The puppet NACC

7 08 2018

The Bangkok Post has yet another editorial criticizing the National Anti-Corruption Commission. It begins:

[The NACC] has reached a crucial fork in the road. Soon, it will have to provide the public with the facts it has uncovered in the probe of the undocumented luxury watches worn by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon. Alternatively, it will continue to stonewall. This choice will inform the public that the NACC is a weak organisation, completely unwilling to speak truth to power and lacking the fortitude even to bring about the promise that brought Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to the premiership.

In fact, the “fork in the road” was passed long ago. It passed that point from the moment it was appointed by the junta. It sped further down the puppet road when NACC president Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit was made NACC puppet president and, after public pressure “recused” himself from the actual “investigation,” but continued in his job when “investigations” of Prawit “continued.” Watcharapol “has personal ties with Gen Prawit, and with Gen Prawit’s brother, former national police chief Pol Gen Patcharawat, who also has faced NACC graft allegations without result.”

The “recusal” was fake: Watcharapol “has stayed directly informed, as evidenced by his press conference on July 20 that gave information about the investigation.”

The NACC is a fake anti-corruption agency. It works as the junta demands. It ignores cases the junta wants ignored. As the Post points out, The Dictator’s anti-corruption drive is compromised:

One of the first high-ranking people to be accused of corruption was a four-star army general. But Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha [Prayuth’s brother] was never prosecuted. Former army chief and former deputy defence minister, Gen Udomdej Sitabutr [a Prayuth supporter], was responsible for the construction of the extremely controversial Rajabhakti Park but there were no consequences.

The Post recognizes that the NACC is a puppet institution, observing:

Pol Gen Watcharapol’s NACC decided not to pursue blatant, obvious and even admitted nepotism by many members of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly.

On Prawit’s case,

What it [the NACC] has been able to do to this point, more than eight months later, is to stonewall the corruption accusation. The public and opinion writers believe that the anti-graft agency is trying to make the country forget that the first deputy prime minister and closest associate of Prime Minister Prayut faces hard questions of how he got access to more than 40 million baht worth of watches.

In the end, the Post admits that the “fork in the road” is long passed, declaring that the NACC looks remarkably like “an agency far more interested in protecting bad actors of the regime than in doing its assigned job.”

That’s true. The sad thing for Thailand is that it is but one of the puppet institutions. Even regular bureaucratic agencies have suffered purges under the junta and been infiltrated by junta cronies.

Usually, the public learns little of the corruption of military regimes until they are gone. In the case of this junta, we may never know because it isn’t planning to go away for many, many years.





Updated: A corrupt general and his bling

7 12 2017

Just yesterday we noted that when the new cabinet convened for a group photo in front of Government House a social media storm erupted over Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan wearing a watch worth more than four times his annual salary.

It is not uncommon for generals are often obsessed by expensive watches. They are also attached to bling, with, for example, Prawit often seen wearing expensive diamond rings that cost a small fortune and he wears heavy gold chains and amulets.

Khaosod reported that versions of the Rolex watch worn by Prawit can sell for up to 24 million baht, with even the lowest priced models in this range go for 11-12 million baht.

Caught out, the “second in command of the ruling junta said … he’s willing to discuss his taste for luxury wristwatches with an anti-corruption agency, but not the public – and certainly not reporters.”

Of course not! We might add that dozens of cases involving this regime have gone to the National Anti-Corruption Commission but none have resulted in any action. Dozens more cases of unusually rich members of the junta and its puppet legislators have never been investigated.

When pushed, Prawit refused to “specify if he obtained the watch before or after taking office.” He responded:

“Don’t know. I won’t answer. I will answer to the NACC. I don’t know why I should answer to you people. If I answered, the media will elaborate on it,” Prawit said, insisting he has not been involved in any corruption.

The media soon revealed that the seemingly pricey watch (we doubt he’d wear a fake) was not included in the Deputy Dictator’s 2014 asset declaration. This led the junta’s NACC to state that it “plans to launch an investigation into … Prawit Wongsuwan’s possession of what appears to be an extravagantly luxurious watch, which has not been declared in his assets.” Previous experience suggests a whitewash is likely.

The Bangkok Post did more digging on social media and online and added that the diamond ring worn by Prawit (he’s been wearing it for months) was worth about 4 million baht. In other words, in the group photo, Prawit was wearing bling worth from 16 to 30 million baht.

The Post also compared Prawit’s 2008 and 2014 asset declarations. In 2008, he reported assets of almost 57 million baht and salary/income of about 830,000 baht. In 2014, his assets grew to about 87 million baht and his income rose to 874,000 baht. Almost all the change in assets was in cash in the bank, which increased by about 28 million baht over the six years. The NACC didn’t see reason to ask how that increase happened.

We will not be holding our breath waiting for the NACC to come up with an “explanation” for Prawit’s expensive trinkets.

Update: While it is widely known, the Bangkok Post actually reported that NACC president Police General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit was not just appointed under the junta (which only appoints the “trustworthy”) but a “a close aide of Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwon, younger brother of Gen Prawit, when Pol Gen Patcharawat served as the police chief.” It adds:

After the May 2014 coup, Pol Gen Watcharapol was appointed secretary-general handling political affairs for Gen Prawit who became deputy prime minister. After being selected later as NACC president, Pol Gen Watcharapol assured the public that the NACC would be independent and transparent under his presidency, saying the NACC welcomed any attempt by the media to hold it accountable.

That’s how military dictatorship rolls.





Updated: The yellow threat

4 09 2017

About a month ago we suggested watching the People’s Alliance for Democracy. The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions clearing of 2008 prime minister Somchai Wongsawat and three others over their role in an attempt at clearing of PAD protesters had the (former) members of PAD agitated.

The Bangkok Post reports that the former “co-leader and spokesman of … PAD … Parnthep Pourpongpan, is warning of the possible return of yellow shirts if justice [sic.] is not served in a case concerning the 2008 deadly dispersal of the group’s demonstrators.”

This is obviously a political threat. It is an attempt to influence the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), seeking to force it to “appeal against the ruling…”. The NACC has refused and PAD says that’s a “political” decision.

PAD’s threat includes “lawsuits to be filed against the NACC members concern abuse of authority…”.

Panthep claims that there may have been “collusion between government figures and the NACC … to shield some people from legal action…”. He regards this “as organised crime.” He warns that PAD will sort this out. Another threat.

If that is the case, he says, then PAD may have to deal with it. Another threat.

“In the end, if no justice is served [he means PAD gets what it wants], no one can tell whether the PAD will return or not (to an active protest role)…”.

Just to turn the knife a bit more, Panthep went after The Dictator. “He said the government has not yet overcome the influence of the Thaksin system as it has failed to win over the hearts and minds of the people.”

Panthep reckons that the “regime’s policies were rolled out to mainly help capitalists or big entrepreneurs rather than the general public, which widens social disparity…”. There’s something in that. And it’s another threat.

The PAD man warns that the “military regime could seek a compromise with Thaksin’s system as a potential partner in holding political power.” That would surely bring the PADistas back. So it’s another threat.

Update: We should have mentioned that the NACC had 15 days to appeal. It has decided to appeal on just one of the four PAD crackdown cases. The Nation reports that the NACC “agreed with the court’s acquittal of the first three defendants…”. That’s Somchai, his deputy Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and then-police chief Pol General Patcharawat Wongsuwan. The NACC is appealing the case of former metropolitan police chief Pol Lt-General Suchart Muankaew. That is not enough for PAD.





Doubling down on double standards

5 05 2016

PPT was interested to read a story in the Bangkok Post that reports there is yellow-shirted opposition to a “move by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to withdraw a case against former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, and three other senior figures who are charged with malfeasance in connection with the bloody crackdown on yellow-shirt [People’s Alliance for Democracy] protesters in 2008…”.

The report states that NACC chairman Watcharapol Prasarnratchakij set up a panel to study the legal possibilities of charging the senior figures under “Section 157 of the Criminal Code for malfeasance and dereliction of duty and related clauses in the NACC Act and the 2007 charter.”

This is a long-standing case for the NACC since then NACC boss and anti-democrat sympathizer Panthep Klanarongran “made tremendous efforts to push the case to reach the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political-Office Holders.”

The Office of the Attorney-General which initially refused to indict the four defendants (“former deputy prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, former police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwon, who is the younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, and Pol Lt Gen Suchart Muenkaew, former metropolitan police chief” and Somchai). The NACC “then ignored the OAG” and went ahead with the case.

Another Bangkok Post report is about the PAD response. PAD lawyer Nithithorn Lamlua, PAD members and “relatives of those killed and injured Oct 7, 2008 at parliament, submitted the petition to Suthi Boonmee, director of the NACC’s Information and Special Affairs Office.” They oppose the case being dropped.

As we recall it, one person was killed, apparently when hit by a tear gas canister and another was blown up in his own car, which carried explosives. Some serious injuries were seen to result from PAD’s use of ping pong bombs and the use of tear gas. At the time, PAD was trying to “prevent then-prime minister Somchai from delivering his policy statement at parliament on Oct 7, 2008.”

Nithithorn stated that if the NACC dropped the case against Somchai, PAD would bring a malfeasance case against the NACC.

Carefully tip-toeing around claims that the case was being dropped because Police General Patcharawat is the younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit, Nithithorn said the family name “had nothing to do with” the case. He did say that “the government would be in trouble if this case was treated in a way to destroy the justice process.”

Panthep Puapongpan, a PAD core member, was more upfront when recognized that the NACC is a junta puppet agency when he “said he believed the NACC would not withdraw the case as doing so would destroy the legitimacy and credibility of the government because the present members of the NACC were appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order [he means the military junta].” He declared that if General Prayuth Chan-ocha and General Prawit “turned a blind eye to this matter, PAD core members would regroup to demand justice…”.

The junta is already known for nepotism, so it may well sweep this case aside.

But think a bit about this and the double standards involved.

For all of the bleating about this case being “highly sensitive,” important for fighting “corruption,” for the “reputation” of the NACC and so on, all the charges against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban were dropped on the basis that they had no case to answer. They ordered attacks on red shirts that resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries.





Further updated: Punishing Yingluck

23 01 2015

PPT has read several articles, social media sources and received several emails about The military’s puppet Assembly (predictably) voting to impeach former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. No links to the sources, just a cut-and-paste.

Yingluck was impeached for being elected prime minister. The puppets and a legion of royalists say it was about her lack of oversight on her government’s rice subsidy, but her real “crime” for them was her popularity and for being Thaksin’s sister.

The vote is one “partisan action aimed at crippling the political machine founded by her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, another ousted Prime Minister.” Other partisan actions will produce a constitution that will be anti-Thaksin, anti-democratic and anti-election.

Yingluck will be banned from politics for five years, but that is not enough for some, with the partisan Attorney General’s Office will “indict her on criminal charges for negligence related to losses and alleged corruption in the rice program.” That could lead to 10 years in jail. That may not be enough for others who will seek to drive her into exile.

Academic Kevin Hewison commented that the:

banning represents a show of confidence by the junta, which feels that it has broken the back of the Pheu Thai Party and the Red Shirt movement. It also allows the junta to reassert its anti-Thaksin credentials with the pro-royalist street movement that paved the way for the coup…. With Yingluck banned and Thaksin in exile, the military junta and its appointed bodies will feel more confident in gradually preparing the way for an election, probably in 2016. They will be more confident that they can be heavy-handed in changing the political rules to prevent any pro-Thaksin party having any chance to do well electorally.

Yingluck cancelled “a scheduled news conference because the military authorities had expressed concern that it might violate martial law.” She had already denied the charges and pointed to the essential unfairness of the process that was put in place and managed by her political opponents. Yingluck pointed to “a hidden agenda under an unjust practice, and [said it] is a political agenda.”

Yes, political, but hardly hidden!

She rightly pointed out that all these agencies “lacked the legitimacy to judge her because the junta terminated the constitution when it took power on May 22.”

Yingluck made some commentsat Facebook, saying she expected the Assembly to impeach her.

The idea that she can be impeached when she doesn’t hold a single position anywhere, having been thrown out just before the coup by the politicized Constitutional Court is reflective of bizarre royalist Thailand.

She stated that she insisted on her innocence. She added: “I am confident in my innocence.” Yingluck observed that “Thai democracy has died, along with the rule of law.”

She says she feels depressed because the “Thai people … have to return to the cycle of poverty, being taken advantage of and having lost the most fundamental democracy, as well as suffering the distortion of the law.”

Yingluck pledged to continue to fight to prove her innocence. She added: “… I will stand by the Thai people. We have to join forces in bringing prosperity and progress to the nation, bring back democracy and create the true fairness in the Thai society.”

Anti-democrats welcomed the pre-ordained decision.

Akanat Promphan, on his Facebook page, made inane statements about the “bravery” of the puppet Assembly, ethics and morals. He’s clearly lost his moral compass.

Update 1: The unofficial translation of Yingluck’s statement is available at the Puea Thai Party site.

Update 2: As noted above, the Attorney General has also decided to go after Yingluck, with the aim of tying her up in the courts or even in jail for months and years to come. She’s not the only one in the Shinawatra clan who is targeted. While PPT was recently disgusted by the political toadying of Somchai Wongsawat, the military dictatorship seems to have taken little notice, and the National Anti-Corruption Commission has launched a “lawsuit against former prime minister Somchai … and three others [Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, a former deputy prime minister, Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwon, the former police chief, and Pol Lt Gen Suchart Muankaew, the former Metropolitan Police chief] over the 2008 crackdown on People’s Alliance for Democracy protestors.” The Supreme Court is to decide whether to hear the case. The royalist elite certainly seems keen to punish those it sees as elite traitors.





Investigating the Suvarnabhumi occupation very, very slowly

12 09 2009

There is an interesting story in The Nation (11 September 2009: “Top cop changed head of airport probe before quitting”). As PPT reported earlier, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva seemed to solve his police problem when the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) investigation into violence during the People’s Alliance for Democracy occupation of parliament on 7 October 2008 found against the police chief, General Patcharawat Wongsuwan.

Police General Patcharawat is not going quietly. This report states that he “signed an order just before he stepped down to change the head of the police probe into the yellow shirts’ seizure of Suvarnabhumi Airport late last year.” It adds that he signed the order just 2 days after the NACC “found grounds for criminal and disciplinary action against Patcharawat over his role in the crackdown on an anti-government mob outside Parliament on October 7.”

Patcharawat replaced Police Lt-General Wut Phuavej with Police Lt-General Somyos Phumphanmuang. The report says that Lt-General Wut “was seen as siding with the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). He took to the PAD stage and defended the yellow shirts in front of the Royal Thai Police Club last July when the PAD voiced upset at being charged with terrorism for their mass protest at the new airport.”

So it is now clear why this investigation has been proceeding at a snail’s pace (remember this?). But will things change?

The report states that Lt-General Somyos is “close to Newin Chidchob, the de facto leader of Bhum Jai Thai Party, and Vichai Raksriaksorn, owner of King Power, which runs the ‘duty free’ outlet at airport.” This might suggest that nothing much will change. However, it also gives Newin a card he can play in inter-party rivalry within the coalition government.

As a footnote, Suvarnabhumi airport’s monopoly duty free operations – granted under Thaksin Shinawatra’s government – have been under scrutiny recently (try Googling “Suvarnabhumi scams”) and King Power’s Vichai Raksriaksorn has been ranked as one of Thailand’s richest by Forbes. Chang Noi mentioned him recently and King Power’s SEC listing is here. Vichai is a keen polo player and has been president of the Thailand Polo Association, and loves teaming up with Britain’s Princes Charles and William and being pictured with them in Hello magazine. PPT is unsure how close he is with Thailand’s royals, where polo is not so pukka.





Abhisit’s police chief problem solved

7 09 2009

The Bangkok Post (7 September 2009: “Four found guilty in Oct 7 crackdown”) reports the outcome of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) investigation into the violence that took place during the People’s Alliance for Democracy occupation of parliament on 7 October 2008.

It reports that one of the four people found guilty of criminal offences is police chief General Patcharawat Wongsuwan. That will presumably end Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s on-going dispute with the police chief over his successor. Getting Chavalit out of the picture is a good thing for the government as well, for he is sometimes touted as a potential opposition leader.

The others found guilty were “former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, former deputy prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, and former metropolitan police chief Pol Lt-Gen Suchart Muankaew.” The NACC found Somchai and Chavalit “guilty of ordering the crackdown in violation of Article 157 of the Criminal Code.” Patcharawat and Suchart were “found guilty of criminal offences under Article 157 of the Criminal Code and serious breach of discipline for not giving an order to end the police action after people had died and many been injured on the morning of Oct 7.”

NACC Commissioner Klanarong Chanthik said “that the four men would be indicted before the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions within 15 days.”

As has become usual, the Post reports that the violence that day “left two people dead and hundreds injured.” PPT recalls that one of those killed was a PAD supporter blown up in his own car bomb. Readers should correct us if we are mistaken on this.

PPT would now expect that legal proceedings would now be taken against the PAD leaders who organized illegal events over many months. But such expectations are hardly likely to be fulfilled by this government and its so-called independent agencies or by the essentially tame courts.





Abhisit still keen to reshuffle police

13 08 2009

About a week ago, PPT blogged that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban had backed off meddling in the police reshuffle and promotions, especially as there are claims over the legality of political meddling.

Abhisit, perhaps prompted by the continuing push from PAD leader Sonthi Limthongkul, has continued the search for loyalty (see here). He has pushed Police General Patcharawat Wongsuwan out of his role again, following that general’s early return from leave, while again making Police General Wichien Potposri acting police chief.

Patcharawat has, according to The Nation (13 August 2009: “Pol Gen Vichien back in the driver’s seat”) been sent to the south, “in charge of overseeing security in the restive South and ensuring safety an upcoming Asean meeting.”

Wichien, sounding like a judge in a lese majeste trial, “vowed to ensure justice in the annual police reshuffle during [yet another] Police Commission meeting.” Whether the more “yellow” Democrat Party leaders and PAD can get their way remains to be seen, but there seems a determination to intervene against “Thaksin supporters” in the police senior levels and to restructure the police in ways that sidelines “the enemy.”

Meanwhile, Abhisit actually had the audacity to deny “allegations of interfering in the annual police reshuffle, saying he had never tampered with individual appointments and only wanted make sure there were no legal violations.”

Against that, the Bangkok Post (13 August 2009: “Big revision tipped for police list”) seems less sure, predicting “Big changes are expected when the Police Commission meets today to vet a proposed reshuffle list involving officers from the level of deputy superintendent on down…”. Apparently having Patcharawat out of the way assists in making the changes.

Confirming the continuing pressure from PAD, Abhsiit claimed: “I’m not involved in the police reshuffle. What I’m doing is ensuring that the Sondhi case investigation can go ahead…”. Winning control of the police remains important for Abhisit and PAD.





Sondhi assassination saga continues

26 07 2009

Update: The Bangkok Post (27 July 2009: “PM: Sondhi case nearing its end”) reports that three more arrest warrants are being sought, “The suspects were said to be a police sub-lieutenant and two sergeant-majors attached to the Special Warfare Centre.” Still no big shots.

PPT noted almost two weeks ago that two low-level suspects had been named in the investigations into the attempted assassination of PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul. So far, those suspects have remained at large.

Since then, there has been all kinds of speculation about the real forces behind the assassination plot and maneuverings over how to deal with the potential  political outcomes of naming the big shots involved. The speculation has involved, senior military and police officers, a former army commander under Thaksin Shinawatra, and palace-linked notables or royalists who considered Sondhi a threat.

A week ago, the former army chief under Thaksin, General Chettha Thanajaro, “denied any involvement in the attempt on the life of … Sondhi …, but admitted knowing one of the two suspects in the case” (Bangkok Post, 18 July 2009: “Chettha denies involvement”).

The suspect, Sgt-Maj Panya Srihera from the Lopburi-based special forces, was once assigned as an aide to Chettha when he was defence minister and the suspect had apparently fled “to Trat province, where his [Chettha’s] daughter-in-law Orathai Thanajaro has a factory.” The general added that “he and Mr Sondhi enjoyed good personal relations.”

Even with all of this in the public domain and many more rumours, the case has stalled. This led to speculation that Police Chief Patcharawat Wongsuwan was blocking the investigators and rumours that he would be moved or sacked. The Nation (25 July 2009: “Police chief asks for 30 days’ leave amid rumours of his removal”) reported that the chief was to take leave.

Meanwhile, the case is a political hot potato that has now landed with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The Bangkok Post (25 July 2009: “PM set to mediate in police squabble”) reports that the usually tough Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has passed the decision-making to the prime minister.

Abhisit said “any decision made must ensure the investigation into Mr Sondhi’s case can proceed” adding that, ”We will listen to everyone. We cannot make a decision based on a single person…. I will have to talk to Mr Suthep about the reports to be sure they are accurate. I will make my own judgement. I will use Mr Suthep’s information to make a decision…”.

The same report claimed that a “source in the army said some government agencies were wire-tapping the phones of Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda in relation to the Sondhi shooting probe.” Several other “military officers suspected of being involved in the assassination attempt were also being tapped…”.

PAD coordinator Suriyasai Katasila called on Abhisitto remove Police General Patcharawat for his “failure to act was delaying the investigation…”.

PPT has no additional information on this saga but again we can observe that the justice system is politicized and corrupted.

Chettha denies involvement