The “election” and the EC

9 04 2019

The positions of people concerned about the “election” outcome and the Election Commission are getting further apart.

Khaosod reports that:

A growing number of groups and parties are expressing doubts over the fairness of the Election Commission’s calculation of party-list MP seats.

The chorus includes major political parties, a mathematician and the kingdom’s leading independent poll observation group. The reactions came after the Election Commission released a statement on Friday saying no less than 25 political parties will obtain at least one party-list seat.

Serial complainant Srisuwan Janya has plans “to lodge a petition with the anti-graft body today, seeking an investigation into the poll agency’s conduct and alleged irregularities.

Meanwhile, the laundry at the EC is working overtime, with seven or so now sued by the EC for libel. In addition, EC deputy secretary-general Sawang Boonmee has defended the EC, denying all allegations, saying they are groundless and Thailand’s “electoral process was one of the world’s most secure, as it was safe from any kind of fraud or cheating.”

He continued to say the whole thing was “complicated,” but affirmed that complaints so far were without foundation, adding: “[i]f anybody has the evidence to prove that our work was without transparency, and neither free nor fair, then please show us the evidence so we can tackle the problem…”.

This positions between critics and the EC are wider than ever and the EC seems to have decided to deny everything.





EC fails (again)

12 03 2019

Late on Tuesday, the Bangkok Post reported that an “investigation” by “Election Commission has found nothing wrong with Palang Pracharath’s fund-raising banquet…” back in December. This led  EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma to observe that there is “no reason to move for the [junta] party’s disbandment…”.

PPT expected nothing else from the junta’s puppet EC. However, what startled us was the “reason” for this decision, still to be formally reported to the EC by the “investigating” committee.

Jurungvith said the “commission’s investigation had not found any evidence a foreign party was among the donors.”

PPT’s collective memory may not always be accurate, but looking back through our posts regarding the banquet and linked media reports, we can find no mention of complaints that the banquet involved foreigners.

Rather, questions were asked about the size of “donations,” the involvement of state bodies and ministers, and the timing of the event.

Responding, one of the complainants, Srisuwan Janya of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution said:

We don’t know to whose petition the EC is responding in the interview. Our organisation has never asked whether foreigners had donated to the party….

Again, the EC has failed. It has failed the public by serving its masters.





Working for the man?

9 03 2019

As we mentioned in a recent post, King Vajiralongkorn is very wealthy. After changes to the Crown Property Bureau Act, his shares in the Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) and the Siam Cement Group (SCG) are valued at US$9.23 billion. On those shares alone, the Forbes billionaires list should have him 3rd for Thailand. Of course, his portfolio is far larger than these two companies.

As well as being the major shareholder in both SCB and SCG, the king’s personal assistants hold positions on both boards of directors.

All of that makes a story at The Nation about the SCG very interesting reading. It begins: “There is a growing outcry over the government’s recent decision to allow corporate giant SCG to utilise parts of a forest reserve in Saraburi province, as a special case, till 2036.” SCG quarries the area for limestone, used in cement production.

The junta’s Cabinet on “Tuesday passed a resolution to permit cement manufacturer SCG to use … land in the Tab Kwang and Muak Lek Forest Reserve for its operations.”

According to reports, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Ministry “persuaded the Cabinet to give the green light mainly on grounds that those parts of the forest reserve had once been SCG’s concession area.”

The ministry said “the allotted land plots have enormous potential for mining, and SCG … has always complied with conditions related to permits issued to it.”

SCG’s previous permit to “use the … land plots expired in 2011, but its mining licence remains valid until April 27, 2036.” That permit was issued in 2002.

An official at the Royal Forest Department, reported anonymously, said: “The request to use these old concession areas has won approval from the National Environment Board and all relevant screening committees,” adding that “the authorities also recognised the importance of industrial development.” It was also stated that “the government can put in place efficient control measures to ensure the private miner won’t cause any adverse environmental impacts…”.

According to the Bangkok Post, the SCG “facility is located in the Tab Kwang and Muak Lek Forest Reserve in Saraburi province…. The forest covers 3,223 rai and contains a large protected Watershed Class 1A zone.”

Watershed Class 1A zones are considered “ecologically rich and were given protection under a 2005 cabinet resolution.” However, case-by-case exceptions are permitted.

The grant to SCG has drawn considerable (and surprising) criticism. Mahasarakham University’s Chainarong Setthachua called for an investigation of the concession. He worried that the area is a “top-grade headwater area” and reckoned that the area might be inside “a national park that was established in 2016,” he said.

Other critics included the deeply yellow Veera Somkwamkid and Srisuwan Janya who demanded Cabinet rescind its decision or be faced with court action. Somlak Hutanuwatr, said to be “an independent expert on primary industries and mines.” who claimed the Cabinet’s decision was “illegal,” as did EnLaw Foundation coordinator, Supaporn Malailoy,

Meanwhile, Amnuayporn Choldumrongkul, deputy chief of the Royal Forestry Department, “said the decision to extend the operating permit was made in accordance with the state concession previously awarded to the company, SCG Plc, to mine there.”

Some questions arise. One is what was SCG doing in the area from 2011 to today? If its permit expired in 2011, what did it do for lime in the intervening period? Another is to ask how much the junta’s Cabinet was influenced in its decision making by SCG’s royal connection? Does that connection and ownership provide the king with influence over the junta?

We think this story needs a lot more investigation. Is the media up to it?





Reaction to the NACC’s Prawit decision II

29 12 2018

The Nation reports “widespread criticism after the [National Anti-Corruption Commission] commissioners decided to drop charges against [Gen] Prawit [Wongsuwan]’s controversial collection of 22 luxury watches…”.

A Bangkok Post editorial states the NACC ruling “is unconvincing and dubious due to its weak rationale behind the decision and and its half-baked probe into the case.” It adds that “given its half-hearted commitment to pursue the case in the first place, the public has reason to suspect that the intention was to let the deputy prime minister and defence minister off the hook easily.”

Interestingly, the Post points to a similar case where an official was convicted:

In 2011, when it probed former transport permanent secretary Supoj Saplom’s possession of an undeclared asset, a 2.9-million-baht car, which he claimed belonged to a friend, the NACC ruled against him, saying such high-value lending was not possible. It also ruled that Supoj was guilty because he was the one who actually used the car, even though the registration papers stated that his friend was the owner….

Conveniently for Gen Prawit and the military junta, the NACC now seems to have reversed itself and it now says that holding and using watches worth millions is okay.

Other reactions:

Anti-corruption activist Srisuwan Junya … issued a statement … alleging malfeasance on the part of the five commissioners who had found Prawit innocent and declared he had gathered 20,000 signatures to get them sacked.

Activist Veera Somkwamkid said … he will file [a] lawsuit against the NACC for letting Prawit walk free.

Meanwhile, Puea Thai Party deputy spokesman Wattanarak Suranatyut asked if others face a similar situation do they now just say the valuable item is “borrowed” from a “friend“?

The Democrat Party’s Charnchai Issarasenarak said “the NACC appeared to have found an excuse for General Prawit, instead of finding facts regarding the controversial collection.” He added: “The NACC was incapable of finding facts about the 25 watches. This is a disgrace for the agency and could end up being a catastrophe for it…”. Worse for the NACC, Charnchai”accused the NACC of lying to the public by claiming it could not find out who had bought these watches.”

In another Bangkok Post report, Khattiyaa Sawasidipol, deputy spokesperson of Thai Raksa Chart, said “the NACC’s resolution would allow people suspected of assets concealment to cite being on loan as an excuse.”

In The Nation’s report, the NACC is reported as “defending” its decision. NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon insisted its decision was “based on evidence shown in the case file…”.

That is about as weak as it can get. However, it matters little for the puppet NACC. It does as it is told and then returns to its protective shell – the military junta.





Impossible to believe

12 12 2018

Prime ministerial candidate – the only one to have been on the campaign trail for more than four years – is also the person directing the Election Commission. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has set the rules and has rigged the election.

Yes, we acknowledge that the EC denies this. However, no one believes the agency that operates as if a set of puppets.

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that The Dictator has decided that he should deny “ordering the Election Commission (EC) to remove the names and logos of political parties from ballot papers.”

Parties claiming that they are disadvantaged by this change have been outspoken.

The Dictator’s denials are disingenuous. They are also flimsy plays with words: “I didn’t make any order. The issue came up during the talk. Somebody asked the question about it and I answered. But it’s the EC that will make a decision. It’s not my business…”.

Even if we accept this statement, the obvious question is how come it is only The Dictator who knows about the ballot? The next question is why he answered when he had his men from the EC sitting in the room as he lectured minor and devil parties?

The answers are all too obvious.

Running after the boss, EC chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong mumbled and bumbled on the format of the ballot.

Activist Srisuwan Janya has predicted that the EC will “opt for the ballot without the names and logos of political parties as suggested by Gen Prayut[h]…”. That seems to have been the current EC’s track record.





Keeping tycoons with the junta

6 08 2018

We have posted a lot on the military junta’s campaigning and not enough on how The Dictator maintains his relations with the Sino-Thai tycoons.

Fortunately, the Bangkok Post has provided some insights on this process.

Before getting to that, however, a reminder of how well the really rich have done under the junta. A while ago we compared 2014 wealth – the year of the coup – and 2016 wealth. The totals for the top 10 show that their combined wealth has increased by almost $16 billion over that period. The top two families have increased by more than $9billion. Not bad pickings.

More loot awaits: “Activists and workers’ unions have demanded land development plans be immediately excluded from the terms of reference of the high-speed railway set to link Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao airports, alleging it would monopolise involvement in the megaproject down to ‘a few large firms’.”

Activist Srisuwan Janya said granting land rights to the firm that wins the rights for the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) railway project is “unnecessary.”

What’s necessary is throwing out infrastructure projects that produce great wealth for the big conglomerate that wins – we would bet on a CP or a Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi being involved. Based on previous experience, we might also expect that some bureaucrats and political leaders will also benefit.

Those funds lubricate a whole 1980s-like political system, dripping corruption.

In this case, the winning firm gets “both operation and land development rights under a 50-year concession.” That’s after the 200 billion project is completed.

Srisuwan explains: “These firms will just be receiving the land around the railway as an added bonus at cheaper rates, compared to the actual, substantially higher value of such land.”

The reports adds that the State Railways “must hand over the land it owns around the Bangkok-Rayong route to the winning firm, including 150 rai in the Makkasan area.” That’s smack bang in central Bangkok and a prime piece of real estate worth billions of baht.

That’s ample lubrication.





Updated: Military wheeling and dealing

4 06 2018

Activist Srisuwan Janya seems to enjoy walking around with a target on his back. That is not a poor taste reflection on the military’s penchant for using snipers to kill demonstrators, but to Srisuwan’s continued attacks on the military and the regime.

His latest outing is of a military satellite project. He claims it is likely to “incur up to 91.2 billion in public debt to fund the … project.” Srisuwan says “the Defence Council last week approved a proposal for the Defence Ministry to draft a 2018-2027 strategic plan on space affairs for country defence purposes in paving the way for the purchase of 112 satellites called Theia.”

The Bangkok Post states that unnamed “ministry sources” revealed that the “Defence Technology Institute (DTI) and the ministry’s space affairs and cyber centre to assess the Theia satellite project.” Further, this is “part of the Thailand Satellites Data Information Processing Centre (TSDIPC), in which Thailand will work with the United States and other countries…”. It adds that the “US Theia Group invited the Thai government to co-invest in a satellite (Theia Space) with another four or five countries, the names of which were not revealed…”.

On the Sky Dragon purchase, we looked for information on the penny company involved with that waste of funds. We did the same with this one.

There’s something called Theia Space involved with the the European Space Agency, satellites and space research, but we don’t think that’s the agency involved.

More likely is the Theia Group in the US, which has very little information that we can find. There’s a sparse profile and an SEC reporting document from 2016. The military will also be pleased to know that there’s a Technical Narrative for the Theia Satellite Network available from the FCC.

There’s also some news that seems to relate to Theia. One we saw stated that several companies had filed for approvals from the FCC in 2016-17, adding: “It’s unlikely that all of them are going to make it to market…”. One of the projects mentioned is Theia Holdings:

The proposed Theia Satellite Network (TSN) is designed as an integrated Earth observation and communications network to provide remote-sensing and communications products and services to a variety of users in the U.S. and worldwide.

The constellation would include 112 operational satellites in LEO that incorporate remote-sensing, signal-processing and communications payloads. TSN is designed to collect, process and deliver remote-sensing information products directly to end users on demand and to provide broadband communications necessary to the delivery of these products and services, including directly into machines via M2M communications.

Potential markets for Theia’s services include basic Earth and atmospheric sciences, agriculture, natural resources exploration, insurance, infrastructure protection and support of economic and physical security.

Theia doesn’t jump out as a major corporation for which there is lots of information available (but perhaps we are not looking in the right places). It is in a technology area that is in clearly in development and where it faces competition, and where the report cited above says not all proposals will get to market.

Naturally enough, the junta has attacked Srisuwan for “distortion.” We have no idea about that, but the military would get less “distortion” if it was less opaque in its wheeling and dealing. But that might threaten commissions and the painful effort of being more transparent, something all the generals find an awful idea.

Update: Khaosod now has an excellent report on this “project.”





When the military is on top XII

19 01 2018

It is some time since our last post with this title. There’s a general air in the press and on social media that the political tide may be turning.

For example, commentator Thitinan Pongsudhirak says he can see “civil society noises, together with political parties, are now on rise and may build into a crescendo of opposition to the military government.” Others are pleased to see the detestable Abhisit Vejjaiva “damning” the military government with language that is advisory in tone on General Prawit Wongsuwan’s large collection of luxury watches. On social media, many have lauded the dropping of yet another lese majeste case against Sulak Sivaraksa.

While there is some cause for cheer, it might be noted that much of this criticism is coming from yellow shirts and anti-democrats, many of whom were strong supporters of the 2014 military coup. This suggests that that coalition of anti-democrats is unraveling as the junta seeks to embed its rule. The unanswered question is what they propose as an alternative to the junta. Do these critics propose using the junta’s rules and having a military-dominated administration post-“election” – a Thai-style democracy – but where that dominance is not as total as it is now. That is, a simple refusal to allow General Prayuth Chan-ocha to hang on as head of a selectorate regime? Nothing much that any of these “opponents” have proposed since 2005 has looked much like an open political system.

What we can also see, and this also deserves attention from those cheering these developments, is that the junta continues to crackdown on other opponents.  One case involves the National Anti-Corruption Commission, criticized on Prawit, but widely supported by anti-democrats in an action to “determine whether … 40 [elected and pro-Thaksin Shinawatra] politicians submitted the [amnesty] bill with ‘illegal’ intent” back in 2013. If found “guilty,” they would all be banned from the junta’s “election,” decimating the already weakened Puea Thai Party.

Even when criticizing Prawit’s horology obsession, some critics are tolerated and others not. For example, Abhisit and yellow-hued “activists” can criticize, but what about Akechai Hongkangwarn? He’s identified as an opponent, so when he was critical, “four police officers … turned up at [his]… home … to serve a summons.” The “charge” seems to be “posting obscene images online…”. An obscenely expensive watch perhaps?

Then there’s the warning to critics of the junta that there call for The Dictator’s use of Article 44 for to not be made into law. Maj Gen Piyapong Klinpan “who is also the commander of the 11th Military Circle, said the NCPO [junta] is monitoring the situation. He said the NCPO did not ban the gathering on Monday since it was held in an education institute where academics were present to share knowledge. The NCPO merely followed up the event and tried to make sure those present would not violate any laws.” In other words, watch out, you’re being watched. It’s a threat.

Amazingly, Maj Gen Piyapong then “explained” these political double standards:

Commenting about political activist Srisuwan Janya, who has criticised the regime, Maj Gen Piyapong said there is no need to invite the activist for talks as he still has done nothing wrong, but the junta will keep tabs on his movements. “Currently, there is still no movement which is a cause for concern,” Maj Gen Piyapong said.

And, finally, if you happen to be one of those unfortunates – a citizen in the way of military “progress” – you get threatened with guns. At the embattled Mahakan community, where a historical site is being demolished, Bangkok Metropolitan administrators called out the military to threaten the community. The deployment of troops was by the Internal Security Operations Command.





Who is taking advantage of the funeral?

20 10 2017

PPT has had several posts in recent days that compare The Dictator’s campaigning and his accusations that Puea Thai Party’s Sudarat Keyuraphan was “political campaigning” in the name of remembering the dead king.

Khaosod has a report that deserves some attention.

Anti-corruption activist Srisuwan Janya points to “two purchasing scandals” he says have surfaced in the past week, but claims he can “only fume … because of the period of national mourning for for … King Bhumibol…”.

Yet he was not too constrained to refrain from slamming the military junta: “this is a period of sorrow for the entire nation…. But the government has no decency to consider this at all.”

One case involves officials who are buying hundreds of “road speed guns for six times the normal price.” The second case involves “revelations the army spent upward of 15.9 million baht to build restrooms” at Corruption/Rajabhakti Park.

After criticism, Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda said “849 hand-held laser speed detectors – each costing 675,000 baht – was urgent to replace outdated equipment.” That’s more than 573 million baht.

We, like others, can’t see why Anupong needed to buy more than 800 speed guns right now. Given that “[c]ritics said similar devices can be found for about 100,000 baht…”, it seem reasonable to think that there’s “commissions” in the wind.

The main issue is that “[n]either of the projects went to open bidding, meaning the contracts were awarded to contractors solely at the discretion of those officials in charge.”

Yellow-shirted ultra-nationalist Veera Somkwamkid thundered that the speed gun “purchase was intentionally slipped through under the cover of mourning…”.

Veera observed that the junta had criticized Sudarat but questioned its own actions: “those bastards are engaging in corruption! It damages the public!… It is both inappropriate and damaging to the country.”





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.