Punishment and pleasure

27 09 2020

Ever since the 2006 military coup, various rightist regimes have sought to lock up Thai Rak Thai/Puea Thai politician Watana Muangsook. Several failed attempts have accompanied numerous charges and several short stints in prison, a police cell or a re-education camp.

A couple of days ago the Bangkok Post reported that the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions has now “found him guilty over his role in irregularities in a low-cost housing project.” He was found guilty on “11 counts of corruption, which carry up to 99 years in prison.” In Thailand, that means 50 years as it is the legally maximum jail time.

Watana and Yingluck

The article is pretty opaque on exactly what he did that the court considered illegal, but “abusing power and demanding kickbacks” are mentioned for the time Watana was minister. “Abusing power” seems to mean anything the court wants it to mean. Demanding kickbacks is clearer, but no details are provided.

Several others considered close to Thaksin Shinawatra were also sentenced to jail time and fines. Anti-Thaksinism would seem to be a motivating factor as the original investigation after the 2006 coup, “initiated by the now-defunct Assets Scrutiny Committee…”. That seems to have gone nowhere for some time. It was later taken up by the post-2014 coup “National Anti-Corruption Commission which forwarded its findings to the Office of the Attorney-General in Nov 2016 after deciding to implicate [prosecute?] Watana for alleged violations of the Criminal Code.”

Watana made bail and he can appeal.

At about the same time, the Bangkok Post editorialized that the junta’s Election Commission (EC) decision “to clear 31 political parties of illegal borrowings could cause further confusion regarding the organic law on political parties.” It pointed out the double standards involved when compared to the Constitutional Court’s dissolution of the Future Forward Party on similar charges.

The editorial says the “logic for this [decision] appears fuzzy when looked into in detail.” But “fuzzy” is the EC’s usual mode of operation and any notion of law and logic goes out the window.  The Post reckons the whole deal smells of rotting fish. The editorial has more, and the EC has responded, also reported by the Bangkok Post but it doesn’t satisfy the logic test.

As far as we can see, the vendetta continues, even if the Thaksin clan seems to be engaging in considerable royal posterior polishing as it seeks more control over Puea Thai.





Cocaine blues for the clowns in brown II

5 08 2020

According to recent reports, the panel of prosecutors hurriedly put together as a regime mechanism to deal with the political fallout of the effort to exonerate Red Bull scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, has recommended “charges of cocaine abuse and reckless driving causing death…”. Yes, the things that were all mentioned in reports in 2012. The police and prosecutors have come full circle.

Described as a “dramatic turnaround,” the posterior covering was sensational. Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) spokesman Prayut Petcharakhun “explained” that in dropping all charges, “Nate Naksuk, deputy attorney-general responsible for cases with justice complaints, had initially made a sound decision against arraignment based on available evidence and witnesses.” That is, of course, a pile of buffalo manure.

How high?

Prayut then further “explained” that the evidence by Sathon Wicharnwannarak, a Chulalongkorn University physics lecturer “who worked for forensic police, [and] had concluded that the speed of the Ferrari at the time of the crash was about 177kph. However, the conclusion had not been included in police investigative report relating to the case.” Now why was that? Most would guess that pressures, influences and greased palms might have been involved.

An what of the “alleged cocaine abuse?” OAG’s Prayut “said that a blood sample taken from Mr Vorayuth’s blood on the day of the crash indicated that he had abused cocaine. However, police had not raised the matter in their past investigative report…”. What a surprise!

Neither did police and prosecutors include “the charge of driving under the influence of alcohol because a test showed the Red Bull scion must have drunk after the crash — because his blood alcohol level was so high, he would have been unable to drive.” Yeah, right.

Prayut went on to describe all the omitted stuff as now somehow being “new evidence” that “justified the fresh investigation in the hit-and-run case.” See above for buffalo manure. The hopelessness of this claim of “new evidence” is shown to be manure in a Bangkok Post report that notes that “the new evidence involved the statements made by two experts … at the time of the fatal crash.”

Perhaps the only piece of reasonably good news is that a committee will “look into the financial transactions of people involved to determine if any irregularities were present.” That may not reveal much as most corruption money goes up the line. But at least the panel has thought of it.





Updated: Red Bull facts

27 07 2020

A story at Thai Enquirer notes that:

Red Bull’s parent company in Thailand, TCP Group, released a public statement distancing itself from Vorayuth Yoovidhya who was revealed this week to have been acquitted for a traffic incident which left a police officer dead.

It adds:

The case also sparked scrutiny of Thailand’s large income divide, the Yoovidhya family is estimated to be worth $13.1 billion in a country where the average daily income is slightly more than 10 dollars per day.

Red Bull’s parent conglomerate TCP Group, facing a social media boycott, stated:

TCP Group would like to clarify that Mr. Vorayuth Yoovidhya has never assumed any role in the management and daily operations of TCP Group, was never a shareholder, nor has he held any executive position within TCP Group….

It is almost impossible to verify these claims for a private company that operates in a remarkably opaque manner.

Noting that, in 2002, the family-run “Red Bull GmbH produces the world’s leading energy drink. More than a billion cans a year are sold in nearly 100 countries,” Reference for Business states that “Red Bull holds a 70 percent share of the world market for energy drinks…”.

Known as Krating Daeng in Thailand, it has been “produced since the early 1970s by the T.C. Pharmaceutical Co., founded in Thailand in 1962 by Chaleo Yoovidhya [Xǔ Shūbiāo] …. T.C. Pharmaceutical eventually formed the subsidiary Red Bull Beverage Co. Ltd…”. Dietrich Mateschitz was the foreign partner in Red Bull GmbH who worked for Blendax, a German manufacturer of toothpaste that Chaleo marketed in Thailand.

As a private company in Thailand and internationally, there is almost no information on the company. But, we know: “Today, Red Bull GmbH is 51 percent controlled by the Yoovidhya family, who own the trademark for the drink in Europe and the United States of America…”. The only public information about the parent company in Thailand is a list of six members of TCP’s board of directors. Five of the six listed are named Yoovidhya. The sixth and Chair of the Board, Pavana Langthara, is one of Chaleo’s daughters.

An AFP photo clipped from ChannelNews Asia

Back in 2012, when Vorayuth killed the policeman, it was widely believed Vorayuth would go free:

Vorayuth Yoovidhya, a grandson of the late founder of Red Bull, billionaire Chaleo Yoovidhya, had initially fled the scene but later confessed to hitting the policeman, police said. He was released hours later on 500,000 baht ($16,000) bail.

Though Vorayuth has yet to appear in court, there seemed little faith among the public that justice would be served.

“Jail is only for the poor. The rich never get punished. Find a scapegoat,” said one of a stream of comments posted on the popular Thai website, Panthip.com.

It was also reported that Vorayuth “tested positively for cocaine in his blood…”.

Where did Vorayuth flee to after the crash?

Police took Vorayuth Yoovidhya, 27, for questioning after tracing oil streaks for several blocks to his family’s gated estate in a wealthy neighborhood of the Thai capital.

The family prevented police from accessing the compound for some time, allowing covering-up to begin. Recall that the cover-up began when a police investigator “initially tried to cover up the crime by turning in a bogus suspect.”

Then the family sought to pay off the dead policeman’s family: they “struck a deal that will pay the officer’s siblings less than US$100,000.”

In other words, TCP/Red Bull is a Sino-Thai family-owned, private company completely dominated by the Yoovidhya family. For the family to claim that Vorayuth is not on the board or in management is a nonsense. He is, as he was long-described, an heir to the family fortune, made from Red Bull. His family stood by him early in the legal processes and it would be absurd to think the family did not know of his legal tactics and evasions.

In another “fact check,” we noted a Thai PBS report that Constitutional Court judge Thaveekiart Meenakanit “urged Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to investigate alleged mishandling, by the police and the public prosecutors, of the Red Bull heir hit and run case…”.

Obviously, the case is not constitutional, but the judge worried that “Thailand’s justice system has been rendered meaningless, after the prosecutors’ decision to drop the charges against the suspect and the police’s failure to challenge that decision.”

The judge fretted that it “the suspect was spared prosecution, apparently because of his economic and social status, is unprecedented and incomprehensible.”

We wonder if Thaveekiart has been asleep fro the past 15 years? Has he missed the double standards applied to red shirts? Has he missed the way the poor are locked up and the rich go free all the time? Has he slept through his own court’s politically-biased decisions? Has he snored through the massive impunity enjoyed by the murderous military?

The judge is right that “the majority of the people now see that the law is no longer sacred or to be respected” but he’s a decade and half late in recognizing it. But when he says that the current regime “can now only lean on law and order to justify its existence…”, he’s completely out of touch. The regime’s existence depends on the illegal 2014 military coup.

While sleepy, his point that this travesty of (in)justice “is the beginning of the end of the Government…” reflects the manner in which the royalist regime has relied on the judiciary to legitimize its rule. He’s warning that allowing the Red Bull lot to get away with murder is threatening to the regime’s claims to legitimacy, even if we know that legitimacy is based on double standards and impunity.

Remarkably, the judge explained “that many people believe that the Prime Minister’s reported acceptance of a 300 million baht donation from the Red Bull empire a few months ago, might be related to the decisions of the prosecutors and the police concerning the case.”

Now, that’s a question worth asking!

How high can the junta pile it?

Update: Helpfully, in an op-ed at the Bangkok Post, Ploenpote Atthakor that the buffalo manure that passes for justice in this case is “the rule not the exception.” She adds: “I need not tell you why there are such blatant double standards. If I do, I’ll only end up sounding like a broken record…”.

Meanwhile, following Thaveekiart’s advice, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has ordered “an inquiry into the prosecution’s decision to drop a reckless driving charge against Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya following public outrage over the news…”. Yet he betrayed his affinity for the filthy rich when he doled out buffalo poo by calling “on critics and media outlets not to seize on the controversy and distort facts or cause misunderstanding…”. The only misunderstanding seems to be among the relevant authorities! Laughably, he declared “he has never intervened in the justice administration process and the prosecution works under no political pressure…”.

Posterior covering reigns, with the prosecutors and Office of the Attorney General leaking:

New specialist and motorist witnesses who made statements that Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya did not drive his Ferrari over the speed limit and that the policeman who was killed abruptly cut in front of his vehicle are the key factors which convinced prosecutors to drop charges against the Red Bull scion.

In a leaked document outlining public prosecutors’ reasoning for their decision to drop the charge against Mr Vorayuth of reckless driving causing death, information from the new witnesses was given more weight than previous evidence, including forensic results.

It is astounding to think that after eight years of being unable to find Vorayuth, the authorities found new “witnesses.” To add to the “story,” the prosecutors blamed the victim.

Why the Office of the Attorney-General has now “set up a seven-member fact-finding panel to investigate the decision, by Thailand’s Office of Special Prosecutors for Criminal Litigation, to drop charges” seems bizarre when “Nate Naksuk, chief justice of the Department of Appealate Litigation in his capacity as acting attorney-general, signed the order to drop the charge.”





Further updated: Where’s Wanchalearm?

26 06 2020

On 23 June, the family of missing activist in exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit has filed a complaint with “the  Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Justice’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department, and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), calling for an investigation into his disappearance, while also preparing to file a complaint with the Cambodian police.”

When Wanchalearm’s sister Sitanun Satsaksit , submitted her complaint to the Office of the Attorney, she was “joined by Pranee Danwattanusorn … whose husband Sur[a]chai went missing while in exile in Laos, and Kanya Theerawut … mother of Siam Theerawut, another missing activist.

They are supported by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights: “A TLHR lawyer said that the family is filing a complaint … calling for the authorities to launch an investigation in order to find and prosecute the three people who abducted Wanchalearm.”

Wanchalearm’s family has called on the Thai government to find whether:

  • Wanchalearm has been arrested in Cambodia and why, and if this is the case,
  • he is in custody in Cambodia and where;
  • the Thai authorities were notified of Wanchalearm’s arrest by the Cambodian authorities;
  • the Thai authorities requested the Cambodian authorities to send Wanchalearm back to Thailand to be prosecuted, and
  • the Cambodian authorities returned Wanchalearm to Thailand.

The family also asked that Thai authorities “investigate Wanchalearm’s possible torture and enforced disappearance” and demanded to know “if the authorities have information on Wanchalearm’s fate or whereabouts…”.

It must suit the military-backed regime in Bangkok that Sitanun and her family cannot travel to Cambodia because of the so-called virus crisis. She revealed that “the Cambodian police said they cannot investigate the case because Wanchalearm’s relatives has not filed a complaint about his disappearance.” Getting legal representation in Cambodia ha proven a challenge, not just because of cost, but “because some lawyers have withdrawn from the case as they did not want to take the risk.” That suggests collusion between the two authoritarian regimes.

In an interview at Thisrupt, Sitanun stated that she and her mother “hope that he is still alive.” She added that “if he is dead, at least give us confirmation, because not knowing whether he is dead or alive is very difficult.”

In the more than three weeks since Wanchalearm’s disappearance the junta’s regime has done nothing. Again, that provides reasonable grounds for suspicion that the regime is deeply involved with the crime.

There is a social media campaign using the hashtag #savewanchalearm going “until he is found. To not also let the topic disappear.” At the same time, “people have been putting up posters and tying white ribbons around Bangkok, demanding justice for Wanchalearm.”

Of course, the regime’s minions have been busy taking them down, another piece of circumstantial evidence of its complicity in the enforced disappearance.

There have also been several rallies in support of Wanchalearm and demanding the authorities reveal his whereabouts.

Update 1: The New York Times has a detailed report on Wanchalearm, enforced disappearances, and the political context, stating:

At least nine prominent critics of the Thai government have vanished over the past two years, according to human rights groups. It is a pattern of disappearances that the Thai public is having a hard time ignoring….

It also has details of the abduction of Wanchalearm and the official cover-ups in Cambodia and Thailand.

Meanwhile, VOA Khmer has more on the Cambodian police response. Not only is it insipid, but it reeks of covering up for powerful interests. Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Koy Kuong is quoted as saying that the Cambodian side “had sent a note to the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh on June 11 … but that the Foreign Ministry had not heard back from their Thai counterparts.” Koy added the obvious: “They have not requested anything else for us to do…. [W]e told them that the police will continue to investigate.” In this, “investigate” means throwing as much dust in the air as possible.

Update 2: Members of the European Parliament have issued a statement of concern about Wanchalearm’s disappearance.





Updated: Trading justice

26 06 2019

Thailand’s judicial system has been in terrible trouble since at least 2006, when the previous king pushed judges to the center of political conflict. Since then, several courts have been delivering politicized decisions, not least the Constitutional Court.

One of the most blatant cases of this political use of the judicial system seems to be the recent decision by the Office of the Attorney-General that red shirt turncoat and political opportunist Suporn  Atthawong, once known as Rambo Isan, “could not be brought to hear an indictment at the Pattaya court…”. According to the Office of the Attorney-General, the statute of limitations had expired.

The charges went back to the invasion of the ASEAN summit in Pattaya in 2009.

Startlingly, this statute of limitations did not apply to his co-accused red shirts. One of them, Nattawut Saikua, is cited in the report:

Nuttawut, a co-defendant in the Pattaya case, wrote on Facebook he was impressed by the “miracle of law” which let only Mr Suporn walk free.

“I don’t have any problem if he is let off the hook because we red shirts have faced many more charges than others. But the statute of limitations expired? This is hard to swallow.

“I’m only saddened by the miracle of law and the judicial process,” he wrote.

There were rumours that making lawsuits disappear was used as a tool to lure former MPs to join a new party. “I wonder if there is a shred of truth in this case, “ he continued.

In that last comment, Nattawut is referring to the offers that were allegedly made to former Thaksin Shinawatra supporters to defect to the junta’s proxy party, to assist in mobilizing voters and to work against former allies. It was claimed that not just money changed hands in such dealing, but legal favors as well. Justice is a commodity for trade for the junta.

Update: Khaosod reports that “[p]olice commanders … declined to explain why they failed to arrest a pro-junta politician before insurrection charges against him expired.”

Chonburi police commander Nanthachart Supamongkol, whose was tasked with apprehending Suporn, used a royal excuse!: “Nanthachart said he was busy attending an event to honor King Rama X,” and told reporters to ask someone else. We are sure General Prawit knows the answer. Deals were done.





Updated: Shaky regime III

20 06 2019

As the junta’s post-junta regime is put together, its foundations are already being undermined, and its moving to shore up those foundations, mainly be preventing scrutiny. That is a strategy that can’t hold for long.

A day or so ago, opposition politicians gave notice that they “plan to file a motion urging the House Speaker to scrutinize the criteria used by the junta to select the 250 senators.” Puea Thai MP Suthin Klangsaeng wants “Parliament to convene a special house committee tasked with looking into the selection procedure, which they fear could have been fraught with favoritism.” He added: ““So far, the process hasn’t been revealed…”.

Almost immediately, it was reported that Senate Speaker and junta puppet Pornpetch Wichitcholchai “insisted on Wednesday the House of Representatives has no authority to probe the qualifications of senators.” As far as we can tell, that’s not the issue; rather it’s the process. But you get the picture.

Taking another tack, “Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a former member of the dissolved Thai Raksa Chart Party, on Wednesday lodged a petition with the Office of Attorney-General (OAG) asking it to seek a Constitutional Court ruling on the Senate selection process.” We’d expect both the A-G and the Constitutional Court to back the junta.

Meanwhile, trying to protect its shaky foundations, the puppet Palang Pracharath Party “will next week lodge a petition with the Constitutional Court asking it not to temporarily suspend its MPs accused of violating media share-holding rules.” Of course, the Court has already disqualified a Future Forward candidate before the election for the same “crime,” not even allowing him to stand. Expect the Court to drag its feet.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that the junta proxy party has “asked the Constitutional Court to drop a case against its 27 MPs for allegedly holding media shares on a technicality.” Grasping for all legal straws, Palang Pracharath’s “lawyer Tossapol Pengsom said on Thursday the 66 FFP [Future Forward] MPs who signed the document submitted it as a letter, not as a petition as prescribed by law.” He said: “We view the submission was not done correctly so the case should be dropped…”.





Federation case to go to trial

23 02 2019

Prachatai reports on the case of six defendants in the Thai Federation case. These six demonstrated at the Pathumwan skywalk in front of MBK Shopping Centre on 5 December 2018, wearing black shirts and displayed a Thai Federation banner.

On 20 February 2019, the Office of the Attorney General ordered the six be  prosecuted on charges under Article 116 (sedition), forming a secret society, holding an unauthorized public assembly and holding that assembly within 150 meters of a royal palace.

The six have denied all charges and will go to trial. They were released on bail, with the next hearing scheduled for 22 April 2019.





No refugee is safe

18 02 2019

What is a refugee? Wikipedia helps:

To receive refugee status, a person must have applied for asylum, making them—while waiting for a decision—an asylum seeker. However, a displaced person otherwise legally entitled to refugee status may never apply for asylum, or may not be allowed to apply in the country they fled to and thus may not have official asylum seeker status.

Once a displaced person is granted refugee status they enjoy certain rights as agreed in the 1951 Refugee convention. Not all countries have signed and ratified this convention and some countries do not have a legal procedure for dealing with asylum seekers.

Thailand has never become a party to that 1951 convention. In essence, that means that no refugee is safe in Thailand.

We make this observation in the context of a Bangkok Post report of an interview with Chatchom Akapin, director-general of the Office of the Attorney General’s International Affairs Department.

Chatchom seeks to explain the debacle over the case of Hakeem al Araibi, who was granted refugee status by Australia but was arrested in Thailand and faced deportation to Bahrain.

The Post and Chatchom paint Thailand as being “caught” between Bahrain and Australia. This is may be true, but it ignores the fact that Thailand did not need to respond to Bahrain’s extradition request or to the quickly withdrawn Interpol red notice. The case was entirely Thailand’s responsibility as it held the footballer.

Chatchom shows how decidedly dull Thai officials can be and how they are reluctant to “impose” on their higher-ups. He states:

Bahrain asked to have Hakeem extradited to face prosecution by showing evidence he committed the wrongdoing and had been convicted by the court…. We considered this fell into the criteria where we could assist in line with legal principles so we filed the case with the court….

On the Australian government’s granting refugee status, Chatcom declares: “We considered that this point was irrelevant as the wrongdoing had been committed before he was granted the refugee status in Australia…”.

This makes clear that no refugee is safe in Thailand. Refugee status counts for nothing (except where other political, monarchical or military considerations are considered). Refugee status can be used for or against an individual, as seen in the two cases last month.





Begging the junta to do the right thing

9 12 2018

Begging the junta to do the right thing might seem about as useful as talking to a brick wall, especially when it has almost no track record on human rights or basic humanity. Think of the lying that still goes on about the 2010 massacre perpetrated by the Army.

Even so, a couple of human rights protectors have stepped up.

The first is the very honorable National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit. She’s about the only person on the NHRC who ever does anything much about human rights. The rest of the NHRC makes up a part of the junta’s brick wall.

She has requested that junta “respect international standards and refrain from extraditing a former national team footballer to stand trial in Bahrain.” This refers to Hakeem Al-Araibi’s detention in Bangkok. He’s been detained for 13 days now, despite being recognized and registered as a refugee by the UN and Australia.

Angkhana said she wanted to see Hakeem “treated fairly because he has refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Due to his status, he should be protected under international law.” She added that the junta’s government “does not have to extradite him.”

As we know, however, such international norms are ignored by the junta. In any case, the “Attorney-General’s office on Friday submitted an extradition request to the Criminal Court on Bahrain’s behalf as the Gulf state has an outstanding arrest warrant for him.” He goes before one of the junta’s courts on Tuesday, and FIFA, the UN and human rights groups all have their fingers crossed that the junta may do the right thing (for a change).

Usually meek before the junta, the Australian government’s Foreign Minister has finally demanded that “Thailand release … Hakeem al-Araibi from detention and return him to Australia, setting the stage for a diplomatic clash.” In some media in Thailand this was crippled by the use of “urge” rather than “demand.”

The second instance of begging the junta to do the right thing is like spitting into the wind.

Amnesty International, noting that the military thugs have only said they will lift some restrictions, it has “issued a call for the “junta to end all restrictions on human rights before the next election tentatively scheduled for February 24.” It emphasized that the junta “must fully lift the arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association…”.

Looking to the elections, AI stated that the junta:

… allow people to receive and distribute information online and from the media, engage in public debate and campaigns, gather peacefully and demonstrate, criticise politicians and express diverse or dissenting viewpoints without fear of imprisonment or persecution.

And AI went further:

The authorities should also send a clear signal of their commitment to uphold these rights by dropping charges – and repealing convictions – of all individuals targeted solely for peacefully exercising their rights….

The junta is as unlikely to accept such “radical” proposals as it would admit its murderous role in 2010 when it shot dozens of demonstrators.





On the lese majeste regime

17 10 2018

Shawn Crispin at Asia Times has a longish piece on lese majeste. He’s making a point about a seeming change to the lese majeste regime that has been noted by several analysts for several weeks, but still has some points worth considering.

He focuses on the controversial dropping of Sulak Sirivaksa’s Article 112 case when he “appealed to monarch [King] … Vajiralongkorn for a royal reprieve.”

Sulak “claims the case was stopped after King Vajiralongkorn advised Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha on the situation.”

Readers should note that this claim runs contrary to the palace’s long-held propaganda claim that the monarchy does not interfere in lese majeste cases. (There were several instances where the previous king and his palace did intervene, but the propaganda has been otherwise.)

Sulak is quoted as stating: “If the case went to the military tribunal, they were bound to put me in jail without any law, because the law doesn’t mean anything to them…”. Sulak is partly correct in this guess, but, then, no lese majeste case has ever stuck for him.

He says The Dictator was uninterested until the king intervened: “… when the King told him to drop the case, obviously it was royal advice that worked.”

Crispin suggests that the huge lese majeste “clampdown has come against the backdrop of what was once seen as an uncertain royal succession…”, ignoring the fact that the rise in the use of lese majeste predates the 2014 coup. PPT sees the use of Article 112 as a part of political efforts to rid Thailand of republicanism and to defeat the red shirts.

How Crispin concludes that the “military top brass [is]… now seemingly poised to relinquish power at democracy-restoring polls early next year…” is beyond our comprehension. However, he is right to see “signs that the fearsome law will be used less frequently, if at all, under the new reign,” although he does not note that the crown prince-cum-king was fearsome himself in the use of lese majeste against persons he saw as personal enemies. This included deaths in custody.

Sulak is then cited on his discussions with the king. He “says King Vajiralongkorn recognized the law’s past abuse for political purposes in a recent personal audience he had with the King where he offered his royally sought advice on myriad issues.”

Presumably Sulak has been given royal permission to say these things; that is, he is the king’s messenger. He does this by adhering to palace propaganda about the dead king: “I told the King his father said that clearly – it’s on record – that anybody that makes the case of lese majeste harms him personally and undermines the monarchy…”.

He then says that in his own case, “you can say publicly the king wrote personally to the Supreme Court and Attorney General, and since then there have been no new cases under [Article] 112.”

Sulak, adding to the new royalist discourse on the new monarchy, says that the recent dropping of 112 charges “are indicative of the new King’s ‘mercy’.” As with all royalist discourse, this involves untruths: “[King Bhumibol] regarded himself as a constitutional monarch, so he would not interfere,” but of course he did.  Sulak says of the previous king: “He used an indirect way, the Siamese way, he talked to the judges, he talked to the public prosecutor, but then many ignored his advice.” Of course, this is nonsense.

Interestingly, Sulak claims: “it is clear now that future cases will only be accepted for investigation and prosecution with the royal household’s consent. That, he says, marks a change from father to son.”

That is good news, perhaps. There remain about 60 cases of lese majeste still under the purview of prosecutors and the judiciary. But is is not such good news to have it confirmed that Vajiralongkorn is a determined interventionist, likely to ignore law, parliament and judiciary. Sulak states: “… the present King, unlike his father, he not only advises, he instructs…”.

As Crispin notes:

King Vajiralongkorn has moved with an alacrity and purpose in consolidating his reign that few diplomatic and other observers anticipated or foresaw upon his acceptance of the throne in late 2016. That’s entailed a recentralization of royal power….

Sulak seems to revel in his new role as royal spokesman. But beware the royalist who speaks for royal power.