Judicial action I

27 09 2013

The Nation reports Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanchana lambasting the Constitutional Court for accepting petitions from royalists over the proposed constitutional amendment on senators.

The court has done this as a warning to government party MPs, implicitly threatening them with banning and party dissolution.

We have sympathy for his complaints, but the Constitutional Court has been a royalist political tool for some time, so its shenanigans are to be expected. Puea Thai has yet to fully challenge the bias of the court.

The threat is made explicit by another royalist tool, the so-called Democrat Party. Its official loudmouth Chavanond Intarakomalyasut threatened the government on the third reading of the amendment bill, “warning that it could lead to the early demise of the Yingluck Shinawatra administration.”

Just for good royalist measure, unelected  senator and card-carrying yellow shirt Kamnoon Sidhisamarn invoked the king, implying that sending the bill to the monarch before the kangaroo court’s ruling on the amendment’s constitutionality, risked having the aged and interventionist king refusing to sign.

Of course, in the past, the king has held bills up and sent them back when displeased, making a public statement of dissatisfaction or simply protecting his own interests.

Obscuring by political concoction

13 12 2012

As any long-time reader of PPT knows, the wealthiest family in Thailand is the royal family. If the wealth of the top ten in the annual Forbes list is combined, then the total comes out roughly the same as the assets of the Crown Property Bureau alone, leaving aside the other assets of the royal family.Money & Banking

Another measure of wealth that comes out each year for Thailand is the Money & Banking/การเงินการธนาคาร list of top shareholders at the Stock Exchange of Thailand. We do not recall it including the royal family’s personal shareholdings. PPT hasn’t seen the latest issue and ranking (the cover is reproduced, right), but we note a story based on it from The Nation.

PPT’s attention was drawn to the article by the headline: “Richest stockholders linked to govt, PM”. As far as we can tell, this is a complete fabrication by the newspaper. This concoction – made for blatantly political purposes – is apparently not even based on the data the editors of this fish wrap  reproduce in their own story. The first lines of the story modify the false headline only slightly: “Politicians and their families, especially some people close to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her government … rank among the richest stockholders in the country.”

Well, yes, they do rank “among the 5,737 millionaires as of September…” – yes, that is more than 5,700.

The Nation breathlessly states: there “are Yingluck’s two nieces, who are daughters of her big brother and former prime minister Thaksin [Shinawatra].” It shows that “Paethongtarn Shinawatra, was ranked 47th with her 29-per-cent holding in SC Asset worth Bt3.46 billion, while Pinthongta Shinawatra was 53rd with a 28-per-cent stake in the same real-estate company worth Bt3.35 billion.”

What the data show is that the top 46 stockholders are not related to the government or prime minister, at least not according to The Nation’s data.

The paper does find others who are not “Richest stockholders linked to govt, PM”, but claims they are: “Pojaman na Pombejra, Thaksin’s ex-wife, fell to 502nd” place on the list, while “Pongthep Thepkanjana, deputy prime minister and education minister, has his wife and daughter on the list. Yapa was ranked 244th with a 2.1-per-cent interest in Kiatnakin Bank worth Bt795.50 million, while his wife Panida was 264th with a 1.9-per-cent stake worth Bt728.08 million in the bank.” Then they dug up “Artharn at 1,811st with a 2.6-per-cent stake worth Bt58.28 million in Unimit Engineering, and Duang at 2,213rd with 1.8 per cent or Bt38.60 million in the same company,” who are sons of Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung.

It is quite clear that The Nation has simply made up its headline and concocted a story. It has long been known that the Shinawatra clan is wealthy, and they have appeared on the Money & Banking list for many years, often much higher ranked than they are now. Pongthep’s family has also been on the list for some time.

Recent reports suggest that the king’s personal holdings “include shares valued at $63 million in companies including Minor International Pcl (MINT), Thailand’s biggest hotel operator … according to data compiled by Bloomberg.” If accurate, that alone would rank the king above Pongthep’s wife and daughter combined.

If real analysis was done of the biggest shareholders, we have little doubt that the real headline would be “Richest stockholders linked to Democrat Party.”

The Nation is too often a disgraceful pile of pulp and remarkably stupid in its concoctions.

Wikileaks: Boyce meets an “annoying” Pongthep

16 01 2012

In this Wikileaks cable, dated 7 September 2006, a meeting two days before between U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce and the Thai Rak Thai Party’s deputy leader Pongthep Thepkanchana is reviewed.

Boyce, seemingly bored by TRT and Thaksin Shinawatra, claims that Pongthep “gave a fairly standard version of the TRT view of the political situation.” He is also not taken by his interlocutor:

Pongthep was unimpressive, but he is, according to many contacts, one of Thaksin’s leading choices for PM if Thaksin has to step down. The PM reportedly doesn’t want anyone too good, who might eclipse him. Pongthep should fit the bill.

We can only wonder what Pongthep might have thought of this ambassador who very openly wore his Thai political stripes as a supporter of the opposition to the most popular elected government in Thai history.

The ambassador “sought Pongthep’s views on the origins and possible cures of the Thai political crisis, which has dragged on for the better part of a year.”

On the origins of the political conflict, Pongthep

pointed to TRT\’s landslide victory in February 2005 as a problem. People looked at the PM and saw someone who “had it all:” money, education,  connections and political power. He is a visionary and, especially after the landslide, extremely self-confident. “Higher echelons” of Thai society did not like this type of elected leader.

Pongthep is said to have “singled out opposition firebrand Sondhi Limthongkul, motivated by a personal grudge against Thaksin, as a key opponent.” Nothing new there or in the claim that Sondhi used his “illegal, illegitimate cable TV station” to spread untrue accusations.”

Boyce admits that ASTV’s legal status is unclear but defends “Sondhi’s small cable station … as one of the most important tools the opposition has.” He cites others on this.

After finding Pongthep’s response on a question about the dissolving of parliament “annoying,” Boyce turned to the “ever-more-public conflict between Thaksin and the Privy Council, particularly Prem Tinsulanond.”

Pongthep emphasized that “there is no misunderstanding” between the royal family and Thaksin. Boyce thought this view disingenuous. Pongthep focused on those close to the palace:

The issues are with the Privy Council, which is used to having a lot of authority. In the past, for example, Prem could have influence over the military promotions of his proteges. He doesn’t want to lose that.

And, so close to the 2006 coup being initiated, Pongthep reveals that TRT strategists misunderstood Army boss Sonthi Boonyaratglin and the determination of Prem and friends. Pongthep says Sonthi wants

to promote his own aides. However, Pongthep added that he did not anticipate military intervention. Even if the military launched a coup, they would not be able to form a military government — those days were past. So, they would be taking a significant risk for no real benefit.

In the long term, Pongthep may have been proven correct – the Army found running a coup and then a country was more complicated than they expected – but he was remarkably naive on the process unfolding before his very eyes in September 2006. Given Thaksin’s departure for New York, he too was misjudged the Army and its allies and was overly-confident.

%d bloggers like this: