Further updated: No law for the junta’s party I

21 12 2018

The junta’s main devil party, Palang Pracharath, held a big bash for “supporters” to give it hundreds of millions of baht. The Nation reports that the fund-raising bash “featured 200 banquet tables and was aimed at raising around Bt600 million for the pro-junta party.” In fact, the party’s deputy leader Nattapol Teepsuwan said the “actual take was nearly Bt650 million, against an outlay of Bt3 million.”

The whole event had a dubious legal status, but as we know, law doesn’t bother the military junta and its acolytes.

As pointed out by two other party hierarchies, even holding the event seems illegal. Puea Thai’s Phumtham Wechayachai pointed out that his party cannot “organise a fundraising event in that fashion because the organic law governing political parties does not permit fundraising [until] after a royal decree announcing the election takes effect.” He noted that the decree is not expected until 2 January.

Phumtham suggested that the Election Commission and the National Anti-Corruption Commission “investigate the feast following reports that government officials and political office holders contributed to the campaign.”

His position was supported by Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva who “called on the PPRP [Palang Pracharath] to disclose the names of its supporters at the fundraising banquet for the sake of transparency and in compliance with the law.” He observed that “people who donate 100,000 baht or more to a campaign are legally required to disclose their identities. Those who paid for the tables [at the Palang Pracharath shindig] are considered to be the party’s financial contributors.”

One of the legal questions relates to “how Cabinet ministers and civil servants were able to afford seats at an extravagant fundraising dinner run by the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party on Wednesday.” Well, maybe not how they could afford tables but where the money came from. In addition, the “law on political parties prohibits state agencies from giving them donations of any kind or participating in their activities.”

The devil party and the junta needs to “explain” how tables that cost Bt3 million each “were reserved in the names of the Finance Ministry and state agencies including the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).” Twenty tables were reserved for the Finance Ministry (60 million baht) and three for TAT (9 million baht), meaning that just these two state agencies poured 69 million baht into the junta’s political party.

Finance permanent secretary Prasong Poonthanet “insisted yesterday that no state funds had been expended.” He did not explain how the Ministry had and paid for 20 tables.

In addition, “[f]our tables, worth a combined Bt12 million, were reserved in the name of Phalang Pracharat secretary-general Sonthirat Sonthijirawong, who is commerce minister in the military-led government.”

Reacting to this obvious breach of rules, “activist Veera Somkwamkid said yesterday the National Anti-Corruption Commission should determine how many active civil servants attended the fund-raiser and how they obtained tickets.” He added to the legal mire by pointing out that if civil servants had seats given to them, “they should be scrutinised for illegally receiving a gift worth more than Bt3,000. And if they paid for themselves, they should be scrutinised for being ‘unusually rich’…”.

Because this is the junta’s party and enjoys reflected impunity and because the EC and NACC are essentially puppets of the junta, we would be surprised if they did anything much at all.

Update 1: For more information on who reserved tables at 3 million baht a pop, see the Thai-language ISRA News site. It lists names and numbers of tables. One important omission from the above news stories is the Bangkok Administration with 10 table (30 million baht). Naturally enough, the governor of Bangkok is a junta appointee and other senior members of that administration are deep yellow junta supporters.

Update 2: The Nation reports that the TAT has said it is “impossible” that “it spent Bt9 million on banquet tables at a fundraising dinner for pro-junta party Phalang Pracharat.” TAT director Yuthasak Supakorn declared his “agency had nothing to do with the dinner” adding that he “might take legal action against those reporting the false news for defaming the agency.” A Palang Pracharath official concurred and “rejected the report that the finance ministry and TAT had made donations and joined the fundraising dinner on Wednesday.” He added that “the fundraising process was transparent and the party would disclose the names of the donors in a couple of weeks.” We are pleased that’s sorted out then. Or that it will be fudged “in a couple of weeks.”

Sport and dictators

4 10 2015

Sports stars often claim they are ignorant of “politics.” They may be, although we doubt the claim when it comes to highly-ranked players who travel the world with entourages of managers, coaches, advisers and other minions. Some are outspoken, like Novak Djokovic who has proclaimed that he is a Serbian nationalist, while others like Rafael Nadal claim no politics.

We mention these two because they have landed themselves in the middle of the world’s only military dictatorship and have actively promoted that horrid regime and the symbols that underpin royalist politics. One report states that the two players “came to Bangkok to earn a few million dollars for an exhibition match. But there were a few strings attached.” The report stated that the two earned “a total of 150 million baht ($4.1 million) for coming to Thailand.” They were on court for about an hour. As another report has it, they “spent longer in official engagements than on the court.”Tennis2

More important, however, was the before propaganda. Djokovic and Nadal put on the junta uniform of silk jackets in the royal colors of blue and yellow. The reports state that the “dress code was part of a tightly scripted trip meant to boost military-ruled Thailand’s image, which included a meeting with the junta leader.” They met with The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha. They also “signed a book of well wishing for the … Thai [k]ing…” and visited the “Erawan Shrine, the site of a deadly bombing in August, where the players laid wreaths and posed for pictures under tight security…”.

Obviously money talks very loudly for the players, but the investment by the regime’s supporters must have been considered useful in propping up repression and authoritarianism.

Back on 2 September, it was reported that the “Lawn Tennis Association of Thailand is joining hands with True Corporation to hold a special tennis match featuring World’s Number One tennis player Novak Djokovic and former World’s Number One player Rafael Nadal at Hua Mark In-door stadium on October 2.”

Suwat Lipatawallop, president of the Lawn Tennis Association of Thailand, stated that “the organizing committee had been working out the programme of activities for the two players to promote tourism in Thailand.” In fact, the “program” was one of supporting the monarchy and military regime. Not that many tourists show up in Thailand to play tennis, but we imagine that the event was about branding, especially in Europe. where the coup and the rule of military dictators means Thailand has declined in the estimation of European tourists.

It was added that “the match will be an inspiration for Thai youths to turn to sports.”

Given that tickets were priced from 1,000-5,000 baht each, we guess that Suwat means the kids of the elite. Even if poor kids and the disable were to be invited, to be polite, tennis is not widely played by the poor. Tennis

This event was the military dictatorship’s propaganda exercise. With Suwat Liptapanlop (สุวัจน์ ลิปตพัลลภ) as president, the administration of the LTAT is dominated by the military and funded by the Sino-Thai tycoons of the royalist elite.

When the “special tennis match was disclosed at a press conference held at the Grand Hyatt Erawan,” Suwat was joined by Supachai Chearavanont, a vice chairman of the giant Charoen Pokphand group and CEO of the True Corporation. The generals were gleeful when it was announced that the military-tycoon elite had captured two big name sportsmen.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand claimed the tennis players had “helped to promote Thailand’s tourist credentials,” and saying that they had shown that “it’s business as usual” under the military junta.

That’s the point. Money invested by the tycoons and state for propagandizing for the military and its monarchy.

Saliva and the military hindquarters

8 06 2014

Forgive us, it’s Sunday and the military dictatorship is causing us angst and so we are feeling about for an appropriate header for this story that conveys disgust without being too coarse. We are keen to express our disgust.

Here we go with the grovelling before the power of the junta that is, well, simply disgusting.

The first story that caused us to gag on our Sunday coffee was a dribbling and sycophantic use of the muscular hydrostat that comes from the Bangkok Post’s “About Politics” column. This column is often a retelling of things that appear in the Thai-language media, but this one appears to be the Post’s own work. It tells us that Thais are really happy about the coup and includes a pin-up picture of the dictator. Maybe a centerfold would be more appropriate:

The May 22 military coup has brought back hope for many people as it ended the six-month political deadlock and turmoil that inflicted huge damage on the country.No coup

For the coup supporters, the putsch pulled the country back from the brink. Many believe the coup makers led by army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha are showing good intentions about restoring democracy and steering the country forward.

Okay, “many people” has morphed into “coup supporters,” but the thrust is clear. If you missed the intent, here it is:

Many Thais believe the coup may be a blessing in disguise.

It provides a chance to “get the house in order” and transform the country’s political system from a half-baked democracy to a fully fledged one, according to coup supporters.

Hang on. Is the Post recycling a “good coup” story from September 2006? Apparently not. This is support for yet another military coup from the Bangkok Post.

According to this piece of posterior grooming, it is only those nasty and conspiratorial Westerners who dislike the coup. Yes, the same ones who rented and trained the Thai military for a couple of decades during the Cold War. The understanding chaps in China and Russia were far more accommodating of the junta.

The second story is from an unusual source and reports on an unusual story. It comes from eTN Global Travel Industry News and reports on the Tourism Authority of Thailand press conference during the Thailand Travel Mart. The TAT joined the anti-foreign media chorus, demanding: “We want positive coverage from the international media!”

Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Thawatchai Arunyik asked the media to “spread the word that Thailand is safe for tourists.” Well, only if they keep their fingers in their pockets.  Speaking at the Thailand Travel Mart, TAT Governor Thawatchai then aded this remarkable observation:

We would like to inform you that the word ‘coup’ in Thailand is not considered as sensitive as it means in other parts of the world. ‘Coup’ in Thailand is still peaceful and safe for both the local people and visitors to the country.

Yes, a coup in Thailand is different. There are certainly plenty of them. That’s different. The military throws out constitutions like they are waste paper, even the ones it designs itself. That’s different. And the average coup doesn’t result in hundreds of deaths. Rather the military engages in the massacre of its own citizens when it feels the lower classes need to be taught a lesson. That’s different. Tourism-Authority-of-Thailand

We hope he had a way to wipe up all that dripping watery and somewhat frothy substance.

Even a travel writer reckons Thawatchai is a bit dull, commenting:

But Thailand is at crossroads, and despite the idyllic description of the bloodless peaceful military coup, the situation remains uneasy. This can be judged by the fact that Bangkok remains under curfew. And according to [Thawatchai], there is little chance that the curfew for the capital might be reviewed anytime soon, in contrary to other destinations. This is also for security reasons.

There is also the ugly part of the recent military intervention, which of course has little to do with tourism. Hundreds of people were arrested around the country as they were considered a threat to security due to their difference of opinion or their opposition to the military coup. This is likely to create a certain malaise among some people concerned about the respect of freedom of speech around the world.

The reporter needs to understand that Thawatchai would also consider “respect for freedom of speech” different in Thailand. There’s no freedom, so there is no need to respect speech. Or even silence if it comes from anti-coup protesters or from lese majeste convicts who said nothing but still got dragged off to prison. Yes, it’s different.



TAT and the republic

4 10 2010

It is just a little late for a weekend chuckle, but this report from ScandAsia.com caught PPT’s eye today:

Thailand a republic?

In the catalog published by TAT [Tourism Authority of Thailand] listing the names of all the people who over the years have been recipients of the award for supporting the Kingdom of Thailand – Denmark was listed as “Denmark Republic”. With its focus on Thailand as a Kingdom, it is surprising that TAT does not know that Denmark is the oldest continuous monarchy in Europe.

But as one of the participants in the award ceremony noticed “as long as it was not the Tourism Authority of Denmark who named Thailand a republic, I don’t think there is much harm done..”

Imagine the diplomatic brouhaha if it had been a Danish organization making the claim for Thailand!

These words come at the end of a report on more of the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s promotion of Thailand’s Best Friends (in this case, “Friends of Thailand.”) This time the awards were distributed at what is described as a “mega ceremony held in Centara Grand in Bangkok.”

Democrat Party double standards

26 06 2010

PPT has several times pointed out that Democrat Party spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks uses the monarchy for political purposes (see our post of 7 December 2009) and as a supporter of political repression (see, for example, our post of 4 October 2009).

According to the Bangkok Post, Buranaj’s latest foray into the realms of Orwellian politics is to demand that his party’s government “ban a foreign lawyer [Robert Amsterdam] working for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra from entering the country because of his offensive and ill-informed remarks about Thailand…”.

Buranaj calls for a ban on Amsterdam because of the “crime” of criticizing the “government’s reconciliation plan as ‘phoney’ in a press interview in Japan.” Amsterdam’s blog on Thailand which, unlike PPT, is not blocked, has the details posted. In it he says: “It is impossible to reconcile with political opponents who you jail pursuant to an emergency decree, using emergency legislation that is contrary to the rule of law…. The Thai government is doing everything to restrict their access to funds, to restrict their access to travel, to restrict their access to speak, so that this, if you excuse me, phony reconciliation can go on.” Amsterdam went on to call for “reconciliation through an international tribunal and ‘something revolutionary called elections’.”

The Post adds that Amsterdam has “also attacked the Thai government’s imposition of the emergency decree, saying it was contrary to the rule of law.”

None of this sounds like reasonable grounds for banning Amsterdam from Thailand and far more has already been said of this so-called reconciliation by PPT and commentators in Thailand.

But Buranaj is not reasonable, even making the claim that “Amsterdam intentionally made these remarks in Japan because a Japanese reporter was killed in the cross-fire on April 10 during the violence between  soldiers and red-shirt protesters.”

PPT has no idea of Amsterdam’s motives and we doubt that Buranaj does either – he’s making it up. But raising the death of the Japanese journalist is interesting as there has been no report of what actually happened to him, despite the government’s earlier promises.

Dedicated royalist Buranaj makes another of his standard charges, claiming that Amsterdam also wants to draw the king into politics. Buranaj claims that Amsterdam wants to “cause misunderstanding” on the monarchy and politics. Despite Buranaj’s regular use of the monarchy for political purposes (search the PPT site on this) it seems that he wants a monopoly on that use. Everyone knows the king and palace are deeply, deeply politicized.

Buranaj’s claims also refer to “rule of law,” so it is with some delight that PPT can link Buranaj’s Orwellianism to his government’s hiring of Martha Stewart to film cooking shows in Thailand.

M&C has a DPA report that the Tourism Authority of Thailand has Stewart “as part of a new campaign to draw more female tourists…” and will pay at least 10 million baht for “Stewart’s help in promoting the country’s travel industry…”. According to the report, the TAT hopes that the “endorsement” by the US celebrity cook will bring tourists back to Thailand.

Stewart still has some following in the US, but the 69 year-old has also served time in jail after being indicted on 9 counts, including charges of securities fraud and obstruction of justice in 2003. She served 5 months and was also subject to a 2-year period of supervised release. According to the U.K.’s Telegraph, she was banned from entry to Britain because of her criminal record.

Recall that this Democrat Party-led government cheered long and loud when Thaksin was banned from entry to the U.K. because of his conviction in the Thai courts. PPT wonders if Buranaj can explain his party’s double standards in this regard? Doesn’t it seem odd that he wants to ban someone from entry to Thailand for political purposes but is prepared to accept a convicted criminal to promote Thailand?

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