Updated: Military party, Mafia party

22 07 2019

The military’s Palang Pracharath Party was formed by the junta to ensure that it could continue in power following the “election” it rigged, but only just “won” after having its puppet Election Commission tinker with the results after the “election.”

The junta has engaged in a long and childish charade, seeking to suggest that its party was somehow “independent” or distant from the junta. No one ever believed the junta on this. First, several of the junta’s cabinet ministers combined to found the party, filching and poaching “members” from other parties and by soaking up several well-known crooked politicians and dark influences. Second, several junta cabinet members then “founded” the party, resigning from the cabinet to do so. This was just weeks before the “election,” conducted under the junta’s crooked rules. Third, The Dictator Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was the party’s candidate for prime minister and was then “elected,” thanks to the junta-appointed Senate that “voted” for Gen Prayuth as a bloc.

Now, the power behind the the junta’s throne, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has thrown his lot in with the party:

After years of serving as the public face of the now-defunct junta, deputy prime minister Prawit Wongsuwan is reportedly ready to try his hand at party politics.

Gen. Prawit, who until recently headed the defense ministry, will “soon” join the pro-military Phalang Pracharath Party, a source said Monday. The retired general will also secure a seat in the party’s executive board according to the source, who is one of Gen. Prawit’s close aides.

Gen Prawit met with his sidekicks, buddies and underlings in the party in Nakorn Ratchasima province as they schemed further on what parliament might mean for the party and for the junta-like cabinet. Prawit was ebullient, praising the junta hangers-on:

I appreciate the executive committee’s recognition of the importance of fellow members of the Palang Pracharat Party, especially MPs… This seminar boosts love and unity among the members of our party and our family….

That family includes the criminal. And we don’t mean the military that has murdered dozens of citizens, but the dark influences like Thammanat Prompao.

 

From the Bangkok Post

Update: In another report, Gen Prawit is portrayed as behaving very much like a party boss in his meeting with Palang Pracharath MPs in Korat. He called for party unity and declared that the “new” government would see out its full term. More interestingly, he also acted like the Deputy Dictator when he added: “I’ll try to ensure that the government completes its term…”. It was Prawit who ensured the junta continued through intense repression of political opponents. That’s a pointer to a bleak future.





Updated: Open-mouthed disbelief II

11 07 2019

Not long after our post on mafia-like figure and new deputy minister from the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, Thammanat Prompao, the Bangkok Post has published perhaps the best-ever self-incriminating interview in recent memory. It carries the seemingly ironic e-headline “I’m innocent.”

Apparently responding to the AFP story from 1998 that’s being widely circulated – and more – Capt Thammanat digs a very deep hole. Whether it is used to bury his political career (again) remains to be seen, with the junta-anointed lookalike government needing every soldier, anti-democrat and mafia figure it can lay its grimy hands on. And, the junta’s legal eagle Wissanu Krea-ngam – a member of the “new” cabinet that includes Thammanat and several other dodgy figures – has stated that “said Capt. Thammanat Prompao’s eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary.”

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Thammanat has “dismissed reports about his past criminal record, claiming he was innocent and the opposition was trying to discredit him.” He does a pretty good job of discrediting himself.

As we posted, Thammanat is accused of having been “convicted and jailed in Australia in a case involving heroin…”. He is also “linked to a [rape and] murder case of an academic whose body was dumped in Si Sa Ket in 1998, but later acquitted. His involvement in the latter case led to the removal of his military rank but it was reinstated later.”

Thammanat spoke about his time in Australia, claiming that his jail sentence there was all “a misunderstanding about his case in Australia 30 years ago, when he was a second lieutenant.”

He denied being at all involved in the “import, produce or deal[ing] heroin.” He claims he was “on vacation in Sydney…”, and was “unfortunate to have been in the same place at the same time as some drug offenders.” According to Thammanat, Australian police were not so convinced and he was jailed, with “another Thai,” for “knowing about and failing to report knowledge of drug dealing to police…”. He claims this to be a “petty offence,” which is not entirely accurate. He also says he denied the charge, but he was convicted.

What is then even more odd in his “story” is that he claims that, having arrived in Australia “on vacation,” he then lived and worked in Sydney “for four years.” However, he was “deported to Thailand because of a policy by the then Sydney mayor, who didn’t welcome Asians who formed groups and had no permanent residence.” That he was deported suggests thta there is more to the story than he lets on. The claim that it was due to the policy of a “mayor” is ridiculous nonsense. In Australia mayors have no authority over immigration, which is a task for the Australian Federal government. Thammanat “insisted he was not deported to serve time for a drug sentence as claimed by some reports.”

We may assume that Thammanat is confused or is obfuscating.

But he also has the “get-out-of-jail-free card” that has long been available to rogues and other criminals: He puffed out his royalist chest and declared: “I’ve never violated constitutional laws and I was cleared by a royal pardon absolving guilt granted by His Majesty the King in 2017.”

Case closed, he hopes. Somehow we doubt it.

There’s a long, long list of mafia-like allegations that will haunt the “new” government for as long as Thammanat is with it:

… Thammanat also owned one of the five largest companies that received quotas to sell government lottery. He reportedly gave it up after a talk with army Gen Apirat Kongsompong, who chairs the Government Lottery Board.

So what happened there? Who benefited from this relinquishing of a valuable, mafia-like racket?

Just last year, “police also found him to be one of the recipients of the shares of DNA, a company involved in a 797-million-baht bitcoin fraud.” Where did that loot go? Who benefited? We can’t wait to see his assets declaration.

Update: Remarkably, the Bangkok Post now has two stories posted under virtually the same e-headline, “I’m innocent” and “I am innocent.” The former we used and quoted above. The latter is by reporters Wassana Nanuam and Aekarach Sattaburuth. The latter is gentle, even supine. It tells a story that seems meant to be a little more supportive to Thammanat, but adds more details that damn him and suggest he’s struggling to get his story straight.





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!





Updated: Open-mouthed disbelief I

11 07 2019

Several stories caught PPT’s collective eye over the past couple of days.

The first is about Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the Watchman,” who has been clearing his office at the Ministry of Defence to make way for Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha.  But little else seems to have changed for for Gen Prawit.

A story at Khaosod of another bit of “casual corruption” associated would be funny if it wasn’t so reflective of a regime that has descended into old ways of military-bosses-cum-politicians.

Serial complainer Srisuwan Janya, who operates off social media posts in making his hundreds of petitions, has “filed a complaint to probe the police’s purchase of a 1.14 billion baht jet for ferrying deputy junta chairman [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwan and his entourage…”.

Srisuwan’s complaint plagiarizes social media “outrage at photos of the junta’s second-in-command exiting a private [police] jet with a flight attendant in tow…”.

The little bit of tycoon lifestyle for Gen. Prawit tripping about in a Dassault Falcon 2000S is said to have been purchased “by the police … [for] about 350 million baht more than the global market price.”

The price for a new one is about $30 million. That is a lot of taxpayer loot for a force that usually buys vehicles like the Toyota Camry and, for its pampered bosses, a BMW 5 or a Mercedes 600. Its aviation division has a Fokker 50 turboprop airliner in addition to the Falcon and more than 70 helicopters.

Srisuwan asks – we presume rhetorically – “Why does Thailand like to buy things at a higher price than other people? Or was there some special [deal] that they haven’t revealed to the people?”

Clipped from Khaosod

The jet is said to have cost 1.14 billion baht, which seems about 159 million baht over the list price. Expect the police to say that the extra cash went to fit-out, training and/or spare parts rather than into any boss’s pocket.

So far, the efforts of the police spokesman are laughable, claiming the “plane was a sound investment,” and saying it carried not just Gen Prawit and “the police commissioner and other high-ranking officials.” What a life! They don’t have to deal with the hoi polloi in regular planes or put up with noisy turboprops. The spokesman adds that the new plane can fly when helicopters can’t (but so can the Fokker).

Not only that, but the Falcon can be used for other “important assignments … like government inspections, drug raids, and to follow up crucial investigations.” A $30 million business jet for “investigations”? Right, but probably not investigations of police corruption.

While on the police, we notice that they have, as claimed several times, been hard at work on the cases involving the assault of political activists. Indeed, they have brought charges! Khaosod reports that police have

arrested … eight Facebookers accused of spreading [allegedly] false reports on social media that the police were behind the attack on June 28 that left pro-democracy campaigner Sirawith [Seritiwat] in critical condition. All of the suspects were charged with cybercrimes….

The report adds that police claim that the eight “confessed to claiming on Facebook that deputy police commissioner Chaiwat Ketworachai sent four men under his command to attack Sirawith.”

No one expects the police to arrest the thugs responsible for the cowardly attacks but the Facebookers, slapped with computer crimes charges that can mean up to seven years in prison.

As PPT predicted, “investigations” into the attack on Sirawith is being “hampered” because “some cameras were out of service and failed to capture the assailants’ flight from the scene…”. That’s the usual excuse when a cover-up is underway.

A third story that causes open-mouthed disbelief is also at Khaosod. Just confirmed as Deputy Minister for Agriculture is “dark influence” Thammanat Prompao, a member of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party.

Deputy Prime Minister under the junta and now under the “new” junta-engineered government, Wissanu Krea-Ngam has said 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 story continues, with Wissanu claiming:

In the past, there was an MP who had been prosecuted in Hong Kong for drug trafficking, but his status was not affected in Thailand…. Although his reputation among many things might have been impacted, his deeds and ethical standards have to be considered separately.

On Thammanat, it is known that he’s allegedly been involved in all kinds of activities that many consider “shady.” As the report states:

Thammanat was once stripped of his military rank for alleged involvement in a murder case in 1998, but was reinstated after the court acquitted him.

The latest allegations against Thammanat came after an opposition politician claimed he was previously convicted of a crime in a foreign country. No public records of such conviction could be found as of publication time.

Now that a government has been formed – it still has to present its policy to parliament – look to all kinds of internal jostling for a place at the trough.

Update: In another report staggering under a mound of buffalo manure, police claim that they have not – yes, they haven’t – demanded an exchange of police protection for Sirawith being politically silent. Not only that, but the police claim they would never, ever, never ask a political activist not to engage in political activity. Well, it wasn’t the police saying it, but Deputy Defence Minister Gen Chaichan Changmongkol. But we guess that the Army speaks for the police these days. But, really, this is just the usual lies from senior figures. This kind of buffalo manure will only cease to flow when such idiocies and the dolts who make such claims are called out, again and again. The truth is out there, but these fools work with manure rather than truth.





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…”.





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.





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.