Doubling down on double standards IV

2 10 2018

We have posted a lot on the GT200 debacle. Even so, the Bangkok Post’s recent editorial on the military brass and their impunity deserves attention.

It points out that the retailer of the useless non-devices to the military and other government agencies has twice been found guilty for selling the lumps of plastic. With just two employees, his AVA Satcom Co Ltd. managed to sell large quantities of the junk to the government and military.

(Reminds us that this is not unusual. The non-flying waste of money Sky Dragon was sold to the same military brass by a penny company in the USA. It’s now more than a year since that “investigation” was begun and nothing’s been heard that we know of.)

The Post states that the “military men involved in this shameful saga more than 10 years ago have never been brought to justice.” Why not? The Post “answers”: “They include several of those in high positions in the military regime and National Council for Peace and Order.” (So does the Sky Dragon non-case.)

More than this, Sutthiwat lawyer “claims that Sutthiwat only imported the GT200 … because the army told him to do so.” And more: “Credibly he claims army officers approached his client with instructions, and specific specifications to buy, import and resell the items to the army.”

If it wasn’t a theft of taxpayer funds, this would be funny. It is corruption, managed and directed by senior military officers. And to repeat, as the Post said: “They include several of those in high positions in the military regime and National Council for Peace and Order.”

The Post makes it clear that the “lawyer’s claim is credible because this is the way the Royal Thai Armed Forces do their foreign buying.”

A total of 535 sets of the useless GT200 were purchased by the Army, costing the taxpayer 642 million baht, with”four army commanders in a row spoke glowingly and positively of their effectiveness.” That’s Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who led the 2006 coup and Gen Anupong Paojinda, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan who all led the 2014 coup and now lead the military junta.

Double standards define the military junta.





Meechai as military lackey

12 09 2018

Meechai Ruchupan has loyally served several military and military-backed regimes.

Meechai has faithfully served royalist and military regimes, being a in various legal and political positions to prime ministers Sanya Dharmasakti, Kukrit Pramoj, Seni Pramoj, Thanin Kraivichien, General Kriangsak Chamanan, General Prem Tinsulanonda and Anand Panyarachun. His main task in all of these positions has been to embed Thai-style (non) democracy. rather than an electoral democracy where the people are sovereign.

He also worked for Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan, but when Chatichai was ousted in a miltiary coup led by General Suchinda Kraprayoon and his National Peace-Keeping Council (NPKC) in 1991, Meechai was hoisted by his military allies into the acting premier’s position before Anand was given the top job by the military, probably on royal advice.

Later, the military had Meechai appointed the leader of a charter-drafting committee, leading to the 1991 Constitution, which eventually led to the May 1992 massacre. In drafting that constitution, Meechai simply plagiarized bits of a charter that had been used earlier by a military regime. The major “achievement of that constitution was in allowing an “outsider” prime minister. Sound familiar? Yes, that’s what he has recycled into the 2017 constitution.

Like many of the “good” people, he is arrogant, practices nepotism, lies for his bosses and political allies, slithers before the monarchy, he’s a “constitutional expert” who practices and supports double standards and the retrospective application of laws. You get the picture.

Thai PBS now reports that, against all evidence, Meechai has claimed to not be a military lackey. As the report begins:

Every coup-maker of the past two decades needed his service. Seizing power doesn’t end with just toppling the incumbent governments. Coup announcements and executive orders need to be issued. And more importantly, interim constitutions need to be drafted.

And his track records have proven that nobody could have done a better job with all these necessary paperworks than Meechai Ruchuphan.

It is well more than two decades, but let’s go on.

Maybe he’s been to a fortune teller who predicts that Meechai will burn in the fires of hell for an eternity or perhaps he’s writing a self-congratulatory book. But whatever the reason, Meechai improbably claims that “he was inadvertently dragged [sic.] into a few coups despite the fact that he hardly knew any of the generals involved.”

He reckons that the multiple coup leaders just needed his legal expertise. In other words, he claims he’s just a tool for the men who repeatedly act illegally in overthrowing legal governments and smashing constitutions.

A tool he might be, but a willing and blunt tool. Willingly plagiarizing and willingly taking positions and pay from dull dictators.

But none of that means, at least in Meechai’s fairy tale, “that he would follow every marching order from the military.”

That he’s piling up buffalo manure is illustrated in his ridiculous claims about the 2006 coup.

He says the first he was ever at the army headquarters was during the 2006, which he knew nothing of. Really? Seriously? More unbelievable is his statement that he “didn’t even know at the time who was leading the coup. There were three of them there and I knew only afterward … [who] they were…”.

He is imitating the Deputy Dictator making stupid and unbelievable stuff in the belief that the public are gullible morons. That Meechai thinks anyone would believe that he, a military servant for decades, didn’t know three of the most powerful generals is laughable.

Then he lies about the 2014 coup: “His service was enlisted once again by the people he didn’t know.” Yes, that’s right, didn’t know anyone. He lies:  “I didn’t know Gen Prayut and didn’t even know what he looked like…”.

We assume that when he was President of the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly after the 2006 coup he kept his eyes closed the whole time so that he didn’t see NLA member Gen Prayuth.

He goes on and on with this stream of fermenting lies to claim “that even under military dictatorship … he was by no means an unquestioning subordinate of those in power.”

Meechai is unscrupulous and a military lackey. He doesn’t feel like a lackey because his ideas on anti-democracy fit the generals ever so perfectly.

The arrogance of the man is as stunning at Gen Prawit’s.





Fearful, covering up or just thick?

30 08 2018

The military junta has emphasized Thailand’s “uniqueness.” Thailand is probably the world’s only military dictatorship, it “protects” the monarchy more intensely than almost any other constitutional monarchy, its lese majeste law carries higher sentences than anywhere else and more.

It is probably not unique that it has officials and appointed members of assemblies who say some of the dumbest things that could possibly be imagined. They do this with straight faces, without a smile and appear to believe the daft things that flow from their mouths, seemingly disconnected from anything resembling a brain.

Likewise, we don’t think it is unique when the main “anti-corruption” bodies prefer to obfuscate, lie and cover-up for their bosses/friends/dictators.

But combining those “anti-corruption” bodies with officials saying the dumbest things may be unique.

As a case in point is Surasak Keereevichiena, a member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission reportedly stated that “[i]t is difficult for the nation’s anti-graft agency to conclude whether there was any wrongdoing in the Bt1.13-billion purchase of fake ‘remote substance detectors’…”.

That’s bad enough, but what was the reason for this outrageous claim? Get this: Surasak “said it was likely that officials had decided to purchase the devices because they believed the devices would work.” Making this dopey statement dopier still, he babbled that “[s]ometimes, it is not about the value of devices. It’s more about belief, just like when you buy Buddha amulets…”.

Now what is Surasak prattling about? None other than the plastic handled scam wand, the GT200.

Wikipedia’s page says this:

The GT200 is a fraudulent “remote substance detector” that was claimed by its manufacturer, UK-based Global Technical Ltd, to be able to detect, from a distance, various substances including explosives and drugs. The GT200 was sold to a number of countries for a cost of up to £22,000 per unit, but the device has been described as little more than “divining rods” which lack any scientific explanation for why they should work. After the similar ADE 651 was exposed as a fraud, the UK Government banned the export of such devices to Iraq and Afghanistan in January 2010 and warned foreign governments that the GT200 and ADE 651 are “wholly ineffective” at detecting bombs and explosives. The owner of Global Technical, Gary Bolton, was convicted on 26 July 2013 on two charges of fraud relating to the sale and manufacture of the GT200 and sentenced to seven years in prison.

For Thailand, where the prices paid reached the maximum, this story goes back beyond the early days of this blog. Our first post was in early January 2010, when General Pathomphong Kasornsuk reportedly wrote a letter to then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to urge that a committee investigate the army’s procurement scheme for GT200 “bomb detectors.”

But the news reports of early 2010 point to an earlier purchase of the GT200, by the air force in 2004 or 2005.  Wassana Nanuam, writing in the Bangkok Post (18 February 2010) says future 2006 coup leader ACM Chalit Phukpasuk was commander at the time. 2006 junta boss Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, then army commander and chairman of the Council for National Security (CNS), was impressed with the device and it was used at that time by a unit which provided security for then prime minister Surayud Chulanont.

The Wikipedia page says this about Thailand:

The GT200 was used extensively in Thailand. Reportedly, some 818 GT200 units were procured by Thai public bodies since 2004. These include 535 bought by the Royal Thai Army for use combating the South Thailand insurgency and another 222 for use in other areas, 50 purchased by the Royal Thai Police for use in Police Region 4 (Khon Kaen), six bought by the Central Institute of Forensic Science, six by the Customs Department, four by the Royal Thai Air Force, and one by Chai Nat police. Other agencies such as the Border Patrol Police Bureau and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board use a similar device to detect drugs, the Alpha 6, procured from another company, Comstrac. According to the Bangkok Post, the Royal Thai Air Force first procured the GT200 to detect explosives and drugs at airports, followed by the army in 2006.[30] According to Lt Gen Daopong Rattansuwan, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Royal Thai Army, each GT200 bought by the army cost 900,000 baht (£17,000/US$27,000), rising to 1.2 million baht (£22,000/US$36,000) if 21 “sensor cards” were included with it. In total, Thailand’s government and security forces have spent between 800–900 million baht (US$21 million) on the devices. Figures updated in 2016 claim that the Thai government spent 1.4 billion baht on the purchase of 1,358 devices between 2006 and 2010. Even after the efficacy of the device was debunked by Thai and foreign scientists, Prime Minister Chan-o-cha, then army chief, declared, “I affirm that the device is still effective.” The Bangkok Post commented that, “The GT200 case was a unique scandal because the devices…seemed to fool only the people closely connected to their sale and purchase.”

Tests and experiments conducted in Thailand and in the UK showed that the GT200 and similar wands were an undisguised scam.

Wassana Nanuam, writing in the Bangkok Post (18 February 2010) pointed out that it was Army commander Anupong Paojinda “who approved the purchase of more than 200 of these so-called bomb detectors at the price of 1.4 million baht each in 2009.” As we know, he is now Minister of Interior and part of the junta.

She says that the GT200 was first purchased by the air force in 2005, when future coup leader Air Chief Marshal Chalit Phukpasuk was commander. “After that, [2006 coup leader] Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, then army commander and chairman of the Council for National Security (CNS), became impressed with the device. He asked that two of them be sent for trial. They were used at that time by a unit which provided security coverage for then prime minister Surayud Chulanont.”

Despite the legal cases elsewhere and the tests, Anupong, Prayuth and others refused to acknowledge that the GT200 didn’t work. They mumbled about soldiers finding them useful. Questions were raised about the commissions paid.

In mid-2012, reporters asked “army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha if the GT200 had actually been taken out of service.” The response was an emphatic no. Then the now premier and more than fours years as The Dictator, stated: “I affirm that the device is still effective. Other armed forces are also using it…”.

Indeed they were, including in the south, where people were arrested based on “tests” using the GT200. Prayuth “insisted the GT200 has proven to be effective in the army’s operations in the past. But he would respect any scientific test if it proves otherwise.” Of course, those tests had already been conducted. The (future) Dictator believed the GT200 worked. Full stop.

He was supported by then Defence Minister ACM Sukumpol Suwanatat under the Puea Thai government. Dense and commenting on a report that the Department of Special Investigation was investigating whether the devices were purchased at exorbitant prices, he “said: “The GT200 detectors can do the job and they have already been tested…”. He also babbled that the DSI “should also ask those who are using the detectors because if they don’t work I want to know who would buy them.”

By April 2013, the Bangkok Post reported that investigations in Thailand have shown that “13 agencies to buy 1,358 GT200 and Alpha 6 detectors worth 1.137 billion baht.” It added that fraud charges are being considered by the NACC.

More than 5 years later, Surasak has come up with his ludicrous claims that mimic his bosses in the junta. He added that the junta-shy NACC would “come up with a clear-cut conclusion on the matter ‘at an appropriate time’.”

He said: “if soldiers in the field … have faith in the bomb-detectors and believe they work, then they would consider the equipment worth the money spent. But he admitted that there are people who question their worthiness considering the prices paid.”

We are tempted to conclude that Surasak is dumber than a sack of hammers, but that would do damage to hammers. We should consider that he may be fearful of The Dictator and his team of military thugs. He might love them and feels the need to cover up to protect them. Or some combination of these.





The junta’s lock

20 07 2018

The military dictatorship has now had more than four years to lock-in its rule and its rules. In establishing control over the military, it has had longer.

Around the time of the 2006 military coup, royalist elements in the military, aligned with the palace directly or through privy councilors Gen Prem Tinsulanonda and Gen Surayud Chulanont, marked certain military officers as untrustworthy due to their perceived alliance with Thaksin Shinawatra. These officers were sidelined, stymied and seen out of the military, mostly through the efforts of four generals: Sonthi Boonyaratglin, Anupong Paojinda, Prayuth Chan-ocha and Prawit Wongsuwan. Sonthi was soon discarded as too weak but the others remain, ran the 2014 coup and now plot and plan for the continuation of military guided “democracy” into the future.

That planning for the future involves something that Gen Prem did for years on behalf of the palace: managing succession in the armed forces so that loyalists are on top. In this context. loyalty means to the palace and to the junta and its regime.

It has been known for quite some time that the chosen successor for Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart as Army chief is Gen Apirat Kongsompong. Apirat is a ruthless rightist who has vowed support to The Dictator and taken a leading role in suppressing red shirts and other political opponents.

Last year, when the new King Vajiralongkorn approved the military promotion list, it was widely assumed that Gen Apirat had the king’s approval as Vajiralongkorn takes a strong interest in what happens within the armed forces. However, in May this year, there was an unconfirmed report that Apirat may have fallen foul of the erratic king. Within a couple of months, however, an announcement in the Royal Gazette saw Gen Apirat granted special special status as a member of the king’s personal security unit. If Apirat had fallen foul of the king, he must have completed his penance and/or service with flying colors, at least in the king’s eyes.

This has been followed by Gen Apirat getting plenty of media attention as the Defense Council is scheduled to meet on 25 July to discuss promotions and appointments, with the meeting chaired by Gen Prawit. Interestingly, most of the media stories are almost exactly the same, suggesting that this is a strategic leak by the junta, paving the way for Apirat and acknowledging that the king’s approval has been given.

Apirat, a graduate from Class 20 of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School, and in the military’s feudal system, “belongs to the Wongthewan clique and not the powerful Burapa Phayak circles of elite commanders — of which Gen Prayut and his deputy Gen Prawit are members — [yet] he is one of the regime’s most trusted lieutenants.” He has pledged allegiance to The Dictator. His loyalty has been earlier tested in 2010 and his bosses appreciate Apirat’s willingness to shoot down civilian opponents.

If the junta does decide to hold its rigged election next year, Gen Apirat will be expected to use his 200,000 + soldiers, the Internal Security Operations Command and various other resources of the state to deliver the votes needed for the “election” to appear to have been won by the junta’s parties.





Brotherly military “advice”

24 02 2018

2006 coup leader Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin has, according to the Bangkok Post, “jumped on the election bandwagon, calling on the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the military junta] to stick to its poll roadmap.”

Gen Sonthi says “he was alarmed by the NLA’s rejection of all seven candidates and believes it is a sign of the political roadmap being pushed back [again].” he added the “regime should pay heed to the people’s demands.”

Gen Sonthi has never been the sharpest tool in the shed, so we suspect he’s reflecting the views of others.

Back in 2012, now deceased Maj-Gen Sanan Kachornprasart, and then retiring as “de facto leader of the Chart Thai Pattana Party,” asked a very direct question of Gen Sonthi. According to The Nation, he asked:

Were Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanond and the bureaucratic elites behind Sonthi and the coup, as had been alleged by red shirts?… Who was behind the coup?

… Was it you or did you not have any personal motivation? Please speak the truth, or else the public will continue to doubt. Before we can reconcile you must speak the truth and clear the doubt.

What was Sonthi’s response? According to the report,

He began by saying no one should ever doubt his loyalty to His Majesty the King, and then added: “I don’t think I can answer. For some questions, you can’t answer even if you are dead. When the time comes it will reveal itself.”

We doubt he’ll say who is behind his current advice.





Wolves in charge of “reconciliation”

7 02 2017

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk has been in jail since 30 April 2011. In a long and deliberately tortuous trial, the labor activist was convicted of lese majeste in a sham trial. Because he refused to plead guilty, the “justice” system has deliberately treated him badly.

Despite all of this, a brave Somyos “has denounced the junta’s political reconciliation plans.” He declared:

If the regime is really serious about reconciliation, asserted Somyot, all parties to the political conflicts since the 2006 coup d’état must be invited to the negotiation table. This includes controversial figures such as Thaksin Shinawatra, Suthep Thaugsuban, Yingluck Shinawatra, Jatuporn Prompan, Abhisit Vejjajiva, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, Sondhi Limthongkul and Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin.

He made the good point that the junta’s “reconciliation plan … is like a story of wolves trying to solve problems about grass for cows and buffaloes. [The wolves] portray themselves as the protagonists but they have hidden agendas. It’s like a soap opera…”.

He’s right.





Updated: Tanks, streets and judges I

11 12 2012

[Update: we have fixed several typos in this post]

Voranai Vanijaka at the Bangkok Post noticed that 10 December is Constitution Day. His comments deserve a couple of PPT posts, and here is the first.

Voranai begins with this: “but with 17 charters since 1932, we can call Dec 10 the day when Thailand celebrates 80 years of fickleness. Charter changes to accommodate the times are one thing; 17 constitutions and counting in 80 years is an entirely different matter.”

The problem with this characterization is that getting rid of constitutions is not about fickleness at all. Rather, getting rid of constitutions has been a task undertaken by the military mainly in the interests of protecting a royalist political system and the privileges associated with it, usually with palace support. Maybe Voranai who, just a few days ago, joined the uncritical adulation of the supposed great monarch, needs a bit of a history lesson to loosen the royalist scales from his eyes.

Pridi

Pridi

The first constitution in 1932 was rejected by the king who demanded that it be “interim,” with royalists thinking they could win back some of the powers they had lost to the commoners who overthrew the absolute monarchy. The “permanent” constitution of 1932 stayed in place until 1946, when it was replaced by what is sometimes said to be Thailand’s most democratic constitution. It was put in place by Pridi Phanomyong supporters.

Soon after, in the 1947 constitution, a coterie of royalist generals and their anti-democratic supporters decided to hand back a set of powers to the monarchy while dealing a death blow to the civilians associated with the People’s Party. It was the People’s Party hating regent, Prince Rangsit who accepted the coup within 24 hours and the new royalist 1947 charter the coup leaders had drafted (the king was back in Switzerland not finishing his studies).

The 1949 charter was drafted by a committee that was headed by the royalist Seni Pramoj and dominated by other royalists beholden to Prince Rangsit and Prince Dhani. As might be expected, this document returned considerable power to the throne and Privy Council. This saw a kind of last gasp effort by the military faction from the People’s Party era, which rolled back some of these powers in the 1952 constitution.

Then the royalist military under General Sarit Thanarat took over in 1957 and ruled by decree until 1959 when there was a “temporary charter” announced that was the shortest in Thai history and stayed in place – temporarily – for nine years. It was put in place and mutually supported by king and military as a highly repressive document that allocated almost untrammeled power to the premier (always a military man). There was a “parliament,” but it was appointed and packed with military men and did the bidding of the premier.

Sarit

Sarit

When the military finally came up with the 1968 constitution, it gave sweeping powers to the military. The senate was royally appointed and could delay legislation. The king approved Prime Minister Thanom Kittikachorn’s entire list of mostly military nominees to the senate.

Not surprisingly, this parliament looks a little like the “Thai-style democracy” promoted by modern-day royalists who hate the idea of elected politicians actually ruling. Not even this was adequate for the military bosses, who ditched the 1968 charter in November 1971, declared martial law, and ruled with little legal or political constraint. Thirteen months later, the military brass drafted the 1972 constitution, pretty much the same as the royalist-Sarit version of 1959, banning political parties and appointing legislators, with 200 of the 299 appointees being military and police.

King and prince

King, prince and PM Thanom

When this lot were finally booted out in October 1973, the king appointed a constitutional selection committee which, unexpectedly, came up with a very liberal draft of a constitution which was vigorously opposed by palace and royalists, who managed to water down many of the liberal aspects of the 1974 constitution before it was promulgated. Of course, as the palace and military grew weary of democratic politics and incessant political squabbling, the constitution was ditched following the bloody events of October 1976 and the coup supported by the king. The king appointed the rightist royalist Thanin Kraivixien as premier and his government produced a remarkably reactionary and royalist constitution in 1976 that allowed the king to appoint the entire National Assembly made up of almost entirely bureaucrats and and military men, with the king given the unprecedented power to propose legislation to the assembly.

So repressive was the king’s premier and his regime that the military threw it out in a coup led by General Kriangsak Chomanand.  The king objected to Kriangsak’s coup and refused to sign the new 1977 charter even though it was pretty much the same as the 1976 basic law. Kriangsak proceeded to draft a barely more liberal constitution in 1978, that moderated royal powers. The palace was not amused.

Kriangsak

Kriangsak

The problem the king had with Kriangsak was only solved when royalists managed to engineer his replacement by General Prem Tinsulanonda, a palace favorite, who stayed in power without ever seeking election but with remarkably strong palace support, but did permit the gradual evolution of tame political parties. Eventually, in 1988, an elected prime minister took the prime ministership, only to be ousted in a military coup in 1991 that ditched the 1978 constitution.

There was considerable debate on what became the 1991 constitution. To cut long story short, the military junta to monopolize power. In the end, it was the king who provided the support for the junta when he received the draft constitution by fax, made some minor changes, faxed it back, and then  stated that the junta’s constitution wasn’t “fully adequate,” but should be promulgated because it was “reasonable.” Again, the king had intervened for an undemocratic junta constitution.

The result was the May 1992 uprising that eventually saw the development of the so-called people’s constitution in 1997. When Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted by yet another military coup supported by the palace, that charter was unceremoniously dumped.

That military junta headed by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin set in place mechanisms to develop its own 2007 charter. The major innovation was a referendum. When approved, the Asian Human Rights Commission described a “heavy-handed undemocratic atmosphere…”, stating that the “… junta … coerced, threatened, bought and cajoled part of the electorate…”. Even the Bangkok Post (1 August 2007) claimed the process had a “facade of being a democratic choice… ”, adding “[t]his is not democracy, this is not the rule of law.”

General Sonthi

General Sonthi

This account shows that Voranai’s story of “fickleness” is nonsense. Worse, it can be seen as obscurantist as it deliberating conceals the central roles of the monarchy and military in the story of “serial constitutionalism.” It obscures the fact that it has been the monarchy and military that have worked assiduously to prevent democratization and to throw out  constitutions as it suited them.

Now that the Puea Thai Party-led wants to amend this undemocratic constitution, Voranai says the obstacles are “First, tanks in the streets; second, protesters in the streets; third, Constitution Court judges on the bench.” As can be seen above, tanks – meaning the military – have been the most usual method of opposing constitution reform that is liberalizing. They have most usually done that with or for the palace.