A land deal lese majeste conviction

14 05 2015

Thai PBS News reports that Setthawut Pengdit, a younger brother of ousted Department of Special Investigation chief Tharit Pengdit, was sentenced to five years jail for lese majeste. As in many recent cases, because he agreed to “confess” and plead guilty, his sentence was halved to two years and six months.

In this report, Setthawut is described as “a land broker,” and in this role he “was accused of persuading land officials to issue title deeds for a land plot in Khao Nongcherm, Tambon Khanong Phra, Pak Chong district, which could not be legally bought or sold because it was part of reformed land scheme.” It was alleged that, with “land developer” Boontham Thepprathan, who wanted to establish a “high-end resort,”  Setthawut “claimed he knew Pol Lt-Gen Pongpat Chayaphan, former Central Investigation Bureau commissioner, and Pol Maj-Gen Kowit Wongrungroj, a former deputy commissioner, and could help arrange for the issuance of land title deeds for the land.” Earlier reports had it that the two claimed a “palace” was to be built.

It appears that this murky deal involved the army, police and “investors” making the land transferable by having the certificates illegally changed to “title deeds” without telling the residents.

Pongpat has already been sentenced to 12 years and Kowit to the same, both halved for guilty pleas, along with more than two dozen others involved in cases of association with Srirasmi, the former third wife to Prince Vajiralongkorn.

While the report states that Setthawut used Pongpat’s name, apparently the “court found Mr Setthavuth guilty of lese majeste charge for claiming connection with the high institution [the monarchy and, in this case, the prince] to help facilitate the issuance of land title deeds.”

On Boontham, “who denied the charge,” it is stated that “the court dropped the case against him and recommended the prosecution to file a separate charge against him.” It is unclear if this is a different charge or another lese majeste charge.

More lese majeste charges linked to prince

22 02 2015

The Bangkok Post reports that lese majeste cases have been made against two further men associated with Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s housecleaning following his separation from third wife Srirasmi late last year. We think the total number of lese majeste cases related to this event is now 29.

Setthawut Pengdit, who is a younger brother of former Department of Special Investigation chief Tarit Pengdit, “has turned himself in to police after a warrant was issued for his arrest.”

He and Boontham Thepprathan, a proprietor of the Colonze massage parlor-entertainment complex-cum-illegal casino, are accused of lese majeste. Boontham has not yet surrendered.

The lese majeste charges came after some 50 residents of the Lamtakong self-help settlement in the Pak Chong district “accused the pair of issuing unlawful title deeds…”. The deeds were allegedly for “more than 700 rai to Ban Chum Thong Co and Khaoyai Beverly Hill Co…”. That land is said to belong “to an army infantry unit” and that the “unit had loaned the land to the settlement, which issued Nor Kor 3 land ownership documents to the residents.”

It appears that this murky deal involved the army, police and “investors” making the land transferable by having the certificates illegally changed to “title deeds” without telling the residents. It is reported that “Setthawut had allegedly made a false claim to land officials — citing the name of former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayapan — that the land would be developed into a palace for the royal family.”

The report adds: “There is speculation that Pol Lt Gen Pongpat, convicted of a raft of charges involving a crime network, might be involved in the case as he is closely acquainted with Mr Boontham…”.

Setthawut has allegedly confessed.

It is quite a believable scenario that farmers would lose their land to “investors.” It is also conceivable that land could be acquired for a “palace;” this has happened before. That the Army and police would be involved in such deals is quite normal in rural Thailand.

The military boot I

26 05 2014

We’ll continue to post stories of interest at this spot for a while today.

SackedYingluck reportedly released/ 42 others called in/ AHRC expresses concerns for detainees/ 5 academics summoned, including royalists/ Old school junta/ British Foreign Office Minister concerned by democratic deterioration, restrictions on media, expression and assembly in Thailand/

See capture left on sacking of police boss “protecting” Shinawatras/ Reports of scuffles at Rajaprasong/ Business people summoned/ Way too late, the dolts at The Nation say something about their detained reporter, Pravit/ Prayuth explains removal of officials:

The single halfway sensible thing the junta has managed is the sacking of The Eel, Tharit Pengdit. The boss of the Department of Special Investigation is a disgrace to any police force, even that of Thailand. PPT last called for his sacking in November 2013.

Prayuth states: “Reshuffle and transfer are normal. No one has any flaw in performance…”. While we understand that no law constrains the military junta, wasn’t this why the dopes at the Constitutional Court sacked Yingluck?

The Nation continues to claim that U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Harry Harris “expressed concerns but as a military officer he understood the situation.” See this post for more. The new report at The Nation appears to say that these claims were made before an audience of foreign diplomats.

After calling in business people, junta says it is pro-business/ Khaosod’s photos of anti-coup demonstrations/ Remarkable anti-coup video/ Security and the law; junta squeezes/ Social media reports that Yingluck may be under “house arrest”/ Junta to purge state enterprises/ Tourists leaving

The Bangkok Post reports that Suthep Thaugsuban and four of his anti-democrats – Akanat Promphan, Sathit Wongnongtoey, Sombat Thamrongthanyawong and Somsak Kosaisuk – “were released from military detention Monday morning and was escorted to the Attorney General to be charged with insurrection.” Our reading of the latest news is that these oafs must now face a military coup. Will this be a serious court and charge or will it slip by like every other charge against the anti-democrats. That they are released says something….

Pansak Vinyaratn released/ Prayuth: a national election as soon as possible but no timeframe could be set…/ Prayuth threatens to crackdown on anti-coup rallies/ Iran on the coup/ Sermsak released from detention/ Schools open/ Junta to establish interim constitution/ Zawacki still a dolt/ More travel alerts on Thailand/

Social media, flash mob protests/ Predictable anti-democrat Veera Prateepchaikulat the Bangkok Post/ 10 Things You Need to Know About the Coup/ Prayuth as Thailand’s tough love leader/ Pro-coup foreign ministry/

***Military says it is still holding Yingluck***

Text of royal proclamation on coup/ On the short-tempered general/ Throwing Suthep to the wolves or stage management?/ PDRC leaders freed on bail

*** Thailand’s military junta said that it would stay in power “indefinitely”***

Andrew Walker on Thailand’s democracy at a dead end/

Challenging double standards

30 03 2014

A couple of news news stories caught PPT’s attention while we we were looking around at the very limited coverage of the rather small anti-democrat rally yesterday. Certainly, they were more interesting than rally coverage.

The first story is from a few days ago and reports:

[Phayao Akkahad], who lost her daughter on the last day of the unrest said today that it is unacceptable that Mr Tharit Pengdit, the DSI chief, is pursuing those charges against Mr. Abhisit [Vejajjiva] and Mr. Suthep [Thaugsuban]while exempting himself from the legal action, since Mr. Tharit [Pengdit] was also a member of the Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES) which oversaw the crackdown.

Readers will recall that, a few days ago, PPT posted on the impunity of military chiefs involved in giving orders that led to murderous attacks on red shirt protesters. We see no reason why Tharit shouldn’t also be investigated for his role in those days when CRES was ordering the crackdowns.

The second story is a report of an distraught daughter of a paralyzed red shirt protester against the irretrievably biased and hopeless National Human Rights Commission.

Euangfah Saelew’s 71 year-old father was shot at Laksi just before the now junked election.  She says the NHRC sent one official to see her father in hospital. She says the official made no “meaningful inquiry about the incident which left Mr. Arkaew in severe condition.”

She contrasts this lack of concern and interest:

with the its enthusiasm in other cases related to anti-government protesters, such as the NHRC’s recent announcement that they will investigate the claims that one of the alleged gunmen who participated in the gunbattle which wounded her father had been tortured by the police.

As she well knows, the “NHRC pays more attention to the perpetrators than the victims,” when the perpetrators are anti-democrats. The NHRC has become another of the “independent” agencies that work for the royalists.

The third story is an interesting contrast. It reports police arresting red shirts in Nonthaburi and seized weapons the group had. These red shirts appear to have been involved in some recent attacks, perhaps including on the office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Towijakchaikul said:

authorities will not provide any privilege to the Redshirts suspects, and insisted that the police will investigate any crimes committed by all political sides equally without prejudice….

“But whoever commits a crime must be punished,” Mr. Surapong said, “No exception”.

Now there’s an innovation that seems quite different from the double standards that characterizes “neutral” institutions.


Notes on the news

20 02 2014

PPT is again having trouble keeping up with the flood of stories – bizarre and serious – that deserve attention at present. Here’s a brief set of notes:

Army hide-and-seek: Both Khaosod and Bangkok Post report on the military refusing/delaying handing over soldiers accused of involvement in organizing the assassination attempt on red shirt activist Kwanchai Praiphana. At Khaosod it is reported that the “military has not yet handed to the police four suspects…”. All are said to be from the 9th Infantry Division.

The Army had previously promised to deliver the suspects but this hasn’t happened. (Yes, it is the case that the military is treated differently from regular citizens in legal cases owing to their control of government for many years.) It seems the military are refusing to answer the phone. Worse, they are withholding evidence: “the 9th Infantry Division, … in Kanchanaburi Province, has also withheld two pick-up trucks thought to be used by the four suspects during their assassination attempt…”.

The Bangkok Post has it this way: “The army yesterday abruptly cancelled the handover to police of four soldiers allegedly involved…”. The Post says that the Army accuses the “police of allegedly breaking a handover condition and cited this as the reason for the cancellation.” Here’s the reason: “The suspects had travelled to Khon Kaen, along with the staff judge advocates and military court prosecutors, expecting to be handed over to police. Before they reached the police training centre they were informed that witnesses would be questioned while they were being interrogated, said Maj Gen Pairoj. This had not been part of the agreement, he said.”

Eventually, the suspects were delivered, and then released on bail….

Who us (Army)? No, couldn’t be. Then who?: At the Bangkok Post, a “top army officer [Maj Gen Varah Boonyasit, commander of the 1st Division (King’s Guard),] has denied speculation that troops shot at police during Tuesday’s clash between authorities and anti-government protesters.” Why would he need to do this? Because some on social media “questioned whether unidentified men who used deadly weapons during the melee were military officers.” For PPT, what we have heard is questions regarding the shooters – who are now pretty well-known and identified – is a question about whether they are serving or or were previously serving, soldiers. As Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha has previously said that these shooters appear to be well-trained and claimed he has no idea who they are, the social media question seems reasonable.Shooter 10

Meanwhile, the reprehensible Tharit Pengdit of the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) has also said that the shooters were “unidentified armed elements” with “high-explosive hand grenades, M79 grenades, high-velocity sniper rifles and handguns.  We doubt they are “unidentified given the photographs available of them.  We have more to say on Tharit below.

Courts again support anti-democrats: The Bangkok Post reports that the “Civil Court ruled yesterday the caretaker government has the authority to enforce the emergency decree, but issued a set of orders chiefly to prohibit dispersal of the anti-government protesters.” In essence, the court upheld the decree but rejected the measures needed to enforce it. Pondering the 2010 red shirt demonstrations, this action would have been unthinkable. So why the double standards? Simple: “It cited an earlier ruling by the Constitution Court that the PDRC rally is peaceful and without weapons.” Right…. The guys with guns and grenades actually are “unarmed”….  And the court was frank about its decision: “The court said its order was to protect the protesters’ right to hold peaceful demonstrations, citing massive mobilisation of security forces into Bangkok to break up the protest.” Funny, we don’t recall that logic being applied in 2010? Or have we neglected the courts providing “protection” to red shirts? It matter not that this is legal horse manure, for the Constitutional Court has ruled!

Anti-election commissioner: At the Bangkok Post it is reported that Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, who has led the EC’s charge against elections, stalling, fibbing, dragging feet etc. etc.,  says that by defending the government’s rice policy and trying to stem a political run on a state bank, “Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s televised address … risks breaking the law.” It is stated that a message posted on Somchai’s Facebook page – yes, it is okay for an election commissioner to post his views there it seems – where he said “the premier’s use of the media to woo voters conflicts with Section 60 of the organic law on elections and the EC’s announcement on the poll campaign. Ms Yingluck also promised to give farmers something, and this breaches Section 53 of the organic law on elections, he said. The premier, meanwhile, used state resources to seek votes, which goes against Section 181(4) of the constitution. She also failed to behave neutrally, which violates Section 57 of the organic law on the election.” It seems that in politics, Somchai is of the view that a caretaker government can do nothing at all, whereas the opposition is free to campaign as they please, including on the streets. More of those old blue double standards!

Meanwhile, Somchai is busy suing others for allegedly defaming him!

Abhisit VejjajivaAbhisit in la-la land: Also at the Bangkok Post, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has an op-ed and there is also a story about his call for a political path forward. He uses pretty political language to dress up his party as well-educated proponents of political compromise. The problem for PPT is that Abhisit seems to think that every one in the world interested in Thailand’s politics is either an anti-democrat or suffers memory loss.

Some seem to think it is a kind of breakthrough that Abhisit says “As the leader of the Democrat Party, I must share the blame for the failed politics…”. Of course he does. His party rejected elections after calling for them, trashed parliament, supported political extremists, engaged in serious hate speech and decided to lead street demonstrations because it can’t win an election. Abhisit has also destroyed the moderate wing of the Democrat Party and allowed it to be controlled by extremists. In addition, Abhisit was prepared to accept a military coup, make deals to grab the premier’s position and then participated in decisions that saw red shirt demonstrators shot down, more or less in cold blood. Yes, Abhisit has more than his fair share of blame for the current problems.

It is clear that he is in both denial and spin modes when he states: “We must all demand progress in bringing to account the perpetrators of over 30 incidents of violence against protesters and opposition leaders in the past few months.” The guy has to be given a negative credit for his complete rejection of his own violent responses to demonstrators and the failure to condemn violence by his own people; indeed, the Democrat Party’s own Blue Sky channel lauds the protester’s violence.

And the elitist Abhisit has also found farmers to be political tools when he finally manages to see them not as ignorant buffaloes but as tools for attacking his opponents.

Perhaps the least surprising element of his political diatribe is the call for “someone credible and accepted by all sides can lead the reform process and manage the short transition to new elections in which everyone participates. That someone is clearly not the current government, the protest leaders nor the Democrat Party…”. That call is the one emanating from the senior royalists and Abhisit must do what he is told.

Is it Dhamma or Army?: Chamlong Srimuang’s religious beliefs have long been soaked in politics and blood. From his time as a mercenary to 1976, 1992, and all the events since 2005, Chamlong has mobilized the so-called Dhamma Army, which nowadays appears to be bereft of dhamma and to act as a political gang. They were at the center of clashes with the police on Tuesday and they remain united under Chamlong as their commander. Other extremists populate the Dhamma Army contingent and encourage violence. As the Bangkok Post explains, “Police were attacked with grenades and gunfire but they also fired live rounds at protesters.”

And The Eel: We noted above that we’d get back to Tharit. This is reported in The Nation: “Tarit insisted that the police who carried out the operation were not armed.” As he did during the red shirt demonstrations when he was against them, he’s lying. It is clear from many reports, videos and photographs, police were armed with shotguns and automatic weapons. To claim otherwise is stupid. In another source, he states: “crowd control police were backed up by an armed unit, to protect them if they were in danger. However, the backup unit did not fire a shot on Tuesday, just displayed their weapons in a tactic to subdue the other side…”. Again, we think this is lunacy. The picture evidence is that police did fire shots. What is unclear is whether these were all live rounds or rubber bullets. With “allies” like this, enemies are almost unnecessary.

Sack Tharit

18 11 2013

Tharit Pengdit is known to many as The Eel. This moniker recognises his demonstrated capacity to slither from supporting a murderous government and throwing that government’s political opponents in jail to become an enforcer for the opponents against his former bosses.

As boss of the Department of Special Investigation, Tharit has done dirty work across the political spectrum, claiming that his work for both sides indicates that his agency is impartial and like the FBI. Tharit’s antics as a cop are as bizarre as claims about J. Edgar Hoover’s frocks. That his agency can bring murder charges against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban might be justified but are made bizarre by the fact that Tharit served on the same committee that was ordering the military killings.Tharit

But enough of this rant and to what has caused it. In the Bangkok Post it is stated that Tharit wants his agency to throw the book at anti-government protesters who blow whistles at DSI officers. He says it is okay if he gets this treatment, but not his officers. We find that Tharit and “three DSI officials … have been the victims of whistle-blowing since Mr Suthep [Thaugsuban] announced the measure on Friday.” He reckons that this act “is deemed to incite hatred among people, which could turn violent.” This from a man who sat in committee to order attacks on red shirt protesters in 2010.

His response might be that he was doing his duty, but that is the “out” for many a state official complicit in murder.

We’d rather see Tharit sacked and investigated for his activities during the red shirt demonstrations in 2010. Claims like this damage the government that has already suffered considerable self-harm.

With a major update: Suthep’s struggle

16 11 2013

Former Deputy Prime Minister and Democrat Party boss-cum-anti-government protester Suthep Thaugsuban hates Thaksin Shinawatra.

It is that fact that drives everything Suthep does. It colors his judgement, causes him to order the military to murder red shirts and causes him to expend his family wealth trying to attack the former prime minister. It causes his politics to be personal.Suthep blowing

As PPT noted a couple of days ago, the anti-government protests have lost their impetus and Suthep’s call for strikes and tax evasion fell flat.

So it is that the hateful Suthep and the boringly hopeless Democrat Party have rejigged Suthep’s protest to personalize the protests and directly attack Thaksin and his family. This will suit many of the radical yellow shirts who are similarly driven by personal hatreds (and personal love for the king). Talk with yellow leaders and true believers and the personal hatred for Thaksin is all too evident.

The Nation reports that Suthep, who begged people to show up for his campaign harangues, apparently wants supporters to boycott and attack Thaksin’s family, so-called cronies and those he thinks are the governments lackeys. The aim is to “get rid of the Thaksin regime from Thailand.”

A nasty example of this personalized politics is seen in social media attacks on Thaksin’s daughters, apparently facilitated by staff at Thai Airways.

Suthep has demanded that supporters boycott the “products and services relating to businesses run by the Shinawatra family and their cronies should be boycotted. These include mobile service, real estate and satellite TV.”

He charged that the Shinawatra family and its “cronies” threatened “democracy under constitutional monarchy for Thailand,” and called for the “Thaksin regime” to “be eradicated” before the end of November.

Other elements of his campaign include “a campaign to collect signatures for impeachment of the 310 coalition MPs who had voted in support of the bill for blanket amnesty.” Suthep refers to “slave MPs.”

We are not at all sure what legal grounds an impeachment can take, but then legalities have never bothered Suthep, except when they use the courts for political purposes.

Apparently Suthep also wants “social sanctions against senior public officials” he labels as “lackeys” of Thaksin. Attacking officials in this way is an interesting approach, and we guess he is referring to officials like the Department of Special Investigation’s elastic boss Tharit Pengdit, who politically served Suthep before back flipping and having Suthep and his “boss” Abhisit Vejjajiva charged with murder.

Suthep’s call for a boycott of Shinawatra family businesses seems to be erroneously based in the yellow-shirted belief that these businesses allow Thaksin to control money politics. This feeds the disbelief amongst Democrat Party leaders that the electorate repeatedly rejects them at the polls for any reason other than money.

Meanwhile, the Democrat Party has submitted an impeachment motion against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and two other ministers. Apparently, the Democrat Party believes that “the three ministers abused their authority and failed to comply with the law.”

The report provides no more details about the laws broken. Perhaps this is because this is just a political ruse with no basis in law but only in hatred of ministers said to be “inefficient, incompetent, immoral, irresponsible, hypocrites, lack intelligence and leadership and condone cronyism.”

As we said, hatred, but not much else.

Update: A reader drew our attention to a Khaosod report on Suthep’s pleadings, which includes material left out by many other mainstream media, perhaps because they are seriously embarrassing for Suthep who compared “Thaksin′s administration to Adolf Hitler′s subversion of the German Reichstag,” being quoted as stating:

“Thaksin′s Regime has destroyed morality and goodness,” said Mr. Suthep, “It turns the parliamentary system into a tyrannical Parliament, just like the German Parliament under Hitler, which led to the world war that killed millions of people”.

While we are not exactly sure which period of Hitler’s rise Suthep considers here, he probably means from 1930 or perhaps 1932 (a good year for Thailand, moving against the trend to Fascism elsewhere, at least for a few years). By 1933, Hitler effectively became dictator. Yet the comparison is specious. The fact is that Hitler wasn’t in exile and his party was never elected in multiple elections with consistent majorities. And nor was the Nazi party repeatedly thrown out by coups judicial and military or dissolved by the courts.

While reading the newspapers today, PPT was also a bit taken aback to suddenly come across a couple of pieces raising race as an issue. We have already posted the story from The Economist, and in that it is noted that: “… Thaksin, an ethnic-Chinese billionaire, is an odd leader for a group dominated by non-Chinese Thais from the north-east. But they like the populist economic policies, such as a rice-price support scheme attacked this week by the IMF, which he and his sister have pursued.” Well, they are also claimed to like the king, and he’s Sino-Thai too, as are almost all of Thailand’s big business people and major politicians. Northeasterners were particularly attracted to Chatichai Choonhavan, and he was also Sino-Thai.

But it is at the Bangkok Post that the ethnicity line is used more mischievously. In an editorial, the Post states at length that Yingluck’s decision-making in government is driven by her ethnicity:

the Thai-Chinese community champions the family unit. Whether in business or politics, the family is ever present. Never underestimate its cultural importance. As a younger sister – youngest in fact – of a Thai or Thai-Chinese family, obedience to elder family members, especially the patriarch, is the norm, the honourable, time-honoured, expected and righteous thing to do.

It hammers this line and concludes:

Leadership means one must be made of stern stuff. If one can’t stand up for oneself, how can one stand up for one’s country? Between the choice of family and country, as the prime minster, Ms Yingluck must choose the country first, in every single decision.

It does seem odd that suddenly ethnicity is made to matter.

Of course, they could have mentioned the king as an example of a Sino-Thai who has put country before family. But perhaps that example is a bit difficult to deal with as he isn’t the youngest daughter in the clan and his family has done very nicely indeed, with various members of the family doing pretty much what they like with the benefit of taxpayer funding.