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.

Updated: More Ying Kai-related lese majeste cases

1 09 2016

A while ago PPT created a page for the Ying Kai lese majeste case. It seems we need to create another three pages for new cases being brought against Monta or Montra “Ying Kai” Yokrattanakan’s elder sister, an official – nor “former” official – of the Royal Household Bureau, and another man, still to be arrested.

The Bangkok Post reports that both Ying Kai’s sister Kamonthat “Kim-eng” Sae Thanathornkhositjira and former Royal Household Bureau employee Taworn Puangpratoom are both accused of being members of an “alleged … criminal plot,” fraud and lese majeste.

Kamonthat, aged 62, was detained a few days ago. She was accused of “fraud and falsifying documents, with alleged links to lese majeste offences.” Police raided “a condominium building on Lat Phrao Soi 60 in Bangkok where they searched three luxurious units for further evidence related to lese majeste offences.”

She stands “accused of invoking the royal institution in a fund-raising scam that swindled more than 3 million baht from victims.” The search reportedly “found many valuable items including antique porcelain, ivory tusks, swords, statues and amulets. Documents and some valuable items bearing royal emblems were also found.”

(This all sounds like the reporting of the Pongpat case and that of Mor Yong.)

The police are “examining the royal emblems to determine if the items are fake. If evidence is found that she had cited the royal institution as alleged, police would press additional charges of breaching Section 112 of the Criminal Code…”.

The second person being investigated is Taworn, aged 66, who was “detained” on 29 August 2016, at his home in Huay Kwang. Taworn was charged “as an accomplice of Ms Kamonthat.” He faces “allegations of fraud and falsifying documents in a scheme involving lese majeste offences.”

The arrest of Taworn is “seen as a significant breakthrough in the case.” What is significant is that he “worked at the [Royal Household B]ureau’s Royal Chamberlains Division (Chitralada Palace)…”.

The Criminal Court also approved a police request to arrest “another man, identified as Somsak Siriyakom, who is still at large. Mr Somsak faces the same charges as Mr Taworn.” We do not know if he was also employed in the royal household.

Several people “have  lodged official complaints with police that they were conned by the alleged Kim-eng scheme. They include an army major-general and a colonel.” The “scheme” seems to have involved taking donations after a television program where Kamonthat lauded the monarchy.

The police claim “Kamonthat’s network” was larger than the three who have been named so far.

This case, along with several others, suggests massive corruption has riddled the royal household, probably for many years.

Update: Khaosod reports a somewhat ambiguous police claim: that Taworn “dressed himself to look similar to an official from the royal palace to fool victims into believing that Mrs. Kim Eng was someone close to people in the high circle…”. He did work for the Royal Household Bureau.

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.

Graft and lese majeste

27 11 2015

Readers will no doubt have noticed that the Army’s corruption case involving the one-billion-baht Rajabhakti Park project has predictably gone rather quiet in recent days. Cover-ups do that and cover-ups work better when there are “distractions.” A few days ago, on this “project,” PPT asked “Who got the loot?” The Army and the military dictatorship do not want to provide any answers.

But how about the lese majeste case involving two dead men, one survivor and one gone missing? How much did Suriyan Sujaritpolwong, Jirawong Wattanathewasilp, Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapha and Col Khachachart Boondee gain by their alleged use of the royal connection?

We saw some early claims that their “fraud” involved some very big business interests. We were told that Prakrom was a kind of bag man, but we don’t know for whom. A list of supposedly ill-gotten gains was supplied:

… 26 rooms in La Maison Condominium on Soi Phahon Yothin 24. He had also paid for another four rooms worth 500,000 baht each but had not yet obtained the ownership rights…. Hundreds of thousands of baht in foreign currency, including US dollars and Japanese yen…. Several cars owned by Pol Maj Prakrom, including a Bentley, a Rolls-Royce, a Mercedes-Benz and a Toyota…. 10 valuable Buddha amulets [said to have]… belonged to Pol Col Akkharawut Limrat, the former chief of the Crime Suppression Division’s Sub-Division 1 and a former member of Pongpat’s network [Pongpat Chayapan] who died after falling from a building. [Of course, this “fall” was never properly investigated.] … [T]hree guitars, including one worth more than 400,000 baht [said to “belong” to Pongpat] … [and] several Buddha images … earlier … seized from Pongpat’s network…. [M]ore than 200 radio communication devices and five signal antennae…. Six police cars which Pol Maj Prakrom had ordered for use in his work have also disappeared.

How did Prakrom get stuff seized from Pongpat? What has happened to all of this stuff now? Has it simply been recycled to someone else who looks after it, as it seems to have been from Pongpat to Prakrom?

The latest bit of news on these three men and their supposedly ill-gotten gains comes from AMLO. Buried down in the story it states: “A source said AMLO had not found any assets in Prakrom’s name but it was trying to determine whether he put his properties in the names of other people.” Ah, well, the above report seemed to say otherwise….

The report goes on to reveal that the “Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) has frozen more than Bt44 million worth of assets belonging to several suspects linked to the ongoing high-profile lese-majeste case.”

That doesn’t sound to us like a huge haul. If these “suspects” were really using the royal name, then we would have guessed they’d be accumulating more than rich people’s change. About 75% of this “haul” is reported to belong to Khachachart alone.

Still AMLO declares: “We have grounds to believe these suspects violated anti-graft laws and anti-money-laundering laws…”.

As the report states, “Jirawong, Suriyan, Prakrom and Kachachart were charged with several crimes in relation to falsely citing the Royal Family for personal gain in the course of collecting donations and sponsorship.”

Based on the reports so far available, it seems that the “personal gain” was quite small in the scheme of corruption deals in Thailand. Perhaps they weren’t very good at corruption? Or perhaps the loot has already been redistributed or collected by a boss or bosses?

Official cover-up II

28 10 2015

Is it just PPT reading the media and thinking that the official cover-up of the death in military custody of lese majeste suspect Prakrom Warunprapha is being justified by the fact that he is accused of that crime?

It seems to us that the deliberate leaks of information on the lese majeste cases that involved three men is only about Prakrom. Because he died while in military custody, the cover-up is that he really was a bad guy and somehow this justifies his unusual death. In a sense, he deserved to die. It may be that lese majeste justifies murder.

This is pretty horrible stuff, but par for the course for the increasingly horrid military dictatorship.

In order to make the murder/suicide/death in military custody and the lack of any serious investigation seem somehow palatable, at Khaosod it is reported that the lese majeste investigation into Prakrom Warunprapha’s demise now links him to “the disgraced former head of the Central Investigation Bureau, who was arrested for the same crime one year ago.”

They mean Pongpat Chayapan. We find this interesting, to say the least. Wasn’t all of Pongpat’s loot said to have been seized (if it was, in fact, Pongpat’s)? So how did it come to be with Prakrom? Was he holding the loot before it went back to its real “owner”?

If it was a case of Prakrom getting his hands on the loot, then he is stealing from someone, and has been made to pay. This is starting to look a little like the Saudi gems caper of a few years ago, where cops killed each other, murdered witnesses and claims were made about high-level people wearing the stolen gems. In that frenzy of greed and bloodshed, the body count eventually got into the 20s or 30s. As far as we know, the body count in the lese majeste caper is, so far, two.

The second body was an “assistant of Pongpat, Police Col. Akkarawuth Limrat, who reportedly jumped to his death last year after being rolled up in the scandal.”

Because the military dictatorship has censored news on this case, the Bangkok Post has a similar story. There, a list of supposedly ill-gotten gains is supplied:

… 26 rooms in La Maison Condominium on Soi Phahon Yothin 24. He had also paid for another four rooms worth 500,000 baht each but had not yet obtained the ownership rights…. Hundreds of thousands of baht in foreign currency, including US dollars and Japanese yen…. Several cars owned by Pol Maj Prakrom, including a Bentley, a Rolls-Royce, a Mercedes-Benz and a Toyota…. 10 valuable Buddha amulets [said to have]… belonged to Pol Col Akkharawut Limrat, the former chief of the Crime Suppression Division’s Sub-Division 1 and a former member of Pongpat’s network who died after falling from a building. [Of course, this “fall” was never investigated.] … [T]hree guitars, including one worth more than 400,000 baht [said to “belong” to Pongpat] … [and] several Buddha images … earlier … seized from Pongpat’s network…. [M]ore than 200 radio communication devices and five signal antennae…. Six police cars which Pol Maj Prakrom had ordered for use in his work have also disappeared.

That’s a good haul. No one noticed this before? Or was he “protected”? It seems like the story being manufactured here is that Prakrom was a bad guy and was nasty to the monarchy so that he deserved to die. What next? No more show trials in military courts for lese majeste? Just heads on stakes in front of the palace.

Strange maneuverings II

24 10 2015

The strange case of the still mostly unexplained lese majeste cases against a person known to be close to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and his assistant, and a police officer responsible for some lese majeste investigations gets stranger still.

The Nation reports that there are fears for the safety of these men, held incommunicado and, apparently, lawyer-less in a military facility. It is stated that “special wardens, made up of military officers and guards from the Corrections Department, has been appointed to take care of three suspects detained over in a high-profile lese majeste case.” It is added that the “wardens’ key responsibility is to ensure the three men’s well-being during detention…”. Having thugs in the military “take care” could be code for something else.

Suriyan Sujaritpalawong, Jirawong Wattanathewasilp, and Police Major Prakrom Warunprapha are at a “temporary detention facility at the 11th Military Circle on Bangkok’s Nakhon Chaisri Road.”

In moves that may or may not be legal – but in lese majeste cases, true legalities go out the window – the men have seen their assets seized. In the previous lese majeste case involving persons close to the prince’s palace, assets were also stripped from people like policeman Pongpat Chayapan is raids that were portrayed as revealing their ill-gotten gains but seemed to be more a stripping of unusual wealth gained in unspecified ways.

The report states that the “seized assets are being kept under tight security at the 11th Infantry Regiment…”. Things that make you go hmm.

Meanwhile, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have stated that Suriyan appears to have been “a victim of enforced disappearance during the 6 days, from 16 October 2015 to 21 October 2015, according to International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance…”. They say that Suriyan was taken by the authorities on the evening of 16 October 2015. The police denied this. Then Suriyan did not appear again until 21 October when the police and military officers paraded him to the Bangkok Military Court.

It is also reported that a total of “13 police have been transferred to inactive posts, as inquiries are underway to determine whether they are also involved in the lese majeste case.” The jails won’t be large enough to accommodate all of these “lese majeste” detainees.

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.

Divorce destruction continues

22 03 2015

Reuters reports that a military court has “jailed three brothers of a former princess for 5-1/2 years, in the latest court decision giving prison time to family members after her dramatic fall from grace last year.”

We understand the confusion on these cases as they are piled very high. In fact, Nuttapong (as we have named him based on previous reports, but now listed as Natthapol) and Narong Suwadee are brothers and Sitthisak Suwadee is a nephew of Srirasmi.

The report claims that “Srirasmi Suwadee, formerly known as Princess Srirasmi, is divorced from Crown Prince … Vajiralongkorn, and relinquished her royal title last December.”

As far as we are aware, no divorce has been announced. Rather, acts of personal and family destruction have been underway.

Reuters notes that the three were given 11 years in prison each, reduced to 5.5 years because they confessed to the “crimes of theft, insult to the monarchy and illegal detention…”. It is not immediately clear what their sentence was on the lese majeste charges, but it matters little to the outcome.

Khaosod reports that the prosecutor alleged that Natthapol, Narong and Sitthisak “were hired by a businessman named Nopporn Supphapipat [Suppipat] to coerce a money lender into reducing Nopporn’s debt from 120 million baht to 20 million baht.” It was further alleged that “the three men abducted Nopporn’s money lender, Witthaya Panyathaweekool, in front of his house in Bangkok on 20 March 2014. The trio allegedly detained him overnight and forced him to reduce Nopporn’s debt, citing their connection to then-Princess Srirasmi.”

At the time of the alleged offenses, Natthapol and Narong “were serving in the Crown Prince’s personal bodyguard unit…”.

The three were arrested in November 2014.

Reuters states that a “purge of some of Srirasmi’s relatives began last year after the sudden dismissal of her uncle [Pongpat Chayapan], one of Thailand’s most senior police officers.” Since then dozens of her family and associates have been jailed.

The report then states: “As the arrests reached fever pitch Thailand’s Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn asked the government to strip his wife’s family of their royally-bestowed name.” We think this is a slippery way of reporting a chicken and egg story. The report implies that the prince ditched Srirasmi after her relatives were found to be up to no good. It is well known that Vajiralongkorn had a new wife on the side and that she was the favorite. Ditching Srirasmi with a huge story about crime seems convenient.

The closeness of all of this to the prince’s household raises many questions that no one in Thailand is permitted to ask.

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