Rolling back 1932 one piece of property at a time IV

1 08 2019

We have posted much about King Vajiralongkorn’s property acquisitions. An example was in April last year. This post is about a Khaosod story on the Vimanmek Mansion, which is a royal property. The story, however, hints at the bigger plans for the area around the so-calledRoyal Plaza.

Vimanmek Mansion was once a royal villa and palace. It was located in the Dusit Palace area, near the defunct Dusit Zoo, acquired by the king. It was a 72 room villa, first celebrated and used on 27 March 1901. It was a palace for five years. By 1932, it was being used “as a storage place of the Bureau of the Royal Household.” It was restored in 1982 and was open to visitors until 2016.

Following reports that it was “gone,” Khaosod reporters went to the area. They were told that the villa had been taken apart to allow work on foundations, with palace officials saying the “historic teakwood mansion will be fully rebuilt after repair works are completed…”. The work is said to be budgeted at 81 million baht. That seems altogether too low (see below). But, who is paying?

The story continues:

But here’s the bad news for anyone wishing to admire the mansion’s spectacular Thai-Western architecture once again – Vimanmek will not welcome visitors after the renovation efforts are over.

It won’t be reopened to the public. It’ll be closed off permanently,” an official at the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, which manages the property, said by phone. “We don’t know when the renovation will be completed.”…

Royal Guards armed with rifles stood at attention, facing the construction site while workers labored….

Documents published online by Bangkok’s Department of Public Works and Town Planning earmarked a one-million baht fund for daily “accommodation and transportation” for the laborers, since they are not allowed to live on the palace compound.

The report includes mention of new ponds and an underground tunnel.

It seems highly likely that the “royal precinct” that has been created in recent years is set to be made into something grand and “fitting” for the world’s wealthiest monarch.

Lese majeste verdict overturned

30 05 2019

Khaosod reports on a lese majeste case we do not think we have heard of previously. A search of our site and of iLaw did not pinpoint previous reporting of the case (that we could find).

Khaosod explains that a “former monk accused of fabricating ties to the monarchy was on Wednesday convicted of fraud but acquitted of royal defamation” after previously having been convicted of under Article 112.

Wankasat Promthong, who is now 31, was arrested in 2016 and was originally convicted of fraud and lese majeste in November 2017, and sentenced to five years and nine months in prison.

He was found guilty of “selling amulets with forged royal insignias and dishonestly claiming the trinkets were sponsored by the palace.”

On appeal, only his fraud conviction was upheld, resulting in a sentence of two years and nine months.

The Appeals Court ruled that “the defendant claimed false ties to the monarchy only to pursue monetary gain, and not to defame or insult the royal family.”

It was said that “Wankasat, formerly Phra Wankasat, told other monks at his temple that he was raised in the royal palace and anointed into monkhood by the late [then alive] King Bhumibol.”

He sold his amulets “emblazoned with the royal insignia under pretensions that they were sponsored by the Royal Household Bureau, according to the prosecutors.”

If this is a “new” revelation of a lese majeste case, we wonder how many more there have been that have not been publicly revealed.

Palace propaganda and the new reign

28 02 2019

As PPT has mentioned in several posts, when succession finally came, there were numerous commentators who had predicted a crisis and even an unraveling of the monarchy. Part of the “crisis” was that King Vajiralongkorn, because of his checkered past and odd personality could not have the same palace propaganda that had made his father’s benign, deified image, even when the reality of his reign was quite different.

The period since Vajiralongkorn came to the throne have shown that for all of his personal foibles and the great fear associated with his erratic and narcissistic behavior, for the palace propaganda machine, nothing much has changed. The monarch is promoted using familiar and what the palace (and junta) considers tried and true methods.

These comments are prompted by a Bangkok Post story that has the junta “urging the public to wear a yellow shirt bearing the royal emblem of … the King from April until July as part of nationwide celebrations of the royal coronation in May.”

This yellow shirt wearing gimmick was really only widely adopted around the time of the dead king’s 60th jubilee which coincided with agitation against Thaksin Shinawatra. Yellow shirts became a symbol of loyalty and was taken up by the People’s Alliance for Democracy as it marked its territory as monarchists.

Even some who were to become red shirts donned loyalist yellow shirts.

When the military coup came in 2006, the troops marked themselves as loyalists by using yellow ribbons.

More recently, we have seen the creation of “royal volunteers for the king,” all of them decked out a loyalist uniform associated with the current king.

It was Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, speaking “after a second meeting of the government’s committee responsible for handling procedures for the ceremony” who revealed that the Prime Minister’s Office (The Dictators Office) “will issue a design prototype of the royal emblem for the yellow shirt.”

That design has already been approved by the king but the “committee is now waiting for a letter from the [Royal Householf B]ureau to confirm details of the design so it can be used as the official logo for the ceremony…”. Only that emblem will be permitted to be used.

That emblem will be reproduced in millions and will blanket the country and suffocate its people. Nothing much has changed. And, the events and displays of loyalty play into the junta’s political hands.

Election (probably) delayed III

5 01 2019

The Bangkok Post states that this is the “timeline set out at a joint meeting between the National Council for Peace and Order and [some] political parties on Dec 7 last year”:

  • Jan 2: Government announces royal decree for election to be held. Parties officially start campaigns. (This did not happen)
  • Jan 4: EC [Election Commission] announces the election date, number of MPs, constituencies and MP application locations.
  • Jan 14-18: MP applications take place. Parties release names of their prime ministerial candidates.
  • Jan 25: Qualified party-list and constituency MP candidates announced
  • Feb 4-16: Overseas voting held
  • Feb 17: Advanced voting held
  • Feb 24: General election held
  • April 25: Last day official voting results must be announced (not less than 95%)
  • May 9: Parliament convenes. Prime minister elected, cabinet formed, existing cabinet and NCPO relieved of duty, new government delivers policy statement within 15 days

In response to the military junta’s plan to delay the election without taking responsibility for the delay, the EC says “it will set the election date only after the government formally issues the royal decree on elections.”

The royal decree, scheduled for 2 January, is still not out.

Wissanu Krea-ngam said “the government had asked the EC to reconsider the election date by taking into account the royal ceremony.” He means coronation.

Shawn Crispin at Asia Times states:

The government was expected to issue a royal decree on January 2 that would have effectively made the February 24 date official, but hesitated when the royal palace announced on New Year’s Day that the coronation would be staged between May 4-6.

Like PPT, Crispin tends to blame the junta for yet another delay, seeing this as an outcome of fear that its devil party, Palang Pracharath, will not do well enough in a poll:

… one military insider with connections at the Internal Security Operation Command, a military spy agency, claims its polling has consistently showed, including as recently as two months ago, that Peua Thai will resoundingly win any free and fair election.

Not that a junta election can be free or fair.

But if the coronation really is a problem, why does the commentary not criticize the monarch for choosing a date that screws up elections?Why can’t the “constitutional monarch” be told to change the date of his coronation?

Well, we know why. It is because not a word of criticism or direction is permitted.

But really, the king has had plenty of time to choose a date and he and his Royal Household Bureau have known the proposed election schedule for a while, having had the draft royal decree on the election in hand for some time.

So why choose a date that screws all that up?

The answer might be that his astrologers just couldn’t find another auspicious date. But that seems as unlikely. Or it could be that he is working with the junta to delay the “election.”

Whatever the reason, this shamozzle of choosing of a date and announcing it just one day before the royal decree on the election was due tells us quite a lot about the king and his reign.

The king is egotistical. He’s chosen a coronation date that suits him and he cares little for anything or anyone else, least of all the Thai people. Of course, he’d think he’s the center of the Thai universe. That’s what he’s been told by  royalists and his family since for decades.

It also tells us that he cares little for constitutions and constitutional constraints on the monarchy. His aggrandizement of himself as monarch, as explained by The Economist, points to this.

So if the EC is growing something that might look a little like a spine, it must face down junta and monarch. That seems unlikely.

Judiciary hopeless on royals

2 01 2019

Prachatai reports on a lese majeste case that began life in 2012 and where a final decision has been handed down by the Supreme Court.

It was claimed that on 26 October 2012 Anan (family name withheld), now aged 70, defamed Princess Sirindhorn and Princess Soamsawali in Pathum Thani Province. He was eventually charged under Article 112. The defendant denied the accusations.

When the accusation was investigated in 2012, no charge was filed. However, following the 2014 coup, prosecutors were ordered to trawl over previous 112 cases, and Anan’s was taken to court after a “committee of the Royal Thai Police ordered that the case be prosecuted and the officer who did not file charges be subject to disciplinary punishment.”

The first verdict was given on 29 September 2016. It was complicated. The court found Anan committed the acts he was prosecuted for. However, the court, having advice from the Royal Household Bureau, ruled that Article 112 did not cover Sirindhorn and Soamsawali.

Thus, unable to convict Anan under the lese majeste verdict, the court itself cobbled together a conviction, reasoning that the defendant defamed Sirindhorn and Soamsawali. Despite the fact that neither of the two royals had lodged a defamation complaint, the court “found the defendant guilty of violating of Article 326 of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to 1 year in prison for each offence, totalling 2 years.”

In other words, Anan was convicted of a crime for which he had not been charged, which had not been investigated and for which he was not tried.

An Appeals Court considered Anan’s appeal and issued its verdict on 20 May 2017. The article doesn’t clearly state the outcome but it appears that it found for the defendant, presumably leading to a prosecution appeal to the Supreme Court.

On 27 December 2018, the Thanyaburi Provincial Court read the Supreme Court’s verdict. It “found Anan guilty on 2 charges of personal defamation, and sentenced him to 1 year in prison for each offence, suspended for 3 years, and a fine of 20,000 baht for each offence.”

Defense lawyer Thitiphong Sisaen made the following observations:

1) The Supreme Court has set a standard for defamation cases (Article 326). Even if the victim does not file a complaint, if there is an investigation into the offence, the prosecutor may file a lawsuit….

2) The Supreme Court referred to the 2017 Constitution as the criterion for the legitimacy of the investigation (the state has the duty to protect and preserve the monarchy and national security), but this case occurred in 2012 and the charges were filed in 2015. This means the Supreme Court has set down a new legal principle, stating that laws are effective retrospectively in order to punish the accused.

When it comes to royals, the judiciary is simply hopeless, makes stuff up and promotes injustice.

Updated: Things that make you go, hmm

15 12 2018

There’s a lot going on, so this is a catch-up on a few media stories worth considering. And these are all from the Bangkok Post!:

Watana gets off: The Criminal Court has found Puea Thai politician and junta critic Watana Muangsook not guilty in a quite ridiculous charge related to comments he made about the vandalism associated with the stealing of the 1932 plaque from the Royal Plaza.

The court said Watana’s comments:

were opinions that could not be deemed a computer crime. They posed no threat to security…. The court said his messages could be considered in the context of academic freedom and his criticism of authorities did not reflect ill intent.

The ridiculousness of the charge is that the junta has never done anything to find those responsible for stealing the plaque and replacing it with a royalist plaque that could easily have been composed in the palace. Of course, the authorities have done nothing because they know exactly who ordered its removal and replacement.

EC makes false promises: By now readers know that we think the Election Commission is totally compromised. So a promise to be clear about the election is simply impossible. Where it is closer to the truth it is in stating: “This is all about establishing credibility by generating information that is reliable and correct for the international community.” What EC president Ittiporn Boonpracong might have said was that the EC’s job is establishing credibility for the junta’s election by generating information that obfuscates. After all, that’s its track record to date. That impression of the EC’s bias is reinforced when Ittiporn mumbles that “foreign envoys did not appear to have any concerns about predictions by some critics of that the poll would be ‘less than free and fair’.” Of course, no one expects a free or fair election. Even the Bangkok Post has been forced to question the EC’s “independence” and “credibility.” Is the EC’s task just to give “credibility” to the junta’s rigged election?

Parliament has no home: The parliament building has been closed and will be given to the king. So the bureaucracy of the parliament and the puppet National Legislative Assembly is homeless. Why the Royal Household Bureau can’t wait for a few months is never explained by the fearful Thai media. Consider the fact that the NLA seems to have been caught unaware by this move and has only just begun to look for a expensive, temporary home. Why’s that?

The Eel jailed: The exceptionally slippery Tharit Pengdit and Suthep Thaugsuban used to be tight, at least when Suthep was managing the crushing of the red shirts. They later fell out and became enemies as DSI led investigations into Suthep’s role in the gunning down of protesters. The enmity was further deepened when Suthep accused Tharit of defamation in February 2013. This had to do with corruption over police buildings under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. In two court cases in 2015 and 2016, Tarit was found not guilty. Suthep appealed to the Supreme Court. So the question is why Tarit suddenly decided to plead “guilty” before the case was concluded and why is he now jailed for a year. That makes you think.

Guess who?: In a two horse race between consortia of some of the biggest and best-connected Sino-Thai tycoons for the contract to build a high-speed railway connecting three major airports, the one led by CP has won. As well as winning, they get a state subsidy of almost 120 billion baht. Makes you wonder how rich the richest non-royals can get.

Update: The authorities have assured Thailand that CP didn’t “win” the bid for the HSR. They just had the lowest bid and negotiations are now needed with the CP consortium in order to determine whether they will win. Funny way to do tendering, but we are willing to bet on the outcome, as we were before the two bids were opened.

More land for the king’s pleasure

6 12 2018

Khaosod reported that the “House of Parliament will close its doors for good New Year’s Eve as part of a plan to relocate the legislative seat of power to a new riverside location,…”.

This claim was made by deputy National Legislative Assembly speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai and it is, frankly, very short on truth. We say this because it is simply ludicrous to think that anyone, even in the junta’s dumbed down administration, would plan to close the parliament building before the new building is completed. But that is what the disingenuous Surachai would have people believe.

We did think that this move shows the disdain the military junta has for parliament. After all, it populates it with puppets, so who really needs a parliament house.

But then, when it is considered that the NLA  must now “rent conference halls for sessions to be held after the current building shutters,” we got to wondering when it was stated:

The parliament in Dusit district opened in 1974 as Thailand’s second legislative assembly building. Parliament meetings were previously held in Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall and, very briefly, at the Royal Turf Club Racecourse.

Future plans for the location of the old building have yet to be announced.

We know that the former Throne Hall, the racecourse and the zoo have been accumulated by the palace, so we assumed that this was another land grab by the palace.

And so it has been. The Bangkok Post reports that “the land where the current Parliament House is situated is scheduled to be returned to the Royal Household Bureau by the end of this year…”. Apparently the palace is so desperately keen to regain the site that no extension can be considered.

This move shows the disdain the monarchy has for parliament, anything connected with 1932, and its desperation to grab back huge swathes valuable property, creating an enormous palace precinct. While the palace’s plans for the property are unknown, we suspect a huge palace will eventually be constructed.

It seems no one in Thailand is brave enough to challenge these royal land grabs.