WikiLeaks, Clinton and Yingluck

24 03 2016

WikiLeaks now has a Hillary Clinton Email Archive. Its pages states:

On March 16, 2016 WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive for 30,322 emails & email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was Secretary of State. The 50,547 pages of documents span from 30 June 2010 to 12 August 2014. 7,570 of the documents were sent by Hillary Clinton. The emails were made available in the form of thousands of PDFs by the US State Department as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request. The final PDFs were made available on February 29, 2016.

A simple search for “Thailand” produces 73 results, several of which seem barely relevant, with Thailand simply mentioned. PPT hasn’t been through all of these cables as yet.

One that has gained some social media attention, not least via a Facebook post by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, is about Yingluck Shinawatra, the 2011 floods and a visit by Clinton. It is originally from Karen Brooks and forwarded by Kurt Campbell, and dated 16 November 2011. Some interesting bits of this cable are clipped and included below.

Yingluck Clinton

On the politics of the floods:

To keep momentum, Yingluck will need to make changes in her team. Given the poor performance of the past two months, a cabinet reshuffle is a must do. Top of the list is Agriculture Minister Theera Wongsamut, who hails from the Chart Thai Pattana party – a coalition partner but at best a fair-weather friend. Not only has Theera been inept in his handling of the crisis since Yingluck took office (water management being part of his portfolio), but he also served as Agriculture Minister in the previous Abhisit-led government. He is thus seen (correctly) as guilty of either malice or incompetence (or both) for his failure to appropriately manage water levels at the country’s two biggest dams in the months preceding the inauguration of the Yingluck government – which greatly exacerbated the current crisis.

On Yingluck and her work:

She is tired…. Very tired. I saw her last night at her house at 11pm and she told me that she is up around the clock with very little support and a cabinet team that has proven weak (her words were less diplomatic) and unable to rise to the occasion. She said she always expected the job would be hard, but that learning everything about government, while managing. the complexities of the relationship with the palace and the military, while being slammed with a major national crisis – AND doing it all with a weak team – has taken its toll. Even so, she is determined and has fire in the belly. She emphasized that she had won an absolute majority for only the second time in thai history, and that she would not let the millions of thais who supported her down. If it means not resting until her term is over, so be it. She can handle it, she said, because she believes in what she is doing. She will make some changes in her cabinet in the coming weeks once the water has been drained, and then look forward to getting the A Team back in May of next year, when the ban expires on the 111 Thai Rak Thai politicians removed from politics by the courts in 2007 after the coup.

Yingluck on reconciliation:

She made a point of saying that she is ENORMOUSLY grateful that Sec Clinton is coming today. “It’s been six long years of turmoil in this country,” she said. “I’m determined to use my mandate to bring people together and foster reconciliation, like I said in the campaign. I’m working hard to win over the military and help them see they have a real place here without interfering in politics. I’m working hard to do the same with the palace. But let’s face it: democracy here is still fragile. We need the US engaged.”

On General Prayuth Chan-ocha and not bringing down the government (just then):

Yingluck tell me she has gone out of her way to work cooperatively with Prayuth, and Prayuth seems to have come to appreciate her sincerity and hard work.

On the relationship with the palace:

The Palace, similarly, has not shown any inclination to use the crisis to bring down the government. The King has given three audiences (made public) to PM Yingluck since she took office. (In the opaque world of the Thai monarchy, this is one key tea leaf to read.) Moreover, other members of the royal family have given the PM private audiences in recent weeks (not publicly known) – including the Crown Prince and two of the princesses. Perhaps most telling, however, is the recent appointment by the government of two palace favorites, Dr. Sumet [Tantivejkul] and Dr. Veerapong [Virabongsa Ramangkura], to the new reconstruction and water management committees. Sumet, who is a long time advisor to His Majesty and runs one of his foundations, would never have accepted the appointment if the King had not explicitly blessed the move. Two others on the water committee are similarly associated with His Majesty.

To be honest, PPT had not previously seen Virabongsa mentioned as a “palace favorite.”

On Thaksin Shinawatra and amnesty or pardon:

Yingluck told me big brother remains in a dialogue with the palace described as “constructive” and expressed hope that this would yield an amicable end to the five+ year drama of his exile – either through a royal pardon or through a parliament sponsored amnesty law, with support from the palace. This is, at best, a delicate dance, and any mishandling or miscalculation on Thaksin’s part could yet trigger another cycle of political drama here.





Royalist fundamentalism

27 02 2012

Sumet Tantivejkul spent a good part of his working life at the National Economic and Social Development Board, the body responsible for setting the direction of the Thai economy since the early 1960s. Following that, he became a sidekick for the king, as  secretary-general of the Chaipattana Foundation.

In recent years, Sumet has been a staunch defender of his boss, sometimes speaking of the king as if he considered him saintly or god-like. He has been highly defensive of the king and his great wealth, lambasting “foreigners” for writing of the Crown Property Bureau and claiming that Thais should ignore this news as it just messed up their brains. In other words, critical knowledge of the monarchy wasn’t necessary, and Thais just had to believe the king and love him. More recently, Sumet has been outspoken against the reform of the lese majeste law. In fact, his opposition is a pretty good indication of palace thinking on the law: they want it.

Sumet was one of the first to speak publicly of a great fear amongst royalists that red shirts were about bringing down the monarchy. In fact that speech in 2009, is essentially recycled in a report at the Bangkok Post.

In this most recent report, he is reported as saying that “Thai people have to study His Majesty the King’s teachings and ideas and not just express their love for him…”.  He goes on:

We see the King but we don’t often look at him. We want to see him because he brings us happiness but we have never asked ourselves about all the things he has done.

This is another royalist claim that the people don’t appreciate the “gift” they have and do not heed him as they should heed a real saint. Nor do they understand his work and thinking well enough. It is royalist fundamentalism.

Like a fundamentalist religious believer, Sumet admonishes the silly children: “We would not be suffering today if we followed his ideas, trust me…”.

Sumet claimed the king “fully understood the social landscape of the country,” and like a tent preacher, claimed “[p]eople will find peace and be free from suffering if they follow the King’s virtues. Nothing is too difficult to do if our intention is strong…”. Hallelujah.

Like other yellow-hued speakers of recent days, Sumet, once a planner of Thailand’s rapid industrialization, now criticizes the “liberal system” for its rampant consumptionism. He thinks “excessive consumption” is a cause of global crises. Like the king, he talks of “greed.” Remember that this is a man who is taken about in light yellow luxury cars and serves a monarchy that has $37 billion and more in its coffers and takes hundreds of millions a year from the public purse. He’s talking about “greed.”

The king has all answers, because like a Buddha incarnate, he “teaches dharma, which is to be moderate. Each individual, organisation and country has to know one’s own ability or strength and find the middle path for oneself.” In other words, sufficiency economy under the sufficiency monarchy that has used its fabulous wealth “moderately.”

Sumet explains that: “No matter how wealthy we are, we cannot carry on if we don’t have ethics. It’s not important whether you’re rich or not but what is important is to ensure that every baht spent will bring about benefits and happiness…”. See, the sufficiency monarchy exists! And, of course, the sufficiency monarchy cannot be corrupt like all the plebeians.

The monarchy will save all. Believing in the king is presented as the Thai version of salvation. The saving of Thailand is in truly understanding the monarchy. This is royalist fundamentalism.





Another couple of old royalists on the lese majeste warpath

23 12 2011

It would be good if all the old warhorse royalists weren’t so lamentably predictable.

Meechai

At the Bangkok Post, Meechai Ruchupan, former President of the Senate, veteran government legal adviser, former President of the Council of the State, and ardent royalist has “lashed out at the United States over its remarks on Thai lese majeste cases.” Sounds like he is following his fellow royalist Vasit Dejkunjorn, albeit without the blatant racism.

In a standard ploy, Meechai “responds” to a “question” that is “posted on his personal website www.meechaithailand.com asking for his opinions on calls to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law.” Suitably primed, Meechai states, quite incorrectly, that: “In the US, no one can defame or hold malice against the president … civilised people should respect cultures of the other nations, too…”. For correctives to Meechai’s deliberately false claim on the U.S., try this website for one example of falsehoods, mistruths, and lies and defamation to boot. Alternatively, try this site making completely crazy claims about Obama. And just for kicks, try this loopy and libelous site. Meechai is no fool, so we believe he is a liar.

For some reason he then suggests a relationship between security screening of air passengers’ luggage and lese majeste. Afraid the old guy has lost us on this one….

Sumet

In the same story, the other old royalist kitted out for battle is none other than Sumet Tantivejkul, secretary-general of the king’s Chaipattana Foundation, and one with a long history of fighting the anti-Thaksin Shinwatra battle (see hereheretherethis and  that). Sumet says “he wondered why calls had arisen for amendments to Section 112.” Maybe because royalist courts keep handing out ludicrous sentences to victims often forced to plead guilty. But Sumet is no idiot either, although we wonder when he says stupid things like: “the law would not cause trouble to anyone who did not violate it.”

As we mentioned yesterday, any notion that there is a liberal royalism is ditched and the fight soon becomes vicious whenever the royalists feel challenged. Now every royalist faction is mobilized behind lese majeste as if amending a dangerous and draconian law was an attach on the whole edifice of the monarchy. Humpty Dumpty is showing cracks and the horsemen are trying to repair them by declaring loyalty as the glue that keeps the monarchy and the country together and destroying those they see as fostering dissent and difference. They are sad, old political conservatives bent on maintaining a declining system.





Floods, non-agreements and politics

19 11 2011

Shawn Crispin at Asia Time Online can usually be counted on for a conspiratorial take on politics. PPT has to admit that Thailand’s politics does lend itself to conspiracy theories and recent events seem especially opaque, probably because so many actors are in play that many of them don’t know what their allies (let alone enemies) are doing and why.

Crispin’s account on this occasion warrant full reading. What caught our collective eye were two elements of the story.

The first relates to Crispin’s account of an alleged deal or “pre-election accommodation” that he revealed in an earlier story and that was supposedly “reached in Brunei between Thaksin [Shinawatra] interlocutors, the military and a section of the royal palace that underpinned this year’s smooth democratic transition and raised hopeful new prospects for national reconciliation after six years of on-off crises.”

Oddly, this story gives considerable reason for believing that no such accommodation existed or, if it did, lasted only a matter of days. Crispin points out that: “Before the deluge, Yingluck [Shinawatra]’s government was steadily moving to undermine several royal establishment power bases in the name of political reform, putting the military, bureaucracy, judiciary and anti-Thaksin media outlets on the political back foot.” Even before this, Crispin says that “trial balloons floated by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung” attacked these groups. The so-called deal was dead on delivery.

The second aspect of the story that grabbed our attention is the resurrection of the royalists via the military. Crispin begins with the bizarre notion that “the military has forwarded the democratic notion, including over its mouthpiece television news station, that it serves as a ‘people’s army’ through its lead role in evacuations, emergency transport and aid delivery.”

As PPT observed a week ago, General Prayuth Chan-ocha “has emerged as a de facto spokesman for hospitalized King Bhumibol Adulyadej by conveying in public statements the revered monarch’s perspective on how best to deal with the flooding. Royal army units have conspicuously worn tee-shirts with ‘King’s Guard’ emblazoned across their backs while conducting emergency operations, underscoring the notion that the palace and military are working hand-in-hand to provide flood relief.”

Crispin notes that the “palace, too, has waded into the battle for public perceptions.” He notes the oddity of Princess Chulabhorn’s unconfirmed claims that the king had “lost consciousness” and “suffered from intestinal bleeding” that Crispin says “some royalists and independent analysts interpreted as veiled criticism of Yingluck’s crisis management.”

He is right to note that “Yingluck has bowed to royal authority, including through direct consultations with King Bhumibol…. The obeisance was also seen in her appointment of Thongtong Chandrangsu, a top royal adviser to Princess Sirindhorn, to take over as spokesman of her Flood Relief Operations Command (FROC), and Sumet Tantivejkul, one of King Bhumibol’s closest advisers, to steer a committee overseeing the government’s flood rehabilitation efforts.” He adds that “some analysts believe royalist bureaucrats involved in water management have intentionally skewed and backtracked on their assessments and predictions to make Yingluck appear conflicted in her media appearances.”

Crispin concludes with this: “Renewed anti-Thaksin street protests threaten new bouts of instability, particularly if the establishment forces that shunned the PAD’s anti-Cambodia, anti-Democrat Party protests last year rededicate their resources to the more unifying anti-Thaksin cause. As Thailand’s flood waters slowly recede, a new crisis is already emerging on the political horizon.” As PPT explained in an earlier post, the reunification has been rapid.





Opportunism

10 11 2011

If it wasn’t already clear, it is repeatedly being reinforced in the mainstream media that the natural and human crisis caused by massive flooding is a political opportunity. Indeed, for the royalists and their so-called Democrat Party it is a heaven sent opportunity to turn back the red tide that swamped them back in the July elections. It seems nature has handed them a political opportunity to take apart that result.

Related, the military has grasped an opportunity to reinvigorate its appalling public image born of its capacity to kill while protecting the still extant royalist regime. While troops are out working very hard, for much of the mainstream media it is as if only the military is doing the heavy lifting. There is little attention to, say, the bus drivers and garbage collectors who struggle on.

The media shows military trucks taking people about in flooded areas when it is actually the everyday buses that are still doggedly pushing through the waters. There are also many private sector vehicles helping out. It seems they even concoct some of this.

Volunteers, officials and tens of thousands of others are working night and day in very difficult circumstances and get little credit as media and other opportunists highlight themselves.

For many in the mainstream media, it is as if the military are the only ones out there. Even the Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha seems a bit taken aback by this, stating: “The Army isn’t the sole hero. It is just well equipped with manpower and tools, which can be commanded…”. But for the media, political purpose is at work.

In the English-language media, the Bangkok Post that has provided some classic examples of political opportunism. After recently arguing in an editorial that the floods were not the time for political point-scoring, the Post seems unable to resist the opportunity and to listen to its own editorial advice.

For example, the Bangkok Post’s perennial anti-Puea Thai journalist Aekarach Sattaburuth proclaims that the “Yingluck Shinawatra government is falling out of public favour because of its handling of the country’s flood crisis.”

Why? It seems that “declining popularity is reflected in a recent Suan Dusit poll in which 46.9% of respondents said it had failed its first test and was ill-prepared.” We could ask what the majority 53.1% said, but that isn’t the issue as Aekarach wants to score political points.

Schizophrenically recounting that the “government was sworn into office in early August,” that the “worst disaster in 50 years” was “already creeping up on it,” and that “cabinet seats were barely warm when a vast ocean of water” descended from the north, you’d think Aekarach was about to be fair in his presentation of the mammoth challenges. But you’d be wrong: “In hindsight, she [Yingluck] had ample time in early August to brainstorm ideas from experts to mitigate the impact of floods in the North and the Central Plains and deal with the threat to the capital.” Aekarach might have added that the parliamentary requirements meant that the government didn’t actually become fully operational until late August, but that would be too reasonable.

But wait, the other side of the brain kicks in again: “In reality, little could be done for many of the provinces north of Bangkok, such was the extent of the deluge.” But then back to the other side: “Yet she and her cabinet cannot avoid responsibility for the catastrophe.” It is all Yingluck’s fault! The implication is that she and her government should go!

In such circumstances, the only thing for a schizophrenic journalist to do is to call on a declared government opponent for a confirmatory comment. In this case it is Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, rector of the National Institute of Development Administration. He reckons that “since the flood disaster began, the government has been defeated on every front.” Sombat stressed “it is important to put the right man in the right job and not deal with problems as they crop up.” That man is clearly not Yingluck Shinawatra!

In a post some time ago, PPT said this of Sombat: “A more staunch opponent of Thaksin Shinawatra, all of his related parties and the red shirts than Sombat Thamrongthanyawong would be hard … to find. Yet he is … regularly cited in the media as if he is independent. He was one of the academics appointed by the military junta to the National Legislative Assembly in 2006.”

In another Post piece, Pichai Chuensuksawadi, who is the is Editor-in-Chief of Post Publishing, gets into the act: “For months now floodwaters have wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of so many Thais…”. The lesson for Pichai in the inundating waters is vintage People’s Alliance for Democracy and royalist mantra: all politicians are hopeless bastards. He says: “What … remains in doubt, … is whether the Thai people can rely on the necessary collective leadership to implement the right measures, indeed make tough decisions, to ensure that a similar disaster will not occur again.”

While he is talking about all civilian political leaders, Pichai adds in a curious mix of 1970s throwback male chauvinism and PAD anti-Thaksinism: “There is no doubt that Khun Yingluck has all the good intentions; she is determined and is trying her best to deal with this disaster. In fact, I do feel sorry for her as this challenge of premiership was thrust upon her.”

Poor little girl! He continues: “This disaster has shown that inexperience … has resulted in missteps by the prime minister.” She couldn’t “control” ministers, she changed her mind on important things, she “flip-flopped” – women, eh, always changing their minds!

Add in the constructed rumor that the Puea Thai Party want to get rid of Yingluck and replace her with a strong man like Chalerm Yubamrung. PPT recalls all the Post stories of 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 that claimed the Puea Thai Party was split and falling apart, Chalerm would be party leader, and that factional manoeuvring would be the end of the party and its electoral prospects.

Most of those stories were simply political support for the royalist party…. In an earlier post mentioning Pichai at the time of the election in July, PPT observed that he headed “a media outlet that did much to support the Democrat Party. As one of the elite’s media, it [the Bangkok Post] inflated public support, boosted its campaign, gave extra space to Abhisit and wrote op-eds that were blatantly anti-Puea Thai.”

Get the girl out! Pichai explains: “I do believe that a more experienced leader would have done a better job. Love him or hate him, we must admit that Thaksin Shinawatra would have done a better job. Likewise with Abhisit Vejjajiva. Both have had experience…”. Thaksin! Yep, he said it. But this is chauvinism. Don’t let the elected girl do her job. Pichai wants authoritarian men who are not afraid to use forceful means to get what they want. Men to the rescue! We are surprised he didn’t mention General Sarit Thanarat as the prime example of men getting things done.

Of course, there is the one man who really matters: “In 1995 His Majesty the King advised and warned…”. As if in the palace was dictating the political line, Pichai says: “Sadly, and clearly, our political leadership then, and now, have not heeded the king’s advice.”

If readers examine the map in this report, it is seen how the dyke – “HM King’s dyke” – that was constructed following his advice encloses the city. That construction means that areas outside the dyke are regularly sacrificed to floods.

This brings us to the palace’s opportunism.

Of course, the king has to be the super-hero. Because he is aged and remains hospitalized, this is done via his loyal men. So we see pressure on Yingluck to buckle under to all palace directions and orders. Hence, loyalist royal defender and retainer Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul, Secretary-General of the king’s Chaipattana Foundation, is appointed as an adviser of a Yingluck-established committee to “work out water resources management strategies” post-flood. Sumet is the palace’s proxy for the “ultimate guru.” This term is from Sumet a while back when he stated: “We have the ultimate guru and sage in our land, but we never listen [to him]. Instead, we listen to whom we shouldn’t.” That the same line spun by Pichai. PPT has previously noted Sumet’s political involvement in machinations associated with the judiciary and the Democrat Party.

As we previously noted, the palace has gone into campaign mode, explaining its version of flood history. It is supported by several significant loyalists.

Doing his bit is Army boss General Prayuth. He has been speaking on the king’s views and positions. He is reported in The Nation doing this again. Prayuth explains that the king “is concerned about flood victims and wants to see the deluge drained away soon…”. No surprise or philosophy in that, as there are literally tens of millions thinking exactly this….

But as Prayuth tells it, the king is doing more: “His Majesty has proffered advice and granted audiences to the government to consult with him, the general said. All Thais, out of gratitude, should express their best wishes for the beloved monarch’s quick recovery, he said.”

That recovery might refer to his still unexplained two-year hospitalization or it might refer to another bit of palace PR. The Bangkok Post, has cited Princess Chulabhorn who has been doing a bit of royal charity related to the floods, requiring the commitment of resources to her travel and “standing.” She also says the king is concerned but goes further: “She said that about a week ago, His Majesty the King had been watching flood news stories on television for five hours. She said the monarch, who has been concerned for people suffering from the deluge, was probably stressed and fell ill as a result…. But His Majesty said very little and it turned out he developed symptoms of illnesses such as internal bleeding.”

This is part of the palace PR that has the king as the father of the country who has a magical and paternalistic connection to his people that no politician could possibly attain: “His Majesty loves his people like his children…. When he is aware that the people are suffering, so does he.” She added: “His heart always goes out to his people…”. When they suffer, he suffers.

If it wasn’t the continual need for royalist PR, such revelations focused on an individual in a time of national crisis might seem difficult to explain. The princess added that “doctors are determined to establish which part of his body had suffered and that the King was under observation.” But magically defying mortal doctors, she says: “now his condition is returning to normal.”

Even in times of a huge national disaster, don’t let the propaganda gaze fall from the one who is always better than the nasty, grasping, and insolent politicians. The latter are always doomed to failure because they don’t listen enough to the ultimate guru.

 





Updated: Stupid foreigners, the monarchy’s wealth and messed up brains

25 02 2011

A report in the Vancouver Sun which placed Thailand’s king on top of its list of the 10 richest world leaders.

The story states: “Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak resigned power as Egypt’s president today, and leaves with a reported fortune of anywhere between $40-70 billion. Here are some other world leaders who have a healthy nest egg socked away for their retirement.” Here’s the list, with Mubarak’s alleged personal wealth listed:

PAD_King1. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand ($30 billion)

2. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei ($20 billion)

3. Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of UAE ($18 billion)

4. King Abdullah bin Abul Aziz of Saudi Arabia ($21 billion)

5. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai ($12 billion)

6. Hosni Mubarak ($10 billion)

7. Silvio Berlusconi ($9 billion)

8. Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein ($3.5 billion)

9. Emir of Qatar ($2 billion)

10. Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan ($1.9 billion)

Perhaps the newspaper should have made it clear that the wealth of Thailand’s king is not entirely personal and is held for the monarchy. It does state: “The Thai government has disputed his position as the wealthiest head of state, saying that much of this is not part of his personal wealth.”

Sumet

It should also be added that the $30 billion figure only refers to the Crown Property Bureau, and that each member of the royal family is thought to be personally very wealthy as well. Of course, the figure takes no account of the billions handed over to the royals for “charity” or spent on keeping up appearances through large injections of taxpayer funds to the royals.

Long-time royal aide Sumet Tantivejkul, who is secretary-general of the Chaipattana Foundation and has overseen the vast portfolio of royal projects, has commented on this report (also see our 2009 post on Sumet extolling monarchy). His comments are posted at Prachatai. The report says that Sumet questioned the motives of “those who spread the news,” and implied a warning that those spreading stories could be in trouble.

Asked “about the increasingly open talk and criticism of the monarchy at social networking websites, Sumet said, “that lot don’t have identities, do they? They like cursing anybody they choose.  So [they] can say anything in the online world.  If we take them seriously, it messes up our brain.

PPT cites this point first as the Sun story is all over these sites and we liked the idea of messed up brains. Presumably this means that thinking is impaired. We wonder, though, if thinking is impaired by having to dissemble for one’s sponsors and heroes? As an example, see how Sumet describes and explains royal wealth:

What is the Crown Property Bureau?  If you want to know whether HM is really rich or not, you have to look at his private property. That really belongs to him.  […]  But this has all been mixed up,’ he said.

‘Crown property means that it belongs to the state.  But when farangs see the emblem [of the CPB], oh! this must belong to the King.  In fact, the Ministry of Finance is in charge. The chair of the CPB is the Minister of Finance.  It’s not part of HM’s property.  It belongs to the institution.  It has a board,’ he said.

This is messed up thinking. Here’s what the CPB says at its website:

The Crown Property Bureau was established under the Royal Assets Structuring Act of 1936 and became a juristic person in 1948. According to the Act, a Crown Property Board was set up, to be chaired ex officio by the Finance Minister, and served by at least four royally-appointed directors. His Majesty the King would also name one of the board members the director-general of the Crown Property Bureau. The Board of Crown Property is responsible for the overall supervision of the activities of the Crown Property Bureau. Duties and responsibilities of the director-general are prescribed by the Board of Crown Property.

In effect, the king controls the CPB through his appointed board. More from that website:

… On 21 April 1935, the 1934 act to exempt royal assets from taxation took effect. The act categorized the royal assets into two types:

* Assets eligible for tax exemption

* Assets eligible for tax payment

On 19 July 1937, the Royal Assets Structuring Act of 1936 became effective. It separated the royal assets into “His Majesty’s personal assets”, “crown property” and “public property”. “His Majesty’s personal assets” would be managed by the Finance Ministry. The Crown Property Bureau was set up with the status equivalent to a division under the Treasury Department of the Finance Ministry.

We guess that when Sumet talks of “private property” that he means anything outside the above. The above shows control is with the king. Each of those appointed is a royalist, close to the palace (note that a slightly different list appears in the Thai version).

What the above doesn’t tell us is how the assets are used. The CPB has almost no transparency – look at the very limited list of  investments. It is opaque because the CPB is “special.” That list implies that the assets of the crown are not state assets.

That the Finance Minister is chair of the board does not mean that the assets are owned by the state and managed for the state. That position is one that was created under the law set by anti-royalist politicians and the intent of that law has long passed, most especially in deals done with the palace under a 1948 Act and then under General Sarit Thanarat. Of the 1948 Act, Porphant Ouyyanont in”The Crown Property Bureau in Thailand and the Crisis of 1997,” Journal of Contemporary Asia, 38,1, 2008, says:

The Crown Property Act of 1948 [not mentioned above] reconstituted the CPB as a juristic person with considerable independence within the overall framework of the government. It also gave control back to the palace.

The minister of finance continued to serve as chairman of the CPB Board, but other board members, including the director, were chosen by the king. The role of the director, who had great independence in managing the CPB’s assets, became of paramount importance. While prior to 1948 there had been frequent changes of management, over the next six decades there were only three directors, giving great continuity. The two distinguishing characteristics of these directors were that they were well educated and palace insiders.

Later the author adds this:

The 1948 Act had some other important characteristics. It specified that the use of the PPB’s resources and income ‘‘depends totally on the royal inclination.’’ It laid down that the CPB’s landed assets could not be seized or transferred. It absolved the CPB from tax on its income (a provision that had been introduced in 1936). It constituted the CPB as an absolutely unique entity which was difficult to define in terms of Thai law. In the course of subsequent legal processes, the Council of State had to give rulings on the nature of the CPB on four occasions. Not one of the rulings was unanimous, and the four rulings conflict. The Council agreed that the CPB was not a private company, government department, or state enterprise, and ultimately in 2001 ruled it was a ‘‘unit of the state,’’ whatever that meant (Somsak, 2006: 67-93).

So when Sumet says: “Don’t think that farangs are always smart.  Many farangs are stupid,” he means in their interpreatation of the king’s/palace’s wealth. Leaving aside the racist slight, which is not uncommon from the amart, it seems that Thais too are perplexed by these “arrangements.” This includes those who have studied the CPB most closely. In fact, they are not stupid, and it is Sumet who is dissembling for political purposes, for Chirayu Isarangkun, the head of the CPB has stated the position clearly, as cited in the above academic article:

The fact that CPB is the investment arm for the monarchy, with a long-term and continuous reputation for reliability, induces Thai and foreign investors to seek joint ventures.

So Sumet can babble on for as long as he wants, claiming the king isn’t wealthy:

‘Is this an exaggeration?  The news spread.  Many people get excited, talking and writing all kinds of stuff….  Go and look at HM’s residence.  Don’t talk about foreign billionaires; even billionaires in Thailand are far richer than him.  So how can they say he is the world’s richest?  Insane,’ he said. ‘Look how he lives.  HM lives in a small palace, and is frugal.  He has been the example of sufficiency,’ he said.

Apart from the fact that the king seems to currently reside in a public hospital, his “small palace,” presumably at Hua Hin is just one of several palaces around the country, many of them barely used. And, the fact remains that the CPB and personal wealth of the monarchy in Thailand is stupendous. And, most of it has been developed during this long reign.





Privy council, courts and the Democrat Party

25 10 2010

PPT recently referred to the friendly puppy-like mainstream media supporting the royalist attempts to save the Democrat Party. That behavior by some media is again demonstrated in the Bangkok Post, where the royalist and yellow shirt opinion page pundit Veera Prateepchaikul again writes  about these video clips being a “set up.” Of course, he presents no evidence for the drawing of this conclusion.

The interesting thing about this new defense article is the way it finishes: “As far as the video clip in question is concerned, it is evident that it was a set-up to discredit the Democrat Party and the Constitution Court. But taking into consideration the other video footage which showed Privy Council chairman Prem Tinsulanonda together with Mr Chat, Supreme Administrative Court president Akrathorn Chularat, Kasame Wattanachai, another privy councillor, and Sumeth Tantivechakul, secretary-general of the Chaipattana Foundation, the picture has become clearer. Clearly, the perpetrators who posted all the video clips on the YouTube webboard have wanted to mislead the public that the Privy Council has interfered with the court in favour of the Democrats. Doubtlessly, the intention is to discredit the Privy Council. The big question is, who will benefit if the Privy Council is discredited or undermined?”

The interesting question is why Veera thinks he needs to write about the role of the Privy Council. To date there hasn’t been much open discussion of whether the Privy Councilors were at meetings with judges in order to secure a particular outcome. Veera’s comments allow for the speculation to emerge from the shadows. When were these photos taken and why were the Privy Councilors meeting the Constitutional Court judges?