A whiff of royalism

31 12 2021

Feudal punishment associated with the palace: Pol Gen Jumpol Manmai

Is it just us at PPT or does this somewhat odd Bangkok Post story have a distinct royal whiff to it?

The report is of naval chief Adm Somprasong Nilsamai and Vice Adm Narupol Kerdnak, the commander of the Sattahip Naval Base, decising to undergo “self-punishment to uphold discipline and show responsibility after one of their subordinates committed a serious misconduct.”

That wealthy admirals, with power that cannot be challenged within the navy, should “choose” such a path seems unprecedented, almost unbelievable.

They “decided” to punish themselves after “Lt Alongkorn Ploddee, director of the Real Estate Division of the Sattahip Naval Base, has been involved in quarrels and made false claims on various occasions, ruining the reputation of the navy as a whole…”.

It seems odd that a junior officer some 7-8 ranks below the two admirals should impact them. Equally odd, is that Lt Alongkorn is listed as “director of the Real Estate Division of the Sattahip Naval Base.” We have previously questioned the navy’s commercial activities, noting that the navy has effectively become an investor and player in the Eastern Seaboard activities promoted by the regime, together with Sino-Thai tycoons.

Feudal punishment associated with the palace: Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapha

Lt Alongkorn was shown “on video verbally abused Sattahip policemen who showed up at a restaurant for a routine inspection, saying they had ruined his happy time.” He demanded “honor”: “You don’t give me due honour…”, throwing “a glass of liquor at them and said he could put them in trouble.” This threat included name-dropping as a threat, saying “he was a friend of ‘Big Joke’, a reference to Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn, the assistant police chief.” Big Joke has a record including odd events, was sacked and reinstated, and no one says why.

Feudal punishment associated with the palace: Suriyan Sujaritpalawong

In other words, Lt Alongkorn was behaving as a dark influence and a gangster. That is not unusual in the armed forces. He made his gangsterism clear when he invoked notions of territory: “Lt Alongkorn said that the police should have known that Sattahip belongs to the navy…”. In other words, they are the bosses and the territory is theirs. Other gangs – the police – trespass on the navy gang’s turf at their own risk.

As usual, Lt Alongkorn a navy disciplinary committee which will “conduct an investigation into his alleged misconduct.” Seldom does anything come of these sham exercises, except where the person involved has distressed very senior people – seems he has – or threatened the monthly take.

So what causes senior navy men to “show responsibility for the misconduct” by an underling? What causes the bosses to undergo “self-punishment for three and seven days, respectively.”

The whiff of royal involvement comes from the punishment: “The self-punishment includes shaving heads, walking long distances with a backpack, running with weights, doing menial labour and three days in confinement.” This is exactly the kind of neo-feudal punishment used by the king inside the palace. We do not know if the king is involved in this case, but it coincided with his return to Thailand from Europe. If he wasn’t involved, it shows how his neo-absolutist influence has percolated through the military wing of the palace.





Rolling back democracy from its birth III

15 12 2021

James Lovelock of UCA News also comments on Chuan Leekpai’s recent Constitution Day comments. While the headline “Thailand’s parlous state of democracy” – Thailand is no democracy – the article is worth considering.

He begins:

A call by a former prime minister of Thailand on his fellow citizens to have faith in the country’s democratic system has been met with ridicule among young Thais who have been demanding democratic reforms. And rightly so.

“Tell that to the military, courts and your PDRC-supporting friends and their earlier incarnations,” one commenter aptly noted, referring to the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, a rightist anti-democratic movement that staged raucous street protests in 2014 against a democratically elected government, precipitating a coup by the military the same year….

“The military dictatorship rammed through the current anti-democratic constitution by making it illegal to campaign against it,” one commenter pointed out apropos Chuan’s speech on Constitution Day. “Unelected Senate appointments by the military. Courts routinely disband any reform-minded party. What ‘democracy’ is he talking about?”

Other commentators have been equally sharp, noting that:

…. the current rulers of Thailand, a powerful group of army generals and business tycoons, have created a deeply undemocratic system, which makes it virtually impossible for liberal parties to gain power through elections.

For all of this military-backed regime’s failures, corruption and manipulation, most commentators think that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha will continue on to become Thailand’s longest-serving prime minister. That royalist posterior polishers can float to the top proves that Thailand is no democracy.





Anti-human rights group rallies for regime I

27 11 2021

A flock of “protesters” claimed to be ultra-monarchists and ultra-nationalists, and arranged by the regime, “rallied” at Government House on Thursday, bleating that “the government expel Amnesty International (AI) from the country for allegedly interfering in internal affairs.”

The Centre of the People for the Protection of Monarchy is led by Jakkapong Klinkaew,who gets wheeled out at critical times to promote the regime’s political interests. This has included calls for lese majeste charges (the regime was pleased to oblige, again and again) and for bail to be revoked for young activists accused of lese majeste (and, again, the regime has complied).

Less successful due to the conflicting message it sent was the group’s earlier call for Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit to be sent packing from Thailand. The group’s racist taunts “questioned his loyalty to Thailand by pointing out his ethnic Chinese ancestry.” As news reports explained, this was ironic as “many of the ultraroyalists in Thailand who are opposed to any democratic reforms are themselves of ethnic Chinese heritage.” So are the most significant supporters of the regime, from the tycoons to the palace.

In the latest “rally,” the “protesters” were welcomed into Government House and “submitted a letter, addressed to Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha, demanding that authorities investigate the role and activities of AI’s Thailand office, to determine whether they amount to a threat against national security and the monarchy.” This followed the work of toxic turncoat Suporn Atthawong, now known as Seksakol, an assistant minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.

The group – and the regime – are irked by campaigning that urges fair, constitutional, and legal treatment for political detainees. It claims that AI has undermined national security – code for undermining the monarchy.

While it remains unclear whether these buffoons can distinguish between AI internationally and locally, they have “claimed that AI’s conduct could be seen as pulling the strings of anti-establishment groups in Thailand, to undermine the Thai monarchy.”

AI Thailand has “issued a statement refuting all allegations. It claimed that AI is a movement of about 10 million ordinary people across the world which is dedicated to the protection of human rights, social equality and fairness for all and it is free from political affiliations.” It is supported by donations. It stated that AI “will continue to perform its duties to protect human rights for people whose rights are being breached ‘because we firmly believe that every man is born equal and should not be oppressed…’.” AI has been officially registered in Thailand since 2003.

Again, the regime has accepted the ultra-royalist (self)coaching and Gen Prayuth “has ordered a probe into Amnesty International Thailand to determine if the human rights watchdog is operating in compliance with Thai law.” If it has violated the “law,” the 2014 coup leader said “it will be banned.”

The general added that “he does not want anyone or any group to speak ill about the country.” He means the regime. He added that “the government is seeking to make sure that NGOs act in a transparent way.” This is code for closing down NGOs, a path taken by several other authoritarian regimes. The irony is that the regime itself lacks any transparency.

Lapdog foreign minister Don Pramudwinai, who prefers dealing with dictators at home and abroad, pointed to “good and bad NGOs…”, providing direction for those clamoring for an even greater unfreedom in Thailand.





Health honchos

22 08 2021

We at PPT have just seen Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s new Secret Siam column on public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul, his wealth and his politics. This is a subscriber-only post, but is well worth a read.

It begins with an extended look at Anutin’s “lavish rural hideaway … Rancho Charnvee,” which is a resort that has rooms that can be booked by the public. With its lavish accommodation, private airport, and 18-hole golf course, it is a landmark to his family’s huge wealth.

Clipped from the Rancho Charnvee website

That wealth “… comes from the family conglomerate Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction, founded in 1952 by his father Chavarat.” The latter:

… was deputy minister of finance from 1996 to 1997 in the disastrous government of prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh that presided over the collapse of the Thai economy, which in turn caused a financial meltdown across Southeast Asia. So the current coronavirus catastrophe is not the first time that a member of the Charnvirakul clan has been in a key government position at a time of crisis and failed woefully to deal with it.

In 2008, Chavarat was back, as Minister of Public Health and then as Deputy Prime Minister under Somchai Wongsawat’s pro-Thaksin Shinawatra People’s Power Party government when it was dissolved by the Constitutional Court on 2 December 2008, in a judicial coup.

The Constitutional Court ordered the dissolution of the People’s Power Party and other coalition parties, at the same time banning their chief executives. The incumbent Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, was then removed along with several other members of the Cabinet. Chavarat was spared because he was not a party executive or an elected MP. He became caretaker prime minister and sank what remained of the elected government, working with the military to hand over power to Abhisit. The turncoat was rewarded by being appointed Interior Minister in Abhisit’s cabinet, a post he held until 2011. As part of his political treachery Chavarat became the leader of the Bhum Jai Thai Party, a party tied to the dark influence Chidchob family in Buriram. He was succeeded as leader by Anutin in 2012.

Marshall observes that, in 2010, Chavarat “was caught embezzling money from a 3.49 billion baht computer leasing project, and the controversy threatened to tear apart the coalition, but in the end, Abhisit didn’t dare fire him.”

Anutin unmasked. Clipped from Der Farang.

On Anutin, Marshall notes his relationship with Vajiralongkorn:

Anutin was even willing to risk playing the dangerous game of trying to get into the inner circle of the volatile future king Vajiralongkorn. He began donating large sums to the crown prince, and sought to establish himself as a friend of Vajiralongkorn, making regular trips to visit him in Europe. Vajiralongkorn was famously obsessed with flying during this period, spending most of the year staying at the Kempinski Hotel at Munich Airport where he always had at least one personal Boeing 737 parked ready for joyrides in the skies over Europe. Adopting flying as a hobby was a great way for Anutin to bond with his new royal friend.

A leaked secret US cable from 2009 identified Anutin as a new member of Vajiralongkorn’s inner circle….

We wonder how that relationship is today, with Anutin seeking to lay off blame for the Siam Bioscience-AstraZeneca failures while he’s been health minister. How did he get that position? Marshall speculates that: “It’s all because of marijuana.” And the rural-based mafia he represents, who are working to make marijuana a valuable cash crop. Marsall again:

When the pandemic struck, Thailand’s minister of public health was an unqualified political dilettante whose only healthcare experience was making wild claims
about the medical wonders of marijuana.

If readers can, look at the whole story at Secret Siam.

Incidentally, Anutin is not the only minister engaging in heath entrepreneurialism. With scant evidence, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin has promoted the production of green chiretta herbal pills. While there is some evidence about some of the qualities of the product, much of this is from Thai scientists keen to promote herbal medicine. Somsak’s “evidence” comes from giving pills to prison inmates and claiming “results” while clearly misunderstanding how clinical trials operate. The initial use of the pills in prisons came when the virus was raging among prisoners and vaccines were in short supply.

For ministers, there seems to be a profit motive at work rather than science and public service.





Coup rumors

22 07 2021

PPT noticed a story in the Thai Enquirer yesterday talking about coup rumors that are said to be “within political and business circles” having “reached a crescendo this past week with many claiming that a putsch was imminent due to the worsening economic and Covid-19 situation.”

The story notes that the virus crisis and “a widely shared fake document which purported to show army orders preparing for a coup” sent rumor mills into overdrive, especially “within the business community…”.

2006 royalist coup

Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome set an appropriate tone when he said that military denials “are not always accurate…”, adding: “We have to accept that in our political system the armed forces have never been reformed to be under a civilian government…. As long as they are not under a civilian government, they can use their authority and our tax money to stage a coup.”

He’s right.

Of course, it beggars belief that business types, many of who supported previous coups, would think that the military that produced the incompetent oafs now running the country can provide a more competent oaf. Wealthy business leaders are addicted to the military authoritarianism because it is good for profits, usually providing “order.” They want change when order and profits are threatened.

What Thailand needs is thorough political, legal and administrative reform, not more coups.





Further updated: King’s vaccine delayed

24 05 2021

Probably based on a royalist ideological position, the military-backed monarchists of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government initially decided to put all of its vaccine eggs in just two baskets. One was the the Sino-Thai tycoon’s Chinese vaccine. The other was the king’s vaccine, where with state support a little known company, Siam Bioscience, owned by the king, was allocated the task of producing the AstraZeneca vaccine.

While the Chinese vaccines have been rolling in – some of it reserved for Chinese citizens – AstraZeneca production has been slow. Some now say it is delayed:

Covid vaccinate

Clipped from The Rand Blog

Public hospitals such as Vajira, Chulabhorn, and Thammasat announced that they were short of vaccine stock over the weekend and will thus be delaying their scheduled shots, The Standard reported.

The report did not give details on the shortfall. Representatives of Siam Bioscience were not available for comment.

The news comes after earlier reports that the Siam Bioscience is not on track to fulfil its commitment to produce 6 million doses by the end of June. The schedule also states production levels of 10 million per month from July until the end of the year.

Dr Satit Pitutaecha, assistant governor to the Ministry of Public Health in an interview with The Standard explained that the initial 1.7 million doses for May will not be ready in time because the ministry had requested a change from the original production schedule.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Monday that he had made no commitment to having vaccines available by June 1, only to start administering them on June 7.

As might be expected of a small and inexperienced company, there would appear to be problems in scaling up production, with some reports suggesting “production levels in June were likely to be around half of what was scheduled…”.

The plan of having Thais vaccinated by the king’s graces seems to have stumbled and fallen.

Update 1: Following reports of delays, “health authorities” have said that “more AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine will be delivered by schedule next month…”. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has announced that “Thailand would take delivery of another lot of AstraZeneca vaccine in June.” He then added: “that this did not mean they would be available on June 1,” saying: ““If the shots made in Thailand are not ready, the company is bound to find them from somewhere else to fill our order as stipulated in the contract…”. So it seems pretty certain that locally-produced vaccine will fall short.

Concerns about delays were also exacerbated when it a plan was announced to delay “AstraZeneca second shots by four weeks for an interval of 16 weeks instead of 12 originally.” While doctors say this is based on health research, most people read it as a delay. Reports from readers suggest that the best way to get AstraZeneca is to connive with the health personnel currently offering AstraZeneca as an alternative to Sinovac for a payment of several thousand baht.

Update 2: Anutin is at it again. He’s reported in this way:

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul insists the government will be ready to launch a massive Covid-19 vaccination programme as promised from June 7 using AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

… Speaking after meeting with company representatives on Tuesday, the deputy prime minister said that AstraZeneca had given him updated information and the discussion had been very positive.

Whoopie! Jabs to come. But:

He did not specify the exact date the company would deliver its first vaccine batch to the ministry but said the company would provide further deliveries every month.

And he went on to be imprecise:

What we can say right now is that the company will be able to send its vaccine continuously every month…. The amount will be based on discussions between the company and the Department of Disease Control (DDC).

A couple of days ago he was talking about a contractual requirement…. And his evasion went on:

We can’t say the exact date we will get our first delivery from the company but we are confident that it will be ready by June 7.

Even the Bangkok Post is not finding Anutin very convincing. We hope the vaccine is available and distributed free as promised rather than “auctioned” as it is currently being done in some places.





Virus failure

5 05 2021

Readers may recall that, a couple of days ago, in posting on military budgets, we observed that key supporters of the current regime were Sino-Thai oligarchs and their conglomerates. They are handsomely rewarded for their loyalty to military and monarchy.

As we noted then, several times already this group has come to the rescue of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime, most recently offering more virus help to the government in a mass rollout of Covid-19 vaccination from June. Special mention made of billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont’s Charoen Pokphand Group.

With the developing virus cluster around Klong Toey, it is reported that Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) has “launched a mass vaccination scheme to support the government…”.

The conglomerate has “set up a mass vaccination facility at Lotus Rama IV, aimed at vaccinating at least 1,000 people per day, said Suphachai Chearavanont, CEO and executive chairman of CP Group.” This will go on for a couple of weeks

This is described as “a model of collaboration among the private sector, social activists, and state agencies to minimise risks and curb the outbreak…”.

Rather, it is a statement of the regime’s vaccine rollout failure, bedrocked in the king’s “vaccine” company. More than this, as Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha gave himself total control and authority over the virus response, it is his personal failure.

Of course, CP is also a vaccine company, owning a Chinese producer. Can we assume that the vaccine it is using is from its own stocks?





Military, dictators, and money

2 05 2021

There’s a story at something called the Atlas Institute for International Affairs which sounds very 1960s and argues that militaries kept “fed” with taxpayer funds don’t intervene politically. This long discredited notion is in part based on work on Thailand. The fact that coups in Thailand bear no relationship to that military’s ability to grab loot from the taxpayer should alert the authors. Think of “self-coups,” coups against military leaders and other rightists, and, most recently, the coup against Yingluck Shinawatra, when spending on the military increased.

That said, there’s no doubt that Thai military leaders love kit and money. One graph in the Atlas story demonstrates how the military has benefited by sucking the taxpayer of the people’s money.

Military spending

What is clear, is that following the 2006 and 2014 coups, the military has been rewarded and the taxpayer filched. We might also observe that military and military-backed regimes also shovel taxpayer funds to their ally, the monarchy.

The other group that does well following military political interventions is the Sino-Thai capitalist oligarchy and their conglomerates. They get to such at the taxpayer teat via the contracts and concessions doled out by the regimes that reward their loyalty to military and monarchy.

Several times already this group has come to the rescue of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime. And as Prayuth’s mafia coalition struggles with the virus, once again, Thailand’s top business groups “offered to join the government in a mass rollout of Covid-19 vaccination from June as the Southeast Asian nation grapples with its worst coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began.”

Gen Prayuth’s faltering vaccine “strategy” has the support of “the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Thai Bankers Association and the Tourism Council of Thailand,” with special mention made of “[b]illionaire Dhanin Chearavanont’s Charoen Pokphand Group and VGI Pcl…”. VGI is the profitable advertising arm of the Skytrain enterprise owned mostly by the Kanjanapas family.

It seems that these groups plan to not only prop up the regime, but the king’s vaccine company as well:

Thai owners of malls, commercial real estate and industrial parks will provide spaces for vaccination camps once the country receives more vaccines from June, while other businesses will assist in distribution and logistics, communication with the public and procurement of more doses….

The Bangkok Post – which is interlinked with the conglomerates through directors and major shareholders – manages to come up with the outlandish claim that, like frontline health workers, the “men in suits turn saviours,” joining “medical heroes in trying to give [the regime’s] slow vaccination drive a shot in the arm…”. These are, it claims, “a crop of saviours stepping out of their boardrooms to rally behind vaccine procurement and national vaccination efforts…”.

Observing that the “country’s economic powerhouses are being seen as an emerging sturdy force that can help prop up the government…”, the Post doesn’t acknowledge that, so far, they haven’t actually done anything apart from prop up their regime.

Of course, more vaccination is also good for business, so the tycoons are in a win-win-win situation. And, propping up the Gen Prayuth and his limping regime of hucksters, criminals, and thugs, guarantees profits, concessions, and contracts.

Money greases a lot of wheels, but the benefits flow mostly to military, money, and monarchy.





King’s reward

2 02 2021

Usually the monarchy and military get most of our attention. But we have long posted about the tripod of oligarchy and power in Thailand, with the third leg being Sino-Thai tycoons. They’ve given billions to the monarchy and lots of ideological support and they’ve done the same for Thailand’s nasty military regimes.

In an announcement a couple of days ago, the king provided rewards for quite a bunch of the plutocrats.

The Bangkok Post reports highlights that “Suthikiati Chirathivat, chairman of the board of Bangkok Post Plc and chairman of the board of Central Plaza Hotel Plc. He is one of seven people awarded the Knight Grand Cordon (First Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand.” The capitalists love these awards because they show acceptance and put them close to the monarchy and all the benefits that provides and has provided them for decades.

It reports that others who were repaid for their “loyalty” included:

Prasert Prasarttong-Osoth, the founder of Bangkok Dusit Medical Services Plc; Santi Bhirombhakdi, executive chairman of Boonrawd Brewery Co; … Chattip Tanthaprasas, president of Nitipeerachat Law Office; Polapee Tulyasuwan, managing director of Nitipeerachat Law Office, and Aswin Techajareonvikul, chief executive officer of Berli Jucker Plc.

We are not sure what services the Nitipeerachat Law Office provided. Maybe a reader knows?

But this report is somewhat sneaky, leaving out the big names. Prachatai (in Thai) reproduces the Royal Announcement and the names include all the whales of the Sino-Thai tycoons. First listed is CP’s Dhanin Chearavanont, second is Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi of ThaiBev, third is Charoen’s wife, Wanna, and the others on Thailand’s rich list follow: a bunch of Lamsams, more Chearavanonts, more from the Sirivadhanabhakdi clan, more Bhirombhakdis, Pornpraphasand so it goes on.

Whole families seem to have been royally anointed. This appears as a thank you award for Sino-Thais supporting the king.

We wonder if those not listed aren’t being urged to do more?

 

 





Protecting CP

7 01 2021

PPT has posted several times on the relationship between Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime and the biggest, richest Sino-Thai tycoons (here, here, here, here, and here).

Khaosod reports on yet another “bonus” provided to the already hugely rich. It states that Bangkok’s health officials “omitted references to a convenience store chain owned by one of Thailand’s largest corporations when publishing coronavirus patients’ travel history ‘due to legal concerns’.”

In a remarkable turn of events, Siriporn Thongphu, an officer at Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s infectious control division, said: “We have representatives from the legal department to review the travel history of patients before announcing them…”.

The result is that the travel history of a virus infected person was wiped of a trip to one of CP’s thousands of 7-Eleven convenience stores.

CP All, the operator of 7-Elevens rehearsed its PR:

The company said there is no report of anyone contracting the virus from its 7-Eleven stores to date. Bangkok has about 4,500 branches of 7-Eleven, according to available information.

“Customers only spent a few minutes in our stores, so there’s very low risk of infection,” the statement said. “However, we have instructed our staff to disinfect all the surfaces every three hours to ensure safety of our customers.”

Khaosod states:

The practice of scrubbing any mention of 7-Eleven stores seems to be exclusively adopted by Bangkok authorities, since travel timelines of coronavirus patients published by provincial agencies outside the capital explicitly mention names of each establishment visited by the individuals, including 7-Eleven.

But here’s the rub: CP has made a fortune during the virus crisis, not least because its thousands of convenience stores were permitted to stay open when almost everything else was closed. CP gets special treatment from the junta/post-junta.








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