Military traffic

23 07 2017

There are several stories going around that congratulate the military regime for finally managing to get some of the bigger human traffickers into court and having them convicted with long sentences.

The regime has attempted to get its “ranking” up in the annual U.S. report on human trafficking.

The Asia Times has some of the detail on the case that finally saw some of the bigger fish in what it calls a “brutal trade” brought to court. In all, of the 103 people charged, 62 people were convicted of human trafficking and other crimes.

The details of this gang of traffickers, led by officials, are grim. Correctly, the report notes that the “[c]amps set up by traffickers in the jungle on the Thai-Malaysian border to hold Rohingya and other ‘boat people’ existed for many years prior to government crackdown in mid-2015 that curtailed the brutal trade…”.

One estimate is “that more than 500 people died in the camps where the people in this particular trafficking chain were held, and that the camps were probably there for at least five years or more.”

The most senior official caught in this ring is “Lieutenant General Manas Kongpaen … who was sentenced to 27 years jail…”. As the report notes, it was Manas, then a Colonel, who “was involved in the notorious ‘pushbacks’ affair in December 2008 and January 2009, when vessels carrying hundreds of Rohingya were towed back into the Andaman Sea and set adrift.”

Remarkably, “Manas admitted using funds from the International Organization of Migration (IOM) to help pay for the ‘pushbacks’, which sparked a global furore, as hundreds were believed to have died at sea.”

At the time, during the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration, the government vehemently denied a push-back policy and ignored the rise of human trafficking gangs. Manas was promoted two ranks after this time. Manas was widely reported and defended his actions. The BBC noted that Manas was “the regional commander of the Internal Security Operations Command.” That report added that he was also “one of three officers blamed by a Thai court for a massacre of Muslims five years ago.”

The IOM is now “investigating whether Lt-Gen Manas … could have diverted any money from IOM humanitarian projects and used it to fund a criminal operation to tow boats out to sea.” It is also possible he used funds from IOM and, more likely, from the state for funding his own camps.

The report also reminds readers that journalists and Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison who documented human trafficking were challenged by the Royal Thai Navy who brought a defamation case against them.

The pressure to cover-up was huge, with one senior policeman decamping to Australia and never returning.

At the time, the Army and The Dictator declared “none of its officers are directly linked to the illegal activities.” The police admitted they were afraid to go after Manas.

As Morison explained, “Everyone knew about it. And few people thought it was wrong. We were shown big houses in Ranong and Kuraburi, where locals claimed they were constructed from the proceeds of trafficking.”

One big shot in jail does not change the system of exploitation and corruption. Recall the Saudi gems heist saw senior police jailed yet the police have remained a corrupt organization.

Official cover-up II

28 10 2015

Is it just PPT reading the media and thinking that the official cover-up of the death in military custody of lese majeste suspect Prakrom Warunprapha is being justified by the fact that he is accused of that crime?

It seems to us that the deliberate leaks of information on the lese majeste cases that involved three men is only about Prakrom. Because he died while in military custody, the cover-up is that he really was a bad guy and somehow this justifies his unusual death. In a sense, he deserved to die. It may be that lese majeste justifies murder.

This is pretty horrible stuff, but par for the course for the increasingly horrid military dictatorship.

In order to make the murder/suicide/death in military custody and the lack of any serious investigation seem somehow palatable, at Khaosod it is reported that the lese majeste investigation into Prakrom Warunprapha’s demise now links him to “the disgraced former head of the Central Investigation Bureau, who was arrested for the same crime one year ago.”

They mean Pongpat Chayapan. We find this interesting, to say the least. Wasn’t all of Pongpat’s loot said to have been seized (if it was, in fact, Pongpat’s)? So how did it come to be with Prakrom? Was he holding the loot before it went back to its real “owner”?

If it was a case of Prakrom getting his hands on the loot, then he is stealing from someone, and has been made to pay. This is starting to look a little like the Saudi gems caper of a few years ago, where cops killed each other, murdered witnesses and claims were made about high-level people wearing the stolen gems. In that frenzy of greed and bloodshed, the body count eventually got into the 20s or 30s. As far as we know, the body count in the lese majeste caper is, so far, two.

The second body was an “assistant of Pongpat, Police Col. Akkarawuth Limrat, who reportedly jumped to his death last year after being rolled up in the scandal.”

Because the military dictatorship has censored news on this case, the Bangkok Post has a similar story. There, a list of supposedly ill-gotten gains is 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 who died after falling from a building. [Of course, this “fall” was never 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.

That’s a good haul. No one noticed this before? Or was he “protected”? It seems like the story being manufactured here is that Prakrom was a bad guy and was nasty to the monarchy so that he deserved to die. What next? No more show trials in military courts for lese majeste? Just heads on stakes in front of the palace.

Nasty, incompetent and rich

16 09 2015

PPT has noted several times that the police in Thailand are not only widely known to be massively corrupt and gang-like, but as especially incompetent in investigations.

Like the military, the police rely on beatings and torture for “confessions.” Alternatively, they cajole and assure “suspects” that a guilty plea will result in a lighter sentence than if they go to court with a not guilty plea.

In a system riddled with double standards, the rich and powerful can bribe and bring “influence” to bear. Even the poor are told that their relatives should scrape bribes together.

Police run protection rackets, engage in shakedowns and are involved with a myriad of illegal businesses, including people and drug smuggling. Police commanders get very rich.

When prosecutors take cases to court, the judicial system is so corrupt and incompetent that the conviction rate is remarkably high.

One of the more notorious cases is the remarkable Saudi gems saga, involving police in murder, theft and more.

This is a long introduction to a report at the Washington Post on the failures of regime and police on the Koh Tao murders. This story details how incompetent the police have been in “investigating” this crime. Some of this incompetence could, of course, be manufactured in order to protect the real culprits.

The reason we link to this story is because we remain skeptical about the police investigations on the Bangkok bombings. Both regime and police have made some quite bizarre claims. They have even rewarded themselves for the initial arrests.

Now the police seem to have arrested suspects and “located” suspects in several countries. After discounting notions that the cruel deportation of Uighurs to China by the regime could have been a motive in the bombings, the police now say,

… after weeks of studiously avoiding mention of a Uighur link, police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang said today the perpetrators had two motives for staging the 17 Aug. attack: the recent crackdown on human smuggling networks and the deportation of 109 Uighur refugees in July.

We have no idea if the new police story is any more accurate than their previous musings. However, if one of the reasons for the bombings was about human smuggling, then the next question has to be: which police or military commanders were involved?

Incompetent, brutal and with commanders who become very rich, the police are a disgraceful gang.

Ignorant misogynist

18 09 2014

PPT was about to post on Thailand’s great leader, The Dictator and General with sundry other high titles, Prayuth Chan-ocha and his misogynous claptrap of recent days, when Saksith Saiyasombut at Siam Voices wrote all we could say and more. Well, almost. As ever, PPT has something to add.

As Siam Voices explains it:

The murder of two British tourists on the southern Thai island of Koh Tao has raised questions about tourist safety in Thailand. [Two tourists] … were found dead on Monday morning half-naked and with severe wounds to their heads. Local police initially (without any substantial evidence) suspected migrant workers on the island of the crime, before turning their attention to a British backpacker, who was a roommate of one of the victims and another British man, who has been asked not to leave Thailand before the investigation is complete.

As usual, Thailand’s incompetent cops have made a mess of what should be professional police work. Thailand’s police are mostly bumbling and unprofessional, more used to shaking down criminals and taking bribes than in anything like the investigation of crime. One of the best examples of this is the Saudi gems scandal. In this case, the other usual incompetence is displayed by the media.

Yet this usual incompetence and unprofessional behavior is topped by the crass misogyny of the country’s leader, boss, prime minister and dictator. His first comment was disturbing:

I have been following this matter very closely,” Gen. Prayuth told reporters as he arrived at Government House this morning. “We also have to look into the behavior of the other side [the tourists]. (…) This case should not have happened in Thailand at all. I think it will affect foreign opinion of our country.

His second comment was even worse:

There are always problems with tourist safety. They think our country is beautiful and is safe so they can do whatever they want, they can wear bikinis and walk everywhere,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is also the army chief, told government officials. But “can they be safe in bikinis… unless they are not beautiful?” he said, addressing the issue of tourist safety in a speech broadcast live on television.

Blaming the victims and being misogynist is a trait of Thailand’s ruling elite. When he was deputy premier, the anti-democrat leader Suthep Thaugsuban blamed red shirt protesters for being killed by the Army. His view was that they ran in front of bullets. Misogynist rants were common at the elite-dominated anti-democrat rallies. In this context, Prayuth is speaking in exactly the same terms that much of Thailand’s elite does.

Lese majeste convict released

30 01 2014

Prachatai reports on the release of a Saudi Arabian lese majeste convict “Ibrahim A.,” who was freed “last week after receiving a royal pardon.” This is a case PPT had heard of but had not had a source to post from.

Prachatai says that he “was sentenced to two years in jail for posting rumours about the king’s health on an investors’ webboard in August 2010.”

Ibrahim, who is 42, and his family face a bleak future. The authorities are now about to deport him and blacklist him, leaving his wife and son in Thailand. She says the “fragile ties between Thailand and Saudi Arabia [due to the unresolved Saudi gems and murders cases], it will be nearly impossible for his wife to register their marriage certificate and stay with him in the Middle Eastern country…”.

His wife observes: “It seems unfair. We have to separate even though the crime he committed didn’t kill anybody. He didn’t mean it. The King has given him a royal pardon already, but still the Immigration law [demands that he leave.]”

Ibrahim was previously an investor, and when he posted on an investors’ web forum at a securities company,  the company filed a police complaint.

The Court of First Instance in March 2012 found Ibrahim guilty under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, or lèse majesté law, and Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act, and sentenced him to two years in prison. The Appeal Court in August 2013 affirmed the decision and did not grant him bail. He and his family then decided to request a royal pardon. He was granted the pardon on January 22, 2014. He was released, but later detained in the care of the Immigration Police. He is now released on bail.

Prachatai adds: “There are at least two other lèse majesté cases involving rumours about the king’s health.”

The punishment for lese majeste never ceases. All of this for some speculation on the health of an aged and sick monarch. Not only is the lese majeste law unjust and draconian, it is implemented in pathetic ways by hopeless toadies.

Anti-monarchy graffiti and royal wealth I

18 10 2013

Regular readers will know that PPT sometimes has writers who have been off trawling academic papers. Yesterday, our post included a link to a paper on populism. It was while looking for this paper that PPT came across an article that we are sure will be of considerable interest. “Working Towards the Monarchy and its Discontents: Anti-royal Graffiti in Downtown Bangkok,” is authored by Serhat Ünaldi of the Department of Southeast Asian Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. It is available (for a fee, free to subscribers or through universities that subscribe) at the Journal of Contemporary Asia.

PPT has posted on another article by the same author, on a related topic, here.

The latest article is surely about anti-royal graffiti but it is also about much more. Below we include excerpts so that readers can get a feel for the article, where the abstract states:

This article examines the desacralisation of royal charisma in contemporary Thailand. Over the past few years an underground discourse has emerged among critics of royal ideology and supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra that directly confronts the power of the monarchy. The images, metaphors and linguistic devices used in the process are difficult to study because they rarely appear in public. This article focuses on an unprecedented demonstration of rage against the monarchy on September 19, 2010, when red-shirted demonstrators painted anti-royal graffiti on a construction hoarding at Ratchaprasong intersection in downtown Bangkok. In analysing the Thai political crisis as a battle of different charismatic groups, the article will present the September 19 event as the first open strike against the sacred charisma of the Thai monarchy. This charisma has hitherto been protected by royalists from all walks of life who were “working towards the monarchy.” With their attacks on the monarchy the red-shirts were challenging a legitimacy-conferring system which had benefited wide sections of the Bangkok populace in the past. At the same time, a competing charismatic movement has emerged around Thaksin, who himself has to take into account the charisma he conferred upon his followers.

We felt the charisma and Max Weber stuff was overdone in the article but we understand that academics are looking for the theoretical angle. Yet we found the empirics far more interesting. The first couple of sentences set the scene:

The spread of anti-royal graffiti in downtown Bangkok on September 19, 2010 was a watershed moment in recent Thai history that has remained almost unnoticed in analyses of the country’s political crisis. On that day, thousands of protesters donning red shirts gathered at Ratchaprasong intersection in central Bangkok. The rally took place in commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the 2006 coup against then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (p. 1).

PPT’s post from that day in 2010 may still be of some interest. What is certainly of interest is the focus in this new article on the anti-monarchy graffiti of that day and the analysis the author does of the ownership of the Rajaprasong area. On the latter, this is interesting:

The space examined here is a major part of downtown Bangkok…. Based on land ownership the area can be divided into two. The western part is privately owned by Princess Sirindhorn who, as the landlord, earns the income generated from property rents directly. The eastern section is owned by the Crown Property Bureau (CPB) which manages the assets of the monarchy as an institution but whose generated income is “paid at the King’s pleasure” (p. 8).

As few researchers have ever dared publish on the private assets of the royals, this account is interesting. We will save this detail for another post and here concentrate on the graffiti. Of this, Ünaldi states (p. 15):

For the purpose of this study a sample of 63 graffiti items were assembled, 51 of which appeared on September 19, 2010 on the construction fence at Ratchaprasong intersection, four at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument during a protest on October 10, 2010, and three, and five, respectively, during gatherings on November 19 and December 19, 2010.

Some of the messages from the graffiti are worth repeating, reflecting a “ta sawang/awakening” moment (p. 17):

The use of the word fa was not limited to this one graffiti but occurred frequently: fa ta diaw (one-eyed sky); fa bo kan (the sky is no barrier, …); mueng mai chai fa mang khue ma thi nasomphet (you are not the sky, [but] more likely a pathetic dog); hia sang kha fa mai mi ta phro fa ta bot (the “monitor lizard” ordered the killings – the sky has no eyes because the sky is blind). Like hia, ma (dog) is one of the strongest insults in the Thai language.

More attacks on the monarchy related to ownership, stewardship and sufficiency (p. 18):

“the country does not progress because there are no good people. Bad people were taken to rule the land because heaven has no eyes, because the eyes are blind. [They] see damn animals [ai sat] as good people. I ask for real, you damn blind man [ai bot],when will you die?” Some red shirts were aware that their protest site was owned by the monarchy and suspected this to be the reason for their violent expulsion from the area in May: thi khong khot pho-mae mueng rue thueng ma kho khuen phuen-thi (Does the area belong to your ancestors so that you demand it back?). By painting some graffiti on the asphalt of the street the red shirts marked Ratchaprasong as their territory: ku khoey non yu thi ni [I once slept here]. Other street artists took issue with the king’s sufficiency economy: kha daeng yang pho-phiang (killed enough/sufficient red [shirts]); pho-phiang tae ku yang mai pho kin (sufficiency but I didn’t have enough to eat). To this commentator, the idea of sufficiency seemed to sound cynical given his or her own struggle for survival. Next to the official sign for the sufficiency economy on the fence at Ratchaprasong one red shirt commented ironically: pho-phiang ko mai tong tham bai (sufficiency, so don’t produce a poster). These comments were probably the strongest signal of the breakdown of royal charisma: The king was no longer seen as benefiting the people and his “sufficiency economy” model was debunked.

Queen Sirikit was a target for graffiti (p. 19):

Red-shirts poked fun at her weight, her makeup and rumours about her involvement in the disappearance of the “Blue Diamond,” a gem which was stolen in 1989 from the Saudi Arabian royal family. Several items depicted the queen as a blue whale, hiding a gemstone in her mouth. Next to one such painting someone had written: Sa-u ha phet mai joe khrai ru bang (the Saudis are looking in vain for a diamond. Who knows anything?). Another graffiti mimicked the prohibition signs on the fence and depicted a crossed out whale, adding khet plot pla-wan (whale-free area). Someone else had written: Ai bot kap i pla-wan jombongkan tua jing (The damn blind man and the damn whale woman are the real dictators).

This is certainly a paper worth reading. In our next post we will look at what this paper says about property and royal wealth.

The curse of the blue diamond

11 03 2011

Aftenposten in Norway has a Wikileak that is about the long-running Saudi gems case in Thailand.

For earlier PPT posts on the case, see herehere and here.

There is not a lot to this leak other than allegations (highlighted below) and reports from the media summarized. What is relatively new is the claim from the current Abhisit Vejjajiva government that the murder of Saudis in Bangkok is related to a feud with Hezbolah. Let’s see if any evidence of that emerges. See Bangkok Pundit’s account also.




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Classified By: DCM James F. Entwistle, Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (SBU) Summary: In the latest chapter of a two decade-long saga which has long soured Thai-Saudi relations, the Royal Thai Government (RTG) Office of the Attorney General on January 12 indicted five police officers in connection with the 1990 murder of a Saudi Arabian businessman with family ties to the Saudi royal family, just weeks before the expiration of the 20-year statute of limitations. In 1989, a Thai worker in the Saudi Arabian royal palace stole a large quantity of jewelry and smuggled it back to Thailand, including a 50-carat blue diamond. The graft, murders, and kidnappings that followed this incident resulted in a rift in the Saudi-Thai relationship that has lasted to the present day, compounded by the murder of four Saudi diplomats in 1989-1990 in circumstances never clearly explained publicly. In their effort to respond to Saudi demands for justice, the RTG seeks to hold senior members of the Royal Thai Police (RTP) accountable for their part in the drama and, in doing so, normalize relations with Saudi Arabia and possibly reap economic benefits through expanded trade and investment with gulf states.

2. (C) Comment: Tales of intrigue, theft, kidnapping, murder, police misconduct, economic interests, and sectarian feuds, mixed in with possible ties to royal families in two kingdoms, are rich material for writers and conspiracy theorists, but not always conducive to effective and transparent investigation, let alone justice. The Thai media has persisted in mixing up the strands of the jewelry theft story with the separate story of the Saudi diplomat murders, which almost certainly were part of a Saudi feud with Hezbollah. Even linkages between the initial 1989 jewelry theft and later murders of the Saudi businessman in 1990 and family mem3e=[!zntability in Thailand for crimes committed by those in authority, in this case the police. The moves could also help normalize Thai-Saudi relations, but may not be enough. According to the Saudi Charge to Thailand, King Abdullah assured him that he would elevate the Charge to Ambassador — thereby restoring normal diplomatic ties between the two countries — provided the Charge could make progress on the businessman murder and jewelry theft cases. At the moment, there is progress on the former, but not on the latter. END SUMMARY AND COMMENT


4. (SBU) In 1989, Kriangkrai Techamong, a Thai working in the palace of Prince Faisal (son of then-King Fahd) in Riyadh, stole an estimated 200 pounds of jewelry worth approximately $20 million from the palace and smuggled it back into Thailand. Among the jewels was a 50-carat blue diamond, a prized possession of the Saudi royal family. Kriangkrai was ultimately convicted of theft in Thailand in 1990, and received a five-year sentence (he served almost three, before being released in 1994).

5. (SBU) In the course of the investigation of the theft, sale, and dispersal of the jewelry, the wife and child of Santi Sithanakhan, a jewel trader involved in the case, were kidnapped, held hostage, and ultimately killed in 1994. The Bangkok Criminal Court found a group led by Royal Thai Police (RTP) officers guilty in 2002; the police allegedly kidnapped the family members in order to pressure Santi to reveal information about what happened to the jewels. The police gang had demanded a ransom of several million baht but killed the hostages after receiving the ransom payment to cover up

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their illicit behavior.

6. (SBU) During the subsequent prosecution of the kidnappers, two judges, one from the appeals court and one from the supreme court, attempted to extort millions of baht from the ringleader of the kidnapping plot, RTP Lieutenant General Chalo Koetthet. Both judges were charged with corruption and fired in 2001. After the original 2002 conviction was appealed, the Appeals Court implemented much stricter sentencing in 2004, including a death sentence for the ringleader, LTG Chalo. The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence in October 2009, as well as sentences of varying degrees of severity for the accomplices. While some of the defendants have been acquitted, or had the charges dismissed against them as the case worked its way through the judicial system, at least one of the accused has died in prison. Many superstitious Thai citizens theorized that the Blue Diamond was cursed.


7. (SBU) In February 1990, another presumed victim in this tangle of intrigue, Saudi Arabian businessman Mohammad Al-Ruwaily, went missing in Thailand. A group of policemen, led by now RTP Lieutenant General Somkhit Boonthanom, were initially arrested in the Al-Ruwaily case, though the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) dismissed the case against them. In 2009, the Abhisit government directed the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) to reopen the investigation, and on January 12 DSI and the OAG announced the indictments of five police officers, including LTG Somkhit, on abduction and murder charges, for beating and killing Al-Ruwaily.

8. (C) Saudi Arabian Charge to Thailand Nabil Ashri told the Naval Attache at a January 27 dinner that he had been personally instructed by Saudi Arabian King Abdullah to make progress on the Al-Ruwaily case, as well as the jewelry theft. According to Nabil, during an audience with King Abdullah, the King had assured him that he would “make him an Ambassador if he made progress on this.”


9. (C) Even before the jewelry theft and dispersal was devolving into a morass of corruption, extortion and murder, a Saudi Arabian diplomat was killed in Bangkok in January 1989; and another three were killed in February 1990, close in time to the Al-Ruwaily murder. Thai authorities initially arrested Thai Muslim businessmen and charged them with the diplomat murders, only to have the Supreme Court dismiss the charges against the defendants. In the 20 years since, Thai media have routinely conflated the jewelry theft case story lines with the four diplomat murders, though a January 16 Bangkok Post expose on the tangled tale of Thai-Saudi relations did mention that the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) “has now concluded the murder of the diplomats was linked to sectarian disputes.”

10. (C) During a January 15 lunch with visiting Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro, Dr. Panitan Wattanayagorn, Deputy Secretary General for Prime Minister Abhisit and Acting RTG Spokesman, was more emphatic in delinking the various Saudi-Thai cases. Panitan stated that it was commonly accepted by Thai security and intelligence officials that the four Saudi diplomats had been killed by Hezbollah, supposedly in retribution for bungled attempts by the Saudi government to assassinate Hezbollah operatives. Panitan said there was no clear reason why this information had not been made public in the face of media confusion, other than that the RTG had been cautious about the association with Hezbollah and Iran.

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11. (SBU) The January 12 indictments triggered positive responses from both human rights advocates and the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. Veteran human rights attorney Thongbai Thongpao, who successfully represented both defendants in the Saudi diplomat killings cases, told us he believes that this indictment will encourage the RTP to respect better the rule of law. Despite the lengthy period of inaction on the case, he emphasized to us that it was standard operating procedure to reopen proceedings if new evidence or witnesses emerged. Similarly, human rights lawyer Wibun Ingkhakun told us he believed that DSI and OAG had discovered sufficient new evidence to revive the case. While he did not see a hidden domestic political agenda behind the indictments, he did acknowledge to us the role played by Saudi Arabian pressure.

12. (SBU) A press release from the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Bangkok praised the RTG efforts and stated that Saudi Arabia “has been waiting for this day for almost 20 years.” While enthusiastic in tone, it sounded a cautious note, in expressing “hope that Thai authorities will maintain these efforts and momentum on the two other cases which are equally important.”

13. (C) However, Suepsakul Common, MFA Director in the Department of Middle East and African Affairs (and previously a Saudi Arabia desk officer for six years) told us that despite the press release, the Mohammad Al-Ruwaily case was the only truly pending case. While there has been no conviction in the cases of the murdered diplomats, he believed both nations agree that those murders were the result of “conflict in the Middle East” and not a result of Thai actions. Therefore, while the Saudis want Thai authorities to continue to gather evidence in these cases, they recognize the complications that the RTG faces in doing so, according to Suepsakul.


14. (C) Panitan from the PMs office emphasized the importance of resolving the Saudi businessman murder case to Thailands strategy of economic recovery through targeting new markets for Thai agricultural products and labor and sources of investment, including the Gulf States. Panitan said that PM Abhisit had visited Qatar; Bahrain and the U.A.E. were also on Thailands radar, but the key to better relations with all the Gulf states would be fixing the relationship with Saudi Arabia.

15. (C) Prior to the jewelry theft and its aftermath, more than 250,000 Thai workers sent remittances back from Saudi Arabia to Thailand, and Saudi tourists flocked to Thailand, Panitan noted. Afterwards, the Saudi government sent most of the workers home, and restricted the ability of Saudis to travel to Thailand, cutting tourism by 80 percent. Sarasin Viraphong, Executive Vice President of the CP Group, Thailands largest multi-national, also present at the January 15 lunch with A/S Shapiro, confirmed that whenever he needed to travel to Saudi Arabia, the approval process took six weeks – facing a longer wait than any for other country his business executive colleagues visited world-wide.

16. (C) In describing the “new beginning” for the two nations, which would commence with a reopened dialogue with Saudi Arabia, MFA Director Suepsakul insisted that the possible benefits would go beyond increased Saudi tourism to Thailand, new markets in crude oil and gas, or the influx of Thai laborers back to Saudi Arabia. More importantly, better relations with Saudi Arabia could result in better relations

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with the Muslim world and, in particular, Thai Muslims.


17. (C) Although Thai authorities recovered some of the stolen jewelry, the package returned to Saudi Arabia in March 1990 contained a number of pieces that proved to be fake, including the Blue Diamond. According to the MFA, about 50 percent of the jewels were recovered and returned to the Saudi royal family; some media reports say that as much as 80 percent of the returned jewelry was fake. Soon after the incident, some wives of Thai elites, particularly police commissioners and generals, were photographed wearing jewelry strongly resembling the stolen Saudi jewels at various official or high-society events. While the Blue Diamond itself had been spotted several times on the wife of a police general in the 1990s, since the 2006 coup a number of anti-monarchy web boards and activists have alleged that the most recent sighting of the Blue Diamond was on Queen Sirikit. Where exactly the Blue Diamond is may well remain a mystery, even if the 20 year trail of death which followed it is ultimately resolved. JOHN

Saudi gems appear from nowhere

6 01 2011

Readers may remember a couple of posts PPT had last year on the resurgence of interest in the so-called Saudi gems and murders saga. Those posts are here, here and here.

We urge readers to go back to those posts and this story for a perspective on the sudden announcement, carried in the Bangkok Post that the Department of Special Investigation “has found five more items of jewellery believed to have been stolen from the Saudi Arabian royal family in 1989 by a Thai worker. The DSI did not disclose where its officials recovered the missing jewellery.”

Another mystery associated with the DSI!? A DSI official added to this by calling on “anyone in possession of the stolen jewellery to return it to the DSI and not to worry about legal action being taken against them because the statute of limitations in the case had expired.” In other words, give them back after 22 years and tehre will not be any charges. But what of the alleged murders, said to be “[f]ive serving and former police…”?

One rumor is that the suddenly appearing jewels might include the massive blue diamond, long rumored to have been with a very high and influential family. We wonder?

Updated: The Saudi gems and murder saga goes on and on

22 09 2010

Readers will have no doubt read of (if not hearing the huge sighs of relief from Government House) the report that controversial cop Police Lt Gen Somkid Boonthanom has declined to accept the Abhsiit Vejjajiva government’s remarkably stupid promotion of the alleged criminal.

For those keen to have a shortish summary of the two decade saga and the involvement of the Thai elite in this whole sorry tale, see Andrew Marshall’s blog at Reuters. The only thing missing is any details of the rumors of royals getting their hands on the missing gems. PPT doesn’t know if there is any truth in such rumors, but their existence is reason enough for some consideration. As everyone says, there’s a movie in this story of crime, corruption and the elite.

Update: Readers should also see Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban’s letter to the Saudia Arabian Embassy here.

Saudi gems, multiple murders, a police general and a royal pardon

19 09 2010

Just when most would have guessed that the argument between Abhisit Vejjajiva’s and the Saudi Arabian government over the 2 decades old gems thefts and multiple murders might have been waning, it has exploded again. Fittingly, it has a royal connection which might just explain why Abhisit and his foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, have appeared like a couple of bumbling stooges in recent media outings on this topic.

In a report in The Nation, Prime Minister Abhsiit and Kasit are said to have met with Saudi Charge d’ Affaires Nabil Hussein Ashri with the aim of explaining the promotion of Police Major-General Somkid Boonthanom to the post of assistant police chief.

Here’s the really interesting point made by Abhisit: he said he “explained to the Saudi envoy that Somkid had received clemency under the law to grant clemency to clear record of wrongdoings on the occasion of His Majesty the King turning 80 years old in 2007.” A Bangkok Post reports adds that the “amnesty does not pertain to criminal matters.”

Abhisit seems to have decided that the Saudi diplomat had insufficient information. PPT wonders whose fault that is? Surely the fault lies with the Thai side, given that the Saudi government has sought information for 20 years. Indeed, the Saudi envoy makes this point in a statement in The Nation, expressing “astonishment” at the way he was treated by Abhisit. He added: “I strongly object to comments made by Thai officials to the public claiming my misunderstanding or ‘ill-information’ of local issues and laws regarding the promotion of Pol. Maj. Gen. Somkid Boonthanom who is currently indicted in the case of the disappearance of a Saudi citizen and charged with murder, among other serious crimes, in the criminal court…”.

It just gets worse for Abhisit and his wholly incompetent foreign minister.

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