Updated: Military party, Mafia party

22 07 2019

The military’s Palang Pracharath Party was formed by the junta to ensure that it could continue in power following the “election” it rigged, but only just “won” after having its puppet Election Commission tinker with the results after the “election.”

The junta has engaged in a long and childish charade, seeking to suggest that its party was somehow “independent” or distant from the junta. No one ever believed the junta on this. First, several of the junta’s cabinet ministers combined to found the party, filching and poaching “members” from other parties and by soaking up several well-known crooked politicians and dark influences. Second, several junta cabinet members then “founded” the party, resigning from the cabinet to do so. This was just weeks before the “election,” conducted under the junta’s crooked rules. Third, The Dictator Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was the party’s candidate for prime minister and was then “elected,” thanks to the junta-appointed Senate that “voted” for Gen Prayuth as a bloc.

Now, the power behind the the junta’s throne, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has thrown his lot in with the party:

After years of serving as the public face of the now-defunct junta, deputy prime minister Prawit Wongsuwan is reportedly ready to try his hand at party politics.

Gen. Prawit, who until recently headed the defense ministry, will “soon” join the pro-military Phalang Pracharath Party, a source said Monday. The retired general will also secure a seat in the party’s executive board according to the source, who is one of Gen. Prawit’s close aides.

Gen Prawit met with his sidekicks, buddies and underlings in the party in Nakorn Ratchasima province as they schemed further on what parliament might mean for the party and for the junta-like cabinet. Prawit was ebullient, praising the junta hangers-on:

I appreciate the executive committee’s recognition of the importance of fellow members of the Palang Pracharat Party, especially MPs… This seminar boosts love and unity among the members of our party and our family….

That family includes the criminal. And we don’t mean the military that has murdered dozens of citizens, but the dark influences like Thammanat Prompao.

 

From the Bangkok Post

Update: In another report, Gen Prawit is portrayed as behaving very much like a party boss in his meeting with Palang Pracharath MPs in Korat. He called for party unity and declared that the “new” government would see out its full term. More interestingly, he also acted like the Deputy Dictator when he added: “I’ll try to ensure that the government completes its term…”. It was Prawit who ensured the junta continued through intense repression of political opponents. That’s a pointer to a bleak future.





Updated: Open-mouthed disbelief II

11 07 2019

Not long after our post on mafia-like figure and new deputy minister from the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, Thammanat Prompao, the Bangkok Post has published perhaps the best-ever self-incriminating interview in recent memory. It carries the seemingly ironic e-headline “I’m innocent.”

Apparently responding to the AFP story from 1998 that’s being widely circulated – and more – Capt Thammanat digs a very deep hole. Whether it is used to bury his political career (again) remains to be seen, with the junta-anointed lookalike government needing every soldier, anti-democrat and mafia figure it can lay its grimy hands on. And, the junta’s legal eagle Wissanu Krea-ngam – a member of the “new” cabinet that includes Thammanat and several other dodgy figures – has stated that “said Capt. Thammanat Prompao’s eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary.”

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Thammanat has “dismissed reports about his past criminal record, claiming he was innocent and the opposition was trying to discredit him.” He does a pretty good job of discrediting himself.

As we posted, Thammanat is accused of having been “convicted and jailed in Australia in a case involving heroin…”. He is also “linked to a [rape and] murder case of an academic whose body was dumped in Si Sa Ket in 1998, but later acquitted. His involvement in the latter case led to the removal of his military rank but it was reinstated later.”

Thammanat spoke about his time in Australia, claiming that his jail sentence there was all “a misunderstanding about his case in Australia 30 years ago, when he was a second lieutenant.”

He denied being at all involved in the “import, produce or deal[ing] heroin.” He claims he was “on vacation in Sydney…”, and was “unfortunate to have been in the same place at the same time as some drug offenders.” According to Thammanat, Australian police were not so convinced and he was jailed, with “another Thai,” for “knowing about and failing to report knowledge of drug dealing to police…”. He claims this to be a “petty offence,” which is not entirely accurate. He also says he denied the charge, but he was convicted.

What is then even more odd in his “story” is that he claims that, having arrived in Australia “on vacation,” he then lived and worked in Sydney “for four years.” However, he was “deported to Thailand because of a policy by the then Sydney mayor, who didn’t welcome Asians who formed groups and had no permanent residence.” That he was deported suggests thta there is more to the story than he lets on. The claim that it was due to the policy of a “mayor” is ridiculous nonsense. In Australia mayors have no authority over immigration, which is a task for the Australian Federal government. Thammanat “insisted he was not deported to serve time for a drug sentence as claimed by some reports.”

We may assume that Thammanat is confused or is obfuscating.

But he also has the “get-out-of-jail-free card” that has long been available to rogues and other criminals: He puffed out his royalist chest and declared: “I’ve never violated constitutional laws and I was cleared by a royal pardon absolving guilt granted by His Majesty the King in 2017.”

Case closed, he hopes. Somehow we doubt it.

There’s a long, long list of mafia-like allegations that will haunt the “new” government for as long as Thammanat is with it:

… Thammanat also owned one of the five largest companies that received quotas to sell government lottery. He reportedly gave it up after a talk with army Gen Apirat Kongsompong, who chairs the Government Lottery Board.

So what happened there? Who benefited from this relinquishing of a valuable, mafia-like racket?

Just last year, “police also found him to be one of the recipients of the shares of DNA, a company involved in a 797-million-baht bitcoin fraud.” Where did that loot go? Who benefited? We can’t wait to see his assets declaration.

Update: Remarkably, the Bangkok Post now has two stories posted under virtually the same e-headline, “I’m innocent” and “I am innocent.” The former we used and quoted above. The latter is by reporters Wassana Nanuam and Aekarach Sattaburuth. The latter is gentle, even supine. It tells a story that seems meant to be a little more supportive to Thammanat, but adds more details that damn him and suggest he’s struggling to get his story straight.





Updated: Open-mouthed disbelief I

11 07 2019

Several stories caught PPT’s collective eye over the past couple of days.

The first is about Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the Watchman,” who has been clearing his office at the Ministry of Defence to make way for Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha.  But little else seems to have changed for for Gen Prawit.

A story at Khaosod of another bit of “casual corruption” associated would be funny if it wasn’t so reflective of a regime that has descended into old ways of military-bosses-cum-politicians.

Serial complainer Srisuwan Janya, who operates off social media posts in making his hundreds of petitions, has “filed a complaint to probe the police’s purchase of a 1.14 billion baht jet for ferrying deputy junta chairman [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwan and his entourage…”.

Srisuwan’s complaint plagiarizes social media “outrage at photos of the junta’s second-in-command exiting a private [police] jet with a flight attendant in tow…”.

The little bit of tycoon lifestyle for Gen. Prawit tripping about in a Dassault Falcon 2000S is said to have been purchased “by the police … [for] about 350 million baht more than the global market price.”

The price for a new one is about $30 million. That is a lot of taxpayer loot for a force that usually buys vehicles like the Toyota Camry and, for its pampered bosses, a BMW 5 or a Mercedes 600. Its aviation division has a Fokker 50 turboprop airliner in addition to the Falcon and more than 70 helicopters.

Srisuwan asks – we presume rhetorically – “Why does Thailand like to buy things at a higher price than other people? Or was there some special [deal] that they haven’t revealed to the people?”

Clipped from Khaosod

The jet is said to have cost 1.14 billion baht, which seems about 159 million baht over the list price. Expect the police to say that the extra cash went to fit-out, training and/or spare parts rather than into any boss’s pocket.

So far, the efforts of the police spokesman are laughable, claiming the “plane was a sound investment,” and saying it carried not just Gen Prawit and “the police commissioner and other high-ranking officials.” What a life! They don’t have to deal with the hoi polloi in regular planes or put up with noisy turboprops. The spokesman adds that the new plane can fly when helicopters can’t (but so can the Fokker).

Not only that, but the Falcon can be used for other “important assignments … like government inspections, drug raids, and to follow up crucial investigations.” A $30 million business jet for “investigations”? Right, but probably not investigations of police corruption.

While on the police, we notice that they have, as claimed several times, been hard at work on the cases involving the assault of political activists. Indeed, they have brought charges! Khaosod reports that police have

arrested … eight Facebookers accused of spreading [allegedly] false reports on social media that the police were behind the attack on June 28 that left pro-democracy campaigner Sirawith [Seritiwat] in critical condition. All of the suspects were charged with cybercrimes….

The report adds that police claim that the eight “confessed to claiming on Facebook that deputy police commissioner Chaiwat Ketworachai sent four men under his command to attack Sirawith.”

No one expects the police to arrest the thugs responsible for the cowardly attacks but the Facebookers, slapped with computer crimes charges that can mean up to seven years in prison.

As PPT predicted, “investigations” into the attack on Sirawith is being “hampered” because “some cameras were out of service and failed to capture the assailants’ flight from the scene…”. That’s the usual excuse when a cover-up is underway.

A third story that causes open-mouthed disbelief is also at Khaosod. Just confirmed as Deputy Minister for Agriculture is “dark influence” Thammanat Prompao, a member of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party.

Deputy Prime Minister under the junta and now under the “new” junta-engineered government, Wissanu Krea-Ngam has said that Thammanat’s “eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary.” The story continues, with Wissanu claiming:

In the past, there was an MP who had been prosecuted in Hong Kong for drug trafficking, but his status was not affected in Thailand…. Although his reputation among many things might have been impacted, his deeds and ethical standards have to be considered separately.

On Thammanat, it is known that he’s allegedly been involved in all kinds of activities that many consider “shady.” As the report states:

Thammanat was once stripped of his military rank for alleged involvement in a murder case in 1998, but was reinstated after the court acquitted him.

The latest allegations against Thammanat came after an opposition politician claimed he was previously convicted of a crime in a foreign country. No public records of such conviction could be found as of publication time.

Now that a government has been formed – it still has to present its policy to parliament – look to all kinds of internal jostling for a place at the trough.

Update: In another report staggering under a mound of buffalo manure, police claim that they have not – yes, they haven’t – demanded an exchange of police protection for Sirawith being politically silent. Not only that, but the police claim they would never, ever, never ask a political activist not to engage in political activity. Well, it wasn’t the police saying it, but Deputy Defence Minister Gen Chaichan Changmongkol. But we guess that the Army speaks for the police these days. But, really, this is just the usual lies from senior figures. This kind of buffalo manure will only cease to flow when such idiocies and the dolts who make such claims are called out, again and again. The truth is out there, but these fools work with manure rather than truth.





Palang Pracharath absolved by EC

4 07 2019

We missed this story in the Thai media, perhaps because we were looking at the stories on the cowardly attack on Sirawith Seritiwat. We looked back through the Bangkok Post – who can find anything there after the website revamp? – but nothing and we couldn’t find it in the usual English-language sources or in Thai social media. But maybe that’s just us and our hopelessness with technology.

Anyway, after months of “investigation,” the dolts at the Election Commission have cleared Palang Pracharath of any wrongdoing over its huge banquet fundraiser. We always knew that this would be the result, but we are surprised at the quietness about it. Here’s the full story we saw at Xinhua:

Thailand’s Election Commission has acquitted the Palang Pracharath Party, core of a new coalition government, of charges which could have otherwise warranted the dissolution of the party.

Election Commission Secretary General Charungwit Phumma, who concurrently acts as political party registrar, was quoted on Tuesday as saying the polling agency has ruled the Palang Pracharath Party not guilty of the charges that it threw a costly fund-raising party during the run up to the March election which had been alleged by a political opponent to have violated the law.

The Election Commission ruled that the Palang Pracharath Party’s fund-raising event was not considered a sales activity with commercial profits to be raised and shared.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission judged that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha could legally run for post-election prime minister though he was running the country as head of government during his candidacy under the tickets of the Palang Pracharath Party, regarding the constitution’s Article 88 and Article 89 and the organic law pertaining to the election of MPs.

According to the secretary general, the polling agency also ruled that Prayut did not practically own any media business though he had opened a Facebook page and an Instagram page during the run up to the election, regarding the constitution’s Article 170.

If found guilty of those charges, the party could have been otherwise dissolved at the order of the Constitutional Court.

Clearing the junta and Palang Pracharath is about what everyone thought would happen when there’s a puppet EC in place and where some of its members have already been rewarded with Senate slots.





New government promised

4 07 2019

Now more than 100 days since the junta’s rigging of its election and result, things haven’t gone smoothly for the military junta. Because the “election” result wasn’t exactly as the junta had hoped, and because the multi-party coalition is so large and because the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party is such a motley concoction of old-style politicians, “negotiations” over who scores what benefit and position have been endless and publicly messy.

The most recent glitch involved what the Bangkok Post calls the “Sam Mitr faction of the Palang Pracharath Party…”. In fact, it was this small group of mostly former pro-Thaksin Shinawatra politicians who formed the party, funded it and went around hoovering up the old-style politicians as candidates for the junta’s party.

Suddenly, however, the three friend group has appeared contrite. Moneybags and former Thaksin minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit said his “group will not cause problems for the prime minister, so he will have time to work for the country. After communicating with seniors yesterday, whatever positions the group now receives will be the decision of the prime minister…”.

Did those “seniors” threaten or did they make concessions? Was it Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s coup threat? Being the junta, the tea leaves may remain unreadable, although the cabinet list will be revealing of the dozens of deals done.

Gen Prayuth, scaffolded by constitutional rigging into a further term as prime minister, now reckons he will have a cabinet sworn in by the end of the month. That depends on the king being in Thailand. He says he’s made all the decisions, but in a bit of royalist nonsense that evolved in recent years, the cabinet will not be announced until approved by the monarch.

Within hours, Gen Prayuth was then saying he could “confirm the new government will be formed and will swear the oath of office [before King Rama X] by the middle of July for sure…”. That cabinet is rumored to be junta-heavy and includes self-confessed mafia figures:

They included his three deputies — Somkid Jatusripitak, Wissanu Krea-ngam and the embattled Gen Prawit Wongsuwon — who are penciled in to retain their current posts.

Gen Anupong Paochinda — Gen Prayut’s other brother-in-arms — also looks set to retain his position at the Interior Ministry.

Meanwhile, Capt Thammanat Prompao, who is close to Gen Prawit and was once seen as an influential figure, is to become the next labour minister.

It is said that it has again been Gen Prawit pulling the strings and “played a major role in arranging the cabinet line-up…”.





With 3 updates: No government

2 07 2019

It is now more than three months since Thailand’s voters went to the polls. There’s still no government in place and the military junta continues to rule.

It might have been thought that a strong performance by an elected opposition would be the main threat to the junta and its proposed government. Or it might have been felt that, once formed, a junta-backed government would be riven by conflicts within a coalition of almost 20 “parties.”

In fact, at the moment, the real “struggle” and threat to the junta’s formation of a government – assuming it wants one – is from within the party it formed, Palang Pracharath.

The details are murky but becoming public. The men who formed the party, funded it and went around hoovering up candidates for the junta are flexing their considerable muscle, blaming Party secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong for causing splits within the Party:

In the June 11 lineup, core Sam Mitr leader and party-list MP Suriya Jungrungreangkij was tipped to be the energy minister. Another core leader of the group, party-list MP Somsak Thepsutin, was promised the justice portfolio and group member Chai Nat MP Anucha Nakasai was to be a deputy finance minister.

But more changes were made later, reportedly to accommodate seats for the Chart Pattana Party, for Don Pramudwinai to continue as the foreign minister and to allow a team led by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak to control all key economic ministries. The changes resulted in Mr Suriya being moved to be industry minister while Mr Anucha’s name was no longer on the list.

Explosions are continuing. For the abnormally quiet Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, the result has been a groveling “apology” for being unable to form a cabinet and a government. His spokesman stated: “the Prime Minister will perform his duty to the best of his ability, even though there may be some problems in the party’s internal administration, as it is a newly formed party with members from many backgrounds.” It seems that the junta has failed on just about everything it has done, except for its political repression.

Where to now?

Update 1: The answer to that last question seems to come from Gen Prayuth when he appears to threaten another coup.

Update 2: Shaken by public criticism and probably military and junta unhappiness, two of the three amigos who put the Party together, now say they will be good and abide by Gen Prayuth’s decisions on his cabinet lineup. Let’s see if they got what they demanded as this statement should now allow a cabinet to be put in place. But, who knows? Others may now be upset and demanding.

Update 3: Khaosod has more on Gen Prayuth’s coup threat and the reaction to it.





Updated: Reporting on cowardly attack

30 06 2019

While yellow shirts on social media continue to cheer the vicious and cowardly attack on Sirawith Seritiwat, the reporting of the attack, the patterns it reveals and the future it portends, reporting has been extensive. We felt readers may finding a linked list of some use:

Reuters, 28 June: “Thai anti-junta activist attacked, latest in ‘pattern’ of violence.”

La voi dumond, 28 June: “Thaïlande: un militant pro-démocratie passé à tabac en pleine rue.”

Bangkok Post, 29 June: “Prawit orders police to speed up ‘Ja New’ case.” While some politicians on the right made statements against violence, the reprehensible Pareena Kraikupt of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party voiced a concoction that also circulates on yellow-shirt social media, claimed that the assault was probably by supporters of the Future Forward Party in order to gain support. If neither the junta nor her party doesn’t condemn her bizarre statement, then we may assume she’s speaking their collective mind. Pareena mimicks the fascists of 1976.

Political cartoon by @stephffart in support of activist Sirawith Serithiwat

Bangkok Post, 29 June: “Future Forward MP has ‘Ja New’ attack clip.” The clip is widely available on social media and its publication preempts any attempt to claim that CCTV was inoperable and prevents the media “disappearing.”

Daily Wiews, 29 June: “Thai anti-militare attivista attaccato e lasciato inconscio.”

News.com.au, 29 June: “Shocking pictures show brutal bashing of political activist in Thailand.”

Thai PBS, 29 June: “Thammasat U professor suspects Ja New’s assailants used blackjack batons.”

The Nation, 29 June: “Former senator calls for public donations for Sirawith.” Interestingly and symbolically, Jon Ungpakorn called for 247.5 baht donation, channeling the 1932 Revolution.

Thai PBS, 29 June: “Fund-raising campaign to help cover Ja New’s medical bills.”

Korn

The Nation, 29 June: “Korn condemns assault on anti-junta activist.” Democrat Party deputy leader and plutocrat Korn Chatikavanij managed to (sort of) condemn the attack on Sirawith, only by referring to alleged attacks on his “subordinates” at some unstated time. Korn was complicit in the Abhisit government and cabinet that presided over a period where dozens were killed by the murderous military and hundreds were injured. Korn blamed others.

The Nation, 29 June: “Pheu Thai MP raises Bt103,000 to support assaulted anti-junta activist

The Nation, 29 June: “‘Ja New’ needs eye socket operation, say human rights lawyers.” This report has stills from CCTV showing attackers and lists the damage done to the young activist in the brutal attack.

The Nation, 29 June: “Concert held to support Ja New after anti-junta activist assaulted again.” In fact, Sirawith “helped organise the concert, named ‘Democracy 24 June: What’s day?’, to mark the 87th anniversary of the Siamese Revolution of 1932 that overthrew absolute monarchy…”, suggesting that thugs involved in the attack may be ultra-royalist hirelings or acting for the military, which has a record of creating and managing such rightist thugs.

Bangkok Post, 30 June: “Activist assaults go unpunished.”

Update: Khaosod reports on CCTV footage being available, while the police are already saying such footage is “unclear.” No one can expect justice from this junta (except the rich and powerful friends of the junta).