The new privy council

6 12 2016

It was widely expected that the new king would put his stamp on the Privy Council. He’s done that in very quick time.

The Bangkok Post reports that the king has appointed an 11-member Privy Council.

The new members are: “Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan, the current Education Minister; Gen Paiboon Koomchaya, currently the Justice Minister; and Gen Teerachai Nakwanich, who retired as army commander-in-chief on Sept 30.”

We surmise that they will need to give up their current positions.

Those who “retired” are, including the dates they took their positions: “Tanin Kraivixien [1977], Chaovana Nasylvanta [1975], ACM Kamthon Sindhavananda [1987], Gen Pichitr Kullavanijaya [1993], Ampol Senanarong [1994], Rr Adm ML Usani Pramoj [1984], MR Thepkamol Devakula [1997] and Adm Chumpol Patchusanont [2005].”

Persons with more knowledge than us will have to read these tea leaves and explain the possible reasons for sending these men on their way.

This means the current 11 members of the Privy Council are: “Gen Surayud Chulanont, Kasem Watanachai, Palakorn Suwanarat,  Atthaniti Disatha-amnarj, Supachai Phungam, Chanchai Likitjitta, ACM Chalit Pookpasuk, Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan, Gen Teerachai Nakwanich and Gen Paiboon Koomchaya.” General Prem Tinsulanonda is president of the Privy Council.

This means six are military men, all from the post-2006 politicized forces and several of them having been actively involved in coups overthrowing elected governments.

Three are for presidents of the Supreme Court. One is a former education minister and another is Former Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Interior. Except for Prem, all have been appointed since 2001.

The king can have up to 18 members, so there’s plenty of empty chairs for him to add others. At the moment, this new Privy Council will be especially pleasing for the military junta. We can only wonder what the deal is for appointing three two serving ministers and a corrupt officer.

The lese majeste ploy II

27 10 2016

As we noted in our previous post, during the mourning period, the military junta has been hard at work burnishing its ultra-royalist political credentials chasing down those it considers disloyal.

When it comes to political exiles, its activities are largely bogus but that seems not to matter in this slithering, salivating attention-seeking. Extradition has been the mantra of some, like General Paiboon Khumchaya, who carries the moniker of “Justice” Minister.

The latest lese majeste ploy involves Police General Chakthip Chaijinda who claims that “the police were working with Interpol on legal action against the lese majeste suspects living overseas.” It is not entirely clear if he means exiles or new “suspects” who he says are guilty of having “produced content deemed in violation of Section 112 of the Criminal Code … from overseas and released it online.”

In any case, the Police General, who says he has “no idea what these lese majeste offenders are thinking…”,seems to want to extradite them back to Thailand.

At the same time, and seemingly with no consciousness that he is contradicting himself and looking both dull and silly, he also claims that he wants to send anti-monarchists in Thailand somewhere else. Not only that, he offered to pay for them to leave:

“For those who are in Thailand, if they don’t want to live here [because they’re dissatisfied with the monarchy] they can leave the country. If they don’t have enough money to buy air tickets, I’m willing to pay for them.”

Let’s be clear on what Chakthip seems to desire. He wants Interpol to hunt down and extradite exiles and perhaps other “lese majeste offenders” overseas and he also wants to send similar minded Thais overseas.

That illogical “thinking” suggests that what Chakthip really wants is some embellishment of his ultra-royalist credibility in Thailand.

Meanwhile, not to be left out in this grasping at royal aura from the dead king and (presumably) from the yet to be king, junta spokesman and lackey Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd has said that The Dictator has taken up the extradition mantra. General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “instructed state agencies to study which countries Thailand had agreements on extradition with and which countries had cooperated on such requests in the past.”

Well, we know none have ever cooperated on lese majeste extradition requests (if, indeed, any have ever been made).

The loyal Sansern then engaged in a bit a illogical banter on behalf of The Dictator, first saying that the lese majeste law was never used by the monarchy – “[t]he [royal] institution has never sued anyone for defaming the monarchy or royal family – and then contradicting this by saying that the “beloved and respectful institution … would rarely seek recourse to the courts itself…”.

It seems that the appeal of royalist grandstanding by taking advantage of the mourning period is so strong that it evokes bucket loads of loyalist junta froth and babble.

The lese majeste ploy I

27 10 2016

When the military regime declares that it is going after lese majeste suspects overseas it is a political ploy.

The latest use of this ruse is seen in a report from the Bangkok Post a few days ago. “Justice” Minister Army General Paiboon Khumchaya bellowed that “he had signed letters to the ambassadors of seven countries that 19 lese majeste suspects had fled to, asking for their cooperation in regard to extradition requests.”

General Paiboon knows that this act is nonsensical but he does it for the political resonance it has with the broad royalist constituency for the junta. He also knows that it will get him good press during the mourning period.

Still, that hardly accounts for his lie that he had had a “positive response” to letters his ministry “sent to the ambassadors of seven countries where lese majeste suspects are sheltering…”. He was rejected. It won’t happen.

The “Justice” Ministry said  “the seven countries included the United States, France, Australia, Japan and New Zealand.” Cambodia was also approached.

General Paiboon also lied when he said he remained hopeful that there would be extraditions. He knows there is no chance, with one possible exception. That is Cambodia.

Thailand’s junta may have a bit more political muscle in Cambodia on extradition, which The Phnom Penh Post says “Cambodian authorities are ‘processing’ a request from Thailand’s military government to extradite three Thai citizens for the crime of insulting the monarchy…”.

Extraditing Thais from Cambodia to Thailand on lese majeste would involve remaking Cambodian law. The extradition treaty between the two countries “outlines that an extraditable offence is one that carries a jail term under the laws of both countries. Insulting a king is not a criminal offence under Cambodia’s Penal Code…”.

So all the huff and puff is for domestic consumption, buffing the junta’s royalist credentials.

Further updated: Lese majeste after the reign

18 10 2016

It looks like there is to be no let up in the use of lese majeste. Both Matichon and Thai Rath report that “Justice” Minister Paiboon Khumchaya, who is yet another General, is looking at royalist mobs and thinking that this provides him with license to (again) seek out and prosecute persons deemed unduly critical of the king, even if they are overseas. The General seems to imply that, in addition to making representations through diplomatic channels, overseas “offenders” may be tracked by “agents.”

One of the cases he seems to refer to is in Phuket. One report, in the Phuket Gazette, refers to lese majeste charges being laid against Suthee Arammetapong. He was one of the people chased down by royalist mobs after the king’s death. Prachatai has a similar story. Yet its report states:

… Pol Maj Gen Teeraphon Thipcharoen, Commander of Phuket Police [arrived], with about 30 police officers and soldiers arrived at the scene and attempted to pacify the crowd [mob].

He told the crowd that the Facebook message does not seem to violate Article 112 directly, adding the police could make an arrest when the allegation is investigated and seems sufficiently substantiated and after the court grants an arrest warrant for the suspect.

Dissatisfied, the mob wanted lese majeste blood. The report states that “the crowd agreed to disperse after the intervention of Surathin Lien-udom, former key leader of the [anti-democratic] People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC)…”. He gathered up “four people from the mob to Mueang Phuket Police Station to file a lèse majesté complaint against the accused.”

That accusation is now being investigated.

Vigilantism and state repression seem required for a nation that now views all as black and white.

Update 1: Vigilantism is swelling in Thailand. Rightist foreigners associated with the Democrat Party and the broad anti-democratic movement are calling for harassment of foreign journalists. By far the most despicable case is the beating and humiliation of a 19 year-old worker in Chonburi.

Not only was the vicious mob attack livestreamed over Facebook, but it is clear that his employer – Thai Steel Cable – first alerted the mob to the alleged lese majeste by the young man and then told the mob where to locate him. The company sacked him and the company’s HR manager stated that he “would want to beat the crap out of him…”.

A photo later circulated on social media showed Jirawat in the back of a police vehicle, but the officer in charge of the case would not discuss the case other than to say police are investigating it.

Khaosod reports that “[n]one of the vigilantes involved in these incidents is known to be under criminal investigation for any crimes.” In other words, vigilantism is promoted and condoned, including by Minister Paiboon.

Update 2: The Nation reports on these matters. One notable paragraph states:

Overseas commentators are also being monitored. Minister in the PM’s Office Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana said the government had noted six social media users who live abroad making inappropriate comments online. The government would use intelligence and security agencies to deal with them, said Suwaphan, who is also a secretary to the command centre monitoring the situation.

With a major update: Anti-democrats in a flap

16 05 2016

As expected, following US Ambassador Glyn Davies responded to reporters questions that got the military junta’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in an angry spin late last week, the response of the increasingly anti-American rightist royalists and other anti-democrats was expected.

Sure enough, according to Prachatai, they have gone bonkers, raging against the US Ambassador rolling out the usual shrill nationalist messages calling for Davies to be expelled.

This huffing, puffing and manure-rolling is apparently because the Ambassador reiterated that the State Department had expressed concern about the junta’s terrible human rights record and its manufacturing a lese majeste case against Patnaree Chankij.

Arthit Ourairat declared “Davies’s action … despicable and lacked diplomatic manner. He suggested that Thai government should send him back to the US in order to protect Thai monarchy’s dignity…”. We are not sure how the monarchy’s dignity was harmed, but that matters little to ideologues like Arthit. He is a former Parliament Speaker, a PAD funder who regularly appeared on the anti-democrat stage, as well as being president and owner of Rangsit University, where he funds and maintains a den of anti-democrats.

Like the dopey royalist rant by Justice Minister General Paiboon Khumchaya, Arthit babbles about Thailand being “a country with an older and greater culture than the US, [that] should be able to teach the US that by sending such a bad manner person to be an Ambassador is an insult to our country.” He wants Davies made persona non grata and expelled.

Taking up the royalist-nationalist cudgel was Former deputy spokesperson of Democrat Party Mallika Boonmeetrakool, who has a history of histrionic and neo-Fascist outrages. She” posted an image of Davies on her Facebook with a message that read ‘Get Out’.” The post has been widely shared among yellow shirts.

PAD and PDRC ideologue Chirmsak Pinthong declared that “Davies would only worsen US-Thailand relation[s].” He also took up the latest nationalist fashion of declaring Thailand socially and culturally unique, requiring the lese majeste law.

How such a draconian law is civilized is not expressed. But, then, that’s not the point when racists and nationalists flap their deformed right wings.

Update: According to the Bangkok Post, the military junta is also in a flap. Uncoordinated, contradictory and concocting things, the junta seems driven by the rightist rage and by yellow-shirted social media.

As usual, The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha is erratic, idiosyncratic and reflects his incapacity to understand much outside his hierarchical world of military posterior polishing. As a dedicated yellow-shirt and social media follower, he demands: “Is Thailand a US colony?”

Again revealing his insular perspective, Prayuth bleats: “The ambassador likely based his comments on general US democratic principles and information he gleaned from media reports…”. We imagine that he says similar things about Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Spain and the UK, all of which expresed concerns about the junta and its repression at the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.

While not a complete record of the event, a video of the Davies and Don meeting with the press is here:

Deadly and dangerous clowns

12 05 2016

Despite an inglorious day before the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group, where the junta was shown to be tyrannical, rancid and hopelessly out of its depth, this seems to count for nothing in a regime composed of very dangerous clowns.Nasty clown

We do not intend to diminish the gravity of the situation facing Thailand under the junta by the use of the word “clown,” but this junta is composed of buffoons who only understand hierarchy, violence and repression.

The clownish aspects are demonstrated in a Prachatai story. Justice Minister General Paiboon Khumchaya has lapped up some royalist kool-aid sufficient to declare that “other countries” can’t understand Thailand’s lese majeste law because they lack Thailand’s level of “civilization, sensitivity, and gentleness.”

Yes, he’s lost his marbles, and to make that absolutely clear, the royalist maniac blurted out that “by having the King, Thailand was unique and civilized. That makes Article 112 or the lèse majesté law necessary…”. More remarkably, Paiboon told the media to report his “explanation.”

Meanwhile, the junta continued its witch hunts for political opponents, real or imagined.

In Pitsanulok, up to nine persons were detained by the military for joining a “field trip to investigate corruption allegations over a canal dredging project by the War Veterans Organisation.” The military accuses the Puea Thai Party of being involved. The alleged corruption involves the Ministry of Defense.

In Bangkok, the last two of the Facebook 8 have been denied bail by the military court. They are Harit Mahaton and Natthika Worathaiwich. At the same time, one of their supporters, Burin Intin, has been detained on lese majeste charges. The military court denied bail “citing flight risk, the possibility that they might attempt to distort evidence and the seriousness of the offence.” That is standard practice by the courts. It is also a gross breach of their rights under the law. The defendants allege that the military and police used illegal measures to obtain “evidence.”

In another case of the junta breaking the law, “military and police have attempted to break into the house of a Pheu Thai Party politician to detain him after he criticized the junta leader.” It is reported that early today soldiers and police “surrounded the house of Worachai Hema, a former Member of Parliament (MP) of the Pheu Thai Party from Samut Prakan Province, and attempted to break into the house.” They allegedly “pulled out the telephone line to the house and ordered Worachai’s daughter-in-law to remove a CCTV camera from the house.” Presumably they don’t want any evidence surfacing of their illegal acts. The thugs apparently had no warrant nor permission to enter the compound. The Bangkok Post reports that 50 soldiers and police were involved and Worachai states that “soldiers broke into his bedroom and ransacked it.”

Another raid was carried out against a former Puea Thai deuty minister, Pracha Prasopdee. A later report states that 12 homes were searched and this thuggish fishing trip yeilded “two BB guns, an ID card for a security guard of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), four CDs on UDD rallies, three communication radios, a notebook computer of Noppakao Kongsuwan, one of the eight Facebook users suspected of violating the Computer Crime Act, and two mobile phones” along with “11 firearms of various types, handguns and rifles, all of them properly registered but taken for examination, and a communication radio.” The military thugs claim that these raids are part of their crackdown on dark influences. Readers will recall predictions of this “crackdown” being politically motivated.

Meanwhile, pro-democracy monk Phraiwan Wannabut revealed that the military have visited him at his temple more than five times asking him to “stop all political activities, including writing articles and Facebook posts…”. This is intimidation of a religious figure, a new low for the military’s thugs.

It is only going to get worse.

Updated: Panama papers II

6 04 2016

We continue to look for data on Thailand in the Panama Papers. So far we aren’t having too much luck. We were, however, reminded of an earlier report of some 600 Thais stashing loot overseas.

That 2013 report, also from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, included Pojaman Shinawatra, Nalinee Taveesin, Bhanapot Damapong, members of the Chirathivat family, Yuenyong Opakul, and note this very carefully, the Vongkusolkit family and Admiral Bannawit Kengrian.

The latter was described as “the former deputy permanent secretary of defense, who is listed as one of many shareholders in the British Virgin Islands company Vnet Capital International Co., Ltd in 1998” with 2006 coup connections and who is described in a Wikileaks cable as an acolyte of Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda.

On the new release of leaks from Mossack Fonseca, the main new report we have seen was in the Bangkok Post. It states that the “Office of the Auditor-General has weighed in on the so-called Panama Papers, asking the Revenue Department to look into tax payment records of Thai nationals named in a list of people allegedly using a Panama-based law firm for offshore holdings.”moneybags 1

Yet, as might be expected in a country that is protective of its wealthy elites and ruled by a military junta, a cover-up seems likely, unless the junta can come across the names of those it sees as political opponents. At the moment, “Justice Minister Gen Paiboon Koomchaya and the business community are urging the public not to rush to conclusions and let regulators verify the information first.”

“Verify” sounds like “cover-up” or “manipulate.”

Like the rich everywhere, the first bleat refers to law rather than ethics: “… using offshore company structures is a normal and legal business practice.” Not paying tax is legal they say. In Thailand, tax, like so many other things, is malleable and politicized.

Recall that Thaksin Shinawatra’s sale of the Shin Corp involved tax havens. While he didn’t have to pay tax on the transfers in Thailand, there was an outcry over this, and the opposition to him was strengthened. Now, it seems, things are to be reversed. So much for Buddhist ethics and the “good” of “The Good People.”

The report says there are “almost 400 Thais among 780 individuals who used Thailand as a residence and 50 companies were named on the lists.” While it is stated that “[p]rominent names include well-known business people, politicians, a former military officer and celebrities…”, only a few names are named.

As the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) observes, “there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts and it does not intend to suggest or imply that those named in the leak have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.”

General Paiboon said “… the leak is not verified information. But once it’s verified, no one can dodge an investigation. So let Amlo [Anti-Money Laundering Office] work on this first…”.

Our question is: Where are Thailand’s journalists who should be working on this? In most other countries, journalists are pouring out stories.

Auditor-General Pisit Leelavachiropas says “he has seen the list and had proceeded to ask the tax authority to review tax records to detect any possible wrongdoing.” He names no names.

Pisit also suggested that the “Centre for National Anti-Corruption (CNAC) can facilitate the probe by acting as a coordinator as it is the hub of 11 anti-corruption agencies.” Some of this group and Pisit were recently part of another cover-up, finding no corruption in the military’s Rajabhakti Park, while making “commissions” acceptable.

Now to some of the names and what they say.



One name in the Panama Papers is Isara Vongkusolkit, who is chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce. His response was to say that “he did not know and had noting to do with Mossack Fonseca. He was wondering how his name was mentioned on the lists.” Wondering? Really? He doesn’t remember the 2013 report?

He did admit that offshore banking and companies were necessary to avoid taxation in Thailand. He then went on to blame government for tax avoidance because it has had “high” tax rates!

The Vongkusolkit family maintains a tight set of relationships. One Chanin Vongkusolkit is a member of the Council of the Private Sector Collective Action against Corruption (CAC), which is:

an initiative by the Thai private sector to take parts in tackling corruption problem via collective action. The CAC aims to bring effective anti-corruption policy and mechanism into implementation by companies in order to create an ecosystem of clean business community.

Forbes says this of Isara and family:

To offset volatility in sugar prices, Isara Vongkusolkit’s privately held Mitr Phol Sugar, Thailand’s largest sugar producer, is expanding its energy business, which generates 400 megawatts of electricity, half for its own consumption. The company, which recently faced allegations of human rights abuses and illegal land- grabbing in Cambodia, said it was in discussions with the Cambodian government about its concessions. Brother Chanin stepped down as CEO of family’s Banpu, the country’s biggest coal miner, after running it for more than 3 decades.

Chanin remains on the Banpu Board of Directors. Others from the family on the Board are Buntoeng and Verajet Vongkusolkit. Australia’s controversial Centennial Coal Centennial is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Banpu.



The point seems to be that Isara and his family are fabulously wealthy Sino-Thai tycoons and like their ilk everywhere, seek to “minimize” tax while claiming to engage in ethical business behavior, if that is not an oxymoron.

Another listed is “Banyong Pongpanich, chairman of Phatra Capital and a member of the State Enterprises Policy Commission, posted a message on his Facebook page saying he was taken aback that his name was on the list.” Like Isara, he claims to not know Mossack Fonseca: “I have just learned of the company today and I never contacted or did any business with Mossack Fonseca…”.



We are reminded of Sgt. Schultz, again and again. How many times can “I know nothing” be used?

Patra Capital is a “certified” company at the Private Sector Collective Action against Corruption and Phatra Capital promulgates a Code of Ethics for Directors, Officers and Employees. In part, it states:

By adhering to exemplary standards and conducting our business with excellence and integrity, we enhance our reputation and cultivate the growth of our business. All of us must take personal responsibility for conducting ourselves in a way that reflects positively on the Capital Market Business Group and with the letter and spirit of the Guidelines for Business Conduct.

Like many of Thailand’s tycoons, Banpong has royal links, his with the Mae Fah Luang Foundation. He is also a member of the junta-created Superboard, which is said to be “overseeing all state enterprises has the stated aim of getting them all moving in the same direction towards strength and efficiency.” A Superboard of bankers, coal miners and more means endless conflicts of interest.

Both the Vongkusolkit and Pongpanich families are represented on the Board of Trustees of the royalist Thailand Development Research Institute, which has often commented on corruption and ethics in Thailand’s politics.



The last Sgt. Schultz excuse came from Admiral Bannawit Kengrien. The “former deputy defence permanent secretary, whose name is also on the lists, said this came as a surprise to him…. According to the retired officer he never conducted any business transactions overseas or given permission to anyone to use his name to set up offshore accounts.”

Bannawit has appeared previously at PPT as one of “Dad’s Army,” which was an elite forerunner to the more popular People’s Democratic Reform Committee in trying to bring down the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra. He was a member of several other yellow-shirted and royalist groups that sought to create conflict with the Yingluck government. Earlier, he was previously a member of the assembly appointed by the junta in 2006 and then caused controversy when deputy defense minister. He was not averse to very odd and racist claims when opposing red shirts.

Bannawit also seems to have conveniently forgotten the 2013 leaks from the British Virgin Islands. Or perhaps the rich and powerful expect the junta to enforce collective amnesia on the country.

Update: Khaosod has cast doubt on the Bangkok Post story, above, saying that the newspaper (and many others) confused the 2013 leak with the Panama Papers. INterestingly, whether its 2013 or now, nothing in our post would seem in need of change.