The NACC’s contortions

16 02 2023

The National Anti-Corruption Commission is well known for its capacity to support the regime that came to power following the 2014 coup. It has contorted itself, its rules, and laws to ensure that no serious charge sticks to those at the top of the regime. Among many cases, we recall Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s “borrowed” watches, Thammanat Prompao’s nepotism, heroin smuggling, and unusual wealth, and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s relations.

Here’s another fine display of contortion. The NACC “has found no evidence implicating Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit in a dereliction of duty case. It was referring to a case linked to the purchase of 10 ultra-long-range aircraft between 2002 and 2004….”.

Revealing is the fact that the NACC “Mr Suriya was not involved in THAI’s purchase of the 10 aircraft…”. At the time, Suriya was Minister for Transport.

The very same NACC decided in December 2022 “to press charges of dereliction of duty against ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, former deputy transport minister Phichet Sathirachawal, former THAI board chairman Thanong Bidaya and former THAI president Kanok Abhiradee…”.

According to Isra News, Suriya submitted the purchase proposal to cabinet.

But, no charge. Of course, it is because Suriya jumped the Thaksin ship and washed up with the junta. Double standards? You bet.

Absurd 112 trials

19 01 2023

We were surprised to see that the Bangkok Post wrote something on the situation of monarchy reform advocates. Perhaps it is because the report is about the Clooney Foundation for Justice, where the superstar connection might have been the trigger.

The Foundation issued a statement made the all too obvious point that the current military-monarchy regime “should dismiss the case against 22 protest leaders charged with insulting the monarchy, sedition and a range of public order offences…”. Of course it should!

To do so would mean Thailand would “adhere to its international human rights obligations…”.

The Foundation’s TrialWatch Expert Kevin Bell AM KC submitted “an amicus brief submitted to the Bangkok Criminal Court.”

Clipped from The Nation

TrialWatch monitors criminal trials globally against those who are most vulnerable, including journalists and opposition figures, and advocates for the rights of individuals who are unfairly imprisoned. Since late 2020, CFJ’s TrialWatch initiative has been monitoring and evaluating criminal proceedings against the protest leaders, who face between seven and 15 years in prison if convicted of all charges (in Thailand, if a defendant is being prosecuted for multiple offenses for the same conduct, the defendant is to be punished for the offense with the most severe punishment).

Of course, the spinelessness of the Bangkok Post editorial policies means it only summarizes the most important bits of the statement. Here it is in full:

… The charges are based on the prosecution’s allegation that while giving speeches at a protest the defendants lied about the Thai King’s expenditures and his frequent travel to and from Germany, including during the COVID lockdowns and allegedly in violation of quarantine rules.

As documented by TrialWatch monitors who have attended the trial, the prosecution has not presented evidence that the defendants’ statements were false and the court has refused to order institutions like the Crown Property Bureau, the Royal Office, and Thai Airways to provide financial and travel records, despite the defense’s repeated requests. This has undercut the defense’s ability to prove the statements were true. As one defendant noted at a recent hearing, without access to information to prove the truth of their comments “it is as if the defendant’s side is chained with one hand to the boxing ring, preventing them from punching and fighting with the other side.” If the court does not dismiss the case, it should at least allow the defense access to the materials it needs to both mount a defense and to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and arguments, today’s amicus brief said.

… “In violation of international principles, the court has tied the accused’s hands by obstructing their attempts to obtain documents that would prove the truth of their statements about the King. The absurdity of this situation is highlighted by the fact that the defendants are charged with lying that the King was not in Thailand during certain periods at the same time as defense lawyers have been prevented from accessing routine travel records,” said TrialWatch Expert the Honourable Kevin Bell AM KC, who has fifteen years of judicial experience in the conduct of criminal trials, including as former Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia.

Read the whole statement.

With 4 updates: Generals, kings and isolation

6 07 2020

After some criticism of quarantine exemptions for a visiting US military delegation, a Thai general was quoted:

A delegation led by the US army chief of staff has been required to self-isolate before their arrival for 14 days for a two-day trip under a special arrangement, Gen Somsak Roongsita, secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC) said yesterday [Sunday].

That seems pretty clear. The Thai general is further quoted:

US army chief of staff Gen James McConville will meet his Thai counterpart, Gen Apirat Kongsompong, and Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha on Thursday and Friday, Gen Somsak said.

But, then, as ever, things get a little murkier:

Gen Somsak said the delegation would fly from Singapore to Thailand on a private flight. “They won’t be flying directly from the US. It’s a small delegation and will be in Thailand for two days.”

They were tested and quarantined for 14 days in the US before the trip and would be tested again in Singapore and at the Military Air Terminal 2 at Don Mueang airport.

So in Singapore, they are not isolated.Just saying….

But what about in the USA? We found this official report:

Photo by Kari Hawkins
U.S. Army Materiel Command

Gen. Ed Daly takes command of the Army Materiel Command as he returns the AMC flag to Command Sgt. Maj. Rodger Masker during a Passing of the Colors ceremony July 2. The Passing of the Colors was part of the change of command ceremony, and included previous AMC Commander Gen. Gus Perna and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville.

Date Taken: 07.02.2020
Date Posted: 07.02.2020 16:46….

We did a count, and we don’t think 2-9 July equals 14 days. Is the Thai general concocting a lame story for local consumption? Does he think no one will bother doing a bit of online searching? We are sure another lame story will follow. Just saying….

And what of all those who are in contact? Are they isolating after the visit? Probably not. Just saying….

And then there’s the arrival this morning of yet another special Thai Airways reportedly carrying the king and queen back to Bangkok from Germany and Switzerland for another less than one day visit. It seems the bankrupt airline is still flying special flights for the royals. And, like the king’s one other visit to Thailand, there’s no isolation, presumably as the possibility of a royal virus is a blessing. Just saying….

Update 1: If you aren’t filthy rich and are without a royal or military connection, then you can be held in contempt compared to those with status and loot. Gen Prayuth has “expressed his concerns about the future resumption of international travel under the Travel Bubble scheme, stressing Thailand must implement a vigorous arrivals screening.” Unless you are rich, royal or connected.

Update 2: We predicted another story to cover for the Thai general’s dissembling. One we saw came in the Bangkok Post. It seem that the buffalo manure is being dumped as the Post has a photo that appears to be showing that the American general hasn’t isolated for 14 days anywhere. The caption for the photo states:

US army chief of staff Gen James McConville (centre right) visits the Thai army’s combat team which joins Exercise Lightning Forge at the Schofield Barracks army Base in Hawaii before his trip to Singapore, Thailand and Japan later this week. (Photo supplied by Wassana Nanuam)

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

We can’t confirm when the photo was taken but the text above gives the impression that “before” means within the last few days and the photo shows everyone masked.

Now the official line is that the American general and his entourage will wear masks and limit meetings. Then is is added that they’ll be virus tested before arrival and on arrival. But what about all those they meet and the “liaison officers, along with health and security officials”? What about Gen Prayuth and Gen Apirat?

Update 3: Serial complainer Srisuwan Janya, who has celebrity status for his incessant attention-seeking activism, has lodged a complaint about the delegation’s visit and associated double standards.

Update 4: Because they lied, officials and army brass have been busy covering posterior and repairing their image by going above and beyond in having the American general appear to be sanitized and separated. Look at the lengths Gen Apirat has gone to. One suspects he is trying to (re)burnish his image for a political career.

With a 6th and final update: Where’s Wally? I

5 04 2020

Where’s Wally was a British set of puzzle books where readers had to find Wally hidden in a group. In most places there are no groups now, but finding King Vajiralongkorn is an activity that some have taken up. (Where’s Vaji perhaps?) It is made easier by the virtual end of international air travel. We have been told he’s due in Bangkok tomorrow.

But, as is widely known, the authorities in Bangkok have banned incoming flights: “All passenger flights have been banned from landing in the country to curb the outbreak of the new coronavirus…. The ban came into effect on Saturday morning and will run until the end of Monday…”.

It has never been clear why closing the airport is needed or necessary for incoming flights.

So what happens? Well, strangely – or not – a TG flight is currently on its way to Zurich.

After previously keeping flights to Zurich and Munich, the company recently said it had suspended all flights to Europe. So why the lone flight to Zurich? We can guess.

Now the Where’s Wally question is locating Vajiralongkorn. Is this flight likely to go on to Munich? Is it picking up Queen Suthida and then Vajiralongkorn?

Then there’s the matter of 14 days isolation on arrival in Thailand, if the king and an entourage arrives. We guess the regulation will only apply to mere mortals.

Updates 1 and 2 (with corrected flight nos.): TG971 has arrived in Zurich. We will be interested to know of its return route and passengers. Helpfully, the flight tracker tells us that “Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn 904 VMS904” left Munich on Saturday for Zurich, arriving at 20:20 and returned to Munich after a 35 minute turnaround, landing at 21:31.

Update 3: Remarkably, in a great scoop, Andrew MacGregor Marshall has published details of the Chakri Day events in Bangkok. It shows King Vajiralongkorn arriving in Bangkok at 05:30 on 6 April. No isolation but a series of meetings and public events. At 01:05 the next day he is scheduled to return to Zurich on TG970. This schedule raises all kinds of questions about laws and regulations in Thailand, Germany and Switzerland.

Update 4 (with corrected flight nos.): TG971 left Zurich over an hour late and arrived in Bangkok almost 2.5 hours late. Royalists may be ecstatic to have the king back in town even if it is for less than a day. We acknowledge that some mad monarchists think he’s been there all the time. Pity about all that “social distancing” and quarantine stuff not being observed for the royals. At least not seen so far; wait for the royal news tonight…. More interesting after this one-day of Chakri Day “duties” will be if the king returns as scheduled. Perhaps leaving and arriving via Zurich games the systems of three countries, allowing him to “beat” restrictions “in transit” in Zurich and then claim residence in Germany to get him in there. Let’s see.

Update 5: Bild has a useful account of the king’s flying visit to Bangkok. For those playing Where’s Vaji, today’s clue is that TG970 departed Bangkok for Zurich at 03:42 today, 2.5 hours late, and is due  in Zurich at about 10:40 local time.

Update 6: In case you were wondering what the king and queen did in their fleeting visit to Bangkok (assuming they were both on TG971), the royal news last night had some of it.

Unmasked, the big shots did their usual grovels and manufactured “donations” for the king to make. The latter involves printing royal slogans saying the “donation” is from the monarch when they are really purchased with taxpayer money and “given back to the people” in ceremonies that supposedly show the monarch as kind, caring and generous; in other words, a fraudulent exercise.

In the old days, the royal news used to show princes, princesses and queens leaving Bangkok and arriving back as well as arrivals and departures at their destinations. There’s little of that now because the king and his family spend most of their time away, and palace propagandists don’t want the plebs calculating that the king is seldom in the country. It’s all smoke and mirrors these days.

Updated: Taxpayers slugged for royal whims

28 03 2020

Long in trouble, bleeding money and with a President who has recently resigned, the coronavirus is a disaster for the struggling Thai Airways.

How to make it worse? Force the airline to keep flying to suit the king’s whims and fancies.

Thai Airways has announced that, from 1 April, it will cease flying to almost all of its European destinations. Compare the destination list and the cancellations and it is seen that flights will continue to Munich and Zurich.

The only reason for these flights continuing flights to Munich is because King Vajiralongkorn is living in Germany, currently ensconced in a luxury hotel where he rents every room.

Why Zurich? Andrew McGregor Marshall has previously reported that Queen Suthida prefers to hang out in luxury resorts in the mountains of Switzerland. The king has been reported holidaying and cycling in Switzerland too.

Marshall has also reported that the king plans to return to Bangkok early in April for a few days.

In other words, in a country where the regime has few funds are available for the poor – and they are hardest hit by the virus crisis – the Thai taxpayer is forking out extra millions for the country’s richest person to do as he pleases.

Update: The slug for taxpayers came faster than we imagined. In a report we missed at the time we wrote the above post, Khaosod has reported that the regime “will inject a new round of cash bailout for Thai Airways, whose operations have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.” Of course, some of that bailout will fund the king’s and queen’s travels. The exact amount to be paid remains unknown as “the state enterprise board is discussing with the airline and transport ministry on the details of the financial assistance.” The report notes that “[a]ccording to … February data, Thai Airways has an accumulative loss of 12 billion baht.”

Further updated: Virus chaos in the regime?

14 03 2020

The Thoracic Society of Thailand has called on “the government to prepare for Covid-19 to become a ‘Stage 3’, full-blown epidemic in Thailand while slamming the authorities’ slow response to the spread of the disease.”

The Society claimed “it has been trying to alert agencies involved of the need for preparations” but that the response has been insufficient.

In a completely different arena, the doctors seem to be supported by (soon to be former) Thai Airways president Sumeth Damrongchaitham. He only took on the job in September 2018. He’s resigned because, as he put it:

We were here on a mission. When those in power said that you’re finished, so we had to go. And we already know what’s going on….

Sumeth and Wg Cdr Suthirawat Suwanawat, general manager of Suvarnabhumi airport, both “quit amid speculation that their decisions were linked to the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak.”

Another report states that “Sumeth quit after his proposals to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak were not supported by the ministry.”

Adding to confusion about the regime’s attention to the virus issue, it is learned that:

The opposition Pheu Thai Party has slammed the government’s decision to remove illegal Thai migrant workers who returned from South Korea from the national facility in Chon Buri’s Sattahip district and send them home for self-isolation.

Remarkably and apparently drawing conclusions that several other governments haven’t,

The government on Wednesday decided to send 240 Thai workers who returned to Thailand this week after working illegally in South Korea to their home provinces for self-quarantine, following advice that keeping many people quarantined in one place may lead to widespread infection.

Thailand is is deep trouble under this regime. Not least because the regime has a health minister who seems uniformed about health. In his most recent outburst, Minister Anutin Charnvirakul claimed “dirty” Western tourists were “more likely to spread coronavirus than Asians.” This seemed based on his view that Westerners “never shower” and “not a single farang has one [a mask].” None of this is based on good health advice.

If Anutin is determined that wearing a mask is necessary, maybe he can get some masks for tourists from fellow minister Thammanat Prompao. Certainly, masks are not readily available. As one report explains:

Thailand’s health authorities are encouraging people to make cloth face masks at home to guard against the spread of COVID-19 amid a shortage of surgical masks.

Despite Thammanat’s buffalo manure claims dropping from the headlines, some are still reminding people that the shortage is due to hoarding and profiteering.

Meanwhile, the regime fumbles about and blames others.

The regime’s response includes threats:

In the face of harsh criticism of the government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday that people had the right to ask questions and demand action but they should not cross the limit.

He seemed peeved, saying “it is not fair to accuse the government of being incompetent” and he argued that Thailand had a Thai-style virus:

Be it Covid-19, poverty or other challenges, the prime minister said, each country has different factors that can restrict efforts to address these problems.

No wonder people are open to scams, rumors and fruit loops.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

We really did wonder about the royalism and nationalism on display in a recent set of photos and reports. Why all the flags, 9s and yellow shirts in these nonsense “sanitizations”?

Clipped from Khaosod

Maybe royalists feel the need for extra protection?

Update 1: Despite all DIT’s ass-covering, the Bangkok Post refers to a “dire shortage of face masks.” It asks: “Where have all the masks gone?” It was only in late January that “Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said Thailand has some 200 million masks in stock, which is enough for four to five months.” So where are they? Of course, there’s “speculation that a large number of them are being hoarded by some traders for export at high prices. Worse still, it is believed this hoarding involves close aides of some cabinet members.”

That’s the detestable Thammanat.

DIT reckons that 1.7 million masks are being produced each day. It says that these masks are being hoarded by regular people, but that does not explain why hospitals can’t get masks.

Dr Suphat Hasuwannakit, director of Songkhla’s Chana Hospital declares: “The government has completely failed in managing the crisis…”. He admitted that “he doesn’t understand … how online orders can be fulfilled so quickly…”. He added that “there’s always an ‘unlimited number’ of masks in online shops to be sold at inflated prices…”.

The regime is bungling and is struggling to deal with the crisis.

Update 2: The Nation reports that Genl Prayuth “has transferred the director-general of the Department of Internal Trade (DIT), Wichai Pochanakit, to the Office of Prime Minister…”. The general-PM stated that the transfer “was to re-establish people’s confidence in the government and investigate rumours of the hoarding face masks to sell in international markets.”

We think he’d have established confidence if he’d sacked Thammanat.

Newly circulated documents show the DIT “allowed exports of one million pieces of face marks to Chicago in the United States dated March 11.”

Full of lies and ass-covering, things go from bad to worse for the regime.

Corruption under the junta

23 09 2018

We don’t always agree with academic Sungsidh Piriyarangsan’s politics, but his research on corruption is usually pretty good. We found these bits of a report in The Nation worth quoting for readers:

Sungsidh Piriyarangsan said his “cautious estimate” put the damages at between Bt50 billion and Bt100 billion for 2018 alone. He based his estimate on the findings of 14 studies on corruption funded by the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC)….

“Corruption has increased rapidly because Thai politics is a closed system,” the academic said. “A big weakness is that we have no agency that truly scrutinises. Parliament and independent agencies exist but they can’t scrutinise politicians.

“The country’s history and culture enshrine the existing patronage system, in which people with connections thrive. Also, law enforcement is not effective enough although this government has issued a lot of good anti-corruption laws,” he added.

We are still waiting to hear more about Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s watches, all those “investigations” into Rolls Royce engines at Thai Airways and PTT’s commissions, the Kyodo News Agency report in the Bangkok Post about Japanese executives being charged over bribes to a Thai official of the Ministry of Transport, former police chief General Somyos Pumpanmuang’s “borrowed” money, Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda’s alleged approval of the purchase of hundreds of road speed guns for six times the normal price, Rajabhakdi Park and many more.

Bribes? What bribes?

9 06 2018

The Bangkok Post pointed out the paradox. It reports that “Thai Airways International Pcl (THAI) will undertake maintenance and repair of Rolls-Royce Trent engines and expects additional revenue of up to 5 billion baht in 2020 from the business…”.

Given that Trent engines have had some problems, a problematic relationship between Thai Airways and Rolls Royce seems sadly appropriate.

What’s that relationship? As the Post explained:

The press release announcing the new tie-up made no mention of the scandal revealed two years ago showing that Thai government officials [and others, allegedly including Thai Airways executives] had received Rolls Royce bribes to buy the firm’s engines.

Thai Airways and Rolls Royce executives are reported to have ignored the connection and relationship.

In fact, they have done far more than this. Recall that the Bangkok Post previously reported that “Rolls-Royce has refused to supply information about its bribery admission involving Thai Airways International (THAI) with the national flag carrier’s probe panel.” That sounds like collusion.

For details of investigations elsewhere, visit here and here. In Thailand, of course, the junta “has taken no action and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has been silent…”.

It is business as usual.

Sorting out corruption, deaths, theft

17 09 2017

PPT was pleased to note a Bangkok Post editorial on the case of the young Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae who was killed by soldiers about six months ago. The Post refers to this as an “extra-judicial killing in broad daylight…”.

The events of the killing have been muddied by the authorities, with “some cabinet ministers [having] made an attempt to defend the soldier who gunned down Chaiyapoom.” The “evidence” the junta’s officials and the military claimed is hidden, unavailable or concocted. The “footage from CCTV that captured the moment when the shooting took place” has not been released.

Junta boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered “a probe.” Like many such “investigations” under the junta, “to date [it] has seen no progress with the case seeming to disappear into thin air.” The handling of the case has been secretive, even furtive. The state has also sought to implicate Chaiyapoom’s relatives and have threatened locals in order to further muddy the waters.

The case is now in the courts. They are so opaque, politicized and in the pocket of the junta that there is little chance that the state’s “obligation to bring justice to Chaiyapoom and his family” will be fulfilled.

On corruption, Suphawatchara Malanond who is Dean of the Law Faculty at the Prince of Songkla University, has an opinion piece at the Bangkok Post that raises many issues regarding state enterprises.

Among these, corruption scandals is worthy of consideration, not just for the traditional state enterprises but for corporations where the state maintains investments.

The 11 “key corporatised state enterprises” are: “PTT Plc, TOT, CAT Telecom, MCOT Plc, Thai Airways International Plc, Airports of Thailand Plc, the Transport Co, Dhanarak Asset Development Co (a state enterprise under the Treasury Department), Thailand Post Co, the Syndicate of Thai Hotels & Tourists Enterprises Ltd and Bangkok Dock Co.”

That reminds us: What happened to all those “investigations” into Rolls Royce engines at Thai Airways and PTT’s commissions?

The failure of “investigations” under the junta is definitional of the regime.

That’s probably why the Bangkok Post reports that Interior Minister General Anupong “welcomes” an “investigation” into the deflated blimp.

At the same time, the general and “the army have defended the worthiness and performance of the army’s controversial 340-million-baht aerial patrol project, including an airship, which has been decommissioned only after eight years in service.”

As the general explains, “its performance was effective or not must be assessed by the army,” suggesting that any “investigation” is likely to be fudged. After all, loyalty is usually valued in the military.

General Anupong set the tone by undervaluing the airship by seeking to value the blimp as a balloon rather than as an equipped machine.That’s the start of the fudge.

But, again, Anupong feels under some pressure. It remains to be seen how far The Dictator is prepared to go in protecting his former boss. Loyalty?

Corruption updates

13 03 2017

Two interesting reports, both suggesting how muddy the waters are around both cases, with the authorities being the ones throwing the mud.

First, and one of our favorites in recent times, the case of Pol. Lt. Gen. Sanit Mahathavorn. Sanit at first disclosed that he was receiving 50,000 baht a month from ThaiBev, owned by one of Thailand’s wealthiest Sino-Thai conglomerates. When questions were asked, he took some time to think up a story. Finally, a story was produced: Sanit claimed there was a “mistake” in his asset declaration. He claimed he had never been an adviser for the alcoholic drink giant, Thai Beverage Plc. And that story was relayed by the Office of the Ombudsman.

Khaosod reports that Sanit’s story doesn’t work for everyone. Now the Ombudsman says they don’t accept the lies claims. It says it has “obtained his original financial disclosure document and found it certified with his signature.” In other words, he was getting the payment.

The Ombudsman is only looking at “ethics rules.” Sanit, like many other top cops will be confused by this word “ethics.”

Given that both Sanit and ThaiBev have denied any financial relationship, some serious questions should be asked. We doubt anyone will ask any.

Second, the Rolls Royce saga continues with continuing confusing reporting. The Bangkok Post reports that “National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) plans this week to discuss the scope of an investigation into the alleged bribes paid to 26 former Thai cabinet ministers and executives of Thai Airways International (THAI) in the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal.”

The report adds that “the three NACC members and the NACC secretary-general will discuss the probe framework this week with the sub-committee tasked with finding facts in the alleged bribe payments.” They reckon they might need some more “evidence.”

And, oh yes, the “NACC will focus on the third phase of the bribery scandal that occurred between 2004 and 2005…”. That seems to mean they will only look at that period, when the government was with Thaksin Shinawatra. No politics here, of course, because the NACC says this is the only period not outside the statute of limitations on such alleged crimes.

What of that “ethics” word? Unlike the Ombudsman, the NACC seems to have forgotten it or never seen it. What about the idea of naming and shaming those in earlier periods? That might be a bit difficult for the NACC because they’d be up against the “great and good” who are strong allies of anti-democrats and military junta.

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