand’s political landscape. Some of them, like Chalerm, have used official positions to enrich and entrench themselves. They get away with murder, often literally.

Their influence – sometimes backed with dubious connections to people with guns and chao phor – and their capacity to change political shades in a way that keeps them close to power and in the public eye is in their DNA. Recent examples include not just Chalerm, but Newin Chidchob and even former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban. It seems that Chalerm is going to play a similar role in the Yingluck Shinawatra government as that played by Newin for the Abhisit Vejjajiva government.

These “self-made” nakleng politicians are often amongst the strongest supporters of the monarchy. Part of this has to do with their social climbing and the need to be accepted by the royalist elite. Of course, they seldom are, but that doesn’t stop them wanting to hobnob with the royalists. Because they are never really accepted, their displays of royal loyalty and courtship can be as chilling as the King Vulture’s display. His style is adopted by several other old-style nakleng, including the popular Bangkok maverick and former massage parlour king Chuwit Kamolvisit, who is on the opposition side, but supportive (so far) of Chalerm. Who says it is only opposites that attract!

Chalerm and Chuwit

Chalerm has been loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra, and in a team that was decimated by politicized judicial decisions, he was one of the more prominent Puea Thai parliamentarians who confronted the Democrat Party-led government. He often made long and entertaining attacks on the government that served to reinforce his reputation as a loveable lout.

Chalerm had a shaky relationship with Puea Thai, where despite being considered an egotistical and ambitious maverick, he was chair of Puea Thai members of parliament. He has had a distant and sometimes troubled relationship with the mass-based red shirt movement. As an old-style politician, Chalerm is not much interested in political mobilization.

Since he has been unleashed as a senior government minister he has been hard at work. Some of this will cheer supporters but will also used by opponents against Yingluck’s government.

For PPT, most disturbing has been Chalerm’s personal championing of royalist-style illiberal politics. This has reached something of a peak in Chalerm’s recent statements about getting tough on anti-monarchists.

Chalerm and Yingluck

In Prachatai, Chalerm is reported as having told reporters “that he had called a meeting with police officers who had finished doctoral degrees on government scholarships to get rid of websites with lèse majesté content.” (Chalerm himself can claim a doctorate from Ramkhamhaeng University.)

Chalerm believes that “offending websites must not be allowed to exist, and all measures must be taken to block them, and make arrests.”

He seems to think that police officers with doctoral degrees will be more effective snoopers on lese majeste and has assigned a committee to look into the idea. It seems Chalerm may see the need for a more targeted approach than in the past. That is disappointing and scary (as it is meant to be).

Meanwhile, the same article reports that the Army’s Lt. Gen. Udomdet Seetabut has warned “that the threats [to society] concerned not only the problems of narcotics and crime, but also about attacks against the supreme institution by groups of people with malevolent intent in various forms.” The past government’s mantra that these “attacks greatly affect national security” is still deployed.

The general explains that the Army, “has mobilized the masses and built people’s networks under a programme entitled ‘Thais Love the Land’, which has already organized 14 training sessions for 4,000 Thais.” He added:

He said that the programme was meant to make the people aware of their power and duty to protect the Nation, Religion and King, instil love and unity among them, and encourage them to take part in preventing and solving problems which affected national security and public order.

The army will organize an event entitled ‘Unite Thais Who Love the Land’ at the Army Club in Bangkok on 13 Sept for those who have been trained in the programme to gather and exchange ideas, and there will be musical performances and lectures on national security and patriotism.

This is also old-style military tactics that were born in anti-communist counterinsurgency in the 1960s and 1970s. Old-fashioned, but this kind of propaganda should scare Chalerm and Puea Thai, for such a network will eventually be used against them.

That aside, neither Chalerm nor Udomdet can turn the clock back unless they plan to build concentration camps and engage in a 1976-77-like reign of terror in order to protect the monarchy. If the palace continues to rely on old men and men using old-style and nakleng methods, then their allies are likely to bury the palace in campaigns that spell its doom.

Why we are not surprised IV

22 06 2011

It is about a month since we had our third post in this series. It’s time for the fourth post, as a series of summaries of unsurprising news reports.

1. Bangkok Pundit has an important post on ballot irregularities. His comments should be read in conjunction with the comments, which refer to other claims of ballot problems for overseas voters. We are not surprised that the Election Commission could make such a “mistake” with the Puea Thai Party logo. PPT can confirm the comment made on BP’s post that claims the EC documents sent to voters use a different logo for Puea Thai than that in the ballots. That can only confuse voters, especially for party list. Remember when Election Commissioners were jailed a few years ago. We are willing to bet that these commissioners are treated better.

2. Acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn is reported to have said that “he was a government official and not a member of any political party.” PPT has never expected that this unscrupulous person was anything less than a Privy Council and Army connected toady. He’s paid to be a professional sycophant. But who pays him? If he is a government official, why is he shadowing Abhisit Vejjajiva on the campaign trail? Isn’t this a form of corruption? Has he quietly resigned from his acting position? We wouldn’t be surprised to find Panitan pilfering the public purse.

3. Can readers remember the reports of a week ago when Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha declared that he’d keep quiet until the election? We are not surprised that just a week later, the mega-mouth general has been at it again. This time he has rejected the Puea Thai election policy to make the three southern border provinces a special administrative zone. He couldn’t help himself.

4. We weren’t at all surprised to learn that the leader of the Bhum Jai Thai Party Newin Chidchob has demanded that all the supporters of his top-ranked Thai Premier League team Buriram PEA vote for his party. Okay, he’s not the official leader, but everyone knows he’s the boss. Newin has spent billions and a couple of years building what he said was an apolitical effort to lead a great soccer team. Everyone knew that this was a way to get “automatic” support for Newin’s party. Does any of that spending count as election campaign spending? Probably not for this EC.

5. Former People’s Alliance for Democracy, pink shirt, multi-color shirt leader and anti-red shirt Tul Sitthisomwong, who is now a leader of the so-called Civil Network Against Thaksin’s Corruption Pardon just ended a four-day signature campaign that asked people to file complaints against Puea Thai’s Yingluck Shinawatra. He gathered a paltry 4,000 signatures, but beamed when he claimed “[t]he majority does not necessarily equate with righteousness.” We were not surprised when he stated: “If and when [Pheu Thai] becomes the government and takes any action, we will come out in opposition again.” Of course they will!

Democrat Party burning

15 06 2011

When the big red shirt rally began in Bangkok in March 2010, one of the first events was the “caravan” around the city. This parade was chilling for the establishment and for the Abhisit Vejjajiva government because it showed that the red shirts had huge support in the city. The mainstream media estimated the caravan and supporters in the tens of thousands. At the time, PPT had a report, and while we didn’t nominate a figure, we reckon there must have been hundreds of thousands throughout the city. We had another post of the fallout from the caravan.

Now the Democrat Party has had a micro-caravan in the city. The Bangkok Post reports that the aim of this parade, which included Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, was to remind “voters of last year’s political violence in a bid to stem the Pheu Thai Party’s fast-rising popularity.”

On the morning of the event, the Bangkok Post had an op-ed that also sought to remind Bangkok’s English-language readers of 19 May. Its title was “Do we remember the burning of Thailand?” No coincidence there as the Post has become, like its elite brethren, increasingly panicked by the polls that appear to show Puea Thai taking a lead even in Bangkok.

This op-ed begins, explaining the surprise of “many” – PPT assumes that author Voranai Vanijaka means those he knows, and many of these are likely to be establishment figures: “Many people have expressed bewilderment. How is it that Pheu Thai Party’s popularity is at a high? How is it that they are leading the Democrat Party in poll after poll? Sure, Yingluck Shinawatra is a hot item right now, but that can’t be the sole reason, can it?” It goes on to admonish the Democrat Party for not reminding people of these “heinous and treasonous” acts.

Astonished, he asks: “How many of us actually remember the burning of Thailand? How many of us still talk about it? Is the atrocity still alive and vibrant in the consciousness of the Thai Kingdom? From what I’ve observed, most people have pretty much forgotten.” Perhaps with Army urging, or Newin Chidchob’s base political instincts at work, or even with the urging of others who compare this arson to the sacking of Ayudhya, the Democrat Party has responded.

Voranai makes some pretty basic errors. Take this as an example: when referring to the arson in Bangkok and provinces he says: “Of course, no one has been found guilty of any crimes, as yet.” Doesn’t he read the press or the blogs? Doesn’t he know that there are plenty of red shirts still locked up over these events?

But back to the Democrat Party micro-caravan.

The Democrat Party’s strategist Korbsak Sabhavasu is not as negative as Voranai. He believes that “the majority of the public still have bitter memories of the unrest and the burning of Bangkok.” The Post helpfully explains that the Democrat Party is “changing election campaign tactics to cut the ground from under Pheu Thai by reminding voters that key figures of the red shirt movement who are now running for the general election under the party’s banner, are alleged to be involved.”

Korbsak explained that “the violence in April and May last year stemmed from the red shirt movement led by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, which is aligned with Pheu Thai…. [M]any top figures of the red shirt UDD are now running for the election on Pheu Thai’s party list and some of them are likely to be given cabinet portfolios if Pheu Thai wins the election and forms the government…. The public should be able to imagine what kind of government they would get…”.

How was the micro-caravan received? There’s not a lot in the report, but the accompanying photos tell a story. In Samrong, Puea Thai supporters held up anti-government and pro-Puea Thai placards and lifted their index fingers to signify their support for Puea Thai. Maybe the Democrat Party was lucky to avoid a different finger. Suthep had to avoid eggs thrown at him.

In a related move, Abhisit has gone back to Facebook to defend “his government’s crackdown on red shirt protesters in April and May last year.” This is something also seen in Voranai’s op-ed, where he claims that the red shirts are always reminding people of “their” deaths. He urges Abhisit to do the same. And he does.

Abhisit apparently claims that “persistent efforts have been made to raise the issue of the 91 deaths to step up a hate campaign against him ahead of the general election.” As in our earlier posts, here and here, Abhisit is again self-serving and self-centered.

In fact, there has been a consistent effort to raise these deaths – and the actual figure now seems to be 93 – since May 2010. There’s nothing new. Indeed, even the panel Abhisit himself appointed has not been able to resolve anything because state officials and agencies are blocked from providing evidence.

Abhisit’s post refers to “mysterious armed groups who mingled freely among the protesters.” Indeed, they do seem mysterious for none seem to have been arrested and charged.

The premier promised to post more comments soon “to explain top red shirt figures could have prevented the deaths.” He says that “they opted for more deaths so they can press the charge of killing people against me…”. Now PPT thinks this is a new take. Again, very self-centered, but Abhisit is claiming that the red shirt leadership decided to “sacrifice” its supporters. This is an arrogant claim and by preventing independent investigation of events, Abhisit can pretty much make up any story he wants. As he does so, it is me, me, me. In fact, those who recall the last hours of the rally will know that those defiant demonstrators who remained wanted no capitulation and even jeered the leadership when it surrendered.

PPT agrees that the election is not over yet and that predictions are pretty much useless. What we do know is that Army-commanded Internal Security Operations Command has deployed 17,000 of its spies throughout the country to collect “evidence” of Puea Thai misdeeds for changing any narrow election victory by that party. We also know that the Election Commission is considering issuing red cards even before the election day. If we were betting people, we’d be wagering that, if this comes about, these cards will overwhelmingly target Puea Thai.

Why are we confident on this? Just look at what happened in 2007. Almost all the disqualifications were of People’s Power Party victors. Even if Puea Thai scrape in, we don’t think that a judicial coup is out of the question. And even if Yingluck has been “cleared” by the SEC, PPT expects this “perjury” allegation to be pursued further. And, we believe that the establishment is up for another party dissolution case.

Amnesia on the military

15 06 2011

In a recent post we said: “PPT thought that everyone knows that the brokering of the deal for the Democrat Party-led coalition government was managed by the military with support from business and the palace.” In that post we were commenting on the recent Abhisit Vejjajiva epistle. It seems that this sudden amnesia has also infected the writers at the Bangkok Post, where two articles claim that the military’s involvement in cobbling together the Democrat Party-led coalition is somehow a new story.

The first story is by the yellow-hued op-ed writer Veera Prateepchaikul. He takes up Chart Thai Pattana Party leader Chumpol Silpa-archa’s comments in an article with the intriguing title “’Forced marriage’ was not made in heaven.” We take this as a reference to the palace. Interestingly, though, Veera doesn’t mention the palace. It seems he wants to shift responsibility away from “heaven.” Veera states: “Chumpol’s first public admission of Chartthaipattana’s ‘forced marriage’ with the Democrats and three other junior parties …has confirmed what the opposition Pheu Thai Party and many political observers have accused all along – that the military had played a crucial role in cobbling together the Abhisit government…. But Mr Abhisit has denied all along that his coalition government was put together with the help of the military.”

The second story is by Wassana Nanuam, who knows what happened very well. Her account also points to Chumpol’s comments “… Armed forces leaders, including Gen Prayuth [Chan-ocha], reportedly invited many politicians for a talk at the 1st Infantry Regiment to lobby them to support the Democrat-led government in December 2007. Both the military and the Democrat Party have vehemently denied this.”

The interesting point is the last sentence. PPT’s question is: How can the Democrat Party and the military deny it now and why does Veera think this is new?

We covered some of this in out linked post above and this earlier post. We again draw readers’ attention to the excellent Bangkok Pundit round-up on the Chumpol story. Let’s just cite a bit from that post, from The Nation: “    The shadow of the military hovers over moves to form a new government, which will see the Democrats team up with minor parties who agreed to swap sides “for the sake of the nation. “A key leader of one of the former coalition parties said most parties had moved to the Democrat camp due to a request by a senior military figure, who was conveying a message from a man who could not be refuted.” We would assume that the “man” is close to heaven.

We might add that Anupong and his co-military commanders made a public statement calling for the PPP government to resign. That was in late November 2008, in a nationwide broadcast.

What else does the media say at the time? Here’s some, from PPT’s paper files:

In the same Nation story, this is added: “key Democrat leaders namely Suthep [Thaugsuban] and Niphon [Promphan], along with their supporters namely Pradit [Pattaraprasit], Somsak [Prissanananthakul], Suchat Tanchareon from Puea Pandin, Somsak Thepsuthin from the disbanded Matchima Thipataya, and some MPs from Newin [Chidchob]’s group met Army Chief Gen Anupong Paochinda at his residence. The only parties not invited were Pheu Thai and Pracharaj.”

On 11 December 2011, Wassana in the Bangkok Post stated: “Amid intense lobbying by both Puea Thai and Democrat camps, many key members of the coalition parties and key factions within them were seen visiting Gen Anupong at his official residence in the compound of the First Infantry Regiment off Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, both in small and large groups. Among these special visitors were reportedly Newin Chidchob and Sora-at Klinprathum, two faction leaders in the now dissolved PPP. The two men were seen at Gen Anupong’s residence on Dec 4 along with Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army’s chief-of-staff. Later, Pradit Phataraprasit, secretary-general of Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana party reportedly called on Gen Prayuth at his residence, also in the regiment compound. In the meantime, Democrat secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban kept in touch with Gen Anupong by phone…. On Dec 6, shortly before the Democrat’s plan to form a new coalition government was announced, Mr Suthep reportedly led a group of key members of the Democrats’ prospective coalition partners to meet Gen Anupong at the residence of former army chief Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who is well respected by Gen Anupong. Even though the meetings were supposed to be secret events, they ended up in the open because of the unusual manner of the visits.”

In the Bangkok Post on 29 December 2008, Anupong “accepted that meetings between him and politicians from the Democrats and other smaller parties at his residence at the First Infantry Regiment on Vibhavadi Rangsit road paved the way for the Democrats to eventually form a new coalition government. The Dec 3, 4 and 6 meetings were attended by key figures of the former coalition parties of the previous government and influential Buri Ram politician Newin Chidchob, the leader of the breakaway faction of the dissolved People Power party.” It is clear that the cat is already well out of the bag and there can be no denying the meetings. What Anupong does then is add this, and this has been the basis of continuing dissembling by the military brass and Abhisit: ”They phoned me for my advice. Some asked to meet me. But I was not involved in setting up the government. I only suggested that they do what is good for the country…”.

But he can’t control himself, saying: “Society expects the military to help restore peace. But when this [the meetings] happened, I was attacked. What should I do, then?” PPT uses the words of a military source cited in the above story: “From the chain of events of the last few weeks, it cannot be denied that Gen Anupong had a hand in the successful formation of the present government.”

What isn’t very clear at all is the identity of the “man” who could not be disobeyed. Many have suggested Privy Councilor General Prem Tinsulanonda. Unlike Anupong’s involvement, however, this one is harder to pin down with adequate news stories.

But this is certainly no big news. The journalists had it right from the start. So why the collective amnesia now? Anything to do with the election?


Why we are not surprised III (or Fixing the election VI)

23 05 2011

As reported in the Bangkok Post, Puea Thai Party candidate and red shirt leader Natthawut Saikua has told “supporters to stop disturbing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva while campaigning, saying their actions might result in a legal backlash from the Democrat Party.”

The Nation has part of the “legal backlash”: The Democrat Party has run to the Election Commission, complaining about red shirts. Apparently, the “Democrat Party has cried foul over the red shirts rallying to help Pheu Thai in its election campaign. It called on the EC to strictly check Pheu Thai’s campaign spending by including election spending incurred by the red shirts as part of Pheu Thai’s outlays.” The Party wants the EC to “take action to prevent other parties from using rallies or other activities to help them win the election…”.

Even though the Election Commission reckons it will not be easy for the Democrat Party “to prove that the red shirts belonged to the Pheu Thai Party or that they were from the same organisation,” PPT thinks that the strategy of the now very worried Democrat Party and their backers is clear. Seeing the opposition looking good in the polls, they are announcing the official beginning of the judicial overturning of any Puea Thai Party election victory.

The EC says “campaign spending could only be checked after the election had been held and it was different from electoral fraud, which it could check before and after the poll.”

The Bangkok Post reports a further element of this strategy working itself out. It reports a “former army captain who helped train security guards for the yellow shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy has set up a group that will monitor the Pheu Thai Party’s election campaign. Capt Songklod Chuenchuphol, 48, said on his Facebook and Twitter pages he was recruiting more ‘anonymous warriors’ to join a “mission” to give red cards to Pheu Thai candidates in the July3 election.”

The Captain said “Anonymous warriors will serve as intelligence officers who will attend all election campaign events of Pheu Thai to gather evidence and later submit it to the EC…”. And he claims to be urging Bhum Jai Thai Party real leader Newin Chidchob to provide him with “strategic support.”

This guy might simply be a crazy acting on his own, and yet the strategy must be one that the Democrat Party and its allies are keen to mobilize. After all, as recent history has demonstrated, there is more than one path to power following elections that produce “unsatisfactory” outcomes.