Newin wins again

17 08 2010

This is old news – PPT missed it on 11 August in the Bangkok Post – but is worth highlighting. The report is that cabinet under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has “endorsed the appointment of Mongkol Surasajja as the next permanent secretary for the interior amid speculation he benefited from a close bond with Newin Chidchob.” Mongkol has been fast-tracked into the Phum Jai Thai Party ministry having “served as a district chief and deputy governor in northeastern provinces before being named governor of Buri Ram, the home province of Mr Newin.”

Mongkol is the current director-general of the Provincial Administration Departmenthaving been in the position just a few months, which followed just a few months as director of the Community Development Department. Even Minister Chavarat Charnvirakul joked about the ties with Newin.

The Democrat Party seems unable or incapable of dealing with the rising power of banned politician Newin.





Updated: Football and politics

13 08 2010

PPT realizes that the story has been widely reported, but we want to add some information to the story regarding the King Power-Asian Football Investments reported purchase of Football League club Leicester City. The Financial Times says this:

What is it about Thai billionaires and British football clubs?

First Thaksin Shinawatra – telecoms magnate turned prime minister turned international fugitive – bought Manchester City and now Aiyawatt Raksriaksorn, whose family owns duty free outlet King Power, has taken over Football League club Leicester City.

The continent is obsessed with football, and especially British football. Step into a taxi anywhere from Bali to Beijing and once nationality has been established, the conversation takes a familiar swerve: “That Wayne Rooney…”.

So who is Aiyawatt Raksriaksorn?

Raksriaksorn heads Asian Football Investments, a consortium that includes Milan Mandaric, who bought the club three years ago and is the son of Vichai Raksriaksorn, the politically well-connected founder of King Power. The company holds the lucrative monopoly on duty free sales in Thailand.

There is no formal word on how much the consortium paid, but the Thai media put the price tag at around Bt2bn.

In some ways the deal makes sense. King Power had already signed a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with Leicester, and it is advertising that draws in the Asian dollars.

Thaksin, the billionaire-turned-political-exile, bought Manchester City in 2007, shortly after he lost the prime minister’s office in a military coup. He only owned the club for year before selling out to Abu Dhabi interests, who then humiliatingly dumped him as the club’s honorary chairman in 2009, saying that it was “inappropriate” to have a politician convicted of corruption in such a high-profile role.

Let’s hope there are no more own goals for Team Thailand.

PPT has commented briefly in the past about the links between Vichai Raksriaksorn and notorious Buriram godfather-politician, blue shirt benefactor and key coalition “member” Newin Chidchob. Let us reiterate some of the points made in earlier posts (by doing a bit of cut-and-pasting):

Back in September 2009, we commented on Police Lt-General Somyos Phumphanmuang taking over the investigation of the People’s Alliance for Democracy occupation of the airports.  Lt-General Somyos was said to be “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.” 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.

Later, in February this year, PPT reported on how Newin had promoted his Phum Jai Thai Party as a monarchy-loving and monarchy-protecting party promising a Thaksin Shinawatra-like return to the good economic times. Newin appears regularly at royal-related events, promoting clumsy and obvious kinds of royal propaganda. But it is blue for his party and for the royal he seems to be most keen to support.

Related, Newin bought one of Thailand’s major league football teams. Newin is the chairman of Buri Rum-Provincial Electricity Authority FC having paid a considerable amount for it. Of course, its kit is blue. Its sponsors are Chang Beer and King Power.

Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi is the owner of Chang. He is well known as one of Thailand’s wealthiest men but has been reasonably publicity shy. Lycos Retriever has some details. There’s also a chapter on him in Pasuk and Baker’s Thai Capital published in 2008. Family details are available here. He has good bureaucratic contacts through his liquor and beer businesses. Charoen has been a generous donor to royal activities. He is remarkably powerful and has huge cash flow, which makes him a valuable political ally.

The King Power link to Newin has been known for several years. Vichai Raksriaksorn has been one of Newin’s strongest supporters and he is wealthy, politically active and a big supporter of things royal. He is the one credited with having “plagiarized” the Lance Armstrong plastic bracelets in Thailand and made them Long live the king bracelets and raised a fortune that he handed over to the palace. Vichai’s background is not very clear. In 2007 he was ranked by Forbes as Thailand’s 21st wealthiest, worth about US$200 million. He’s much richer than that now. The best available account of King Power and its economic and political power is by Chang Noi. The airport monopoly also provides the huge cash flow that are a political asset.

Vichai almost single-handedly established and developed the rich person’s sport of polo in Thailand. You’d think this was little more than a hobby, but through his Thailand Polo Association, Vichai has been able to link to royals worldwide – they all seem to play this ostentatious sport – and this has added greatly to his credibility in Thailand’s high society. The Association is also populated by “advisers” who are generals in the police and military. Vichai loves teaming up for polo with Britain’s Princes Charles and William and being pictured with them in Hello magazine.

To follow some of these links, PPT suggests looking at the Thai-language edition of the U.K.’s Hello magazine which regularly highlights royals, the rich (Charoen’s son’s engagement and wedding was covered in an earlier issue) and polo. An earlier advertisement for a 20 February 2010 fund-raising polo game called the Queen’s Cup, for “ladies,” featured M.L. Piyapas Bhirombhakdi, lady-in-waiting to the queen.

So the purchase of Leicester City should probably be seen as part of a larger money-making venture that, if successful, might well enrich Vichai and his family, but is also sure to provide a link to Buriram and, inevitably, the sordid world of Newin’s politics.





Newin, monarchy and vigilantes

28 04 2010

The Nation (28 April 2010) reports that Newin Chidchob, the real leader of the Phum Jai Thai Party has expressed his desire “to spearhead a campaign to protect the monarchy and fight the red-shirt menace.”

He believes that if the authorities fail to protect the monarchy, then he is “ready to stand side by side with the people to protect His Majesty the King, the country’s most revered figure…”. Like so many other developments in recent weeks, this is eerily reminiscent of 1975-76 when there were calls for and state support to vigilante action against political opponents. Is this what blue shirt leader and provincial thug Newin is suggesting?

Newin considers it a “sacred duty to safeguard the monarchy and repel any attacks on the revered institution.” Yep, vigilantism.

The report says that Newin, “once the right-hand man of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, became a royalist after he was acquitted in a corruption case involving a rubber plantation last year.” Miraculous really…. or simply payback?

The report adds that: “Even though Newin has been banned from politics for five years, he continues to play an active role in the party and the government. He also chairs many committees to organise events and ceremonies in praise of the monarchy and gave birth to the blue-shirt movement to protect the Royal Family.”

Newin also attacked Puea Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, saying “a news clip aired by Channel 3 last December was proof of Chavalit’s true colours. The clip highlighted Chavalit’s remarks given to former communists, outlining his thoughts on the monarchy…. In the clip, Chavalit pointed out similarities between the prevailing predicament and the 1932 revolution that grabbed power away from the monarch, he said, questioning whether Chavalit was hinting at the past to foreshadow his present movements.”

The murders that were committed in the name of the monarchy in 1976 should be warning enough that such calls are dangerous and essentially fascist in nature.





Updated: Making connections that count

6 02 2010

Update: Update: The Bangkok Post (7 February 2010) has a story on Newin’s Buriram PEA footbal team.

***

A few days ago PPT had a short comment on Privileges of wealth and position”. In that post we mentioned the demise of PB Air and its estimated 2 billion baht in liabilities. The airline was associated with Piya Bhirombhakdi, who is now off doing his new luxurious hospitality venture, the 3-billion-baht Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Krabi. We mentioned the Bhirombhakdi family’s royal connections.

In this post, PPT wants to add more on royal and political connections.

We begin with a column by former Thai Rak Thai Party man Suranand Vejjajiva (Bangkok Post, 5 February 2010) where he writes of the Ministry of Interior’s plan to “set up a satellite television channel, TV Mahadthai to create a better understanding of the ministry’s policies and activities, with special emphasis on ‘protecting the institution [of the monarchy]’.” When combined with appearances by “the interior minister, his deputies, the directors-general of various departments and the provincial governors” one could hardly imagine anything more boring, and in the minister’s case, would probably be barely intelligible.

This is yet another way to waste of taxpayer’s money for the benefit of particular interests. But here’s the interesting bit: the press has noticed that this is a Phum Jai Thai Party exercise, with the backing of Newin Chidchob and his family: so they call it “Blue TV.” It isn’t as if Thailand needs more pro-government and pro-monarchy television. The country is full of this propaganda and it is currently becoming more dense.

Newin has promoted his Phum Jai Thai as a monarchy-loving and monarchy-protecting party promising a Thaksin Shinawatra-like return to the good economic times. Newin appears regularly on television at royal-related events, promoting clumsy and obvious kinds of royal propaganda. But it is blue for his party and for the royal he seems to be most keen to support.

Related, it is widely reported that Newin has bought one of Thailand’s major league football teams. Newin is the new chairman of Buri Rum-Provincial Electricity Authority FC. Of course, its kit is blue. What was most interesting for PPT in the extensive television coverage was the sponsors: Chang Beer and King Power.

Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi is the owner of Chang. He is well known as one of Thailand’s wealthiest men but has been reasonably publicity shy. Lycos Retriever has some details. There’s also a chapter on him in Pasuk and Baker’s Thai Capital published in 2008. Family details are available here. He has good bureaucratic contacts through his liquor and beer businesses. Charoen has been a generous donor to royal activities. He is remarkably powerful and has huge cash flow, which makes him a valuable political ally.

The King Power link to Newin has been known for several years. Vichai Raksriaksorn has been one of Newin’s strongest supporters and he is wealthy, politically active and a big supporter of things royal. He is the one credited with having “plagiarized” the Lance Armstrong plastic bracelets in Thailand and made them Long live the king bracelets and raised a fortune that he handed over to the palace.

Vichai’s background is not very clear. In 2007 he was ranked by Forbes as Thailand’s 21st wealthiest, worth about US$200 million. He’s much richer than that now. The best available account of King Power and its economic and political power is by Chang Noi. The airport monopoly also provides the huge cash flow that are a political asset.

Vichai almost single-handedly established and developed the rich person’s sport of polo in Thailand. You’d think this was little more than a hobby, but through his Thailand Polo Association, Vichai has been able to link to royals worldwide – they all seem to play this ostentatious sport – and this has added greatly to his credibility in Thailand’s high society. The Association is also populated by “advisers” who are generals in the police and military.

To bring the connections back to where we began, PPT suggests looking at the Thai-language edition of the U.K.’s Hello magazine often highlights royals, the rich (Charoen’s son’s engagement and wedding was covered) and polo. In the print version of the latest issue, pictured at the website, but with no detail, has an advertisement for a 20 February fund-raising polo game that is called the Queen’s Cup, for “ladies” on page 97. They also have a King’s Cup for the gentlemen players. This advertisement features M.L. Piyapas Bhirombhakdi, lady-in-waiting to the queen.

Being back with a Bhirombhakdi means we are now full circle on the connections, with Newin and the queen featuring.





New: Phum Jai Thai’s amnesty proposal

19 08 2009

While PPT doesn’t see the proposal going very far, the Bangkok Post (19 August 2009: “Bhumjaithai seeks broad amnesty bill”) report on the Phum Jai Thai Party proposal for an amnesty “for an amnesty for all yellow shirt and red shirt demonstrators as a way to ease political tensions” is an interesting development at this conjuncture, especially as Phum Jai Thai doesn’t appear to have any great confidence that their proposal would be welcome.

Bangkok Pundit has some musings on the implications and timing.

Phum Jai Thai leader Chavarat Charnvirakul said the party would propose an amnesty bill to clear all charges brought for actions taken during rallies. That would benefit the People’s Alliance for Democracy’s for its rallies from 26 May to 3 December 2008 and red shirt/United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship demonstrations from 26 March  to 14 April 2009. It would also apply to police and military officers and others involved in other capacities with the demonstrations. Of course, this would not extend to those accused of lese majeste or the banning of politicians through party dissolutions.

PAD coordinator secretary-general of the New Politics Party, Suriyasai Katasila, immediately rejected it because it would “allow authorities in charge of the Oct 7 crackdown, in which two people died at parliament during a police action to clear protesters, to walk free.”

Recall that one of these deaths was a PAD member who blew himself up in a car bomb.

Suriyasai added: “We must respect the law and the wrongdoers must be prosecuted. PAD never negotiates. We trust the justice system…”. And why wouldn’t they trust a system that has yet to make any major decision that is anti-PAD?





Responding to the Puea Thai Party election victory

23 06 2009

One election victory in a North-eastern province doesn’t necessarily change the political landscape. However, if the government partner party, Phum Jai Thai (PJT), had won, PPT readers can be sure that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the forces behind him would have been crowing. Most especially banned politician and Thai Rak Thai (TRT) Party turncoat Newin Chidchob would have been claiming a personal victory over his former comrades.

That the Puea Thai (PT) candidate trounced the PJT candidate is likely to be very disturbing for the forces that engineered the PJT-Democrat alliance government.

Yesterday’s reporting in the Bangkok Post (22 June 2009) was revealing as the Post editorialists seemed to display their Establishment fears. In reporting the PT victory, the Post (“Puea Thai wins in a landslide”) went out of its way to claim that this result was born of little other than “Thaksin fever.” They also claimed irregularities in the voting. In fact, before the election, this latter claim was mainly heard in accusations by PT against PJT.

In its editorial (Bangkok Post, 22 June 2009: “Doubts mar by-election”), the editorial writer claims so much electoral fraud that the Electoral Commission (EC)must “step forcefully into the [Sakon Nakhon’s] Constituency 3 aftermath.”

In fact, responding to PT claims about unusual early voting patterns, the EC has already begun investigating and presumably their officers routinely report from the electoral battle ground. But – shock, horror – it is only PJT’s titular leader and Minister of the Interior Chavarat Charnvirakul who is being investigated.

The Post goes on to claim that the PT winner needs to be investigated as a “nominee” as she is the wife of the previously banned candidate. Of course, there is no mention of all the similar nominees in PJT, some of whom are ministers.

No mention also of the bombs that disrupted PT meetings.

The Bangkok Post editorialist claims that elections need to be seen to be fair. That’s true, but it seems that the Establishment view is that PT could not have won if it was a fair election. What they can’t accept is that for all of the propaganda and money the current government, its supporters and the military-ISOC have thrown at the North-east, they can’t seem to get people to change the way they are voting.

Thaksin and TRT’s policies certainly remain popular in these areas, but so too does the broader red-shirt movement and the now deeply ingrained impulse to keep voting for the parties they really want. This is going to be difficult for the Democrat-led government to overturn and PPT wonders if there won’t be more repression and more political measures to inhibit the red shirts.








%d bloggers like this: