The junta, the temple, tycoons and Thaksin

19 05 2017

The Bangkok Post has had a series of stories on Anant Asavabhokhin, one of Thailand’s richest, and his daughter Alisa, and allegations and charges related to alleged money laundering involving Wat Dhammakaya.

Read this  first. Then these: Amlo freezes Alisa’s land assets, Anant faces money laundering charge and LH founder surprised by summons.

Then  read this: Embezzlement-temple scandal ensnares property titan.

Then recall that Anant is widely considered to be one of the few big businessmen who stuck with Thaksin Shinawatra. Unequal Thailand: Aspects of Income, Wealth and Power, edited by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker shows on pages 150-1 that Anant remained a supporter.

Also recall that Anant is a Wat Dhammakaya supporter.

Back when the military ran its 2014 coup, General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime summoned or temporarily detained “more than 500 individuals since the coup, the current junta has not just picked off members of erstwhile ruling Puea Thai party and its ‘red shirt’ supporters.”

At the time, it “also identified luminaries in the Thai business world linked to Thaksin, like Mr Anant Asavabhokhin, chairman of Land and Houses, one of the country’s biggest developers. It showed a keen awareness of the possible support for the Thaksin network.”





The military on top

24 04 2017

A couple of days ago, we commented on yellow shirt commentators who see military dictatorship as “normal” for Thailand. Many yellow shirts believe that the military is the only thing standing between them, an election and the hated Thaksin Shinawatra.

Naturally enough, the military junta plays on this relationship, seeing the anti-democrats as its best political ally, so long as they know their place as supporters, not leaders. The military considers that it is uniquely qualified to rule Thailand. That is why the 2017 constitution is as it is.

The Nation reports that Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has expressed the junta’s view that the military must remain on top.

Making the argument that Thailand is “unique,” he says this means “it is necessary to have military commanders oversee a long-term national strategy…”. That “strategy” is to remain in place for 20 years.

The proposed committee to oversee the “strategy” will include “the prime minister, his deputy or another minister, the presidents of the Upper and Lower houses, experts, as well as five military commanders and a permanent secretary of the Defence Ministry.”

Let’s add that up. We don’t know how many “experts” will be appointed, but they will likely reflect a military view of the political world. The prime minister is likely to be military, but suited up as civilian. It is possible that “his deputy” will be military similarly suited. The president of the mostly unelected upper house will almost certainly be military. Then there will be five serving military and the permanent secretary.

Any civilian politician will be lucky to get a word in.

Prawit can babble about “[n]ational strategy need[ing] to be driven by all parties, whether the military, people or academics…”, but the dominance of the military is clear.

What is “unique” about Thailand is its capacity for military authoritarianism.





A feudal future beckons

21 04 2017

Yellow shirt commentators do not worry much about military dictatorship. They see military dictatorship as “normal” for Thailand.

While most yellow shirts still believe that the military is the only thing standing between them, an election and the hated Thaksin Shinawatra, it is also clear that not all yellow shirts expected an enforced royal dictatorship that fosters Thailand’s refeudalization.

Nonetheless, yellow shirt anti-electionism and royalism naturally promotes refeudalization.

The symbolic removal of the 1932 plaque is not just a royalist act of political and historical vandalism. It is also one more step by the military junta that marks the path of Thailand’s refeudalization.

The attraction of a feudal political arrangement for the military dictatorship is that it has no truck for notions that the people are sovereign.

In this sense, while symbols can have multiple meanings, expunging those that can be used by those who demand popular sovereignty is a part of the military’s palace alliance and its 20-year plan for a “reformed” Thailand.

This is part of the reason why The Dictator is both mum on the removal of 1932 commemoration plaque and protective of the royalist plaque that replaced it. It is pretty clear that this vandalism initially caused fear among some in the junta. Now, however, they have fallen into line, knowing that by their own design, they are politically bound to the reign.

That the opposition and agitation over the removal of the plaque has largely come from those the junta considers the “usual suspects” has also meant that protection of feudalism and its symbols is an easy and “natural” decision.

The most recent act of protection has been to accuse opposition figure Watana Muangsook of “a computer crime for posting on Facebook that the missing 1932 Revolution Plaque is a national asset.”

As Prachatai explains it:

On 19 April 2017, Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, the Deputy Chief of the Royal Thai Police (RTP), revealed that the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) filed a complaint against Watana Muangsook, a politician from the Pheu Thai Party, for breaching the Computer Crime Act.

The police apparently think that the use of the term “national asset” is threatening and false.

Watana was due to report to the police. He is the second to face charges or detention over the plaque. Like Srisuwan Janya, Watana has called for the “return of the missing plaque and for prosecution of those responsible for its removal.”

No one associated with the removal of the plaque has been named, arrested or charged. The chances of this happening are pretty much zero.

As one correspondent stated, everyone knows who is behind this act, but no one can say for fear of lese majeste and jail.

Expunging the symbols of 1932 expunges notions of popular sovereignty. That serves the interests of the military-monarchy alliance where King Vajiralongkorn looks like a throwback absolutist.





Tens, thousands, millions and billions

5 04 2017

How many extrajudicial killings have there been? No one seems to know precisely, although Prachatai has a story about some of them. One issue with the story is that the author repeats inaccurate figures on Thaksin Shinawatra’s War on Drugs, almost doubling the number killed in that grisly campaign. We would think the more accurate figure of about 1,300 was brutal enough and demonstrated the capacity of the police and military for extreme violence.

How many conscripts are slaves? With the recent attention to conscripts being treated to “strict discipline” involving inhumane beatings, torture and murder, and with the unusually wealthy Army boss doling out chump change of 100,000 baht to the family of the latest murdered conscript, the feudal system of conscription has come under scrutiny.

One interesting observation is at Prachatai, reporting a former Democrat Party MP, who states that “more than half of Thailand’s military conscripts end up as servants for high ranking military officers.” Compared with the men who die from “strict discipline,” these 40,000-80,000 guys are lucky. That said, they face the degradation of having to grovel before military thugs and their families. Anyone who lives near an officer knows that he or she will have 3 to 6 servants provided to them.

How much can they spend on military kit? Thinking about the commissions, there’s the 36 billion baht about to be forked out on Chinese submarines and then there’s the two billion baht spent on 10 extra VT-4 tanks from China to replace the decades-old M41 tanks from the USA. The earlier purchase of 24 tanks at about 5 billion baht. Expect more as the top brass cash in before an “election.”

How many read the BBC on the king? Readers will know that student activist Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa has been singled out for a lese majeste charge and rots in a junta cell awaiting his further framing. He was charged after sharing a BBC Thai story on the king, (some) warts and all. The BBC now says that its story “broke records as the site’s most popular story, accumulating millions of views despite the article’s eventual censorship.” It says it has “received over 3 million views and counting…”. Tell us again why the military dictatorship singled out Jatuphat? It can’t have much to do with this story! Watch a documentary on Jatuphat here.





Updated: All about the law II

2 04 2017

Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey gives some credit to the judiciary – the Central Administrative Court – for having ruled that “the military junta’s moves to take away the three passports held by the former Education Minister, Chaturon Chaisang, was a ‘serious violation’ of …[Chaturon’s] fundamental rights…”.

But he goes way, way too far when he states that the “judiciary is making great strides in bringing about fairness in society…”.

Thailand’s judiciary and its legal processes are somewhere between a joke and feudal. PPT has spent a considerable amount of space highlighting repeated failures and while we don’t expect Pandey to be a regular reader, surely he reads his own newspaper.

On the same day when he is full of praise for the judiciary and its “strides in bringing about fairness,” his colleague Alan Dawson lambasts elements of the judicial system and its double standards.

You might say that the judges are not the whole system, and that’s true, with Pandey slamming elements of it. However, there are now hundreds of cases that have gone to court in recent years that have seen judges fail all reasonable tests of fairness. Think of the scores of lese majeste cases, several cases we mentioned in a previous post, cases against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban, cases making coups legitimate, a judicial coup, cases against red shirts (and not against yellow shirts), allowing torturers to go free and many, many more.

Being honest, we think the judicial system is now broken beyond repair. We have royalists, the military, the palace and the judges themselves to blame for this sad state of affairs.

Update: A reader puts us onto another Bangkok Post story, where the headline is, NCPO urges Thaksin to stop ‘distorting the truth’. The junta says:

“Mr Thaksin [Shinawatra] should stop harming the country, show restraint and stop distorting information. If Mr Thaksin calls for justice from society, Mr Thaksin should give justice to society, too,” the NCPO spokesman said.

The junta demands that Thaksin stop harming Thailand. Yet it is the junta that distorts truth. It has done so for years now. And, if the junta demands the legal system for Thaksin, how about themselves? Why is it that Section 113 of the Criminal Code doesn’t apply to this bunch of thugs?

Section 113: Whoever, commits an act of violence or threatens to commit an act of violence in order to:

  1. Overthrow or change the Constitution;
  2. Overthrow the legislative power, the executive power or the judicial power of the Constitution, or nullify such power; or
  3. Separate the Kingdom or seize the power of administration in any part of the Kingdom, is said to commit insurrection, and shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.




On 5 years

31 03 2017

A juxtaposition of stories about “justice” in Thailand:

It is 5 years since the scion of one of the country’s richest families drove his expensive sports car over a policeman and drove off, dragging his body under the car, to a hiding place in his family’s mansion.

The Office of the Attorney-General on Thursday again postponed its decision on whether to indict Vorayudh “Boss” Yoovidhya, a Red Bull heir, in the hit-and-run case in 2012 in which a Thong Lor policeman was killed.

The indictment decision was initially scheduled for today. OAG deputy spokesman Prayuth Phetkhun said it had been further deferred until April 27.

The story is about the many ways in which the “good,” rich and well-connected are able to buy protection from the law.

It is a 5 year ban from politics for yet another Thaksin Shinawatra-related politician. Surapong Towijakchaikul might have been considered part of the elite, but of the “bad” sort.

The [junta’s puppet] National Legislative Assembly (NLA) overwhelming voted on Thursday to impeach former foreign minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul for reinstating the passports of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The assembly voted 231-4 with three abstentions to impeach Mr Surapong. The NLA needed only 151 votes to ban him.

It wasn’t that long ago that the lapdog NLA refused to admit new evidence from Surapong. The NLA didn’t need evidence in order to “convict” Surapong. No “procedures” for him as he joined the other 300+ pro-Thaksin politicians banned since 2007.

Thailand’s justice system has been not just undermined by the two military coups, but it has been disintegrated. Buy “justice”? You bet. Double standards? You bet. Politicized “justice”? Certainly.





All about the law I

29 03 2017

The media is awash with stories about law. How the rich use it for their benefit or avoid it. How the junta uses it. How the police and military manipulate it. We will just link with some of these, grab some quotes and make some comments.

Law for the rich: It is all about Red Bull heir and cop killer Vorayudh “Boss” Yoovidhya. This story and his “hiding in plain sight” avoidance of responsibility for his drug and booze addled killing of a cop has been around since 2012. In the time since, he’s ignored the cops, probably paid some of them off, paid off the cop’s family with meager “compensation” (also known as blood money) and lived what AP called “the high life” in the resorts of the world. He’s partied with the same crowd he has always been with, the rich, the “good” and the famous. His 400+ photos of his good and expensive life are at Facebook.

We can only wonder why it took AP to do the work of finding him. Not the cops (who lost one of their own). Not the prosecutors. Not even Thailand’s media. Why is that? Money, huge influence and power are, like a military regime, threatening. Hired thugs often do the dirty work for Thailand’s Sino-Thai tycoons, so few are prepared to challenge any of them.

And, oh yes, he is due to “appear” before prosecutors. As the Bangkok Post states, this spoiled rich untouchable “has been repeatedly summoned to face authorities but he avoided it each time, claiming [that should read “lying”] through his lawyer that he was sick or out of the country on business.”

Law and the junta I: Thaksin Shinawatra is not short of a baht. In fact, a previous court decision extracted about $1.4 billion from him in 2010, representing more than half of the assets the state had frozen. No matter what one thinks of that decision, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this decision made sure that the state got back what it thought necessary.

It seems not, for the junta has decided to suck back more of Thaksin’s money. In fact, another $510 million in “tax.” Of course, this is a part of the junta’s paranoia about Thaksin and political opposition. It is also meant to scratch the junta’s anti-election itch about voting being about money paid for each vote received.

Law and the junta II: While on Thaksin and hobbling the Shinawatra clan, the junta’s minions have closed Voice TV for a few days for daring to report on things that make the military dictatorship uncomfortable. The Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association have generally been dominated by yellow-shirted journalists and media entrepreneurs, but even they feel the threat from the junta.

Two media associations have “called on the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission … to review its committee’s order to black out Voice TV’s broadcasts for seven days, saying it harms media freedom.” They also determined that the NBTC’s decision “conflicts with both the 1997 and 2006 constitutions, which safeguard those in the media who deliver news or opinions in compliance with their career ethics.”

Such calls have no impact on the military dictatorship because it has “law” in its holster.

Law for the politically connected: Anti-democrat and military junta-supporting Suthep Thaugsuban leads a charmed legal life, at least under the junta. He’s broken more laws than anyone could keep count of and gotten off  every  charge he’s faced (that we can recall) under the military junta he worked with and helped bring to power (or never even been charged). Having something in common with the Red Bull fugitive, he even got away with murder. But that’s not unusual in Thailand…

This time, in a case where he was accused of defaming leading members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship who were standing for election, accusing them of arson and other crimes, a politicized court ruled “Suthep had not made false accusations against the three UDD leaders as alleged, and dismissed the case against him.” Thailand’s judiciary simply fails to dispense anything resembling justice when it comes to the politically-connected and powerful.

Then there’s the case of ultra-nationalist and anti-democrat Veera Somkwamkid who toddled off to the Thailand-Cambodia birder to check on casino graft. Locals blocked his visit yet PPT couldn’t help but recall that it was only about two weeks ago that The Nation reported that “[p]olice are launching a manhunt for well-known political activist Veera … after he published an opinion survey’s result on his Facebook wall, saying the majority people lack confidence in the Prayut administration.” So there he was, ath the border, surrounded by cops and troops and … well, nothing.

Law, police and military: We saved the grossest and nastiest stories. These are the reports surrounding the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae, struck down with a single shot by the Army. The stories from the authorities on this case have been banal. Accused of drug dealing, being armed with a knife and a grenade, the dead boy is now accused of somehow having a gun because the police chief says Chaiyapoom could have shot officers.

A slip of the tongue perhaps, but this is what happens when the authorities manufacture excuses for their own crimes.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

Convinced that the lad was a drug dealer and claiming that the CCTV footage backs up the official story, the cops refuse to release the footage because … wait for it … “the controversial evidence does not ‘answer all problems’.” In addition, “[r]eleasing the footage might lead to a mess to the investigation process and arguments among the society.”

What next?

The law has never been particularly impartial and judges have never been much good in Thailand. However, under the influence of the monarchy and under this military dictatorship the law has been ransacked, killed and buried.