Military godfathers and the corruption of parties and politics

26 09 2021

Thai PBS reports on continuing ructions in the Palang Pracharat Party that has Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s underlings pitted against Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. It turns out that the failed plot to unseat Gen Prayuth during the recent censure debate was only round 1 of this fight.

The start of the second round came when plotter and convicted heroin trafficker and “influential person” Thammanat Prompao retained his Party post. It is presumed that General Prawit was behind this. Prawit then doubled-down, appointing “a former Army rival of the PM” as the Party’s new chief strategist. Gen Vitch Devahasdin Na Ayudhya took this “powerful post previously held by the current party leader, Deputy Premier General Prawit…”.

Previously, in 2010, Gen Vitch was assistant Army chief and “was appointed to the Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation, which was tasked with handling the red-shirt protests against Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government.”

In that year, Gen Vitch was competing with Gen Prayuth to “succeed outgoing Army chief Gen Anupong Paochinda. However, the post was eventually handed to Gen Prayut instead.” This despite Gen Vitch’s long connection with Gen Prawit.

Readers can read the whole story for the details or plow through the most recent post at Secret Siam, which posits a deep and long struggle, including speculation regarding parts played by none other than Thaksin Shinawatra.

One thing is clear: that the rise and rise of the unsavory Thammanat demonstrates how “a powerful political broker” with a criminal past (who knows about the present?) can float to the top through links built through equally unsavory characters in the military (and higher).

The story of Thammanat’s rise is like a Thai version of “The Godfather,” but most of the protagonists are military mafia.

Thai PBS says “Vitch has been close to Gen Prawit since their early years in the Royal Thai Army three decades ago, and reportedly introduced Thammanat to Prawit.” It goes on to say that it was Thammanat who “helped Vitch to get into the ruling party.”

Gen Vitch is open regarding his links to “dark influences,” saying:

he has known Thammanat since the latter worked for his long-time friend Gen Trairong Intarathat. Also known as “Seh Ice”, Trairong once served as an adviser to then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and was described as an influential figure.

So mafia-connected military figures have swirled through various governments for several years. For those who don’t know Seh Ice, his brief obituary says this:

Gen Trairong was born on Sept 1, 1949, the fourth of the four sons of Maj Phone Intarathat, a former director of the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, and ML Kanyaka Suthat.

He was a Class 10 student of the Armed Forces Academy Preparatory School and Class 21 cadet of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in the cavalry division.

His classmates at the Armed Forces Academy Preparatory School included Thaksin, Gen Anupong Paojinda, the current interior minister, ACM Sukumpol Suwanathat, a former defence minister, and Gen Prin Suwanathat, a former transport minister.

He held several important positions in military service, including specialist attached to the Supreme Command, chief of the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence, an army specialist, and chief of staff officers for the defence minister (Gen Thammarak Issarangura Na Ayutthaya).

Not long before he died in 2016, he was identified, along with Thammanat, Seh Ice was identified in a military report as an influential mafia boss:

Two of four people reportedly named as “influential criminal figures” on a military document deny any wrongdoing, saying there is not a shred of truth to the allegation.

“That’s ridiculous, and I’m wondering which [security] people think like that,” former army specialist Gen Trairong Intaratat, better known as Seh Ice, said yesterday….

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, a former close aide to Gen Trairong and said to be involved in several enterprises including lottery ticket distribution; and Chaisit Ngamsap, who is alleged to be connected to illegal activities in the Mor Chit area of Bangkok.

Capt Thammanat, a former military officer, said he had contacted 1st Division commander, Maj Gen Narong Jitkaew, to ask him about the document and was told the information came from an intelligence report and there were no plans to summon him.

And, here’s an AFP report from 1998, with Thammanat playing a lead role:

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 [Thammanat] 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.

So many connections, so many charges – none of which have held up in the Thailand. That’s what a mafia system is about and this is how it works. More tellingly, the military continues to reward crooks who slither to the top.

As the Bangkok Post reports, the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School has recognized Thammanat as and outstanding alumnus:

The controversial soldier-turned-politician was nominated for the award this year, but due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the usual annual ceremony to present the award to him and other outstanding Afaps alumni has been postponed until next year….

It is said Thammanat has declined the award, but the “honoring” of one of its most corrupt alumni is a telling indictment of a corrupt organization. The military (and police) cannot tell right from wrong, and instills this “value” in its new officer cadets.





Reflecting the regime IV

10 09 2021

Beyond the headlines, what does Wednesday’s sacking of Deputy Minister for Agriculture Thammanat Prompao tell us about the regime’s rotten political system?

He was sacked as deputy minister, along with Deputy Labor Minister Narumon Pinyosinwat, via an announcement in the Royal Gazette on Thursday following a “royal command” issued on Wednesday, that “stated that the prime minister said it would be appropriate if some ministers were removed for the sake of government.”

When asked, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said “he had his own reasons for the changes.” Thammanat remains, for the moment, secretary-general of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party, but that is unlikely to last long.

Thammanat released a “resignation” letter just before the official announcement that he’d been sacked.

Was he booted because of his shady background as a convicted heroin trafficker. Nor for his unusual wealth. Nor for lying about his education credentials. Nor for his underworld links via the lottery. Nor for links with a murder.

No, Thammanat was sacked for insufficient loyalty to Gen Prayuth:

Speculation is rife that the sackings have something to do with the alleged campaign to challenge the prime minister’s power. The campaign’s aim was said to replace Gen Prayut and rebuild a government that would result in a cabinet reshuffle, where certain key politicians in the PPRP, who are now deputy ministers, would be elevated to full ministers of A-grade ministries.

As one of those ministers, Thammanat “stands accused of manoeuvring the ouster campaign which allegedly involved a number of PPRP heavyweights and renegade members of micro-coalition partners and politicians in the main opposition Pheu Thai Party.” Thammanat wanted to be Minister of the Interior, which carries immense power and handsome rewards.

Clipped from Khaosod

It seems that Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan is another target as the two sacked ministers were close to Prawit. A party source said that Prawit’s position “hangs in balance following the dismissal of the pair who are his close aides.”

This is exactly the kind of party system that the military junta designed. This is how it works. Multi-party coalition governments mean there is always maneuvering for position and fortune. Allies fall out and become opponents. Money and power make the cement that holds coalitions together. Leaders must always watch their back, wondering whether friend or foe will stab them; usually the former.

Political instability in such a rotten system defaults power to the military chief and palace.

The system is corrupted and encourages criminals and other “dark influences” to seek power for the funds that inevitably flow from ministerial position.

This is the junta’s legacy for Thailand’s political system.





Updated: Reflecting the regime II

27 08 2021

Continuing with our posts about  things that define the regime’s royalist Thailand, there have been several reports in the last few days that do just that.

The Thai Enquirer’s Cod Satrusayang responded to the release of a video showing a senior police officer suffocating an alleged drug dealer while demanding a large bribe.

Of course, the video went viral, with an investigation launched. But there was a here-we-go-again feeling. We’ve been here before. We’ve seen and heard it before. And there was cynical resignation as many on social media predicted another cover-up. As Cod says, “we should be more surprised and shocked at the footage rather than nod along grimly.

After all, police and military enjoy impunity and the levels of corruption are legendary. Just think of the Red Bull hit-and-run case, the Korat killings, the Saudi Blue Diamond saga, the 2010 murder of red shirts, the forced disappearing and murder of numerous political figures, the shooting of Chaiyapoom Pasae, the Tak Bai deaths, and we could go on and on.

Cod puts it this way: The time has come to ask whether officers like this murderer is the exception or the rule.” He adds: Given the reality of things and given how endemic corruption is within the police force maybe the time has come to consider not just reforming the police but dissolving the force altogether.”

AP adds on this story, detailing the crimes. Police Col Thitisant “Joe” Uttanapol or “Joe Ferrari” who was caught on camera suffocating a man to death. It was Joe who tortured Jeerapong Thanapat, a 24-year-old drug suspect, attempting to extort two million baht from him. Like Red Bull scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, Joe is on the lam.

It isn’t just murderous police who define the “good people” regime, but this regime is defined by failed/compromised institutions.

The police are hopeless, with allegations of police brutality and corruption common. The video was leaked to lawyer Sittha Biabangkerd who “received a complaint from a junior policeman in Nakhon Sawan…”. That policeman reported the usual cover-up:

When the suspect died, Thitisan allegedly ordered his men to take the body to the hospital and tell the doctor the death was caused by a drug overdose. The junior policeman said the woman was released but told not to say anything about it, and that Thitisan paid the victim’s father to remain silent.

The Bangkok Post reported that the “junior police officer … sought … help in forwarding the clip to the national police chief.” More revealingly, that junior officer and his fellow officers feared they would be killed!

The Royal Thai Police is a failed institution, operating more as a criminal gang than a police force.

But what about the rest of the bureaucracy which abet the police (or fear them)?

The “state-run Sawanpracharak Hospital, which issued a death certificate for the dead drug suspect, have defended their finding that ‘methamphetamine poisoning’ was the cause of death.” This after a “forensic examination.” Police told was “a private hospital that the man fell down and lost consciousness while he was running away from police who were chasing him during a drug crackdown.” Corruption? You bet.

How big is the corruption? Huge. Found at Pol Col Thitisan’s 60-million-baht house in Bangkok were 29 luxury cars worth more than 100 million baht. It is impossible that this great wealth could have been missed by anti-corruption agencies. After all, Ferrari Joe boasted about it on social media.

But, the hopeless NACC is now on the job, belatedly “probing the unusual wealth of Pol Col Thitisan…”.

A police source said Pol Col Thitisan wasn’t this rich from the beginning but he has built his own wealth out of some grey area businesses including trading edible bird’s nests while he was a deputy sub-division chief at Narcotics Suppression Division 4, overseeing drug suppression operations in the South.

The photos below are from the Bangkok Post, showing just some of Joe’s assets.

The story continues:

He later moved on to making money out of suppressing the smuggling of luxury cars and supercars in the South. He earned a lot of money from rewards offered for seizing such cars — 45% of the value of the car confiscated — and handing them over the Customs Department for resale through an auction….

Not bad for a cop earning less than 50,000 baht a month. But no one should bat an eyelid, for there are dozens of army generals, navy admirals, air force air marshals, and police generals who have declared unusual wealth to the NACC, and it has done nothing, zilch. That was in 2014.

So there’s a range of corrupt institutions. The NACC is at the pinnacle, rejecting any number of cases against the regime.

Thai Enquirer points out the obvious:

Somehow the Office of the Inspector General, the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) keeps missing these high-earning cops and generals.

Do we trust these organizations to investigate the case further? See if this is part of something bigger? Doubt it.

The NACC repeats is compromised inaction again and again. As The Nation reports, it can’t “reveal Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam’s assets…” despite being “asked by the Official Information Commission to reveal what assets had been declared by Prayut and Wissanu when they took office.” According to Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, NACC president, “the commission can only store information and investigate if there are any discrepancies, but cannot reveal details.”

But what about all those generals? Nothing. What about the fabulous wealth of convicted drug dealer/deputy minister Thammanat Prompao? Nothing.

Of course, “nothing” protects the “good people.”

And another related story. why is it that cabinet “approved the proposal by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration to amend the prime minister’s order regarding the procurement of antigen test kits (ATK) by the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO)…”.

That order “stipulated that the antigen test kit the GPO would purchase must be approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and by the Thailand Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

That’s now ditched so that Chinese kits can be purchased from Beijing-based Lepu Medical Technology. That contract is for about 600 million baht for kits “banned in the United States due to a high risk of false results.”

The regime is rotten to the core.

Update: The murdering cop story gets worse by the day by the actions of the most senior police. Those bosses are appointed by the regime because of their political positions and based on links to powerbrokers, including the palace.

Joe Ferrari has been taken into custody. As usual, he was not tracked down, but negotiated a surrender to police in one of the most corrupt jurisdictions, Cholburi.

Startingly, national police chief Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, himself worth almost 105 million baht, then gave the murderer a national stage. In allowing the suspect to speak to the nation via national television, Gen Suwat appeared to support Pol Col Thitisan when he “said social media had been reporting that Thitisant was trying to extort the dead drug dealer so he wanted people ‘to hear what happened from the mouth of the person who had committed the crime’.”

Parts of Thitisant’s speech to the nation is reported in the linked post.

What was Gen Suwat thinking? Cod Satrusayang provides something of an answer, suggesting that Thailand is “an alternative Nazi-inspired universe”:

You see Joe Ferrari is one of the good people. Despite murdering an alleged drug dealer in cold blood, with a plastic bag, while his men held the guy down, he is a good person. Never mind that this is the kind of scene you’d expect to see in a Nazi movie, Joe is a good person.

You see Joe is a good person because he is a “relentless crime fighter,” because he volunteers with royalists, because he is polite and clean cut. He is a good person.

He is not a bad person like the unruly protesters who do not know their place, who dare to question the establishment.

He adds, that the contrast with anti-monarchy/pro-democracy protester Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak:

I was in the newsroom when police arrested Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak in the middle of the night, put him in an unmarked van, and sent him to a police station in the suburbs for processing.

There was no press conference, there was no fanfare, it was the Thai deep state working efficiently to suppress, gag, and detain those that would question the current establishment.

It was chilling, frustrating, Kafkaesque.

It made me question how I ever bought into the land of smiles lie, that Thailand’s paternal autocracy was built to work for and protect its people.

The regime is loathsome, rotten to the core, festering, bloated, and putrescent.





Secrets kept

9 08 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that the “Official Information Commission (OIC) will ask the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to disclose information about assets declared previously by Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha and his deputy, Wissanu Krea-ngam.”

The two had declared “their assets to the NACC, for the sake of record-keeping, although they weren’t actually required under the NACC law to declare their assets again as their positions remained the same in the most recent reshuffle, according Mr Wissanu.”

Earlier, the NACC had “insisted that the NACC’s law doesn’t allow the office to make public assets declared by the two parties [Prayuth and Wissanu].” Yet the OIC has taken a different view, deciding that “the NACC is obliged to reveal the information when asked, saying the public has the right under the constitution to seek access to the information.”

Neither man has declared their assets since 2014, despite changes of government.

In an editorial, the Post observes:

The ball has passed back to the NACC. The agency, one of whose core missions is to build up transparency and fight corruption, must not come up with excuses why it should not in this case perform its duty.

Political position-holders cannot be allowed to exploit legal loopholes to keep their wealth away from public scrutiny until the government completes its term.

The anti-graft agency’s stance in this case is ridiculous.

Add this to the huge pile of ridiculous “cases” ignored and covered up by police, prosecutors, the NACC and the judiciary. Just think of Thammanat Prompao and his heroin smuggling conviction. Ridiculous is a regime norm.





Updated: Lawfare and constitution

26 06 2021

The regime is now a lawfare regime. This means that it misuses the legal system against an “enemy,” seeking to delegitimize them, wasting their time and money, and repeatedly harassing them. Like other repressive regimes, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government seeks to prevent and discourage civil society and individuals from claiming their legal rights, even when these are supposedly granted by the junta’s 2017 constitution.

Such lawfare is “especially common in situations when individuals and civil society use non-violent methods to highlight or oppose discrimination, corruption, lack of democracy, limiting freedom of speech, violations of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law.” It is rule by law rather than anything remotely close to rule of law.

King PenguinAs democracy activists seek to reactivate a movement that was attacked by a myriad of legal cases and detentions, their rallies are now met with multiple legal cases: the pure definition of lawfare.

Like other despotic regimes, the protesters face, according to Deputy Royal Thai Police Spokesman Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen, a “health safety announcement issued by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.” We guess that the leaders of one of the rallies, who are on bail, will find themselves targeted for more jail time. It is the way authoritarians use the law.

It is worth recalling that the protesters chose to rally on what used to officially be National Day. As the king has demanded, 1932 is a memory that only the public can keep alive, with the regime simply ignoring the date after years of removing its symbols.

1932 began an era of constitutional innovation and ended absolute monarchy, with small steps taken to establish the rule of law.

As the relatively small rallies went on, in parliament, a farce played out. The regime has, from time to time, indicated that it wants some constitutional change, mainly to further its already mammoth electoral rigging. But, as anyone who has followed politics since 2007 knows, the royalists, rightists and military allow no changes that might level the playing field. The lies on constitutional change began with the 2007 constitutional referendum and the brickwall to change has been strengthened by a biased Constitutional Court.

Pretending to promote constitutional change, 13 constitutional change bills were introduced. All but one was rejected by a joint sitting of the elected lower house and the junta-appointed senate. The legislation this hybrid “parliament” approved “would raise the number of constituency MPs from 350 to 400 and restore the old selection formula for 100 list MPs.” All this does is make regime thugs like Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Thammanat Prompao more powerful as they redevelop money politics.It also opens the opportunity for MP and party purchasing on a grand scale.

Those who link this change back to earlier times, miss the changes that have taken place under military regimes and ignore the way that state resources and the misuse of law have made the the regime all but impregnable in the next election.

These commentators should also consider that the appointed senate makes a mockery of parliament. The senators, who all owe their positions to the military junta and the thugs running the current regime, essentially voted as a bloc.

Bencha Saengchan of the Move Forward Party correctly states: “Last night’s vote shows that parliament is a drama theater that lacks sincerity towards the people…”. But that’s way too mild. This regime will have to be forced out, laws changed, constitutions rewritten, monarchy tamed or deleted, and the thugs imprisoned. It is the only way to roll back 15 years of rigging and corruption.

Update: For an example of horrendous “journalism,” see the Bangkok Post’s About Politics column. It is usually rightist tripe, but this week’s column is a doozy. Somehow it manages to ignore all of the regime’s efforts to rig constitution and elections and to blame the opposition for failed constitutional reform. Quite an act of political contortion.





Updated: Mafia control of ruling party

19 06 2021

As expected, convicted heroin trafficker and Deputy Agricultural Minister Thammanat Prompao has been “elected,” unopposed to be secretary general of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP).

The rise of the criminal to one of the top positions in the party confirms the descent of the country into the hands of a mafia of murderers, drug traffickers, and royalist thugs.

The rise of the criminals pushes aside all pretenses of “normality” in a party concocted to keep the military junta of 2014 and associated royalists in power.

Convicted drug trafficker Thammanat is elevated to this position because he is the son of party don and corrupt Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

Corruption lives

Gen Prawit is party boss and Thammanat is his consigliere. Gen Prawit has virtually adopted Thammanat as a son, placing him in line to run the mafia party’s next election campaign. He chose Thammanat because it is not votes that will win the election, but the pilfering of candidates from opposition parties and converting them into seats for the mafia party.

That job requires an enforcer, a moneybags, and a persuader all rolled into one. Or, as the Bangkok Post puts it, “Thamanat … [is] a skilled political fixer…”. It observes:

The Phayao MP’s rise to the new position underlines the increasingly dominant role of the Prawit camp in the party and the diminishing power of the Sam Mitr group. The change was widely anticipated after Thamanat had been assigned to take charge of by-elections contested by party candidates.

The party is now officially the party of Thailand’s mafia, which stretches across military and police and into the palace, all profiting from rents, protection and monopoly.

The extent of Prawit and Thammanat’s control of the party/mob is shown in the fact that the latter “was unopposed in the voting for secretary-general as his was the only one name proposed. He received 556 votes, with 14 voided ballots and 23 abstentions.”

Thammanat has emerged as a key political operative whose skills are valued by Gen Prawit. He is said to control a faction of a dozen or more northern MPs, and he has also made some forays into the South, to the dismay of the Democrat Party,,,”.

Thammanat explained the power structure: “We have Gen Prawit Wongsuwon as the centre of power. We have to consult him on everything that will move us forward…”. The aim will be to snaffle sufficient MPs from other parties that Palang Pracharath will get a majority in the next parliament.

Thai PBS says that the “ruling party’s latest internal reshuffle indicates it desperately wants to win the next election, amid speculation that the national poll will be called early.” To do this it needs “Thammanat, who is ‘decisive, fearless and reliable’, to inject confidence and trust [and fear] into its own MPs, politicians from other parties and voters.” He’s and “influential” figure, a dark influence: “an influential charismatic person in charge of election campaigns in constituencies…”.

As reported by the Bangkok Post, the third leader of the mafia is Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, and the mafia party unsurprisingly announced it will support him for another term. If this comes to pass, Gen Prayuth will be prime minister for at least 14 years. 

The choice of Thammanat reflects the arrogance of the former military bosses Prawit and Prayuth and the desperation of the royalist bloc to maintain control. As it did in the 1980s, this requires an alliance of palace, military, and dark influences. However, the alliance developed by Palang Pracharath, bringing two of the three into the party as leaders, arguably strengthens the party. At the same time, it makes Thailand a mafia state, in the hands of thugs and criminals.

Update: To see how some others feel about the gangster and the gangster party, try Cod Satrusayang’s op-ed on the arrogance of the mafia regime as it rigs the system for yet another rigged election.





Promoting The Dictator

6 06 2021

Trump supporters used to chant “Four more years!” In Thailand, the state’s PR arms are chanting “Seven more years!” or something similar for Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has been hopeless on the economy, has botched recent virus policy, and has pandered to palace and royalists, while promoting criminals like Thammanat Prompao. He’s been adept at shuffling loot to the military and the big conglomerates, and he’s been especially good at political repression.

The Prime Minister Operations Centre (PMOC) “has launched a campaign, derided by critics, to end attacks on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for holding on to power for so long.”

For us, one day was already too long.

According to reports, the state is wasting money on infographics “featuring Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and projects developed during his seven-year tenure are posted on the Facebook page of the … PMOC … in its campaign to counter criticism spreading on social media of his lengthy stay in power.”

The PMOC has come up with slogans that don’t roll off the tongue: “Uncle Tu, 7 years. So, what’s wrong?” Lots!

The PMOC has the difficult task of making a silk purse from a water buffalo ear, “highlighting the government’s achievements.” Of course, its main “achievement” has been staying in power for seven years, and the regime hopes for another 13 years.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak’s op ed this week lists just some of the regime’s “successes”:

  • a subpar economic performance
  • persistent controversies from his cabinet’s incomplete oath of office
  • a cabinet minister’s past drug conviction and imprisonment in Australia
  • Prayuth’s house on army premises after retirement
  • leading the military coup in May 2014
  • jacked up public debt to nearly the legal ceiling of 60% of GDP
  • hopeless coalition government
  • neutering’s and cooption of supposedly independent agencies and judiciary

Thitinan points out that “the main implication from Thailand being stuck with Gen Prayut indefinitely is that the country’s near-term political future is likely to be tumultuous and turbulent due to pent-up and mounting grievances that are being systematically suppressed.”

As he says, there’s “no available means to change government at this time.” This means more of the same and maybe Gen Prayuth for another six years. If that happens, this dolt will have become Thailand’s longest-ever premier.

The opposition, primarily Pheu Thai, Move Forward, and Seri Ruam Thai parties, perform accountability and checks-and-balance functions as much as they can but they can only go so far due to a lack of parliamentary numbers. Unless a coalition partner pulls out, the Prayut government can stay on until the four-year clock runs out.

Thing were different in the past. In contemporary Thai politics, coalition withdrawals in the 1980s and more recently in 1995 and 1996 led to new polls, returning the mandate to the people. In 1997, the sitting premier resigned, enabling the then-opposition to form a government. Government coalition dynamics have changed in the past two decades.

The coups of 2006 and 2014, the new constitutions and the shift of power towards the military have made the playing field less even and more lopsided. It meant that when the military took over in 2014 and took matters into its own hands, the generals would be in charge for good. Elected politicians had to fall in line. If they wanted to partake in the spoils of government in a country with a weak society and even weaker checks and accountability mechanisms, then there is no other way than to stay and stick with the ruling coalition.

Backed by the incumbent centres of power with enough elected politicians in the government’s stable, while oppositional ranks that recently included the youth-led student movement lack momentum, Gen Prayut is likely able to muddle day by day to the last syllable of his four-year term. At issue will be when the time comes for potential change in early 2023. The piled-up public unhappiness will be immense in view of a slow economic recovery and accumulated government incompetence and mismanagement. Although cathartic change can happen in the interim, the time around the next election is likely to see Thailand either perk up or sink inexorably downwards.





Gangster swagger

3 06 2021

One of the things about “dark influences” – Thailand’s mafioso – is that their behavior is often a display of power and brutishness. They can’t help themselves.

And so it is with the convicted heroin trafficker and Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thammanat Prompao.

As the Bangkok Post recently reported, the reprehensible Thammanat has had to deny that “he made a parliament police officer kowtow to him after an argument with a member of his entourage.”

He and his minders “advisers” were said to have “had an argument with a parliament police officer on Monday when the House was in session to deliberate the national budget bill.”

Thammanat stated that “he had only two people with him” when he arrived for the parliamentary debate but “his team” were denied entry as the police were “enforcing public health regulations that limit the number of people allowed to enter with a cabinet minister to one.”

Thammanat

Convicted heroin smuggler

Unused to not getting his way, “the deputy minister was upset and later called a director connected to parliament security to meet him.” We can imagine how that was handled. He reportedly “reprimanded the director for not treating him and his team with dignity and instructed the policeman to kowtow to him as a way of repenting.”

Thammanat sidekicks were reportedly miffed that they did not get the respect that is due them as the thugs of the powerful and dangerous boss. “His team” was angered “after the officer had spoken sternly to them.” No one can speak sternly, officiously, or loudly to the boss’s offsiders.

He said he later met the officer concerned,  advised him to take a gentler tone when talking to people, and “his team and the policeman apologis[ed] to each other with a wai.”

Thammanat ” insisted the policeman did not kowtow to him. Impossible as this “would have been an overreaction.” Well, not for a dark influence; it would have been “normal” for an offended mafia boss.

He babbled something about he was “aware of people watching him with distrusting eyes and assuming he was the aggressor whenever friction occurred.”

Interestingly, House Speaker Chuan Leekpai appeared to rebuke Thammanat when he “reminded members of the Thai parliament to comply with its rules and regulations, saying that they are lawmakers and should behave as role models for other people.” Chuan “offered moral support to the unnamed parliament police…” and he “instructed the secretary-general of the House of Representatives enter the incident into the formal record…”.

This event looks like the typical thuggish behavior associated with dark influences. Thammanat knows he’s now a big man and powerful. He flaunts his wealth and his power.





The heroin minister and protecting “the system”

10 05 2021

We decided to wait a couple of days to see how the Constitutional Court’s decision to protect Thammanat Prompao, deputy minister and convicted heroin trafficker, liar, nepotist, and thug before commenting further.

It seems he is untouchable. We assume this has something to do with the claim he made when arrested for heroin smuggling in Australia:

When Thammanat was sitting across from detectives making a statement in Parramatta jail on November 10, 1993, the first thing the young soldier put on the record was his connection to royalty.

After graduating from army cadet school in 1989 he “was commissioned as a bodyguard for the crown prince of Thailand” as a first lieutenant. “I worked in the crown prince’s household to the beginning of 1992,” he said, staying until deployed to help suppress a political conflict that culminated in an army-led massacre in Bangkok.

The crown prince is now King Vajiralongkorn, but the name landed like a thud: the judge made no mention of it when sentencing Thammanat over his part in moving 3.2 kilograms of heroin from Bangkok to Bondi.

Among the first reactions came from the reprehensible Wissanu Krea-ngam. Wissanu, who operates as a mongrel cross between Carl Schmitt and a Reich Minister of Justice, long ago proclaimed that Thammanat’s “eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary.”

The court agreed. No surprise there.  Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam stated that “the court’s decision does not contradict the opinion of the Council of State, the government’s legal adviser, regarding MPs’ qualifications.”

The “Council of State said a person jailed for two years in Thailand or abroad is not eligible to be an MP within five years of being released…”. We have to admit that we did not see this in the reporting of the court’s decision.

Wissanu made the extraordinary claim that “the decision does not ‘whitewash’ the PPRP MP’s [Thammanat] standing.”

The Bangkok Post had an Editorial on the decision. It begins by noting that the court’s decision did not surprise: “After all, society has become used to surprises from our judicial system that run contrary to public sentiment.” It is pulling its punches for fear of offending regime and court yet still makes some useful observations:

In layman’s terms, Thai law permits people with a drug conviction in a foreign country to become a politician or hold public office in Thailand — the Land of Smiles and Land of Second Chances — at least in the case of Capt Thamanat.

It notes that the “court ruling might prolong the meteoric political career of Capt Thamanat as a deal maker and de facto manager of the PPRP. Yet it will come with a hefty price for the government and society as a whole.”

It thinks “the government, and especially the PPRP, still have a little leeway to prevent a complete meltdown in public trust and defuse this time bomb.” The Post is grasping at straws.

Many have lost hope:

People are losing confidence in the government of General Prayut Chan-ocha because of their continued mismanagement, corruption, and repression.

They are losing their faith in the justice system which has propped up this regime – a heartless system that would sooner jail students and watch them die than adjudicate impartially.

…This week, the country’s highest court made the situation worse, if that were possible.

The appalling decision to allow a convicted drug dealer to continue as a cabinet minister shows that this government no longer cares about saving face or pretending to be filled with ‘good people.’

The double standards are observed: the regime considers one crime overseas significant: lese majeste. And, what about a justice system that “still sees it fit to hold the students in jail, without bail, under a draconian law…”, but has a former drug trafficker as a minister? It continues:

Thailand is rapidly approaching the borders of becoming a failed state, a joke-nation where the institutions only serve to reinforce the rule of the few and the elections are a sham run by the whims of generals.

There are examples of anger. This op-ed declares the dire need for change:

Thailand is at a crossroads. We have come to that point in every nation’s history where the decisions of today have massive ramifications for tomorrow….

At stake will be who we are as a nation, not who we were, and what we want to aspire to. Centuries old superstition, entrenched governing structures, a destructive military culture, and an impasse between those that want rapid change and those that want to preserve what it is that they think makes Thailand special….

The generals, the drug dealers, the marijuana growers, the promise breakers that were put in government did so on a broken system drafted and put in place by men in army fatigues.

And now we have arrived at the crossroads and there are three choices which will determine what will become of Thailand.

The op-ed calls for “reform” but far more is needed to root out the military and destroy the privileges of crown and oligarchs. Thais need to get off their knees. That’s exactly what the protesters have been demanding.





Further updated: Heroin smuggling approved

5 05 2021

In one of its more deranged and highly politicized decisions, the Constitutional Court has ruled that Deputy Agriculture Minister and soon to be boss secretary-general of the ruling Palang Prachart Party Thammanat Prompao who “pleaded guilty to conspiring to import heroin into Australia” can retain his cabinet post.

Like the regime’s leadership, the court decided that spending four years in a “Sydney jail is not a breach of the constitution.”

Convicted heroin smuggler

Section 98 of the constitution states, in part, that one is prohibited from exercising the right to stand for election in an election as a member of the House of Representatives if they have been sentenced by a judgement to imprisonment and imprisoned by a warrant of the Court.

But, the hopelessly biased Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled that while Thammanat “had admitted to his Australian conviction … the … court could not recognise the authority of another state.”

The court stated:

We cannot implement the verdict of foreign courts, and we cannot interpret the verdict of foreign courts as having the same power as our courts…. The verdict of any state only has effect in that state.

The report quotes political commentator Voranai Vanijaka who says the verdict was more “proof there’s no rule of law in Thailand, only the rule of power”. He added:

Over the past year and a half, Deputy Minister Thammanat has become a key power player and deal maker for the [Prime Minister] Prayut [Chan-o-cha] regime…. He’s too valuable. He knows it. The regime knows it. The Thai people know it. The decision is to no one’s surprise.

Sadly, he’s right.

Human Rights Watch researcher Sunai Phasuk said:

This outrageous ruling nonetheless confirmed that he was sentenced [to prison] in Australia, which means his parliamentary testimony denying it is a lie.

With this shocking ruling by the Constitutional Court, now all sorts of criminals convicted in foreign courts could run for a public office in Thailand without a worry. Crimes committed outside of the motherland, no matter how serious they are, don’t count in the Thai realm of justice.

Sadly, he’s right.

Thammanat is now fabulously wealthy. No one has questioned that. It could reasonably be described as unusual wealth.

No wonder so many young Thais are despondent about a country run by military thugs, criminals and mafia figures.

Update 1: Thammanat seems to lead some kind of exalted existence. Prachatai has a story of Samart Jenchaijitwanich, Assistant to the Minister of Justice, who “has submitted his resignation letter to the Minister after Phalang Pracharat Party voted to remove him from all positions in the government and the party.” He was “Director of the Complaint Centre of Phalang Pracharat Party, a government whip, president of an anti-ponzi scheme committee, and member of other Phalang Pracharat Party committees.”

Samart was outed by Sira Jenjaka, a Phalang Pracharat MP, who “revealed that he [Samart] cheated on an English exam by sending a proxy to take the test for him. The test was a part of the requirement for a PhD at Ramkhamhaeng University.”

It was a “Phalang Pracharat investigative committee led by Paiboon Nititawan [that] voted unanimously to remove Samart from all political positions in the government and the party.”

As far as we can determine, Samart has not been charged or convicted of anything.

In comparison, Thammanat, in addition to his conviction for heroin trafficking, has a fake degree and has repeatedly lied to parliament, the media and the people. He also managed to barely escape a murder charge a few years ago. We know that Gen Prawit Wongsuwan loves, promotes and protects Thammanat, but his ability to avoid political damage suggests even more powerful support.

Update 2: The fallout from the Constitutional Court’s bizarre decision continues. Social media is scathing, parodying the decision, damning the court, and slamming the regime. The commentary is equally scathing. As Thai PBS puts it, the decision “has sparked outrage and ridicule and has added to the feeling of hopelessness…”. It cites Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University and an interpreter of Thailand for the English-speaking world: “This is arguably Thailand’s lowest point in its international life.” Titipol Phakdeewanich, a political scientist at Ubol University, said the verdict “continue[d] to undermine the legal system of the country …[and] is not based on facts.”








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