Long memories, retribution, and rewards

1 10 2020

Back in late 2015, the military junta promoted events to make then Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn look more normally king-like. These were the “Bike for Mom” in August 2015 and the “Bike for Dad” in December 2015. Not everything went to plan.

Amid rumors of a plot to assassinate someone, Major General Suchart Prommai was charged with lese majeste. He and several others were said to have fled Thailand. The others were: Pol Col Pairoj Rojanakhajorn, a former chief of the Crime Suppression Division’s Sub-Division 2; and his then deputy Pol Lt Col Thammawat Hiranyalekha, as well as Col Khachachart Boondee.

Suchart was a former 11th Infantry Regiment commander, and was stripped of military rank. At the time, a report stated that he and his co-accused had “solicited money which they claimed would be used to fund the production of T-shirts for the ‘Bike for Mom’ cycling event…”.

These charges/accusations also involved fortune-teller and then prince confidante Suriyan Sucharitpolwong, known as Mor Yong, Jirawong Wattanathewasilp, Suriyan’s aide, and Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapha. They were secretly arrested on or about 16 October 2015, charged with lese majeste. The three were taken to a then secret temporary prison inside the 11th Army Circle base.

A week after they were incarcerated, fears were expressed for their safety. A report stated that “special wardens” were appointed including “military officers and guards from the Corrections Department,” and their task was “to take care of three suspects…”.

Both Suriyan and Prakrom were soon dead. Screaming cover-up and following his earlier assurances that all men were safe and healthy, the Minister for Justice Gen Paiboon Khumchaya declared the cases closed in less than 36 hours.

The military junta quickly washed its hands of Suriyan’s death, just as it had of Prakrom’s, and it was business as usual.

Years later, Khaosod reports that two of the officers accused of lese majeste in 2015-16  were recently stripped of their royal decorations by a palace order:

An announcement published in the Royal Government Gazette said Lt. Col. Thammawat Hiranyalekha and Col. Pairot Rojanakachorn lost both of their police ranks and any decorations they received from … the King. The order cited the court’s arrest warrants on the two men for royal defamation and falsely claiming ties to the monarchy for personal gains.

Another police officer, Lt. Col. Thanabat Prasertwit, former deputy chief of the Anti-Human Trafficking Division, was also said to have conducted similar wrongdoings and subsequently stripped of his royal decorations in the same announcement.

Pairot, who served as a commander of the Crime Suppression Division, and his deputy Thammawat were charged in 2015 after police launched a crackdown on a massive criminal ring in which nearly 30 people were arrested for profiteering from their royal connections.

Pairot, Thammawat, and Thanabat were said to be close aides of Prakrom, whom police said was the mastermind behind the alleged crime ring. They are believed to have fled overseas.

This sorry tale sheds further light on how the king’s palace operates and how slitherers are rewarded. We note that Gen Paiboon Khumchaya was soon appointed to the Privy Council and that former Corrections Department director-general Naras Savestanan was recently made a deputy Lord Chamberlain in the palace.





Critic in fear for his life

23 04 2017

Asia Sentinel carries a report headlined “Thai Critic Faces Death Threat.” We guess that the story is blocked for many readers in Thailand, so while not reproducing the report in full, PPT posts the main points from it.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun has become one of the most implacable critics of the country’s ruling king, … Vajiralongkorn, and the junta that took over the country in a coup in 2014. Now that may have put his life in danger from the country’s erratic and violence-prone king.

The report reports the story that Pavin and two others have been “banned” by the junta, with anyone contacting them being threatened with jail.

… The junta has unsuccessfully attempted to persuade several governments to return Pavin to Thailand. He has lived in exile since the coup, mostly as an associate professor at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies in Japan although he has traveled and lectured widely in the United States and Europe, often with royalist Thais attempting to shout him down. The government has also sought to persuade foreign governments to bar him from speaking.

… In recent days, Pavin has escalated his attacks with a series of articles published in Asia Sentinel, New Mandala, and Washington Post, charging that the new king is reigning “as a monarch whose authority is based on fear and cares little about those around him. In vivid and depressing language, Vajiralongkorn’s command structure, Pavin said, resembles those of Thai mafias, or chaophos.

After the article ran, Pavin learned from a number of credible sources that the new king would seek to “manage” him, which in Thai vernacular usually means he would seek to kill his critic.

“So the warning is credible given the credibility of the source,” Pavin told Asia Sentinel. “Someone may come after me in Japan, although my friend believes it will be difficult because of where I live. But they could attack me when I travel overseas, that would be more likely.

Asia Sentinel reminds readers that “several people who worked for or with the new king have met their deaths under mysterious circumstances.” It mentions deaths and disappearances, naming: Police Major Prakrom Warunprapha and Major General Pisitsak Saniwong na Ayutthaya, Suriyan Sujaritpalawong, former police spokesman Prawuth Thawornsiri and Police General Akrawut Limrat.

… Deep concerns about the new king’s behavior have circulated for years, and although the country’s severe lese majeste laws have kept them out of the local press, they have circulated widely….

Since he replaced his … father, the lese-majeste laws and the military’s campaign to build Vajiralongkorn’s royal presence into near-mystical status have become a kind of trap for the junta. His erratic and violent behavior are now unchecked….

It is believed that the king engineered the disappearance of [a] memorial plaque of 1932 revolution, since he hated the revolutionaries who abolished absolute monarchy 85 years ago. And now he wishes to revive royal absolutism….

Thailand has arrived at a critical juncture in which the head of state is ruling its subjects with fear. His yearning for absolute power seems to have been met with the military’s own wish, a country where politics is a game of the political elites. To consolidate their rule, events have shown both the monarchy and the military have resorted to brutal tactics to eliminate its critics….

 





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,





Lese majeste and the crushing of justice

8 07 2016

In a couple of posts, about a year ago, PPT referred to the “development” of “legal” notions that seemed to amount to a new “law” that we dubbed “lese dictateur.” This “law” was protecting The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

At the time, we did not link this “law” to the Bike for Dad shenanigans and the clutch of lese majeste cases that resulted from very odd claims about an “assassination plot.”

Bike for dad

At the time of the Bike for Dad event, celebrating the king and and supposedly organized by  and showcasing Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, it was never made clear who the target of the “plot” was.

We do know that the event resulted in the “death” in custody of two men who had been close to the prince. In neo-feudal Thailand, the deaths of Suriyan Sujaritpalawong and Police Major Prakrom Warunprapha were never adequately investigated or explained.

It was never made clear how the “plotters” – referred to by the media and regime as “terrorists” – had committed lese majeste. Rumors were that the “target” was The Dictator himself. If that was so, then it was unclear how lese majeste was a charge.

In other words, the Bike for Dad deaths and plot were shrouded in neo-feudal and military junta-imposed secrecy and a fog of rumor.

Prachatai reports that this in not going to change. The trial, in a provincial military court, of the alleged “plotters” will be held in secret:

Citing national peace and order, a military court has given the green light to the prosecution’s request to hold the trial of six lèse majesté suspects in secret. They are alleged to have been involved in a Bike for Dad terrorist plot and making lèse majesté comments behind bars.

The “Military Court in Khon Kaen approved the military prosecutor’s request to hold a secret trial for Prathin Chanket and five other suspects charged with lèse majesté, arguing that a public trial would affect national peace and order since the case contained sensitive messages…”.

The secret trial will begin on 4 August 2016.

This trial now revolves around the six suspects being accused of, “some time between August 2014 and February 2015, the defendants uttered three lèse majesté messages to two witnesses.” (They still face cases under other laws for a “terrorist” plot.)

That, apparently, is the totality of lese majeste aspect of the allegations.

Remarkably, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, “during that time [when they committed the alleged lese majeste], the defendants were being detained separately at a prison in Khon Kaen Province.”

It is understood they were being held as defendants in another murky case brought by the military dictatorship, claiming they plotted separate anti-coup actions in 2014, when they were arrested and jailed.

As might be expected from persons already incarcerated, all the defendants therefore denied the lese majeste allegation.

Prayuth’s authoritarian Thailand is a lawless place where justice is crushed under the military boot.





An official epidemic

21 02 2016

In an op-ed at Asia Sentinel, usually blocked in Thailand, Charupong Ruangsuwan, the executive-director of the Organization of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (OFHD), based in San Francisco, and a former Puea Thai Party leader, writes on an epidemic of suicides and flight among senior police and military.

Because of the blocking, we reproduce much of the op-ed.

On 12 February, it was reported that “a Thai police spokesman announced that a high-ranking official, Lt. Col. Chan Chaisawatra, had committed suicide.” Charupong states:

We believe he didn’t commit suicide. We believe he was murdered, the latest in a long series of “suicides” that began last year in what amounts to a reign of terror within the Royal Thai Police.

The claim that he committed suicide is belied by the fact that Chan had been promised a promotion a month earlier. Our investigation in Bangkok has revealed that the junta wanted to set an example for any government employees of the consequences of daring to challenge the authority of Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha….

On Feb. 8, Chan lodged a formal complaint regarding the use of the junta’s notorious Article 44 which gives universal power to the junta leader, including the disbandment of the officer’s  investigative division at the police department.

If Chan was murdered, then his “death, after 20 years of service, has sent a shiver to every police officer in Thailand.”

Charupong states that: “The news of his death has not been reported by any Thai media at the moment or they could face grave consequences including the shutdown of their publication.”

But why an “epidemic”? Charupong points out that “[l]ate last year, Maj. Gen. Paween Pongsirin, another high-ranking Thai police officer resigned and escaped death, fleeing to Australia in fear of his life.”

Others have fled:

Police Gen. Khachachart Boondee  as well as Maj. Gen. Suchart Prommai, former 11th Infantry Regiment commander now stripped of military rank; Police Col. Col Pairoj Rojanakhajorn, a former chief of the Crime Suppression Division’s Sub-Division 2; and his-then deputy Lt Col Thammawat Hiranyalekha.

In addition:

Police Major Prakrom Warunprapa and Major General Pisitsak Saneewong na Ayutthaya, the chief bodyguard of Prince Vajiralongkorn, supposedly committed suicide in jail. The prince’s soothsayer, Suriyan Sucharitpolwong, aka Mor Yong, supposedly died of renal failure. Former police spokesman Prawuth Thawornsiri also disappeared.

All of this is chilling:

Academics and past politicians dare not exercise free speech. Countless numbers of Red Shirts and pro-democracy activists has disappeared without any traces. Their loved ones and relatives have contacted me but I couldn’t help them. I am now living in exile in the United States.

What can be done? Not much in Thailand, where the royalist generals and their murderous minions have impunity. Charupong urges:

The United States, the U.K., the E.U., Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all other civilized nations must continue to put pressure on the illegal regime of Gen. Prayuth to respect human rights and stop murdering people who speak their minds peacefully.





Another victim of the royal scam

20 02 2016

We have used the word “scam” in the headline, but we admit that we do not know whose scam this is.

Back in October 2015 Suriyan Sujaritpalawong was secretly arrested and charged with lese majeste. He died in custody at a then secret prison on a military base in Bangkok. His death was not adequately explained and his body was hurriedly cremated.

Suriyan was a well-known fortune teller known to be a close aide to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and a chief organizer of the Bike For Mom and Bike for Dad propaganda events for the prince.

Also arrested were Jirawong Wattanathewasilp, Suriyan’s aide, and Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapha, an officer of the Technology Crime Suppression Division. Prakrom was also charged with lese majeste and also died in custody at the same prison at the military base. Like Suriyan, his death was not adequately explained and his body was cremated within hours of his death.

Khaosod now reports that “[h]igh-ranking police officials including a well-known police spokesman will be prosecuted for allegedly installing a communications device atop Bangkok’s tallest building for a ‘suspicious purpose’ during last August’s Bike for Mom event.”

“Suspicious purpose” raises all kinds of possibilities. We can recall that there were very confused claims, from the junta, of an “assassination plot.”

Is it this alleged “plot” that has “Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri and other unnamed officers face prosecution for malfeasance after their case was forwarded to the national police chief…”. The chief is meant to send the case to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Could there have been such a plot? Who was the target?

Or could all of this be a further clipping of the prince’s wings? Or is it the prince getting rid of aides he’s fallen out with (a not uncommon event)? It remains guesses.

But back to Prawut, who has not been seen in public since 27 October “when he seemed to be swept up in a crackdown on officials said to be abusing their connections to the monarchy.”

An arrest warrant states that “Prawut for allegedly installing a radio transmitter on the Baiyoke Tower II during the Bike for Mom event.”

The report states that in October there was “a purge of high-level officials accused of defaming the monarchy by exploiting their links, one of the suspects, later found dead in his cell [presumably Prakrom], was accused of sneaking into the skyscraper to install radio devices taken from the Bung Kum Police Station.”

These radio devices were linked with five mobile phones found at Prakrom’s residence and allegedly “tuned in to the signal coming from Baiyoke II, which led to an accusation of unauthorized eavesdropping.”

Who was he alleged to be listening to? The prince? Other royal aides? The Dictator and his minions?

The report says nothing is yet known of “Prawut’s alleged criminal link was to Prakrom” and there is no “mention … of Prawut’s present whereabouts.”

All of this is confused and deliberately so.





Another Bike for Dad victim

24 01 2016

The military regime’s toadies must feel that sufficient time has passed following the bad publicity associated with the deaths in custody of “lese majeste” suspects Suriyan Sujaritpalawong and Prakrom Warunprapha to get back to the case.

The Bangkok Post reports that a “warrant has been issued for the arrest of a former deputy chief of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) with an alleged link to a high-profile lese majeste case.”

Police Colonel Siwapong Patpongpanit is reportedly facing “charges of negligence of duty in connection with the possession of police radio communication devices.” Police Major Prakrom is said to have requested 100 “radio communication devices.” It isn’t clear if the devices were requested for the Bike for Mom/Bike for Dad events or for duties associated with Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn or something else. (We do know that the prince has plenty of communication devices, with all of his many cars have a multitude of aerials.)

The late Pol Maj Prakrom was said to have “more than 200 radio communication devices…”. That’s a lot of communicating!

The police allege that “Pol Col Siwapong, then the deputy CSD chief, handed over the devices to his fellow officer…”.

He has “been under a police watch for suspected links with a lese majeste network led by celebrity fortune-teller Suriyan…. Pol Col Siwapong was transferred to the Central Investigation Bureau before voluntarily resigning from the police service.”

This report reminds us that Jirawong Wattanathewasilp remains in custody. This is odd given that palace-related “lese majeste” cases have generally been resolved in record time, with the “suspects” pleading guilty and immediately being sentenced.





The military’s blacksite

30 12 2015

Some time ago, when two lese majeste detainees – Prakrom Warunprapha and Suriyan Sujaritpalawong – died in custody, PPT asked about the origin and nature of the detention site, inside a Bangkok military base.

In a Prachatai report, at the time, Gen Paiboon Kumchaya, the Minister of “Justice,” denies any responsibility for the site or for the deaths. He argued that “the remand facility in the 11th Army Division is not a ‘military prison’, but a normal remand facility runs by the Department of Corrections.”

PPT added: We do not think that “normal” is in any way the right description of this military facility housing a makeshift prison (or is it Detention Site Green?).

At last, more attention is being given to this dark and deadly detention facility that the regime is expanding.

The Bangkok Post reports on the site using information from lawyers. It says it is a “new” detention center, although we remain unconvinced by this. If it is new, it appears developed following learning from the CIA’s covert prison sites.

For example, when “lawyer Winyat Chatmontree was allowed to meet his client in detention at a Bangkok army base, Pratin Chankate shuffled in blindfolded and shackled by military guards.” Former Border Patrol Police officer Pratin is accused of being involved in the mysterious “Khon Kaen model” plot to perhaps assassinate someone, somewhere. He was transferred to the military detention site from police custody, apparently deemed a threat to national security. Winyat’s client was “taken away after five minutes by soldiers…”.

Lawyers who work with the “detainees say they are routinely denied access to their clients and, in some cases, have themselves been subject to intimidation.”

Winyat says that in most cases: “The military is running most of the process, from interrogation to building cases…. Then they hand it over to police to continue what they started.”

The military dictatorship claims that the detention center at the 11th Army Circle base “is necessary for the efficient investigation of major threats to the kingdom.” In fact, it seems more likely that it is a convenient place for the milder forms of “enhanced interrogation” and for extracting “confessions.” Indeed, it seems that all inmates either confess or die in custody.

Human rights groups say the facility is designed to keep “suspects under army control as they are railroaded through a system of military courts…”.

The facility, “established within the military base under a decree issued on Sept 11 … [t]hat means detainees can be held there for up to three months.”

Sunai Phasuk, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, declares: “It’s fair to call this facility a ‘black site’ of the Thai military…”





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?





Updated: More princely lese majeste charges planned

25 11 2015

As the last survivor of the cohort of three arrested on or about 16 October 2015, so-called lese majeste suspect Jirawong Watthanathewasilp was again taken to the Military Court in Bangkok on Wednesday, and his detention at a prison inside a military base “was extended for the fourth time.” He is now detained until 7 December.Jirawong

The Post reports that “Jirawong  was escorted to the court by warders and soldiers. He appeared stressed and kept his head bent down as he entered the premises.”

Those arrested with him, Suriyan Sujaritpolwong, or Mor Yong, a fortune teller and Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapha have both died in mysterious circumstances in custody. All three men were previously associated with Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and seem to have fallen out with him or, depending on the rumor you hear, were separated from the prince’s entourage by those trying to neutralize or control the prince.prince and suthida

Meanwhile, it seems that these three cases are soon to be joined by several others.

Police now say that the Suriyan and associates case they are “investigating” is “wide-ranging.” In fact, all of this stuff is essentially concocted out of the “normal” things that people associated with the monarchy do. But someone higher up wants to have this done.

Police claim that they have now “sought warrants for several police and military officers…”.

The warrants are for the “arrest of Pol Col Pairote Rojkachorn, former chief of the 2nd sub-division of the Crime Suppression Division, Pol Lt Col Thammawat Hiranyalekha, former deputy chief of the CSD’s 2nd sub-division, and several other [unnamed] police and military officers and civilians.”

A police general stated that “they had committed lese majeste on different occasions in connection with one another.”Saturno devorando a su hijo

The courts are likely to quickly approve the warrants. Apparently, “[p]olice had been sent to keep the suspects under watch.  They would arrest them once the courts approved the warrants…”.

The general also stated:

It was not yet known whether three other police officers — an officer holding the rank of police general, an officer with the rank of police lieutenant general who was transferred to the Royal Thai Police’s operations centre yesterday, and Pol Maj Gen Akradej Pimolsri, chief of the Crime Suppression Division — would also be arrested for lese majeste charges….

It seems there are now 17 linked lese majeste cases.

Update: Khaosod names a third suspect and provides further details. The army officer involved is Maj. Gen. Suchart Prommai. It adds:

Suchart served as a senior adviser to the Royal Thai Army and personal aide to its former chief, Gen. Udomdej Sitabutr, who retired from the post in October. Pairoj and Thammawat are former officers from the Crime Suppression Division.

Udomdej’s days must be numbered. As we said previously, he’s likely to abscond now that the lese majeste and corruption dragnets involve him.

Khaosod includes this disclaimer:

Like other lese majeste cases and issues involving the monarchy, the ongoing investigation into the three suspects has been conducted in secret. Media agencies have been told by authorities not to report anything other than official statements and authorized disclosures.








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