Updates on subs, Sineenat, Kra, Boss and students

2 09 2020

Usually PPT updates its posts by adding to the original post. However, there are a number of updates for various posts over some time, so we thought we’d update them all in a single post.

Submarines: The Chinese submarine purchases might be delayed following the public outcry, but the Royal Thai Army is going ahead with more purchases. That’s if the bumbling – he got India’s flag wrong – and tone deaf Chutintorn Sam Gongsakdi, Ambassador of Thailand to India, is to be believed. He’s gone public in a big way, declaring that “Thailand’s Royal Thai Army is in the process of placing an order for 600 military trucks with Tata Motors.” He’s saying that over 600 TATA LPTA military trucks will be purchased for Thailand. No prices are provided, but a military trucks are usually purchased with spare parts, so we may assume that this is quite a significant amount of money being spent.

Sineenat: Both the New York Post and the Daily Mail reports on the former royal concubine who the king has had returned from a Thai prison to his harem in Germany. The Post’s headline is notable: “Thai king frees jailed concubine to join ‘sex soldier’ harem amid pandemic.”

Both stories build on a Bild story that produced a picture of the king – the “playboy monarch – greeting his concubine at the plane: “On Saturday morning, the king himself is said to have picked her up wearing his customary tank top at Munich Airport.” It is reported that the “king and his entourage then drove straight to the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl in the German resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen…”.

The BBC reports that all of her honors and awards have now been reinstated by the king.

Kra IthmusBloomberg reports that the regime has kicked the “land bridge” back onto the policy agenda. It is no surprise at all that a Chidchob is promoting the huge project with its potentially mammoth commissions. Transport Minister Saksiam Chidchob reckons that the Malacca Strait “has become quite congested…” said in an interview with Bloomberg News last week. Yet it is probably no more congested now than it was in recent years and there have been measures to improve separation. The proposal is for “two deep seaports on either side of the country’s southern coasts, and link them via highway and rail…”. Some reports are that the move away from a canal is another “major shock to China.”

If there can’t be a canal, then other money makers are available. Not exactly a new idea. And, as Wikipedia puts it,

there the construction of a land bridge across the isthmus was started in 1993. A superhighway was built that crosses the isthmus, but as the location of the harbours at either end were undetermined, Highway 44—the only finished part of the project—does not end at the sea. The highway’s two lanes were built 150 m apart to leave space for railroad tracks and eventually also a pipeline.

The other Boss: The Bangkok Post reports that there was massive “negligence in the handling of the 2012 hit-and-run case involving Red Bull scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya.” There was also massive corruption. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was quick to buffalo manure his explanation of this, blaming individuals and “saying it was not the entire justice system that failed in the handling of this case.”

Actually, the justice system has worked as it is meant to: double standards and privileges for the rich and powerful.

Warning the kids: Various warnings directed at student activists continue to urge them to be “nicer” and more “conciliatory.” There are also warnings that they must remain non-violent. In fact, it is the the state, the military and the rightists who are the main perpetrators of violence and haranguing the students suggests a failure to understand this basic fact of Thailand’s political life. When, like the linked op-ed, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are cited as examples, then we wonder if the author has read much about the latter’s support for violent revolution and the former’s acknowledgement of violence.





Updated: Sub standard

23 08 2020

As many will know, more Chinese submarines are on the way for the Royal Thai Navy even when the economy is in deep trouble.

Coalition MPs sparked a public outcry on Friday by voting to purchase two more submarines as the economy sinks under the impact of Covid-19.

The subcommittee for procurement, ICT, state enterprises and revolving funds, which is vetting the annual budget bill for 2021, voted 5:4 on Friday to spend Bt22.5 billion on two more submarines.

It adds that this is part of a “planned purchase” approved by the “military-backed government of [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha to buy three subs from China. The first submarine was purchased in 2017 and will be delivered in 2024.”

Social media lit up.

The resulting social media storm has pushed the Navy to respond, trying to refute Puea Thai Party allegations:

An informed RTN source said Sunday that a clarification is necessary, because the opposition Pheu Thai party has given misleading information about the 22.5 billion baht acquisition.

The Pheu Thai party claims that the procurement contract, which was signed by then Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Luechai Rootdit, is not a government-to-government agreement and is invalid because it was not signed by the Thai Defence Minister, who is also the Prime Minister, representing the Thai Government, said the source.

It added that the Navy:

will also explain the strategic need for Thailand to have the submarines and that it does need extra taxpayers’ money, but will use only the budget, as allocated by the Government, to procure the submarines, while postponing its plan to procure surface ships and aircraft.

That will be interesting.

Update: And “interesting” it was. The Bangkok Post reports that the best Navy chief of staff Adm Sittiporn Maskasem could come up with was the statement that “the navy needed more submarines as part of its defence strategy…”. He also listed other countries in the region that had submarines, all of them ASEAN allies. It isn’t clear how allies are threatening, except that the Navy may feel it needs to keep up with its friends and neighbors, a bit like buying a new car after the neighbors display their new Benz. The Post does not mention that the Navy used a Nation TV “poll” to claim it has public support. Of course, Nation TV “polls” are nothing more than a user-pays call to its rightist viewers to support the Navy.

That recent claim that senior military appointees must be “intelligent, ethical, dedicated and loyal to the monarchy” is demonstrated to be a lie. The Navy chief is shown to be a dolt, and is hardly likely to be ethical or diligent, but may well be “loyal.”





Bored witless

15 06 2017

Forgive us, we are bored by the military dictatorship. It is so, so predictable and so pathetic that we are considering banning it using Article 44.

How predictable? Its like putting a sexy dancer in front of a sexy young dancer. You know how he will behave. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.)

How about the things that are hidden under nothing happening here-ness?

What about that poor kid shot by soldiers in the north. Nothing. Keep quiet and it won’t go anywhere.

How about the Rolls Royce and related corruption? Ignore it and the media will forget it.

What about police generals being paid by the richest guys in the country to smooth things for them. That isn’t even illegal!

And what about all those unusually wealthy members of the puppet assembly? Not even worth mentioning. That’s just normal corruption and the great and good harvesting their due.

We could go on and on. This regime is corrupt, like many of those regimes before it. But because they are rightist royalists, they are just fine for Thailand’s elite and middle classes.

Well, let’s go on a bit more.

Lese majeste? Hundreds of cases to both shut the activists up and to launder the king’s dirty underwear.

The junta reckons most Thais are stupid, and treats them as such, assessing that they haven’t a clue about democracy and are easily pushed around. A few threats can easily shut them up.

How about those pesky politicians? You know, the bad ones (because they are associated with that devil Thaksin Shinawatra). How many ways can they be repressed. Like all murderous, torturing military regime, the possibilities are many. How about charging them with corruption? That should gag that Watana guy from the Puea Thai Party who keeps saying nasty things about the middle-class cuddly dictatorship.

It irks The Dictator that Puea Thai types are still popping up. Ban them, ban their books, silence them. No debate with these guys.

While the junta is in power, its is almost genetically programmed to buy military toys from Chinese submarines to Chinese armored personal carriers (with the white sidewalls option, they should look stunning running over civilian protesters).

And while talking of Chinese, why not use Article 44 so that all of the land near the proposed railway tracks to link Thailand with China can be taken off poor farmers and become the accumulated wealth of Sino-Thai tycoons and their military allies. Money will fall line rain in the wet season into the already overflowing coffers of the rich and powerful.

It is so predictable it is now boring. What next? The Dictator campaigning for “election”? Yes, that’s already happening.

What about fixing the “election”? That’s a check. Even that anti-election Election Commission can’t be trusted, probably because they are all so thick and need ordering around, so replace them with people who can work out what needs to be corrupted without having to be ordered.

How many more years of this boring nothingness? We reckon the record is about 16 years. The current junta is aiming for 20. Only 16 and a few months to go.

And, an “election” won’t change all of this. It is embedded deeply into the fabric of administration.

It will take a lot of careful undoing when the people get a chance or take a chance.





Loot and hierarchy make coups

6 05 2017

Khaosod has an unusually long story on the Chinese submarines and Navy propaganda on them. It is a story worth reading on debates over submarines and the quite simplistic statements from a recently retired admiral responsible for submarines.

Yes, we know that Thailand hasn’t got subs, but the story begins: “For seven years, Adm. Suriya Pornsuriya commanded a submarine division which didn’t have a single submarine.”

Yes, indeed! Thailand has Navy officers paid to be responsible for non-existent infrastructure.

In introducing Admiral Suriya, PPT was struck by asides about his lifestyle as a recently retired official. It says a lot, in a few words, about the reasons Thailand’s military is so utterly hopeless.

Not only do senior ranks become remarkably and unusually wealthy, but they get to use lower ranks as slaves.

The report says: “now retired at 61, said from his home, which boasts its own soi and a staff of army recruits.” It continues: “Suriya spoke from the living room in one of many residences in his estate.”

Suriya owns a suburb! Many residences. Many slaves.

These are the things that every military coup protects. This is why military officers crave hierarchy. And they legitimate it by being attached to the monarchy.





The Dictator and the media means repression

3 05 2017

There’s been a spate of reporting saying the military dictatorship was prepared to “compromise” on the controversial media control bill.

For example, the Bangkok Post stated that “National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) Monday endorsed a controversial media bill after making changes to two controversial issues in an apparent attempt to ease pressure from the press and critics.”

The Post reported that the revisions meant the “contentious plan to license individual journalists was dropped. However, journalists would be required to obtain certificates from their respective media companies.” Whatever that means.

It also reported that “the much-criticised 15-member national media profession council, which would include permanent secretaries from the PM’s Office and Culture Ministry, state representatives will serve on it during the five-year transitional period.” Again, this could end up meaning whatever the junta wants it to mean.

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post responded to this move, basically saying the whole bill should be flushed down the nearest drain.

Thailand’s Chaplinesque Hynkel, The Great Dictator, known more widely as General Prayuth Chan-ocha, even prattled about having ” a forum to hear the views of members of the media on the controversial media bill…”. But this is window dressing. The Dictator stated: “”Don’t worry. All issues of concern will be jointly discussed. The bill has both positives and negatives…”. Whatever one thinks of this verbal manure, Prayuth wants control and limits on the media.

At the same time that he was babbling to the media, he was also criticizing the Navy for giving too much information to the media, claiming that “no other country has ever had to disclose this much information about military hardware procurement as Thailand just did.” This is just a lie. But the point is, Prayuth wants secrets kept so that his people can do what they want.

Then there’s the abduction of critics. No one may speak ill of the junta.

Bigger than this, though, is the desire to control the history that Thais know, not to mention the protection of a new palace regime of toadies and other supplicants in the service of a king who simply can’t be trusted.

We have speculated that the king is responsible for the removal of the 1932 commemorative plaque. So when the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) decided to hold a panel discussion on the stolen plaque, the dictatorship had a political heart attack.

The result was that on 3 May , the “FCCT announced on its Facebook page that it had received orders from the police to cancel [the] panel discussion…. The police advised that the order came from so-called ‘relevant officials’ who perceived the seminar as a threat to national security.”

The national security threat is presumably an admission that the king had the plaque stolen.

The FCCT went on to say that it “regrets to announce that the panel discussion ‘Memories of 1932: The Mystery of Thailand’s Missing Plaque’, … has been cancelled. The decision was made after the FCCT received a letter from the Lumpini Police asking for the event to be called off, after the police were contacted, they say, by ‘relevant officials’…”.

It added: “The FCCT has been given to understand that this cancellation is on the orders of the NCPO, and we have no choice but to comply.”

That’s the junta’s position: the media cannot be free because it and the palace has many secrets that may not be revealed to anyone, least of all the media. If anyone reports on these secrets, they risk years in jail or even the king’s private lock up.





Sub-optimal

2 05 2017

Despite much negative and regime weakening press and calls for its submarine deal to be scrapped, the Navy is really happy and thumbing its nose at the country.

The “Royal Thai Navy has said a new government can terminate the approved procurement of a Chinese-made submarine costing 13.5 billion baht, but it has to justify doing so as it will result in the loss of a 700-million-baht down payment by Thailand.”

Not only that, they have also said that the taxpayer can be screwed for more loot.

Navy Deputy Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Patchara Pumpiched “revealed” that the “deal to buy three Chinese submarines could cost more than Bt36 billion – the initial price given by the government – if the Navy believes it requires more advanced technology.”

He “explained” that there “might be additional costs if they [we assume he means the Chinese] enhance the capability of submarines in the future…”

“But,” said Vice Admiral Patchara, fear not for the navy is on the job…. He “revealed” that the navy will “also make sure that all equipment that we request in the agreement is obtained.”

What a good idea! Can we assume that it is usual for the military to not ensure it gets all the taxpayer paid for? GT200, Sky Dragon? On those deals they also got what they paid for: commissions and worthless crap.

The Vice Admiral was moved to declare: ““I don’t think any Defence Ministry or the Navy of any country would get a deal like we have…”.

Maybe. As far as we can tell, only two governments have purchased these subs, Thailand and Pakistan. The Thai purchase price does appear cheaper per sub, but the Pakistani deal includes building four of the vessels in Pakistan. Technology and  jobs are involved. But this is not a part of the Thailand deal and we doubt any of the commission jockeys even thought of it.

In fact, the Thailand “deal” apparently includes the Chinese “send[ing] staff to be stationed in Thailand for two years…”.

It was Navy chief of staff, Admiral Luechai Ruddit, who was also chairman of the navy’s submarine procurement panel who chuckled about having the next government over a 700 million baht barrel:

Adm Luechai admitted that the next government could revoke the contract, but before the new government is able to take office after an election expected in late next year, the down payment for the purchase of 700 million baht would have been paid.

Adm Luechai defended the purchase by “explaining” that Thailand doesn’t have submarines and others do. That brilliant piece of deductive reasoning was followed up with this:

“We want to have submarines so that we do not get tangled up in a war,” he said, adding that if the kingdom has submarines, other countries would hesitate to wage war on Thailand.

He seems to be eyeing those dastardly Malaysians and Singaporeans, both having submarines. Or maybe it is India an Pakistan as the navy claims to want to pen some of the submarines on the Andaman Sea side.

(It can’t be China he’s thinking of as they are supplying the subs…).

Or maybe it is the Americans. The Admiral babbled:

“As for those wondering if the [average] depth of 50 metres in the Gulf of Thailand really can accommodate a submarine, such a medium-sized vessel can easily navigate through the gulf as some from the US and its allies did several times during World War II in operations causing substantial damage to Thailand,” he said.

(If any reader has information on submarine attacks that caused “substantial damage to Thailand,” we’d be interested. We can find none. Perhaps the Admiral is confusing submarines with bombers?) For those interested in a similar Navy effort to get submarines, in 1934, this might be of use.

The deal is the Navy gets subs and the taxpayer gets slugged.





When the military is on top V

28 04 2017

PPT is having difficulty keeping up with all of the junta’s shenanigans, so we are bringing a few stories together in this post and leave it to readers to go to the links if they want more.

Repression: Prachatai reports that earlier this week the dictators were miffed that Niwat Roikaew, the leader of an a local environmental conservation group Khon Rak Chiang Kong, complained about the Chinese surveying the future damage they would do in the Mekong River. They called him in for a “chat.” In other words, for intimidation.

Low royalism: Khaosod reproduces some decidedly awful painting by an unknown American they say is an artist. We have seen some awful scribbling before, but this takes the cake. The royalists seem prepared to dredge up drudge and call it significant to “honor” a dead rich man.

Press unfreedom: Also at Khaosod, it is reported that Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, Ranked Thailand 142nd out of 180 countries around the world in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index. As high as 142! Wow. It will fall again next year as the junta’s new laws on the media bite (even if The Dictator is having second thoughts).

A torpedo in the tube: There are articles and op-eds at the Bangkok Post lamenting the dictatorship’s secret decision-making on buying Chinese subs. One is an editorial telling the junta that this secrecy is not on. Why the Post only chooses to do this for the sub deal seems to be because they think having a bunch of business people decry the purchase means it is safe to complain. But another adds a layer of secrecy when the Auditor-General says it will “investigate” the purchase but do it secretly.

What the rich do: Well, some of them continue to get away with murder. Vorayuth Yoovidhya has failed to show in court eight times “since legal proceedings against him began in 2016.” He continues to live the high life.

There’s more, but we are despondent.





When the military is on top I

25 04 2017

The military on top means remarkable arrogance in the use and abuse of power.

The Bangkok Post reports the junta “has secretly approved the controversial procurement of a Chinese submarine costing 13.5 billion baht.”

Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Kongcheep Tantravanich stated: “… not all issues approved by the cabinet have to be conveyed to the press…”.

In fact, it isn’t entirely clear whether the decision was made by the junta’s cabinet or its Defense Council, both reported to have met around the time that the billions of baht were approved.

Kongcheep also gave an insight into the junta’s view of history, declaring that “60 years ago, Thailand had submarines so now the country is simply going to have them again.”

So conniving in the theft of an 80 year-old plaque commemorating constitutionalism would seem reasonable to this lot.

While on the Navy, PPT came across an interesting report at the website of the Thai Embassy in Washington, headlined “Navy investing in EEC ports, Phuket port expands.

It states that “The Royal Thai Navy is moving full steam ahead towards developing the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) with a nearly $60 million dollar investment in 13 projects including ferry ports…”. It goes on:

The Eastern Economic Corridor is a development zone that will showcase advances in Thailand’s economy and society and provide a home for higher-technology and green industries, research and development centers and more modern and environmentally friendly communities….

Developing the zone in and of itself should provide an important economic stimulus in terms of investment, both domestic and foreign, and through a robust building and construction program.

The Navy’s projects will include a business area covering five acres at Chuk Samet, Sattahip, along with two quays for ferries and cruise liners, a ferry terminal and multimodal transport links. The ferries will link the EEC with cities, towns, resorts and manufacturing centers along the … east coast on the Gulf of Thailand and the port will be expanded to handle cruise liners.

That investment is about 15% of a submarine.

It also shows how the Navy, like the Army and Air Force are businesses that deliver wealth to admirals, generals and air marshals, making them all unusually wealthy, at the taxpayers’ expense.

The arrogance of power is the source of corruption. But when there’s a military dictatorship, they can easily do these things. No transparency, no scrutiny.





Subs and the scope for “commissions”

30 03 2017

The military dictatorship seems firm on pushing ahead with the purchase of big kit items for the navy. In this case, the promised and approved purchase is of three Chinese submarines.

Of course, the purchase of subs requires considerable spending on pens and docks, repair facilities, and other minor stuff like torpedoes and so on. Not to mention training costs.

Recall General Prayuth Chan-ocha trumpeting a by-2-get-1-free deal the other day? Seems he was babbling, the purveyor of another lie. This is what Wikipedia says:

On 2 July 2015, the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) formally selected China’s Yuan-class (Type 041) platform to meet a requirement for three submarines. The RTN’s procurement committee voted unanimously in favour of purchasing the submarine, which has been designated S26T (Thailand), a modified export version of the Yuan-class. On 1 July 2016, the RTN submitted a funding plan for its 36 billion baht submarine procurement project to the cabinet for consideration with the expenditure to be spread over 11 years. If approved, the first submarine would be bought for 13 billion baht between fiscal years 2017-2021. The second and third submarines would be purchased during the remainder of the 11-year period

There is plenty of scope for enrichment. Yes, we know the junta and the dictators say this deal is “transparent,” but does anyone recall a tendering process?

Whatever they say, the evidence is that it is these kinds of big ticket purchases that keep military types very wealthy.

Does anyone recall an admiral being  investigated?





Toys for boys

22 02 2017

PPT has been trying to find a “space” for this post for a few days. Now we have it.

An op-ed at the Bangkok Post comments on Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, who doubles as the Minister for Defense, and his confirmation that “the Royal Thai Navy will spend 13.5 billion baht for one Chinese-made submarine, delivery guaranteed in 2017.” Another 27 billion baht will be paid “for two additional subs have been approved in principle.”

The op-ed states that this is “a disappointing rejection of both public and expert opinion that opposes the long drawn-out plan to equip the navy with submarines on every conceivable ground imaginable.”

That’s about as strong a rejection as possible! It gets stronger, saying the junta’s justification for the sub purchase “should be grounds for immediate cancellation of the order.”

The reason given by the navy “has boiled down to a single reason: neighbouring countries have submarines. This justification is entirely unremarkable.” The author continues: “That other countries have submarines can have no real bearing on Thailand…. But there is no arms race in the region, no palpable threat of war — nothing to justify taking 40 billion baht from the public coffers to begin a brand new military branch.”

The op-ed then mentions other military purchases that have been farces: an aircraft carrier that carries no aircraft that can fly and the army’s dirigible, the ill-fated Sky Dragon that has never been operational and the GT200 magic wand that was said to be a “bomb detector” but was a fake.

No one has ever been held responsible for these (and myriad other) ridiculous purchases. Who got those commissions?

The author concludes:

It is becoming more difficult by the day to shake the thought that the coup of May 2014 was more about the coup-makers than the nation. The junta, the prime minister and every ministry has refused to engage the public on every decision — political, social and economic. The purchase of these costly boats for the navy are often derided as “toys for boys”. The lack of credible justification for the purchase of yet more non-strategic hardware makes that tough to refute.

That seems a reasonable conclusion about an unreasonable regime.