Another privy councilor gone

21 06 2018

The king seems to be having trouble maintaining his Privy Council. Since he took the throne there’s been a revolving door as three privy councilors appointed in 2016 have already been shown the exit. As ThaiPBS reports, the third is Gen Theerachai Nakawanich:

Former army commander-in-chief General Thirachai Narkvanich has been relieved as a member of the Privy Council by a Royal Command of His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

According to the Royal Command dated June 19 which was published in the Royal Gazette on June 21, General Thirachai offered to resign from the privy councilor’s post.

The retired general was appointed a member of the Privy Council on December 6, 2016, after his retirement from the military service at the end of September of the same year.





The new privy council

6 12 2016

It was widely expected that the new king would put his stamp on the Privy Council. He’s done that in very quick time.

The Bangkok Post reports that the king has appointed an 11-member Privy Council.

The new members are: “Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan, the current Education Minister; Gen Paiboon Koomchaya, currently the Justice Minister; and Gen Teerachai Nakwanich, who retired as army commander-in-chief on Sept 30.”

We surmise that they will need to give up their current positions.

Those who “retired” are, including the dates they took their positions: “Tanin Kraivixien [1977], Chaovana Nasylvanta [1975], ACM Kamthon Sindhavananda [1987], Gen Pichitr Kullavanijaya [1993], Ampol Senanarong [1994], Rr Adm ML Usani Pramoj [1984], MR Thepkamol Devakula [1997] and Adm Chumpol Patchusanont [2005].”

Persons with more knowledge than us will have to read these tea leaves and explain the possible reasons for sending these men on their way.

This means the current 11 members of the Privy Council are: “Gen Surayud Chulanont, Kasem Watanachai, Palakorn Suwanarat,  Atthaniti Disatha-amnarj, Supachai Phungam, Chanchai Likitjitta, ACM Chalit Pookpasuk, Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan, Gen Teerachai Nakwanich and Gen Paiboon Koomchaya.” General Prem Tinsulanonda is president of the Privy Council.

This means six are military men, all from the post-2006 politicized forces and several of them having been actively involved in coups overthrowing elected governments.

Three are for presidents of the Supreme Court. One is a former education minister and another is Former Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Interior. Except for Prem, all have been appointed since 2001.

The king can have up to 18 members, so there’s plenty of empty chairs for him to add others. At the moment, this new Privy Council will be especially pleasing for the military junta. We can only wonder what the deal is for appointing three two serving ministers and a corrupt officer.





The junta and fairies at the end of the soi

18 08 2016

As most sources have made clear, despite the military dictatorship’s rhetoric, there is currently no evidence  for the repeated claims that the bombings of a week ago were the work of red shirts. Most sources are suggesting that southern separatists are the main suspects.

However, as PPT has pointed out, the junta is not about to let a political  opportunity pass.

The junta  has revealed that it is holding 15 on suspicion of involvement it the bombings and will rearrest two persons  already released.

The junta has let it be known that “the suspects were members of a heretofore unknown political group called ‘Revolution for Democracy Party’.”

As the report  states, this claim “would dovetail nicely with the regime’s insistence the attacks were unrelated to separatists in the Deep South…”.

The report also notes that the “military’s sudden admission it was holding many suspects underscored again the disconnect between the civilian face put on an investigation that is largely being carried out by the military.”

Police have no knowledge of the mostly elderly suspects and nothing to link them to the bombings.

To believe the junta on the basis of so far nonexistent evidence is about as sensible as listening to Army boss General Theerachai Nakawanich, who warned Thais to watch out for people “who wear sunglasses or hats indoors, reasoning that they might be bombers since ordinary Thais would not dress in such costumes.” He added that “carrying backpacks is also abnormal. So we need to help look out [for unusual things]…”.

Believe Gen Theerachai on this and the military on a new conspiratorial group and then look for fairies in the garden at the end of the soi.





More suppliers means more “commissions”

18 05 2016

The Nation reports that Army boss General Theerachai Nakawanich has “defended the decision to purchase main battle tanks [MBTs] from China, saying Chinese hardware is of high quality and performance.” He “explained” that he knew this “since I personally went to see them…”.

Hmm. Theerachai has:

been Director of TMB Bank Public Company Limited since November 2,2015. General Nakwanich serves as Commander in Chief of Royal Thai Army at Metropolitan Electricity Authority. He serves as Secretary of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and Member of the National Legislative Assembly. He received Bachelor of Science, Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, and Diploma of RTA Command and General Staff College. He also completed the programme of National Defence College.

Tanks aren’t listed. But Thailand has hundreds of tanks, of six types, some quite old, so we might assume he’s seen one and sat in it.

The Army has reportedly signed a contract with China’s Norinco for the MBT 3000 main battle tanks, also known as VT4. The tanks would be delivered from 2017. Thailand is the first and, so far, only buyer. The tank is a relatively new version, with a review of it here. One assessment is that “this tank is no match for modern Western MBTs.”

The Army has been having trouble with new tanks because the Ukrainian T-84 Oplot deliveries are way behind schedule.

In 2011, the Army ordered 49 Oplot tanks and only about 10 have arrived. The general says the Oplots will arrive.

If one looks at the Army’s arms purchases, it is noticeable how much kit is acquired and from many suppliers. Often relatively untried equipment is purchased. The reason for this pattern has to do with “commissions” and spreading these out. Each new commander simply loves the idea of new kit. And the boss changes regularly, allowing them to be rewarded and to reward themselves.





More and more repression

4 05 2016

PPT is playing catch-up on our posting. The military dictatorship has become so aggressively repressive that we simply can’t keep up with all of its machinations. Here are a couple of stories we think were important over the last couple of days, and we’ll try to post a little more to report on the repression.

The Bangkok Post reports that the military brass is planning even “[t]ougher steps … to deal with anti-coup elements,” to support is bosses in the junta. Army chief General Theerachai Nakawanich says he and the regime are intent on arresting red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan and independent red shirt Sombat Boonngamanong. Also on their list is Thaksin Shinawatra’s son, Panthongtae.

The general makes the claim that “coup critics are bent on causing public unrest,” states that Jatuporn and Sombat are behind the eight Facebook users arrested last week accused of lese general, lese majeste, poking fun at the military junta, sedition and computer crimes.

The conspiratorial military dictatorship has even come up with another of its pathetic diagrams of plots and plotters. The general claimed that the “anti-coup chart was based on the suspects’ statements given to police,” but is yet another junta concoction.

The difference this time is that the “conspirators” are political opponents who have been ridiculing the regime and gingerly opposing the coup. None of them have attempted to hide their activities, so even the dopiest of police and military knuckle draggers could “identify” them. Some of the claims made about the Facebookers goes back before the coup, when ridiculing military thugs was legal.

The general promised no more “attitude adjustment” because “it’s hard to talk to them now.” More repression is the promise.

The regime has stated that it is also chasing down Panthongtae Shinawatra, claiming he is also “linked to the eight suspects.” The police, however, that they need to concoct more evidence.

In another Bangkok Post story, a “nationalist group with unknown backers” – that usually means the military itself – “petitioned the Crime Suppression Division to investigate whether someone is providing financial support for student anti-coup activists rallying under the New Democracy Movement banner.”

This is just the military’s claim that Thaksin is funding every critic, warmed over by yet another fascist group.

As far as we can tell, the Neo-Democracy group’s most expensive actions have involved train tickets to Hua Hin and Post-it notes. But such claims are just another aspect of the repression of political opponents. Given the history of the military’s creation and use of right-wing groups this new group adds to the fear and intimidation.





Murderous thugs

12 04 2016

PPT has some readers who get agitated when we point to the fact that Thailand’s military has been, since its modern birth in the nineteenth century, a force for internal security. These readers get angry when we observe that this has meant that the military enjoys such impunity that it literally gets away with murder. Thousands have fallen victim to this murderous gang over the decades.

The most recent bunch of murderous thugs seized control of government in May 2014.

The Bangkok Post seems to agree on some of this, turning on the military over the death of a recruit as a result of torture.

The Post editorial begins with this:

It was a shocking revelation that the commander of today’s Royal Thai Army had to publicly order his officers not to murder or torture fellow soldiers. Yet that was the order issued last week by army commander Gen Teerachai Nakwanich, and shown to the public.

While suffering historical blindness, saying that the military has a tradition of “142 years of serving the nation,” the editorial seems shocked that the “army has officers and men capable of killing their own service members.”

This is faux shock. After all, torture is standard operating procedure for the military when dealing with the elite’s political opponents. More importantly, though, revelations about this kind of pathological behavior used against recruits have been around for decades. Ask any male villager who has been called up in the national draft and they can tell of such incidents. (The rich and even the middle class can avoid duty in the ranks through favors and pay-offs.)

The Post knows all of this. It rightly observes that “the army by its traditions treats such premeditated murders gently.” For torture and murder, the Army confines perpetrators to their barracks for 30 days. In other words, the corrupt military condones murder and torture and grants its murderers and torturers impunity. It does this because it must maintain servility and hierarchy. It considers the murderers and torturers loyal and that they are doing their duty.

And if it wasn’t clear enough, we can repeat it: murder is a “tradition” in this corrupt organization that values only loyalty, subservience and hierarchy. Murder is a tradition in the monarchy’s military.These thugs, murderers and torturers protect the monarchy as the cornerstone of an edifice of corruption, impunity, power and exploitation.

The Post also says this:

Gen Teerachai and his superior, Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, appear in denial about a key fact. The Royal Thai Army suffers and perhaps condones such vicious attacks on its men and women — and especially its recruits. “Incidents like this are rare,” said Gen Prawit, who is clearly at the top of the current military hierarchy. But this hardly fits the known facts.

Credit social media once again with quickly assembling a number of actual and recent videos of soldiers beating conscripts. Recruits often are forced to strip, and are beaten and kicked. The compilation is difficult to watch. The last video shows the beating death of Pvt Wichian Phuaksom, also in the South, in 2011.

The videos confirm such incidents are not rare, as Gen Prawit says. It is even worse, knowing that this is the filmed tip of this violent iceberg. One must guess how many beatings were not taped and completely covered up.

We have chosen not to link to the videos. It is crystal clear that General Prawit, one of the coup leaders and a leader of the military junta is a liar.

The Post is right to demand better: “the army must clean house on this despicable matter.” But here’s the rub. The Post cannot call a spade a spade:

The murder and beating were premeditated acts. They deserve courts martial, just as if they had occurred outside the army camp by civilians. The military is a unique institution, but it cannot harbour men who believe they have the right to kill and maim fellow soldiers. No such licence can exist anywhere in Thai society.

The fact is that Thailand’s military is corrupt and incapable of reform. It has political power and is run by thugs who got to the top of a rotten organization because they do what is required. They sit atop an organization that is the elite’s enforcers, torturers and murderers.

In this context, PPT wonders if the Post understands its own words:

In their high positions, Gen Prawit and Gen Teerachai represent the entire nation. They are commanding officers, men and women responsible for defending the nation against all enemies, including gross indecencies against their own fellow service members. Army discipline obviously needs full-scale reform. Pvt Songtham must be the last Thai soldier killed by his fellow men in uniform.

Thais should be ashamed that thugs “represent the entire nation.” Reform is a word much loved by the military junta. In Thailand it has come to mean a return to the values of loyalty, subservience and hierarchy that serve to maintain exploitation and subjugation, and it is this system that requires thugs, murderers and torturers.





The authoritarian swamp

2 04 2016

Military regimes are intolerant regimes. Military dictatorships abhor opposition. Military juntas tend to be be arrogant and corrupt.

Thailand’s arrogant and corrupt military regime is intolerant of any and all opposition.

When international human rights groups and some Western governments “call” on Thailand’s military leaders to be more tolerant, grant political freedoms and return the country to democracy, they are pissing into the wind.

This junta has made it clear that they are doing nothing of the kind. In fact, from day 1, their task has been to repress, deny freedoms and, most importantly, to deliver a “reformed” political system that is not recognizable as anything democratic.

As the regime seeks to have the charter it has ordered and designed “accepted” in a referendum, it has decided that it will simply push it through. This means one-sided propaganda, dirty tricks and the suppression of all opposition voices. slippery slope

The more repressive measures the military dictatorship uses, the more deeply entrenched and “normalized” these measures become. A few years ago, PPT warned of the slippery slope into the cesspool of authoritarianism. Unfortunately, the slide that began in earnest following the 2006 military coup and deepened under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, is at its lowest point.

The military junta has shown itself to be like repressive pigs wallowing in authoritarian clover. Beneath the clover is the dark, stinking mud of torture, murder, enforced disappearance, corruption and impunity. This is the natural terrain of the military dictator, and Thailand’s military brass is enjoying its return and is intent on expanding this cesspool.

This is seen in reports that the military junta has gleefully declared that it has “put the final touches on a seven-day reeducation program reserved exclusively for politicians to be held at military bases…”.

Like an SS commander who is proud of concentration camps, Army chief General Theerachai Nakawanich joked that this “invitation-only program is meant for the junta’s persistent critics.” This comedic authoritarian declared that the regime “is currently seeking ‘students’…”. As the report explains, this will be for opposition politicians “who will be forcibly enrolled.” Theerachai continues, deriding opponents: “This course is not available by application…. It’s only for those who cannot make sense, so we must call them to create understanding.”

Calling these re-education activities concentration camps may seem alarmist, but then look at articles on re-education camps, here, here and here. Then think of the idea of a “learning course” for politicians who are said to require attitude adjustment.

Theerachai proudly declared he “already has a list of students in hand, which he described as the usual suspects.” Every military base in the country is to be available for holding those rounded up. Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha said the “course is designed to create better understanding of the military government’s work among the politicians who always criticize him.” Other junta spokespersons have said that the compulsory re-education inside military bases “will target those who criticize the draft constitution or make comments against the junta.”

Rounding up political opponents and forcing them into re-education programs in military camps is not an action of a benign regime keen on returning Thailand to freedom and democracy. This is an act of a determinedly repressive, deeply conservative and dangerous regime. The only way to defeat it is not through the junta’s referendum to be followed by the junta’s election but through active and persistent opposition.





Repression deepens, gulags promised

29 03 2016

A day or so ago, PPT wrote that we expected that getting a Yes vote in the referendum would depend entirely on repression and coercion.

Following calls by royalists and dedicated anti-democrats for more repression, the junta has shown our  prediction to be correct. The military dictatorship of junta and military have made coordinated threats.

In a report at the Bangkok Post, the junta’s dumpy boss of bosses General Prawit Wongsuwan “said he will propose that the National Council for Peace and Order [the junta] arrange a special course to ‘re-educate’ politicians who were invited for ‘attitude adjustment’ but continued their ‘unruly’ behaviour.”

Prawit is essentially promising a gulag for political opponents.

The report states that the diminutive thug was “apparently referring to Watana Muangsook, a core member of the Pheu Thai Party … and Worachai Hema, a former Pheu Thai MP for Samut Prakan.” But the threat to all opponents is deadly clear. We say “deadly” because people have died in custody under this regime and because the Thai military is skilled at killing its own citizens.

Worachai is already in custody and held in some secret military detention site for mild and reasonable comments on the referendum and charter. All Watana did before being abducted was point out the unfairness of the detention of his colleague.

The ridiculous Prawit lies that these abductions and detentions are not “a violation of anybody’s rights.” Prawit is a dunce on rights; he only knows thuggery.

Prawit’s view is the the charter belongs to the dictatorship and it is right and correct on everything:

The draft charter is nearly ready.  We are approaching the public referendum stage. The NCPO [junta] knows what they have been doing…

He’s right on one thing: the junta knows that this ridiculous and undemocratic charter and the junta’s grip on power that it arranges can only pass with huge repression and charlatanry. No one will be permitted to say anything negative about the charter, the referendum of the increasingly nasty and threatening junta.

Further building the case for deepened repression, The Dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “declared he will not tolerate politicians who have repeatedly defied the government.” The Dictator stated: “From now on, those who are summoned must attend a training session to improve their understanding.”

We weren’t aware that there has ever been a choice. The military simply arrives and spirits people away.

The Dictator huffed, puffed and trumpeted: “They will also be asked about what they did in the past — right or wrong — and what they plan to do if they form a government…”. Huh? We take it that this is just Prayuth’s inability to construct sensible spoken sentences.

He belched something about “if they [politicians] cannot think for themselves, they should no longer be politicians.” He’s fortunate that the same “logic” is not applied to the junta.

And, he added: “… the government … cannot let them criticise it.” As usual, The Dictator personalized: “I cannot accept the fact that they still keep criticising…”. When he thinks he’s under attack, Prayuth becomes very dangerous and threatening. He can get away with murder.

Adding to the threats and launching intimidation, the Bangkok Post reports that Army chief General Theerachai Nakawanich “ordered immediate crackdown on any action the government believes will lead people to ‘misunderstand’ the government’s workings before the charter referendum in August.”

Bizarrely, but par for the course for these bumptious and dim generals, the Army boss “told subordinates the country has entered an important period where public participation in the referendum on the proposed constitution was essential…”. He means to say that the junta needs a cacophony of positive statements while grinding out opposition voices.

The Army declared that “law enforcement and social order operations were being intensified, focusing their suppression efforts on influential local people and those illegally possessing military-grade weapons.”

Again, we can be confused here. It is the military that is armed. What is clear is that the military is going to crush opposition.

This is getting very ugly. In such circumstances, when US Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Sarah Sewall calls for “the government to respect freedom of expression,” she sounds ridiculous.

This is a regime that is becoming increasingly brutal and rejects and barely understands notions like freedom. She’s spitting into the wind. Rights? Freedoms? There are none.

Expect more arrests, disappearances and plenty of intimidation.





With a major update: Clean as a whistle

25 03 2016

The Corruption Park scandal is said to be officially over. It wasn’t necessarily always so simple. At the beginning of the affair, it was caught up in claims over corruption by some close to the palace or parts of it. Even the person at the center of investigations, former Army boss and junta member General Udomdej Sitabutr, admitted that “commissions” had been paid and then “repaid.”

Their were also conflicts within the junta and the military as Udomdej was “targeted.” Importantly, though, Udomdej was strongly supported by senior junta mover and shaker General Prawit Wongsuwan, who made it clear that he wanted his loyal underling cleared.

Khaosod reports that yet another junta-commanded corruption “investigation” has found “[n]o trace of corruption or malfeasance … in the construction of a royal monument … as widely alleged in media reports, a junta-appointed committee declared…”.

Corruption

Auditor-General Pisit Leelavachiropas was precise: ““There was no violation of bureaucratic procedure” following an inspection of “more than 95 percent” of all documents available.

Well, clear about the limited parameters of the “investigation.”

Many of the allegations revolved around “commissions” paid to Watcharapong Radomsittipat or Sian U, and amulet dealer. However, that dealer had already been “cleared” by the Office of the Auditor-General of “allegations he demanded kickbacks from foundries hired to cast the statues of seven Thai kings at Rajabhakti Park…”. That was more than a month ago.

At the time, the trader “admitted he received a total of 20 million baht from the foundries, but the money was paid for his role as their adviser, coordinator, work supervisor and problem solver…”. According to Auditor-General Pisit, these were “management fees,” not “kickbacks…”.

According to the OAG, the trader “decided” – when? under what pressure? – to “return the money to the foundries because he preferred to help build the park as a volunteer.” Yeah, right…. He claimed “the foundries did not want the money back, so Sian U donated it to the Rajabhakti Park project.” Yeah, right….

Sounds more like a cover up to us.

This “investigation” of the trader was carried over into the broader “investigation” with the same story claimed by the Auditor-General.

This rather dubious “investigation” was sufficient, however, for General Prawit. The Bangkok Post reports that Prawit declared: “It has ended…”. He said Army commander Theerachai Nakawanich, who “was reported to have pushed the issue into the spotlight and wanted an investigation into the project” if it was “ended.” He replied it was ended.

The boss hopes that’s the case. The military is now going to go ahead and spend even more money on Corruption Park.

Update 1: A reader points out our failure to note that at least two senior military officers, linked to Udomdej, fled Thailand over the the murky events surrounding the Corruption Park scandal and Bike for Mom and Bike for Dad events. With the junta in place, truth on this case will be mediated by self-interest.

Update 2: It is interesting to note that the Bangkok Post has an editorial that criticizes the decision that all is “squeaky clean.” It refers to a “perilous” and “dangerous precedent.”

It states that the “CNAC, chaired by Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya, comprises all major state corruption busters including the PACC, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG). Its approval should have restored the tainted park to the glory it deserves.” Yes, we know, the last statement is the required royal ridiculousness.

The editorial continues:

Unfortunately, the coalition of public graft-busting organisations let the public down when it resorted to euphemism and round-about explanations instead of tackling the accusation squarely and straightforwardly.

In short, the the CNAC found out five foundries paid about 20 million baht to the amulet trader identified as Sian U for “recommending” the jobs of casting oversized statues of past monarchs at Rajabhakti Park to them. The amount is also considered remuneration for advice that Sian U gave to the foundries during the casting process, according to the CNAC.

For most people, a payment given to people who recommend jobs or serve as a sales facilitator is called a commission.

The CNAC, however, seemed to go out of its way to gloss over the dubious practice in its Wednesday announcement.

The coalition of graftbusters said the money was paid between private parties. It reasoned the rate was in line with market prices, and that the amulet trader had enough expertise to serve as a consultant to the foundries.

These explanations are not relevant to the central question regarding the kickbacks scandal.

… What gave the amulet trader the authority to “recommend” jobs in the state project to private businesses? Why was he allowed to make money as a go-between when the process of finding contractors to cast the park’s statues should have been carried out in an open and fair manner in compliance with state procurement practices? What connections did he enjoy with the army that allowed him to claim he could “recommend” its jobs to private business?

More importantly, the CNAC acknowledged that the Sian U was later told by the army not to keep the money so he donated it back to the Rajabhakti Park fund. If the money was a clean, aboveboard business transaction, why did the army have to tell the amulet trader to “donate” it?

Sadly, the CNAC did not appear to pay attention to any of these crucial questions as it explained away the scandal with irrelevant facts. Worse, by suggesting that it is acceptable for people to charge money by recommending jobs in state projects to private businesses, the graftbusters are opening up vast new areas for fraud and deceit.





Uniform referendum

21 02 2016

The military dictatorship still seems unable to comprehend – or is internally undecided or even in conflict – over the path of its charter. Most analysts consider that the draft was dead on arrival.

That’s one reason why the military is mobilizing to enforce the junta’s perspective on the draft charter.

In a recent report, the Bangkok Post says that Army chief General Theerachai Nakawanich has dismissed “criticism the military was exploiting around 100,000 Ror Dor territorial defence students as a tool to disseminate propaganda messages about the draft charter and manipulate the upcoming referendum.”

Of course, like others in the military dictatorship, he’s an inveterate liar. His denial is simply ridiculous and no one of sane mind will believe this nonsense.

He made these outrageous lies while attending a “training” session on the draft charter and the referendum.

His lies went even further, when he made the ludicrous claim that the “Ror Dor students would be volunteering only to explain the referendum and the draft charter to the public, without manipulating anyone’s thoughts.”

There are fairies at the end of the garden, trees provide lottery numbers, dolls ward off evil and the army is incorruptible. These claims rank as seriously as the general’s lies.

One fact is that the “Ror Dor students will voluntarily serve as assistants to officials at the polling stations” for the referendum.

We had assumed that the hopelessly politicized Election Commission would say something on this. But as expected, it seems to think it is wonderful to have a bunch of kids in uniform meddling in the vote and its count and hanging about the polling station, “advising” voters. It stated that it is “is seeking the Territorial Defence Command’s permission to appoint the Ror Dor students as official assistants at the referendum.”

We are sure that such election/referendum fixing will be quickly approved. Will it be enough? Probably not. If the military dictatorship decides it wants the charter, then we’d expect it to intervene more extensively to ensure a Yes vote.