More royal loot

27 08 2022

Siam Bioscience, owned by King Vajiralongkorn, reportedly received at least 600 million baht from the military-monarchy regime to subside its development of production capacity for an AstraZeneca contract to manufacture COVID-19 vaccine.

It has now reported a profit of 1.69 billion baht.

Readers will recall that this manufacture of vaccines would be “under a ‘no profit, no loss’ policy, meaning it would sell the vaccines at cost.”

Clipped from The Rand Blog

This profit is a “near 50-fold increase in annual profit…”. Founded in 2009 by the dead king’s Crown Property Bureau, and now owned by Vajrialongkorn, Siam Bioscience “had since been loss-making and reported its first profit only in 2020 of 35.7 million baht ($995,000).”

Reuters reports that “[p]rofit soared a whopping 4,650% to 1.69 billion baht and revenues increased by 1,500% to a record 4.9 billion baht, aided by its contract to manufacture 200 million doses of the Anglo-Swedish firm’s COVID-19 vaccine.”

As far as PPT can discern, it is still not known how much vaccine the company has actually made or their distribution.

Of course, as the report makes clear, the regime’s “deal came under fire from a prominent Thai opposition politician [Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit] who questioned why the contract went to a company that was owned by the king and had never made vaccines before.” He now faces a lese majeste charge.





Anutin defends Siam Bioscience

13 08 2022

In a report at the Bangkok Post, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul is reported as “defending” the monarch’s Siam Bioscience. He is reported this way:

He rebuffed criticism made earlier by former Move Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit that the ministry’s vaccine policy put an undue amount of trust in Siam Bioscience, given that the company had never produced such a vaccine before…. The minister pointed out that Siam Bioscience received a licence to produce a viral-vector vaccine from the UK-based AstraZeneca company.

Clipped from The Rand Blog

As usual, though, there’s no data or information about Siam Bioscience. How much vaccine has it produced? How much was used in Thailand? How much was exported? How much taxpayer money was provided to the king’s company?

Does any reader know of such data?

What we do know is that in most countries, such political contention would be entirely normal. But not in Thailand. Thanathorn is hit with a lese majeste charge that could land him in prison for 15 years. “Protecting” the monarchy seems to also mean “protecting” the king’s companies. It helps that the law also “protects” the regime from criticism.





Doing the monarchy’s propaganda II

31 07 2022

With Vajiralongkorn’s birthday companies, ministries, military and other posterior polishers sought to buff the royal ego as shiny as it would go.

The big deal for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which thinks of itself as royally-connected, is an ebook, A Legacy for All. The book is a repeat of other propaganda from the Ministry like its video “A Legacy for the People.” That effort sank without much trace, having only 700+ views at YouTube in over 10 months. The book might do better, especially as it has had heavy promotion in recent days. Both efforts target a foreign audience.

The “new” 152-page propaganda piece introduces itself:

The Department of Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is pleased to present you with this first ever E-book titled, “A Legacy for All,” which boasts a unique collection of articles and insights that reflect the wide range of royal initiatives and their legacy on national development. The articles are written by past and present diplomats, as well as practitioners directly involved with the implementation of royal initiatives which have been grouped under six important areas, namely, public health, sustainable development, water management, humanitarianism, foreign relations, and multiculturalism.

In fact, anyone who has repeatedly tortured themselves reading official propaganda knows that there’s not much that is “unique” about the collection of articles by former and serving diplomats, a priest, a privy councilor, and royal servants. There are chapters that regurgitate much of the constructed “legacy” of the previous king and the ideology associated with the dead royal grandmother, and so on. There’s a bit of polishing of the “legacy” of the king’s eldest daughter, suggesting she’s probably the “future” of the gene dead-end monarchy.

There are two things which stand out in the book.

First, it is evident in the book that there’s not much that can be said about Vajiralongkorn. He’s had a pretty undistinguished life and, as everyone knows, he’s not the brightest and he’s also not keen on displaying himself in the manner of his parents as they boosted the monarchy. About the best the Ministry can come up with for Vajiralongkorn is an essay on a 1992 trip to Bangladesh. The only other chapter that seeks to reflect on the current monarch is on Siam Bioscience and his alleged good deeds during the pandemic. Of course, there’s nothing on the controversy surrounding Siam Bioscience. As might be expected in a bum buffing exercise for a foreign audience, there’s no data and no questioning. The sore thumb is the brief mention of Princess Chulabhorn’s “Institute” going off and acquiring Chinese vaccine when her big brother’s company was meant to be churning out vaccine but wasn’t. The only hint at trouble is when reader’s are assured that her effort was “through an established procedure under the law,” kind of suggesting that it may not have been.

Second, reading across the essays, it is clear that the Ministry views the Thai people as a bunch of dolts incapable of thought or doing anything for themselves. Not surprisingly, the exceptions are Thai royals; each one mentioned is a polymath and magnificent in their “work.” We are not exaggerating. The impression given is that no ordinary Thai is capable of much at all, other than implementing royal advice and royal schemes. The people receive royal wisdom and those who adopt it prosper. Well, maybe not prosper, but get by.

The notion that all the people are children is not unusual in elite circles. It is also why the people repeatedly rise up to demand a say in their own country.





Using 112 against Thanathorn

7 06 2022

One of the most obvious efforts to use Article 112 to silence critics involves Progressive Group leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

Back in October 2021, it was reported that police had submitted a lese majeste charge against Thanathorn to the Office of the Attorney-General on 12 October 2021. The charge was lodged for Thanathorn’s livestreaming of talks in January 2021 on the government’s vaccine mismanagement when vaccines were being sourced.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

It was alleged that the talks included remarks thought to offend the monarchy, which arose when Thanathorn questioned the regime’s AstraZeneca vaccine strategy, where most of it was delayed in production by Siam Bioscience, a Crown company.

This 112 charge was initiated by Apiwat Khanthong, said to be the chairman of the government-appointed committee investigating the spread of alleged anti-regime “disinformation.”

Reportedly, Phahonyothin police station lodged a second lese majeste charge, also in connection with his Facebook livestreaming. He also copped a computer crimes charge.

Thanathorn livestream talk, titled “Royal Vaccine: Who Benefits and Who Doesn’t?” urged the regime and Siam Bioscience to publicly reveal the vaccine-production agreement. At the time, Siam Bioscience, an opaque company due to its royal connection, seemed to have failed monumentally, causing the regime to import millions of AstraZeneca doses.

Thanathorn concluded that “the government has been careless in negotiations for the vaccine…”. He pointed out that Siam Bioscience was “tasked with producing 200 million doses per year. Of this, 176 million will be sold to other countries in the region, while the remainder will be sold locally.” He added that the regime “has announced it will give Siam Bioscience Bt1.44 billion for the project.”

He claimed Siam Bioscience was only “established in 2009 with an authorized capital of Bt48 billion, but over the past 11 years, the corporation has made losses worth Bt581 billion…”.

And, he “pointed out that Siam Bioscience was only added to the plan in the second quarter of 2020 – when anti-establishment protesters began holding their rallies.” This, he said, may make the “AstraZeneca-Siam Bioscience deal is politically motivated.”

The politically-motivated charges are going ahead. The Criminal Court will hear 54 witnesses in the case, with 42 of the witnesses being “viewers who watched the stream on Jan 18 last year and will be testifying for public prosecutors who filed the case…”. There would be 12 witnesses for Thanathorn.

Thanathorn pleaded not guilty, “noting that Section 112 has from time to time been exploited by the [Gen] Prayut-Chan-o-cha administration to silence political opponents and anti-government protests.” He stated the obvious: “A large number of people have faced Section 112 cases. All of these cases were aimed at protecting the power of Gen Prayut at the cost of people’s freedom of expression…”.

Of course, the charge is also used to protect the monarchy and make opaque royal affairs.





AZ and Siam Bioscience

4 11 2021

The Nation reproduces an open letter from the Managing Director of AstraZeneca Thailand James Teague. Like all of the media reports and official statements, it is vague and short on important information.

After months and months, AstraZeneca’s confirms that Siam Bioscience has finally been able to “increase … local production by 20%.” Teague seems to confirm the problems at the monarch’s Siam Bioscience: “In July I wrote an open letter to update you on how we were leaving no stone unturned to accelerate the supply of our Covid-19 vaccine, including efforts to optimise the production process.”

He says Siam Bioscience has (or will) increase “each manufactured batch size by 20%, from 580,000 doses per batch to on average 700,000.” Is each batch monthly? We can’t tell.

He states that AZ has, by October, supplied 35.1 million doses, sufficient for about 17.5 persons.

He also notes (without saying it) that Siam Bioscience’s production has not been able to meet this supply: “In addition to increased local manufacturing capacity, we will import doses from other supply chains.”

It seems that Siam Bioscince can’t meet Thailand’s needs or those of the region: “We will soon have several of our global supply chains providing doses to Southeast Asia over the remainder of this year, ensuring accelerated supply for each country, including Thailand.”

He does say: “Siam Bioscience is forecast to continue exceeding original manufacturing estimates….”. But exactly what’s actually happening remains opaque.





Updated: Protest continues

2 11 2021

We posted on Sunday’s protest, but we also missed several stories about protest that might be of interest to readers, all from the last few days in October:

Harvard Political Review: “Why Thailand’s Young People Are Angry

Yahoo!: “Thailand protests fade but the hardcore battle on

Aljazeera: “Battlefield Din Daeng: The Thai protesters with ‘nothing to lose’”

And then there’s this, also from Aljazeera:

Update: The Bangkok Post reports on police trying to stop “pro-democracy supporters who had gathered at the Din Daeng police station in Bangkok on Friday to hold a candlelit vigil for a young protester who died a day earlier.” This was for the 15 year-old boy who “had been in a coma since August, caused by a gunshot wound that left a bullet lodged close to his brain.” Some claims are that he was shot by regime agents. The police add to those claims by stifling memorials. Fifty of them, with “riot shields cleared out about 100 protesters who had gathered at the station, where activists had gathered to lay flowers and candles on Friday.” Hopeless, merciless regime lapdogs.





Tales of the rich and the exploited

16 10 2021

As the king’s vaccine producer Siam Bioscience seems to still be underproducing AstraZeneca, the regime continues to beg and borrow AZ from elsewhere. With just over 30% of the population double-dosed, the General’s government continues to move towards opening.

But the double standards are gross. Take movie stars arriving with crew being lauded by the military PM:

The arrival of Hollywood star Russell Crowe to make a movie in Thailand, and his tweeted pictures and messages about Thais, the food and scenery brought pride to the nation….

That particular star seems to have also benefited from Australia’s double standards on international travel.

But look at migrant workers, still languishing with limited access to vaccine. Prachatai reports that

On 5 October 2021, Coordinator and lawyer of the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) has gone to the Bang Khen Immigration Detention Center to pick up Ms. P, a female migrant worker from Myanmar, who had been remanded in custody being accused of being an alien and worked without the permit, an offence against the Royal Ordinance Concerning the Management of Foreign Workers’ Employment 2017.

She could face up to a fine of 50,000 baht and be barred from working in the Kingdom of Thailand for the period of two years.

She appears to have been charged way back in June and kept in detention since. But guess what?

After reviewing concerned information and documents, HRDF has found Ms. P was a legally registered migrant worker recruited through the Government-to-Government MoU and her work permit had expired on 20 February 2021. She has since applied to renew her work permit with the Bangkok Office of Employment Region 2 before the expiry date of her permit. The renewal could not be completed, however, since the official could not retrieve her information from the depository of migrant workers.

That should not bring pride to the nation.





Thanathorn’s 112 charge

13 10 2021

Thai PBS reports that the “Nang Loeng police [has] submitted its case file, on a lèse majesté charge against Progressive Group leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, to the Office of the Attorney-General today [12 October 2021].” The Bangkok Post also reports it.

Lawyer Krisadang Nutcharat, said that the police decided to charge his client:

over his livestream lectures on the government’s vaccine [mis]management, which contained remarks allegedly deemed to offend the monarchy, as he was questioning the government’s AstraZeneca vaccine strategy, most of which produced by Thai firm Siam Bioscience, which is owned by a subsidiary of the Crown Property Bureau.

The 112 charge was initiated by Apiwat Khanthong, “chairman of the government-appointed committee investigating the spread of disinformation about the execution of the prime minister’s and cabinet ministers’ duties.”

Meanwhile, Thanathorn also “reported to Phahonyothin police station this morning to acknowledge a second lèse majesté charge, also in connection with his Facebook livestream lectures.”

Thanathorn described the charges against him and other activists as “unjust, urging the public to protect them and to condemn this injustice.”

In Thanathorn’s livestream, titled “Royal Vaccine: Who Benefits and Who Doesn’t?” he “urged the government and the firm to publicly reveal the vaccine-production agreement to prove the procurement was being done in a transparent manner.”

Siam Bioscience, still as opaque as ever, seems to have failed monumentally given that millions of AstraZeneca doses are being imported from other countries.

Lese majeste has seen some mad cases in this past, but this one seems to suggest that criticizing or questioning any royal company is now off limits. Bizarre.





Corrected: Musing on monarch

28 09 2021

Those among our readers who are devoted followers of the official royal news will know that King Vajiralongkorn and his queen and major concubine finally showed up after months of invisibility.

Having been missing in inaction, the king and his retinue came out for Prince Mahidol Day on 24 September. If nothing else, Vajiralongkorn pays attention to his Chakkri Dynasty forebears. In this case, his grandfather Mahidol Adulyadej.

Officially, this was his first outing in two months.

Being invisible during Thailand’s peak virus outbreak can be read several ways. One would be to congratulate him for leaving the pandemic to the political leaders. Another would be to condemn him for doing nothing to promote vaccination and to “help” his “subjects” through the dark days of lockdown and deaths.

Who knows?

What we do know is that the king’s AstraZeneca vaccine factory still seems to be having trouble. We can say this because of a report that says the country is having to buy small batches of AstraZeneca vaccine from elsewhere:

A Foreign Affairs Ministry proposal to purchase AstraZeneca and Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines from Spain and Hungary was approved by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) yesterday, according to its spokesman.

Under the plan, Thailand would purchase 165,000 AstraZeneca doses at 2.9 euros (114 baht) each and 2.78 million Pfizer doses at 15.5 euros each from Spain, according to Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the CCSA.

The kingdom would also purchase 400,000 AstraZeneca doses from Hungary at 1.78 euros per dose, he said.

After all these months is seems to us that Siam Bioscience can still not meet demand.





Silk purses from a festering sow’s ear

25 08 2021

The failures of the regime and the monarchy on Siam Bioscience and vaccination is not what the regime and palace had hoped for; they hoped for a propaganda victory. They wanted to role back growing anti-monarchism.

This means that regime tools have to go to work and concoct a victory for the monarchy and the royal family.

A recent example of this is from the royalist clique controlling the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Tana Weskosith, who is Deputy Permanent Secretary, has come up with “A Modern Monarch in Action: Mobilising Relief in a Pandemic.” This laudatory tale is posted at the MFA’s propaganda/PR site Thailand NOW, “operated by the Thailand NOW editorial team and is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

It begins with the usual blarney: “Friends of Thailand might be familiar with anecdotes about the Thai monarchy that has stood fast alongside the Thai people through thick and thin — from combatting poverty throughout the ages to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic since last year.”

Anecdotes indeed, but “through the ages” is just hyperbolic buffalo manure.

Looking after his own. Royal Household Bureau via Khaosod

The virus reference is startling, but is the reason for the royalist drivel peddled by the MFA.

The level of false claims comes with the statement that “the King and Queen … have continued to take this mission on board in all types of situations, whether they be during a crisis or in times of peace.”

The king has only been on the throne since 2016, and he spent most of this time in Germany, only returning to Thailand when he felt his throne was under threat last year. For much of his reign and, indeed, in recent months, he’s been invisible.

Tana recycles the claim that the “Royal Family works [with]… a simple but practical rationale, that all Thai people should have access to basic public services even in the most remote areas of the country, so that they are able to earn a decent livelihood in good health and happiness.”

This is nonsensical. The royal family has, like most royals, been interested in maintaining its position and building its wealth. The dead king spoke out against notions of social welfare. Like all rightists, the monarchy and the current king have willingly backed the military’s political domination and its murder of political opponents.

Tana recognizes that Vajiralongkorn has been pretty much invisible, so he makes the claim that the royal family “has been continuously devoting their energy and personal funds behind the scenes…”. The compulsory royal news on radio and television that drearily promote the royals suggests that Tana is simply making this up. And he babbles about “centuries” of such concern, and goes on to repeat the propaganda associated with all the royals from early in the 20th century.

But he then gets going on the pandemic, proudly declaring:

The King’s Father, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great, through the Crown Property Bureau, funded the establishment of Siam Bioscience Co. Ltd. in 2009, to specialise in manufacturing biopharmaceuticals.

Perhaps Tana thinks that linking the dead king to Siam Bioscience will reduce the justified criticism of the company.

He makes a remarkable claim:

The company’s excellence has since been internationally recognized…. Subsequently, in 2020, the British-Swedish pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, in its fast quest to set up a manufacturing base for its COVID-19 vaccines in Southeast Asia, found that Siam Bioscience was the only qualified choice as its local partner to produce AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for Thailand and Southeast Asia.

As far as we know, there is no evidence for this claim. This information is simply unavailable, with the whole enterprise being remarkably opaque. Tana quotes James Teague, Country President of AstraZeneca (Thailand) Ltd. on the highlighted claim, but these comments do not shed any light on why the small and inexperienced company was chosen. The guess can only be that it was chosen due to its royal connection.

Siam Bioscience. From the linked article

Why, with all this claimed royal effort, has the AZ vaccine rollout been such a disaster? Tana “explains” that:

… [d]espite these efforts, Thailand, as with many other countries, is temporarily facing a shortage of vaccines. This can be attributed to inequitable distribution of vaccines around the world, as well as an overall shortage of vaccine supplies, caused by circumstances in the global vaccine industry and supply chains….

That would seem laughable. But, like his bosses and other royalists, he knows that no criticism of the royals can be made. Nothing but buffalo poo for them.

Putting Siam Bioscience aside, Tana highlights other “contributions” ascribed to the mostly missing-in-action royals. He highlights and lists royal “donations.” As far as we can determine, such claims tend to be discounted when some research is done. Many of the “donations” are government-funded.

In short, Tana is weaving a royal silk purse from a festering sow’s ear.








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