Secrets and miracles

16 03 2017

The news media has been quite taken up with the scramble among junta people – and their accusations flying back and forth – on the failure to levy any tax on the Shin Corp sale deal back in early 2006.

Part of the problem for the tax authorities was that a later grab for Thaksin Shinawatra’s assets. The authorities wanted to his kids, but the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions had ruled that the assets really belonged to Thaksin, not his kids.

That seemed like a tax dead end, but no! At the last moment, before the statute of limitations expires, and amid recriminations within the bureaucracy, a way to tax Thaksin has been found!

Problem is, it is a secret. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is involved in just about every news event of late, said the “Revenue Department will proceed with the tax collection process before the statute of limitations in the case expires on March 31.” He claims the junta has decided on a “miracle of law” that will allow to collect the taxes, which he says should “be worth a try.”

Secrets and miracles are hardly the stuff of rule of law, but this is a military dictatorship.

This secrecy reminded us of the secret changes to the draft junta constitution. As we understand it, the king has flitted off to Germany.

As far as we know from news reports, he has not signed off on the document that he received back in early February. That version, the junta says, only made changes to the (so far) secret things the king demanded. So why is he sitting on it? We know he has 90 days (although some reports did claim 30) to sign and only about 38  of those have so far been used.

We can only guess that the constitution is not considered urgent by either the king or the junta. It may be that a full 90 day “consideration” suits the junta which seeks every way it can to extend its military rule. There are no miracles in the constitution story, just secrets.





Updated: Panama papers II

6 04 2016

We continue to look for data on Thailand in the Panama Papers. So far we aren’t having too much luck. We were, however, reminded of an earlier report of some 600 Thais stashing loot overseas.

That 2013 report, also from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, included Pojaman Shinawatra, Nalinee Taveesin, Bhanapot Damapong, members of the Chirathivat family, Yuenyong Opakul, and note this very carefully, the Vongkusolkit family and Admiral Bannawit Kengrian.

The latter was described as “the former deputy permanent secretary of defense, who is listed as one of many shareholders in the British Virgin Islands company Vnet Capital International Co., Ltd in 1998” with 2006 coup connections and who is described in a Wikileaks cable as an acolyte of Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda.

On the new release of leaks from Mossack Fonseca, the main new report we have seen was in the Bangkok Post. It states that the “Office of the Auditor-General has weighed in on the so-called Panama Papers, asking the Revenue Department to look into tax payment records of Thai nationals named in a list of people allegedly using a Panama-based law firm for offshore holdings.”moneybags 1

Yet, as might be expected in a country that is protective of its wealthy elites and ruled by a military junta, a cover-up seems likely, unless the junta can come across the names of those it sees as political opponents. At the moment, “Justice Minister Gen Paiboon Koomchaya and the business community are urging the public not to rush to conclusions and let regulators verify the information first.”

“Verify” sounds like “cover-up” or “manipulate.”

Like the rich everywhere, the first bleat refers to law rather than ethics: “… using offshore company structures is a normal and legal business practice.” Not paying tax is legal they say. In Thailand, tax, like so many other things, is malleable and politicized.

Recall that Thaksin Shinawatra’s sale of the Shin Corp involved tax havens. While he didn’t have to pay tax on the transfers in Thailand, there was an outcry over this, and the opposition to him was strengthened. Now, it seems, things are to be reversed. So much for Buddhist ethics and the “good” of “The Good People.”

The report says there are “almost 400 Thais among 780 individuals who used Thailand as a residence and 50 companies were named on the lists.” While it is stated that “[p]rominent names include well-known business people, politicians, a former military officer and celebrities…”, only a few names are named.

As the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) observes, “there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts and it does not intend to suggest or imply that those named in the leak have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.”

General Paiboon said “… the leak is not verified information. But once it’s verified, no one can dodge an investigation. So let Amlo [Anti-Money Laundering Office] work on this first…”.

Our question is: Where are Thailand’s journalists who should be working on this? In most other countries, journalists are pouring out stories.

Auditor-General Pisit Leelavachiropas says “he has seen the list and had proceeded to ask the tax authority to review tax records to detect any possible wrongdoing.” He names no names.

Pisit also suggested that the “Centre for National Anti-Corruption (CNAC) can facilitate the probe by acting as a coordinator as it is the hub of 11 anti-corruption agencies.” Some of this group and Pisit were recently part of another cover-up, finding no corruption in the military’s Rajabhakti Park, while making “commissions” acceptable.

Now to some of the names and what they say.

Isara

Isara

One name in the Panama Papers is Isara Vongkusolkit, who is chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce. His response was to say that “he did not know and had noting to do with Mossack Fonseca. He was wondering how his name was mentioned on the lists.” Wondering? Really? He doesn’t remember the 2013 report?

He did admit that offshore banking and companies were necessary to avoid taxation in Thailand. He then went on to blame government for tax avoidance because it has had “high” tax rates!

The Vongkusolkit family maintains a tight set of relationships. One Chanin Vongkusolkit is a member of the Council of the Private Sector Collective Action against Corruption (CAC), which is:

an initiative by the Thai private sector to take parts in tackling corruption problem via collective action. The CAC aims to bring effective anti-corruption policy and mechanism into implementation by companies in order to create an ecosystem of clean business community.

Forbes says this of Isara and family:

To offset volatility in sugar prices, Isara Vongkusolkit’s privately held Mitr Phol Sugar, Thailand’s largest sugar producer, is expanding its energy business, which generates 400 megawatts of electricity, half for its own consumption. The company, which recently faced allegations of human rights abuses and illegal land- grabbing in Cambodia, said it was in discussions with the Cambodian government about its concessions. Brother Chanin stepped down as CEO of family’s Banpu, the country’s biggest coal miner, after running it for more than 3 decades.

Chanin remains on the Banpu Board of Directors. Others from the family on the Board are Buntoeng and Verajet Vongkusolkit. Australia’s controversial Centennial Coal Centennial is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Banpu.

Banpong

Banpong

The point seems to be that Isara and his family are fabulously wealthy Sino-Thai tycoons and like their ilk everywhere, seek to “minimize” tax while claiming to engage in ethical business behavior, if that is not an oxymoron.

Another listed is “Banyong Pongpanich, chairman of Phatra Capital and a member of the State Enterprises Policy Commission, posted a message on his Facebook page saying he was taken aback that his name was on the list.” Like Isara, he claims to not know Mossack Fonseca: “I have just learned of the company today and I never contacted or did any business with Mossack Fonseca…”.

Schultz

Schultz

We are reminded of Sgt. Schultz, again and again. How many times can “I know nothing” be used?

Patra Capital is a “certified” company at the Private Sector Collective Action against Corruption and Phatra Capital promulgates a Code of Ethics for Directors, Officers and Employees. In part, it states:

By adhering to exemplary standards and conducting our business with excellence and integrity, we enhance our reputation and cultivate the growth of our business. All of us must take personal responsibility for conducting ourselves in a way that reflects positively on the Capital Market Business Group and with the letter and spirit of the Guidelines for Business Conduct.

Like many of Thailand’s tycoons, Banpong has royal links, his with the Mae Fah Luang Foundation. He is also a member of the junta-created Superboard, which is said to be “overseeing all state enterprises has the stated aim of getting them all moving in the same direction towards strength and efficiency.” A Superboard of bankers, coal miners and more means endless conflicts of interest.

Both the Vongkusolkit and Pongpanich families are represented on the Board of Trustees of the royalist Thailand Development Research Institute, which has often commented on corruption and ethics in Thailand’s politics.

Bannawit

Bannawit

The last Sgt. Schultz excuse came from Admiral Bannawit Kengrien. The “former deputy defence permanent secretary, whose name is also on the lists, said this came as a surprise to him…. According to the retired officer he never conducted any business transactions overseas or given permission to anyone to use his name to set up offshore accounts.”

Bannawit has appeared previously at PPT as one of “Dad’s Army,” which was an elite forerunner to the more popular People’s Democratic Reform Committee in trying to bring down the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra. He was a member of several other yellow-shirted and royalist groups that sought to create conflict with the Yingluck government. Earlier, he was previously a member of the assembly appointed by the junta in 2006 and then caused controversy when deputy defense minister. He was not averse to very odd and racist claims when opposing red shirts.

Bannawit also seems to have conveniently forgotten the 2013 leaks from the British Virgin Islands. Or perhaps the rich and powerful expect the junta to enforce collective amnesia on the country.

Update: Khaosod has cast doubt on the Bangkok Post story, above, saying that the newspaper (and many others) confused the 2013 leak with the Panama Papers. INterestingly, whether its 2013 or now, nothing in our post would seem in need of change.





Thaksin in Singapore

25 09 2012

A report at Bloomberg is full of ironies regarding politics and Thaksin Shinawatra. Yingluck Shinawatra in New York for the U.N. General Assembly – that’s where Thaksin was in 2006, when the coup was launched – Thaksin himself has been in Singapore, reportedly as a guest of Temasek. It was the sale of Shin Corp to Temasek that unleashed a wave of Bangkok-based anti-Thaksinism that prepared the ground for the coup.

It is a long report which PPT won’t summarize here. Essentially, Thaksin is clear that neither he nor his sister’s government are going to be doing too much to provoke political opponents: “It’s like the government is living in a house full of land mines. So you have to be very cautious of what you are doing.”

Part of the reason for that is self-centered but part is Thaksin the businessman speaking, arguing that political stability helps investment (and the observation that the Thai stock exchange has the world’s second-highest growth this year).

The issue of constitutional reform remains on the agenda, however, as does the investigation of deaths in April and May 2010. Thaksin says: “It’s too much the way they crack down on the people,” Thaksin said, adding that the International Criminal Court is considering whether to accept a petition on the case filed by the Red Shirts. “Definitely they have to be held accountable.”

On the report by the Truth for Reconciliation Commission report and Kanit na Nakhon’s call for Thaksin to leave politics Thaksin says: “That’s the view of a very few people, especially the chairman…”. He adds that “Kanit was ‘still angry with me’ about a dispute over who to include in his Thai Rak Thai political party, the party that brought him to power in 2001. Kanit declined to comment directly on Thaksin’s remarks when reached by phone late yesterday.”





Wikileaks and Surayudh on king, Thaksin and Chamlong

13 08 2011

Continuing PPT’s series on Wikileaks cables, we found the 28 February 2006 report of a meeting between U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce and Privy Councilor Surayud Chulanont of interest.

Boyce and Surayud

Surayud describes the political situation at a time when the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra People’s Alliance for Democracy was building its demonstrations against the prime minister. Boyce says that Surayud stated that the political was “a mess.”  He claimed that “two ‘willful’ characters, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Dharma Army leader Chamlong Srimuang, were locked in a confrontation.”

It seems to have been Surayud’s view – or at least the one he wanted the Embassy to note – that Chamlong was the key opposition figure. Boyce summarizes:

Surayud said that Chamlong was no longer as important as he had been in 1992, when he led the democracy demonstrations that brought down the military government, but he still has a lot of influence. Chamlong’s leadership of the “Santi Asoke” religious sect gives him control of a large number of followers (the Dharma Army) that he can turn out for demonstrations. His sudden involvement in the anti-Thaksin movement has exacerbated the “no compromise” nature of the confrontation.

Of course, Surayud claims that the king is “neutral.” As Boyce explains in the cable, with PPT’s emphasis added:

Surayud said that the King was not taking sides. Nonetheless, both sides were trying to drag him in. Media firebrand Sondhi Limthongkul had taken the lead, with his constant references to the King in his weekly demonstrations. Thaksin has played this card as well. (Comment: For example, in his weekly radio address right before the February 4 demonstrations, Thaksin commented that the King “only had to whisper in his ear” and he’d resign. Surayud said that Thaksin’s comment caused great perturbation among the Thai and was an inappropriate reference to the monarch. End comment.) The King’s focus is on preserving the monarchy, according to Surayud. The King also, naturally, wants there to be no violence.

For Surayud, this political neutrality spilled over into the Army. Without a hint of irony dawning on Boyce, this is his account of the privy councilor and former army boss’s comments:

The military also doesn’t want to intervene on either side, according to Surayud. He admitted that there had been “some talk” within the military about the option of a “one-day” coup which would turn power over to the King. (Some of this has been picked up by the press.) But Surayud said he had spoken directly to Army Commander Sonthi (a Surayud protege) and he absolutely did not support such a move.

Surayud went on to note “discomfort that his name has been mentioned as a possible interim Prime Minister in case of a coup, and said that he was keeping a very low profile in order to avoid fueling such speculation.” Of course, he took the position later in the year when the coup finally materialized.

The privy councilor then turned to Thaksin and was revealing. Surayud noted that he had given advice to Thaksin. He “recalled talking to Thaksin early in the PM’s first term, and warning him that he had to avoid the taint of corruption, since the Thai people would not stand for that.” He went on to mention the sale of Shin Corp, commenting: “I guess he just couldn’t help himself.”

Surayud then speaks to an obstacle that has bedeviled the palace and royalists to this day: “… despite the outrage by the Bangkok elite, Surayud felt that Thaksin was still popular with the people who form the core of his support: the poor, farmers, and the working class, particularly up-country.”

In summary, Boyce reports that he believes Surayud: “As things stand now, we do not believe that the military wants to step in, nor does the King want to be caught in the middle.”

As things turned out, the military needed palace prodding and manipulation to undertake a coup, not least because there were pro-Thaksin elements that opposed a putsch, and the palace wasn’t caught in the middle, moving firmly and decisively against the elected prime minister.





Down the Thaksin road

19 08 2010

Is it just PPT that feels a sense of déjà vu in reading the press over the last couple of days?

First, related to a PPT post of a few days ago, we have more news on the King Power takeover of Leicester City Football Club. One of Thailand’s wealthiest men, and one with political connections, Vichai Raksriaksorn, is claimed to be “set to turn Thailand into the Asian football-academy hub.” Of course, this is to be on his own vast land holdings, and he suggests near Suvarnabhumi airport where the King Power group has the duty free monopoly. It is said that “Many hundreds of millions of baht would be spent in setting up the Leicester City football academy in Thailand…”.

Doesn’t this sound like Thaksin Shinawatra when he took over Manchester City? Remember his Liverpool deal that failed in 2004, his Man City deal that saw Thaksin signing three Thai players in 2007 and they were first Thai players ever on the books of a Premier League club, his claims that the deal would be great for Thai football, the Thai themes he pursued with the club, and the politics of football. As Thaksin’s sone was involved at Man City, so it Vichai’s son, who is now Leicester City’s executive director. Leicester City’s stadium will be renamed the King Power Stadium.

Second, there is the story in the Bangkok Post regarding 3G licensing – yes, we know, 3G is now ancient in technology terms, but Thailand is just creaking round to it. The report is that the “National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Wednesday defended its efforts to limit foreign participation in the country’s telecommunications sector, arguing that the rules do not violate global trade commitments.” Clearly this is another Abhisit Vejjajiva government attempt to attack Advanced Info Service (AIS) – associated with Thaksin’s sale of Shin Corp to Singapore’s Temasek.

Didn’t Thaksin get quite a deal of stick in his “nationalist” days when he was even accused of being anti-foreign, not least in telecoms (where his family had a huge stake)? See some of the story here.

Third, and most obvious, the Democrat Party-led regime’s never-ending attempts to ladle money into the countryside – something he party chastised Thaksin for. Arguably, Thaksin had more a program for the loot than the current government does and the criticisms of Thaksin for policy-related vote-buying would apply to the Democrat Party if they had any policies other than shoveling the money out to curry favor.

The Thai world keeps turning but seems to return to Thaksin again and again.





The royalist battle with Thaksin is not over

29 06 2010

As the royalist and military-backed government had 12 red shirt leaders put away for a further 12 days, facing so-called terrorism charges, a full month after the military’s brutal crackdown and amid all the false talk of reconciliation, two reports show that the royalist battle with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is far from over.

One telling report is in the Bangkok Post, citing arch-royalist and Abhisit Vejjajiva favorite Vasit Dejkunjorn, the former deputy police chief and former royal police guard. He chaired a police reform committee under the post-2006 coup government led by on-again off-again privy councilor Surayud Chulanont and is now doing the same for the military’s latest prime minister, Abhisit.

Vasit and other royalists want the government to “enact an organic law that would empower the National Human Rights Commission to file lawsuits in the World Court against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra for the extra-judicial killings” during the so-called war on drugs.

Vasit, who is no democrat, was speaking at the Sanya Dharmasakti Institute for Democracy, named after the privy councilor the king appointed prime minister following the 1973 ousting of a military regime he’d supported since 1958. It is a mystery why Thammasat University chose his name for an “institute” examining issues of democratic rule.

Vasit wants both civil and criminal cases brought against Thaksin and against those involved in what he calls “the May riots.” Another speaker, from the highly politicized Department of Special Investigation supported Vasit’s idea.

The second story, also in the Post, reveals that the “Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions has agreed to accept a false asset declaration case against ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.” This decision is based on the National Anti-Corruption Commission filing a case following the asset seizure ruling on 26 February.

That ruling said “that Thaksin was guilty of abuse of power and that 46.37 billion baht of his frozen assets should be confiscated.”

DSI chief Tharit Pengdit also said that his department – which appears to work with no independence at all – would take on yet another case involving “Shin Corp securities as a special case is based on the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions’s verdict on Feb 26 on the seizure of 46 billion baht in assets from Thaksin and his family after he was found guilty of launching policies to benefit his family’s telecommunication giant Shin Corp. Mr Tharit said the Securities and Exchange Commission has found former premier Thaksin and his ex-wife Potjaman na Pombejra guilty of violating local securities laws and the SEC has asked the DSI to take it up as a special case.”

In other words, the government is seeking to strip Thaksin and his family of every satang they hold. While yellow shirts are cheering this, those interested in anything approaching judicial independence must be aghast at the remarkable politicization of these agencies by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

The cases are expected to be expedited.





Korn, Kasian, verdict and coup

6 03 2010

A mini-debate has emerged following the Thaksin Shinawatra assets case. It involves questioning the 2006 coup and the role of the military junta in the justice system. This was sort of set off by Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij’s recent bloggings at his Facebook page.

That post is now largely reproduced by the Bangkok Post (5 March 2010) as an op-ed piece.

Korn begins on something of a sour note, with a misrepresentation. He says: “It is now a week since the celebrated ruling on Thaksin Shinawatra’s private assets was announced, and I have yet to air my opinion on the verdict. This is partly because I felt that many people have already been talking about the issue, but it is also because this is an issue close to my heart as I have been personally involved for some time. I also wanted my own opinion and emotions to crystallise before I spoke out..”

PPT points out that this is untrue. Korn posted at Facebook earlier. Even the Post has an earlier report expressing surprise (The Bangkok Post (3 March 2010) where it states: “Finance Minister Korn said if it wasn’t for the military coup, justice wouldn’t have been served, that dictatorship is perhaps better for justice than democracy – causing a stir of debate – but what did he actually mean?

There are several issues in the Korn op-ed that warrant some comment. The first relates to his personal involvement in the assets case. He explains that from the time of the sale of Shin Corp, “all of Thaksin’s actions at that time indicated that he was the real owner of the assets and had hidden all of his shareholdings all along.” As a result, he took two actions: “First, I pointed out that there was evidence at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) indicating that Thaksin secretly owned his Shin Corp shares via an account at Singapore UBS Bank. Second, I filed a complaint with the Revenue Department that the transactions involving the transfer of shares to Thaksin’s children carried a tax liability.” He complains that his actions were thwarted by an unresponsive bureaucracy. At the same time, it would be interesting to know how Korn had information from UBS Bank.

There is then a gap in the narrative, with Korn explaining that “[w]hen the ASC was set up, I brought all the evidence to them, helped them analyse the information, and explained to them on matters regarding securities and securities trading, which was quite complicated and difficult to understand” (emphasis added).

Korn’s second and most significant issue is in this question: “The question I would like to raise is, if the coup did not happen in 2006 and the Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC) had not existed, would we see justice being served in this case?” He restates it as: “if there had not been a coup, would justice have prevailed?” And then he thinks a bit more: “why can’t Thai society … achieve justice without having to rely on coup-makers initiating the process? Does this mean that sometimes ‘undemocratic’ actors place more emphasis on truth and justice than democratic ones?”

Korn doesn’t explicitly answer the first question although it is absolutely clear that he is a coup supporter and believes that justice has been brought by the 2006 military coup. Of course, the question is hypothetical as the coup prevented any further attempts to deal with Thaksin’s alleged corruption under the 1997 Constitution. We’ll never know the answer.

On the second question, Korn is more effusive and highly PAD-like. He says that it is possible that “the majority of Thais do not sufficiently care about truth and justice. As long as our businesses are doing well and there is food on the table, we Thais appear willing to live with corruption.” That sounds like a critique of Thai culture. But then Korn makes it clear which Thais he means: “Truth and justice cannot fill empty stomachs. Perhaps, therefore, only the wealthy have the time and inclination to ponder on matters such as justice while the poor, who have to struggle to feed their families, do not have that luxury. And when the majority is made up of poor people and the majority voice is what counts in a democracy, the resounding answer is seemingly ‘We don’t care’.”

Yes, Korn adds a throwaway line about “many businessmen and the well-to-do” who also don’t care, but the message is clear. It is those horrid people who vote for Thaksin who are to blame for the failures of the justice system. Korn must never have met average Thais in a normal situation. He must not know how they fell about injustice and double standards that allow Korn’s “thinking elite” to get special treatment in a system designed to prevent justice being blind to position and wealth.

Not unexpectedly, as the Bangkok Post (4 March 2010) reports, Puea Thai Party politicians have reacted strongly, pointing out that Korn is: (i) in a position to influence future investigations of Thaksin and his family through the Ministry of Finance, and he has taken a personal and political position that shows considerable ill-will. In other words, he should have kept his feelings of elation and self-justification to himself; and (ii) a member of parliament supporting undemocratic political interventions. Even the Chart Thai Pattana Party spokesman Watchara Kannika pointed out “that as a politician in a democratic system Mr Korn should not support any military coup.”

Not necessarily a part of this debate, but reflecting on some of the same issues, Kasian Tejapira, political science lecturer at Thammasat University has commented (Prachatai, 3 March 2010): “Don’t use a coup to solve the problems of corruption. That will destroy the legitimacy of the whole justice system. It’s really a high price to pay…”. Kasian’s perspective is far less elitist and a lot more thoughtful than Korn’s view.

Kasian, who strongly opposed Thaksin before the coup, reportedly stated that the “coup was meant to ‘reform democracy to be safe for the monarchy’, as implied right from the start by the original name of the coup makers, the Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy, because the Constitutional Monarchy was insecure under Thaksin’s rule.” Kasian clarifies this comment, meaning that “The point was to maintain the hegemony to lead the country in one direction under the monarchy. Under Thaksin’s rule, hegemony was shifted to Thaksin, the Thai Rak Thai Party and their cliques.”

For Kasian, this means that what we are seeing is “measures … taken to secure hegemony where it was. This means it was necessary to destroy Thaksin’s power, crushing the two most important bases of his power, his money and his party…”. The process in train is, Kasian says, “obvious. Once Thaksin’s hegemony is destroyed, no other alternative hegemony is likely to emerge in Thai society.”

Kasian also points out that the 26 February assets judgment is also about “scaring big capitalists away from entering politics.” In fact, even before the coup, PPT has already seen big capitalists moving back to being behind-the-scenes funders of the Democrat Party and big-time supporters of the monarchy’s various fund-raising schemes, from polo to pearls and pathetic “art” and design.

Like PPT, Kasian sees a decline in liberal ideas and positions and a tendency to a “despotic” hegemonic regime. Thaksin might have been headed in this direction, but Kasian seems to lament that failure to reign him in: “Thaksin held state power, and sometimes stayed above the law. To bring the most powerful Prime Minister to court is an attempt to bring about the rule of law.”

After the 2006 coup, however, “influential figures” have been a problem: “the rule of law has been distorted by these influences. The police dare not, or take too long, to investigate the Suvarnabhumi Airport case; it has been over a year now.  The prosecutor has not brought them to court, claiming a lack of intention. This is where the allegation of double standards has been spawned.” And, there’s no transparency, not least in the judiciary.

Kasian worries that there is “judicial rule, because more and more people from the judiciary have taken political positions, through the 2007 Constitution.” The “2007 Constitution has institutionalized judicial rule, and that is locked in. It cannot be turned back.” On the verdict, Kasian says: “Many people cannot say for sure that the Thaksin government was innocent, and many believe that it was corrupt. However, after the process that has been followed, the lesson can be learned that to stage a coup to tackle corruption will destroy the legitimacy of the whole justice process…”.

At present, Kasian says that compromise is impossible because “one side is not in the mood to talk, … no changes are allowed. They trust nobody, neither the red shirts, nor Thaksin. It’s a feeling of insecurity, a fear for normal democracy. The abnormality must be made secure under their control…”.





Coup talk, security preparations

9 02 2010

Readers may find a new piece at Asia Sentinel (8 February 2010) of some interest. The report begins with the continuing buzz about a coup – and PPT has to confirm that this is the main topic of conversation in political circles – and then discusses the Thaksin Shinawatra asset case.

The article states: “Getting rid of Thaksin’s influence completely would presumably be the rationale for another coup. The military would take over and obliterate him once and for all.” Later it says: “The biggest beneficiaries of the coup talk are the pro-Thaksin group that needs to build momentum before a court rules Feb. 26 whether to seize about $2 billion in proceeds from his family’s 2006 sale of telecommunications firm Shin Corp. to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings.”

PPT is not sure how to reconcile these seemingly disparate statements. In fact, red shirts seem intent on preventing a coup – taxi drivers are on alert to surround tanks and armored personnel carriers if they come onto the streets. The government appears to think the coup talk is a red shirt attempt to destabilize the government. Some red shirts believe that the coup would be to stabilize and strengthen the government, with the military continuing to stand behind the Democrat Party but maybe not Abhisit Vejjajiva. The Asia Sentinel writer seems to think that Abhisit remains the military’s “best bet for the moment.

On the Thaksin assets case, the article has this to say as background: “Like most of the court cases brought against Thaksin after the coup, the assets seizure case is more about politics than law. It’s anyone’s guess how it will turn out. Ever since head of state King Bhumibol Adulyadej instructed judges to solve the country’s political problems in 2006, nearly every legal decision has gone against Thaksin. Courts have nullified an election that he won, dissolved two parties linked to him, banned him and some 200 lawmakers associated with him from politics for five years, and slapped a 2-year prison sentence on him for abuse of power, should he actually ever reappear in Thailand. Prosecutors have at least three more criminal cases against him that they are keeping in the bag.

The political chatter is about how much he will lose: all, some or none. On the latter, it is said that: “If the court were to exonerate Thaksin and give him the money back, it would undermine the whole rationale for ousting him in the first place and instantly boost his war chest for the next big election fight.

The author thinks the court won’t take it all because that would cause political chaos and favors an outcome that sees Thaksin keeping half of the money. The author thinks this was the king’s message: “the king urged judges last month to stay in the middle’.” PPT guesses that Thaksin will lose the lot. There are stories of a deal being negotiated between Thaksin and the palace, but the rumor is that these talks were ineffective. The palace seldom forgives its enemies.

The article concludes this way: “With the military and coalition partners unlikely to abandon him, Abhisit looks like he can ride out any protests over the next month.” Further: “Abhisit will likely be able to muddle through 2010 without any major disasters before he’s forced to call an election next year.” That seems a reasonable guess but Thailand’s politics remains exceptionally volatile and bitter.

Meanwhile, the Abhisit government is preparing for red shirts not a coup. The Washington Post has an AP report (8 February 2010) that reports on the deployment of “about 20,000 security forces to brace for protests ahead of a widely anticipated court ruling on the Thaksin [assets case]…”.

The remarkably supercilious acting spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said more than 13,000 army, police and civilian security officers will be deployed across Thailand’s 38 provinces. About 6,000 additional security will be deployed in the capital, where 200 checkpoints will be set up at ‘every entrance into Bangkok’…. PPT recalls that the military used this roadblock tactic after the coup to prevent the free movement of citizens.

This deployment has begun and will expand next week. As PPT stated previously, we think the movement of 22 armored personnel carriers was part of these preparations.

Panitan explained: “We don’t want a repeat of what happened last April when the troops came out a little late…”. He added that would invoke his baby, the Internal Security Act, if required.