Updated: Going for broke

31 03 2021

The regime apparently thinks it is strong enough to go for broke on lese majeste and nail its prime target Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. Given that it was actions against Thanathorn and the Future Forward Party more than a year ago that set off anti-regime protests, this move represents the regime’s victory lap.

ThanathornThanthorn has appeared before police to acknowledged the Article 112 charge filed by the regime.

Now chairman of the Progressive Movement, he “went to Nang Loeng Police Station in Bangkok on Tuesday morning to acknowledge the charge involving his Jan 18 Facebook Live criticising the government’s vaccine procurement plan.”

In speaking with reporters, Thanathorn said “he was confident he had not said anything that tarnished the institution and the clip was his effort to sincerely check the government.” He claims nothing he said contravened the Article 112.

Additionally, he faces “sedition and computer crime charges involving the clip.”

In reality, Thanathorn must be worried, even if the charge is fabricated. But fabricated lese majeste charges have been used to lock up and/or harass several others in the past. Who can forget the ludicrous 112 charge against Thanakorn Siripaiboon in 2015 for allegedly spreading “sarcastic” content via Facebook which was said to have mocked the then king’s dog. Thanakorn finally got off in early 2021, but had endured seven days of interrogation and physical assault at an Army camp and three months in prison.

Thanathorn is the main target of ultra-royalist hatred and fear, and they have been urging the regime to lock him up. They see him as the Svengali behind the anti-regime protesters and rising anti-monarchism, refusing to believe the protesters can think for themselves. The regime sees Thanathorn as a potent political threat. They have threatened and charged him with multiple offenses, disqualified him from parliament, dissolved the political party he formed, and brought charges against his family.

By targeting Thanathorn, the regime seems to believe that it is now positioned to defeat the protesters and to again crush anti-monarchism. But, it is a repression that remains a gamble.

Update: Rabid royalists are joining the regime in going after actress Inthira “Sai” Charoenpura and activist Pakorn Porncheewangkul “over donations they received in support of the protest movement.” They are “facing possible tax and anti-money laundering probes over their acceptance of public donations in support of the Ratsadon protests.” It is anti-democrat Watchara Phetthong, “a former Democrat Party MP,” who has “petitioned the Revenue Department and the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) asking them to investigate Ms Inthira and fellow activist Pakorn…”.





Further updated: 112 updates

9 02 2021

It is reported that lese majeste case No. 58 of the current round of repression has been lodged – we seem to have missed cases 56 and 57 – with a 37 year-old man being charged “with the royal insult, or lese majeste, for allegedly mocking the monarchy at a shopping mall in December…”.

A fanatical royalist from Thai Pakdee accused Pawat Hiranpon “of feigning to genuflect and saying ‘Long Live Your Majesties’ at Siam Paragon on Dec. 20 when several pro-democracy activists were walking past him…”. The mad monarchist thinks he was being sarcastic.

At about the same time, UN human rights experts are reported to have “expressed grave concerns over Thailand’s increasingly severe use of lèse-majesté laws to curtail criticism of the monarchy, and said they were alarmed that a woman had been sentenced to over 43 years in prison for insulting the royal family.”

They stated: “We are profoundly disturbed by the reported rise in the number of lèse-majesté prosecutions since late 2020 and the harsher prison sentences…”. They added: “We call on the authorities to revise and repeal the lèse-majesté laws, to drop charges against all those who are currently facing criminal prosecution and release those who have been imprisoned…”. The regime will not heed such calls. It never has. It heeds the king, and it is he who has directed this repression strategy.

Meanwhile some better news, with the Criminal Court having “dismissed a petition by the Digital Economy and Society Ministry to remove a clip criticising the government’s Covid-19 vaccine policy by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.” The ministry claimed it constituted lese majeste. He criticized the secret deal between regime, the king’s Siam Bioscience, and AstraZeneca.

After being ordered to take down his half-hour analysis, Thanathorn challenged the order. He was successful after the full clip was played in court, with the court “saying no part of the clip clearly showed he criticised or raised questions in any way that could be deemed insulting to the monarchy.” It added: “There is no clear evidence it affects national security…”.

The court asked Thanathorn why he used the term “royal vaccines”. His reply was wonderful, pointing out that “he was not the first to use it.” He pointed out that: “It was Gen Prayut and government agencies who first used or implied it that way…”. They were milking propaganda for the king and that was turned back at them, and the court agreed: “The court viewed the term was borrowed from what the government had said earlier about the local vaccine production to show the mercy of the king. Mr Thanathorn’s use of the word was therefore not a lie, which could cause damage to the king.”

Of course, the regime is now scrambling on vaccines, issuing statements that seem designed to mollify growing criticism. For a useful report of further questioning of the king’s Siam Bioscience, see Khaosod.

Update 1: Prachatai reports on the 112 case facing Pawat (using Phawat ‘Pocky’ Hiranphon). It states that the “charge was filed by Acting Sub Lt Narin Sakcharoenchaikun), a member of Thai Pakdee…”. Further,

the investigator gave as the reason for the complaint to a cosplay activity at Siam Paragon on 20 December 2020, where Phawat was seen paying respect by bowing, giving a ‘wai’ (the Thai greeting) , saying ‘Long live the King’, and presenting flowers to Parit Chiwarak and Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, who cosplayed King Rama X and the Queen wearing crop tops.

The investigator alleges this was an act of mockery toward people paying respect to King Rama X.

Phawat is seeking evidence to file a complaint against Narin, as he sees the complaint as politically motivated and damaging to his reputation and income. Narin also is not the one offended by Phawat’s action.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post has an editorial calling for the regime to get on with vaccination rather than defending itself. The editorial notices:

Bombarded by criticism that it has been too slow and overly reliant on two sources, AstraZeneca and Sinovac, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha tried to explain the government’s immunisation strategy last Sunday.

The PM was far too keen on defending the government than shedding light on the crucial vaccine drive. Although he addressed some of the main points of criticism, the PM offered no new information.

His claims and promises also appeared unsubstantiated, with little or no detail at all.

Self-censoring, it doesn’t say much at all about the king’s Siam Bioscience.

The public health minister has only made things worse. Bent on protecting himself and the government, Anutin Charnvirakul essentially told people to keep quiet and stop questioning the vaccine procurement and immunisation plan. He also told other politicians who are not in the government to keep their advice to themselves.

Mr Anutin’s tantrum only reinforced his image as being out of touch.

Self-censoring, it doesn’t say much at all about the king’s Siam Bioscience.





Thanathorn’s defiance brings more charges

7 02 2021

Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit showed up at a Criminal Court hearing on Thursday “support[ing] his petition asking the court to rescind its order to remove, from social media, his comment criticizing the government’s vaccine procurement plan, via Siam Bioscience…”.

He’s not backing down:

Before attending the hearing today, Thanathorn insisted that, since the monarchy is a part of Thai society, it is the right of Thai people to comment about the institution, so long as such comments are made in good faith, with no ill intention toward the institution and are for the good of society.

As a result, rabid royalists and the regime are piling on charges.

The mad monarchists at Warong Dechgitvigrom’s personal party/pressure (small) group Thai Pakdee brought another lese majeste complaint against Thanathorn. Warong claimed “Thanathorn was dragging the monarchy into his criticism of the vaccine deals between Thailand and British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca…”. Warong reckons that Thanathorn is “trying to manipulate the facts…. Don’t forget that this is a deal between AstraZeneca and the government. But he [Thanathorn] tries to link it to the monarchy.”

In fact, the regime’s “defense” has been that the deal is between AstraZeneca and the king’s company. But Warong gets plenty wrong.

Interestingly, the regime’s handing of the vaccine deal to the king continues to get it in vaccine trouble. It is left out in Southeast Asia and globally by its rejection of the Covax arrangement, “co-led by Geneva-based vaccine alliance Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation, to accelerate the development and manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccines…”, and which provides allocations of vaccines.

The regime has decided to bring even more charges against Thanathorn while also going after his family.

Like previous politicians who have been seen as anti-monarchy, Thanathorn’s life is to be made difficult, strewn with claims, accusations, and charges.





Further updated: The company they keep

6 02 2021

Readers might have noticed that the Bangkok Post had a story about police arresting Sia Po Po-arnon – aka Apirak Chatharnon and Apirak Anon- described as “a net idol, former celebrity boxer, former House adviser on gambling…“. He was taken in on “charges of organising online gambling.”

At his house, it is reported that “police also arrested his follower, Pacharapol Chansawang, and 25 Myanmar workers, and seized a gun and 11 bullets for examination.”

We don’t usually follow “celebrity” news, but this one got our attention because of his links to the regime and royalism.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

It was in August last year that “a House working group on whether to legalise online gambling invited … [Sia Po] to participate in its deliberations as an adviser.” At the same time, Palang Prachachat appointed “another possible [sic] gambling tycoon Pol Lt-Colonel Santhana Prayoonrat to advise the task force…”.

As we recall it, it was a regime party that issued the invitation for Sia Po. It came from “Palang Pracharat Party MP Arun Sawasdee” who wanted advice the committee because Sia Po had “earned a name for himself for being a successful gambler in international casinos.”

The international gambler said: “I will accept the position of adviser, but will not get into politics” before saying he didn’t accept it. With such vagaries, who knows what was really going on. What we do know is that the military’s party was inviting gangsters to advise them.

What kind of dark influence is Sia Po and how does he fit in with the great and the “good”? We only searched the Bangkok Post and came up with plenty.

The first report we found was from early 2018, when he was arrested at the home of Wiphakorn Sukpimai when he claimed he “answered a distress call from her…”. He said his arrest was a set-up as she had “lent him more than 50 million baht in a gambling venture and now want[ed] the money back…”. Describing him as a “celebrity boxer and social media personality,” he was said to be armed.

He seems to have been engaged in some kind of standover operation and was in dispute with the equally shady Wanchalerm Yubamrung also over gambling money. Sia Po and Wanchalerm are Thonburi gangsters.

Not long after, Wiphakorn “posted images of her former lover, Sia Po …, taking drugs. She added she was helping police with inquiries into claims that Sia Po and his ‘gang’ liked to give unwitting victims drugs, film them secretly, and blackmail them.” Sia Po later admitted that the images were of him, but claimed he was in Cambodia at the time.

The next time we see him in the press is as a leader of a vigilante group and behaving very much like a mafia gangster, “demanding 24 men detained there for Sunday’s intrusion at Mathayomwatsing School apologise for disrupting the university entrance exams.” He led a gang of “about 100 supporters,” declaring that the “men who raided the secondary school had defied the law. He and other people from Bangkok’s Thon Buri area decided to visit the men and warn them about their behaviour.”

In another pro-law-and-order stunt, in late 2019, Sia Po was associated with a “100 million baht cash handout to flood victims in the Northeast, money he claims was raised from unnamed casinos across the border.” He posted images of himself “unpacking bundles of used 1,000 baht notes ready to hand out to flood victims.” Some said he was “trying to rehabilitate his image” after the drugs, standover, money laundering, and gambling events described above. He was supported by arch-royalist Bin Bunluerit.

Somehow or other, the next time we see him, SIa Po is promoting a skincare product and then complaining that “fraudsters on the net are impersonating his name in the venture and siphoning off customer’s money.” They must have been either brave fraudsters, willing to risk the wrath of the Sia Po gang, or in cahoots with him in scamming the public. But, the plot thickened. He trotted off to the police saying “11 customers had been deceived with total losses of about 10,000 baht.” Really? And he offered a reward 10 times that amount. Fishy? You bet.

Then, in May 2020, we find Sia Po at odds with Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s supporters. A couple of weeks later, described as “well known as a donor to worthy causes,” he’s blaming “a falling out with a politician for his latest troubles with the law, after police told him he is facing money laundering charges stemming from an online gambling case.” He grumbled that the unnamed politician had “tampered with a picture online to make it look as if I was bad-mouthing the monarchy, and took an old clip of me encouraging Thais to gamble and spread it about the net to defame me further…”. In tru godfather style, Sia Po said “he was confident his case doesn’t qualify as money laundering.” He “explained: “It’s true that I gamble across the border, but Thai law doesn’t apply there and I don’t bring the money back.”

Soon after, Sia Po “was arrested after he turned himself in to police for questioning about a wild shootout in Bangkok in which two men were wounded.” He went to the police station at 3am, with “Santhana Prayoonra, a former deputy superintendent of Special Branch Police.” It is standard practise for influential persons to get influential police or military figures to attend police stations with them – it is about pressuring smaller people.

It is stated that Santhana:

was sacked from the police force for serious disciplinary violations and stripped of his rank, effective Oct 31, 2002, and his royal decorations were recalled. The announcement was published in the Royal Gazette on Oct 30, 2018, as reported by Thai media.

The report states Sia Po: “was accused of shooting and wounding two men in front of Saree Sauna&Spa shop on Ratchaphreuk Road in Bang Wa area, Phasicharoen district, on Tuesday night.” This happened as rival gangs met. Sia Po told police:

… he was a regular customer at the massage shop. He was there with three friends. His brother Khemmathat had made an appointment with two rival men, identified only as Tang and Tua, to meet at a liquor store on the same road, not far from the massage shop.

The talks broke down and afterwards Mr Khemmathat and about 10 friends came to meet him at the massage shop….

A shootout ensued, apparently involving more than 200 gang members and scores of shots fired. Of course, Sia Po claimed he was unarmed. Even so, police “arrested him on charges of colluding in attempted murder, illegal possession of a firearm, carrying it in public and firing shots.” Two men were taken to hospital, one shot in the mouth and another shot in the backside.

He was released on bail, with Santhana acting as “guarantor.” It is stated: “The Thon Buri Criminal Court granted him temporary release on bail with a surety of 350,000 baht. No conditions were set for his release.”

Royalists together

Not long after, Sia Po “found himself an unwitting accomplice after a disgraced senior policeman accused a well-known rescue worker of helping himself to public funds.”

It all revolved around a royal donation/self promotion scam campaign: “Sia Po had offered to donate money to a royal fund-raising project at Siriraj Hospital after he was contacted by Bin Binluerit … asking if he would like to help…. In return for his cash, the hospital, which is raising funds for a building in honour of King Rama IX, would issue pink T-shirts with the royal insignia for Thais to wear.”

It is all way too complicated – the royal association makes for weird reporting – but it seems Sia Po said he would stump up “20 million baht to help Thais wanting to turn out to see His Majesty.” We assume the live king, not the dead one. It also seems that the company supplying the shirts for Siriraj had produced hundreds of thousands and was not shifting them. Not by coincidence, the businessman behind the Siriraj scheme was reportedly the owner of the factory pumping out the shirts. So big buyers were needed to shift the royal shirts (not an unusual practice). Sia Po was to take 300,000.

But the whole scam scheme came undone when “Sia Po was arrested for the shooting outside the Saree Sauna&Spa shop…”. When he was bailed, his:

guarantor was his friend Santhana … who was to play a role in the hospital funds drama…. In May 2018 he was also charged with extorting money from vendors at Don Muang New Market. Sia Po found that with the legal case pending he could no longer transfer funds….

Reportedly, as happens in gang wars, Santhana began to lean on Bin. Using his connections in the police, and said to be accompanied by Sia Po, “Santhana … asked police to look into Bin’s role in the fund-raising effort.” As expected in a corrupt set of arrangements involving police, the dismissed Santhana:

… saw the newly appointed national police chief, Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, on Dec 9, and … followed that up with a visit to the Crime Suppression Division where he sought to lay charges against Bin of attempted fraud, asking for donations without consent, Computer Act offences, and making false claims on behalf of the monarchy.

The Post account added “a new twist to a strange affair” with Sia Po and Santhana suddenly donating “2 million baht to Siriraj Hospital’s fund-raising campaign, along with 20,000 pink T-shirts to be distributed to the public.”

Still described as a “net idol and former celebrity boxer,” Sia Po then took up his role as “adviser” to a “working group of the House select committee on law, justice and human rights, which is mulling changes to the gambling law,” pitching for legalized online gambling. With a straight face, Sia Po explained that his role was not political: “I don’t want to mess with politics. I want to protect my honesty…”. The honest crook’s role was explained:

Arun Sawasdee, Songkhla MP from the Palang Pracharath Party, who sits on the panel, said MPs wanted to know if online gambling could be controlled better.

Members invited Sia Po, who faces charges of money laundering and enticing Thais to gamble online, and is well known for his ties to casinos across the border, to speak to MPs, because of his “knowledge” in this area.

Guess who else was invited to provide information to the panel: “They also invited another city identity with a colourful past, former deputy superintendent of the Special Branch Police Santhana Prayoonrat, to testify.” What a surprise!

This is not an unusual situation. What is unusual is the level of reporting. We have only scratched the surface in one English-language newspaper. It tells us how deeply-rooted corruption is within this regime. We do not say that similar situations were not evident in earlier regimes, but this story well and truly shows the links between regime, police and criminals (dark influences). Put this together with a regime party that has deputy ministers who are convicted heroin traffickers and political quislings and you see that the whole structure is rotten to the roots.

And the rottenness infects everything right up and into the palace. Older readers will recall that Prince Vajiralongkorn had to repeatedly deny his involvement with crime figures.

Update 1: A reader asked for a source for Vajiralongkorn denying he was a mafia boss or associated with criminal gangs. Here’s a UPI report.

As we finished the above post, another gambling report came out in the Bangkok Post. This report concludes with this:

The CIB chief made it clear this police action had nothing to do with the arrest of Siapo Po-arnon, a professed gambler who advised a House panel on the possible legalisation of online gambling.

Siapo, real name Apirak  Chat-anon, 29, was arrested at his house on Phetkasem Road in Phasicharoen district of Bangkok on Thursday morning. He allegedly operated an online gambling website.

Maybe. It sure sounds like a scam he’d be associated with and the arrest sounds very similar to Sia Po’s own arrest a few days earlier. Perhaps it is just the police cleaning out competition for their own scams? Who knows, this is murky and getting murkier. There are interesting elements to the report. One is that the information is coming from Pol Lt Gen Torsak Sukvimol, the CIB chief.

Last time we saw his rank, Torsak was deputy head of the CIB. Now he’s reported as boss. Of course, he’s also head of the king’s “Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King’s Guard 904.” He’s also reported to be the “younger brother of the King’s highly trusted Air Chief Marshal Sathitpong Sukwimol (secretary to the Crown Prince, Director-General of the Crown Property Bureau and the Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau).”

Torsak stated that the operation had “more than one billion baht in bets in circulation…”.

Update 2: It is reported that, following his arrest last week, Sia Po remains in jail, denied bail. It also reports that his mother is being sought by police for involvement in his schemes and scams. While all of this is interesting and reflective of the deep-rooted corruption among the elite in Thailand, we can’t help wondering about royal involvement. This feels somewhat like earlier purges of powerful criminals following falling out at the top. No evidence, just observing a feeling we have.





Looking at 112

4 02 2021

In a quite useful article on lese majeste, Bloombergdiscusses the multiplication of lese majeste cases in recent months.

Academic Tyrell Haberkorn is quoted:

If the authorities ran through Twitter and Facebook, they could find thousands of people who could be charged…. Part of why the government hasn’t arrested all of the youth protesters is that someone somewhere in the state apparatus realizes that that will bring a really loud outcry.

Political activist Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, facing several charges is also quoted:

For 40 years of my life, I’ve never been charged — I’ve never been prosecuted, not even one case…. But since I started politics, there are countless cases against me…. It’s because we challenge the status quo, we challenge the establishment.

The only quibble we have with the article is its statistics:

We checked the historical data. The data we have indicate prosecutions rising from an average of about 4 per year before the 2006 coup to about 105 cases per year under the Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s military dictatorship in 2014-16, before reducing in 2017-18:

  • 1984-2000: 67 lese majeste prosecutions resulting in 56 convictions (83.6%), with an average of 4.19 cases prosecuted per year.
  • 2001-2005: 14 cases prosecuted and 13 convictions (85.7%), and an average of 2.8 cases prosecuted per year.
  • Between the 2006 coup and 2013: 295 cases prosecuted, with an average of 36.9 cases prosecuted per year.
  • 2014-2016, 316 cases were prosecuted, with an average of 105.3 cases prosecuted per year.

The data in Bloomberg’s graph looks roughly right after that. No point in underplaying the sharp increase under the military junta. After all, the purpose then was roughly the same as it is now: political repression.





Updated: Siam Bioscience and national security

1 02 2021

In yet another mind-boggling legal decision, The Nation reports that the “Criminal Court ruled on Sunday to block the Progressive Movement’s statement on Thailand’s Covid-19 vaccination plans under Section 14 (3) of the Computer Crime Act.”

Not only has the Digital Economy and Society Ministry filed a lese majeste case against the movement’s leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit “for his statement on Thailand’s Covid-19 vaccination plans and linking it to a royally-owned pharmaceutical company [Siam Bioscience],” but it has now finagled a court to block access to the statement.

The court ruled that the statement “could affect the Kingdom’s security.”

Of course, this is nonsensical, but it does more or less confirm that the regime has much to hide.

Update: You have to wonder why Minister of Digital Economy and Society Buddhipongse Punnakanta is working so hard to shut Thanathorn up. Is it mad monarchism or is it that the regime has much to hide on this? We are betting on the latter.

The Criminal Court has, according to the Bangkok Post, “ordered the Progressive Movement (PM) to erase Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s video that criticises the government’s Covid-19 vaccination plan while police are considering a lese majeste charge against him.” We do not recall such an erasure order previously, but maybe we haven’t been following the politicized courts closely enough.

Buddhipongse continues to cheer on lese majeste charges against Thanathorn, saying “police are bound to take action in this case.”

The report states:

Progressive Movement executive Pannika Wanich yesterday tweeted that the group had not yet received the court’s order to pull down Mr Thanatorn’s video. She insisted the video contained no lies or threats to national security and did not clarify if the party would comply with the court ruling. Ms Kannikar also urged YouTube and Facebook to protect the right to freedom of speech.

Good for her. But such statements make her a bigger target for the military-monarchy regime.





Vaccine transparency

28 01 2021

On Monday afternoon, “Ratsadon pro-democracy demonstrators led by Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak gathered outside Siam Bioscience’s Bangkok headquarters this afternoon to protest the company’s role in Thailand’s Covid-19 vaccine programme.” Transparency remains an issue, especially as the country’s vaccination program has now been rescheduled.

But transparency is an alien concept for the regime. When it comes to the monarchy, the rule is no transparency, which leaves it open to highly speculative gossip.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s version of “transparency” had him declaring: “We don’t want to see the Covid-19 vaccine politicised because the vaccine is a matter of life and death…”. Naturally enough, the general was speaking at the Defense Ministry as he defended “the contract to Siam Bioscience, saying there were other manufacturers which had offered to produce the jabs, but Siam Bioscience was selected because it met all of the government’s criteria.”

The contract and the criteria are unknown.

Anutin unmasked. Clipped from Der Farang.

In an open letter to Thanathorn, “public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul said that the decisions to secure AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines against COVID-19 were made by medical experts and appropriate to the outbreak situation in Thailand.” He went on:

Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Health and National Vaccine Institute, I say that our work is not delayed or lagging as Thanathorn has accused us of…. We act according to the calculations of medical experts who consider the national situation and citizens’ safety.

That doesn’t seem likely.

Back in December, it was reported that the “World Health Organization, national regulatory authorities and vaccine manufacturers in WHO South-East Asia Region discussed fast tracking of COVID-19 vaccine rollout in member countries…”. This was the second WHO South East Asia Region meeting with vaccine manufacturers and regulators after one held in April. The participants at the second meeting included “key global and regional partners such as GAVI and UNICEF, as well as vaccine manufacturers like Bio Farma Limited from Indonesia, and Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO), Bionet Asia Co Ltd and Siam Bioscience from Thailand.” That’s three from Thailand.

What was the problem with the other firms. No one knows.

A Bangkok Post editorial has observed that

In using Section 112 against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for raising questions about its vaccine procurement, the Prayut Chan-o-cha government could be said to have, at best, over-reacted. At worst, it’s being criticised for abusing the draconian law for political reasons.

The Post criticizes the regime’s response: “… the prime minister should know this is not the best way to secure public trust in the procurement plan. Mr Thanathorn is not the only one who has been sceptical about the procurement…. Such suspicions derive from fundamentally confusing data from the government from the beginning.”

The Post states: “What the public needs to know is a clear process and credible timetable for vaccination.”





On lese majeste repression

26 01 2021

There’s an hilarious report on Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha declaring that “he never intended to enforce Section 112 of the Criminal Code — also known as the lese majeste law — to silence anyone.” The words used are cited: “I’ve never wanted to use Section 112 to silence or hurt anyone.”

This is a blatant lie and such a porker that it is cause for mirth, and then for anger.

This remark was reportedly “made in reference to the lese majeste case brought by the government against the leader of the Progressive Movement, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, over his comments about the government’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.”

Hilarious though it is, the claim masks the facts of lese majeste under The Dictator-cum-unelected-premier.

Gen Prayuth has been at the head of a regime that has, since the 2014 military coup, charged more people with lese majeste than any other regime in the history of modern Thailand. His regime has also jailed more people on these political charges than ever before. The charges his regime have brought record-shattering, inhumane sentences.

Some of the, like those against Thanathorn, are not even covered by the law, but that doesn’t stop the charges flowing.

The intention of this lese majeste repression is precise: to silence critics of the regime and the monarchy.





Updated: Tools

25 01 2021

There’s a slang term we heard recently, when a dope was referred to as a “tool.” We had to look it up and came up with this:

Someone who others normally refer to as a prick, dick, or schmuck.

Then there’s the version that is:

A guy with a hugely over-inflated ego, who in an attempt to get undue attention for himself, will act like a jackass, because, in his deluded state, he will think it’s going to make him look cool, or make others want to be like him….

Which brings us to Veera Prateepchaikul’s latest op-ed. Veera felt the need to boil over on the vaccine crisis. Veera, along with Somchai Jitsuchon, research director for inclusive development at the Thailand Development Research Institute, both defend the vaccine deal with the king’s company, Siam Bioscience.

Somchai said “he had come came across no evidence of Thailand paying too much, although he admitted he was no expert in the subject.” Somchai is an adviser to Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, a point not made by the Post. He did say “he did not know much about why Siam Bioscience Co was picked as local vaccine manufacturer for AstraZeneca,” but still defended the deal. You get the murky picture.

Veera, also no expert, and a sucker fish rather than an adviser, favored a more aggressive attack on Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit while posterior polishing the dead king.

After all that dirty work, Veera admitted that “Thanathorn raised a few valid questions about the vaccine deal between Siam Bioscience and Oxford-AstraZeneca,” which still haven’t been answered, but accused him of doing this “from the perspective of someone unaware of the background of the deal.” Now, this is an odd criticism when Thanathorn was raising questions about the secrecy and opacity of the deal.

Veera reckons Thanathorn “did not do his homework before talking publicly,” and essentially deserves a lese majeste charge or two.

Which brings us to Veera’s homework and here we don’t mean on how to polish royal ass while protecting your own. How’s Veera feeling about the Thai Enquirer report that “India offered to sell over 2 million doses of their AstraZeneca-licensed vaccine [but] was rejected by the Thai government…”?

How’s Veera feeling when he learns that:

According to sources within the Indian government, the offer to supply the same vaccine, at cost, to Thailand (up to 2 million doses initially) was also presented to Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai but was rejected outright.

We don’t imagine that Don is an expert on vaccines either.

What does Veera think when he discovers: “The Ministry of Affairs … told Thai Enquirer that it was ‘better’ to get local vaccines ‘from the Ministry of Public Health or the vaccine institute’.” Which institute would that be?

How’s Veera going with political analyst Arun Saronchai’s comment?:

“I think you’re seeing this dogmatic and stubborn approach because there are people that stand to benefit from the government maintaining its course and insisting on locally-produced AstraZeneca vaccines and importing SinoVac vaccines.”

Of course, this leads back to Siam Bioscience and CP investment in the China shot.

How is that Veera’s royalist homework didn’t lead to this:

According to local news reports and whistleblower statements from inside the government, Thailand is set to pay up to 60 per cent more per dose for both the SinoVac vaccine and the Astrazeneca vaccine drawing criticisms of corruption and embezzlement from the opposition parties.

Meanwhile, confirming that lack of transparency, the erratic Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul responded to Thanathorn’s “call for the government to make public the contract signed between AstraZeneca and Siam Bioscience, the local vaccine-making factory, saying that was impossible as both parties were private companies, not organisations under the government.” So how’s the deal work then and why is the government defending it so vigorously. And so the circle is completed….

Update: Remarkably, the Post has published what looks like a paid-PR effort by Siam Bioscience, which reproduces the limited information provided at its website. Interestingly, the company explains its lack of preparedness and tells of “the deal”:

The mission to manufacture this COVID-19 vaccine is supported by the National Vaccine Institute, Ministry of Public Health, with a budget of almost 600 million baht, with an additional 100 million baht budgeted by Siam Cement Group (SCG). This will enable preparation of the manufacturing facilities and processes. In return for the government support, Siam Bioscience will procure the AstraZeneca vaccine with a value equivalent to the funding it receives and will give the vaccine to the Thai government to support vaccine availability to the public.

Clearly, the regime must now release the details of the agreements made as this statement raises all kinds of issues that cannot be resolved when transparency is not provided.





Further updated: Thanathorn and lese majeste

21 01 2021

When a security guard at the luxury IconSiam shopping mall – partly royal owned – slapped a university student who was holding a lone protest in front of the center, it seemed kind of “normal” for royalist Thailand. What the student was protesting was anything but normal.

A member of the activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, the student was holding a sign inscribed “Vaccine Monopoly is PR for the Royals.”

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak highlighted the message saying: “This person came out to campaign on behalf of the interest of the people…”. As has been known for some time, the Crown Property Bureau will make the “vast majority of vaccines to be used in the [virus] inoculation campaign…”. The CPB’s wholly-owned firm, Siam Bioscience, has been handed the contract.

Now, after comments about Siambioscience, the regime has gone royalist  bonkers spilled their lese majeste marbles:

The Digital Economy and Society Ministry (DES) will file a criminal complaint of defaming the monarchy against … Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the ministry said on Wednesday.

The complaint against Mr Thanathorn under Article 112 of the criminal code will be filed on Wednesday afternoon, according to an official ministry memo sent to reporters.

Then, Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit “slammed the government for its tardiness in providing Covid-19 vaccines and pointed out that the company tasked with manufacturing the vaccine locally is owned by the King.”

Thanathorn

Thanathorn concluded that “the government has been careless in negotiations for the vaccine…”. He pointed out that Siambioscience “is tasked with producing 200 million doses per year. Of this, 176 million will be sold to other countries in the region, while the remainder will be sold locally.” He added that the regime “has announced it will give Siam Bioscience Bt1.44 billion for the project.”

He claimed Siambioscience was only “established in 2009 with an authorised capital of Bt48 billion, but over the past 11 years, the corporation has made losses worth Bt581 billion…”.

And, he “pointed out that Siam Bioscience was only added to the plan in the second quarter of 2020 – when anti-establishment protesters began holding their rallies.” This, he said, may make the “AstraZeneca-Siam Bioscience deal is politically motivated.”

This led the Public Health Ministry to “clarify.” Permanent secretary for Public Health Kiattiphum Wongrajit defended the deal with Siambioscience and rejected “accusations that the government had delayed the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine, as it was expensive, and had failed to cover the public.”

One official explained:

Our deal with AstraZeneca company isn’t just a regular vaccine deal, but also involves technology transfer during the crisis period. The company that receives knowledge of the technology needs to be qualified and ready for it. Only Siam Bioscience is capable of receiving the tech from Oxford University. Even Thai Pharmaceutical Organization does not have  enough potential because of the  use of modern technology….

He added that:

Anutin unmasked. Clipped from Der Farang.

the Public Health Ministry, the NVI and SCG, as well as the government had  collaborated in the negotiations and showed the potential of Siam Bioscience, which originally produced only biological material or drugs to increase blood cells in patients with renal failure. The vaccine production plant will get Bt500-million support from the government and Bt100 million from SCG to buy the required equipment.

In other words, Siambioscience wasn’t ready to receive the technology. A deal was done. He confirmed this saying: “This success is built on a potential base.”

Then it went royalist propaganda and decidedly weird:

There is a misunderstanding about our support. I insist that it is our work in accordance with the philosophy of King Rama IX, under which Thailand has laid the health foundation and built medical expertise over 10 years.

An initial reaction from the regime came from the erratic Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul who criticized Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn, “accusing him of not being grateful to the ‘Mother Land’ for his alleged attempt to politicize the government’s procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.”

Anutin went full royalist, suggesting that Thanathorn was onto something:

Anutin … said that Thanathorn appears to know everything, but doesn’t know how to be grateful to the late King Bhumibol, who set the foundation for medical and health development in Thailand for the betterment of his subjects.

He suggested that royal PR and royal business were inseparable, damning Thanathorn, asking/accusing:

… whether he knows that the 20 mobile laboratory units, being deployed across the country to carry out pro-active COVID-19 screening, were sent by the Bureau of the Royal Household.

He further said that the PPE being used by medical personnel also came from the Palace, adding that funding, amounting to several billion baht, was donated by the late King for the development of hospitals and medical services in the countryside for the benefit of rural people…. He also said that, this afternoon, he will take delivery of 770,000 PPE suits, donated by the Palace for use by medical personnel.

All of this royalist madness suggests there’s much to hide.

Mad as hell Anutin was followed by his boss, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, who “warned Tuesday that legal action will be taken against people, in mainstream and social media, who distort facts about the deal to procure COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca by the government…”.

The predictable result was an allegation of lese majeste that will inevitably lead to charges:

The complaint accused Thanathorn of making 11 separate counts of critical remarks about the monarchy during his Monday night’s Facebook Live titled “Royal Vaccine: Who Benefits and Who Doesn’t?,” in which he questioned the role of Siam Bioscience, a Thai firm wholly owned by King Vajiralongkorn, in the production of coronavirus vaccines in Thailand.

“His comments can cause misunderstandings in society,” vice minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Thotsaphon Pengsom said. “It can create intolerable damage to the country and the works of the government.”

He added, “Therefore, we must take legal action immediately and we will go after each and everyone who shared it.”

… The vice minister said the complaint filed today also accused Thanathorn of violating the Computer Crime Act for spreading false information, which carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison.

Because Siambioscience is so opaque it is impossible to know if any of the claims made about its capacity or lack of it are true. As far as we can tell, Siambioscience makes two products under license. But, the regime’s hostile reaction suggests that there’s plenty going on in this deal done in secret and announced in sparse press releases, none of which appear at the company’s website. We could not find an announcement of the Siambioscience deal at the AstraZenca global site.

But let’s just add a bit to this mix.

In December 2020, it was announced:

Bangkok-based Siam Bioscience signed a letter of intent with AstraZeneca late last month to make 200 million doses of the British pharmaceutical firm’s COVID-19 vaccine, AZD1222, said Nakorn Premsri, director of Thailand’s National Vaccine Institute.

Thailand’s Public Health Ministry and the local conglomerate SCG [another firm with a major palace shareholding], with its packaging and chemicals divisions, also joined the deal.

Nakorn said most of the doses would head abroad.

Thailand will secure only 26 million doses. We may ask for more, but it will not be a big part, so maybe more than half of that [200 million] can be exported,” he told VOA.

Thailand did order more, but still only sufficient for half the population, and that was only after criticism mounted. The Chinese vaccine is linked to CP, but only a minuscule amount has so far been ordered.

There’s much in this story that needs explanation. The relish with which the regime went after Thanathorn needs no explanation.

Update 1: It is somehow “fitting” that the quisling Suporn Atthawong, now vice minister to the military PM’s Office, was the one filing the lese majeste complaint at the Technology Crime Suppression Division. Who can forget that Suporn’s own lese majeste charge evaporated when he flipped to the dictators.

Update 2: Unbowed, Thanathorn responded: “Prayut has always used the royal institution to hide the inefficiency of his administration, saying that he is loyal to the monarchy and protecting it…. Is this not why many people are raising issues with the monarchy institution?”