Guess who?

10 06 2019

About a week ago we posted “Duty free awarded as it was always going to be awarded.” Then, King Power “won” the “bidding” to run the duty free stores and all the commercial space at Suvarnabhumi airport.

This seems a bit like The Dictator and self-appointed prime minister “winning” the “vote” in a rigged parliament to become prime minister again.

Now, also as expected, “King Power Duty Free Co has won a bid to run duty-free shops at Phuket, Chiang Mai and Hat Yai airports…”.

That means King Power has all the duty free contracts offered at airports by the Airports of Thailand Plc. Yes, every single one of them. That also means the lucrative King Power duty free monopoly continues.

As it announced for Suvarnabhumi, AoT said “the winning bidder for the operation of the three regional airports was King Power as it offered highest returns than its two rivals and also received the highest scores.”

As in the previous “bid,” those who lost were consortia “led by Bangkok Airways Plc and a venture led by Royal Orchid Hotel (Thailand) Plc…”.

The next duty-free “bid” comes up later in the year, for Don Muang airport. Any bets on who might win that “bid”?

King Power is well-connected, having important political and royal alliances.





Duty free awarded as it was always going to be awarded

1 06 2019

It was some time ago that there were mutterings that football oligarchs at King Power might lose their lucrative monopoly on duty free. Other retailers complained and mumbled about competing with King Power for the monopoly post-2020, when King Power’s contract ended. Others claimed that money owing to the state was going missing but the courts disagreed.

The junta even went back and forth a bit on the new concession and there were stories about auctions and big foreign bidders.

Now we haven’t followed this story particularly closely, but we did notice the story that Airports of Thailand Plc that the “King Power Group has won the bid to operate duty-free shops at Suvarnabhumi airport for another 10 years and six months and another to run commercial space at the airport…”. That seems to us like no change at all, despite the grinding of teeth that seems to have gone on.

AoT executive vice-president Wichai Bunyu said there were just three contenders, and that King Power blitzed the others “in terms of financial returns.” He said” “The promised return is higher than what we’ve received and exceeds our expectations…”.

The other contenders were a group led by Bangkok Airways and the Royal Orchid Hotel (Thailand) company.

Having held the monopoly at Suvarnabhumi since the airport opened in 2006, it will be 2031 when this concession finishes. Not bad when it is considered that tourist numbers have ballooned from 11.5 million in 2006 and are forecast to reach almost 80 million by 2030.

The very same day this concession was awarded, “King Power Suvarnabhumi Co, another subsidiary of the group, won the bid to develop and operate commercial areas at the international gateway, also for 10 years and six months” over Central Pattana Plc. AoT’s Wichai gave exactly the same reasons for this concession being awarded to King Power. He added that the “overall commercial space covered 22,000 sq m…”.

Other concessions are coming up for duty-free outlets at Phuket, Hat Yai and Chiang Mai airports, and King Power wants those too.

King Power’s Srivaddhanaprabha has grown hugely wealthy on duty free. It has also been able to back some political wheelers and dealers, most notably Newin Chidchob of the Bhum Jai Thai Party and has been skilled at making royal contacts. That all helps the group and family get wealthier.





Updated: Bankrupt PAD

7 01 2018

As widely reported, including in the Bangkok Post, 13 core members/leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy face a combined bill of 522 million baht incurred as a court’s decision on compensation to the Airports of Thailand Plc, for losses incurred “by the 10-day closure of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports 10 years ago.”

Apparently, “a legal execution notice sent by prosecutors, who were authorised by the operator of the two gateways, to seek the payments.” This follows a 2011 ruling by the Civil Court upheld by the Appeals Court and the Supreme Court between 2011 and 2017.

This might be good news for those who were outraged by PAD’s illegal actions that led to the judicial coup of December 2008.

But is it? It seems that the PAD leaders will simply declare themselves bankrupt.

The 13 are Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pipop Thongchai, Suriyasai Katasila, Somsak Kosaisuk, Chaiwat Sinsuwong, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Amorn Amonrattananond, Saranyu Wongkrajang, Samran Rodpetch, Sirichai Mai-ngam, Maleerat Kaewka and Therdpoum Chaidee.

While Sondhi is in jail for another unrelated offense, we guess that the rest have had plenty of time to organize their personal finances.

Criminal lawsuits are continuing.

Update: Confirming our comments above, the PAD group has thumbed its nose at the courts (again). Chamlong “said he cannot find the money to pay, and he had no assets which can be seized.” In any case, he rejects the notion of compensation to Airports of Thailand: “I insist I did nothing wrong. Why was I ordered to pay such a huge sum of money — as if we burned buildings. But we never burned a single building…”. He added that “he does not regret the consequences he now has to face as he did it in the best interests of the country.” His yellow compatriot, Sirichai Mai-ngam simply said: “We have no money. We won’t run away. We won’t pay…”.





PAD and its bill

23 09 2017

As posted just a couple of days ago, the rightist/royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy has been ordered to pay to the Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) for damage caused by its occupations of Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi airports in late 2008. PAD’s co-leaders were assessed as causing damages worth 522 million baht.

In that short post we suggested some reasons for skepticism on the order. The Bangkok Post now reports that PAD’s key members “will hold a meeting to discuss the compensation order.”

Suriyasai Katasila, a former PAD coordinator babbled that “the group respects the court’s ruling and is ready to face the consequences,” but then contradicted that, stating: “I still think what we did was for the public good. We were fighting against a fraudulent government at that time…”. He said the core PAD members would discuss the issue and case with their lawyers, adding that the “process of negotiating with the AoT, … as well as the legal execution and bankruptcy declaration ‘could take years’.”

His position was echoed by Maleerat Kaewka, another key PAD member, Who declared “she does not regret participating in the protest.” If she must pay, she “said she is ready for a bankruptcy filing if required but insisted that if the AoT wants to negotiate the level of compensation she is ready to do so.” Reflecting this defiance, which would land red shirts in jail for contempt, she declared: “I am ready to fight all kinds of injustice…”.

Another out for the PAD leaders was to have its supporters, many of them very well-heeled,”set up a fund to help cover the damages…”. Whatever happens, PAD remains undaunted and ever ready for a fight. The authorities remain wary of damaging them and supporters as they know they may again need their support.





PAD gets a bill

21 09 2017

The Bangkok Post reports that the People’s Alliance for Democracy has received a bill for its occupations of Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi airports in late 2008.

PAD’s co-leaders were assessed as causing damages worth 522 million baht.

That amount is due to the Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT). The fine seems to follow from a ruling of the Appeal Court in 2011.

The court’s award to AoT can be appealed.

The report says that criminal charges are continuing in the courts, apparently still at the stage of hearing witnesses.





Junta, death and airports

21 09 2014

PPT was sent a news story from Z News/india.com: that at first seemed difficult to believe. However, redialing to allow for the idiosyncrasies of military dictatorship, we accepted this odd story as real.

It begins: “Anyone found guilty of causing closure or damage of an airport in Thailand could face the death penalty under new proposed law by the military junta.”

The Dictator’s handpicked National Legislative Assembly is reported to have “already passed the first reading of the new bill proposed to replace the 1978 and 1995 laws.” In the first reading bill, “[f]orcing the closure of an airport, damaging airport facilities or aircraft at an airport plus any action that maims or kills someone in an airport would result in the death penalty or a life sentence…”.

Bangkok-Airport-ClosedOf course, anyone who follows Thailand’s politics will know that the royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy occupied both of Bangkok’s airports in late 2008.

At the time, as well as being supported by members of the Democrat Party, when the incumbent government requested the then Army commander, General Anupong Paojinda to clear the airport, he reportedly mutinied by refusing a lawful order.

Interestingly, the mutinous Anupong is now Interior Minister in General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s junta-appointed cabinet.

The idea of such legislation does seem a bit odd until it is considered that the military gets worried when there are political mobilizations that it can’t necessarily control.

Not unexpectedly, PAD-associated appointee to the junta’s National Legislative Assembly Somchai Sawaengkarn muttered that “putting someone to death for causing an airport’s closure might be too harsh.” He then lied: “Personally, I don’t support the closure of airports.” We know this is a lie because he immediately added: “in some cases an airport operation needs to be shut down for other reasons…”. And his example was 2008.PAD

Another PAD-associated NLA appointee, Klanarong Chanthik “said some articles in the proposed bill were not realistic…”.

In the recent demonstrations by anti-democrats in 2014, PPT recorded at least two declarations that airports were to be targeted (here and here).

As far as we can tell, the cases under the previous legislation against PAD airport occupiers continues but without much seriousness.

Interestingly, as a footnote, we did find one mention of a policeman who headed up that “investigation” for a while, before resigning from it. Guess who? None other than current top cop, appointed by The Dictator, Police General Somyos Pumpanmuang. Supporting the royalists has been significant for his career advancement.

 





Yellow court day

30 04 2013

It must have been standing room only when 96 members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, including leaders like Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang, appeared in the Criminal Court for the “first hearing of charges over the occupation of Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports in 2008.” But as the Bangkok Post reports, this was not a huge milestone as the “court agreed to postpone the hearing” for some of the accused as they claimed no legal representation and a further 17 defendants have yet to be indicted.

While the judge did point out that “the charge of terrorism carries the death penalty,” it was not explained why all defendants repeatedly get bail while red shirts accused of terrorism have been indicted, refused bail and imprisoned for long terms for alleged offenses in 2010. Obviously double standards are at work in the courts.

An AFP report: states that all of the PAD members are “planning to plead not guilty…”.  It also notes that “investigations against the arch nationalist group have been sluggish, prompting resentment and claims of double standards…”. It adds: “Many leaders of the mainly rural, working class Reds were swiftly locked up on terrorism charges after their street protest in the heart of Bangkok in 2010 which came to a bloody end after an army crackdown.”

 





PAD leaders finally indicted

14 03 2013

The Nation reports that 31 leading members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy were finally indicted for besieging Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports in 2008.

The report reckons they were protesting against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which is only partly true as they were attempting to create conditions for a military coup and protesting against the government of Somchai Wongsawat. In the end, they didn’t get a military coup; instead they got a military mutiny against the government and a judicial coup. The result was the deal cobbled together by palace, military and the so-called Democrat Party that put Abhisit Vejjajiva in the premier’s seat.

Sondhi and Chamlong in royal yellow

Sondhi and Chamlong in royal yellow

Of course, the legal system still treats the PAD leadership with kid gloves. Only 17 of the 31 bothered to show up at Criminal Court and they were all released on bail of 800,000 baht.

The 31 included Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang, as well as Sondhi’s right-wing satellite television channel, ASTV (Thailand), “which broadcast the leaders calling on people to take part in protests during the PAD-led political gatherings…”. They can enter pleas on 29 April. The report states that:

The 31 PAD members have been indicted for terrorism; forceful entry; criminal conspiracy in violation of emergency rule; destruction and obstruction of facilities at an airport; affecting safety; causing traffic jams at public places; disrupting communications; causing others’ properties to depreciate; criminal conspiracy; obstructing officials’ duties; intimidating officials on duty; intimidating others and withholding freedom.

Plenty of red shirts were jailed on similar charges and some remain in jail, having been incarcerated almost three years ago.





Updated: Bangkok’s first flood evacuations ordered

19 10 2011

From MCOT News:

Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra has ordered the evacuation of 200 households along the Hok Wa canal outside the capital’s flood prevention dyke to two schools provided as temporary shelters….

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA, Bangkok’s City Hall) is reinforcing and elevating the dyke along the Hok Wa canal to a height of 3.50 metres from the existing 2.50 metres.

The evacuation alert is the second statement from the Bangkok governor Wednesday after he earlier today warned Bangkok residents in seven flood-prone districts to be on heightened alert and move their belongings to upper floors, unplug electrical appliances and to study the BMA’s evacuation plan in case of emergency.

The BMA was informed by the Flood Relief Operations Centre (FROC) that a massive stream of 1.2 billion cubic metres of northern run-off water is estimated to pass Rangsit plain which can absorb about 400 million cubic metres of water.

The remaining 800 million cubic metres of water could impact dykes in eastern Bangkok and may overflow into vulnerable areas in seven districts. The seven districts include Sai Mai, Klongsamwa, Bang Khen, Nong Chok, Min Buri, Lat Krabang, and Kannayao.

Post Today photo

The Nation also carries the alert. It also has a story on preventing the inundation of Suvarnabhumi airport. The Bangkok Post states that Sukhumbhand’s initial warning was via his Twitter account. The second evacuation order is discussed here.

Update: A set of photos at the ABC. Thanks to 2Bangkok.com for posting links to Sukhumbhand’s announcement (here) and Singapore’s warning on Bangkok travel: “Unless travel is absolutely necessary, we urge Singaporeans planning to travel to Bangkok in the next few days to consider waiting for the flood situation to improve before doing so.”





PAD leaders in court

4 12 2010

Prachatai reports on the final defense statement by the People’s Alliance for Democracy leader Sondhi Limthongkul on a “Civil Court in a lawsuit filed against him and 12 other yellow-shirt leaders by the Airports of Thailand for laying siege to Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in Nov 2008, demanding 245 million baht in damages.”

The airport blockade and occupation lasted a week and ended on 2 December 2008, when the Constitutional Court hurriedly dissolved the governing parties and the military brass and palace cobbled together a coalition government led by their favorite, the Democrat Party and Abhisit Vejjajiva when Newin Chidchob was convinced to take a bunch of defectors into government to create a royalist military-civilian coalition. For background, see here and here and this important BBC report.

Sondhi and Chamlong in royal yellow

As he has claimed all along, Sondhi says PAD “held rallies at Bangkok’s airports to pressure a corrupt government, but did not close them,  insisted to the court.” Despite the fact that PAD occupied the airport and PAD guards occupied the control tower, Sondhi claims “the protests at the airports did not harm the aviation business, because the airports were not closed, and airplanes were allowed to take off or land as normal. The protesters gathered in the area called the ‘land side’, which had nothing to do with the taking off or landing of airplanes, and the leaders instructed protestors not to enter the ‘air side’, as they realized that encroachment into that area was against the law, Sondhi said.”

Sondhi does reveal that “the 5 PAD leaders had discussions and Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang, the most senior among them, decided to lead protesters to the airports to protest against the government which was considering approval of an NGV bus project, and to pressure it to make progress in the cases of M79 bombings which had killed many yellow shirts.”

More startlingly, Sondhi claims “the protesters allowed any persons to freely enter or leave the premises of both airports.” I guess he means all of the travelers who had to leave. The roads to the airport were variously blocked by barricades, PAD supporters and police. See here and here also.

Sondhi said, as PAD leaders have long claimed, “that it was Director of the AOT Serirat Prasutanond who ordered the closure of the airports. He had no idea whether Serirat’s orders were in line with the International Civilian Aviation Convention or not, but he knew that the board of the AOT reprimanded Serirat for giving the orders without notifying them beforehand.” See this short note and quote from a PAD leader, one PAD (and probably the courts) will ignore.

The occupation of the airports, Sondhi asserted, “did not cause any serious damage which would need large amounts of compensation. Only the toilets got dirty. When the airports were handed back to the AOT, the board even said that the airports were ready to go back into service…”.  Sondhi means physical damage to the airport’s property. But see here and here, where a very early estimate by the Bank of Thailand was that the damage to the economy of the airport occupation was $8.5 billion.

The court is expected to make its ruling on 25 March 2011. However, this case has been dogged by repeated delays.