Democrat Party assets

5 10 2012

Most political commentators consider that the Democrat Party possesses few political assets. However, the recent release of wealth declarations by Democrat Party leaders when in government shows they had plenty of economic assets. The Nation reports that the National Anti-Corruption Commission is required to collect assets data for former ministers, one year after they leave office.

The former members of the Democrat Party-dominated Cabinet are not short of a baht, dollar or Euro. And, as noted below, some (all?) of them are worth a heck of a lot more but have done deals with family to spread the wealth about while maintaining control over the assets of the family-cum-company. We won’t list them and just draw attention to a few.

Wealthiest is Korn Chatikavanij who declared personal assets with his wife of 865.909 million baht or about US$28.6 million, apparently a “Bt4.5 million decrease from the amount he declared when leaving office.” Korn’s supposed to be a sharp investor, so the drop in assets, when the market has been rising seems a bit odd.

Second richest is Chaovarat Chanweerakul of the Bhum Jai Thai Party, with declared assets 754.237 million baht. Chaovarat’s family is much wealthier than this. His son (อนุทิน ชาญวีรกูล) and daughter-in-law Sanongnut (สนองนุช ชาญวีรกูล) are the major shareholders of the family firm Sino-Thai Engineering, and together hold shares just in this company valued at almost 4.8 billion baht and there are plenty of other family members listed as shareholders.

The third richest is former the deputy finance minister Pradit Pataraprasit, worth 681.258 million baht.

Former justice minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga also has a bit of loot, being worth 629.88 million baht. He’s the one with three flight simulators (F-18, F-16 and F-14 fighter jets) worth almost $2 million. Porntiva Nakasai, says she has assets worth 117.03 million baht. We wonder if that includes any of the massage parlor empire?

Former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared assets worth 53.944 million baht while his former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban proves that debts may also be a measure of wealth as he declared outstanding debts of 347.578 million baht and assets of 210.95 million. When he left office, Suthep declared assets worth 95.64 million baht, up from 81.607 million when the military hoisted Abhisit’s government into power. It seems that his assets and debts have increased very substantially. Suthep said he owed 248.57 million baht to the Islamic Bank of Thailand. We wonder if his loan their followed The Islamic Bank of Thailand Act, B.E. 2545, which stipulates that the bank operates a financial business that are not related to interests
(riba) or against Islamic principles?

The other surprise is former defense minister General Prawit Wongsuwan who has assets worth 79.063 million baht, sharply up from the 9.39 million he declared a year ago. It never ceases to amaze that poorly paid generals can do so well. A 70 million gain in a year suggests Prawit is a financial genius who has found a second skill late in life (probably not).

Letter from Red Shirt political detainees

14 09 2011

PPT’s last post was on the possible return of a prison explicitly for political prisoners to Thailand’s judicial-correctional (read: unjust-repressive) landscape. We noted that Pirapan has claimed that there are no political prisoners in Thailand. Pirapan is gravely mistaken. In response, we would suggest that he read this letter from Red Shirt detainees held at Bangkok Special Prison, translated and posted on Prachatai yesterday.

There are political prisoners in Thailand, and they seem to have been forgotten by the Puea Thai Party.

Political prisons?

14 09 2011

At New Mandala, Tyrell Haberkorn has a post that is chilling. Earlier today, PPT posted on Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung and lese majeste. Our next to last sentence was that his campaign on “crimes” against the monarchy and that by the royalist military were doomed “unless they plan to build concentration camps and engage in a 1976-77-like reign of terror in order to protect the monarchy.” Haberkorn’s post seems to confirm that there is at least some thoughts about taking that Jurassic path.

Her account refers to “a series of reports have emerged about the possible recommissioning of an old detention centre to house political and other prisoners in Thailand.” She points out that the reports are not yet precise or clear.

The articles she points to report “that representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Corrections and the Special Branch Police have met to discuss recommissioning a … Special Branch site of detention at Bang Khen police school…”.  That center was used for “political detainees beginning in 1963 until being decommissioned and given to the Special Branch Police by Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, during his tenure as Minister of Justice under the recent Democrat Party government.”

The reasons for recommissioning are unclear, ranging from a place to hold former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, should he return to overcrowding to the claim that “political prisoners detained with other ordinary prisoners has caused problems, including overcrowding and agitating the prisoners.”

Haberkorn then turns to Pirapan’s own comments posted at the Democrat Party website. He spends a lot of time falsely denying that there are any political prisoners in Thailand.

The idea of special prisons for political prisoners is deeply disturbing, suggesting that Thailand’s descent into authoritarianism is continuing.

Further updated: Blocking anti-monarchy sites, tracking lese majeste suspects

21 06 2010

What more could be expected from the royalist and military-backed Abhisit Vejjajiva government? From the tech press: The “Ministry [of Justice] has closed 43,000 websites insulting to the Thai monarchy and is planning to shut another 3,000 websites which might contain lese majeste (crime violating majesty) offenses, Thai News Agency reported Thursday. Its minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga said his ministry is also tracking two people who had committed lese majeste and had fled abroad. However, no further details given on the two people. Under the Internal Security Act and the Computer-related Offenses Act of 2007, legal action may be taken against the operators of the websites should they continue to generate any content deemed offensive to the nation’s revered king.”

We have no news on who has fled. Advice from readers would be appreciated.

Update 1: Interestingly, there is another international report that the “U.N. Human Rights Council has unanimously elected Thailand’s ambassador in Geneva as its president for the coming year.” Sihasak was reasonably close to Thaksin Shinawatra when he was premier. How Thailand can lead the body is anyone’s guess. But the report does say: “Asia is entitled to name the new chair under rules intended to ensure that each region holds the rotating presidency of the 47-member council every five years.” It also notes that Sihasak’s “election Monday follows criticism by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights of the recent violent protests in Thailand.”

Update 2: Over at FACT, where the details are watched pretty closely, the estimate cited from the Manager is that the current repressive government led by the “liberal” Abhisit is now blocking 145,000 URLs. That’s what “Thai liberals” do when in power. Read the whole story at FACT.

More on alleged funds flow

13 02 2010

The Abhisit Vejjajiva government continues to push the alleged foreign funding to the red shirts into the media (see PPT’s earlier post here). Obviously, its strategists think the claim is a winner. The problem for observers such as PPT is that there is no evidence being produced. Equally odd is the government’s acting spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn’s claim that the government has been observing this for almost three months. So why announce it now and then not show a shred of evidence.

PPT doesn’t know if there are transfers as claimed, but the government is playing this card in a way that suggests it is manufacturing a politically-motivated story.

Now – after the three months the government claims to have known of alleged transfers – the government has put the Department of Special Investigation and the Anti-Money Laundering Office on the job (The Nation, 13 February 2010). It has to be said that the DSI is looking increasingly like the government’s lackey organization for politicized investigations.

The report adds the curious line that these organizations have: “been instructed to probe the flow of suspicious funds by pursuing all leads, not only those politically linked.” Even more curious, Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga is cited as stating: “The probe is about enforcing the Anti-Money Laundering Act in general. This may or may not have political implications…”. But it is not really curious because the government is trying to give the impression that it “was not out to fault any particular groups.”

This is pure political spin. Listen to academic-for-hire and government spinmeister Panitan and what is heard is an attack on the red shirts, even if there is no evidence. He said “huge amounts of money had been transferred to some red shirt leaders from the Middle East” (Bangkok Post, 13 February 2010). Even Pirapan can’t keep up the charade, for he adds that there will be investigations of mushrooming of pyramid schemes, on suspicion these illegal funds have been channelled to finance street protests…”. And who are the street protestors? Certainly they aren’t investigating the Democrat Party allies in the yellow-shirted PAD.

In addition, one of PPT’s favorite spin doctors is the Democrat Party spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks. Buranaj has long shown himself to be an enemy of human rights, free speech and several other important freedoms. He said “authorities were investigating three schemes designed to channel funds to the red shirts.” Didn’t the justice minister say they’re not “not out to fault any particular groups? Mark that down as a lie from justice minister no less.

Buranaj claims “couriers were hired to smuggle cash from border areas into the country. The suspicious funds came from casinos located nearby.” He also claims that “a group of import-export companies are suspected to have doctored their records to help move funds into the Kingdom.” Finally, he refers to “funds being moved via international wire transfer to local accounts of individuals or companies, with the records fixed to elude detection. Five businessmen are involved.” No evidence, just inflammatory accusations. Why? Buranaj also has a track record of wanting crackdowns on red shirts.

AHRC and RWB on computer crimes as lese majeste

20 11 2009

Also available as กรรมาธิการสิทธิเอเชีย และผู้สื่อข่าวไร้พรมแดน: ทำผิดทางคอมพิวเตอร์ คือทำผิดฐานหมิ่นฯ

On 20 November 2009, the Asian Human Rights Commission released a timely statement on the use of the Computer Crimes Act as a substitute for the lese majeste law and Reporters Without Borders released a report the day before criticizing the use of this and other laws that are meant to control and limit expression: “Harassment and intimidation are constantly employed to dissuade Internet users from freely expressing their views.”

Read the report on RWB at Prachatai, where some extra and useful links are included.

As PPT readers may have noticed, at our pages on Pending Cases and About Us, we also recognized this substitution. Some months ago we began including those charged with “national security” offenses under the Computer Crimes Act along with lese majeste cases.

AHRC mention five cases: the royals health rumors scapegoats Thatsaporn Rattanawongsa (arrested just a couple of days ago), Thiranan Vipuchanun, Khatha Pachachirayapong and Somjet Itthiworakul (arrested earlier in November), Prachatai’s webmaster Chiranuch Premchaiporn, charged back in March, and Suwicha Thakor, arrested in January, convicted in April and sentenced to 20 years jail, reduced to 10 after he finally agreed to plead guilty. RWB list others, including Nat Sattayapornpisut, arrested in October.

AHRC makes some excellent points, noting that negative publicity “over the cases against persons critical of its royal family, or persons claiming to act on the royals’ behalf” has caused the Democrat Party-led government to change tack and downplay lese majeste while using other means to repress and censor. It is added that the Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga remarkably claimed that “Offences against the King, the Queen, the Heir-Apparent or the Regent are considered offences relating to the security of the Kingdom, not ‘lese-majesty’… I am certain that each state as well as Thailand has its own way of interpreting what constitutes offences relating to national security. Therefore, whoever violates the law of the Kingdom will be fairly charged and prosecuted according to the law of the Kingdom.”

As AHRC points out, the Computer Crimes Act “is an excellent substitute” for a repressive government that wants to appear to international community as one that favors the “rule of law.” As is clear, they use this law to harass, intimidate and to lock up those who oppose the national ideology.

AHRC notes that the Computer Crimes Act “was passed in the final hours of the military-appointed proxy legislature following the 2006 coup, and … was designed as a tool to suppress dissent, not responsibly deal with Internet crime in Thailand. Its ambiguous provisions, notably the section under which all these persons have been charged, allow for the prosecution of any type of thought crime on the disingenuous pretext that the crime is one of technology rather than one of expression or of ideas. Therefore, the state can claim that it is bringing people to court for one type of crime, while sending a clear message to a society that the real offence is altogether different.”

That temple belongs to us

18 11 2009

A reader draws PPT’s attention to this story (19 November 2009: “Thai minister hopes to recover Cambodian temple”). Thailand’s Justice Minister  Pirapan Salirathavibhaga has told reporters that “Thailand hopes some day to prove its claim to a historic border temple [Preah Vihear] awarded to Cambodia by the World Court almost half a century ago…”.

Pirapan took foreign journalists on a tour of Srisaket and to the area of the temple. Apparently he said, “We respect the court ruling but hope to one day have the evidence to prove the temple itself is ours.” The report states that “Pirapan incorrectly claimed that the court ruled only that the temple itself belonged to Cambodia, but not the land it stands on.” It continues to cite the judgment as stating: “that the Temple of Preah Vihear was situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia.”

The summary judgeship of the ICJ is here.

When asked “why Thailand was willing to fight over the disputed land near the temple,” the minister responded: “because it’s ours. Even if it is only one square inch, it is ours.”

That claim should keep the nationalist fires burning.

The incredible Abhisit petition response

18 08 2009

Also available in Thai as เหลือเชื่อ กับคำตอบของอภิสิทธิ์.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is becoming a victim of his own discombobulating over the “royal pardon” petition for Thaksin Shinawatra.

In the Bangkok Post (18 August 2009: “Reviewing petition may take months, says PM”) Abhisit is reported to have said that it “would take at very the least two months to study the petition for a royal pardon for Thaksin Shinawatra before a decision could be made on what futher action to take on it…”. Just the day before submission, Abhisit stated categorically that the petition would be rejected as it did not conform to legal criteria.

Abhisit said that the checking of this petition would take a long time because of the it was “a complex issue and a large group of people had purportedly signed the petition.” Note the use of the term “purportedly.” Of course there is no questuion that 10 million signed up for the government’s anti-petition petition. Nor has there been any check on other letters written in the name of others by officials. Issues of forgery and abuse of power in, say, universities?

The premier has no credibility on this issue.

Even so, Abhisit put Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban in charge of overseeing the matter. It seems that there is not another member of the Democrat Party who has the capacity to overview any “difficult” issue for the government.

Abhisit also made the incredible claim that “the government would not obstruct the process.” He added: “I assure all parties that the government will treat this petition as other petitions,” and said “I promise that the government will not do anything to obstruct or buy time on this issue…”. PPT remains to be convinced on this. Abhisit has mangled the truth repeatedly in the past and especially on this issue that he is unbelievable.

Suthep said he favors a “panel of experts to review the petition.” Presumably he will disqualify all academics who have already claimed that the petition is illegal? Or maybe not…, especially as Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga has “said that the process will go no further if the petition failed to meet legal criteria.”

Revealingly, though, for the all the government and conservative huffing and puffing and threatening on the petition, the minister states: “I do not know at this stage whether this petition is actually seeking a royal pardon, or just filing a complaint…”.

UDD core leader Jatuporn Prompan responded that”If the government tries to scrap the petition, it will be a reason for the red-shirts to hold a major rally…”.

The hunt for Thaksin

6 08 2009

The Bangkok Post (6 August 2009: “New office to hunt fugitives”) has a short report on a new office to be established by the Justice Ministry, with 160 staff, that will hunt down the more than 250,000 unserved warrants issued by the police.

Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga announced this, saying that the new office would “complement the justice system as it would have the task of hunting fugitives for whom arrest warrants have been issued, those who have avoided detention or have jumped bail during police investigations or court trials.” According to the report, “Staff will have the authority to track fugitives locally and overseas. When chasing fugitives overseas, they will locate them and report the information to public prosecutors.”

Pirapan also “admitted [that] Thaksin [Shinawatra] … was a target of the new office. But he denied the former PM was its main target.”

Pro-Thaksin people have argued that the office is a waste of public funds, duplicating existing offices. That may be so, but the Democrat Party-led government seems intent on establishing “loyal” agencies in the bureaucracy.

Abhisit and the truth

3 08 2009

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is tying himself in knots over the red shirt “royal pardon” petition for Thaksin Shinawatra.

Abhisit has been reported in the The Nation (3 August 2009: “PM: Red shirts must take responsibility over petition”) as stating “I reiterate that political activities must not affect the nation’s main institution (the monarchy).… Those who receive (personal) benefit from this should stop their action.”

Then he seems to get confused, making the quite outrageous claim that “There’s an attempt to convince people that the government is obstructing the petition movement…. “The government is simply trying to inform the public of the facts.”

If he is quoted accurately, this is an outright lie. For example (in reverse order by date):

* Abhisit (here) used some of his weekly television address to attack the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, telling them they “should stop gathering signatures…”. He claimed people were being misled and reinforced the point that the “Interior Ministry had allowed people who signed up the pardon petition to withdraw their signatures by registering with the local officials because the organisers’ intention might not be appropriate.”

* Interior Minister Chavarat Charnvirakul (here) “ordered provincial authorities to launch a counter-campaign against the UDD’s petition,” and resorted to a quite old-fashioned but seriously threatening tactic of announcing that the Provincial Administration Department would “examine the identity of all the signatories to petition.” Abhisit has confirmed that this intimidation by checking names would take place.

* Army chief Anupong Paochinda (here) “has ordered commander of all army units to have their subordinates explain the correct procedures for seeking a royal pardon to the people nationwide.” Soldiers in villages and communities is direct intimidation on this issue.

* Abhisit claimed (here) hat the red shirt campaign was “manipulating innocent people.” Abhisit added, “We have to be cautious because these masterminds have complicated matters and people could fall victim to their provocations…”. At the same time, chief adviser of the Democrat Party Chuan Leekpai, “warned the government to pay close attention the red-shirts’ activities.” He claimed they were about to cause “chaos.”

* Interior Minister Chavarat (here) ordered village headman or kamnan “to arrange tables at provincial halls and district offices nationwide for people who want to withdraw their names from the petition for a royal pardon…”.

* Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan instructed the armed forces to monitor the signature campaign to endorse the petition seeking a royal pardon.

* The government (here) “warned supporters of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) that petitioning for a royal pardon for Thaksin Shinawatra will only stir up divisive emotions in Thai society.”

* Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban expressed “his concern over the matter, saying that Thais should not do anything that disturbs His Majesty the King.”

*The government (here) used the state media to campaign against “improper conduct to politicise the monarchy via the pardon petition.”

* Coalition partner, the Bhum Jai Thai Party (here), organized taxi drivers to oppose the petition.

* It is reported (here) that “The People’s Alliance for Democracy, the Privy Council and the Bhumjaithai Party have made clear they oppose the petition…”.

* It was reported here that Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat from coalition partner Bhum Jai Thai Party had produced stickers opposing the signature drive and distributed them nationwide as well as erecting large billboards opposing the petition.

* Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga is reported here as slamming the royal pardon campaign and called on the red shirts to stop their campaign while questioning their motives.

* Abhisit is reported (here) to have “condemned” the UDD campaign to collect a million signatures. He accused them of bringing the monarchy into politics.

PPT considers the evidence is clear; the Democrat Party-led coalition government has opposed the petition, it has used state resources to oppose it, and it has mobilized the leading reactionary and conservative forces against the petition: the Interior Ministry, the military and the name of the monarchy. It has clearly tried to intimidate people.

This is not the first time the prime minister has mangled the truth, with one of the best examples being the case of Chotisak Onsoong (see here), accused of lese majeste.

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