The Prasit affair

23 05 2021

Readers may recall our recent post about the fraudsters who bore remarkable similarities to the massive Mae Chamoy scam of the 1970s and 1980s. The similarities were royal and military.

Prasit 1

Prasit displaying loyalty

Following the negotiated surrender and arrest of fraudster-in-chief Prasit Jeawkok, the Bangkok Post had a recent editorial calling for the military to reveal its links with Prasit. As ever, self-censorship, fear and misplaced loyalty prevents the Post asking about palace links.

A couple of days ago, Thai PBS provided some background on Prasit. For those who can read Thai, we suggest going to the source of much in this report – the grifter’s own website. All of our photos are clipped from that website, where there are plenty more.

The report observes that the “wealthy businessman” was once considered “a saint and a model of success” by the yellow-shirted brigade. He is now outed as a fraudster who may have nicked more than a billion baht. As seen in the Mae Chamoy scam, such fraudsters usually share with influential people in military, police, and even palace.

As can be seen at his website, Prasit made much of his links to the palace and its activities and displayed the loyalty expected of  “good people.”

Prasit 10

Prasit claims he is a “reformed gangster” who abandoned his criminal past to establish a “billion-baht business empire” from which he now “gives back” to society. He claims a rags to riches story.

Like so many of his ilk, he’s made many influential connections.

Prasit 8

Prasit has also “given back” as a royalist and as a supporter of the military and its ruling regime.

He’s “been linked to the Thai military’s so-called ‘information operations’ (IO), which critics say target the government’s opponents and propagandize for the powers-that-be.” Opposition politician Pannika Wanich of the Progressive Movement accuses “Prasit of being instrumental in the Army’s IO by allowing free use of computer servers under his control.”

Prasit admits “”to owning phone applications and servers used by the military but said his goal was to combat fake news by spreading facts about His Majesty the King’s kindness.”

Like many rogues, Prasit promotes “his royalist credentials. Appearing on a talk show in early December, he unbuttoned his shirt to reveal the words “Long Live the King” tattooed on his chest.”

Prasit also makes much of his relationship with the late Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, former Cabinet members and, of course, senior military leaders.





Updated: Siam Bioscience and national security

1 02 2021

In yet another mind-boggling legal decision, The Nation reports that the “Criminal Court ruled on Sunday to block the Progressive Movement’s statement on Thailand’s Covid-19 vaccination plans under Section 14 (3) of the Computer Crime Act.”

Not only has the Digital Economy and Society Ministry filed a lese majeste case against the movement’s leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit “for his statement on Thailand’s Covid-19 vaccination plans and linking it to a royally-owned pharmaceutical company [Siam Bioscience],” but it has now finagled a court to block access to the statement.

The court ruled that the statement “could affect the Kingdom’s security.”

Of course, this is nonsensical, but it does more or less confirm that the regime has much to hide.

Update: You have to wonder why Minister of Digital Economy and Society Buddhipongse Punnakanta is working so hard to shut Thanathorn up. Is it mad monarchism or is it that the regime has much to hide on this? We are betting on the latter.

The Criminal Court has, according to the Bangkok Post, “ordered the Progressive Movement (PM) to erase Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s video that criticises the government’s Covid-19 vaccination plan while police are considering a lese majeste charge against him.” We do not recall such an erasure order previously, but maybe we haven’t been following the politicized courts closely enough.

Buddhipongse continues to cheer on lese majeste charges against Thanathorn, saying “police are bound to take action in this case.”

The report states:

Progressive Movement executive Pannika Wanich yesterday tweeted that the group had not yet received the court’s order to pull down Mr Thanatorn’s video. She insisted the video contained no lies or threats to national security and did not clarify if the party would comply with the court ruling. Ms Kannikar also urged YouTube and Facebook to protect the right to freedom of speech.

Good for her. But such statements make her a bigger target for the military-monarchy regime.





Legal harassment continues

6 11 2020

The military-backed regime and its minions continue to see the hand(s) behind the latest round of protests as being that of the Progressive Movement.

This has resulted in Pannika Wanich, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul having to front the Phaya Thai police to “acknowledge sedition charges filed against them by a former yellow-shirt co-leader.”

Clipped from Thisrupt

The yellow shirt making the complaint is none other than Suwit Thongprasert, the former People’s Democratic Reform Committee activist monk Buddha Issara. This is not just any PDRC clot, but the one who has been seen a couple of times having things whispered in his ear by the king.

King, queen and ex-Buddha Issara

In Piyabutr’s case, the complaint “against him involved posting in social media his academic work, including his lectures, while he taught law at Thammasat University.” Some of this goes back a decade. Those old posts were connected with more recent “posts supporting solutions to the ongoing political crisis” where he “suggested that the three demands of youth protesters, including the monarchy reform, be brought to a safe zone by setting up a House special committee to hear their grievances.”

To an outsider, all of this must seem rather odd, but the fascist former monk sees it as sedition for commenting on the monarchy.

The allegations against Pannika appear to be “centred around her Facebook Live sessions from rally sites,” while Thanathorn is “accused of his role in connection with Samesky, a publishing house specialising in Thai politics,” a connection that also goes back many years. Apparently, the fascist former monk also found discussing the allocation of huge dollops of taxpayer funds to the royal family to be seditious.

The fascist ex-monk and other neo-Nazis are desperately trying to put the monarchy genie back in the sealed bottle. In other words, the rightists are using sedition as they previously used lese majeste.

Pannika “urged Gen Prayut to stop using the same old weapon he has been relying on for seven years.” She said: “Prosecution of dissidents no longer works. These bullets are blank— they not only fail to stop the rallies but also escalate them…”.





Law as political weapon

31 10 2020

It was only a few days ago that we posted on the ever pliant Election Commission deciding to file criminal charges against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for the time when he was with the Future Forward Party. It no coincidence that the regime believes Thanathorn behind the rallies. In addition, its pretty clear he’s being punished for his questioning of the monarch’s use of taxpayer funds and for posing a challenge to the ruling regime and the ruling class.

The regime’s strategy, managed by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and the odious Wissanu Krea-ngam is to tie the upstart opposition (and student protesters) into legal knots.

The Thai Enquirer reports on yet another regime move against the former Future Forward and now heading up the Progressive Movement.

The former leaders of the dissolved Future Forward Party – Thanathorn, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and Pannika Wanichhave – been summoned by police “to hear charges of sedition and other alleged crimes…”. As the newspaper puts it, this is “continuing a judicial campaign against people thought to be behind the current pro-democracy protests.”

Summoning the three is a step taken before issuing arrest warrants.

Piyabutr pointed out the bias and yet more bending of the rules for the regime:

“If the police take off their uniforms and think back to their second year in law school, they would know very well that almost every warrant that was issued [is not a real violation of section 116],” Piyabutr said.

“Thailand is unlucky because these police officers have to throw away everything they learned in order to become part of the government’s mechanism and serve the people in power,” he added.

A Bangkok Post picture

That the judicial system is now a tool for repression is now widely acknowledged – we have been saying it for years – with even the Bangkok Post’s opinion page scribbler Thitinan Pongsudhirak writing:

When Thailand’s justice system issues decisions that have political ramifications, fewer people are holding their breath these days because conclusions are increasingly foregone. In fact, when the historical record comes into fuller view, it will be seen that the politicisation of the judiciary has fundamentally undermined Thailand’s fragile democratic development and reinforced authoritarian rule that has been resurgent over the past 15 years.

He adds something else we have been saying for years:

The lesson is that Thailand’s political party system has been deliberately weakened and kept weak to keep established centres of power in the military, monarchy, judiciary, and bureaucracy paramount and decisive. No democracy can take root until voters have an equal say on how they are to be governed without the usurpation and distortion of party dissolutions and power plays behind the scenes.

The point of the junta’s time in power was to ensure that there was 20 years of non-democracy.





Updated: Army lies

12 10 2020

Army trolls

A few days ago, we posted on Twitter’s revelations that the Royal Thai Army has at least 926 accounts used in “information operations” against anti-government figures and opposition politicians. Naturally enough, the military and its regime responded. And, this bunch of dullards did so only they can.

The Bangkok Post reported that the regime and Army “have slammed Twitter, accusing it of unfairly linking them with nearly 1,000 accounts which the social media giant took down for being propagandist.” Yeah, right. Remember that this is a regime that has jailed hundreds for posts on social media. They claim they can track social media accounts, but, apparently, the company Twitter can’t. Seriously, how stupid are they and how stupid do they think Thais are?

The Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta went on the attack, seeming to acknowledge that the Twitter accounts belonged to the military, but blasting Twitter for not complying with orders issued by the regime’s tame courts “to take down accounts which contained defamatory content against the monarchy.” Some dolt must have told the minister that attack was the best form of defense.

It’s always about the monarchy when these dopes try to repel criticism, reverting to Pavlovian responses.

As it so often does, the Army simply denied it had any “information operations.” How thick are these people? It was only in February that official budget documents revealed such information operations.

To “help” out, deputy army spokeswoman Col Sirichan Ngathong decided to deny by stating something that’s true but irrelevant: “Unidentified user accounts had nothing to do with any official account of the army.” Ah, that’s the point of these operations; they are not meant to be official.

Khaosod reported that the accounts “were using randomized usernames and they had zero to 66 followers. The oldest account was created on May 27, 2014, five days after the coup which brought PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to power, while most of the accounts were created between Nov. 2019 to Feb. 2020.” It added that the majority of the 21,386 tweets by the accounts “promoted the works of the army and praised the monarchy with messages such as ‘Great work!,’ ‘I’m with you,’ and ‘Long live the king’.”

They became particularly active after “the mass shooting in Korat by a disgruntled soldier in February, in which they tried to disassociate the army from the shooter and honored the military’s role in bringing down the shooter.” Many of the messages attacked “opposition politicians, such as Thanathorn Juangruangroongkit and Pannika Wanich, the former executives of the now-disbanded Future Forward Party.”

Khaosod also pointed out that the Army’s cack-handed effort to distance itself from “Twitter’s accusations do not sit well with multiple reports that show army units routinely engaging in online information campaigns aimed at discrediting the opposition and upholding the Royal Family.” Back in 2016, “then-army chief Gen. Chalermchai Sittisart confirmed the force is engaging in information operations to suppress distorted information and create ‘better understanding’ with people on social media.”

In other words, they are liars. Indeed, damned liars.

Update: When they are not lying, they are shutting down stuff. Prachatai reports that its “video of human rights lawyer Anon Nampa in which he addresses monarchy reform is inaccessible…” on YouTube.  A “YouTube spokesperson has stated via email that it is operating in line with a Thai government request.” In other words, YouTube is working hand-in-glove with liars, trolls and dictators. In fact, the regime seldom uses a court order when requesting blocking: “According to the Google Transparency Report … during 2009-2019 the Thai government submitted 964 requests to delete content…. Of the requests, only 62 were endorsed by the Thai courts…”. Shameful that YouTube goes along with such rubbish.





Students rising

6 09 2020

There have been some very useful commentaries on students rising, including at New Mandala and in The Economist. The latter mentions that the students currently demonstrating are children of some who supported the royalist anti-democrats in 2013-14.

If the military and its royalist regime were hoping that arresting outspoken student and activists and waiting out the students would see rallies end, they were misguided.

The arrests and charges continue. The jailed activists Arnon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok have been a focus of rallies, with student protesters using white ribbons tied on the Bangkok Remand Prison gate and calling for their release. The rally was not just for them: “there are others who face injustice and there are many who are being charged just for speaking the truth.”

The students were joined by Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Pannika Wanich, formerly of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, “urging officials to release two pro-democracy activists…”.

Including those jailed, those arrested are expressing defiance. Dechatorn “Hockhacker” Bamrungmuang of Rap Against Dictatorship has restated his support for the student’s demands:

I agree with the original three demands; stop harassing the people, dissolve the parliament, and rewrite the constitution. And I also support the 10 demands [on the monarchy] of Thammasat (University) students to reform the monarchy. It must be reformed to fit with the times.

The largest rally in recent days has been the Bad Student demonstration at the Ministry of Education, when “[h]undreds of high school students demonstrated … on Saturday to demand reform of an education system…”.

Clipped from Bangkok Post

Pannika also showed up for the students at the Ministry: “She said she wanted to encourage students to express their opinions freely because they have the liberty to do so.” Others supporting the students were: Juthathip Sirikan, president of the Student Union of Thailand, singer Chaiamorn “Ammy” Kaewwiboonpan and democracy activist Nutta Mahattana.

The students made political statements, “sport[ing] white ribbons that have become a symbol of the broader youth-led protest movement…. They also blew whistles — mocking Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, a former co-leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee…”.

Meanwhile, others are pushing the protest envelope further, preparing for the next big rally, planned for 19 September. Parit Chiwarak vowed that protest speakers would “continue to discus reform of the monarchy at the rally…”.





Further updated: It is still a military regime IX

4 07 2020

It seems amazing to PPT that so many commentators still lament the loss of democracy under the current regime. Are they bonkers? When was this regime ever interested in democracy? Since 2014, there has been no democracy. There’s only authoritarianism in a rigged political, constitutional and judicial system.

So it is that Khaosod reports that police have “summoned the crew behind a recent light spectacle marking the army’s 2010 crackdown on anti-government protests…. Pannika Wanich, the leader of The Progressive Movement, said the contractors involved in the stunt were instructed to report to a police station for questioning.” And to add to that threat, “security authorities visited their homes…”.

This is the group that “[i]n May, … projected the slogan #SeekTheTruth onto various landmarks across Bangkok, including the Ministry of Defense headquarters.”

Pannika said that this amounted to an infringement of free speech, adding that the authorities “are intimidating the artists.”

It is the Ministry of Defense that has lodged the police complaint.

Update 1: Related reports are of internet tracking by the regime. At New Mandala, “Internet providers are helping the Thai government track down dissidents” is a disturbing account. It includes some suggestions on how to skirt some of the tracking. In a similar vein, “Protect our web browsing history against snoopers” also has some suggestions on avoiding the snooping.

Update 2: Prachatai reports on the the police and the light works team. It makes it clear that the police are engaged in harassment, with “… Pol Maj Gen Methee Rakpan, Commander of the Metropolitan Police Bureau’s Division 6, [saying] that he could not tell whether the campaign had broken any law.”





Monarchy and (more) repression

16 06 2020

With repression being deepened, the prime minister who seized power in the 2014 military coup and who remains in power through military might, his junta’s constitution and rigged elections, has issued a stern warning about anti-monarchism.

Of course, it is no coincidence that this warning comes after the enforced disappearance of Wanchalaerm Satsaksit, the piling on of lese majeste-like computer crimes charges for young social media figure “Niranam_” and ongoing protests in Europe against the king.

With a minion when the king was once in Thailand

As in the past, the regime imagines a plot and a movement led by some unnamed anonymous puppet-master.

Gen Prayuth lamented that what he thinks are “violations” of the lese majeste law “had increased since its use ceased 2-3 years ago.” He reportedly said the king “has … instructed me personally over the past two to three years to refrain from the use of the Law…”. While we already knew this from the king-supporting Sulak Sivaraksa, this is, we think, the first time an official has acknowledged this instruction.

(As an aside, we want to emphasize that under the previous king, royalists defended him on lese majeste by saying he was powerless to do anything about the law. Vajiralongkorn showed what a pile of buffalo manure that excuse was.)

The unelected PM saw anti-monarchism as doubly troubling as he believed that the king, by not using Article 112, had shown “mercy,” and this was being “abused.”

Gen Prayuth called for “unity” by which he means that royalists must defend the monarchy: “Everyone who loves the nation, religion, and monarchy must come together.” Oddly, he warned about the danger of “violent revolutions.” And, Reflecting a broader royalist concern, he worried that “anti-monarchists may use the upcoming anniversary [24 June] of the 1932 democratic revolution to defame the monarchy.”

And he warned that people should “disregard any messages that aim to harbor hatred in the society.” He means anti-monarchism. He added a pointed remark that PPT thinks is a threat:

Those who are operating from abroad should think about what they should or shouldn’t do, where else could if they faced problems in that country? I feel pity as they are Thai citizens.

In what appears as a coordinated warning, the Watchman, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said “security officials” – that usually means the military – were already “investigating those involved” in this alleged anti-monarchist plot.

He was warning: “Once we get the list of names, we’ll prosecute them” using lese majeste-like laws including computer crimes and sedition.

Prayuth seemed to want Article 112 back, complaining that “[t]here were no such problems when Section 112 was in use,” which is actually buffalo manure. When the junta came to power, it repeatedly claimed republican plotting and used the lese majeste law more than any other regime, ever.

He went on to pile on lies and threats:

As a Thai, you must not believe distorted information or news from hatemongers because it’s not true. You must look behind [their motive] and see what they really want. … Why would you become their tool?

Targeting the young, he “urged people not to disseminate such information or click to read it, referring to social media.” It is easy to see why the regime has targeted “Niranam_”. They are making an example of him as a way to (they hope) silence others.

There’s also a hint that the regime is coming under pressure from royalists and perhaps even the palace itself to do something about the protests in Europe and criticism from exiles:

Regarding exiled people in neighbouring countries and Europe, he said the government had already sent letters asking those countries to send them back to Thailand if they caused trouble. “But when they don’t send them back, what do you expect the government to do?”

It seems clear that enforced disappearance and torture and murder is one outcome of displeasure with these dissidents.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

One response to these warnings has been social media disdain for the regime and the generals. Another response came from former Future Forward MP Pannika Wanich who called for the lese majeste law to be abolished: “they should get rid of this section of the criminal code as the MPs of the Move Forward Party have been saying in Parliament…”. For good measure, she also called for the Computer Crimes Act be amended.





Rulers and the Future Forward threat

18 03 2020

Shawn Crispin at Asia Times has a long story that revolves around the challenge that the now dissolved Future Forward Party posed to Thailand’s conservative ruling class.

We won’t repeat all of the story, but will emphasize a couple points that mirror commentary at PPT and elsewhere on “The Threat.”

(Again, we should point out that Crispin maintains a ludicrous definition of Thailand as “democratic” when refers to the rigged 2019 election as “democracy-restoring.” That’s just dumb.)

In discussing Future Forward’s dissolution and the banning of its leaders from politics for 10 years, Crispin does allow that this was perceived “as a highly politicized Constitutional Court decision.” And, he’s right to note that replacement party and associated movement remains “on a collision course with ex-coup-maker Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut[h] Chan-ocha’s military-aligned coalition government.”

(We are not sure how a coup-maker becomes an ex-coup-maker? Just sloppy writing perhaps.)

And, as we recently posted, the “collision” could come soon now that the puppet Election Commission has filed “criminal charges that threaten to land Thanathorn [Juangroongruangkit], banned secretary general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and ex-spokeswoman Pannika Wanich, widely seen as the ex-party’s progressive triumvirate, in prison.”

Crispin observes that some analysts think that the “slew of other pending legal threats aim to drive Thanathorn, Piyabutr and Pannika into exile from the kingdom, extinguishing their promised new movement’s threat to Prayut[h] before it has a chance to fully coalesce.”

In fact, Gen Prayuth is expendable. What is being “protected” is the broader ruling class. Prayuth is merely its servant.

The Threat is clear, explained by Thanathorn:

The people against the military, the rest against the rich, hope against fear, the future against the past…. If we win the battle of ideas, we will win all other battles…. At it’s core, at the heart of this political crisis, is this question: in Thailand who does the power belong to?

It is noted that, “[w]hile in Parliament, Future Forward took hard aim at the military and its top brass, calling for constitutional reforms and accountability…”. Perhaps even more threatening was that Future Forward targeted the big Sino-Thai tycoons and their enormous and sprawling conglomerates:

including the ThaiBev and Charoen Pokphand Group, that arguably benefitted the most from Prayut’s junta government while poverty rates rose and donated generously to bankroll his rise as an elected leader via the military-backed Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP).

And then the biggest threat of all:

in October, the party voted against the Prayut government’s surprise declaration of an emergency decree that gave a legal basis for King Vajiralongkorn to take personal control of two elite infantry divisions, the 1st and 11th, nominally to provide better security for the royal family.

It seems – based on anonymous sources – that Thanathorn and Piyabutr were warned by the king but ignored this:

Clipped from Khaosod

That perceived challenge of royal power, two well-placed sources claim, happened despite Thanathorn and Piyabutr speaking with the monarch by telephone from Germany during a September meeting with army commander General Apirat Kongsompong, a palace loyalist and son of a coup-maker.

As Crispin explains, it was soon after this that Gen Apirat “launched his now notorious speech, replete with slides of Vajiralongkorn in military garbs during his communist-fighting days in the 1970’s, labeling Future Forward as a ‘leftist’ threat.”

He then makes an important observation:

That raises questions about whether a broad conservative coalition of military, big business and royalists may have been behind the Election Commission’s push and Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve Future Forward and ban Thanathorn from politics, as well as the follow-up threat to imprison the party’s former executives.

Citing a “government advisor, who requested anonymity” – probably the odious Panitan Wattanayagorn – the regime seems to believe that The Threat  may have been seen off:

“They moved too fast and now they’re gone…. It will be nearly impossible for them to come back through the streets,” he added, noting the army’s stern warnings against staging protests in public spaces.





Junta-style business (as usual) I

17 03 2020

While dithering and flip-flopping on anti-virus stuff, it is business as usual for the regime as its junta pedigree “shines” through.

The Nation reports that three members of the Future Forward Party have been charged with “organising a public rally at the Pathumwan Intersection Skytrain station on December 14 without seeking permission, blocking or interfering with train station services, organising a gathering without concern for the public, using speakers without permission and holding a public gathering within a 150-metre radius of the palace.”

We can’t help but see the last charge as definitional of junta style. The others are concocted to destroy the party – already kind of done – and to bury its star performers. It is another pile of junta-like buffalo feces.

How high can the junta pile it?

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Pannika Wanich and head of the Future Forward replacement party, Move Forward Party, Pita Limjaroenrat had to show up at the Pathumwan Police Station and answer the political charges and be fingerprinted and so on. The police aim to have them in court on 7 April, but this case is more about harassment, so expect it to be dragged out.

The three denied the accusations and police aim to file a case in court on April 7.

Piyabutr said the Public Assembly Act caused several problems, including a limitation that did not allow police to grant permission in time. He also said he would continue efforts to establish a political group to campaign on politics.

Meanwhile, former heroin smuggler, alleged mask profiteer and deputy agriculture minister Thammanat Prompao has told reporters he will “spend the next 14 days in self-quarantine after he came in contact with a man who tested positive for the novel coronavirus strain…”. He didn’t seem to say who or where or when. We suspect this is more Thammanat male cow manure and he’s just hiding out. Maybe he could sell masks online?

Related, the embattled head of the Internal Trade Department has resigned “amid allegations that he colluded with the hoarding and profiteering of millions of sanitary masks.” We wonder how well he knows Thammanat and his aide?

He “maintained he had nothing to do with the alleged stockpiling and sales of 200 million face masks to China.”

While on the topic of dipsticks, there’s the fascist Palang Pracharath Deputy Leader Paiboon Nititawan, who is interviewed at Thai Enquirer. How’s the regime being doing on the virus. Better than anyone else he says. Whatever he’s drinking, we want some of it.

Business as usual for the junta-cum-hopeless regime.