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).

Attempting to map the amart

5 02 2011

A reader sent PPT a link for a new Working Paper by Pramuan Bunkanwanicha, Joseph P.H. Fan and Yupana Wiwattanakantang entitled “Family matters: Valuing marriage in family …firms.” The paper’s abstract states:

This paper presents the fi…rst empirical evidence showing that marriage of family members can establish business or political networks for their family …firms. This research is made possible by a rare dataset of marriages held by families owning business groups in Thailand. The families’’ stocks react positively to the weddings when the partner belongs to a family from a business or political background. Abnormal returns are higher for …firms in the real estate, construction and telecoms industries, which typically depend on extensive networks. Marriage may also lead to horizontal or vertical integration incorporating the fi…rms owned by the now closely connected families.

PPT was not surprised to read a paper by economists who place so much emphasis on the models and regressions that the story is a little lost. Still, they come up with this rather nifty diagram that seems to map part of the ruling class in Thailand, based on the Lamsam family of Kasikorn Bank:

The claim that this is the first study to show the significance of marriage is a little overdone unless the emphasis is on empirical/mathematical analysis. Way back in the mid-1950s, G. William Skinner did a substantial amount of work on the Chinese in Thailand, and came up with some interesting network diagrams:

Skinner’s Leadership and power in the Chinese community of Thailand (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1958) was a path-breaking study of how Chinese and Sino-Thai business people had power in their own communities and developed political alliances:

Skinner isn’t the only one to have looked at power in Thai society and produced these kinds of network diagrams. Kevin Hewison wrote of these things in the 1980s. This is his summary network diagram:

Hewison’s diagram is from “The Structure of Banking Capital in Thailand,” Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science, 16, 1 (1988), pp. 81-91.

It is a great shame that the mathematically-inclined authors of the working paper (above) didn’t consult the works of Skinner and Hewison and the work of Suehiro Akira, who has examined family firms in Thailand and much more. PPT considers that more attention to these earlier works might have provided a better historical account of how the ruling class organizes and maintains its power.

Related, PPT thought that this picture from the Bangkok Post was also a revealing illustration of the ruling class’s alliances that allow it to maintain its power, political and ideological:

The picture shows a celebration for the Post Today. The caption states: “Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, fourth from left, celebrates Post Today’s eighth anniversary and gives a keynote speech at the Post Today Investment Expo 2011at the Sofitel Centara Grand Bangkok yesterday. Also joining the event were Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij, second from left; Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai, fifth from right; Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot, fourth from right; the premier’s adviser Apirak Kosayodhin, second from right; Post Publishing Plc’s board chairman MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, third from left; Post CEO Suthikiati Chirathivat, fifth from left; Post president and COO Supakorn Vejjajiva, third from right; Post Today editor Nhakran Laohavilai, left, and Bangkok Post editor Pattnapong Chantranontwong, right.

In fact, Abhisit used this occasion to unofficially launch his election campaign.

Further updated: Reds on the move

6 04 2010

The Bangkok Post reports some brief scuffles between red shirts and police at Rajaprasong as Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, “spokesman for Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO), said on national television that security forces have stepped up pressure on the red-shirt protesters to leave Ratchaprasong intersection but would not use force to disperse them.” The police were apparently also attempting to prevent groups of protesters moving to other “banned” locations.

Update: Received from a reader - Give us back our Siam Paragon, The expensive shirt mob

In a later report, the Post states that a “group of red-shirt protesters on Tuesday afternoon entered Silom road – one of the 11 main roads in Bangkok declared off-limits by the government. The red-shirts led by anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship co-leader Suporn Attawong paraded peacefully but defiantly down the road.”

Interestingly, the Post actually reports that: “Many vendors and pedestrians along the road cheered the red-shirts, waving plastic foot clappers and red handkerchiefs.” The good-natured atmosphere continued to prevail as “the protesters and pedestrians engaged in Songkran activities by splashing water and patting powder on each other, in advance of the Thai New Year Songkran celebration next week.”

Update: The Bangkok Post (6 April 2010) reports that the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) has “approved summons warrants for up to 10 co-leaders of the anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)…”.

Acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said that “if the UDD leaders do not report personally to the authorities then arrest warrants would be issued.” If they are located, they would be “arrested immediately because they have, by their actions, openly committed offences.”

However, the the warrants haven’t actually been issued because CAPO is looking ar “details of the law before taking legal action against the red-shirt leaders…”.

Panitan claimed that “there were about 15,000 red-shirt protesters in Bangkok on Tuesday afternoon – about 10,000 at Ratchaprasong intersection and the other 5,000 at Phan Fa bridge.”

Meanwhile, bombings seem to be becoming more common, more politically targeted and, in some cases, more destructive. A report early on 6 April stated that there had been “26 bomb attacks in Bangkok and neighbouring areas since the Internal Security Act was invoked on March 12.” A grenade was launched at a police van behind the Democrat Party headquarters. Another bomb was found at Chulalongkorn University. Earlier, there had been a larger car bomb at Poseidon massage parlor. That parlor is owned by the family of Commerce Minister Pornthiwa Nakasai of the Bhum Jai Thai Party.

Security, body armor and red shirts

28 11 2009

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has been harassed by red shirts in many of few provincial visits he has made since becoming premier. We think ministers should be able to visit the countryside. However, it is a measure of the current political conflict and of the dissatisfaction with the manner in which the Democrat Party and Abhisit came to control government that the prime minister can only visit some parts of the country with a huge security force.

The Nation (29 November 2009: “Ministers also cancel Chiang Mai trips”) reports that after Abhisit canceled his Chiang Mai visit, so did coalition partner Interior Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul and Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai. The big name Democrat who did show up was ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan, who seems to be a kind of prime ministerial shadow, following Abhisit around and now de facto filling in for him.

The tactic of chasing ministers out of various areas or preventing them speaking was pioneered by the People’s Alliance for Democracy in the south. At that time, the Democrat Party’s leaders like Suthep Taugsuban considered such events as an expression of public sentiment (see the Bangkok Post and Nation for July 2008). Now that they are being chased about, Democrat ministers and their coalition allies seem to see conspiracies rather than any expression of public views….

The Nation’s report adds that “security has been stepped up for Abhisit in Bangkok. During his visit with “students, volunteers and soldiers to clean up the city moats” he was reported to be wearing “soft armour” under a T-shirt. It is also said that some security personnel were deployed to “high buildings to safeguard him.” Would this be snipers of the kind seen in American movies?

Meanwhile, red shirts from Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, Phrae and Nan staged a rally in Chiang Mai. The report says that police maintained a heavy presence in Chiang Mai (related, see this video). They were said to have set up “many checkpoints on highways leading to the city to scrutinise protesters who were travelling to join the protest.” The idea was to check for “arms and illegal items, but [they] did not find any.”

Update: Prime Minister Abhisit has “denied reports that he had donned a bullet-proof vest while performing official business on Saturday, saying he wore only a T-shirt and singlet.  He insisted that if reporters had asked him, he would have proven that he was not using body armour.” He suggested that maybe he was gaining weight (Nation, 30 November 2009).

The forever “acting government spokesman” Panitan Wattanayagorn said the premier “did not wear soft protective clothing even though there had been reports of a possible assassination attempt. His security guards also insisted he did not wear such a thing.”

Political heat in Thailand

17 07 2009

Several important stories to mention for readers who haven’t already seen them, relating to legal cases for PAD and Democrats, red shirt agitation and the Thaksin pardon campaign.

First, in the Nation (17 July 2009: “EC moves to disqualify 13 govt MPs”) reports that the 2007 Constitution has caught Democrat Party parliamentarians out. Reversing an earlier Election Commission committee decision, the EC “ruled against the 13 Democrats on grounds they were not supposed to own any equity stakes in mass-media companies or companies holding state concessions even before taking up their MP seat.” Included in this is Democrat Party power broker Suthep Taugsuban.

The EC stated that is was applying the “same standard used when it disqualified a group of Senators on an identical charge.” It is reported that the “14 other Democrat MPs facing the same charge were also found to have bought debentures, not company shares, so they did not infringe the charter’s ban on equity holdings.”

The provision they appear to have infringed is one of those that was specifically anti-Thaksin in origin. If this case goes forward, the Democrat-led coalition government is in serious trouble.

The second story relates to charges against PAD for occupying Bangkok’s airports. The Bangkok Post (17 July 2009: “PAD convinces police to review charges”) reports that police are now reconsidering the charges: “With tensions rising between police and the PAD, chief investigator Wut Puawes met with about 1,000 PAD supporters at the Police Club on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road to try to restore calm. He said investigators would review the PAD’s arguments and evidence handed to him by their lawyer, Suwat Apaipak.” PAD would not acknowledge the charges, meaning that the usual legal processes were avoided.

The third story is about a red shirt clash with police in Chiang Mai, reported by the Nation (17 July 2009: “Police clash with red-shirt protesters”) with police dispersing red shirts following a five-hour confrontation at Phuphing police station. The tension began when “red shirts tried to hold a rally at Chiang Mai Airport to protest against Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij and Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai.  One of the rally organisers, Niyom Luangcharoen, was detained by police after the discovery that he was carrying a pistol without a license.”

The fourth story is from the Bangkok Post (17 July 2009) regarding the increasing desperation to prevent the UDD’s royal pardon petition for Thaksin. Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga slammed the royal pardon campaign saying “he had the authority to decide whether to accept a request for a pardon and forward it to His Majesty the King for consideration. He had decided the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship’s appeal for the royal pardon was futile.” Pirapan asked the red shirt supporters to stop their campaign while questioning UDD motives.

Meanwhile, “PM’s Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey said he will give the justice minister airtime on the state-run Channel 11 television to clear public confusion over the red shirt’s petition drive. Mr Sathit said the red shirts had decided to change tack by trying to collect signatures to ‘lodge a complaint’ with the King instead of seeking the royal pardon as originally planned.”

In the same story, Puea Thai MP Surapong Towijakchaikul said “Thaksin made it clear he intends to be Puea Thai leader and that he is ready to make a comeback and stand at the next general election.”

And, the “Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions yesterday began hearing witnesses in the case involving the seizure of Thaksin’s assets worth 76 billion baht.”

Politics is heating up again in Thailand.

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