Updated: “New” government

11 07 2019

King Vajiralongkorn has endorsed The Dictator’s cabinet list.

One of the “stories” is how, as expected, many of the junta’s henchman have transitioned into the “new” government:

Prayut will also double as Defence Minister, a key position currently held by General Prawit Wongsuwan, his deputy in the outgoing government.

Prawit will retain his position as a deputy prime minister and is expected to also be in charge of security affairs.

The new Cabinet also has eight other ministers who have worked with Prayut and Prawit in the current post-coup government: Somkid Jatusripitak, Wissanu Krea-ngam, General Chaichan Changmongkol, Uttama Savanayana, Don Pramudwinai, Suvit Maesincee, Sontirat Sontijirawong and General Anupong Paojinda.

But the biggest story is undoubtedly going to be about an army man and mafia figure, reported by AFP, 9 Sep 1998, and now being circulated in Thailand:

BANGKOK, Sept 9 (AFP) – Eighteen middle-ranking Thai military officers are being investigated for links to an international heroin trafficking operation, the supreme commander of Thailand’s armed forces said Wednesday.

General Mongkol Ampornpisit said the officers had been re-admitted into the military in the past two years and the scandal, the latest in a series to rock the Thai military, had prompted him to order that all recently re-admitted officers have their backgrounds checked.

“I have submitted the names of all re-admitted officers for the last two years to have their criminal backgrounds checked with the police,” General Mongkol told reporters, without elaborating on the heroin trafficking allegations.

He said he hoped the move to vet officers would help contain one of the biggest scandals to hit the Thai military establishment in many years.

The revelation of the heroin investigation follows another scandal involving an army captain at the centre of a murder probe, who had previously served a jail term in Australia for drug trafficking.

Mongkol conceded the military had been lax when re-admitting Captain Patchara Prompao into the armed forces after he was fired twice and convicted of narcotics trafficking.

Patchara is now in detention awaiting trial in a civilian court after he surrendered to police on Monday to face charges that he raped and then beat a male academic to death.

In June, amid a drive was to make the armed forces more accountable, the government demanded the military disclose the contents of secret bank accounts they had been allowed to keep.

Earlier this year the armed forces were accused by opposition politicians of involvement in vast illegal logging operations in northern Thailand.

It is also Thammanat who was reported in 2016 as being among more than 6,000 “influential criminal figures” being targeted by the junta in a nationwide crackdown. Back then it was Gen Prawit who stated that “[s]tate officials, police and military officers found to be involved with ‘dark influences’ must also be dealt with…”. Gen Prawit was reportedly in charge of “suppressing influential criminal figures.”

At the time it was considered that the regime’s political opponents were being targeted, a claim Prawit denied. When asked about specific individuals on the list – “former army specialist Gen Trairong Intaratat, better known as Seh Ice, and Capt Thammanat Prompao, a former close aide to Gen Trairong…” – Gen Prawit said “police will explain the offences they have allegedly committed.” He added that the two “might have done nothing wrong, but their aides might have…”. The report continued:

Gen Trairong, said to have close ties to ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was among four people mentioned in a leaked document from the 1st Division, King’s Guard.

The three others named in the document are Karun Hosakul, a former Pheu Thai Party MP for Bangkok’s Don Muang district; Capt Thammanat Prompao, said to be involved in several enterprises including lottery ticket distribution; and Chaisit Ngamsap, alleged to be connected to illegal activities in the Mor Chit area of Bangkok.

Gen Trairong and Capt Thammarat have denied the allegations.

In the same report, Gen Prayudh is reported as saying:

… those who break the law must be punished…. In the future, these people may support politicians. They must not be allowed to break the law and use weapons against people. Today, we must help to clear up the mess to make our country safe….

It seems that the once pro-Thaksin Thammanat has metamorphosed into a pro-junta man and the politicians he’s supporting are Prayuth’s and he’s now so trusted that he’s a deputy minister!





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…”.





Updated: Trading justice

26 06 2019

Thailand’s judicial system has been in terrible trouble since at least 2006, when the previous king pushed judges to the center of political conflict. Since then, several courts have been delivering politicized decisions, not least the Constitutional Court.

One of the most blatant cases of this political use of the judicial system seems to be the recent decision by the Office of the Attorney-General that red shirt turncoat and political opportunist Suporn  Atthawong, once known as Rambo Isan, “could not be brought to hear an indictment at the Pattaya court…”. According to the Office of the Attorney-General, the statute of limitations had expired.

The charges went back to the invasion of the ASEAN summit in Pattaya in 2009.

Startlingly, this statute of limitations did not apply to his co-accused red shirts. One of them, Nattawut Saikua, is cited in the report:

Nuttawut, a co-defendant in the Pattaya case, wrote on Facebook he was impressed by the “miracle of law” which let only Mr Suporn walk free.

“I don’t have any problem if he is let off the hook because we red shirts have faced many more charges than others. But the statute of limitations expired? This is hard to swallow.

“I’m only saddened by the miracle of law and the judicial process,” he wrote.

There were rumours that making lawsuits disappear was used as a tool to lure former MPs to join a new party. “I wonder if there is a shred of truth in this case, “ he continued.

In that last comment, Nattawut is referring to the offers that were allegedly made to former Thaksin Shinawatra supporters to defect to the junta’s proxy party, to assist in mobilizing voters and to work against former allies. It was claimed that not just money changed hands in such dealing, but legal favors as well. Justice is a commodity for trade for the junta.

Update: Khaosod reports that “[p]olice commanders … declined to explain why they failed to arrest a pro-junta politician before insurrection charges against him expired.”

Chonburi police commander Nanthachart Supamongkol, whose was tasked with apprehending Suporn, used a royal excuse!: “Nanthachart said he was busy attending an event to honor King Rama X,” and told reporters to ask someone else. We are sure General Prawit knows the answer. Deals were done.





Thugs, crooks and mafia figures

25 06 2019

It was only about a week ago that PPT mentioned the blatant nepotism of Capt Thammanat Prompao, a Palang Pracharat MP for Phayao. He’s considered a crook controversial figure, so can’t be a minister. His response is “let a family member take a ministerial post.” So slippery, so easy, so corrupt.

In another one of those reports that gently strokes the powerful and threatening, but which has the odd piece of useful information, Wassana Nanuam interviews Capt Thammanat. He’s the kind of crook controversial figure who knows that, as a dark influence, political parties have to seek out his support. Pro-Thaksin parties did it, but he’s untrustworthy and disloyal, for sale to the highest bidder. Essentially, Thammanat used his loot and influence to “manage” the north for the junta’s “election.”

And that’s how he can hand out his ministerial seat. As Wassana has put it:

It is his skills of negotiation that the PPRP has harnessed to solve disagreements among its party MPs over their minister quota. The same type of disputes with PPRP’s allies have been also toned down with Capt Thammanat’s help.

“That’s my style,” he said. “I’m a more giver than receiver and always keep my word.”

Reportedly his contributions to the party earned him one ministerial seat but he decided to pass it on to his younger brother Akkara, a former deputy chairman of the Phayao provincial administrative organisation.

You get the picture. Ministerial seats were for sale, and Thammanat got his for his loot and influence. The latter is his capacity for threats that he uses for his boss, so long as he gets his snout in the trough:

Of this decision, Capt Thammanat would only say that he “thanked phu yai for giving us the opportunity,” and was “ready to do whatever my boss orders”.

What kind of crook controversial figure is he? One report says his current “influence” is due to him controlling a Palang Pracharath “clique” of more than 10 MPs and as an “aide of [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwon…”.

Then there’s the “alleged Bt800-million bitcoin investment scam in which a Finnish bitcoin-owner was lured into transferring the cryptocurrency for bogus investment in Thai stocks and other assets.” Capt Thammanat was involved in that as the enforcer:

He [stock investor Prasit Srisuwan] asked Capt Thammanat Prompao (retired) to help settle the matter. Capt Thammanat convinced Mr Prinya [Jaravijit] to provide the ordered shares to Mr [Aarni Otava] Saarimaa, who had received 345 million shares in two transactions in November last year.

One report states that Thammanat “allegedly received shares from the fugitive suspect Parinya Jaravijit…”.

This is just one recent case. Thammanat is “often connected with late former army heavyweight Gen Trairong ‘Seh Ice’ Intararat…”, a notorious thug. Indeed, being a thug/dark influence/mafia figure doesn’t bother Thammanat at all:

“The word ‘mafia’ in my view is not as dark as many think,” Capt Thmmanat said.

“Mafia means someone who has connections with many people and who keeps his word.”

These are the characters of a person who can clear up conflicts and make reconciliations between rival parties, he says.

It seems the junta is only too happy to deal with the self-proclaimed mafia.





Prayuth in la-la land

24 06 2019

According to Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, “Thailand now has political stability and has been able to overcome conflicts in the country…”.

He’s in la-la land. Is he really kidding himself or does he think Thais and the rest of the world is inhabited by morons who would believe such nonsense from a military dictator?

Perhaps he’s closer to the mark when, in a speech at the Bloomberg Asean Business Summit in Bangkok, he declared: “We have overcome an important period, which is the organisation of general elections…”.

In other words, The Dictator was able to “negotiate,” cheat, arrange and pay for an election that would keep him in the premier’s seat. But even that result almost came undone despite all that rigging, and, as usual, the pro-Thaksin party gained most seats.

The report adds:

His return marks a victory for the military and royalist elite in Bangkok, who have used the courts or coups to overturn election results for more than a decade to prevent exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra or his allies from retaining power.

The problem for Prayuth is that the deep rifts in Thai society have not been undone and the military’s flirting with a narrow majority in parliament is going to come undone very quickly. In fact, it already is.

Palang Pracharath’s recent counter-attack on the opposition on the very dubious media “rules” for MPs suggests that the junta still seeks to gain an advantage in parliament by keeping it tied up in courts for months, even years. We are already three months post-election and still under the military junta.

Even so, we can’t see Gen Prayuth putting up with parliament for long.





No change on repression

21 06 2019

While some media still delude themselves and readers that the junta’s “election” was about “returning to democracy,” The Diplomat has a story that shows that things haven’t changed and may be getting worse:

Weeks after the March election, the plainclothes officers that had become a familiar sight on college campuses under military rule were back at Ubon Ratchathani University in Thailand’s northeast.

“Things should have changed. But they came with an identical message” to five years ago, said political scientist Titipol Phakdeewanich about a second visit from the special branch police last week. “They were quite confident they could keep politicians in check. But they are very worried about universities and students.”

As the story observes, “[h]eavy-handed responses to even the mildest of criticism have been a defining feature of a junta that routinely threatened and prosecuted opponents…” since its illegal 2014 military coup.

As academic Titipol puts it: “Nothing has changed. But now Thailand is whitewashed by an election…”.

Is it getting worse? We think it is, with the mad rightists unleashed by the junta. Most noticeable is the use of lese majeste as a way to damage and repress.

Future Forward’s spokesperson, Pannika Wanich is one target, accused her of lese majeste. She says: “It’s a witch hunt. Progressive politicians have frequently been accused of being anti-monarchy…”. It is also the yellow-shirted tactic that is used against democrats or anyone considered too pro-Thaksin. Future Forward has scared the bejesus out of the political dinosaurs and the ruling class.

After the assault (clipped from Matichon)

The story also points out rising “systematic violence,” including murders and enforced disappearances.

It cites Anon Chawalawan from iLaw, who says: “We are seeing rising numbers of violent attacks against democracy activists, often by masked attackers, since the election. But there have been no arrests…”.

One recent case is Sirawith Seritiwat (left).

No arrests. Probably because these are officially-sanctioned thugs.





Shaky regime II

19 06 2019

In an earlier post, PPT commented on claims that the junta’s regime is in trouble. There, we discussed how a weakened regime might use the military.

The Dictator has admitted that:

the new cabinet lineup may be less than perfect, as there is little he can do about the proposed candidates who have been criticised for their public image.

“Public image” has to do with the fact that, like governments of the late 20th century, look like a buffet for crooks. One example is the blatant nepotism of Capt Thammanat Prompao, a Palang Pracharat MP for Phayao and chief of its strategic committee in the North. He’s considered a crook controversial figure, so can’t be a minister. His response is “let a family member take a ministerial post.” So slippery, so easy, so corrupt.

The junta, like juntas before it, seize power and then they and their buddies graze on the taxpayer funds and budgets.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, responsible for the “rules” that now envelop him, says of the political allies, crooks, party hacks, friends and relatives who will make cabinet is what he has to deal with: “We cannot reject anyone.” He babbled something about “democracy,” but he’s talking weak coalition government. And that is exactly what he and his junta “designed” in their efforts to defeat “Thaksinism.”

If things go bad, Gen Prayuth says he can reshuffle cabinet, in the manner of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda in the 1980s. Like Prem, he can also hope that he can rely on the military and repression.

And, as an article at Prachatai points out, following suggestions by rabid anti-democrat Paiboon Nititawan, Gen Prayuth’s yet to be convened government could look at using the Senate if it falls into minority status in the lower House.

If we at PPT were prone to gambling, in the short-term, we’d be betting on military-backed repression and pressure on recalcitrant MPs and ministers. If that fails, look for a “self-coup” to return power to a junta.