Red Bull and the privilege of great wealth

12 09 2017

Both the Bangkok Post and Prachatai have stories on demands for Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda to be “investigated” after he signed an order that allowed a private company to make use of a 31-rai community forest in Khon Kaen’s Ubonrat district.

General Anupong issued a land use permit to KTD Property Development, allowing it to construct a water storage facility for an adjacent beverage production plant it owns.

KTD Property Development is said to have connections to the giant Red Bull corporation. Red Bull’s Yoovidhya family are reported to be shareholders of KTD.

We wonder if one of those shareholders is Vorayuth Yoovidhya. He’s the Yoovidhya who is a “suspect” in a brutal hit-and-run case in which a police officer was killed, and who has been allowed to miss court appearances time and again as the various charges he faces time out.

His case is an example of the double standards where the rich get benefits from the support they provide to officials and to the royalist ruling class.

Protecting one Yoovidhya is just another aspect of the work of tycoons and the best “justice” and officials that money can buy. These are the tycoons who treat justice as a business tool to keep the profits flowing. The benefits they enjoy through their wealth and extensive corporate control are counted in baht and dollars.

That seems to be what’s happening in Khon Kaen.

KTD has been buying land in the area for five years and requested that it be allowed to use Huay Mek community forest land in 2015. It is reported that the “local community had repeatedly rejected the request.”

The local level officials reckon that KTD will pay. How much? It is stated that the local administration will “collect an annual fee of 1,000 baht per rai, or about 31,000 baht per year.”

What a deal! For KTD and its Red Bull investors.

That said, we assume the company has invested heavily in local, provincial and national officials.

The ever activist Srisuwan Janya has “filed a petition with the National Anti-Corruption Commission to initiate an investigation against Gen Anupong and other high-rank officials of the Interior Ministry.”

Srisuwan and many others reckon General Anupong and his underlings have abused power in favor of a private company.

That support for big business has been a part of the military dictatorship’s “reform” agenda.





Prawit targeted

28 08 2017

General Prawit Wongsuwan, the Deputy Dictator, is being targeted by serial complaint lodger Srisuwan Janya for “dereliction of duty.” Included in the complaint lodged with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is Police General Chakthip Chaijinda, the Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police.

Their dereliction of duty is in allowing Yingluck Shinawatra to skip out on the final day of her trial for – and here is the irony in the complaint – dereliction of duty on her government’s rice scheme.

Srisuwan states:

It was previously generally known that Yingluck’s movements were always monitored by all branches of the security forces, soldiers and police and all her activities shadowed. But when it came to the time she had to travel to hear the verdict, no one in the security forces, police and soldiers knew that she had fled Thailand or when….

 





Criticism is not contempt

24 08 2017

Don’t criticize the monarchy, their pets or dead kings (and any other body the royalists get exited about). They are protected by the lese majeste and computer crimes laws.

Don’t criticize The Dictator or the military junta. They are protected by defamation, sedition and computer crimes laws.

Don’t criticize the judiciary. It is protected by contempt and computer crimes laws.

Perhaps because these three groups and bodies have, by their own actions, been so politicized the invention, re-invention and application of these laws has been so crucial for Thailand’s turn to feudalism and authoritarian rule.

Khaosod has a long story on the judiciary’s use of contempt laws to protect its tarnished reputation.

We won’t do more than quote a couple of parts of the story.

On Monday, a court fined prominent transparency activist Srisuwan Janya 700,000 baht. He was found guilty of the same offense that in the past week alone has seen a former politician given a suspended jail term and a media agency cowed into self-censorship….

Contempt of court, a law once limited to maintaining order in court proceedings, is now being interpreted to cover a broad range of offenses in the kind of creeping legal expansion that have reshaped other draconian laws, such as the Computer Crime Act and lese majeste, into powerful weapons against dissent.

The trend has alarmed a number of lawyers who fear the integrity of the justice system is in jeopardy….

Thammasat University law professor Piyabutr Saengkanokkul warned that an unchecked power to punish alleged violators could lead to a completely unaccountable judiciary….

Now the law is being used for crowd control. The authorities are anxious about an outpouring of support for former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra when the verdict in her malfeasance trial is read Friday – a verdict many expect to not be in her favor.

On Sunday, police announced supporters – or gatherings of any kind – would not be allowed outside the court that day.

… Piyabutr said punishing criticism of any institution is contrary to the principle of accountability.

“Since the court exercises sovereign power that belongs to the people, the people are entitled to the right to scrutinize, criticize and disagree with the court,” he wrote.

The courts, with double standards and politicized rulings, has much to “protect.” In fact, criticism of courts is permitted in most non-authoritarian polities. Contempt is something different.





Fear and unintended consequences II

19 04 2017

Most of the breaking stories on the fate of the 1932 plaque are on social media, including the Facebook accounts of Andrew MacGregor Marshall and Somsak Jeamteerasakul. Another Facebook account worth following is that by Pravit Rojanaphruk, one of the bravest of local journalists.

The mainstream media is publishing material but because it is now widely assumed that the king had the plaque removed, that media is treading very carefully and fearfully.

Marshall claims that the plaque was removed on 5 April, the evening before the announcement of the military junta’s 2017 constitution. That, of course, would be symbolic vandalism.

When thinking about the king’s reason for moving against memories and symbols of 1932, it is important to recall that all he would know of that revolution would have been gained from his grandmother and father, both of whom were anti-People’s Party and anti-Pridi Phanomyong, or from disgruntled royals who mostly hated the events and people of what they consider a travesty of (their) history.

Reuters reported that The Dictator and the junta have been getting a plausible story together.

Self-appointed royalist premier General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “warned people not to protest against the mysterious disappearance of a plaque commemorating the end of absolute monarchy, a theft some activists see as a symbolic threat to democracy.” He’s also been working on “protecting” the replacement plaque “celebrating the monarchy.”

Prayuth babbled something about “police … investigating…”, but also diminished the significance of the theft, the plaque and the 1932 revolution. Essentially, Prayuth’s message was a mafia-like “forget about it.” He said that it was all in the past, history, and not worth the effort.

The idea that the junta doesn’t know what happened in an area that is usually crawling with police and military and is watched by dozens of cameras beggars belief. As Reuters says, the “square where the plaque went missing is close to parliament, to a royal throne hall and to an army barracks. The area is also surveyed by several police posts.”

Prayuth knows what happened. He is now worrying about the political fallout and the boot he may get up the backside if he says or does anything wrong.

Meanwhile, at The Nation, the police claim sudden attacks of brain death. Deputy police chief Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul “admitted yesterday that he had no idea how to proceed with the case involving the mysterious removal of a plaque marking a 1932 revolution that ended absolute monarchy.” He knows he can’t move on this without some kind of “insurance” that he won’t end up shaven headed in the Bhudha Monthon Temporary Prison.

His babbling seemed like a man crazed or crazed by fear. In any case, while Prayuth declares the police are investigating, the police say they aren’t.

A group of activists filed a complaint, part of which explained to the police what they should be doing and why. We doubt the police, knowing the risks, will get of their ample posteriors.

What the police did do, according to several reports, was throw up a protective fence around the new royalist plaque, with a sign declaring it “royal ground.” You get the picture.

Reporters didn’t get the picture, however, as the police with some military support tried to prevent them from filming in the area.

They would not have done this without orders from The Dictator or from Tutzing.

Srisuwan Janya, arrested yesterday while trying to complain about the removal of the plaque, was released from military custody. He proclaimed that he would continue to complain, saying the new constitution gave him that right.

It remains to be seen what the full consequences of royal vandalism will be for the junta and the monarchy. It is certainly a damaging fiasco. Yet the junta knows it can manage fiascos – it has in the past. The question for the junta is whether they can manage the king.





Updated: Who took the plaque?

18 04 2017

Being on holidays and out of Bangkok for a few days, the social media frenzy surrounding the political vandalism of the People’s Party plaque has been a bit difficult to follow.

This post is quite a bit out of the ordinary for PPT as we are getting into very heavy speculation with little to go on other than joining some dots together. We are posting now because we think this is a very dangerous reactionary trend in Thailand, one that goes far beyond that of the military junta.

We think we know why it is difficult to follow, but more on that below.

The vandalism was not a minor bit of pilfering. This had to be a fair sized and well-planned operation.  After all, the historic plaque had to dug up and stolen on a day with light traffic and replaced with another plaque commemorating nothing significant, but displaying ridiculous monarchist graffiti.

That piece of royalist metal pap was set in cement, or so the pictures suggest, and that takes time to set, so this was not a snatch and grab raid.

This is all suggesting an operation that could only have been done by the authorities or with their connivance. (We will pretty much ignore the predictable ultra-royalist cheering that another step to re-establishing feudalism has been taken.)

The junta and its minions, including the police, are Sgt Shultzing this. They know nothing.

But, oops, someone complained. This brings one of those police responses which is the response you get when you just know that something is being hidden or that the cops have their private parts in an important vice.

Then some unexpected persons decide to protest, and the cops quickly get agitated and see off these more-or-less unknowns operating for reasons that are not entirely clear. It’s a small group and hardly threatening, but the cops feel differently. This is suggesting the motive behind the removal is somewhere reasonably high up.

This is followed by serial prodder of regimes, Srisuwan Janya of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, showing up at the junta’s “public service centre” to “submit a letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha asking him to look for the 1932 Siamese Revolution memorial plaque…”.

So far The Dictator has been silent, suggesting that the normally talkative general is feeling unable to comment. It is as if he feels constrained, dumbfounded or fearful.

Odder than that, when Srisuwan shows up, soldiers are waiting and he is “whisked away in a military van … for talks at the 1st Cavalry Regiment…”.

That suggests there’s something to hide and that the regime is jittery as hell.

And then there’s the linking of the plaque and the earlier “order” about three overseas bloggers, seeking to criminalize and prevent contact with them.

We think there’s a story here of orders coming from the king. Of course, we have no evidence, but the fingerprints are there. There’s a fear that the banned bloggers are able to soak up leaks from close to the palace and that they will publicize them.

They already publicized the odd behavior of one of the king’s favorite concubines just meters from the plaque a month or so ago.

There’s a perspective emanating from the palace that suggests a desire to roll back 1932 as an aberration. In fact, the view is that the 17th century was a time when kings ruled with few constraints on their often aberrant behavior. Don’t be surprised to hear of suggestions that pre-Bangkok laws might still be useful in contemporary times.

We kind of hope our speculation is wrong.

Update: We think that Pavin Chachavalpongpun’s latest post at New Mandala, on the fear that infects palace circles and which infects much else, should be read with this post. He makes some excellent points about the reign after just a few months.





Updated: More corruption allegations

28 03 2017

While there is no news to report regarding Rolls Royce and other related corruption cases, there are more allegations of corruption facing the junta. These are not charges of fabricating plots and murders, but about state action and inaction.

The first story is about wealthy minor prince and former junta minion (two juntas, in fact, the one resulting from the 2006coup and from the 2014 coup).

Former deputy prime minister Pridiyathorn Devakula has very publicly complained about an “irregular move by the military” to “form a national oil corporation that he said would have unrestrained power.”

The National Legislative Assembly has rejigged a Petroleum Bill “in its second and third readings” to “centralise all authority in the management and allocation of national energy in one organisation.” Pridiyathorn says a “group of military officers was behind the addition…”.

He adds that they tried it before, when he was deputy prime minister. He says they were “six former high-ranking military officers in the NLA…”.

He asks: “Why does it emerge in the second reading, and why does the cabinet let it happen?” The answer is that the corrupt military men want to further enrich themselves.

Pridiyathorn explains: “Such a corporation with rights to all petroleum sources in the country could do more than one may imagine. It could organise bidding contests, or even form subsidiaries.” He adds: “When regulation and operation rest within one organisation, who will do the scrutiny? Finally, we cannot control it.” Then as a “good” person of high birth, he adds the bogey: “If politicians later influence it, you will be sorry…”.

Right. But for the moment, it is a bunch of military politicians who will make more money than they thought possible.

The second story is from the anti-corruption activist Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution. He focuses on borders and the Cambodian border in particular. He claims that “Deputy Prime Minister [General] Prawit Wongsuwon and 2nd Army commander Lt Gen Wichai Saejorhor of neglect of duty in allowing a casino to be built by Cambodian investors in a disputed border area was filed with the Ombudsman on Monday.”

Borders are the preserve of the corrupt military, allowing considerable wealth accumulation. Borders are, as shown during the past few governments, politically important in Thailand. Srisuwan claims that by “allowing private individuals to invest in a gambling business in the area, the agencies responsible had committed malfeasance, causing damage to society and the country…”.

Both are potentially explosive claims. However, the junta will ambiguate and threaten the media that reports any news that they think destabilize their grip on power.

Update: The Dictator blinked on oil, sort of. He “has rejected the idea of having the Defence Energy Department initially run the national oil corporation if it is to be set up.” He acknowledged that the “idea” for a national company came from “the Thai Energy Reform group led by Rossana Tositrakul, ML Kornkasiwat Kasemsri and Panthep Puapongphan.” All are paid-up yellow shirts and ultra-nationalists. Prayuth kept the idea of a national company open, but not run by the military, at least not for this moment.

On a casino in a disputed border area, the claim has been denied, as expected, but ultra-nationalists are at work again.





The many failures of the NACC

12 02 2017

PPT has posted a lot on corruption of late. At the same time, so little gets done about it. For example, the big corruption story from a week ago on Rolls Royce “commissions” seems to have gone quiet as the police have grandstanded on a drugs bust that has the military eerily silent.

A reader pointed us to a story at Khaosod that we missed, and it seems worth quoting some bits from it.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission was born as an independent Commission in 1999, created under the 1997 constitution. Khaosod says:

Since its inception in 1999, the NACC has accepted 3,383 cases for investigation. Of those, it said investigators found evidence of corruption or malfeasance in about a third – 1,191 cases.

Fewer than one-in-10 of those secured a conviction in a court of law that was not overturned on appeal. And those convictions have not been for the marquee cases involving rich and powerful defendants: All but one involve infractions by mid- and low-level administrators such as mayors, school directors, policemen, clerks and registrars.

Further, Khaosod’s investigation found:

out of thousands of cases processed by the committee, only 105 led to convictions. As for why it has little to show for the investment – the commission’s 2016 budget was 1.8 billion baht – corruption crusaders and legal experts said the agency is bogged down by its bureaucracy and biased in its judgment.

Khaosod warns that even the database of cases appeared incomplete….

Some of those accused do not even find out about their cases until years afterwards. Khaosod has an example of a teacher, accused in 1998, who was formally told of the case last week.

But never fear, the junta is here! An NACC official stated that:

the agency has operated more smoothly under the junta.

“We found that we have more power to enforce the law. We can work with more efficiency and convenience and have more thorough investigations…. For example, we can use Article 44 to tell the accused to prove their innocence later. It’s handy and works well.”

Nothing like anti-corruption agency being able to bend the rules under the junta. Yet, cases continue to drag, unless the junta has political scheming to do.

Khaosod quotes Srisuwan Janya, a well-known anti-corruption campaigner who specializes in “politicans.” He says:

the nine current NACC commissioners have conflicts of interest with the ruling junta.

“Many of the commissioners in this set are questionable. For example, the president used to be a police officer and served administrators in the current government directly,” Srisuwan said. “Therefore, whenever there’s cries about corruption relating to powerful people in the government, there’s a direct conflict of interest.”

He said the NACC is reluctant to use its power to investigate members of the junta and its allies, decreasing its credibility as a watchdog.

It also quotes law lecturer Somchai Preechasilpakul on political bias:

the NACC shows selective enthusiasm by moving forward cases against the political opposition while ignoring those brought against the powers that be.

“Usually, the high-profile cases involving those against state power, especially involving elected officials from the Pheu Thai Party, go extremely fast, as we can factually see from the past 10 years,” Somchai said. “Yingluck and Abhisit both have NACC cases, but Yingluck’s proceeded much faster, while stalled cases are never given a substantial explanation for being stopped.”

A politically-motivated shambles is one description that comes to mind. Yet the NACC is worse than that.

Remember when Thaksin Shinawatra was rightly accused of attempting to reduce the independence of “independent agencies”? The yellow shirts in particular were loudly critical. Where are they now? What “independent agency” is now not a tool of the military dictatorship? Where are the complaints now? Just more double standards from anti-democrats.