Crooks, fraudsters, and palace

16 05 2021

The story of four high-profile suspects arrested in connection with a fraudulent investment ring estimated to have made off with at least 1 billion baht reminded us of an earlier hi-so fraud.

In the recent case, police detained “Lt Col Dr Amraporn Visetsuk, chairwoman of the Tiao Puea Chart (Travel for the Country) project, and three others, on charges of public fraud and collaborating in fraudulent public borrowing. All of them denied the charges.” The one who got away was “suspected ringleader Prasit Jeawkok, chairman of the Kuen Khun Pandin (Paying Back the Land) project…”.

The story gets more interesting:

Last year, Pannika Wanich, spokeswoman for the Progressive Movement, accused Mr Prasit of being behind the army’s now-discredited “information operation” (IO) and allowing the army to use the servers under his control for free.

Prasit himself has “boasted of his royalist credentials and unbuttoned his shirt to show a ‘Long Live the King’ tattoo on his chest. Even if he supported IO, he declared, it was a ‘good IO’.”

Prasit has been praised by the wealthy Yuenyong Opakul or Add Carabao who is also a mad monarchist, writing “the song ‘Prasit the Giver,’ praising his good deeds under the Kuen Khun Pandin project in July 2019.”

All of this is vaguely familiar to anyone old enough to remember the fantastic Mae Chamoy fraud case in the mid-1980s that saw Chamoy Thipyaso and seven others found guilty of corporate fraud and on 27 July 1989, sentenced her to 141,078 years in prison. She only served 8 years.

It was her connections with the military, and especially the Royal Thai Air Force and also with the Petroleum Authority of Thailand, saw her chit fund scheme go on for almost 20 years, providing huge returns to some at the top of the pyramid scheme.

As the linked report states:

Chamoy

Among her clients there were prominent members from the military and the Royal Household, which prompted calls for the Thai government to bail out the banks and chit funds. Discussions of an unknown nature were made with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, following which the chit fund was wound up and Thipyaso arrested. She was [d]etained secretly by the Air Force for a few days.

Thipyaso’s trial only commenced after the losses of the victims from the military and royal staff were recovered….

Paul Handley’s The King Never Smiles (pp. 308-9) has more on the scheme:

Chit funds were pyramid schemes that had blossomed over several years without intervention from the government, in part because many had strong government connections. One especially, the Mae (Mother) Chamoy Fund, was estimated at $300 million and involved large numbers of investors from the military and, it soon became apparent, the royal household, including probably Sirikit, Vajiralongkorn, Ubolrat, and Chulabhorn. With such prominent and politically significant people likely to lose massively in the Mae Chamoy collapse, [Gen] Arthit [Kamlang-ek] stepped in again. He threatened a coup if the government did not rescind the [recent baht] devaluation and bail out the banks and chit funds.

This time, King Bhumibol himself rescued [Gen] Prem [Tinsulanonda], without saying anything. Prem went to stay at the Phuphan Palace for nine days, and each day the media ran pictures of Prem with the king, queen, and crown prince. Making the message clear, when Prem returned to Bangkok he was escorted by Prince Vajiralongkorn and Chulabhorn’s consort Captain Virayuth. When Arthit then flew to the Phuphan Palace, Prem turned around and went back. What was said in their discussions with the king was not made public, but the episode ended with Prem still in power and Arthit unpunished for his series of mutinous acts. The devaluation stood and the Mae Chamoy Fund was shut down, but only after more backhall dealings managed by Prem. Fund manager Chamoy was arrested and held in secret by the air force until, it is believed, the losses of palace and military personnel and other high officials were recovered. Only afterward was she tried and sent to prison. Her hearing was held in camera and the records were sealed, presumably to protect the palace. Meanwhile thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of people who didn’t have special protectors lost their savings.

Are we completely mad to wonder if there aren’t some coincidences of news now and news then?





Monarchy and health rumors

16 05 2021

Mad monarchism results in all kinds of weird contortions in Thailand. We think we have just noticed a doozie.

A couple of days ago we mentioned the rumors about the king. We stated: with the regime telling Thais not to believe fake news while not telling them what the fake news is, millions have gone seeking the “fake” news. It turns out to be a rumor that the king is hospitalized. No one knows if he is, but it seems the regime, by not denying the rumor has confirmed it for many.

We updated, noting that Royal Central had repeated the rumors of the king’s hospitalization. That more or less guarantees that the rumors will now spread internationally. We suspect the king needs to show himself or the Royal Household Bureau needs to issue a statement.

But, quite bizarrely, it is rumors that the queen had the virus that got the regime moving.

The Office of the Prime Minister is reported to have “dismissed as false online rumours that … the Queen was infected with Covid-19.” It went on to urge “people to monitor Covid-19 news from a reliable channel, such as the Facebook page of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.”

It can’t be just us who think this bizarre. Why does the regime come out immediately to deny health rumors about the queen, but is silent for days now on the rumors about the king’s health? Many will draw the conclusion that this suggests that the king really is ill.





All the king’s women

13 05 2021

A reader drew our attention to a recent Facebook post that has managed to build a “poster” of all the king’s women, old and new, to whom he has allocated positions, family names, and various rewards. Well worth perusing for what it may tell us about the king’s preferences and fetishes. There is certainly a particular style that the king seems to want from all those below queen and consort.  The post points out that all of them are state officials, funded by the taxpayer.

Kings women





Fudging for the monarchy

10 05 2021

Without explanation (that we can see), the Bangkok Post has changed an online story. Guess what it is about? The king’s Siam Bioscience company. It might be a small thing, but it is illustrative of how the system works. Someone got upset, got on the phone and the story gets changed. If it was legitimate, you’d expect a note, but not in royalist Thailand.

Here’s the original story:

Siam Bioscience-produced AstraZeneca vaccine passes quality testing

9 May 2021 at 13:31

Samples from test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience have passed quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and the United States, the company announced on Sunday.

In a press release — in English but with numerous grammatical errors — James Teague, Country President, AstraZeneca (Thailand) Ltd said:

“We have seen a series of significant and promising progress [sic] in AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine development in Thailand during the past weeks. First, the Thai Food and Drug Administration approved Siam Bioscience as a manufacturing facility for COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca. Last week, the samples of COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca made by Siam Bioscience passed the full tests the standard set [sic] by the Department of Medicial Sciences (DMS) for  requirements such as chemical composition and safety.

“And today, I am happy to be able to inform you that the samples from the test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience had passed the quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and in the U.S.

“These significant progresses [sic] mean that we are getting closer to deliver the first batch of the vaccine to the government of Thailand.”

According to the release, numerous safety tests and quality control measures are carried out at each step of manufacturing and distribution. This includes completing all steps in the quality assurance process, with each batch of  vaccine undergoing more than 60 different quality control tests during its journey from manufacture to vaccination. To ensure consistent quality across supply chains, the release said, AstraZeneca has built an extensive, global analytical network.

Mr Teague continued: “Our focus is on delivering vaccines as quickly as possible whilst ensuring adherence to the highest safety and quality standards and processes. We will continue to work closely with the government to achieve that. We are well aware that increasing concerns and question [sic] have been raised around vaccine safety and the availability of supply to help Thais and the people in Southeast Asia to fight this terrible COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to once again reiterate AstraZeneca’s commitment that we are putting science and the interest of society at the heart of our work. And we will remain true to our values by continuing to work with governments and other organisations towards broad and equitable access to the vaccine in a timely manner and at no profit during the pandemic.”

Here’s what it became, with the same headline, same date and same time stamp:

Siam Bioscience-produced AstraZeneca vaccine passes quality testing
9 May 2021 at 13:31

Samples from test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience have passed quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and the United States, the company announced on Sunday.

In a press release, James Teague, Country President, AstraZeneca (Thailand) Ltd said:

“We have seen a series of significant and promising progress in AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine development in Thailand during the past weeks. First, the Thai Food and Drug Administration approved Siam Bioscience as a manufacturing facility for COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca. Last week, the samples of COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca made by Siam Bioscience passed the full tests the standard set by the Department of Medicial Sciences (DMS) for requirements such as chemical composition and safety.

“And today, I am happy to be able to inform you that the samples from the test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience had passed the quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and in the U.S.

“These significant progresses mean that we are getting closer to deliver the first batch of the vaccine to the government of Thailand.”

According to the release, numerous safety tests and quality control measures are carried out at each step of manufacturing and distribution. This includes completing all steps in the quality assurance process, with each batch of vaccine undergoing more than 60 different quality control tests during its journey from manufacture to vaccination. To ensure consistent quality across supply chains, the release said, AstraZeneca has built an extensive, global analytical network.

Mr Teague continued: “Our focus is on delivering vaccines as quickly as possible whilst ensuring adherence to the highest safety and quality standards and processes. We will continue to work closely with the government to achieve that. We are well aware that increasing concerns and question have been raised around vaccine safety and the availability of supply to help Thais and the people in Southeast Asia to fight this terrible COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to once again reiterate AstraZeneca’s commitment that we are putting science and the interest of society at the heart of our work. And we will remain true to our values by continuing to work with governments and other organisations towards broad and equitable access to the vaccine in a timely manner and at no profit during the pandemic.”





Further updated: “Justice” kills

6 05 2021

There’s increasing concern about hunger strikers and political prisoners Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, including well-meaning calls from some for them to not die when seeking justice.

Sadly, it is becoming clear that the regime is callous and savage. More, we know that the king has a say in whether the lese majeste is used or not. We also know that he is savage in dealing with those he thinks have been disrespectful – look at how he has treated his various wives and Vajiralongkorn’s mad and furious tone in his official declarations when he sacks people.

It gets worse. It is now confirmed that another political prisoner, Arnon Nampa, has fallen ill with the Covid virus “and been moved for medical treatment” at the Medical Correctional Institution. The virus appears to be infecting many inmates and may be out of control.

Coronation 1

Arnon is the second political prisoner to have contracted the virus while incarcerated. The first was Chukiat “Justin” Saengwong.

All prisoners are now under threat, but that these political prisoners are at risk is yet another example of the politicization and monarchization of the (in)justice system. After all, the junta’s constitution states at Article 29:

A suspect or defendant in a criminal case shall be presumed innocent, and before the passing of a final judgment convicting a person of having committed an offence, such person shall not be treated as a convict.

In lese majeste cases, there is a presumption of guilt.

The question must be asked again and again: why is that these activists are not receiving justice? What is it or who is it preventing justice? WHo is it who doesn not care if they die? Who is it that relishes this savage and feudal treatment of young Thais?

No wonder hundreds of thousands of young Thais have joined a Facebook group that displays their dismay and that they have lost faith in many of the country’s institutions.

The military, the mafia regime, and the monarchy are destroying the country while they and their friends eat it.

Update1 : Some good news: “The Criminal Court has approved bail for the temporary release of Rassadon co-leader Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul on condition that she must not get involved in activities deemed to dishonour the monarchy.” Who knows what the latter condition means.In addition, “she must not join any activity that may cause unrest in the country, leave the country without permission and must report to the court as scheduled.”

The court appeared unable to make a decision without getting advice-cum-orders from on high: “After an inquiry into her bail request on Thursday morning, the court first scheduled handing down the decision at 3pm but later rescheduled it twice to 4pm and 5pm.” We take that delay as confirmation that the court gets it order from the regime and/or the palace.

Update 2: Despite the virus outbreak in prisons and at least two political prisoners already infected, Parit Chiwarak has been transferred “from Ramathibodi Hospital back to prison … after his health improved.” The danger to him is made clear by the courts themselves, which refuse to hear these defendants for fear of the virus. Parit’s court appearance, and that for Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, have been postponed “because the two defendants will not complete their 14-day quarantine until tomorrow. Prison officials said both have to be screened again, to make sure they are clear of the virus, before they will be allowed to attend the hearing.” This amounts to protecting judges and other officials – which is reasonable – but keeping political prisoners in dangerous conditions.





Dictatorship of fools

28 04 2021

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has been pretty much a disaster in that position. Where Thailand had done reasonably well in the first year of the virus, this was mainly because Anutin’s early missteps led to the regime handing over to medical professionals.

Unmasked

Anutin unmasked. Clipped from Der Farang.

In recent weeks, however, Anutin and the regime have had criticism heaped upon them, even before virus cases increased substantially.

There was criticism of vaccine reliance on a state-subsidized Siam Bioscience and its production of AstraZeneca. As royalists, the regime threw money and (it hoped) prestige at the king’s company. And, it threatened critics with lese majeste for daring to question this (now) shaky decision. Now that decision has partly been undone as the regime scrambles to buy vaccine from multiple sources.

Then there were the political figures who became a virus cluster and the double standards involved as the regime refused to investigate. That masks were demanded and both Anutin and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha have been caught unmasked has reinforced the idea that rules don’t apply to the big guys.

Of course, that the king, queen, and palace slitherers regularly appear in the royal news unmasked cannot be criticized.

In short, people realized that the virus response was politicized and failing. And, it is now thought that Anutin is making things worse and that policy is a “shambles.”

Pointedly, Anutin has fought back, declaring that the decisions are being made by Gen Prayuth:

On Monday night, the Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul deflected responsibility for the third wave of the pandemic by shifting blame to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and saying that every decision was made by the premier.

In his tell-all Facebook post, Anutin said that his ministry had constantly advised the government on the correct decision but the prime minister and the covid emergency response centre were making decisions unilaterally.

Not only is the virus response a shambles, but so is the coalition. As Andrew MacGregor Marshall suggests, the coalition is fighting for survival.

The regime’s response is to hand The Dictator dictatorial powers:

The Thai cabinet today (Tuesday) designated Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as the sole authority in charge of all responsibilities and duties, previously vested in his ministers, to deal with the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The powers vested in various ministers, by virtue of various laws regarding the issuance of orders, permits and approvals which will help in preventing or containing COVID spread or in helping the people, will be vested in the prime minister on temporary basis.

That’s as scary as Anutin running the show. As Thai Enquirer states:

Now with Prayut calling all the shots, the fate of the country rests in the hands of a man who did not even bother to research the vaccines his country will be bringing in before a nationally-televised press conference.

The notoriously poorly-informed, intellectually uncurious Prayut will now be charged with making the correct decisions to guide us out of this pandemic hellscape.

God help us all.





Two charged

24 04 2021

112Two are bailed, two are charged.

Two further lese majeste cases have been sent to investigation. Both seem part of an official and vigilante effort to drive people away from Pavin Chachavalpongpun’s commentaries that criticize and poke fun at the monarchy.

In the first case, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society has filed a complaint against a transgender woman for sharing a Facebook post by Pavin.

On 19 April 2021, Patchara, a pseudonym for a 22 year-old woman, attended the Technology Crime Suppression Division to hear the charges over her sharing of a Pavin post “that criticized the work of King Rama X…”. Her re-posting was on19 November 2020.

The police allege the re-posting constitutes an offense under Article 112 and was a breach of the Computer Crime Act. It was claimed that uploading information by Pavin criticizing the king was a threat to the kingdom’s security.

Patchara reportedly “denied the charge and will give further documentary testimony on 19 May. She also refused to sign the register for hearing the charge.”

According to Prachatai, “Patchara’s case is the 8th case of royal defamation filed by the MDES since the moratorium on using Section 112 ended in November 2020.”

The second case involves Pipat (surname withheld by request), a 20 year-old man who had to travel from his home in Lopburi to hear charges at the Bangkaew Provincial Police Station in Samut Prakan on 20 April 2021.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Pipat was charged for a post in Pavin’s Royalist Marketplace Facebook group. That group has over two million followers, almost all of them in Thailand.

The charge dates back to 28 May 2020, when someone named Umaphon Sunthonphot:

saw Pipat’s post on the Royalist Marketplace, a satirical Facebook group established by Pavin Chachavalpongpun. The post consists of a photograph of King Rama X and Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti with a 2-sentence caption to the Prince’s photo, which Umaphon views as defamation, infringement or an expression of hostility against the King and the Crown Prince.

The police charged Pipat under the lese majeste law and the Computer Crimes Act.

Pipat has also denied the charges and “will submit documentary testimony within 30 days.” In addition, he asked:

…police to summon the plaintiff to give further details about how his post damaged her and how it was deemed wrongful according to the Section 112 of the Criminal Code. The police said that they would do so.

Police took Pipat to Samut Prakan Provincial Court for a temporary detention order. Pipat’s lawyer asked for bail “with 150,000 baht as security, citing the principle of presumption of innocence, the accused’s good cooperation with the police, and the effect that detention would have on his career and family’s wellbeing.”

The court granted bail, which was posted by “Ratsadorn Prasong, a donation fund used for bailing out pro-democracy protesters or sympathizers.”

Prachatai adds that “at least 87 people have been charged” with lese majeste since last November. We at PPT think it is more than this, but accurate information is difficult to come by.





Cracks in the royal house

23 03 2021

Clipped from Royal World Thailand

For those who have read about dissension within the royal family and specifically between the queen and royal consort, this Facebook post from Royal World Thailand, seems to add interesting details as they become public.

Vajiralongkorn long ago declared that he would adopt the manners of a “traditional” king, and it seems that his decisions on his personal life are again creating problems.

So often in the past, these decisions have led to personal and palace crises.





Warong wrong

21 03 2021

Royalist politician and ardent coup promoter Warong Dechgitvigrom gets much wrong. In one of his recent tirades, he’s again looking for external links to domestic political opposition to his beloved military-monarchy regime.

He claims to have found a conspiracy to “discredit the Thai monarchy, military and judiciary…”. He believes that Parit Chiwarak’s tirade against the injustice of lese majeste is a conspiracy mounted via “author Andrew MacGregor Marshall, who is wanted in Thailand for lese majeste offences, [and who] tweeted photos of Parit reading [his] statement” in the courtroom.

Warong’s complaint about discrediting the monarchy, military, and judiciary is way off mark. Each of these bodies is already largely discredited. The monarchy is widely seen as erratic, neo-traditionalist, corrupt, and out of step with the modern world. Across the globe, the king has been lampooned for his very odd behavior. The military is a fascist organization that specializes in repression and murder of political opponents. The judiciary is a legal joke and a partisan institution, doing the bidding of the monarchy and military.

Parit’s rehearsing of a statement showed that his is a political trial. Nothing more, nothing less.

Warong’s search for a conspiracy is misguided and quite mad. No doubt his audience of mad monarchists will cheer but that makes him no less bonkers.





Updated: Constitutional nonsense

17 03 2021

PPT didn’t comment on the Constitutional Court’s recent short ruling, considering it better to await the details.

We do wonder about the odd notion that the court could only release a short note when it announced its decision. In the past, the court has often taken hours to read their full decision. In this case it almost seems like the court was told what to decide and then had to come up with the detailed ruling later.

In the meantime there was speculation about what the court really meant when it decided that amending the constitution needed a referendum to get the parliament the people’s permission for amendment and then, later needed to get referendum approval for the proposed amendments. We should note that the military junta’s 2017 constitution is actually very clear on amendment. Section 256 sets out nine steps to amendment, only one of which involves a referendum, and that paragraph is highly specific:

8. in the case where the draft Constitution Amendment is an amendment to Chapter I General Provisions, Chapter II The King or Chapter XV Amendment to the Constitution, or a matter relating to qualifications and prohibitions of persons holding the positions under this Constitution, or a matter relating to duties or powers of the Court or an Independent Organ, or a matter which renders the Court or an Independent Organ unable to act in accordance with its duties or powers, before proceeding in accordance with (7), a referendum shall be held in accordance with the law on referendum, and if the referendum result is to approve the draft Constitution Amendment, further proceedings shall then be taken in accordance with (7)…

How high?

So all of the court process is no more than another way of preventing amendment and the court has gone along with that and made up new rules that have no relationship to the existing constitution.

We expect the amendment process to stop and the regime to drag out the amendment referendum.

Yet it was a Bangkok Post story that caught our attention. It says: “The court … stipulated that any amendment to Section 256 must have a the same popular mandate upon which the present constitution was founded.”

The court has made this up. It is a royalist concoction.

But, if Section 256 must have a the same “popular mandate” upon as the present constitution was founded, is any legal scholar willing to turn his or her attention to the king’s demanded changes, considered in secret legislative meetings, and changing the constitution, including sections that are meant to be sent to a referendum? Admittedly, that was a draft consitution, but it had been approved by a referendum.

So how is it that the king can engage in random acts of constitutional vandalism while those given constitutional power to amend the constitution are prevented from doing so? Clearly, the Constitutional Court remains a farce, concocting nonsense for its military and palace masters.

Update: As predicted, the parliamentary effort to amend the constitution is now dead.