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.





Protecting villains

12 09 2017

In the context of The Dictator’s ramblings about “human rights” and law and “justice,” a commentary at the World Socialist Web Site on the impunity enjoyed by government officials in murdering civilians is worth reading, even if the details are well known (and a little scrambled in places).

It says that a Supreme Court ruling “ended the trials of ex-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, who were responsible for the deadly military crackdown on mass protests in 2010 that left more than 90 people dead.”

In fact, the ending came much earlier, and this court decision merely confirmed the decisions of lower courts not to hear the case. It was the National Anti-Corruption Commission that ruled that murdering citizens “in the line of duty” was quite okay.

(In another case, the NACC pushed charges against Somchai Wongsawat and others, but these were dismissed by a court. The initial double standards should be acknowledged. So should the fact that this case did not involve the massive use of military force.)

The article notes that the NACC has a recent history of political partisanship:

Despite dozens of complaints filed by civilians and political parties since 2014, primarily centred on nepotism and corruption, the commission has dropped or arbitrarily prolonged all cases against military officials.

It is added that it is an “illusion that justice can be obtained through the NACC” by appealing the Supreme Court’s decision. It criticizes the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship for promoting this illusion.

The report also notes that the military junta “is determined to protect Abhisit and Suthep from prosecution because a conviction could open the way for legal action against the military.”





Updated: The yellow threat

4 09 2017

About a month ago we suggested watching the People’s Alliance for Democracy. The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions clearing of 2008 prime minister Somchai Wongsawat and three others over their role in an attempt at clearing of PAD protesters had the (former) members of PAD agitated.

The Bangkok Post reports that the former “co-leader and spokesman of … PAD … Parnthep Pourpongpan, is warning of the possible return of yellow shirts if justice [sic.] is not served in a case concerning the 2008 deadly dispersal of the group’s demonstrators.”

This is obviously a political threat. It is an attempt to influence the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), seeking to force it to “appeal against the ruling…”. The NACC has refused and PAD says that’s a “political” decision.

PAD’s threat includes “lawsuits to be filed against the NACC members concern abuse of authority…”.

Panthep claims that there may have been “collusion between government figures and the NACC … to shield some people from legal action…”. He regards this “as organised crime.” He warns that PAD will sort this out. Another threat.

If that is the case, he says, then PAD may have to deal with it. Another threat.

“In the end, if no justice is served [he means PAD gets what it wants], no one can tell whether the PAD will return or not (to an active protest role)…”.

Just to turn the knife a bit more, Panthep went after The Dictator. “He said the government has not yet overcome the influence of the Thaksin system as it has failed to win over the hearts and minds of the people.”

Panthep reckons that the “regime’s policies were rolled out to mainly help capitalists or big entrepreneurs rather than the general public, which widens social disparity…”. There’s something in that. And it’s another threat.

The PAD man warns that the “military regime could seek a compromise with Thaksin’s system as a potential partner in holding political power.” That would surely bring the PADistas back. So it’s another threat.

Update: We should have mentioned that the NACC had 15 days to appeal. It has decided to appeal on just one of the four PAD crackdown cases. The Nation reports that the NACC “agreed with the court’s acquittal of the first three defendants…”. That’s Somchai, his deputy Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and then-police chief Pol General Patcharawat Wongsuwan. The NACC is appealing the case of former metropolitan police chief Pol Lt-General Suchart Muankaew. That is not enough for PAD.





Updated: Watch(ing) PAD

4 08 2017

In an earlier post we mentioned that the former members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy were angry and bitter regarding the sudden, probably temporary suspension of gross double standards by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions in clearing 2008 prime minister Somchai Wongsawat and three others over their role in the attempt at clearing of PAD protesters.

The Bangkok Post reports that, after PAD core member Suriyasai Katasila called a meeting of the yellow-hued group for today to discuss what PAD might do, he’s been warned.

The first thing to note is that PAD is always said to be defunct. We have never believed this as all of the various groups that tried to bring down the Yingluck Shinawatra government were PAD clones, including the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. They were all political siblings. The second thing to recall is that the military junta dislikes and distrusts all groups that are able to mobilize people, and PAD can do that. That the red shirts can too but are not allied in any way with the junta makes them double trouble.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan reportedly issued “a stern warning Thursday to yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) demonstrators to strictly comply with the 2016 public gathering law amid speculation the group might try to stir up trouble.”

Prawit’s warning, however, seems only to relate to street protests. He seems less concerned about a PAD meeting.

Meanwhile, “Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has 30 days to appeal against the court ruling as allowed by the constitution.”

PAD and its supporter’s response to this ruling is also motivated by its desire to see Yingluck locked away and/or stripped of every satang that is in her name. They fear that Somchai’s acquittal may portend Yingluck walking free. Given the attention the junta has given Yingluck’s case, we doubt that.

Update: Unlike red shirts, it seems PAD can have political meetings and disagree with Supreme Court decisions and call for “justice.”





Updated: PAD excited and angry

2 08 2017

Yellow shirt social media has erupted, complaining bitterly about the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions has acquitted Somchai Wongsawat, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and two others for their role in seeking to move protesters seeking to block parliament.

The details are still vague and incomplete, but it should be recalled that the “four men were charged with abuse of authority in 2015 by the National Anti-Corruption Commission.”The charges related to the dispersal of People’s Alliance for Democracy protesters in 2008, with the junta pushing the charges forward.

It was the same NACC that claimed that Abhisit Vejjajiva, Suthep Thaugsuban and General Anupong Paojinda had no case to answer for their role in the events leading to the deaths of more than 100 red shirt protesters and others in 2010.

The court ruled that the “authorities had no intention of causing injuries or loss of life when they launched the operation to clear away the protesters.”

Given that Abhisit and his lot got off so easily, the fact that the NACC took Somchai and others to court raised a serious question of double standards. With Yingluck Shinawatra’s case also coming to a conclusion, the courts and junta faced a dilemma that could have unleashed a political backlash. They appear to have both backed off and followed the law. That’s an innovation.

The backlash now seems to be coming from the yellow shirts.

Update: Angry yellow shirt “leaders have called on the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to appeal yesterday’s acquittal of four defendants in a case stemming from the fatal 2008 crackdown.” Suriyasai Katasila, a former PAD leader “disputed arguments that the dispersal of the protest had been conducted in line with international practices, that the demonstration was not peaceful or unarmed, and that the defendants had no intention of causing casualties.”





“Election” readiness II

22 07 2017

In an earlier post PPT, commented that preparations for the military junta’s election were moving along and that the signals for this were getting stronger. They included the anti-Election Commission that the junta could arrange its election sometime from August 2018. Another signal were the efforts to neuter the Shinawatra clan and Puea Thai Party, with the cases against Yingluck Shinawatra is drawing to a close next month.

The Bangkok Post reports that other cases at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions are scheduled for rulings with “three major cases involving politicians from the Pheu Thai Party” also scheduled for next month.

One is Yingluck’s case. A second case “involves a group of 28 people including former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom and former deputy commerce minister Poom Sarapol. It deals with their involvement in government-to-government rice sales to China.” All are from the Yingluck government that was thrown out by the 2014 military coup.

The third case, set to be ruled on 2 August, involves a set of senior figures associated with the pro-Thaksin People’s Power Party government from 2007-08. Included are former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who was deputy prime minister in charge of security under then premier Somchai and two senior policemen of that period.

They are on trial for their roles in the crackdown on the People’s Alliance for Democracy which had had its protesters lay siege to Government House from 20 June 2008, seeking to force the pro-Thaksin elected government out of office. Despite a court order for the eviction of protesters, the siege continued. To bring further pressure on the government, PAD laid siege to parliament, to prevent Somchai from making a legally required policy speech in the assembly. On 7 July 2008, police announced that they would use tear gas and clear protesters. Clashes continued for several hours, with two deaths and 471 people injured. One of the deaths was a PAD supporter who accidentally blew himself up.

Students of Thailand’s double standards will recall that former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban and General Anupong Paojinda were charged with malfeasance and murder for their crackdowns on red shirt protesters in April and May 2010 resulting in a 100 deaths and thousands of injuries. Several courts denied that they had jurisdiction, the National Anti-Corruption Commission ruled they had acted lawfully and the case did not go to the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.





Doubling down on double standards

5 05 2016

PPT was interested to read a story in the Bangkok Post that reports there is yellow-shirted opposition to a “move by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to withdraw a case against former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, and three other senior figures who are charged with malfeasance in connection with the bloody crackdown on yellow-shirt [People’s Alliance for Democracy] protesters in 2008…”.

The report states that NACC chairman Watcharapol Prasarnratchakij set up a panel to study the legal possibilities of charging the senior figures under “Section 157 of the Criminal Code for malfeasance and dereliction of duty and related clauses in the NACC Act and the 2007 charter.”

This is a long-standing case for the NACC since then NACC boss and anti-democrat sympathizer Panthep Klanarongran “made tremendous efforts to push the case to reach the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political-Office Holders.”

The Office of the Attorney-General which initially refused to indict the four defendants (“former deputy prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, former police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwon, who is the younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, and Pol Lt Gen Suchart Muenkaew, former metropolitan police chief” and Somchai). The NACC “then ignored the OAG” and went ahead with the case.

Another Bangkok Post report is about the PAD response. PAD lawyer Nithithorn Lamlua, PAD members and “relatives of those killed and injured Oct 7, 2008 at parliament, submitted the petition to Suthi Boonmee, director of the NACC’s Information and Special Affairs Office.” They oppose the case being dropped.

As we recall it, one person was killed, apparently when hit by a tear gas canister and another was blown up in his own car, which carried explosives. Some serious injuries were seen to result from PAD’s use of ping pong bombs and the use of tear gas. At the time, PAD was trying to “prevent then-prime minister Somchai from delivering his policy statement at parliament on Oct 7, 2008.”

Nithithorn stated that if the NACC dropped the case against Somchai, PAD would bring a malfeasance case against the NACC.

Carefully tip-toeing around claims that the case was being dropped because Police General Patcharawat is the younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit, Nithithorn said the family name “had nothing to do with” the case. He did say that “the government would be in trouble if this case was treated in a way to destroy the justice process.”

Panthep Puapongpan, a PAD core member, was more upfront when recognized that the NACC is a junta puppet agency when he “said he believed the NACC would not withdraw the case as doing so would destroy the legitimacy and credibility of the government because the present members of the NACC were appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order [he means the military junta].” He declared that if General Prayuth Chan-ocha and General Prawit “turned a blind eye to this matter, PAD core members would regroup to demand justice…”.

The junta is already known for nepotism, so it may well sweep this case aside.

But think a bit about this and the double standards involved.

For all of the bleating about this case being “highly sensitive,” important for fighting “corruption,” for the “reputation” of the NACC and so on, all the charges against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban were dropped on the basis that they had no case to answer. They ordered attacks on red shirts that resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries.





Doubling down

10 02 2015

The quiet struggle between the Thaksin Shinawatra clan and its supporters and the military dictatorship is heavily weighted in favor of the latter. After all, the military junta has lots of armed soldiers, control of the police and has plenty of overcrowded prisons. In addition, it has the courts, the puppet assemblies and so on.

There has been talk of a “deal” being negotiated between Thaksin and the junta. Yellow-shirted ideologues see bombs, student demonstrations and anti-monarchy activism as being the weapons of Thaksin and his clan. They might also see the military dictatorship’s increasing screwing down of red shirts and others as and example of the junta responding.

We could believe this. After all, Thaksin has been a skilled negotiator. That said, each “deal” that has been said to have been done in the past has ended badly for Thaksin. Think of the “deal” undone by the amnesty debacle.

In this context, the continuing attacks on the Thaksin clan seems to us at PPT to be more likely to be an example of the military seeking to expunge that group – something it was accused of failing to do following the 2006 putsch.

Khaosod reports that the politicized National Anti-Corruption Commission has decided it “will prosecute former Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and his deputies [former Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, and ‘some more Cabinet members’] for authorizing a crackdown on Yellowshirt protesters in October 2008.”

On 7 October 2008 the Somchai government “ordered police to clear Yellowshirt [People’s Alliance for Democracy] protesters who were blocking the entrance to Parliament and calling on Somchai to resign. Two people were killed…”.

As far as PPT can recall, with the help of Wikipedia, only one protester died in the skirmishes between police and a violent PAD. The second “protester” blew himself up in a car bomb gone wrong. The “investigation” involved the use of GT200 magic wands by royalist forensic “scientist” Pornthip Rojanasunand, who simply decided that the woman killed was hit by a police tear gas canister.

But the point is to punish. A spokesperson for the NACC says that it has a ton of “evidence,” and “that the agency will prosecute Somchai and his deputies in the Supreme Court’s Division for Holders of Political Office,” charged with “abuse of power.”

The NACC is pushing this case “because the Office of Attorney-General declined to take the case…”.

The queen, when she was still politically active, attended the funeral of the victim and praised her.

What has the NACC done to investigate the murder of red shirts by the military in 2010?

In line with the doubling down on the Thaksin clan, The Bangkok Post reports that a request “by former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to travel abroad will take a long time to process…”. More pressure is applied to her after the ridiculous “impeachment.”

The junta says it “must be careful when considering her travel requests, to avoid affecting legal proceedings…”. Of course, all they are doing is squeezing her and her clan.

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, appears to be promoting the doubling down. He wants to expunge popular politicians, probably so that his men and women can win any future “election.”





In the parallel universe

26 01 2015

As PPT mentioned in a post yesterday, Yingluck Shinawatra denounced her show trial and retrospective impeachment. She made a call for true democracy and rule of law.

Fat chance under the royalist military dictatorship, yet her’s was a statement that seemed one of principles.

This is not the case for the Puea Thai Party, where principles seem lost and difficult to find.

Khaosod reports that a “top legal adviser to the … Party [Singthong Buachum] says he hopes the military junta will grant amnesty to … Yingluck…”.

Singthong helpfully told the military dictatorship that the “Pheu Thai Party would not mobilize its supporters to protest the impeachment or any other verdict against Yingluck.”

Is that simply throwing her to the military wolves? Maybe, but it is also in line with the gormless statements by Thaksin Shinawatra and Somchai Wongsawat in recent days.

Like them, Singthong babbled: “We want the NCPO [he means the military junta] and the government [he means the military dictatorship] to help Thailand move forward…”.

Yingluck’s statement that “Thai democracy is dead, along with the rule of law,” is entirely accurate. Singthong must be working in the parallel universe that is about clandestine elite deal-making.





Further updated: Punishing Yingluck

23 01 2015

PPT has read several articles, social media sources and received several emails about The military’s puppet Assembly (predictably) voting to impeach former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. No links to the sources, just a cut-and-paste.

Yingluck was impeached for being elected prime minister. The puppets and a legion of royalists say it was about her lack of oversight on her government’s rice subsidy, but her real “crime” for them was her popularity and for being Thaksin’s sister.

The vote is one “partisan action aimed at crippling the political machine founded by her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, another ousted Prime Minister.” Other partisan actions will produce a constitution that will be anti-Thaksin, anti-democratic and anti-election.

Yingluck will be banned from politics for five years, but that is not enough for some, with the partisan Attorney General’s Office will “indict her on criminal charges for negligence related to losses and alleged corruption in the rice program.” That could lead to 10 years in jail. That may not be enough for others who will seek to drive her into exile.

Academic Kevin Hewison commented that the:

banning represents a show of confidence by the junta, which feels that it has broken the back of the Pheu Thai Party and the Red Shirt movement. It also allows the junta to reassert its anti-Thaksin credentials with the pro-royalist street movement that paved the way for the coup…. With Yingluck banned and Thaksin in exile, the military junta and its appointed bodies will feel more confident in gradually preparing the way for an election, probably in 2016. They will be more confident that they can be heavy-handed in changing the political rules to prevent any pro-Thaksin party having any chance to do well electorally.

Yingluck cancelled “a scheduled news conference because the military authorities had expressed concern that it might violate martial law.” She had already denied the charges and pointed to the essential unfairness of the process that was put in place and managed by her political opponents. Yingluck pointed to “a hidden agenda under an unjust practice, and [said it] is a political agenda.”

Yes, political, but hardly hidden!

She rightly pointed out that all these agencies “lacked the legitimacy to judge her because the junta terminated the constitution when it took power on May 22.”

Yingluck made some commentsat Facebook, saying she expected the Assembly to impeach her.

The idea that she can be impeached when she doesn’t hold a single position anywhere, having been thrown out just before the coup by the politicized Constitutional Court is reflective of bizarre royalist Thailand.

She stated that she insisted on her innocence. She added: “I am confident in my innocence.” Yingluck observed that “Thai democracy has died, along with the rule of law.”

She says she feels depressed because the “Thai people … have to return to the cycle of poverty, being taken advantage of and having lost the most fundamental democracy, as well as suffering the distortion of the law.”

Yingluck pledged to continue to fight to prove her innocence. She added: “… I will stand by the Thai people. We have to join forces in bringing prosperity and progress to the nation, bring back democracy and create the true fairness in the Thai society.”

Anti-democrats welcomed the pre-ordained decision.

Akanat Promphan, on his Facebook page, made inane statements about the “bravery” of the puppet Assembly, ethics and morals. He’s clearly lost his moral compass.

Update 1: The unofficial translation of Yingluck’s statement is available at the Puea Thai Party site.

Update 2: As noted above, the Attorney General has also decided to go after Yingluck, with the aim of tying her up in the courts or even in jail for months and years to come. She’s not the only one in the Shinawatra clan who is targeted. While PPT was recently disgusted by the political toadying of Somchai Wongsawat, the military dictatorship seems to have taken little notice, and the National Anti-Corruption Commission has launched a “lawsuit against former prime minister Somchai … and three others [Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, a former deputy prime minister, Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwon, the former police chief, and Pol Lt Gen Suchart Muankaew, the former Metropolitan Police chief] over the 2008 crackdown on People’s Alliance for Democracy protestors.” The Supreme Court is to decide whether to hear the case. The royalist elite certainly seems keen to punish those it sees as elite traitors.