King’s reward

2 02 2021

Usually the monarchy and military get most of our attention. But we have long posted about the tripod of oligarchy and power in Thailand, with the third leg being Sino-Thai tycoons. They’ve given billions to the monarchy and lots of ideological support and they’ve done the same for Thailand’s nasty military regimes.

In an announcement a couple of days ago, the king provided rewards for quite a bunch of the plutocrats.

The Bangkok Post reports highlights that “Suthikiati Chirathivat, chairman of the board of Bangkok Post Plc and chairman of the board of Central Plaza Hotel Plc. He is one of seven people awarded the Knight Grand Cordon (First Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand.” The capitalists love these awards because they show acceptance and put them close to the monarchy and all the benefits that provides and has provided them for decades.

It reports that others who were repaid for their “loyalty” included:

Prasert Prasarttong-Osoth, the founder of Bangkok Dusit Medical Services Plc; Santi Bhirombhakdi, executive chairman of Boonrawd Brewery Co; … Chattip Tanthaprasas, president of Nitipeerachat Law Office; Polapee Tulyasuwan, managing director of Nitipeerachat Law Office, and Aswin Techajareonvikul, chief executive officer of Berli Jucker Plc.

We are not sure what services the Nitipeerachat Law Office provided. Maybe a reader knows?

But this report is somewhat sneaky, leaving out the big names. Prachatai (in Thai) reproduces the Royal Announcement and the names include all the whales of the Sino-Thai tycoons. First listed is CP’s Dhanin Chearavanont, second is Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi of ThaiBev, third is Charoen’s wife, Wanna, and the others on Thailand’s rich list follow: a bunch of Lamsams, more Chearavanonts, more from the Sirivadhanabhakdi clan, more Bhirombhakdis, Pornpraphasand so it goes on.

Whole families seem to have been royally anointed. This appears as a thank you award for Sino-Thais supporting the king.

We wonder if those not listed aren’t being urged to do more?

 

 





Rulers and the Future Forward threat

18 03 2020

Shawn Crispin at Asia Times has a long story that revolves around the challenge that the now dissolved Future Forward Party posed to Thailand’s conservative ruling class.

We won’t repeat all of the story, but will emphasize a couple points that mirror commentary at PPT and elsewhere on “The Threat.”

(Again, we should point out that Crispin maintains a ludicrous definition of Thailand as “democratic” when refers to the rigged 2019 election as “democracy-restoring.” That’s just dumb.)

In discussing Future Forward’s dissolution and the banning of its leaders from politics for 10 years, Crispin does allow that this was perceived “as a highly politicized Constitutional Court decision.” And, he’s right to note that replacement party and associated movement remains “on a collision course with ex-coup-maker Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut[h] Chan-ocha’s military-aligned coalition government.”

(We are not sure how a coup-maker becomes an ex-coup-maker? Just sloppy writing perhaps.)

And, as we recently posted, the “collision” could come soon now that the puppet Election Commission has filed “criminal charges that threaten to land Thanathorn [Juangroongruangkit], banned secretary general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and ex-spokeswoman Pannika Wanich, widely seen as the ex-party’s progressive triumvirate, in prison.”

Crispin observes that some analysts think that the “slew of other pending legal threats aim to drive Thanathorn, Piyabutr and Pannika into exile from the kingdom, extinguishing their promised new movement’s threat to Prayut[h] before it has a chance to fully coalesce.”

In fact, Gen Prayuth is expendable. What is being “protected” is the broader ruling class. Prayuth is merely its servant.

The Threat is clear, explained by Thanathorn:

The people against the military, the rest against the rich, hope against fear, the future against the past…. If we win the battle of ideas, we will win all other battles…. At it’s core, at the heart of this political crisis, is this question: in Thailand who does the power belong to?

It is noted that, “[w]hile in Parliament, Future Forward took hard aim at the military and its top brass, calling for constitutional reforms and accountability…”. Perhaps even more threatening was that Future Forward targeted the big Sino-Thai tycoons and their enormous and sprawling conglomerates:

including the ThaiBev and Charoen Pokphand Group, that arguably benefitted the most from Prayut’s junta government while poverty rates rose and donated generously to bankroll his rise as an elected leader via the military-backed Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP).

And then the biggest threat of all:

in October, the party voted against the Prayut government’s surprise declaration of an emergency decree that gave a legal basis for King Vajiralongkorn to take personal control of two elite infantry divisions, the 1st and 11th, nominally to provide better security for the royal family.

It seems – based on anonymous sources – that Thanathorn and Piyabutr were warned by the king but ignored this:

Clipped from Khaosod

That perceived challenge of royal power, two well-placed sources claim, happened despite Thanathorn and Piyabutr speaking with the monarch by telephone from Germany during a September meeting with army commander General Apirat Kongsompong, a palace loyalist and son of a coup-maker.

As Crispin explains, it was soon after this that Gen Apirat “launched his now notorious speech, replete with slides of Vajiralongkorn in military garbs during his communist-fighting days in the 1970’s, labeling Future Forward as a ‘leftist’ threat.”

He then makes an important observation:

That raises questions about whether a broad conservative coalition of military, big business and royalists may have been behind the Election Commission’s push and Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve Future Forward and ban Thanathorn from politics, as well as the follow-up threat to imprison the party’s former executives.

Citing a “government advisor, who requested anonymity” – probably the odious Panitan Wattanayagorn – the regime seems to believe that The Threat  may have been seen off:

“They moved too fast and now they’re gone…. It will be nearly impossible for them to come back through the streets,” he added, noting the army’s stern warnings against staging protests in public spaces.





The junta and big business

18 05 2018

The Nikkei Asian Review has an article by Marwaan Macan-Markar that begins the much-needed task of unraveling the military dictatorship’s business dealings.

Over almost four years, the junta has quietly gone about reshaping the relationship between the military and business, both state enterprises and Sino-Thai conglomerates.

The article refers to a “cosy relationship between Thailand’s business-minded generals and powerful Thai-Chinese conglomerates.” It refers to junta-supporting companies as the Central Group, Thai Bev, Mitr Phol, Thai Union and the Bangkok Bank.

The report cites academic Veerayooth Kanchoochat who argues that the junta’s Pracha Rath project that brings the blue suits and khaki together represents the “collective endeavors of Sino-Thai conglomerates to replace competitive markets with hierarchy, rather than encouraging SMEs to catch-up with them.”

The report states that: “Conglomerates have been enticed to sign up with Pracha Rath with generous tax breaks and hopes for previously elusive project approvals.” It adds: “Officers in and out of uniform are meanwhile finding their way on to corporate boards and being given shares in return for acting as ‘fixers with authority’.”

In addition, academic Napisa Waitoolkiat is cited as saying “this symbiotic relationship has again become the ‘norm’.” PPT can’t recall hearing this since the 1970s. She added that state-owned enterprises have again become a sinecure for generals. She says that of “56 state-owned enterprises, 42 now have military directors…”. She adds that the movement of generals onto boards is beginning to include the private sector.

Those generals and their business “partners” are keen to protect this corrupt system, just as they were in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.





Another junta crook gets off

15 03 2017

No corruption allegations ever sticks to the military junta’s allies, or so it seems.

In the case of Pol Lt Gen Sanit Mahathavorn, everyone, and we mean everyone, knows he did it. But, as The Nation reports, he is let off without a charge or even a slap on the “ethics” wrist.

The Office of the Ombudsman has given up or been pressured to give up its “probe into city police chief Lt-General Sanit … allegedly earning Bt50,000 a month as an adviser to the country’s biggest producer of alcoholic drinks, Thai Beverage…”.

The Ombudsman seems to have decided, as it often does, except where junta political opponents are involved, that “there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the case.”

Sanit’s “excuse” is that declaring the payment was an error. He claimed “that there was a mistake on his asset declaration as a new member of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA).” What kind of mistake? “He said he had asked others to handle the declaration for him and he had never worked for the firm.”

So the claim is that some underling conjured up his illicit payment from ThaiBev. He or she just had a dream and wrote it on the boss’s declaration. That’s buffalo manure, but the dolts and political flunkies at the Ombudsman “believe” it because there’s no “evidence” to the contrary (apart from the declaration).

More importantly, Thai Beverage “said in a letter to the office that it did not hire Sanit as an adviser.” They are fibbing too. Of course they pay him, and plenty of other cops too. Everyone knows they do this. But it is “good business practice,” and “everybody” does it and all the junta boys are on the take too.

The tough pussies at the “Ombudsman’s Office sent a notice to Sanit warning him to be more careful in the future by thoroughly checking documents when complied by another person on his behalf and submitted to an official body signed by him.”

So the company and the cop get away with it.

Can it get any more pathetic than this?





The funding trail

12 02 2014

There has been considerable speculation in recent years about the funding for large rallies. In the case of the current crop of anti-democrats, Post Today, and now its English parent, The Bangkok Post has published a leaked list.

The list is apparently from the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) that claimed to have a list “of 136 firms and individuals said to be funding anti-government protests…”. The leaked list is of just 32 alleged financial backers, made up of 19 companies and 13 individuals.

The 19 companies are: Saha Pathanapibul Plc, Gaysorn Plaza, Siam Paragon Department Store, King Power Group, Dusit Thani Hotel, Siam Intercontinental Hotel, Riverside Hotel, Mitr Phol Group, Wangkanai Group, Boon Rawd Brewery Co, Thai Beverage Plc, Yakult (Thailand) Co, Neptune Co, Thai Namthip Co, Muang Thai Life Assurance Co, Hello Bangkok Co and Metro Machinery Group.

Several of these companies are linked with Princess Sirindhorn. Others are long-established royalist firms with strong links to the monarchy through large donations and other support over many years. Amongst these, Bhirombhakdi family of the Boonrawd Brewery of the Bhirombhakdi family and Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi’s family are notable. King Power was associated with Newin Chidchob and his support of the last Democrat Party government. It is also a strong supporter of things royal.

The 13 individuals are: Chumpol Suksai, Chalerm Yoovidhya of Red Bull fame, Pramon Suthiwong, Khunying Kallaya Sophanpanich (Bangkok Bank family), Nuanphan Lamsam (Kasikorn Bank family), Wimolphan Pitathawatcha, Dr Pichet Wiriyachitra, Taya Teepsuwan, Sakchai Guy, Krisana Mutitanant, Pol Gen Kitti Rattanachaya, Chitpas Kridakorn [Bhirombhakdi] and Issara Vongkusolkit (with a family worth about $1 billion).

Denial has been the first response (and here):

… PDRC secretary general Suthep Thaugsuban told supporters on Tuesday night that none of the people on the list, except Sakchai Guy, had provided financial support to his political movement.

Mr Suthep said Mr Sakchai donated money generated from selling T-shirts to PDRC.

Mr Pramon, chairman of Toyota (Thailand), also denied any financial involvement with the PDCR. He said he is considering a lawsuit against the CMPO if it officially accused him of funding protests, since as such information would damage his reputation and company.

Boonchai Chokwatana, the chief executive of Thailand’s leading consumer goods producer Saha Pathanapibul Plc, is also considering a defamation case against the CMPO if it formalises the accusation.





Further updated: UK embassy criticized

2 02 2011

Yesterday PPT posted a snippet from a Bangkok Post report that stated:  “In another development, Phayaw and Natthaputt Akkahad, mother and brother of Kamolket, a volunteer nurse who was found shot dead at Wat Pathum Wanaram after the protest dispersal operation on May 19, 2010, have failed to obtain a visa to Britain after they received an invitation from the House of Lords to discuss the controversy surrounding the death of Kamolket. The hearing in London will be held tomorrow.”

There has been a huge amount of internet traffic highly critical of the UK embassy in Bangkok, with several claims that this is the “old boys’ network” conspiring to prevent the free discussion of the murder of Kamolkade and many others. There have been several demands for the embassy to explain, and their response is usually: “We don’t comment on individual cases.” But really, what are they up to in the embassy? We thought that with the retirement of the former elite hobnobbing ambassador, things might have improved, but it seems not.

Former Ambassador Quinton Quayle (right, with Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij, in fancy dress) sucked up to Abhisit Vejjajiva from the day he was made prime minister and supported the government very strongly in all its actions. That policy seems to continue by denying access to the means of securing justice for this mother of a murdered girl.

There’s perhaps some consolation in a report in the Bangkok Post on the Truth for Reconciliation Commission claiming that it is intensifying its efforts to reveal the truth of the killings in April and May 2010: “Tomorrow’s session will hear from Phayao Akkahad, the mother of the nurse killed at Wat Pathum Wanaram.  Ms Phayao said she had been invited to give information about the mysterious death of her daughter, Kamolket.  She said that it was the first time she had been summoned to testify before the TRC.  Kamolket was among six people who were found dead at the temple after the protest crackdown on May 19.  Ms Phayao yesterday slammed the Department of Special Investigation and its investigation of the six deaths.  She said DSI investigators had questioned her when they wanted information but had not kept a record of her statements.” She adds: “I never expected anything from the DSI anyway…”.

Update 1: A footnote really. Quayle left his diplomatic post and went off to an “honorary” position with one of Thailand’s biggest companies, Thai Beverage, owned by tycoon and royalist Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi. See how The Nation reported it.

Update 2: Read Prachatai’s reproduction of the statement for the House of Lords by Santipong Injan, “who lost his right eye during the clash on 10 April last year, has been denied visa by the British Embassy in Bangkok on grounds of the lack of sufficient fund, despite an official invitation to testify before the House of Lords.”





Suspicions

28 07 2010

There have only been a few stories that caught PPT’s attention in the past couple of days amidst by-elections, a bomb blast, the DSI trading accusations with red shirts and others, Thaksin Shinawatra’s birthday, flash protests by red shirts, and an apparently never-ending stream of stories regarding Princess Sirindhorn’s latest visit to China – seemingly essentially a holiday – that finished on 23 July but still screening long portions of the royal news four days later.

Some of the stories have raised questions for us, although PPT knows little more than what is reported in the media. We thought it might be useful to list them.

The first story relates to 28 July as Prince Vajiralongkorn’s birthday and he turns 58. As usual, newspapers have little advertisements that double as birthday felicitations to the prince. PPT only purchased the Bangkok Post, which had a one-page tribute and a series of the company-sponsored adverts. The whole thing is pretty low-key, kicked off with a large color picture of the prince at Wat Phra Kaew yesterday.

As PPT went through the color adverts, we noted they were from: Thai Airways, Boon Rawd Brewery, the Central group (the largest greeting, being a full page), CP Group and one all in Thai from Thai Beverage. The latter also posted a very large billboard celebrating the prince near Pan Fah Bridge (see the picture here). On the same day, PPT was reading The Bangkok Massacres: A Call for Accountability produced by Thaksin’s representatives, Amsterdam & Peroff LLP. On page 16, the report states: “The families controlling some of Thailand’s largest economic empires — among them Bangkok Bank, Kasikorn Bank, Thai Beverage, and TPI Polene — became fierce opponents of Thaksin.”

Maybe PPT was asleep at the wheel, but we hadn’t registered Thai Beverage as a major opponent previously. The company belongs to Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, the liquor, beer and land tycoon. Charoen has been pretty secretive. There’s a chapter on him by Nuolnoi Treerat in Pasuk and Baker’s Thai Capital After the 1997 Crisis (Silkworm). Recently he has been seen sponsoring royal events, including one of Princess Chulabhorn’s ventures. If Charoen has signed up with the royalists, then he has huge wealth and networks to build political support.

A second story is in the Bangkok Post and considers what is designated the “alleged ‘plan’ by Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij to change the current yuppiephone concession contracts…”. Then this is slipped in: “mortally wound Shin Corp and its No 1 network Advanced Info Service although that’s not the purpose, perish the thought…”. Given the “plan” is from Korn, a major yellow supporter, maybe this is the purpose. The story goes on to say that the “plan” has “thrown business, government, regulators and even the Senate into a tizzy; the kindest people said Mr Korn had good intentions, lousy planning; others were not so charitable; they noted that his plan to issue AIS, Dtac of Norway and True Move of Thailand with 15-year licences was highly questionable in legal terms…”.

The same column reminds us that Juti Krairiksh, said to be “minister of Internet Censorship in Thailand (MICT)” as well as “sniffing out dodgy websites” has “bragged that one of his greatest achievements was the arrest of three people who posted information critical of the monarchy.”

The third story relates to the Big C bombing and the Bangkok Post story that the “emergency decree will remain in place, at least in Bangkok, … Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says.” Abhisit said that “some parties were determined to carry out dangerous acts and it was the duty of the authorities to try to stop them. That meant they needed the proper legal tools.” Proper legal tools mean the power to detain and anything else the government seems to want to do to opponents.

Just a day before, in the venerable Bangkok Post, Abhisit’s motor-mouthed personal spokesman Thepthai Senapong had attacked critics of the imposition of the emergency decree, saying the bombing proved that the decree was necessary. He added: “The old saying that there is a calm before the storm is still worth considering…”. There’s little doubt that the hardliners in the government, like Thepthai, want the emergency decree in place for a lot longer, benefit from every incident. Much of the cabinet is very twitchy about “security” and, as they have admitted, personally frightened.

The fourth and final story, also in the Bangkok Post, was buried down on about page 4, and the headline suggested to PPT that the Ministry of Justice was going to investigate allegations that a bribe attempt was made in the Department of Special Investigation missing jewellery scandal of a few days ago. But, no. The Justice Ministry was launching an investigation into the rumours themselves!

The rumours were that the “owner of a shop who complained three pieces of jewellery had disappeared from a Department storeroom had been offered 300,000 baht to retract her accusation.”

The “secretary to the justice minister, Fuangwit Aniruttaewa, said it was possible that the claims the jewellery had disappeared were the work of certain people in the ministry who wanted to discredit the justice minister and DSI director-general Tharit Pengdit.” Remarkably, Fuangwit disclosed that an “investigation” had “found the jewellery said to be missing from the DSI storeroom had not disappeared at all. The owner of the store, identified only as Ms Chayaphon, had been told the items had been located.”

Apparently, the three items had just been … well, we don’t know. Hanging off some rich lady perhaps? Miraculously, they have turned up! So what was going on inside the DSI that caused the jewellery to be lost and found at about the same time?