Updated: Dumber than a bag of hammers I

6 06 2018

Thailand’s police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, a junta man, has “returned to Bangkok from Frankfurt on Wednesday — without the fugitive former monk from Wat Samphanthawong he hoped to escort back to Thai soil from Germany.”

He trotted off to Frankfurt, presumably in a first class seat, on Sunday. Not just him. The Bangkok Post says three other senior police are in Germany for a few more days. Social media says a total of 13 or 14 of “Thailand’s finest” flitted over to arrest the monk.

They expected to be able to grab Phra Phrom Methee and escort him back to Thailand “to face charges connected with the temple fund embezzlement scandal.”

Perhaps they thought they could talk him into coming back. Maybe they thought they could abduct him. It might have been that they thought German police would hand him over.

Whatever they thought, they were dumber than a bag of hammers. The monk sought asylum on arrival in Germany. There’s no chance he’s heading back to Thailand until due process has been exhausted.

Of course, Thailand’s senior police know nothing of due process. They operate on the basis of who has power, money, influence and connections. They are willing to turn over alleged criminals or political opponents of other regimes at the drop of a hat and hang the notion of a justice system.

They have provided Chinese authorities with persons approved for political asylum and resettlement in third countries. They have allowed Chinese police and security agencies to operate on Thai soil and arrest and take “prisoners” back to China. Legal process? Not even a thought about that.

They expect other governments to behave in the same corrupt and illegal ways they do. So we see a Cambodian transported to Bangkok for apparently having something to do with embarrassing The Dictator. We guess Thai hit squads have operated in neighboring countries, eliminating Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee, a political opponent.

Fortunately, Germany’s police do act according to the law, This must astound Thailand’s police chief who now looks like a complete moron after his expensive, taxpayer-funded excursion. But, if he sticks with the required haircut maybe no one will officially notice his profound idiocy.

Update: Having caused himself to lose face, the police chiefs response is not unexpected. He’s going after others. The Nation reports that: “Investigators in the border province of Nakhon Phanom have requested a court to issue arrest warrants for the five suspects – three of them Thais and two Laos nationals…”. It is reported that they too have fled Thailand into Laos. The police will be hoping that the Lao authorities will send them back. That may ease a big red face.





Protecting the king

9 04 2018

It seems that the king needs extra and special protection. That’s the gist of a story at the Bangkok Post that details “advanced anti-terrorism training course” for 60 police officers.

That number is “double that of past years” and that’s why we say extra protection. That this is special protection is seen in the rather odd notion that the king’s protection requires “advanced anti-terrorism training.”

This year is also said to be “special” because usually it involves just 30 officers from the Border Patrol Police. The latter have a long connection to the monarchy (opens a PDF) that began when the US’s CIA began pouring money into this unit and the rest of the police force in the early 1950s.

The additions for this year included the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), which “is to set up a new unit whose main duty is to ensure security for … the [k]ing and members of the royal family as well as other important persons.” It is added that those who “come from the CIB [Central Investigation Bureau] will be selected into a team to ensure security for … the [k]ing…”.

The training takes place at the CIA’s old lair for the BPP at Naresuan Camp near one of the royal family’s palaces in Cha-Am. The training is said to have been “updated recently based on an Israeli training module.”

The “CSD will [also] receive an extra budget of more than 200 million baht to cover the cost of purchasing new and high-tech weapons…”.

The taxpayer money spent on the world’s wealthiest monarchy continues to expand.





Updated: How’s the new king looking?

7 04 2018

Each year, the academic journal Asian Survey has articles which provide brief country summaries of the previous year’s significant events. For 2017, well-known analyst and commentator Duncan McCargo has completed the article on Thailand (opens a PDF).

The article is necessarily short but has some comments on King Vajiralongkorn that merit posting here, not least because they mesh with some of PPT’s comments a few days ago.

In the abstract, McCargo states that “…King Vajiralongkorn is untested and lacks popular legitimacy.” True enough, although it has to be said that almost all those who succeed to thrones are largely “untested” and that popularity is no qualification for monarchy, where it is bloodlines that matter. Like a few other commentators, including some who are anti-monarchists, there’s a tendency to unfavorably compare Vajiralongkorn with his deceased father. Unfortunately, some of these comparisons required considerable retro-acceptance of palace propaganda about the dead king.

When he deals with the new reign, McCargo observes:

New King Vajiralongkorn’s detractors have long dismissed him as a playboy who takes little interest in serious matters, but since ascending the throne on December 1, 2016, he has proved to be an activist and interventionist monarch.

This is an important point. The areas where he has intervened, however, have been mostly about the monarchy and its privileges and the control of the palace. Clearly, Vajiralongkorn has been planning his succession maneuvers for some years. McCargo continues:

King Vajiralongkorn apparently pays very close attention to government policies and matters of legislation, especially where they may affect the legitimacy or privileges of the monarchy, or touch on matters of religion. He carefully monitors promotions and transfers inside the bureaucracy, especially the upper echelons of the military and the police force.

His interest in religious matters goes back to the 1990s and we know about his intervention in police promotions. Readers may recall that the last police intervention was in favor of Pol Gen Jumpol Manmai. Later Jumpol was made a Grand Chamberlain in Vajiralongkorn’s palace. That didn’t go well and, as far as we can recall, nothing has been seen or heard from Jumpol since…. Which reminds us, if legal infractions cause the king to disgrace a senior aide, can we expect that Gen Prem Tinsulanonda will soon be sacked from the Privy Council by the king?

Presumably the upcoming military reshuffle will result from a junta-palace consensus. One report reckons the reshuffle buttresses The Dictator’s position.

But back to McCargo’s commentary. He says:

… the new king remains neither popular nor widely respected; crucially, while his father never left Thailand after 1967, King Vajiralongkorn spends much of his time in Germany. His private life is the topic of constant gossip and speculation. The prospect of his coronation—and a raft of associated symbolic changes, such as new banknotes, coins, and stamps—fills many Thais with apprehension.

In fact, Bhumibol visited Laos in April 1994 (an error also made officially), but this slip doesn’t diminish the point about Vajiralongkorn’s extensive periods away from Thailand. On the bit about gossip, that’s been true for several decades and the king seems to have accepted that he is a “black sheep.” That there is “apprehension” over symbolic changes may be true, but if a report in the Bangkok Post is to be believed, that apprehension seems to be dissipating. It says:

Large crowds formed long queues at provincial offices of the Treasury Department to exchange cash for the first lot of circulated coins bearing the image of King Rama X on Friday, the Chakri Memorial Day.

Palace propaganda continues apace, the military junta has crushed republicans, and monarchists are remaining adhered to the institution if not the person.

Update: Another measure of apprehension dissipating might be seen in the report of “traditional” clothing sales. While the report refers to the influence of a hit soap opera, the influence of the king’s efforts at a revival of all things pre-1932 are having an impact too.





Senior policeman denies association with philosophical thought

1 03 2018

Here we refer to the policeman’s intelligence and a report in Khaosod.

Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal and two of his colleagues have translated and published “Messages to Our Century: Three Essays of Isaiah Berlin.” Sir Isaiah Berlin died in 1997 and was one of the 20th century’s most respected intellectuals. He was a social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas, often associated with ideas of political liberalism.

Back in early February, Netiwit met with deputy police commissioner Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul when he and other activists “heard charges against them at Pathum Wan Police Station.” Netiwit later posted a photo of himself handing Srivara the book. He added: “He even asked me to sign the book for him…. I thought that he would actually read it…”.

Later, Netiwit posted that “multiple police officers had called him to order the book on Srivara’s recommendation,” claiming that the top cop said: “this is a good book, guys [police officers]. Do you have it [the book] yet?”

Pol Gen Srivara has now gone ballistic. For “allegedly using a false anecdote about him to promote the sale of a book he translated,” he’s filed a complaint against Netiwit claiming defamation and computer crimes. Srivara has stated that while he kept the book he didn’t read it.

The policeman has clearly thought shallowly about this and decided it would be unprofessional for any police officer to be caught engaging in deep thought about ethics, philosophy or liberty. Clearly, philosophy is not something that Thailand’s police can afford to be associated with. The force’s defining characteristics are anti-intellectual and involve nepotism, corruption, murder and torture, and such characteristics should not be tainted by association with philosophy.





Updated: Another rich crook disappears

13 02 2018

In a post when the poaching case of Italian-Thai construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta came to light, PPT commented that we know, from bitter experience, that rich people get away with much in Thailand. We added that the notorious Red Bull case is just one of many that shows that wealth can buy much and that connections to the powerful and the paying off of officials begets impunity.

We reckoned that illegal hunter Premchai’s case was something of a test for the junta’s (in)justice system.

Looks like the system might have failed within just a few days. As charges pile up, it seems that the police have lost Premchai. A Bangkok Post report states:

Pol Maj Gen Krisana Sapdej, deputy commissioner of Provincial Police Region 7, said officials of the Western Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary filed the complaint of animal cruelty on Monday.

As the whereabouts of Mr Premchai, president of Italian-Thai Development Plc, were not known, police would send a summons this week for him to report and acknowledge the new charge, he said.

More great police work.

Readers might like to delve into the Italian-Thai corporate website and Premchai a little. The company’s website has material on corporate social responsibility, ethics, environmental concerns and more.

Premchai seems in breach of all of them. We also downloaded the 2016 annual report. There, Premchai is listed as a director of dozens of companies in Thailand and overseas. Presumably he’s in breach of ethical requirements for many of these as well.

Update: Further on ethics and environmental practices, deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul is reported as saying that Premchai and his companies “might have encroached on forest land.” The police say Premchai “owns 147 plots totalling 6,215 rai of land through C.P.K. International Co Ltd in the form of Nor Sor 3 Kor land rights documents” in the upper northeast. Like many Sino-Thai tycoons, Premchai’s ethics revolve around self-centered profit making, at any cost.





He who must be obeyed

6 02 2018

No, not the suddenly rather quiet General Prayuth Chan-ocha, The Dictator, but the obsessive–compulsive king.

Back in December, the king decided to order changes for security forces. He ordered a new form of salute and forms of military posture for police and military, new uniforms for police so that all wore exactly the same color and ordered new haircut regulations for the armed forces and police.

Some might have thought that this was a passing phase that the king might have forgotten when he jetted off for Germany. But his loyal minions are on the job. As one former cop put it:

Lt. Gen. Songpol Wattanachai … said he took example from the royal guards protecting King Vajiralongkorn, who are known for distinctive khao sam daan haircuts required by the monarch.

“It’s a royal practice,” Songpol said. “Let’s say we are all serving His Majesty the King. So it’s the same direction now. It looks beautiful … it’s good to have this short haircut. It doesn’t hurt anyone.”

Okay, it’s a kid’s haircut, but it is what the king wants for his children-police.

So it is that “40 policemen found out earlier this week they were suspended from active duty, it wasn’t for insubordination or dereliction of duty. It was their haircuts.”

A police spokesman said all police must obey.

Police commissioner Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, also known to associate with the flesh trade, “last week reiterated that all police stations must comply with the new style.”

Some of those sent to inactive posts complained that they had had the required silly haircut but that it had grown back – indeed, hair does grow – but was not “white” enough on the sides.

It seems the cops are at a loose end, so the force has teams of inspectors out looking for poor haircuts. In fact, they are so fearful of the king’s wrath that they behave like schoolyard bullies to their subordinates while slithering before their big boss.

 





Busy king

4 12 2017

Over the past week or so, the king has seemed busier than usual, at least in terms of public reporting. As usual, the reporting is circumspect.

Khaosod reports that the king is engaged in two activities that have been defining his still short reign.

The first is his continuing intervention in the way the security forces appear in public. Readers will recall that he has ordered a new form of salute and forms of military posture for police and military, demanded new haircut regulations for the armed forces and police and has  transferred agencies responsible for palace affairs to his direct control.

Now the king has ordered that “police will be given new uniforms…”. A police spokesman Colonel Krissana Pattanacharoen said “that a single khaki shade, officially called Sor Nor Wor 01, will be implemented across the police force to display a sense of unity.” It seems that, over the years, different units have used slightly different shades of khaki.

No doubt this annoys the king as he has an almost obsessive–compulsive need for order and control. In fact, the king has already picked out the shade and has sent a “sample fabric and color pattern … to police commissioner Chakthip Chaijinda…”.

Krissana found himself having to dissemble: “Every police officer deeply appreciates it…”. All 230,000 of them.

When the new design is finalized, “Gen. Chakthip will be the first to wear it ‘as an example’,” and will no doubt sport the required haircut as well.

The second task has been the consolidation of royal control over all of the property in the so-called royal district. Readers will recall the stealing of the 1932 plaque and the closure of Ananda Samakhom Hall to the public. The former parliament building appears to have been returned to the throne.

The king seems to want to wipe out all references to the 1932 revolution and grab back “royal property.”

One major gap in the property is the Dusit Zoo. The zoo began as a private zoo for royals and it was in 1938 that  the “constitutional government asked King Rama VIII’s regency council to give this park to the Bangkok City Municipality to be open as a public zoo.” No doubt the king regards this as theft. To get the land back – all 189,000 square meters – the king has decided the zoo should move.

The zoo was not talking about the move to Pathum Thani and a larger plot, said to be donated by the king. An official stated: “His Majesty is very merciful…”. And, no doubt pretty happy with this deal that expands the royal area substantially.

This is a king with a sense of where the monarchy should be, and that marks out a restorationist monarch.