Updated: On that oath

15 08 2019

The oath taken by the military-backed government’s new ministers – many recycled from the military junta’s government – goes on.

The oath is sworn before the king, and as everyone knows, the junta’s own constitution states:

Section 161. Before taking office, a Minister must make a solemn declaration before the King in the following words: “I, (name of the declarer), do solemnly declare that I will be loyal to the King and will faithfully perform my duties in the interests of the country and of the people. I will also uphold and observe the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand in every respect.”

When this regime’s ministers were sworn in, the last sentence was omitted.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

No one is prepared to say why. Normally talkative ministers like Wissanu Krea-ngam have avoided talking about it. Opposition politicians and serial complainers have rightly stated that this is a serious breach of the constitution. Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has mumbled that this omission was “unintentional.” He refuses to resign and says that he will wait to see what the Ombudsman says about not declaring an intention to uphold the constitution.

Puea Thai Party MP Cholnan Srikaew told the Bangkok Post: “We don’t think it was a case of carelessness. Rather, it may have been [the prime minister’s] intention to evade significant phrases in the oath…”.

Based on the silence, evasion and embarrassment, we think that Gen Prayuth may have been told what he was to say at the palace. When the oath was first raised, Gen Prayuth “insisted … the oath was in compliance with the charter and, most importantly, in line with … the King’s advice that the government stay committed to serving the country and the people.” Add to this Wissanu’s first remonstrance, we think it is a pretty fair guess that the PM and ministers followed royal command:

Wissanu on Thursday said he would rather not answer the questions when asked by reporters whether the incomplete oath would affect the cabinet or whether the prime minister must seek a royal pardon. “One day you’ll know why we shouldn’t talk about it,” he said.

When a reporter asked him to explain for “knowledge’s sake”, Mr Wissanu said: “This is not ‘knowledge’ but something no one should stick his nose into.”

This means the agitation on the oath is not just a political issue but an issue regarding taking a stance regarding the further rolling back of Thailand’s political history and 80+ years of practice.

Update: The Bangkok Post, now calling the oath neo-feudal edit a “slip,” reports that “Chief Ombudsman Wittawat Ratchatanan said a review of the petition will take about two weeks and that the Ombudsman’s office will rule on the legitimacy of the oath on Aug 27.” Recent cases handled by this office have involved coffee shops, prices at airport restaurants and airport luggage. Ombudsman Wittawat is an Army General and Royal Guard with no experience outside the Army until he became Ombudsman in 2012. He has served with all of the former junta members and the last time he was asked about investigating anything to do with Gen Prayuth, he ran a mile. So there is no reason to think that this general will find against another general who is his boss, no matter how clear the constitution. (It would be good to be proven wrong on this assessment.)





Updated: Junta’s government goes, repression retained

16 07 2019

According to the Bangkok Post, the “outgoing junta government held its last meeting on Monday…”. We are not sure whether that means the junta has held its last meeting but guess this means the depleted cabinet met one last time. Anti-democrats will be in tears.

But this means little in terms of political repression. That continues, mostly run by the military and the Internal Security Operations Command.

As reported by Khaosod, junta legal fixer for the junta and who will be the fixer for the junta’s “new” government, Wissanu Krea-ngam “told reporters the power to detain people without warrants will rest with the counter-insurgency agency operating under the Prime Minister’s Office [ISOC]…”.

While he says that this power “won’t be invoked,” when political push comes to shove, watch this change. Wissanu added that “those who pose threats to national security or the monarchy will merely be questioned and warned.” In other words, they will “have [their attitude] adjusted.” He said they would not be detained.

Wissanu defended retaining these repressive powers: “It’s okay to retain such power, however, because it’s a power to oversee peace and order.”

Look forward to more of the same from the “new” government.

Update: The Bangkok Post quotes ISOC spokesman Maj Gen Thanathip Sawangsaeng who seems to contradict Wissanu. He stated: “I insist that the Internal Security Act does not authorise any detention or order for anyone to undergo an attitude change…”. The detention bit seems to match Wissanu’s claim, but not the attitude change bit. What’s going on there?





Updated: Open-mouthed disbelief II

11 07 2019

Not long after our post on mafia-like figure and new deputy minister from the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, Thammanat Prompao, the Bangkok Post has published perhaps the best-ever self-incriminating interview in recent memory. It carries the seemingly ironic e-headline “I’m innocent.”

Apparently responding to the AFP story from 1998 that’s being widely circulated – and more – Capt Thammanat digs a very deep hole. Whether it is used to bury his political career (again) remains to be seen, with the junta-anointed lookalike government needing every soldier, anti-democrat and mafia figure it can lay its grimy hands on. And, the junta’s legal eagle Wissanu Krea-ngam – a member of the “new” cabinet that includes Thammanat and several other dodgy figures – has stated that “said Capt. Thammanat Prompao’s eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary.”

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Thammanat has “dismissed reports about his past criminal record, claiming he was innocent and the opposition was trying to discredit him.” He does a pretty good job of discrediting himself.

As we posted, Thammanat is accused of having been “convicted and jailed in Australia in a case involving heroin…”. He is also “linked to a [rape and] murder case of an academic whose body was dumped in Si Sa Ket in 1998, but later acquitted. His involvement in the latter case led to the removal of his military rank but it was reinstated later.”

Thammanat spoke about his time in Australia, claiming that his jail sentence there was all “a misunderstanding about his case in Australia 30 years ago, when he was a second lieutenant.”

He denied being at all involved in the “import, produce or deal[ing] heroin.” He claims he was “on vacation in Sydney…”, and was “unfortunate to have been in the same place at the same time as some drug offenders.” According to Thammanat, Australian police were not so convinced and he was jailed, with “another Thai,” for “knowing about and failing to report knowledge of drug dealing to police…”. He claims this to be a “petty offence,” which is not entirely accurate. He also says he denied the charge, but he was convicted.

What is then even more odd in his “story” is that he claims that, having arrived in Australia “on vacation,” he then lived and worked in Sydney “for four years.” However, he was “deported to Thailand because of a policy by the then Sydney mayor, who didn’t welcome Asians who formed groups and had no permanent residence.” That he was deported suggests thta there is more to the story than he lets on. The claim that it was due to the policy of a “mayor” is ridiculous nonsense. In Australia mayors have no authority over immigration, which is a task for the Australian Federal government. Thammanat “insisted he was not deported to serve time for a drug sentence as claimed by some reports.”

We may assume that Thammanat is confused or is obfuscating.

But he also has the “get-out-of-jail-free card” that has long been available to rogues and other criminals: He puffed out his royalist chest and declared: “I’ve never violated constitutional laws and I was cleared by a royal pardon absolving guilt granted by His Majesty the King in 2017.”

Case closed, he hopes. Somehow we doubt it.

There’s a long, long list of mafia-like allegations that will haunt the “new” government for as long as Thammanat is with it:

… Thammanat also owned one of the five largest companies that received quotas to sell government lottery. He reportedly gave it up after a talk with army Gen Apirat Kongsompong, who chairs the Government Lottery Board.

So what happened there? Who benefited from this relinquishing of a valuable, mafia-like racket?

Just last year, “police also found him to be one of the recipients of the shares of DNA, a company involved in a 797-million-baht bitcoin fraud.” Where did that loot go? Who benefited? We can’t wait to see his assets declaration.

Update: Remarkably, the Bangkok Post now has two stories posted under virtually the same e-headline, “I’m innocent” and “I am innocent.” The former we used and quoted above. The latter is by reporters Wassana Nanuam and Aekarach Sattaburuth. The latter is gentle, even supine. It tells a story that seems meant to be a little more supportive to Thammanat, but adds more details that damn him and suggest he’s struggling to get his story straight.





Updated: “New” government

11 07 2019

King Vajiralongkorn has endorsed The Dictator’s cabinet list.

One of the “stories” is how, as expected, many of the junta’s henchman have transitioned into the “new” government:

Prayut will also double as Defence Minister, a key position currently held by General Prawit Wongsuwan, his deputy in the outgoing government.

Prawit will retain his position as a deputy prime minister and is expected to also be in charge of security affairs.

The new Cabinet also has eight other ministers who have worked with Prayut and Prawit in the current post-coup government: Somkid Jatusripitak, Wissanu Krea-ngam, General Chaichan Changmongkol, Uttama Savanayana, Don Pramudwinai, Suvit Maesincee, Sontirat Sontijirawong and General Anupong Paojinda.

But the biggest story is undoubtedly going to be about an army man and mafia figure, reported by AFP, 9 Sep 1998, and now being circulated in Thailand:

BANGKOK, Sept 9 (AFP) – Eighteen middle-ranking Thai military officers are being investigated for links to an international heroin trafficking operation, the supreme commander of Thailand’s armed forces said Wednesday.

General Mongkol Ampornpisit said the officers had been re-admitted into the military in the past two years and the scandal, the latest in a series to rock the Thai military, had prompted him to order that all recently re-admitted officers have their backgrounds checked.

“I have submitted the names of all re-admitted officers for the last two years to have their criminal backgrounds checked with the police,” General Mongkol told reporters, without elaborating on the heroin trafficking allegations.

He said he hoped the move to vet officers would help contain one of the biggest scandals to hit the Thai military establishment in many years.

The revelation of the heroin investigation follows another scandal involving an army captain at the centre of a murder probe, who had previously served a jail term in Australia for drug trafficking.

Mongkol conceded the military had been lax when re-admitting Captain Patchara Prompao into the armed forces after he was fired twice and convicted of narcotics trafficking.

Patchara is now in detention awaiting trial in a civilian court after he surrendered to police on Monday to face charges that he raped and then beat a male academic to death.

In June, amid a drive was to make the armed forces more accountable, the government demanded the military disclose the contents of secret bank accounts they had been allowed to keep.

Earlier this year the armed forces were accused by opposition politicians of involvement in vast illegal logging operations in northern Thailand.

It is also Thammanat who was reported in 2016 as being among more than 6,000 “influential criminal figures” being targeted by the junta in a nationwide crackdown. Back then it was Gen Prawit who stated that “[s]tate officials, police and military officers found to be involved with ‘dark influences’ must also be dealt with…”. Gen Prawit was reportedly in charge of “suppressing influential criminal figures.”

At the time it was considered that the regime’s political opponents were being targeted, a claim Prawit denied. When asked about specific individuals on the list – “former army specialist Gen Trairong Intaratat, better known as Seh Ice, and Capt Thammanat Prompao, a former close aide to Gen Trairong…” – Gen Prawit said “police will explain the offences they have allegedly committed.” He added that the two “might have done nothing wrong, but their aides might have…”. The report continued:

Gen Trairong, said to have close ties to ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was among four people mentioned in a leaked document from the 1st Division, King’s Guard.

The three others named in the document are Karun Hosakul, a former Pheu Thai Party MP for Bangkok’s Don Muang district; Capt Thammanat Prompao, said to be involved in several enterprises including lottery ticket distribution; and Chaisit Ngamsap, alleged to be connected to illegal activities in the Mor Chit area of Bangkok.

Gen Trairong and Capt Thammarat have denied the allegations.

In the same report, Gen Prayudh is reported as saying:

… those who break the law must be punished…. In the future, these people may support politicians. They must not be allowed to break the law and use weapons against people. Today, we must help to clear up the mess to make our country safe….

It seems that the once pro-Thaksin Thammanat has metamorphosed into a pro-junta man and the politicians he’s supporting are Prayuth’s and he’s now so trusted that he’s a deputy minister!





Updated: Open-mouthed disbelief I

11 07 2019

Several stories caught PPT’s collective eye over the past couple of days.

The first is about Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the Watchman,” who has been clearing his office at the Ministry of Defence to make way for Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha.  But little else seems to have changed for for Gen Prawit.

A story at Khaosod of another bit of “casual corruption” associated would be funny if it wasn’t so reflective of a regime that has descended into old ways of military-bosses-cum-politicians.

Serial complainer Srisuwan Janya, who operates off social media posts in making his hundreds of petitions, has “filed a complaint to probe the police’s purchase of a 1.14 billion baht jet for ferrying deputy junta chairman [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwan and his entourage…”.

Srisuwan’s complaint plagiarizes social media “outrage at photos of the junta’s second-in-command exiting a private [police] jet with a flight attendant in tow…”.

The little bit of tycoon lifestyle for Gen. Prawit tripping about in a Dassault Falcon 2000S is said to have been purchased “by the police … [for] about 350 million baht more than the global market price.”

The price for a new one is about $30 million. That is a lot of taxpayer loot for a force that usually buys vehicles like the Toyota Camry and, for its pampered bosses, a BMW 5 or a Mercedes 600. Its aviation division has a Fokker 50 turboprop airliner in addition to the Falcon and more than 70 helicopters.

Srisuwan asks – we presume rhetorically – “Why does Thailand like to buy things at a higher price than other people? Or was there some special [deal] that they haven’t revealed to the people?”

Clipped from Khaosod

The jet is said to have cost 1.14 billion baht, which seems about 159 million baht over the list price. Expect the police to say that the extra cash went to fit-out, training and/or spare parts rather than into any boss’s pocket.

So far, the efforts of the police spokesman are laughable, claiming the “plane was a sound investment,” and saying it carried not just Gen Prawit and “the police commissioner and other high-ranking officials.” What a life! They don’t have to deal with the hoi polloi in regular planes or put up with noisy turboprops. The spokesman adds that the new plane can fly when helicopters can’t (but so can the Fokker).

Not only that, but the Falcon can be used for other “important assignments … like government inspections, drug raids, and to follow up crucial investigations.” A $30 million business jet for “investigations”? Right, but probably not investigations of police corruption.

While on the police, we notice that they have, as claimed several times, been hard at work on the cases involving the assault of political activists. Indeed, they have brought charges! Khaosod reports that police have

arrested … eight Facebookers accused of spreading [allegedly] false reports on social media that the police were behind the attack on June 28 that left pro-democracy campaigner Sirawith [Seritiwat] in critical condition. All of the suspects were charged with cybercrimes….

The report adds that police claim that the eight “confessed to claiming on Facebook that deputy police commissioner Chaiwat Ketworachai sent four men under his command to attack Sirawith.”

No one expects the police to arrest the thugs responsible for the cowardly attacks but the Facebookers, slapped with computer crimes charges that can mean up to seven years in prison.

As PPT predicted, “investigations” into the attack on Sirawith is being “hampered” because “some cameras were out of service and failed to capture the assailants’ flight from the scene…”. That’s the usual excuse when a cover-up is underway.

A third story that causes open-mouthed disbelief is also at Khaosod. Just confirmed as Deputy Minister for Agriculture is “dark influence” Thammanat Prompao, a member of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party.

Deputy Prime Minister under the junta and now under the “new” junta-engineered government, Wissanu Krea-Ngam has said that Thammanat’s “eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary.” The story continues, with Wissanu claiming:

In the past, there was an MP who had been prosecuted in Hong Kong for drug trafficking, but his status was not affected in Thailand…. Although his reputation among many things might have been impacted, his deeds and ethical standards have to be considered separately.

On Thammanat, it is known that he’s allegedly been involved in all kinds of activities that many consider “shady.” As the report states:

Thammanat was once stripped of his military rank for alleged involvement in a murder case in 1998, but was reinstated after the court acquitted him.

The latest allegations against Thammanat came after an opposition politician claimed he was previously convicted of a crime in a foreign country. No public records of such conviction could be found as of publication time.

Now that a government has been formed – it still has to present its policy to parliament – look to all kinds of internal jostling for a place at the trough.

Update: In another report staggering under a mound of buffalo manure, police claim that they have not – yes, they haven’t – demanded an exchange of police protection for Sirawith being politically silent. Not only that, but the police claim they would never, ever, never ask a political activist not to engage in political activity. Well, it wasn’t the police saying it, but Deputy Defence Minister Gen Chaichan Changmongkol. But we guess that the Army speaks for the police these days. But, really, this is just the usual lies from senior figures. This kind of buffalo manure will only cease to flow when such idiocies and the dolts who make such claims are called out, again and again. The truth is out there, but these fools work with manure rather than truth.





Updated: Tyranny into the future

15 06 2019

…[Gen] Prayuth Chan-ocha’s plans for a political makeover — one in which he would be labeled as head of a quasi-civilian government rather than military junta strongman — remain stalled as he continues to invoke Section 44 of the constitution.

He adds that “Prayuth is not expected to give up this weapon until after the country hosts a summit of regional leaders from June 21-23…”. That’s when his legal fixer Wissanu Krea-ngam says the “new” cabinet will begin work.

There is no smooth path to forming the “new” junta government + 19 parties. When the junta’s in trouble, it begins repressing, and as we have said before, this looks like the sad future for Thailand.

Macan-Markar says that “human rights groups and political critics are alarmed.” They also say that there’s “no end in sight for the dictatorship in Thailand.”

He cites Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch:

Gen. Prayuth maintains a host of repressive powers that allow him to prosecute dissidents, gag free speech, and put critics in secret military detention. They don’t tolerate even the slightest hint of mockery…. This is an embrace of authoritarian rule, not a transition to democracy, as Gen. Prayuth starts his second term in office.

The article then mentions the Wai Khru events that sent the junta into a repressive spin.

On this, HRW states that:

The authorities have even targeted high school students for ridiculing the junta. On June 13, soldiers and police officers went to Chumpholphonphisai School in Nong Khai province and ordered students to delete all photos on their social media accounts about their Teacher’s Day activities, in which they made pedestal trays with satirical messages about military dictatorship and the junta’s manipulation of the general election to prolong Prime Minister Prayuth’s rule.

It has since been reported that soldiers weren’t involved, only police. We are not at all sure how this makes it any less reprehensible.

This story really only gained traction when Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan got his knickers in a knot over social media posts. He exploded: “I believe there is someone behind this. How could the kids come up with this idea by themselves?”

We guess he’s blaming Thaksin Shinawatra and red shirted teachers. He’s such a dipstick, but fascist dipsticks are nasty dipsticks. The students contradicted Gen Dipstick.

Khaosod has further details on events:

Five Grade 12 students at Chumpholphonphisai School yesterday creatively adapted flower arrangements on trays that are traditionally offered to teachers to wai khru, in order to critique Prayuth’s appointment as prime minister for a second term.

In addition to the usual flowers, one tray depicted an imbalanced scale with cardboard signs saying “millions of votes” on the lighter side and “250 votes” on the heavier side – referring to the junta-appointed senate and their unanimous voting last week in favour of Prayuth’s bid for the top job. Another tray depicts figurines of armed soldiers and monsters surrounding Democracy Monument.

Pol. Col. Puwis Siriphanich of Phon Phisai police station is quoted as saying: “We did not order or intimidate students to delete the photos. We respect their rights.”

However, Pipat Srisookpant, the school director insisted “[o]fficers asked that the photos be removed from all social media and the students complied…”.

Anti-democracy campaigners used the event to chastise parents. Former Democrat Party MP Warong Dechgitvigrom complained that parents prevent the spread of democracy: “I ask parents to exchange thoughts with your children because they can be easily mislead…. Children are optimistic and can be indoctrinated by democracy.”

What party did he represent? Oh, yes, the Democrat Party, the anti-democrat party that looks like allowing dictatorship and repression to advance without impediment.

Adding to this depressing descent into political darkness, HRW mentions several other efforts by the junta to repress mocking on social media.

It is an effort to make Thailand a dark and fearful place.

If readers need a pick-me-up, there’s a story on the determination of democracy activists to resist despite having “been the target of increasing physical assaults and intimidation since the March elections…” and the disappearance and murder of dissidents.

Update: In his op-ed at the Bangkok Post, Wasant

We thought we were creeping back to democracy. We thought we were regaining our freedoms. After all, we have just welcomed a new government which has tried to convince the world that it came to power by democratic means.

But we are creeping even closer to 1984 than ever.

Indeed it is. Who would have guessed that the end of the junta, well, sort of, would result in deepening repression!?!





Updated: Cheats cheating I

12 06 2019

As everyone knows, Thailand remains a military dictatorship and no government has yet been formed to replace it. Indeed, in a recent ranking, Thailand was determined as “unfree,” ranking between absolute monarchy Brunei and troubled countries with Zimbabwe and Iraq. The “unfreedom” will continue, with dozens of junta orders being converted into laws that will apply into the future, backing a backward constitution that permitted a rigged election.

That rigging has been a vast and expensive project that could, if unchecked, allow the odious cheat Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to remain as prime minister for another eight year as the unelected Senate he selected will vote again in four years if Thailand has another election.

The selection of the Senate has been a closely-held secret for months simply because of the thoroughgoing cheating it involved. Because the junta has gotten away with a coup, political repression, corruption, a fake constitutional referendum, a rigged and stolen election and more, it figures nothing can derail it now, so it has released some details of its cheating.

In the selection of The Dictator as premier, we know that every single unelected puppet senator voted for their boss (the Senate president abstained, but would have voted for his longtime boss if necessary).

We now also know that the “reserve list” of 50 senators, “publicized in the Royal Gazette, include Election Commission sec-gen Jarungvith Phumma, foreign minister Don Pramudwinai, former deputy governor of Bangkok Pol. Lt. Gen. Amnuay Nimmano, and former member of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly Prapan Koonme.”

The listing of the EC’s secretary-general indicates how just how flawed the EC is, run by junta puppets and automatons. Rigging an election requires a cheating EC. Having delivered the junta its “victory,” this puppet secretary-general will likely get his reward.

More cheating is confirmed by junta legal thug Wissanu Krea-ngam. It is reported that “[u]nder mounting pressure from transparency activists and political parties,” he has released “the identities of the selection committee who contributed to filling the 250-member junta-appointed senate.”

It should be surprising – but, then nothing is surprising any more – that:

Among the committee were six senators: former deputy PM Gen. Chatchai Sarikulya, former deputy PM Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, former deputy PM Thanasak Patimaprakorn, deputy junta head Adm. Narong Pipatanasai, former labor minister Pol. Gen. Adul Saengsingkaew, and former president of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly Pornpetch Wichitcholchai.

Wissanu has made unbelievable claims about the committee was “politically neutral” and that the secrecy about membership was to prevent “lobbying.” Of course, all the “lobbying” was actually the junta pulling all the strings.

He has also insisted – again unbelievable – that “members of the selection committee abstained from voting or attending the voting session if their name came up in the candidate roster,” while their brothers voted for them, saying “I can confirm that no member ever brought up their name in the selection process. Everything is on the record…”.

While we have no doubt that if he released “the record,” it would confirm his account. After all, the junta has scribes who can fabricate any record it likes. How Wissanu can say such things with a straight face is a measure of how low the junta – and Thailand – has sunk.

Now the cheating cheats have to ensure their continuing political domination for another eight years.

Update: The Bangkok Post has a few more details on the great Senate scam. The junta’s fixing panel that put the scam together had 10 members becoming nine when Pornpetch resigned. Six of them (see above) became members of the Senate they selected for the junta. The other four were Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Wissanu, Gen Anupong Paojinda, and deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak, all of whom are likely to be ministers in the “new” government. In other words, every one of the junta’s panel are now holding positions – or soon will be – in the junta’s “new” government as well as holding such positions under the junta. What can we say? The whole thing is a massive scam foisted on the nation by the junta. It seems there is no way of holding this bunch of election crooks accountable for any of their cheating.