Who is paying the piper?

14 11 2012

While the Puea Thai Party-led government is trying to play down the Pitak Siam rally planned for 24 November, it is clear that ardent yellow shirts are hoping for confrontations. Their social media are reflecting this desire as part of a broader mobilization strategy for the groups that came together in 2006 and 2008, then under the banner of the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

National police chief General Adul Saengsingkaew, who will be responsible for overseeing the protest and maintaining law and order during the rally, seems far less sure. He states that he will “propose the cabinet invoke the Internal Security Act.” That too would please the more agitated amongst the royalist anti-Thaksinites.

Most interesting in Adul’s comments was the report that he “confirmed that reports that a group of people had contributed a total of six billion baht to a fund for the ousting of the Yingluck Shinawatra government matched information in a Special Branch Police intelligence report.” If such a huge amount is even considered likely, that is a large war chest indeed, and social media accounts have some of this coming from disgruntled rice traders.

Adul added that “the same group also supported the “anti-government rallygoers”, but declined to give further details.” In the past, rumors have circulated about support to yellow shirts from anti-Thaksin Sino-Thai tycoons from banking conglomerates and including industrialists like  Prachai Leophairatana. In earlier posts on this funding, PPT stated:

Prachai became a solid member of the group of Sino-Thai businesspeople who opposed Thaksin and, some suggest, he became major funders to PAD. Readers might also recall that one of the cases that saw the Democrat Party get off charges that originated in the Election Commission, where Prachai and TPI Polene stood accused of an illegal transfer of funds to the Party.

As we have been saying in recent posts, it really is beginning to look like the old gang is getting back together. If they have solid funding, then a long standoff, violence and political gridlock are not out of the question.





Sondhi gets jail time, bailed

9 08 2012

Readers will be interested in a brief story at The Nation that reports the sentencing of People’s Alliance for Democracy leader Sondhi Limthongkul to jail. As usual, it isn’t that simple, for he has been bailed on appeal.

The Rayong Provincial Court reportedly sentenced Sondhi “to two years in jail for defaming General Mongkol Ampornpisit, former chairman of the TPI Polene rehabilitation committee.” He also received a fine.

The lawsuit, dating from 2007, saw Mongkol claiming that Sondhi had defamed him in a broadcast talk show on 25 May that year. The report doesn’t note that Mongkol is a former close aide to Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda and a former supreme commander of the armed forces.

The short report says that the case revolved around Sondhi’s claim that “Mongkol had abused his authority to siphon money from TPI, which later changed its name to IRPC, by paying himself a huge salary as well as giving large fees to an advisory firm.” The Rayong Court decided that Sondhi was guilty and sentenced him to two years in jail, with no suspension of the term. As noted above, Sondhi has been released on bail pending his appeal.

The first point to make is that when advocates of the lese majeste law claim that it is “like the defamation law,” they can’t be believed. Sondhi gets immediate bail. Think of all the lese majeste cases where bail is refused again and again, and where sentences are regularly for 10-20 years.

On the case itself, and Sondhi’s involvement, the story is a longish one and PPT has to admit that we haven’t followed it too much. However, it is worth noting that General Prem’s associate General Mongkol was initially appointed to TPI by the Thaksin Shinawatra government. TPI was a festering sore amongst the companies that had crashed following the beginning of the 1997 economic crisis.  The Leophairatana family had refused to restructure the company as its debt mushroomed. As an incomplete Wikipedia page describes it:

When the crisis struck, it emerged that TPI owed US$3.2 billion in external debt to some four hundred creditors. In 1997, the group made exchange losses of … around 5 billion USD. All expansion plans were put on hold, and TPI entered into acrimonious negotiations with its creditors. In an attempt to retain control, Prachai [Leophairatana] put both the holding company and the cement firm, TPI Polene, into the bankruptcy court in 2000. Over the next five years, Prachai used lawsuits, political connections, public advertising, and nationalist posturing in his attempt to retain control. However, with … Thaksin Shinawatra’s term in office, …[and] a bankruptcy court ruling in 2005, the state-owned petroleum corporation PTT, became the major investor in TPI with a 30 percent stake and the family was reduced to a 15 percent minority.

Prachai also mounted media campaigns, painting himself as an injured party. General Mongkol was made head of the plan administrators charged with coming up with a debt restructuring plan for TPI. Prachai was eventually forced out and had to sell his remaining stock.

It is little wonder then, that Prachai became a solid member of the group of Sino-Thai businesspeople who opposed Thaksin and, some suggest, he became major funders to PAD. Readers might also recall that one of the cases that saw the Democrat Party get off charges that originated in the Election Commission, where Prachai and TPI Polene stood accused of an illegal transfer of funds to the Party. TPI Polene is still controlled by Prachai and his relatives (be aware that this is a large PDF, and if downloaded, read from about p. 143) and has continued to fight for it. There’s some more available on the story, indicating Prachai’s politics and his fallout with Thaksin.

Prachai has managed, despite once being Thailand’s largest debtor, kept his fortune, and is ranked 29th richest person in Thailand.

Sondhi appears to have appreciated Prachai’s support, and hence spoke for him and against General Mongkol. It should be added that the relationship between Prem and Sondhi has not been smooth, and this may be related to the Sondhi’s support of Prachai and his attack on General Mongkol. In addition, a major creditor to TPI was reportedly the Bangkok Bank, where Prem has long had connections and mutual support.





Suspicions

28 07 2010

There have only been a few stories that caught PPT’s attention in the past couple of days amidst by-elections, a bomb blast, the DSI trading accusations with red shirts and others, Thaksin Shinawatra’s birthday, flash protests by red shirts, and an apparently never-ending stream of stories regarding Princess Sirindhorn’s latest visit to China – seemingly essentially a holiday – that finished on 23 July but still screening long portions of the royal news four days later.

Some of the stories have raised questions for us, although PPT knows little more than what is reported in the media. We thought it might be useful to list them.

The first story relates to 28 July as Prince Vajiralongkorn’s birthday and he turns 58. As usual, newspapers have little advertisements that double as birthday felicitations to the prince. PPT only purchased the Bangkok Post, which had a one-page tribute and a series of the company-sponsored adverts. The whole thing is pretty low-key, kicked off with a large color picture of the prince at Wat Phra Kaew yesterday.

As PPT went through the color adverts, we noted they were from: Thai Airways, Boon Rawd Brewery, the Central group (the largest greeting, being a full page), CP Group and one all in Thai from Thai Beverage. The latter also posted a very large billboard celebrating the prince near Pan Fah Bridge (see the picture here). On the same day, PPT was reading The Bangkok Massacres: A Call for Accountability produced by Thaksin’s representatives, Amsterdam & Peroff LLP. On page 16, the report states: “The families controlling some of Thailand’s largest economic empires — among them Bangkok Bank, Kasikorn Bank, Thai Beverage, and TPI Polene — became fierce opponents of Thaksin.”

Maybe PPT was asleep at the wheel, but we hadn’t registered Thai Beverage as a major opponent previously. The company belongs to Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, the liquor, beer and land tycoon. Charoen has been pretty secretive. There’s a chapter on him by Nuolnoi Treerat in Pasuk and Baker’s Thai Capital After the 1997 Crisis (Silkworm). Recently he has been seen sponsoring royal events, including one of Princess Chulabhorn’s ventures. If Charoen has signed up with the royalists, then he has huge wealth and networks to build political support.

A second story is in the Bangkok Post and considers what is designated the “alleged ‘plan’ by Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij to change the current yuppiephone concession contracts…”. Then this is slipped in: “mortally wound Shin Corp and its No 1 network Advanced Info Service although that’s not the purpose, perish the thought…”. Given the “plan” is from Korn, a major yellow supporter, maybe this is the purpose. The story goes on to say that the “plan” has “thrown business, government, regulators and even the Senate into a tizzy; the kindest people said Mr Korn had good intentions, lousy planning; others were not so charitable; they noted that his plan to issue AIS, Dtac of Norway and True Move of Thailand with 15-year licences was highly questionable in legal terms…”.

The same column reminds us that Juti Krairiksh, said to be “minister of Internet Censorship in Thailand (MICT)” as well as “sniffing out dodgy websites” has “bragged that one of his greatest achievements was the arrest of three people who posted information critical of the monarchy.”

The third story relates to the Big C bombing and the Bangkok Post story that the “emergency decree will remain in place, at least in Bangkok, … Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says.” Abhisit said that “some parties were determined to carry out dangerous acts and it was the duty of the authorities to try to stop them. That meant they needed the proper legal tools.” Proper legal tools mean the power to detain and anything else the government seems to want to do to opponents.

Just a day before, in the venerable Bangkok Post, Abhisit’s motor-mouthed personal spokesman Thepthai Senapong had attacked critics of the imposition of the emergency decree, saying the bombing proved that the decree was necessary. He added: “The old saying that there is a calm before the storm is still worth considering…”. There’s little doubt that the hardliners in the government, like Thepthai, want the emergency decree in place for a lot longer, benefit from every incident. Much of the cabinet is very twitchy about “security” and, as they have admitted, personally frightened.

The fourth and final story, also in the Bangkok Post, was buried down on about page 4, and the headline suggested to PPT that the Ministry of Justice was going to investigate allegations that a bribe attempt was made in the Department of Special Investigation missing jewellery scandal of a few days ago. But, no. The Justice Ministry was launching an investigation into the rumours themselves!

The rumours were that the “owner of a shop who complained three pieces of jewellery had disappeared from a Department storeroom had been offered 300,000 baht to retract her accusation.”

The “secretary to the justice minister, Fuangwit Aniruttaewa, said it was possible that the claims the jewellery had disappeared were the work of certain people in the ministry who wanted to discredit the justice minister and DSI director-general Tharit Pengdit.” Remarkably, Fuangwit disclosed that an “investigation” had “found the jewellery said to be missing from the DSI storeroom had not disappeared at all. The owner of the store, identified only as Ms Chayaphon, had been told the items had been located.”

Apparently, the three items had just been … well, we don’t know. Hanging off some rich lady perhaps? Miraculously, they have turned up! So what was going on inside the DSI that caused the jewellery to be lost and found at about the same time?





Juxtaposed outcomes

19 07 2010

For those seeking double standards, two reports in the Bangkok Post could provide further confirmation. PPT doesn’t know any more than is in the reports, but the juxtaposition of them makes for interesting reading:

17 July 2010: “Watchdog says Thaksin culpable in TPI scheme.” The report states that arch-Thaksin Shinawatra enemy Klanarong Chanthik “said yesterday an NACC inquiry panel found that in 2003 Thaksin, then prime minister, endorsed the Finance Ministry’s bid to apply to be an administrator for TPI’s rehabilitation plan.” The essence of the story is that the Ministry of Finance stepped into the festering sore of corruption and double-dealing at TPI. Wrong it seems, so Thaksin gets another charge on a 6-2 vote in the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

19 July 2010: “DSI drops case against TPI.” The highly politicized Department of Special Investigation that operates hand-in-glove with the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime in all of its political machinations has dropped the case against “TPI Polene Plc – alleged to have violated the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Act of 1992 by giving 258 million baht to the Democrat Party through an advertising company – for lack of evidence, DSI chief Tharit Pengdit said on Monday.” Tharit has been a real beaver in digging up all kinds of “evidence” against red shirts and against “anti-monarchists,” but not against the bosses in the Democrat Party. His evidence this time: “TPI’s annual report and a contract made with Messiah Business and Creation Co…”. Recall that this is the same “investigator” who used a government sketch map to bring in all kinds of people he says are part of the anti-monarchy movement.

One could easily conclude that there is something rotten in the state of Abhisit’s Thailand.





Double standards again

14 02 2010

 

PPT readers will be aware of the sudden revelation by the Democrat Party of funds allegedly being transferred to the opposition red shirts from abroad (see here and here). The prime minister, deputy prime minister, justice minister and a gaggle of spin doctors and spokesmen have all said that investigations are ongoing to prove this so far unsubstantiated claim.

 

Meanwhile the alleged illegal transfer of funds to the Democrat Party, from within the country, continues to drag along with postponements and other delays. The contrast with the current investigations of the red shirts could not be more stark. Both cases are riddled with political interests.

 

The Nation (14 February 2010) reports that the Election Commission team looking into the Democrat Party dissolution case yesterday said it still has much work to do, particularly since the report from the Department of Special Investigation contained many holes.”

 

Apparently, the DSI has “not concluded whether TPI Polene’s Bt258-million donation to the Democrats was obtained lawfully…. Nor has it filed a complaint accusing the party of violating the Political Party Act, which could lead to its being disbanded.”

 

The investigating panel has apparently called in a former DSI deputy director who had worked on the DSI report. Apparently, the investigation revolves around a question of whether the “DSI believes TPI Polene illegally siphoned the Bt258 million from the Financial Institutions Development Fund, since the company was still in rehabilitation. If so, the then CEO of TPI, Prachai Leophairatana, would be subject to legal action for violating the Securities and Exchange Act of 1992.

 

The former DSI officer claims the EC has plenty of clear evidence in the 7,000 page report “submitted to EC chairman Apichart Sukhagganond in his capacity as the political-party registrar last March…” following more than a year of investigation.

 

In terms of the donation to the Democrat Party, at issue is the question of whether it was an unlawful donation. Receiving and using an unlawful donation means the “party could be disbanded for violating the Political Party Act…”. However, for this to occur, the investigating panel would have to consider the Party’s intent to “violate the law, commit an offence against morality or disturb peace and order.” To reach a conclusion on this is going to require a truckload of evidence and testimony.

 

Democrat politicians say “the alleged donation never took place” and that the “party never obtained it.” It was a business deal with relatives of Democrats. Where have we heard that kind of excuse before?

 

It is clear that this case is being deliberately delayed for political purposes. If it isn’t, then the authorities are doing a pretty good job of providing that impression.

 

 

 

 





Election Commission continues to support the government

16 08 2009

Bangkok Pundit has a post on an Election Commission (EC) sub-committee finding on the case involving a very large TPI Polene donation to the Democrat Party through Messiah Business and Creation, an advertising company.

The case had been sent to the EC after the Department of Special Investigation found the case might violate the Political Party Act. Bangkok Pundit is referring to a Bangkok Post report (16 August 2009: “Democrats win first round over TPI donation, spending complaints”).

Involving a whopping 258 million baht donation, the EC sub-committee has ruled three to two that “the donation issue was a personal matter which did not involve the party.”

Yes, that’s the story. Believe it or not, giving this amount of personal favor to a member of the Democrat Party was personal. 258 million personal favors to an individual. Why was this decision taken? Apparently because the investigators “could not prove that the party had benefited from the money” at least according to one quoted source. Bangkok Pundit points out the anomaly in this decision.

The story gets even more interesting with The Nation’s report (16 August 2009: “EC sub-committees to be purged”) where Election Commissioner Sodsri Sattayatham claims that leaks about the TPI donation case will mean that some members of the EC’s 15 sub-committees will be replaced. This is interesting as Sodsri has been one of the most outspoken election commissioners, repeatedly telling the press more than she should and making political statements from her position as an election commissioner.

On the TPI case, Sodsri said that she “suspected that whoever revealed to the media the panel’s decision on the case wanted to pressure the EC into making decision that favoured some interest group.” She said, however, that this would fail as the EC was “its own boss.”

The outspoken Sodsri stated: “We do not always heed EC panels’ decisions…’. And, she divulged – and PPT would never dare suggest that her revelations are to favor some interest group – that “some member of the EC’s sub-committees were members of political parties … including nine members under the banner of parties that had been dissolved.”

PPT recalls that Sodsri was a constitution drafter under the military-backed arrangements following the 2006 coup, while continuing as an alection commissioner. Obviously no conflicts of interest there!

The headline in The Nation might be right – a purge is going on, yet again, in the EC, to ensure favorable outcomes for the conservatives in the Democrat Party and those who back it.








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