Hung by his own words

11 02 2018

We are pleased that some media and a few critics have taken up the obvious corruption of former top cop Pol Gen Somyos Pumpanmuang.

The Nation reports that Watchara Petthong, a former Democrat Party MP, has called on the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to “probe a retired national police commissioner who recently admitted borrowing Bt300 million from a wanted brothel owner and doing police work as a sideline.”

Watchara wasn’t sure exactly who should be investigating but reckoned that the former police chief under the military junta needed to be investigated and hung out on his own words.

Somyos has confirmed that he and Kampol had been friends “for long time” and added that they had also  done “some business together.”

Watchara was also surprised by comments Somyos made in a radio news programme. Here, we are pleased that Watchara is actually taking up points we have made at PPT over a long period. In the reported radio show, the former police boss stated that he had earned a great deal of money from business during his tenure as the police commissioner. He reportedly added that “being a police officer was just a sideline.”

We know that the latter point is true and we have long pointed to the business connections Somyos had while a policeman.

As The Dictator’s top police officer it is likely that Somyos will have considerable support within the police and in higher reaches of government. But even they will be exasperated that Somyos has hung himself by his own words.

Pressuring The Dictator

15 01 2018

2018 has begun in great style, with all kinds of people poking the dictators.

The Dictator is about to take another trip this week, this time to Mae Hong Son, saying it is “inspection trip.” Of course, it is more “election” campaigning, fully paid by the taxpayer. He leaves behind more attacks on the junta than we’ve seen for some time.

Without even saying much at all about the Deputy Dictator’s vast luxury watch collection, where even hardened yellow shirts are angry, the junta really wants to get this off the political agenda.

The Bangkok Post reports that red shirts have amped up, perhaps reminding The Dictator of his murderous past, with Nattawut Saikua turning up “at the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) on Friday to demand justice for victims of the deadly 2010 crackdown on protesters in 2010.” More than 90 died and thousands were injured.

Even the Democrat Party, which led the government that ordered the 2010 crackdowns, is poking the junta. Watchara Petthong said “he would seek action from the … [NACC] … against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha over what he alleged was malfeasance concerning ministers’ stock holdings.” He nominated foreign minister Don Pramudwinai as breaching rules.

Yellow and red shirts have almost come together in complaining about the junta’s failures, even if their reasons for this are located in different ideological and political locations.

And, political activists are rallying and campaigning against the junta’s efforts to embed its decrees.

This is just the warm up. The junta is going to cop plenty of political heat.

Troubles for the junta I

18 12 2017

The military dictatorship, keen to extend its political role into the future, is running into a series of problems that suggest struggles over power will intensify as political jockeying for position deepens.

Corruption cases, previously ignored, swept under the rug or “investigated” to exoneration are now getting under the junta’s skin. One recent case is the death of a military cadet where the usual excuses for such deaths are not being accepted.

More challenging because it targets the Deputy Dictator is General Prawit Wongsuwan’s extensive  watch collection. His latest attempt at explaining his unusually expensive watches is about a dead “friend”:

According to Gen Prawit’s close aide who asked not to be named, Gen Prawit is under pressure as he does not know how to make the public believe the Richard Mille watches belonged to his friend.

If his “friend” is dead, then Prawit’s story of “borrowing” watches is unlikely to be verified. If the “friend” existed but is now dead, we assume Prawit might claim to inherited the watches.

The point, though, is that the scandal and chatter won’t go away.

More revealing are the splits that seem to be appearing in the yellow-shirted alliance of anti-democrats who have supported military dictatorship.

While Suthep Thaugsuban continues to support military rule and seeks its extension, his Democrat Party and the broader yellow shirt movement have become critical of the junta and its attempts to entrench its rule.

The Bangkok Post reports the former PAD leader Somsak Kosaisuk as railing against a “military party.” Somsak and Democrat Party MP Watchara Phetthong reckon there’s a “plot to set up a new party in support of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.” The vehicle is claimed to be “a military party which will support Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak as party leader while the name of the party will include the word Pracharath, the government’s public-private collaboration…”.

Somsak warned that “military-backed parties of the past, including the Manangkasila and Samakkhitham parties, had failed because the people did not accept them.”

Somsak’s history is not all that comprehensive, but leaving that aside, Watchara mangles it when he says “Gen Prayut should follow the example of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, who said ‘that’s enough’ when he was invited by parties to take the premier’s post once again.” He seems to forget the huge pressure to get rid of Prem, including threats about “revealing secrets.”

Even if their history is a bit off, the idea for a military party may not stymie a Prem-like reign for The Dictator. As in the Prem period, the Democrat Party may not be opposed to that.

But the kerfuffle also shows that the regime remains troubled. It is seeking ways to cement its influence but finds the political alliances and parties cumbersome and confounding.

Naughty Democrat Party and rubber rats

18 11 2017

The military regime has has warned the Democrat Party to behave itself.

The dictatorship considers that its (former?) political allies has been using “the plight of rubber planters, who are facing hard times given falling prices of the commodity, for political gain.”

Government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd warned against “lambasting” the regime, and declared the “Democrat Party could have helped by giving useful advice on how to help rubber farmers.”

The farmers are from the Democrat Party’s stronghold in the south, and the Party has complained about the regime’s failure “to shore up rubber prices, and for violating freedom of expression by summoning leaders of a rubber farmer network for ‘attitude adjustment’ at military camps last weekend” when the farm leaders threatened a demonstration.

The junta’s spokesman lied when he “insisted the government [he means junta] has never barred people from expressing opinions or voicing proposals about the issue.” He said those detained faced “no threats or abuses…”. They were simply detained for “re-education.”

It prevented “a large group of rubber farmers from travelling from the southern provinces to Bangkok…”.

He was absolutely truthful when he stated: “No rallies or gatherings should be carried out…”.

The Democrat Party is usually supportive of the military regime, but fearing a military political party and needing to shore up its political base, “deputy spokeswoman Mallika Boonmeetrakul said that summoning leaders to military camps was not the right approach.”

She declared the junta ineffective “in dealing with crop prices. It should stop sweeping the rubbish under the carpet because it is not constructive to do so…”.

Former Democrat MP Watchara Petthong said the junta’s “penchant to summon critics for attitude adjustment in military camps was a threat to people’s rights and freedom of expression.” Of course, when it is red shirts or anti-coup activists he tends to ignore the repression. We call that double standards.

Democrat Party defends junta

24 04 2016

The hatred of Thaksin Shinawatra runs so deep in the Democrat Party that it leads them to lead campaigns to overthrow elected governments, trash parliament, demand a military coup and, now, to support the military dictatorship. Of course, there are other reasons for these actions apart from personalized hatreds – protecting their class and privileges, disdain for the electorate, political laziness and a penchant for authoritarianism.

The hatred for Thaksin has been seen in the most recent example of the Democrat Party’s support for the military junta in its most recent spat with Thaksin.

A few days ago we posted on the junta’s claims that Thaksin was behind the recent very mild opposition expressed in some quarters to the military’s draft constitution. In an agitated response to reporters, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, The Dictator, stated: “… Who’s doing this? Who’s supporting them? Who’s plotting all this? Firstly, it’s foreign lobbyists. Who? Thaksin!” Later, the “evidence” for this was claimed to be a story in The Guardian from December 2013, where Thaksin is mentioned in a list of clients with UK PR firm Bell Pottinger. Yet, as the Bangkok Post points out, it is not clear how much lobbying this firm does. One UK website lists just one meeting between the firm and government, in 2011. It does not appear to lobby at the EU.

There are three elements to this accusation. First, foreign lobbyists, second, Thaksin, and third, the weak “evidence.” In the deep and conspiratorial social media and emailed claims by yellow shirts these elements are one in the same. They have long claimed that it is Thaksin who hires the lobbyists who then give royalist Thailand a bad run in the foreign media and turn Western governments, the UN and EU against royalist Thailand. Some of these claims originate in the writings of extreme US libertarian rightists.

Many Democrat Party members are hitched to such conspiracy theories, not least because a good conspiracy theory means less real research on particular topics and offer the Democrat Party “explanations” for their electoral failures that mean the party doesn’t need to examine itself. So when the junta announces a conspiracy, it is easy and natural for the Democrat Party to jump on board.

The lack of “evidence” from the junta suggests that it is listening to the conspiracy theorists. In fact, the evidence for Thaksin’s employ of Washington-based lobbyists is well-known, admitted and available in public documents. Thaksin had business arrangements with several firms including  Amsterdam & Peroff LLP and Baker Botts LLP, among others.

To the recent Prayuth claim, Thaksin responded, saying: “the post-coup government’s image over its two years in power was poor in the eyes of the international community simply because of its severe violation of human rights and international laws.” He went on: “Instead of admitting to his fault and correcting the problem, the leader blamed me and accused me of hiring lobbyists to campaign for boycotts of Thailand…. No lobbyists in the world could destroy you as effectively as you are destroying yourself…”. He added: “I don’t need to waste money to hire anyone to condemn the Thai prime minister and thus damage the country…”.

Two things come to mind. First, Thaksin does not explicitly deny using lobbyists, and second, he’s right about the damage the junta does to Thailand.

This response itself got a response from former Democrat Party MP Watchara Petthong, who has defended the military regime by pointing to “clear evidence” that “former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has hired lobbyists, indicating he was behind international criticisms against the junta.”

The first part of the claim is clear, as noted above. The rest is an accusation, the veracity of which may be tested. The claim was made with reference to the Lobbying Disclosure website of the US House of Representatives, which the Democrat Party member declared “clearly indicated Thaksin had regularly hired foreign companies from 2006-15 to lobby US officials to react unfavourably to Thailand throughout the years.”

Watchara went on: “How could he deny it? Whom should the people believe — the US House of Representatives or Thaksin? … How can we believe what he says?”

Interestingly, the Bangkok Post did not simply buy Watchara’s claims and did some research. It says:

A search of records on file in Washington appears to indicate that lobbying firms have done no work on Thaksin’s behalf in the two years since the military coup that overthrew Yingluck’s government.

It adds:

Considering that Thaksin is a billionaire investor with interests all over the world, including mining in African countries, some of his lobbying arrangements might not necessarily involve politics but could be linked to US regulatory and trade issues.

To its credit, the Post did consult the individual reports of the lobbying firms lists as having Shinawatra dealings.

According to the data on the Lobbying Disclosure website, Thaksin was listed as a client in 49 quarterly filings by lobbying firms between 2006 and the first quarter of this year. Most of them were for fees of less than $5,000.

Since the third quarter of last year, Thaksin has had BGR Government Affairs on retainer but for each quarter the firm has checked the box “No Lobbying Activity” and the fee paid has been “less than $5,000” (175,400 baht). The small amount of compensation suggests it might be just a retainer fee.

… Since the 2014 coup, there have been no records of substantial fees paid by him to lobbyists, according to the data.

In all of the lodged documentation for the period since the coup, this is the standard look of them:

Lobby 1

The two points to note are: payments are “Less than$5,000” and “No Lobbying Issue Activity.” This is reported in every single disclosure from second quarter 2014 and into 2016.

So when Watchara asks: “Whom should the people believe — the US House of Representatives or Thaksin?” the answer seems to be believe both. As far as this data show, and this is the evidence source claimed by Watchara, while Thaksin retains lobbyists in Washington DC, but these lobbyists have not been doing any work for him.

These may not be the only facts available, but they are the stated source of Watchara’s claims. Again, they seem based on lazy research and the deep resentment and hatred of Thaksin rather than being a factual account.

Who cut the forests?

23 07 2015

Self-appointed Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha has an opinion on pretty much everything. As The Dictator his opinion is widely heard even if his opinions are those of a cloistered military bureaucrat with little knowledge of real life.

Recently he has had opinions on the environment, commenting favorably on the proposed coal-fired power station down south and denigrating those who oppose it. Military dinosaurs have a penchant for the past, and coal-fired power stations seem set to go the way of the dinosaurs.

Continuing on the environment theme, the military junta ordered an end to deforestation. Recently, The Dictator has remarked that elected governments had destroyed 8.6 million rai of forest in the north and northeast.

Former Democrat Party MP Watchara Petthong seemed a little miffed by this allegation. Watchara stated:

It sounds like the PM is blaming democratic governments – but the true reason forests disappeared was that government officials did not do their duty. Some, like those from the Royal Forestry Department, the Department of National Parks Wildlife and Plant Conservation or the Department of Provincial Administration, sought vested interests….

He added:

Another reason the country’s water resources had turned into bald mountains was that a giant conglomerate lures poor farmers to grow corn to be used as animal feed. This has caused natural disasters like floods, landslide and drought….

We guess he means CP. We’d also note the data on land ownership from an earlier post, reproduced here, which suggests another phenomenon at work; the acquisition of large plots of land across the country.Land 2The CP lot come in second, but are a long way behind the biggest landowner. That Sino-Thai tycoons own huge swathes of land seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon associated with the 1980s boom that began under the premiership of General Prem Tinsulanonda. That followed a huge expansion of agricultural land in the 1960s and 1970s that cleared considerable forest.

The same PPT post had the ownership list for politicians from a couple of years ago. If those top 10 politicians were added together they would have been listed at no. 5 in the list reproduced above. Most of those politicians were serious business people before entering parliament.

Watchara goes further, accusing The Dictator of negligence: “Even in areas under the jurisdiction of the military during the period the PM was then Army Chief, the mountains turned into ‘bald’ mountains. Did the PM ever look into the problems?” He states that “forest encroachment also took place during the Prayut government,” and suggests that the current military dictatorship and the fear it engenders prevents “decent state officials” doing their jobs.

“Politicians and senior officials encroach upon reserve forests, water sources, mangrove forests and the Sor Por Kor land. How can the Land Department issue land title deeds for them? The PM must order a check of all plots and exercise Article 44 to confiscate the land,” he said.

Watchara response is to demand even more use of dictatorial powers (sigh…) and “urged Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Borwornsak Uwanno to incorporate in the charter draft a rule that MPs, Senators, ministers must not be involved in forest encroachment, either directly or indirectly through nominees.”

Given his comments on the military, perhaps he thinks that most future MPs, Senators and ministers will be from the military.

PPT well recalls the encroachment on forests that was encouraged in the war against the CPT (opens a PDF). Many of those areas are those where the “forest encroachers” turn out to be people the military and other security organizations encouraged to settle in and clear forest hill areas in the north and northeast a couple of generations ago.

Even in the late 1980s there were endless streams of military-registered logging trucks coming out of military-controlled hill areas that were deforested. Over several decades, many of the military brass made huge fortunes through their involvement with forest and land encroachment in those areas and along Thailand’s borders.

They worked in tandem with local businesspeople-cum-politicians and with Sino-Thai tycoons.

Snitching for the royalist elite

4 10 2014

It is well-known that lese majeste charges are thrown at political opponents in order to discredit and silence them. The most proficient at this political ploy have been the anti-democrat zealots associated with the Democrat Party. Watchara Petthong, a former Democrat Party party-list MP is particularly notorious for slinging lese majeste mud at his opponents and has been doing it for years.

Watchara with the "evidence"

Watchara with “evidence”

This time he has filed a lese majeste complaint against Thaksin Shinawatra, Tom Plate and Suranand Vejjajiva and the company Matichon for publishing Plate’s translated book, Conversations with Thaksin or Jub Khao Kui Thaksin Shinawatra.

PPT has not been a fan of the book, finding it lightweight and uncritical. But that matters little in these circumstances for not only has the book “been available in the local market for more than two years” but Plate was apparently careful about the lese majeste threat. The English original was published in 2011 by Marshall Cavendish. The Thai translation, completed by Suranand, was published in 2012 and was reprinted earlier this year.

As is expected of lese majeste monsters like Watchara he claims that “some parts of the book contained material harmful to the royal institution and had been quoted worldwide.” PPT has read the English version, and we didn’t see anything remotely like a slur against the king, queen or heir apparent. Yet the lese majeste crazies can always construe and misconstrue when they want to settle a score or create trouble.Thaksin Book

Watchara is to be condemned for his puerile and self-serving nonsense and for hiding behind the repressive law and the throne. He’s not the first, though, for another anti-democrat, Somkiat Onwimon, babbled about this book on the anti-democrat stage in January 2014. At the time, Somkiat seemed to mistakenly think the book hadn’t been published in Thailand, but was simply looking for yet another excuse to attack Thaksin.

Tom Plate is undoubtedly an enthusiastic supporter of Thaksin. For crazed ultra-royalists, that seems to be a”crime.” Watchara’s warped world is marked by fear that the royalist control may crash, worry that the aged and ill monarch is unable to hold the royalist world together, and the threat that popular and electoral politics offers an alternative to armed feudalism.