The tycoons and the regime

29 06 2020

In what looks like one of its regular paid adverts masquerading as news and called “PR story,” the Bangkok Post has an account of Chia Tai, a CP family company. It “reports” a recent “volunteering activity under its ‘Chia Tai Volunteer Project’ corporate social responsibility initiative whereby its staff join forces to make a difference in the community during the crisis.”

We guess this is yet another PR activity associated with Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s call to the country’s billionaires for support in responding to the enormous economic downturn associated with the virus crisis. CP has been doing pretty well during the crisis. So have others in the ranks of the giant conglomerates, so the PR seems like a political strategy.

This CP PR exercise involves the distribution of food boxes in communities surrounding Chia Tai Headquarters on Sukhumvit 60. Interestingly, it is said to be “supported by Phrakhanong District Office and Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC)…”.

As part of the embedding of the military in society, ISOC seems to be everywhere.

We can’t say for sure how far the mutual back-scratching between company, military and regime goes, but CP has done pretty darn well, soaking up state funds and helping itself. And there’s probably much more to come.

For example, the Bangkok Post recently reported that the “Industry Ministry is planning 1.9 billion baht in spending to help farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as part of a 10-billion-baht pandemic relief proposal submitted to the National Economic and Social Development Council.”

Farmers, right? Well, not really. Industry Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit said his ministry wants to “develop the whole agricultural industry from upstream to downstream production…”. The biggest beneficiary is likely to be CP’s Chearavanont family, one of the country’s largest landowners and long pushing for a more industrial-style agriculture.

The latter is being taken up by the regime in yet another virus crisis spend: “projects to cultivate sustainable growth include a 16.05-billion-baht project to develop five million rai covering 5,450 large-scale farms. The aim is to implement more machinery on large-sized farms to increase the value of production by about 11 billion baht a year.” And this is packaged among a bunch of state splurges said to be about promoting the dead king’s trite “New Theory”-cum-sufficiency economy, in the “agriculture sector which will cover a total of 240,000 rai.”

The mantra for sufficiency economy is as meaningless as it has ever been, but it polishes the royal family posterior and allows the regime to trumpet its “loyalty.” The importsant thing seems to be that the tycoons rub the regime’s tummy and the regime scratches the tycoons’ collective back. And, the taxpayer coughs up the loot.





Prawit is the natural leader of mafioso

23 06 2020

The “news” that everyone knew was coming is now out. Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has “accepted” his nomination as leader of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, the party that he mostly formed and has directed throughout.

As the Thai Enquirer puts it, “[h]is ascension to the party’s highest post will pull back the loosely held curtain that had been in place for the better part of the last decade and shine a spotlight on Prawit’s central role in Thai politics.”

In fact, the title of this post is from that newspaper, which says: “To Palang Pracharat, with its patchwork makeup of local mafiosos and provocateurs, Prawit is the natural leader.”

Emphasizing this, the gang that crawled around the aging and sick general “to extend the invitation were Industry Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, Deputy Finance Minister Santi Prompat, Education Minister Nuttapol Teepsuwan, Minister of Digital Economy and Society Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao, Messrs. Paiboon Nititawan and Anucha Nakasai.” Local thugs, convicted crooks, moneybags who buy the party’s votes and MPs, and coup plotters.

They slithered around him at his office at a metropolitan Army base. Of course, it is the Army that provides Prawit with the accoutrements he’s used to after his years as a military manipulator.

As Thai Enquirer explains:

Prawit has been the mastermind behind not only the military coup of 2014 but the turbulent nature of Thai politics since the Abhisit government stepped down.

While Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has served as a ready ‘puppet’ … it has been Prawit that has been the brains behind the operations. [PPT does not consider Gen Prayuth a “puppet.” He’s worked hand-in-glove with Prawit and Anupong.]

Prawit is, after all, the spiritual leader of the military faction known as ‘Burapha Payak (Tigers of the East)’ or the Queen’s Guard military unit.

Burapha-aligned Generals like Prawit, Prayut, Udomdej Sitabutr and Anupong Paochinda have played a central role in orchestrating, from behind the scenes, much of the political upheavals since the PDRC protests [which they helped organize and motivate].

All four men have served as head of the army.

They control the regime and this move simply strengthens their control as the regime looks to years and years in power. Next, a cabinet reshuffle is needed to reward Prawit’s minions.

 





New government promised

4 07 2019

Now more than 100 days since the junta’s rigging of its election and result, things haven’t gone smoothly for the military junta. Because the “election” result wasn’t exactly as the junta had hoped, and because the multi-party coalition is so large and because the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party is such a motley concoction of old-style politicians, “negotiations” over who scores what benefit and position have been endless and publicly messy.

The most recent glitch involved what the Bangkok Post calls the “Sam Mitr faction of the Palang Pracharath Party…”. In fact, it was this small group of mostly former pro-Thaksin Shinawatra politicians who formed the party, funded it and went around hoovering up the old-style politicians as candidates for the junta’s party.

Suddenly, however, the three friend group has appeared contrite. Moneybags and former Thaksin minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit said his “group will not cause problems for the prime minister, so he will have time to work for the country. After communicating with seniors yesterday, whatever positions the group now receives will be the decision of the prime minister…”.

Did those “seniors” threaten or did they make concessions? Was it Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s coup threat? Being the junta, the tea leaves may remain unreadable, although the cabinet list will be revealing of the dozens of deals done.

Gen Prayuth, scaffolded by constitutional rigging into a further term as prime minister, now reckons he will have a cabinet sworn in by the end of the month. That depends on the king being in Thailand. He says he’s made all the decisions, but in a bit of royalist nonsense that evolved in recent years, the cabinet will not be announced until approved by the monarch.

Within hours, Gen Prayuth was then saying he could “confirm the new government will be formed and will swear the oath of office [before King Rama X] by the middle of July for sure…”. That cabinet is rumored to be junta-heavy and includes self-confessed mafia figures:

They included his three deputies — Somkid Jatusripitak, Wissanu Krea-ngam and the embattled Gen Prawit Wongsuwon — who are penciled in to retain their current posts.

Gen Anupong Paochinda — Gen Prayut’s other brother-in-arms — also looks set to retain his position at the Interior Ministry.

Meanwhile, Capt Thammanat Prompao, who is close to Gen Prawit and was once seen as an influential figure, is to become the next labour minister.

It is said that it has again been Gen Prawit pulling the strings and “played a major role in arranging the cabinet line-up…”.





With 3 updates: No government

2 07 2019

It is now more than three months since Thailand’s voters went to the polls. There’s still no government in place and the military junta continues to rule.

It might have been thought that a strong performance by an elected opposition would be the main threat to the junta and its proposed government. Or it might have been felt that, once formed, a junta-backed government would be riven by conflicts within a coalition of almost 20 “parties.”

In fact, at the moment, the real “struggle” and threat to the junta’s formation of a government – assuming it wants one – is from within the party it formed, Palang Pracharath.

The details are murky but becoming public. The men who formed the party, funded it and went around hoovering up candidates for the junta are flexing their considerable muscle, blaming Party secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong for causing splits within the Party:

In the June 11 lineup, core Sam Mitr leader and party-list MP Suriya Jungrungreangkij was tipped to be the energy minister. Another core leader of the group, party-list MP Somsak Thepsutin, was promised the justice portfolio and group member Chai Nat MP Anucha Nakasai was to be a deputy finance minister.

But more changes were made later, reportedly to accommodate seats for the Chart Pattana Party, for Don Pramudwinai to continue as the foreign minister and to allow a team led by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak to control all key economic ministries. The changes resulted in Mr Suriya being moved to be industry minister while Mr Anucha’s name was no longer on the list.

Explosions are continuing. For the abnormally quiet Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, the result has been a groveling “apology” for being unable to form a cabinet and a government. His spokesman stated: “the Prime Minister will perform his duty to the best of his ability, even though there may be some problems in the party’s internal administration, as it is a newly formed party with members from many backgrounds.” It seems that the junta has failed on just about everything it has done, except for its political repression.

Where to now?

Update 1: The answer to that last question seems to come from Gen Prayuth when he appears to threaten another coup.

Update 2: Shaken by public criticism and probably military and junta unhappiness, two of the three amigos who put the Party together, now say they will be good and abide by Gen Prayuth’s decisions on his cabinet lineup. Let’s see if they got what they demanded as this statement should now allow a cabinet to be put in place. But, who knows? Others may now be upset and demanding.

Update 3: Khaosod has more on Gen Prayuth’s coup threat and the reaction to it.





Updated: Whistling in the wind

19 01 2019

Human Rights Watch has released a call  – likely to fall on deaf ears – for the military junta to “fully restore democratic freedoms so that all political parties can fully and fairly participate in the electoral process…. But so far the junta just keeps persecuting critics, banning peaceful protests, and censoring the media.”

This call comes as HRW releases its annual World Report 2019. This one has the subtitle “Reversing Autocrats’ Attacks on Rights,” which has remarkable resonance for Thailand.

HRW may be whistling in the wind as their press release notes that “[i]n December, Thai authorities blocked access to the Human Rights Watch’s Thailand web page.” That additional effort at blocking has been noted by us as well.

While whistling in the wind, we should have been astonished to read that the Election Commission secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma has said “his office has yet to look into a fund-raising report from the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), which held a Chinese-style fund-raising banquet on Dec 19 last year.”

No surprise there. After all, despite a little arm wrestling over the royal decree, the EC remains a puppet agency.

This view of the EC as a sham seems confirmed in the same report, where secretary-general Jarungvith Phummais quoted (presumably accurately) saying the agency will “investigate” claims by “Democrat Party deputy leader Nipit Intarasombat that some politicians, with the aid of local authorities, are inducing voters to release their ID cards in exchange for 500 baht.”

This old-fashioned caper is “suspected” (really!!) of using the “citizenship cards to commit fraud in the general election.” But then Jarungvith is quoted as making a truly breathtaking claim: “the EC does not have enough information at this stage to say if the practice is considered an offence under election-related laws.”

If it isn’t, then renting ID cards will become standard practice. Who needs voters when you can rent their ID cards and vote for them.

And, finally – and this is all in a single report – Jarungvith

… declined to comment as to whether [The Dictator] Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha] and [government spokesman and Palang Pracharath Party member] Mr Buddhipongse [Punnakanta] should be allowed to continue to appear on weekly television shows in the run-up to the general election after complaints that the platform may give an advantage to certain parties.

The EC at work

It seems that any backbone that might have existed at the EC is now a gooey sludge at the bottom of a rancid canal.

But never fear, the EC is planning some real work. It says it is “prepared to launch a six-week campaign to raise awareness of the need for a free and fair election at more than 430 schools…” in Bangkok.

We are not at all sure which election they mean to promote as free and fair, but it won’t be the junta’s election, whenever that is held. And we can’t help wondering how many school children in those schools will be voting or renting out their ID cards.

Update: Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Thai Constitution Protection Organisation, has added to the problems the EC has in covering up for the junta’s election cheats. The Palang Pracharath Party now claims its big fundraising dinner didn’t raise 650 million baht. The Party “posted the list of donors at its head office on Friday,” showing a “total at 90 million baht…”.

Srisuwan went further, observing that “donations from three companies under the King Power group totalling 24 million baht might violate the political party law, which prohibits anyone from donating more than 10 million baht a year to a party and any juristic person from giving more than 5 million.” The companies are: King Power Suvarnabhumi Co Ltd and King Power Duty Free Co Ltd giving 9 million baht each and King Power International Co Ltd with a 6 million donation.

According to the Bangkok Post, its individual donors included: “Pongkavin Jungrungreangkij, a son of former transport minister Suriya Jungrungreangkij … with 5 million baht.” On the list of 24 companies donating were: Mitr Phol Co Ltd (6 million baht), Saijo Denki International Co Ltd (6 million), Sky ICT (5 million), TPI Polene (3 million), TPI Polene Power (3 million), Loxley (3 million), Khon Kaen Sugar (3 million ) and the Thai Cement Manufacturers Association (3 million).





In the bag!

3 12 2018

We posted this on our other blog page yesterday and forgot to put it up here. So 24 hours late, here it is,

If the realization that the junta’s election – nay, the whole electoral and constitutional system it has established – is rigged has been slow to sink in for some, it has been reinforced by a member of the military junta’s government.

Sontirat Sontijirawong is secretary-general of the Palang Pracharath Party. He’s also commerce minister and actively working for the party by simultaneously and, we think, illegally overseeing a huge election-related spending splurge by his regime that aims to return Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to the premiership.

He’s convinced that his party has the “election” in the bag. Meeting with the party’s candidates for the Northeast, almost all poached from other parties with various offers, Sontirat “assured them the party would be in the next government.” He stated: “Members of the Palang Pracharath Party come from many factions. Everyone was looking forward to their membership of the party… I assure you that the Palang Pracharath will be a coalition party…”.

That could be just hubris but we are tempted to think it a reflection of the state of the rigging.

He also urged Suriya Juangroongruangkit to pour his “power” – read money – and his “large circle of friends” into getting the party candidates elected in the northeast. Perhaps the junta’s truckloads of billions upon billions of baht aren’t yet sufficient.





The Dictator’s scheming

6 10 2018

A couple of days ago the Bangkok Post commented on Sam Mitr/Three Friends/Three Allies nest of traitors and bought politicians.

It no claims to be “set to bring its 70 members to join the Palang Pracharath Party, which is seen as a political vehicle to support Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha’s return to power” after the junta’s rigged election.

One of the lead traitors and junta supporters, Suriya Juangroongruangkit has confirmed that the group has recruited 70 for the lead devil party.

Suriya recounted that his “return to politics” was orchestrated with another top traitor, Somkid Jatusripitak. Suriya revealed that Somkid, while serving the junta told him “that he will set up a party that is friendly to every party and comes up with policies that will benefit the people…”. Of course, this is buffalo manure because the Somkid’s work is for The Dictator.

Somkid is said to have been planning this for the junta’s boss “back when we did not have a name for the party, and [he] asked how can I bring the Sam Mitr group to join…”. So the junta’s campaigning really was based on building a party and using state funds to do much of the work under the guise of mobile cabinet meetings.

It is claimed that of the 70 recruits, 30 are former MPs, mostly poached from other parties.

A spokesman for Sam Mitr continued the buffalo manure, saying the group “has decided to join Palang Pracharath because the party has offered itself as an alternative for the public. Most importantly, Palang Pracharath has agreed that it will adopt the group’s proposals and integrate them as part of the party’s policy.” What he means is that they are all supporting The Dictator.

The so-called proposals are all “policies” meant to garner votes by forking out taxpayer loot “for village heads, kamnan, health volunteers, disaster prevention volunteers and the elderly,” all of which are meant to garner village-level votes. And then there’s the plagiarized Thaksin Shinawatra initiative reworked: the “One Million Cows” scheme.

The spokesman said admitted that the group had already been campaigning, having “travelled to the provinces to hear people’s problems over the past four months…”. No other major party is allowed to do anything like this.

The Dictator seems to feel he’s got the “election” pretty much where he wants it.





When the military is on top XXIII

4 07 2018

With a military dictatorship in place, double standards are the only standard and lies become standard practice. Of course, many people and governments omit, fib and tell so-called white lies, but when lying is a defining characteristic of governance, it is a pathology with untruths being habituated. When lies overwhelm truths, those who are lying construct an (un)reality that is itself an untruth. A military dictatorship uses its its puppet agencies and institutions to collaborate in its unreality.

So we might not be surprised when the military junta rejects any notion that it engages in double standards in its “treatment regarding ongoing moves by a pro-Prayut[h Chan-ocha] political group wooing former MPs into its fold.” That’s a lie, but one that you would expect from a regime seeking to rig an “election.”

But then “[k]ey government figures also denied any involvement with the group of veteran politicians who are calling themselves “Sam Mit” (Three Friends).” This is going too far, creating an unreality, bending and breaking its own laws.

The Three Friends group, also called the Three Traitors, are Suriya Juengrungruangkit, Somsak Thepsuthin and Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. It is widely known the three are working for the junta and for The Dictator. We know this because a couple of them have said so and they have been seen bringing former MPs together in large meetings (which the junta bans for other parties). They support Somkid’s formation of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party.

But then junta spokesman Maj-Gen Piyapong Klinphan lies that the junta “was making sure the politicians complied with relevant NCPO orders.” He also lies: “We have to take action against any violator…”. This is an unreality.

Then, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan lies, saying “I am not biased at all…”. If he wasn’t biased, he would not be rigging the election, he would not have managed a coup and he would not have detained and jailed hundreds of political opponents. His lies get even bigger when he says “that he did not know Suriya personally.”

Somkid also lied when he “denied any involvement with Sam Mit, saying that he knew nothing much about the group’s moves.” That’s the most unreal of lies. He’s truthful when he says “[t]hey are my friends…”.

Lies are become normal when the military is on top.





When the military is on top XXII

2 07 2018

When the military is on top it sets the rules for politics and seeks to ensure it wins its “election” whenever it decides to hold them.

Of course, that decision on elections means having all of its political repression and political pieces in place. Those processes have taken more than four years (and counting). The main tasks of the military dictatorship have been to concoct a legal and constitutional structure that disadvantages notions of popular sovereignty and keeps the military on top. A related and critical task has been to crush and atomize the red shirts and its leaders and to undermine the Puea Thai Party and most of its leadership.

A recent report in the Bangkok Post, while highly influenced by the junta’s perspective, suggests that the dictatorship feels it is finally successful, or nearly so.

The Pheu Thai Party has been thrown into disarray as it wrestles with a political group seeking to poach the party’s members to join a pro-regime party and support the return of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to power.

A gathering of dozens of political bigwigs last Wednesday at the Pinehurst Golf & Country Club hosted by the so-called Sam Mitr group, or Three Allies, has confirmed the speculation. This grouping is run by former transport minister Suriya Jungrungreangkij, former industry minister Somsak Thepsuthin and and the other one believed to be Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.

The Pinehurst event, which was brought forward from June 30, was attended by about 50 former MPs many of whom were formally with the Thai Rak Thai Party and the People’s Power Party. Those parties were dissolved by the Constitutional Court for electoral fraud. Others were from the Pheu Thai and Bhumjaithai parties.

However, political insiders claim the group led by Mr Suriya has a major announcement to make later this week. The announcement is believed to involve the inclusion of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), aka the red shirts, a staunch opponent of the regime, into the bloc.

Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has been coordinating these campaigns. That’s why little things like a luxury watch scandal is ignored by the puppet National Anti-Corruption Commission.

The dictatorship’s Palang Pracharath Party, ignored by the puppet Electoral Commission, has been hoovering up former Thaksin Shinawatra associated politicians and its associated groups have been holding “campaign rallies” with The Dictator in attendance and him splashing about state funds as MP buying and “policy corruption” takes hold of the junta and its party.

The latest political meeting – also ignored by the puppet EC – brought dozens of former MPs together at the Pinehurst Golf Club.

More interesting is that the defector’s group leaders Suriya Juangroongruangkit, Somsak Thepsuthin, Chalong Krudkhunthod, Anucha Nakasai and Pirom Polwiset have worked with military commanders locally in co-opting former red shirts.

According to Post source, “mid-level leaders of the UDD in several provinces [have been asked] to join the pro-regime party.” Revealing is the view that the “switching of allegiances is not a surprise because local red-shirt leaders have been ‘inactive’ since the 2014 coup and those who remain critical of the regime are hard-core UDD leaders such as Natthawut Saikuar and Worachai Hema.” Of course, Jatuporn Promphan remains jailed as the junta fears his appeal to red shirts and voters.

In this view, “the UDD is collapsing and those in power have been working to dismantle the Pheu Thai Party’s power base.” See above.

One aim is to siphon off some 80% of Puea Thai’s former MPs. The source at the Post states: “It’s every man for himself. The UDD is no longer here. The group failed to launch a political party so they came around to hook up with the Phalang Pracharat Party.” Why? Money and power and the promise of more: “One of the former Pheu Thai politicians who joined the Sam Mitr [Suriya, Somsak, et al.] group said he decided to defect because the group has a clear strategy and resources at its disposal.”

As we have long pointed out: “The regime and its allies are expected to go all-out to reduce competition including recruiting veteran politicians and using state mechanisms in their favour…”. The source added:

A lot of work has been going behind the scenes and several politicians have defected to the party. But Mr Suriya and Mr Somsak are the ones who show to the public that the UDD is disintegrating.

That the military leaders considered the red shirts an existential threat is clear. That’s one of the reasons why there was a coup in 2014.








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