Further updated: Yes, really

17 06 2020

We read this jaw-dropping news with nothing more than incredulity. We simply could not believe the story. How is it possible for this regime to think that every Thai citizen is a complete moron? Why does the regime treat its people as so insignificant? Of course, the answer is that the regime and its people are used to impunity, getting away with murder and considers itself a law unto itself.

Here’s the story, from the Bangkok Post: “Former transport permanent secretary Supoj Saplom has been appointed as a member of a sub-committee tasked with studying an industrial estate for rehabilitation and development of inmates just months after completing a jail term for filing false asset declarations…”.

The responsible minister is Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin. He said “he had invited individuals from various professions including former senior state officials to give their input on the proposed establishment of the facility.”

Supoj was “released from prison in the middle of last year after serving 10 months for filing false asset declarations…. The Supreme Court … [found] he failed to declare assets worth over 20 million baht.”

Supoj. From the Bangkok Post.

But there’s more to the story than this. Readers can click through to PPT’s several posts on Supoj. The last time we posted on Supoj, we said that we were “winding up of a story that began some time ago.” Little id we think that Minister Somsak would push Supoj back into “service” and into the news.

The original story of Supoj’s ill-gotten gains involved fantastic amounts. In late 2011, as huge floods bore down on Bangkok, Supoj’s house was burgled. At the time he was permanent secretary at the Ministry of Transport and chairman of the State Railways of Thailand and was in that position under the previous government. Earlier he was Director of the Highways Department. Such positions are honey holes for the corrupt.

A report at the time stated that while Supoj was at his daughter’s wedding, a dozen burglers tied up two maids and took off with loot. Supoj told reporters that “the valuables taken by the robbers were not in fact worth much, though they also took cash. He believed the robbers heard about his daughter’s bridal price so they wanted to steal it.” Soon after, there was a report that one of the culprits “allegedly confessed to stealing more than 200 million baht in cash from the house of transport Supoj Saplom.” That’s quite a bride price!

But the story became even more interesting. One of the suspects claims “that when the gang entered the house, they found between 700 million baht to 1 billion baht in cash stuffed into bags.” Supoj responded, pleading poverty, claiming that the burglars were defaming him! He explained that he “was smeared by the suspects who claimed he might have hidden as much as Bt1 billion at his home,” adding, “… I don’t have that much money…”.

Even the police seemed to agree: “Police Major General Winai Thongsong, chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, said that CCTV videos of the robbery showed the group leaving the house with large bags, indicating that a large amount of cash had been stolen.”

Later, in 2012, as he scrambled for excuses for being so stupendously “unusually rich,” Supoj claimed “he earned the millions of Baht working a second job…”. He began shifting assets to relatives as investigations loomed. At the time, the Anti-Money Laundering Office “revealed that money found in the transport permanent secretary Supoj Saplom’s home is related to construction contractors in the Northeast – including one from Buriram province – which were involved in the bidding for construction contracts on government projects in several provinces.”

But, by the time the case reached the National Anti-Corruption Commission and then commissioner Klanarong Chanthik announced a seizure of some assets. He was convicted when the “Civil Court ruled in January, 2014, that 46.14 million baht in assets should be seized from Supoj and his family for being unusually wealthy.”

Then there was the verdict of the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders holding Supoj guilty “of deliberately avoiding to mention Bt17.5 million in cash and a Bt3 million Volkswagen in the declaration of his assets on five occasions.” Yes, the millions claimed to have made Supoj “unusually wealthy” led nowhere. It was expunged, deleted, and was made to go away, like magic. All Supoj was convicted of was a problem with his asset declarations. It was whittled down because the suspects who were arrested only had “Bt18 [17.5] million in cash and gold ornaments…”. How convenient. He got 10 months in jail and the 18 million was seized. It took seven years to get Supoj into prison to serve that 10 months. It was only this year that the 17.5 million was given to the state treasury. We have no idea what became of the other 46 million baht.

More to the point, what happened to the bags of money the burglars claimed to have taken? Readers can probably come up with some excellent guesses on that. But presumably one could think of cops getting their hands on it (think Saudi gems), corrupt officials and judges, influential people or even much higher ups being paid off.

Okay, as a former inmate, perhaps Supoj has something of a perspective on “an industrial estate for rehabilitation and development of inmates,” but somehow we doubt it. It seems much more like paybacks or a mutual backscratching exercise.

So here we are, with a military-backed government that not only has a convicted heroin smuggler as a deputy minister, but it’s also appointing a man who may hold a national record for moving state funds into private hands.

Update 1: While dealing with the corruption being embedded in the regime, we note that the Department of Special Investigation’s acting chief has disbanded six special investigation teams that he set up only about six weeks ago. The teams were responsible for investigating money laundering via illegal casinos, misconduct by Stock Exchange of Thailand-listed companies, factories causing environmental and public health damage and producing substandard cosmetics or dietary supplements, land encroachment and unlawful land title deeds, and and price collusion involving state projects. Almost all of those arenas seem to have resonances for the regime’s ministers. Is it a coincidence that these events are in Justice Minister Somsak’s ministry?

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that the private sector Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand has “submitted an open letter to Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, voicing opposition to the appointment of Supoj Saplom … to sit on a sub-committee tasked with studying a project for rehabilitation and development of inmates.” The report noted:

The ACT said in the letter that the constitution of Thailand bars people who lack morality, ethics and good governance from taking part in the country’s administrative affairs.

Since people expect the Justice Ministry to be a model for righteousness and justice, it should appoint only people who are not tainted with corruption to work for it, the letter says. The appointment of Mr Supoj violates this principle.





Supoj’s loot (or some of it)

10 03 2020

This post is a winding up of a story that began some time ago.

Supoj Saplom, a senior official at the Ministry of Transport, hit the headlines in late 2011 accused of massive corruption. As floods bore down on Bangkok, Supoj worried that his ill-gotten gains – largely kept as cash at his residence – might get water-logged, so he had the cash moved to an upper-level room.

When a gang of tipped-off burglars found the loot, there was so much cash they claimed they couldn’t carry it all away. One of the crooks claimed the gang found between 700 million and 1 billion baht in cash stuffed into bags.

The story of his loot was a sensation for a while and then faded. Supoj was alleged to have accumulated the money as permanent secretary at the Ministry of Transport and chairman of the State Railways of Thailand. Earlier he had been Director of the lucrative Highways Department.

We then learned that Supoj had been found to be “unusually rich.” He was sent to prison for 10 months for filing false asset declarations, amounting to 20 million baht. We wondered what had happened to the rest? Who got it?

Today, it is reported that the National Anti-Corruption Commission “has returned 17.5 million baht and other assets stolen by burglars from a house owned by Supoj Saplom, a former transport permanent secretary, to the Finance Ministry on Monday.” Other assets were property and money in a bank account worth over 40 million baht. We don’t know what happened to that money.

Another “corruption” mystery that is no clearer, but presumably “solved” and finished.





Supoj’s corruption

19 10 2018

It wasn’t that long ago that PPT mentioned the “missing” case of Supoj Saplom. Then we said:

Everyone know the Ministry of Transport is a cash cow for officials and their ministerial bosses. It has been that way for a very long time. Add on transport infrastructure and the whole area is awash with cash and corruption.

Who can forget the case of Supoj Saplom that came to light in late 2011. As floods bore down on Bangkok, Supoj worried that all of his ill-gotten gains might get water-logged, so he had all of his cash moved to an upper-level room in his house. When a gang of tipped-off burglars found the loot, there was so much cash they claimed they couldn’t carry it all away. One of the blue-collar crooks claimed the gang found 700 million to 1 billion baht in cash stuffed into bags.moneybags 1

The story of the white-collar crook’s loot was a sensation for a while and then faded. He was alleged to have accumulated the money as permanent secretary at the Ministry of Transport and chairman of the State Railways of Thailand. Earlier he was Director of the lucrative Highways Department.

The burglars were all jailed. Supoj was convicted of something and jailed for 10 months, but presumably was bailed awaiting an appeal. We can’t find anything else in the media records post-2017.

Now we learn that Supoj has been “found unusually rich …[and] has been sent to prison for 10 months for filing false asset declarations, after losing his appeal.” So our guess was right.

Supoj Saplom went off to the “Bangkok Remand Prison on Thursday after a judicial appeal panel of the Supreme Court for politicians and state officials upheld an earlier court ruling.”

The court managed to mangle things, just deciding that “as a high-ranking official, Supoj had not set an example for others when he failed to declare assets worth over 20 million baht.” That figure sounds remarkably low.

The 20 million sounds odd in the context of a civil court seizing more than 65 million from him. Even that seems low for a person in his position.

None of the unusually wealthy in the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly have ever been investigated.





The mysterious world of “justice”

30 03 2013

Readers may recall the case that came to light in late 2011, as floods bore down on Bangkok and one senior bureaucrat worried that all of his ill-gotten gains might get water-logged, so he had all of his cash moved to an upper-level bedroom. Someone apparently let this be known to a man who quickly put a gang together and went int to grab all the money. There was so much cash, the thieves apparently claimed they couldn’t carry it all away! One of the suspects claimed that the gang found between 700 million baht to 1 billion baht in cash stuffed into bags.moneybags 1

The story of the robbery at the Lat Phrao 64 home of Supoj Saplom was a sensation for a while and then faded. That he could have accumulated immense wealth was clear from his position as permanent secretary at the Ministry of Transport and chairman of the State Railways of Thailand. Earlier he was Director of the lucrative Highways Department. However, with not a whiff of evidence but plenty of venom, a couple of crazy yellow shirts claimed the money really belonged to Thaksin Shinawatra.

The politicized National Anti-Corruption Commission decided to launch a probe into Supoj’s “unusual wealth,” with Supoj saying only about 5 million in cash was stolen and whining that he was really quite poor.

Now The Nation reports that the courts have made convictions in the case. Not Supoj of course, but the burglars. The police claimed that the nine men stole 18.12 million baht in cash from Supoj’s residential money pot, far more than Supoj wanted to say was lost. The eight got between 5 and 18 years in jail, reduced somewhat for confessions.

So the criminals are locked up. And, oh yes, the last line of the report says that the National Anti-Corruption Commission may still be conducting a graft probe against Supoj.

The message is again very clear: there are two justice systems in Thailand. One for the poor and another for the rich, not matter how corrupt and criminal the rich are.





A general’s unusual wealth and other corruption

27 02 2013

The Bangkok Post reports that the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has “resolved to freeze about 65 million baht of assets held by Gen Sathian Permthong-in, a former defence permanent secretary, his wife and their adopted daughter after concluding that the retired general is unusually wealthy and had made a false declaration of assets and liabilities.”

Vicha Mahakhun, a member of the NACC, noted that the general had “made a false declaration of assets worth 14 million baht while serving as a board member of the Warehouse Organisation from 2007-2008” and “was found to be unusually rich while holding the posts of Warehouse Organisation board member and chief of the Armed Forces Development Unit under the Supreme Command.” The NACC has sent the first case to the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.

Large amounts of money were transferred to accounts held by his wife and their adopted daughter as well as Thammasat University political science lecturer Sombat Chanthornwong.

This is the same General Sathian who had a brief dispute Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat last year when he was abruptly transferred. Gen Sathian had been permanent secretary for defence, and one report claimed he was a red shirt or a Thaksin Shinawatra ally.

It will be interesting to see whether this is a “political case” of revenge or if it continues. In one of its reports on the case, the Post reports that this case is one of a short string of corruption cases. One mentioned is Supoj Saplom, a former transport permanent secretary, in the famous burglars couldn’t carry away all the cash case, which seems to have gone very quiet, and another is said to be the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions 2010 decision which “found former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra guilty of being unusually wealthy and ordered the seizure of 46 billion baht from the amount he received from selling shares of Shin Corp, as requested by the NACC.” The Post is misreporting the Thaksin case.

In another corruption case the Department of Special Investigation has decided that then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban “violated a Cabinet resolution on the project to construct new police station buildings…”. The report notes that the “project has become mired in scandal because to date, not a single building has been completed since the construction contract was signed in 2011.” The allegation against the two is that “the Cabinet resolution that required the project to be divided by zone and offered to the successful bidders for each zone….  Instead, just one bidder was selected…”.





Believing your own messages

10 12 2011

It is important to be able to distinguish between political fiction and fact. However, when political battles extend over several years and when the means of communication have expanded so massively, so protagonists actually come to believe their own propaganda. A case in point is the extreme yellow-shirted senator Rosana Tositrakul, who is the head of a Senate committee on graft and good governance.

Rosana’s views have become more extreme over the years that she has dedicated herself to hating and opposing Thaksin Shinawatra and all associated with him. Her most recent comments on the burglary at the house of transport permanent secretary Supoj Saplom. Rosana actually “expressed doubts that money seized from the arrested suspects really belonged to Mr Supoj.” Remarkably, the head of the Senate committee on graft and good governance “wondered if the money came from another source and whether the robbery was a frame-up. She also commented that the damaged party seemed to have become a suspect.”

Given that the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Anti-Money Laundering Office are investigating the case, PPT began wondering why Rosana would defend Supoj. We were equally taken aback by the Bangkok Post’s decision to call the case a “mystery” that “deepened … when a Senate panel suggested the crime was politically motivated and a frame-up.”

PPT’s ruminations led us to a series of yellow-shirt emails that claim – with no evidence at all – that Supoj was holding the money for either Thaksin or banned Thai Rak Thai Party politician Sudarat Keyuraphan. These emails have been sent all over the place. It seems clear that this is where Rosana is getting her information and, despite the lack of any evidence, she trots this stuff out.

Of course, current Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung reckons that Supoj was in bed with the culprits at the Bhum Jai Thai Party. He hasn’t produced any evidence either.

Other stories doing the rounds of the electronic mail include a claim that Supoj was done down by his secretary, who was also a long-term mistress, spurned on the orders of the major wife. But that rumor doesn’t say why Supoj had so much loot at home.

A point Chalerm made that rings true is that “not only [corrupt] government officials but also many [corrupt] politicians like to keep cash at home.” At this point, PPT would not jump for political rumors, but would point out that transport and communications are amongst the plum jobs for senior bureaucrats because they offer such lucrative opportunities for “unusual wealth.”

As permanent secretary at the Ministry of Transport, chairman of the State Railways of Thailand and earlier Director of the Highways Department and also the Rural Roads Department, Supoj had several neat perch from which to seek extra income. These positions are widely known to be extremely lucrative.

It seems to us that Rosana has become a slave to her own propaganda and speculation (and perhaps Chalerm too). That slavish devotion to a political cause could cause political blindness. There might well be that there is a “normal” explanation for a bureaucrat having great and unexplained wealth.

Meanwhile, in another example of believing your own message, the Bangkok Post reports that former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban showed up at the Metropolitan Police Bureau to testify to a panel investigating the deaths of red shirt protesters in April and May 2010.

Suthep reportedly “insists security forces involved in containing red shirt protesters during last year’s political violence had performed their duties within the law.” PPT reckons that’s an easy claim to make as the emergency decree pretty much granted the authorities the right to anything they wanted.

His other claim is more controversial and has been his mantra throughout. He stated: “Security forces had performed their duties based on my orders. There was no violence while they were performing their duties.” Further, he stated categorically that “security forces had carried out their duties and their operation [on 10 April] had not caused any deaths…”. He has always claimed that security forces killed no one and that all deaths were a result of attacks by mysterious and never apprehended “men in black.”

If you say it enough it seems you come to believe it.





Things that make you gasp

18 11 2011

Sometimes PPT comes across reports that really do leap out as having a particular “Wow! factor” and which seem to demand journalistic (and police) investigation but just seem to fade away. A story that has been in the media for a few days involves a robbery at the Lat Phrao 64 home of Supoj Saplom. He’s the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Transport and chairman of the State Railways of Thailand and was in position under the previous government. Earlier he was Director of the Highways Department.

A report a few days ago at the Bangkok Post stated that while Supoj was at his daughter’s wedding, “12 robbers tied the hands of two maids with rope before forcing them to take them to Mr Supoj’s room.” Supoj told reporters that “the valuables taken by the robbers were not in fact worth much, though they also took cash. He believed the robbers heard about his daughter’s bridal price so they wanted to steal it.”

In its most recent account, the Bangkok Post has a report of just a few lines where it states that a “man has allegedly confessed to stealing more than 200 million baht in cash from the house of transport Supoj Saplom.” That’s quite a bride price!

But it gets more interesting. One of the suspects claims “that when the gang entered the house, they found between 700 million baht to 1 billion baht in cash stuffed into bags.” That certainly isn’t loose change.

PPT always knew that positions in roads, railways and anything else associated with transportation was a neat perch from which to seek… ah… extra income. We don’t know Supoj and he may come from a very wealthy family, but up to a billion baht stuffed into bags sitting around at home would seem to be getting to the realms of the highly dubious.

Update: Soon after we posted this, The Nation reported that the National Anti-Corruption Commission is to probe Supoj on suspicion of unusual wealth. Supoj said he “was smeared by the suspects who claimed he might have hidden as much as Bt1 billion at his home.” He claimed this was untrue: “… I don’t have that much money…”. He earlier told police about 5 million in cash was stolen.








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