Making up

9 01 2016

Yesterday PPT post on the ongoing kerfuffle over ThaiHealth. In that post we noted that the junta’s attacks on the organization had something to do with shifting funds to the military dictatorship’s own projects and that there was a decided political dimension to the attacks. On the latter, we noted that some of the NGOs and foundations involved were clearly on the side of the junta, had supported the coups of 2006 and 2014 and thus were unlikely “opponents.” We guessed that the junta might be needling them for potentially being too liberal.

It seems we were wrong, and that the military dictatorship and its junta have quickly rectified their mistake and are quickly restoring funds to tame and royalist NGOs.

The Dictator has reportedly “ordered Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) to immediately release funds for projects based on the Pracha Rath or ‘state of the people’ concept, as funding-approval difficulties have caused many projects to be delayed.”

It seems that one of the key NGO bodies supporting the military junta’s Pracha Rath projects is the Local Development Institute, and General Prayuth Chan-ocha met with one of its yellow-hued leaders, medical doctor Poldej Pinprateeb to sort the matter out among political allies.

Poldej served the previous junta-appointed government led by palace flunkey and Privy Council member General Surayud  Chulanont.

LDI is an institute chock full of aging yellow shirts and military supporters, and is closely linked to royalist “liberal” Prawase Wasi and longtime academic and “development promoter” Saneh Chammarik. It has links to the Rural Doctor Foundation and ThaiPBS, which were also on the junta’s hit list at ThaiHealth. For more on this network, see the academic article here. (We can’t find a free copy.)

Poldej praised The Dictator: “I would like to applaud the PM for making swift decisions to tackle this problem and letting the Pracha Rath projects move forward again…”.

Updated: Men in Black and ambulances

31 12 2013

There have been two claims that have had considerable traction amongst anti-democracy movement leaders and supporters. PPT draws attention to both here, with brief comments.

The first is the release of an official letter by the Rural Doctors’ Society (ชมรมแพทย์ชนบท) at their Facebook page. In a move that was seen by some as a departure from their previous role as a pressure group, this well-known group recently gave its support to the anti-democracy movement. Its post is a criticism of the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health for ordering that rural-based ambulances not be brought to Bangkok over the new year period to assist in events associated with the protests. The order stated that this measure was taken because local hospitals should deal with road carnage during the new year break. The doctors’ group insists that this move is a revelation of the political bias of the Ministry higher-ups.

The Nation reports that by 30 December there had been a “total of 1,322 road accidents on the first three of the ‘seven dangerous days’ of the New Year holiday period claimed 161 lives and caused 1,390 injuries…”. A quick search of statistical databases did not reveal the number and allocation of ambulances, but did show that almost half (49.7%) of all medical personnel are located in Bangkok. We leave it to reader to decide if the doctors’ group and the anti-democracy movement are being reasonable.

The second story is of claims of Men in Black made by the anti-democracy movement. The declaration is that the policeman – Sgt Narong Pitisit – killed at the Thai-Japan Stadium last week was shot by mysterious MIB on the roof of the Ministry of Labor. Anti-democracy social media and several speakers on the anti-democracy stage have stated that the unfortunate policeman was shot from this location by the mysterious MIB.

Of course, this claim is meant to link to the 2010 events where MIB were claimed by the Abhisit-Suthep regime as being responsible for all deaths then, and the implication being that MIB were in the pay of Thaksin Shinawatra.

In relation to these claims, the first unofficial effort to judge the veracity of this claim has been made. While this is an effort by an amateur, it is a serious attempt to assess the events. The conclusions:

“That there were men dressed in black on top of the Labour Ministry isn’t in doubt.”

“… the mysterious figures in black appear to be no more than ordinary riot policemen, using tear gas launchers.”

“All we can say for certain at this stage is that the men on the Labour Ministry building had nothing to do with Narong’s shooting.”

Update: Somewhat belatedly, the police brass have acknowledged that the men on top of the Ministry of Labor were policemen. PPT isn’t sure why this is big news when the second story above is considered. Perhaps it is “big news” because Suthep Thaugsuban took it up. He said:

… the “men in black” who fired into the protest area from atop the Labour Ministry building were not civilians but well-trained officers.

“The men in black are certainly not a third hand. Civilians were not allowed to go up on the building because it was under police control.

“Take a look at the men in black operating and firing, people who have not been trained would be incapable of such tasks. Good civilians like us did not wear black on that day,” the former Democrat Party powerbroker and deputy premier told his supporters.

The purpose is propaganda. The claim that they were “firing” is meant to suggest live rounds and to exonerate protesters. The above report suggests otherwise.

Updated: Managing news?

18 08 2011

PPT admits to being confused about this report in the Bangkok Post, reproduced in part below:

Ruling party bribes’ email was ‘real’

Published: 18/08/2011 at 12:00 AM

The National Press Council of Thailand has concluded that an email message sent from a Pheu Thai Party spokesman that indicated the media was being managed by a political party was real.

However, it says it does not have the authority to seek further evidence to prove that any graft occurred.

A council subcommittee looking into the controversy released its findings yesterday, saying the message was probably sent from an email account belonging to Pheu Thai deputy spokesman Wim Roongwattanajinda.

Led by Dr Wichai Chokwiwat and Somkiat Tangkitvanich, the panel said it was convinced Mr Wim had written the email about money and benefits having been offered to seven journalists. They did not say how the panel had arrived at its conclusion.

We don’t have evidence that the journalists took bribes,” Dr Wichai said . “We don’t have clear evidence because we don’t have the legal power to investigate.”

Mr Wim did not appear before the panel.

The report said Pheu Thai probably had “managed” the media systematically, including running advertisements in certain newspapers, setting news agendas for those newspapers, and sending in party photos for publication….

Writer: Wassayos Ngamkham

At least the Post manages to have “real” in inverted commas in its account of the “outcome” of the “investigation”…. (see below) ….

For an account of the establishment of the “investigation,” see here. Note that Wichai is a former Chairman of the Rural Doctors Foundation, which has been actively associated with anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movements and Somkiat is vice-president of TDRI, a royalist bastion.

PPT can well imagine that certain parties did try to influence the media. After all, during the election campaign, the coverage of the Democrat Party by the Bangkok Post was largely uncritical and highly supportive. At the same time, this report appears to amount to little more than the long anti-Thaksin  National Press Council admitting that it has no evidence for the allegations made and which it decides to support despite that missing evidence. This report will soon shoot around the blogs (see here) as factual and will become part of the lore of the campaign to bring down the Puea Thai government.

PPT already sees a pattern emerging in the actions of the combined anti-Thaksin media, yellow-shirted political activists and, of course, the defeated and (we would have thought) humiliated Democrat Party. That pattern is very 2005-6 in its conception. We’ll have more on this in later posts.

Update: While considering political parties influencing the media, it is interesting to see how much the Bangkok Post has been reporting Abhisit Vejjajiva. Look at the quite silly article “explaining” how only Abhisit can save the Democrat Party a few days ago as just one example. Further, the Post has reactivated Korn Chatikavanij’s regular column. In this instance who’s influencing who?

Updating ISA and medical scam

15 10 2009

There has been a spate of interesting reports today on a range of subjects. In this post PPT updates two stories we have been following, the repeated use of the Internal Security Act and the corruption allegations involving the government’s stimulus package.

Internal Security Act overkill: In a recent post PPT asked why it was that the Internal Security Act was being used in Bangkok for a red shirt rally. We pointed out some inconsistencies. Now we are told that the Democrat Party-led government is deploying 18,000 security force personnel in Bangkok and a similar number in Hua Hin, where the ASEAN summit is located ( Bangkok Post, 15 October 2009: “Massive summit force gets nod”).

An earlier report in the Bangkok Post states that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban,” who is in charge of security affairs, was assigned to be director of the Bangkok peace-keeping command.” He said” 6,000 police, 10,000 soldiers and 2,000 civilian volunteers will be deployed … from Oct 15 to Oct 25 in the wake of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)’s plan to rally on Oct 17 and hold a no-confidence debate against the government outside parliament.”

“Civilian volunteers”? PPT wonders who this might be? Right-wing vigilantes  or something less threatening?

Suthep stated that “Attention will be given specially to Government House, parliament and Chitrlada Palace.”

That’s a total of 36,000 security personnel mobilized. Even leaving aside the questions of human rights and intimidation, this is clearly way, way more than would be reasonable for controlling a rally that the government estimates will be “about 10,000 people.”

The Post says this is to “ensure peace and order.” The government is not expecting the planned rally to be violent. So why this huge number of police and military? Is the government wasting money or does it have “intelligence reports”? Why are 2 security personnel required for each expected demonstrator?

PPT has no answers that we haven’t given before.However, this kind of mobilization is suspiciously large. If we were being really cynical and conspiratorial, we’d be tempted to link to an earlier post.

Corruption in MOPH procurement: The Nation (15 October 2009: “Witthaya’s new committee to study medical equipment scam”) reports that Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai has “decided to set up a new independent committee with members from outside the ministry, to probe irregularities in the procurement of medical equipment under the Bt86-billion Thai Khemkhaeng package.”

Witthaya said he “decided to set up the new independent committee after being criticised over an announcement yesterday – by the ministry’s fact finding committee led by Dr Seri Hongyok – that some senior health officials had been involved in the scandal.”

PPT wonders why an independent committee has taken so long to be established? We also observe that new committee will be led by former Bangkok senator and one-time but short-term police chief, Police General Pratin Santiprabhob. He was a leading anti-Thaksin critic prior to the coup and was a PAD supporter.  Stacking the committee, perhaps?

The Rural Doctors Society’s has expressed some reservations on this appointment and “questioned whether his relationship with the Democrat Party would influence his approach to the investigation.” It also criticized “the ministry’s announcement on October 13, revealing that a retired senior health official and senior health official were involved in the scandal, was not fair as politicians were also involved in the purchase irregularities.”

Pratin of course dismisses any allegation against him and potential favoritism. Yes, he “accepted he knew people among the Democrats as well as in other political parties.” He said: “Don’t question me about my work before you see the results of the investigation…”.

Sounds like a cover-up is planned.

Corruption allegations deepen

8 10 2009

PPT posted recently on the Ministry of Public Health scandal and the fact that the Rural Doctors Society were going to be formidable critics.

It seems that the Society has already named names (Bangkok Post, 8 October 2009: “Five coalition MPs named in medical scam”). The doctors reportedly accused “five government MPs and three public health officials of corruption in connection with the purchase of medical equipment and other supplies.”

The names of five Democrat and Bhum Jai Thai Party politicians and three officials were given to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. This places a considerable burden on the premier as it will be difficult for him to avoid scrutiny of his own claims regarding corruption and ministerial responsibility although the Society was not confident that the evidence would be sufficient.

But their lack of confidence seems to fly in the face of the ease with which the corruption has been uncovered. Even the MOPH claims that it has found evidence of “irregularities in the purchase of six medical equipment projects…”.

Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai should be in trouble but appears to be continuing to direct investigations into what is apparently widespread corruption.

This case will be  a serious test for Abhisit and his government.

Corruption in government

27 09 2009

Here’s a case to watch. The Nation (28 September 2009: “Public health ministry to set up factfinding committee”) reports that the government’s much-heralded “Thai Khemkaeng” (Strengthening Thailand) project is in trouble. This is the government’s headline recovery and stimulus program with almost 1.6 trillion baht to deliver, and with its very own website.

The Nation’s report states that Democrat Party Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai is about to launch an investigation into allegations of massive corruption said to be set to “siphon funds” from the] Bt9.3 bn scheme. As this comes several days after an earlier report of “possible” corruption, it seems that there must be sufficient evidence to warrant further investigation.

The allegations come from the Rural Doctors Foundation who are well-known and have considerable respect.

Witthaya reacted to the Foundation’s claim by promising an investigation: “The panel will be set up as soon as possible. I will invite Kriangsak Wacharanukulkiart, head of the Rural Doctors Society to join the panel because he is impartial and has a wide network of doctors in rural areas. He can help us find the truth from his network…”.

The Rural Doctors Society have been around for a while, having roots in the student movement of the 1970s and the post-CPT rural public health advocacy of the 1980s. It has been a politically-engaged NGO from the beginning, and was high-profile during the 1992 events, discussions about the 1997 Constitution and, while some members initially supported the Thai Rak Thai Party, it took to opposing Thaksin Shinawatra and some of its members took to the PAD stage.

Secretary-general of the Rural Doctors Foundation, Dr. Pongthep Wongwatcharapaibul “alleged that certain politicians had made preparations to buy unneeded equipment for public hospitals around the country at inflated prices.” He added, “This project lacked transparency from the beginning because hospitals were not asked what should or should not be procured and how much the items should be bought for.”

Pongthep called for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to appoint Dr. Banlu Siripanich, a former senior Public Health Ministry official, to investigate the alleged irregularities. Banlu “once headed a panel, which investigated alleged massive corruption of the procurements of the Public Health Ministry, resulting in the conviction of then public health minister Rakkiart Sukthana, who is now serving his jail term” (for some details, see here).

And, Pongthep seemed to point a finger at the Democrat Party when he said the “current case would be similar to the Rakkiart case except the public health minister is now a Democrat Party member. Rakkiart was then a minister in the Social Action Party.”

It seems unlikely that this case – with complaints from groups that should be Democrat Party allies – will be able to be kept quiet and out of the headlines, unlike the earlier case of corruption and nepotism in the Office for Sufficiency Economy Community Projects. That case seems to have all but disappeared now that it is run by palace cronies.

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