Sinking farmers

12 10 2016

The junta is now playing navies. It isn’t sinking ships, it is sinking farmers, all in the name of  protecting its Bangkok-based supporters.

Readers may recall that the giant 2011 floods were all blamed on Yingluck Shinawatra and her government. Some of those criticisms were fair, especially regarding initial coordination of agencies. Many were politicized attacks, essentially blaming Yingluck’s government for the weather.

The junta has been saying for a couple of months that floods were not likely to be a problem. This was narrowed to assure Bangkok and some of the industrial estates (flooded in 2011) that there was no likelihood of flooding in 2016.

In fact, there is widespread flooding this year, as there has long been in Thailand’s wet season. As in 2011, it is unfair to blame the junta for the weather. That said, the junta can be chastised for making stupid claims that there won’t be floods and for poor coordination and for its lack of concern for farmers.

The Bangkok Post: has decided that farmers in Ayutthaya can be flooded up to their necks as authorities “divert flood water in riverside communities to water-retention areas [sic.] to reduce the impact of the floods.” They mean reduce the impact for Bangkok and surrounding areas.

The flooding of rice fields to about 1.5-2 meters follows the “advice” of the king on how to flood farmers and protect Bangkok, called kaem ling.

Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has declared that “the government has tried its best to prevent run-off from the North from flowing into Bangkok.”

He “urged affected farmers whose farmland is being used for retaining flood water to understand the need to divert water into their paddy fields.” He seems to be telling them to understand that Bangkok and its people trump farmers, their houses, stock, crops and families. That is, after all, the political message to rural people since the coup.

“Good corruption”

9 10 2016

We think the royalist and yellow-hued media we are reading is a reasonably good reflective of the anti-democrat position on corruption. To be blunt, the broad consensus is that the military regime’s nepotism, corruption and its lack of transparency is a “small price” to pay for keeping the hated Thaksin Shinawatra and the feared red shirts at bay.

Yet a couple of recent cases covered-up by the military dictatorship and its puppets have involved complaints from yellow shirts that are now buried.

SnoutsA day or so ago, the grand old palace schemer and anti-democratic stalwart General Prem Tinsulanonda again babbled on about corruption. We say he babbled not because he is an old man but because he doesn’t mean it. He says things that lots of people can agree with, but in practice its all double standards. He still seems  keen to give all his support to the junta and The Dictator, meaning he simply ignores the corruption of those he thinks are doing the “right” work of “good people” for the self-important “greats” of Thai society.

The junta itself loves the benefits it and its wives, sons, daughters, and others allied with them gain through the junta’s monopolization of political power. Accused of corruption and the only response is cover-ups and denials. They also manage a bunch of flunkies who repeatedly say the junta’s and military’s corruption is not corruption and everything is above board. They often add that there are opponents saying “false” things.

Just in the past few days, the Auditor General and the National Anti-Corruption Commission, in a couple of blunt moves has cleared junta people of any wrongdoing on a couple of seemingly shaky deals.

One was General Prawit Wongsuwan’s Hawaii trip with more than three dozen others that cost the taxpayer far more than it should have. Even without all the details, the Auditor General Pisit Leelavachiropas “confirmed” that Prawit’s trip “was free of irregularities related to the flights and their meals.” (Pisit did not comment on the junta’s arrogance.)

Pisit’s decision seems to also have been influenced by some ridiculous notion of nationalism when he “asked rhetorically if it would be suitable for the delegates to walk down from the plane of another country at an airport reception ceremony.”

Pisit came up with a bunch of other even lamer excuses that can only have come from the junta. We say that because we doubt there are others so lame as to come up with these lamest of lame excuses and think they make any sort of sense.money_down_toilet 2

Only a couple of weeks ago, Pisit was proposing “strong limits on reform of spending on ‘extravagant’ journeys.” Of course, he was hot under the collar about “members of the previous parliaments,” not his military buddies and bosses. (The trip mentioned in the story is of “then House speaker Somsak Kiatsura-nont with 37 others, including journalists and his daughter.” How much did it cost? 7 million baht. How many buddies did Prawit transport and how much did that cost, just for the plane trip?)

Hypocrisy? You bet. But dolts and puppets like Pisit are making an implicit “comparison” of “bad politicians” with “good people” serving the interests of Thailand’s “great and good.”

The other case is the claims of nepotism involving The Dictator and his brother General Preecha Chan-ocha. The NACC reportedly “dropped a complaint against former permanent secretary for defence [General] Preecha …, who was accused of abusing his power to appoint his son as an army officer.”

The NACC, falsely labelled in the report as a “graft watchdog” claimed “insufficient facts to back claims of dereliction of duty against Gen Preecha which led to the much-criticised appointment of his son, Patipat, as acting sub-lieutenant handling civil affairs in the 3rd Army Region.”

The puppet “NACC found Gen Preecha was empowered to approve selections of personnel for jobs in the military.” In making this point, the NACC is assuring us that it is unable to understand notions of conflict of interest, at least where the junta and military is involved.

No names, no transparency

6 10 2016

Khaosod has a detailed report on the Hawaii trip arranged for General Prawit Wongsuwan. This little piece of arrogance and opacity is creating considerable public debate. And the censorious regime is doing all it can to avoid scrutiny.

The report states that Maj. Gen. Kongcheep Tantravanich, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, and who was on the flight has stated: “If we disclose the list, what good will that do?” And the regime refused to “confirm or deny the authenticity of what’s alleged to be a leaked passenger list…”. That list is said to include the name of an Army Channel 5 “TV reporter rumored to be a romantic partner of the general.”

censored-picThe report reproduces the leaked list, but get it fast as already bits of the report have been removed: “The original image published with this article, which showed photos purporting to be of Chonratsamee Ngathaweesuk in Honolulu, were removed at the request of the management of Khaosod, which owns Khaosod English.” Here’s what PPT believes to be that removed picture, taken from Khaosod’s emailed stories list.

The reporter has denied she traveled to Hawaii. She states that she read the news live on TV in Bangkok when the trip took place.

Khaosod states that it has “filed a request Wednesday under the freedom of information law requesting the Defense Ministry disclose the names of the 38 people in Prawit’s entourage.”

Maj. Gen. Kongcheep, who was on the flight, said the request was being considered an unspecified committee. He stated: “Steps must be taken in accordance with protocols…. Is it [disclosing the list] appropriate or not? If it affects national security or affects any agency, then we will not disclose it.”

Another junta cover-up that confirms the junta and Prawit have things to hide.

Promoting political allies III

5 10 2016

As PPT noted a few weeks ago, part of the motivation for some of the high-level promotions in the military was about political alliances with the Privy Council, protecting the regime and maintaining the anti-democratic and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra and anti-red shirt political alliance.

While this has promoted some social media speculation of a rift between General Prayuth Chan-ocha and General Prawit Wongsuwan, and hence the Hawaii flights scandal, those promoted have talked about their takes on their new roles.

The Bangkok Post reports on the views of new army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart. Even for a hardened military thug, his view of the strategic and threat environment is quite surprising.

He is seemingly unconcerned about, say, the South China Sea conflict, nuclear weapons in the region, border security, the US-China competition or even the military’s desire for new military kit. No, his consuming concern is domestic “political violence.”

According to the Post, General Chalermchai “told a briefing at the army’s headquarters … possible violent attacks were his concern because only a handful of the stolen army weapons had been recovered.”

Using an oxymoron, he claimed that “Army intelligence” was telling him and the top brass of “the possibility of violence because there were movements behind it…”. He said a “large number” of the “stolen” weapons “remain unaccounted for…”. Army data has it that 57 weapons were not found and these are driving the Army boss’s plans for future “political violence.”

Some observations on this. First, most of these weapons were abandoned by the military during the events of April and May 2010. Second, it is known that weapons illegally sold by corrupt officers and simply “missing” from military inventories far outweigh this number. Third, Thailand is awash with guns, and this 57 makes no difference to that. Finally, it is the military that is responsible for most of Thailand’s political violence over a very long period.

General Chalermchai is really saying is that, like the junta itself, he terrified by any form of political opposition, even if some of the alleged political plots are manufactured by the military and regime. He is Army boss because his political views align with those of The Dictator in viewing red shirts as the main threat to the regime and its royalist realm.

Also at the Bangkok Post, new 1st Army commander and vehement anti-red shirt Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong has added something to the social media speculation that there are some in the military unhappy with The Dictator and his regime by declaring that his main job is to ensure there are no counter-coups. Indeed, the Post states: “The appointment of Lt Gen Apirat reflects Gen Prayut’s intention to prevent a counter coup that may arise if he stays in power.”

Handpicked and trusted by The Dictator, Apirat has “pledged to prevent coups while maintaining peace and order and implementing the orders of the prime minister, the defence minister and the army commander.” He added on his loyalty to the regime:

My mission is to protect the monarchy with my life, and I will strictly follow the instructions of the prime minister, defence minister and the army chief and support the government without question….

With these appointments, the regime and in particular, The Dictator, have hardened their political position, reinforced its capacity for ruthless repression and marked out what they hope will be a counter-coup free space.

Flights to Hawaii

4 10 2016

The Bangkok Post reports that, as expected, the Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha has defended the extravagant use of taxpayer funds for Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan and his 38-member “entourage” to fly on a chartered plane to Honolulu.

The Dictator scoffed at the idea that the trip be investigated: “Why do we have to form [the panel to probe]?” He added: “Are there any direct flights to the meeting? No, there are not…. Did they go for the [country’s] benefit or for a holiday?” He warned against a “witch-hunt.” Prawit is reported to have “echoed the premier’s comments, saying there was no direct flight to Hawaii and that making a stopover would have wasted time.”

Meanwhile, Prawit “said he believed someone was trying to undermine him, insisting he gained nothing from the flight arrangements.” This hints at rumors that there are disgruntled military factions working against him. Some of the rumors link those factions to The Dictator himself.

Previously, the dictatorship has jailed persons questioning spending by the junta and the military.

On notions of time-wasting and no direct flights, it is not entirely clear to us why a direct flight is mandatory for the military and bureaucratic elite. Several airlines operate flights to Honolulu via Asian hubs. The flight time, including a 1-stop change, for the airlines we checked ranges from just over 15 hours to 17.5 hours. Business class airfares (including food and drink) range from US$3,000 to $8,000. We could not locate a service offering first class (perhaps explaining why commercial flights were anathema for these military bigwigs).

Even if all 39 went business class, the cost would be about $117,000 to $312,000, representing a substantial saving to the Thai taxpayer.

More on mutual back scratching

3 10 2016

When arrogant military types take over and run a country, they tend to become more arrogant. They also like to make life comfortable for themselves and their cronies. This tends to spill over into more arrogance and unlimited corruption.

The murderous lot running Thailand are no different.

Today’s big story in the media, and especially social media, is ever so timidly reported by the Bangkok Post at the end of a story on US-Thai military relations:Prawit and gold chain

Meanwhile, criticism has flared after [gold chain, diamond ring loving] Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan] chartered a plane to Honolulu for himself and an entourage, with the bill coming to 20.9 million baht, the website of the Secretariat of the Prime Minister says.

A Thai Airways plane was required for the trip which lasted from Thursday to Sunday.

[Junta lackey and] spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd on Sunday avoided responding to media questions over the matter. “I cannot speak instead of them [the defence ministry]. I have no details about it,” he said.

prawit(What? Even Sansern, seasoned fairy story teller for the military that he is, couldn’t come up with anything?)

It has been Matichon tackling the story, on the 21 million baht VIP flight where the food and drinks cost 600,000 and on a 400+ seat 747 that came to seat on 38 for the VIP trip to Hawaii, where it also reports on other taxpayer-funded jaunts.

Most recently, Khaosod has reported on this story. It says that the “military government Monday defended the expenditure of 20.9 million baht for the junta’s No. 2 general and his entourage to fly to an informal discussion with American military in Hawaii last week.” Even the expensive food and drinks.

As we know, the military and the junta always close ranks and protect their “brothers” from accusations of corruption, extortion, torture and murder, just to name a few of the things the green clad ones get up to on a regular basis.

So it was that Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Kongcheep Tantravanich “explained” that all was well: “It is a normal procedure for state agencies to follow…”. He went further into the mud:

Kongcheep said it was necessary for the government to hire Thai Airways for the Hawaii trip because no military aircraft were capable of the 19-hour flight without refueling.

The spokesman said the trip and its costs were within proper regulations and completely transparent.

Obviously, such precious military bosses could not possibly travel by commercial flight. (That’s why they are buying so much new VIP transport.)

Promoting political allies II

15 09 2016

A few days ago, PPT posted on the rise of the new Army boss General Chalermchai Sittisart.

It seems the Bangkok Post’s military correspondent essentially agrees with us. Wassana Nanuam reckons that The Dictator’s promotion of Chalermchai was a “bold move [that] has surprised many.”

As we said, there should be no surprise as The Dictator is selecting a man “well-suited with what he called ‘the current situation’.” She means well-suited to managing the military junta’s continued control of politics, “election” or not.

Chalermchai is not from the Burapha Phayak clique, having never “served in the 21st Infantry Regiment (Queen’s Guard) nor the 2nd Infantry Division where Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha] and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon grew into their military careers.”

But Chalermchai is well “qualified” for repressing the junta’s opponents. The new boss “is from the ‘red beret’ Special Warfare Command (SWC) where he had served in intelligence and secret services throughout his career.” He served on the Thailand-Cambodia border during the Khmer Rouge era meaning he probably made a reasonable amount of money.

He also served under another red beret, General Surayud Chulanont, now a privy councilor. The report says he “formed a close bond with Gen Surayud.” That bond and links to the queen have been critical for Chalermchai’s rise.

Gen Chalermchai’s is not due for retirement until September 2018 meaning Gen Prayuth can expect “stability within the army…”. The report states that “[s]uch stability is important for Gen Prayut if he becomes a non-elected prime minister of an elected government.”

Chalermchai’s appointment is also a sign that Prayuth “wants to maintain close ties with Gen Surayud and strengthen relations with the Si Sao Thewes clique of Privy Council president [General] Prem Tinsulanonda.”