Who got the loot?

24 11 2015

Despite the Army’s claims to the contrary, it seems pretty clear that some at the very top of the Army have made personal fortunes from corrupt activities. In this sense, the relatively small amounts skimmed from the one-billion-baht Rajabhakti Park project are just a part of a long-standing corruption in the military.

As we keep saying, if you look at their assets declarations, almost every single member of the current junta has assets that far exceed what might be expected from their official salaries. No one ever seems to investigate these revelations of “unusual wealth.”

The Rajabhakti Park project offers yet another opportunity to scrutinize the top brass’s capacity for corruption.

The Bangkok Post reports that “[p]ressure is mounting on the army after graft watchdogs signalled they would start an external investigation…”.

The next National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) meeting is going to come under huge pressure to drop this idea. The pressure will come from Generals Prayuth Chan-ocha and Prawit Wongsuwan.

The NACC secretary-general Sansern Poljeak states that the agency “has been gathering facts on the park for the last two weeks.” The NACC may whitewash as well, but that remains unclear at this point.

The NACC is supported by the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT) which “will write to the army Tuesday, urging it to let external bodies examine details of the construction of Rajabhakti Park.”

ACT secretary-general Mana Nimitmongkol said “[t]oo little information has been released to the public…”.

Army commander Theerachai Nakvanich has tried to cover up the investigations and has stated that “there was no need for other agencies, including the NACC, to investigate the case…”.

Prawit has mumbled something about the NACC probing the Rajabhakti Park project “if there are grounds for an investigation.” But he was clear that no one should investigate junta member General Udomdej Sitabutr. He stated: “No press briefing is needed. Let the army handle the issue [regarding the press]…”.

In another Bangkok Post report, Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda “has advised the army to spend its budget well, because it is not rich.” Maybe he means not rich enough?

His speech, however, did deem a warning to the junta: “mature adults must possess moral integrity as a safeguard against corrupt practices and any temptation to take advantage of others.”

There seem few such adults in Thailand’s military, police or business sector. Even the palace seems unable to enter adulthood as defined by Prem.

Army air freshener

20 11 2015

The Army thinks that a bit of air freshener can eliminate the odor of rotting fish. They are wrong.

SpraySeveral sprays of freshener have been applied to the pile of pungent gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals. First, the military has been blaming others.

Second, they have been repressing those who dare to speak out on the topic. In recent days we have seen Anusorn Iamsa-ard, Acting Deputy Spokesperson of the Puea Thai Party called in for “a discussion at the 1st Army Region Division in Bangkok” after he criticised a “statement of Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the Defence Minister, about the construction of Rajabhakti Park, a royal theme park featuring gigantic monuments of seven prominent past monarchs in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province of central Thailand, which was rife with corruption.”

Then we saw the junta raiding a television station and filing charges against former national police chief Seripisut Temiyavet and for “hosting a TV programme called Siang Seree (Seree’s voice) in which he criticised the NCPO…. Pol Gen Sereepisuth earlier said the military needed to reform itself before trying to reform the police force, and alleged there was widespread corruption in the armed forces, including in the Rajabhakti Park project in Hua Hin.”

Third, the Army “investigation” team has discovered that the Army is, in fact, virginal, squeaky clean, untainted and good. As Khaosod reports it: “An internal review into the billion-baht Rajabhakti Park found no evidence of corruption, army chief Teerachai Nakwanich announced today.”

Nothing. Not a thing. Even the self-admitted scams by former Army boss Udomdej Sitabutr weren’t found: “Following media reports and statements from the former army chief confirming financial irregularities involving overpayments and dodgy commissions paid to middlemen, Gen. Teerachai said inspection of budget and accounts of the project found no such irregularities in the project.” Nothing. Not a thing. Teerachai said: “There is no corruption. Every procedure is transparent…”.

No one will believe them, but this gang has guns and holds power. They can even get away with murder. So a bit of corruption is nothing.

Because the Army decided the Army is good, there “is no need to ask the National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the project…”.

No one will believe them.

Not even our predicted scapegoat, Col. Khachachart Boondee, is accused of anything.

Then things got really strange.

Khaosod reports that “Army officials also did not allow media present to broadcast the news conference live, without stating a reason.” When he was asked “if the army would open the books to for the public to see how money was spent, Teerachai provided extremely odd responses: he “said that would be dangerous.” He then opined: “You want people to die for this? You want me to execute someone and their entire family for this? I mean, we have to look at their intention.” He also declared that the budget for the project was confidential.

The notion that this project is in “dangerous” areas raises interesting questions. Is someone higher up involved? Is that the reason it is dangerous? Is the military covering up for someone else? Or is he just doing a bit more of a freshening spray so that the trail of corruption is more difficult to follow?

The army and the odor of fish I

18 11 2015

In another case of Fawlty Towerism – “I’m so sorry, but my wife has made a mistake!” – the junta is looking worse than silly.

The Nation reports that Deputy Defense Minister General Udomdej Sitabutr is squirming on the hook, but may slip off it as the cover-up on the corruption at Rajabhakti Park, the military’s 1 billion baht ode to loyalty to some monarchs. The project was “initiated when he [Udomdej] served as Army chief,” but the “Army’s fact-finding [read: cover-up] committee did not target Udomdej in its probe.”

Rather, the Army is blaming others and the junta is saying it – chock full of generals – had nothing to do with it.

A photo from The Straits Times

A photo from The Straits Times

All of the corruption and “commissions” was by somebody other than military personnel: “We have focused on the fact that the Army’s reputation has allegedly been abused by someone who sought personal benefit through the project…”. When they name the person, “the Army definitely would sue wrongdoers if there was solid evidence of wrongdoing.” So maybe there isn’t solid evidence? Maybe it was the Army itself and its senior commanders? After all, that is the pattern of military corruption.

If Udomdej gets named, it must be that his “name is abused,” and then he decides “whether he will sue the culprits…”. This is smelling like a haul of fish caught by Navy-supplied slaves.

That the “Army set up a fact-finding panel to investigate alleged irregularities in the Rajabhakti Park project” sounds good until, after reading the above, it is realized that the “goal” is “protecting its [the Army’s] reputation”!

The story from the military still seems to be that “some people did demand personal benefits through the project but after their actions were detected, they returned the money.” And, as Udomdej has stated, they then donated it back to the project. That fish odor will not go away.

Questions about the transparency of the Rajabhakti Park project emerged after Colonel Kachachart Boondee, a staff officer at the Third Army Area, was charged earlier this month with lese majeste along with the late famous fortune-teller Suriyan Sujaritpolwong’s secretary Jirawong Wattanathewasilp. It was alleged that they had falsely cited the Royal Family to demand money from big companies.

Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan is busy handing out air freshener for the junta, playing down the scandal: “It’s not a big deal…”. He makes this point by declaring that the “budget used for the project did not come from state coffers.” It must be okay to use money from private citizens corruptly.

When asked if the scandal meant the Army and the junta had a strong whiff of anchovies, Prawit said, “No.”

Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha was clearer: “his government would not take any responsibility over alleged corruption in the Rajabhakti Park project.” Readers might ask “Why not?”, but Prayuth has the answer: “Why should the government be held responsible?” Oh, sorry, that’s a question, not an answer.

rotting-fishThe junta is seeking to delay “answers.” We assume this means they need to get their story straight. The Bangkok Post reports that the “investigation” is “unlikely to be completed within a week as initially scheduled.”

Prawit says there’s “much more work remains to be done.” Ah, um, er, general, you have already said it ain’t a big deal…. Wait! It’s not a big deal “like the Khlong Dan waste water scandal…”.* And, he’s not sure how much it cost: “As for the about 1 billion baht spent on construction of the park, Gen Prawit said, he could not be certain that much really went into it.” Prayuth isn’t sure either! But certainly more than a ton of plah-rah, that’s for sure.

The committee is “still ploughing through reports on the probe with no indication of when it would finish.” Maybe the smelly fish can be wrapped in the reports.

Prayuth couldn’t keep his mouth shut and decided to “warn” the “critics should not attempt to make the Rajabhakti Park matter a political issue.” No politics in it at all. Just the junta, the Army and a mountain of rotting sardines.

Again asked if the government would take responsibility, Prayuth said: “How does the government take responsibility for this alleged misconduct and why?” That’s military “democracy” at work! Blame everyone else.

We can’t wait to hear who is going to take the fall.

*The Klong Dan Wastewater Project is worthy of study. It was approved by the Chuan Leekpai and Democrat Party-led government in 1995. In recent days the junta has a greed to pay out on a court ruling in 2012 that gives about 8-9 billion baht to the original contractors. For the slippery details on this, see here (opens a small PDF), here (opens a larger PDF, and then read the Chang Noi article) and here.

The mess gets bigger still

10 11 2015

Atiya Achakulwisut is a Contributing Editor, at the Bangkok Post. In the current circumstances, where witnesses are being “found” dead and their bodies hurriedly cremated and with a testy military dictatorship lording it over the country, Atiya seems quite brave. Brave because she has an op-ed that calls for transparency and scrutiny of the alleged corruption associated with the military’s homage to the monarchy at Rajabhakti Park near Hua Hin.

She states that “[a]ccording to its website, the army intended to use the 222-rai park located in the popular resort town of Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan, as a venue for its important ceremonies and to welcome international figures during their official visits.”

She says the “allegations [of corruption] may cause visitors to feel unsure about what aspect of the park they should be in awe over.” Now that it is associated with several deaths, perhaps murders, visitors may wonder if the ghosts of violent death will haunt the place.

Atiya commends the Central Investigation Bureau for having the “courage to look into alleged irregularities even when they are associated with such a high-profile project under the care of the most powerful institution in the country.” We are sure she means the military, not the monarchy, although the prince did open the place.

She asks “how far the probe will go, and how transparent the army and relevant organisations will be about the case.” Now that those who raised the possibility of corruption are dead or have fled the country, we don’t expect much “progress” unless it is to nail more junta or palace “enemies.” We would guess that all the contractors who were involved will now be very frightened. If this sounds Mafia-like, that’s because it is.

Atiya states that the “park is located on the army’s land, [and] the budget for its construction, estimated at about one billion baht, came exclusively from public donations.” She adds that “donations for the park’s construction can be made to the ‘army’s welfare fund’ account.” The project is “managed” by the Rajabhakti Park Foundation.

One of the people who must be worried for his career and health is former army chief and Deputy Defence Minister Gen Udomdej Sitabutr as he heads up the Foundation. The Army, Atiya contends, has “put a little distance between itself and the majestic park,” saying that it is “still technically under the care of the … Foundation.”

Udomdej might consider an overseas trip.

Atiya concludes with a call: “With allegations flying around, the army just has to refute them with evidence. Share the information. Show the public that it indeed did everything aboveboard.”

We don’t think there’s much chance of that.

Udomdej has talked about the Park. He has insisted that “everything was transparent and accountable.” He bleats about “sincere intention of making it national property” but that is unlikely to save him if the powers currently at work take a dislike to him. We already know that the current Army boss doesn’t respect his predecessor.

Udomdej tries to close the distance between the Park project and the Army. He says he only headed the Foundation when he was Army chief and that thw finances were “handled by the army’s financial department, which was ready to show details of the spending with clear evidence.”

He makes a very odd claim in the current circumstances, admitting that “during construction of the project some people demanded kickbacks from some owners of factories that cast the statues of the past kings for the park. After this was uncovered, the money was returned to the factory owners, who agreed to donate it to the project…”. An offer the could not refuse no doubt.

When asked about “Col Khachachart Boondee, commander of the 1st Artillery Regiment, who has been charged with lese majeste and abusing his authority for personal gain in two criminal cases, Gen Udomdej declined to comment, saying the matter was now being investigated by police.” We don’t blame him. After all, the colonel was favored during Udomdej’s time as commander.

When Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy prime minister and defence minister, was asked Khachachart, he tried to claim that “his alleged offences were a personal matter and nothing to do with the Rajabhakti Park Foundation.”

We guess that both hope that the deaths of two suspects who were singing to police about the “irregularities” means case closed. They are wrong. We may expect the body count to increase further still.

Getting the story straightened out

6 11 2015

The military regime is having a devil of a time getting its lese majeste purge story straight.

Three or four days ago, Pol Lt Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, acting deputy national police chief in charge of the investigation, was reported in a Bangkok Post story as announcing that “between 40 and 50 military major generals and colonels could be involved in the current high-profile lese majeste case…”.

Within 24 hours, that story was wound back with shouts about “no solid evidence” and mumbles that the police boss “had been misquoted.” Even so, it was reported that the “army has launched a probe into reports a major general and a colonel…”. Of these two, it was reported that one was “a senior officer attached to the Army Secretary Office,” and the other had fled over the border to Myanmar.

Asia Sentinel tried to help out, but that story is not what the regime wants heard.

After 48 hours, it is reported that “[n]o military officers were involved in the latest lese majeste case, according to a police investigation to date, which is 90% complete.”

The very same Pol Lt Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, acting deputy police chief in charge of the investigation, “said although Suriyan Sucharitpolwong, the key suspect in custody, had implicated some army officers, his testimony was not accepted.”

Not accepted? Well, certainly not accepted by “Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his deputy, Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, [who] denied the reports, saying they had no knowledge of their involvement in the case.”

In a land under the military boot, where the junta is engaged in all manner of manipulation and censorship, perhaps this “no knowledge” is sufficient to bring the police into line and to get the public story straight.

But maybe not. The Bangkok Post seems less than convinced, adding this detail to its story:

But it was reported on Friday Col Yutthapong Klantakasuwan, head of the Thai-Myanmar local border committee, sent an urgent letter to Myanmar authorities, seeking the deportation of Col Kachachart Boondee of the 3rd Army Region, who had illegally crossed the Mae Hong Son border to Myanmar on Nov 1.

Col Kachachart was promoted to deputy commander of the 11th Circle Army by former army chief Gen Udomdej Sitabutr shortly before Gen Udomdej retired on Sept 30.

However, when Gen Theerachai Nakvanich took over as army chief, he transferred Col Kachachart back to the 3rd Army Region as chief of staff on Oct 5.

Pol Gen Srivara said on Friday if the colonel is deported, police might invite him for questioning as Mr Suriyan had been photographed in the company of several officers on various occasions. [Suriyan was a celebrity astrologer to many in the Army and other services, so if photos are evidence, then there are hundreds involved.]

“If the investigation leads to anyone, we’ll definitely take legal action even if he is a military officer. But to date, there are only three suspects in this case,” Pol Gen Srivara said.

“As for the persons implicated by the suspects, we have yet to charge them,” he said.

The police general added the investigation is almost complete, pending some forensic tests.

We doubt many people will believe any of this tale. The truth is not permitted or allowed when the monarchy, palace and royal family is involved.


“I’m so sorry, but my wife has made a mistake!”

30 10 2015

As PPT noted in a post yesterday, in the Bangkok Post of 29 October 2015, self-proclaimed Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was reported as stating “he may need to remain in power as long as the country is not at peace.” He added: “If there is no peace and order, I must stay on…”.

What we didn’t comment on was Prayuth’s statement that he would “close the country” if peace in Thailand proves elusive.” He means “peace” as defined by him as The Dictator.

Sounding like something out of the Fawlty Towers episode “The Wedding Party,” the junta’s Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan has declared that Prayuth made a mistake. Well, as we know, The Dictator can’t actually be mistaken, but anyway, you get our drift.

Prawit says: “The prime minister did not mean it literally…”. But he did confirm that if there is no peace and order, Prayuth and the junta would stay in power.

Yes, that’s exactly what Prayuth said.

Yes, these military thugs are difficult to follow, but Prawit has the answer: “Don’t think too much…”.

Updated: Official cover-up I

27 10 2015

If any reader was suspicious about Police Major Prakrom Warunprapha’s death in military custody, it is now time to be more dubious still.

Officially, we are told by the Minister responsible for “Justice” General Paiboon Khumchaya that “the case is now closed.”

That means the public is left to ponder a lese majeste accusation that was never explained, detention in a military prison under circumstances that will never be explained and a death in military custody that will not be explained or investigated.

It may surprise some readers, but it is reasonable to observe that this is standard military operating practice. The military has the capacity to capture, detain, disappear, torture and murder with impunity. This has been a common operating procedure when dealing with the war in the South.

A report in the Bangkok Post mentioned in our previous post, states that “the cause of Prakrom’s death was suffocation and his relatives arrived to fetch his body at 8.30am on Monday.”

Prakrom was said to have been “found hanging in his cell with a shirt around his neck on Friday and died shortly after at the Corrections Department’s hospital…”. Some reports state that he was hanging from a bar. This despite the fact that it was earlier reported 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,” and that the “wardens’ key responsibility is to ensure the three men’s well-being during detention…”, we can only be aghast that the “Justice” Minister and his flunkies state that Prakrom’s “cell had no windows and corrections officers could not see the inmate from the outside.”

The Military “Justice” Minister rejected criticisms of a cell: “There has been no problem. If there were any, we would know now.”

The General defended the procedure under the military dictatorship of using military detention and military courts and the military prison: “We need to keep the prison to expedite investigations. As we all see, high-profile cases have progressed very quickly. Let’s not look only at human rights. National interest should also be taken into consideration…”.

What this is code for is: “We need to keep the military prison because there’s no scrutiny. We can use torture and get confessions that way. This is why high-profile lese majeste cases have progressed very quickly. We have a 100% confession rate. Let’s not look only at human rights. We are a military dictatorship and rights have no meaning”.

The “Justice” Minister went on to explain that another caught up in this lese majeste case, a fortune teller who was loved by the generals and close to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, Suriyan Sujaritpalawong, is not dead.

The General declared: “Mor Yong’s fine. I don’t understand what caused these rumours.” Oh Minister, you are not this much of a dope, surely. The rumors come from the death in military custody and your cover up. He did say that Suriyan’s blood pressure was high and this had caused him to me moved through two hospitals. The director-general of the Corrections Department claimed that Suriyan was faking illness.

Khaosod has a similar report on “Justice” Minister Paiboon’s statements to the media but adds this important note at the end of its report:

Note: A blanket ban has been issued on reporting this issue, apart from official announcements. Due to this, portions of this story have been self-censored.

This makes the cover-up official. We recently said Thailand is administered by thugs and scoundrels. We should have added that the thugs and scoundrels are also liars.

Update: Readers will be eager to know the police have stated that they will provide “full information regarding a recent high-profile lese majese case as well as on the death of a suspect during detention” on Wednesday. We at PPT can hardly wait. We would sincerely like to know the truth or at least the story concocted on these cases. We are also keen to know more about the death of Prakrom. But, then, wasn’t it the military and Department of Corrections who were in charge of this detainee when he died in a cell in a military camp? What will the police know? Even so, we can’t wait to see what has been cooked up.

Part of the claims made will have to do with competing statements about bars and no bars in the cell, barred windows and no windows, and the ability of guards to see inside the cell. All these points have been subject to contradictory statements that form part of an ill-disguised cover-up. In the report linked below, the Corrections boss stated: “We have adjusted a building of the battalion for use as the detention centre. We have bars installed there…”. That’s in the windowless version of the story?

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has added to the confused cover story. In stating that the “temporary detention centre was still needed, pointing out to the fact that the country is not in a normal situation yet.” He then reportedly stated that “Prakrom … was not the only suspect to have died during detention.” We assume he is talking of the same cells. If not, then he’s stating a fact: prisoners do die and disappear in police and military custody. Sometimes of natural causes, sometimes murdered, maybe due to poor conditions and sometimes following mistreatment such as failing to get medical support or as a result of injuries inflicted in custody.

Prawit did try to get the military off the hook by stating: “… although this detention facility was located inside a military base, it was the Corrections Department which was mainly in charge of the facility.” Sure. The Thai military just adores having others in charge of their stuff and facilities. Nice try Prawit.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 182 other followers