Lese majeste convictions in Ying Kai case

19 11 2016

For some months PPT has been following the so-called Ying Kai case, which came with accusations of lese majeste. That case continues while spinning off four other lese majeste cases.

Those four cases are reported in the Bangkok Post.

KamolthatThe first involves Kamonthat Thanathornkhositjira or Kim-eng Sae Tia, 62, a half-sister of Ying Kai or Monta [Montra] Yokrattanakan. With others, she was accused of criminal plots, fraud and lese majeste. Kamonthat was first detained on 26 August 2016. She was accused of fraud and falsifying documents, and with alleged links to lese majeste offenses, presumably those Ying Kai stands accused of. She is claimed to have invoked the so-called royal institution in a scam that allegedly swindled more than 3 million baht from victims. However, other, much larger figures, are also mentioned in some reports.

Sounding very similar to earlier cases of claimed lese majeste fraud, such as the Pongpat group and that associated with the now deceased Mor Yong, police also raided a Lat Phrao Soi 60 condominium and searched three luxury units for further evidence related to lese majeste offenses. The search reportedly found valuable items like antique porcelain, ivory tusks, swords, statues and amulets. Documents and some “valuable items” bearing royal emblems were collected by the police raid team.

The list of offenses grew and grew, with the alleged crimes taking place between 1 November 2010 and 16 March 2014. On 18 November 2016, Kamonthat was sentenced to a total of 150 years on 33 charges. Her jail term was reduced because of her confession. As the maximum jail term is 50 years, that’s what the Criminal Court gave her when declaring her “guilty of lese majeste, fraud, falsifying documents and invoking the royal institution.” These accusations include “making fake documents purported to be from the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary and conning people to contribute money for royal kathin ceremonies.”

[PPT is not aware of this last “crime” or that it was not covered under Article 112. We would welcome any advice on this from readers. We suggest using the comments facility here and we will not post the comment and will delete it.]

Kamonthat was sentenced along with and alleged accomplice Sak Siriyakhom, 50. Other alleged accomplices are Pol Lt Col. Ekkasit Thanathornkositjit, 68, and Taworn Puanprathum [sometimes Puangpratoom], 66, who have opted to fight the charges.

Sak received 144 years on 31 charges. The two were also ordered to repay “5.14 million baht to the damaged parties,” a trifling amount in anything associated with the royal house.

There is obviously much more going on in these cases than the press reports – for fear of Article 112 – and questions remain about whether this alleged fraud was, at one time, sanctioned by some royal figure and that these persons managed to alienate that figure, resulting in punishment. We just don’t know. Of course, the lese majeste law is much about limiting information that involves royals.

Jirawong gets 7 years for lese majeste

4 08 2016

Jirawong Wattanathewasilp was secretly arrested on or about 16 October 2015 and charged with lese majeste. He has now been sentenced by a military court to 7 years jail, reduced by half for a guilty plea. Jirawong

He was accused of using his connections with the royal household – to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn – for financial gain.

Khaosod reports that a “military tribunal convicted an assistant to the Crown Prince’s late court astrologer of insulting the monarchy and sentenced him Monday to three and a half years in jail.”

His lese majeste travails are not over as he “will be tried twice more by the military court on the same charge for two other alleged offenses.” He was “immediately returned to the detention facility at the 11th Army Circle base on Bangkok’s Nakornchaisri Road, where he has been held since October, to await his further trials.”Vajiralongkorn

Khaosod states:

As with many other cases that involve the monarchy, the exact nature of the trio’s alleged wrongdoing was never made clear by police, and media agencies were instructed not to report about the scandal other than publishing official statements and authorized leaks.

Jirawong was initially detained with his boss Suriyan Sujaritpolwong, alias Mor Yong and Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapha, of the Technology Crime Suppression Division. There case was palace-related. The authorities froze some of their assets while comparing these cases with those surrounding former Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) chief Pongpat Chayaphan.

Initial reports said Suriyan had “confessed” while Jirawong and Prakrom denied the charges. Within a day, all were said to have “confessed.”

Prakrom was soon dead. He was said to have hung himself. Suriyan followed, with authorities denying his death. Only Jirawong survived custody (so far).

The massive pre-succession clearout of the prince’s previous allies and those of his former wife have been vicious,

16 year sentence in palace lese majeste case

5 04 2016

The Criminal Court has sentenced a “property dealer” to 16 years imprisonment on lese majeste charges. Boontham Boonthepprathan, 65, was reduced by 4 years, to 12 years, for his “useful testimony during the trial.”

He was “charged with causing damage to the monarchy … in connection with his request for title deeds to several hundred rai [700 rai] of land in Khao Nong Chuam area in tambon Khanong Phra of Nakhon Ratchasima’s Pak Chong district during 2007-2008.”

Some parts of the land belonged to the military area and some “were reserved as headwaters for streams, not eligible for inclusion on a title deed.”

It was claimed that “Boontham allegedly claimed he had a good connection with Pol Lt Gen Pongpat Chayapan, a former Central Investigation Bureau commissioner, close to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s palace when the prince was married to the Princess Srirasmi.

Boontham is said to have “cited the royal institution [we assume this means the prince or Srirasmi or both] to persuade Setthawut Pengdit, another “land broker and younger brother of former Department of Investigation chief Tarit Pengdith, to collude with him in applying for land title deeds.”

Boontham Thepprathan was accused of lese majeste in February 2015 and arrested by police on 27 February 2015. He is  reportedly a proprietor of the Colonze massage parlor-entertainment complex-cum-illegal casino and is often described as a property developer.

Boontham joins more than two dozen others accused or convicted of lese majeste in cases related to this royal separation and the purging of the Srirasmi family and associates network.

It appears that this murky deal involved the army, police and “investors” making the land transferable by having the certificates illegally changed to “title deeds” without telling the residents. It is reported that Setthawut had made a “false” claim to land officials, using the name of former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayapan, that the land would be used for a palace.

It is quite a believable scenario that farmers would lose their land to “investors.” It is also conceivable that land could be acquired for a “palace;” this has happened before. That the Army and police would be involved in such deals is quite normal in rural Thailand.

Boontham is reportedly considering an appeal. Given the persons involved, that might not be a good idea.

Strange maneuverings I

23 10 2015

When it comes to Thailand’s feudal institutions, nothing is extraordinary. The new round of lese majeste cases raises numerous questions, almost none of which may be seriously asked or addressed in the country due to Article 112 and the military dictatorship’s monarchy psychosis.

The current cases against Suriyan Sujaritpalawong, Jirawong Wattanathewasilp and Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapha will likely remain in an opaque cloud of rumor, fear and state obfuscation for years if not decades.

The Bangkok Post reports that the authorities have now “frozen some of the assets of the three lese majeste suspects…”. We are told they used the “monarchy to obtain benefits” and that the cases are “similar to the criminal case against former Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) chief Pongpat Chayaphan, whose criminal network was brought down late last year.”

It might have been a criminal network, but all of those associated with it were linked to the crown prince and/or his then wife, Princess Srirasmi. What is happening in the prince’s household that has him associated with criminal networks? Is the military junta protecting him or undermining him?

Whatever it is, the police say that they are “expanding their investigation…”. The press is told that this may include “eight CIB police officers who were transferred to inactive posts on Sunday pending a probe” and who are now said to have “cooperated well with investigators and they were providing useful information.”

One of the more bizarre elements of the current cases is that these are not persons who can be considered opponents of the monarchy.

Indeed, Pol Maj Prakrom “won a scholarship from the Defence Ministry to further his military studies in England …[and a]fter graduating, he served as a soldier at the army’s Artillery Centre in Lop Buri.” He later joined the police force. He had a slip-up in 1999, and “was dismissed from the police following an accusation that he forged the signature of the late Supreme Patriarch. However, prosecutors later decided not to indict him.” Who arranged that?

He later joined the Technology Crime Suppression Division and was with the Crime Suppression Division special operations unit when arrested. The Post buys off at this point, just when the story is getting interesting. Fortunately, a report in Khaosod has more.

It states that Prakrom “served as an officer in the online crime unit from January until last Friday…”. That is, he was at the Technology Crime Suppression Division, in charge of hunting lese majeste online. Indeed, Prakrom played a key role in the investigation of Pongpat! He also played a role in having Chayapa Chokpornbutsri arrested back in June. She allegedly “spread rumors of an imminent counter-coup against junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha.”

Readers may recall that “Chayapha was later charged with lese majeste after Prakrom’s unit said it found critical remarks about the monarchy on social media.”

So Prakrom is at the center of the group of monarchy protectors within the state. Who has he damaged within that group? Was he close to the prince or is he being punished?

Suriyan is very well known as a soothsayer to the elite and, until recently, was proclaimed close to the prince: “Before his arrest, he served as an adviser to a subcommittee responsible for holding activities for the ‘Bike for Mom’ cycling event in August, as well as the ‘Bike for Dad’ event scheduled for December.” What has he done? Has he fallen out with the prince or is the junta decapitating the prince’s closest advisers?

Strange times indeed.

A land deal lese majeste conviction

14 05 2015

Thai PBS News reports that Setthawut Pengdit, a younger brother of ousted Department of Special Investigation chief Tharit Pengdit, was sentenced to five years jail for lese majeste. As in many recent cases, because he agreed to “confess” and plead guilty, his sentence was halved to two years and six months.

In this report, Setthawut is described as “a land broker,” and in this role he “was accused of persuading land officials to issue title deeds for a land plot in Khao Nongcherm, Tambon Khanong Phra, Pak Chong district, which could not be legally bought or sold because it was part of reformed land scheme.” It was alleged that, with “land developer” Boontham Thepprathan, who wanted to establish a “high-end resort,”  Setthawut “claimed he knew Pol Lt-Gen Pongpat Chayaphan, former Central Investigation Bureau commissioner, and Pol Maj-Gen Kowit Wongrungroj, a former deputy commissioner, and could help arrange for the issuance of land title deeds for the land.” Earlier reports had it that the two claimed a “palace” was to be built.

It appears that this murky deal involved the army, police and “investors” making the land transferable by having the certificates illegally changed to “title deeds” without telling the residents.

Pongpat has already been sentenced to 12 years and Kowit to the same, both halved for guilty pleas, along with more than two dozen others involved in cases of association with Srirasmi, the former third wife to Prince Vajiralongkorn.

While the report states that Setthawut used Pongpat’s name, apparently the “court found Mr Setthavuth guilty of lese majeste charge for claiming connection with the high institution [the monarchy and, in this case, the prince] to help facilitate the issuance of land title deeds.”

On Boontham, “who denied the charge,” it is stated that “the court dropped the case against him and recommended the prosecution to file a separate charge against him.” It is unclear if this is a different charge or another lese majeste charge.

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