Things that make you think

15 01 2017

There lots of stuff that goes on in the junta’s Thailand that causes you to wonder and think about motivations and machinations.

PPT’s perusal of the Bangkok Post today produced two such moments.

The first Bangkok Post story had us wondering…

The first paragraph was pretty much palace propaganda-like, with the king reported as having “reiterated the importance of children, urging the government to enhance the education system as a key part of the country’s development…”.

Prayuth Puppetry

Who is the puppet?

That’s pretty standard. But then we learn that this is not the king speaking, but The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Speaking at a ceremony marking National Children’s Day, The Dictator becomes the voice of the king and explains an apparently close relationship:

“… the [k]ing told me many times to give priority to children both in terms of education and the country’s development. He also wants the government to enhance the discipline of Thai children, which will result in orderliness and knowledge development of Thai people….

That sounds a lot like Prayuth’s voice rather than the king’s.It does seem a little out of the ordinary for a premier to speaking for the monarch. Is Prayuth out of line? Or are he and the king best buddies?

Just for good measure, The Dictator invokes the dead king: “During the rest of my term in office, I want all Thais to do good to follow in the footsteps of the late monarch, who was always concerned about his people…”. That is more the invocation we are used to from prime ministers.

The second Bangkok Post story is a tale of two parties and had us thinking of double standards and political machinations.

The About Politics column reflects on the floods in the south.

(Naturally enough, these floods can’t be blamed on Yingluck Shinawatra was the case in 2011. This time the culprit is not a government or a party, but the weather.)

The story praises “recovery operations” and singles out the so-called Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation.

Who is the puppet?

Who is the puppet?

This is the “foundation” established by anti-democrat boss Suthep Thaugsuban, as a post-coup vehicle for the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and others who temporarily or momentarily left the Democrat Party in order to engage in street activism to prevent elections and bring down an elected government.

Unlike the Puea Thai Party and red shirts, the Democrat Party and the Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation have not been sued, harassed, arrested, jailed and suppressed by the junta. After all, they did a lot to foment the coup that brought the military thugs to power.

Suthep and other “key leaders of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) have sprung into action, including Chitpas … Kridakorn [Bhirombhakdi], Chumphol Julsai and Isara Somchai” have been active in the region.

Most important has been Witthaya Kaewparadai, described as “Suthep’s right-hand man in this operation.”

As is well known, Witthaya is a former Democrat Party MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat. This former MP is said to have been an asset in relief operation having “helped boost the efficiency of distribution of essential supplies.”

Like us, many readers will wonder at this. The junta doesn’t like “politicians” meddling in anything. But, then, Witthaya is also a “member of the coup-appointed [puppet] National Legislative Assembly (NLA),” and this “secures coordination among state agencies and the military which need a go-between to bring help to where it is needed.”

Readers are then told that:

Since the PDRC protests, Mr Witthaya has remained active in his constituency, but his focus has been on community work. He has founded a cycling club where members do the necessary legwork to keep fit and the brainwork by discussing problems facing their community. This cycling club is said to be the biggest in the region.

The reports goes on:Kissing soldiers

The Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation’s contribution to flood rescue and relief operations can be no less; most of the flood victims are the very same people who kept the group’s street protests going in Bangkok during 2013-2014.

In other words, the PRDC-Democrat Party are catering to their members and supporters.

Imagine what would happen if a former MP from Puea Thai who was also a red shirt was doing something similar in the north or northeast. Sedition charges would be pending!

We learn more about these double standards when the report states:

While the former PDRC leaders are out there working in flood relief operations, the Democrat Party which has a political stronghold in the region is helping quietly, staying out of the spotlight due to a political ban by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

But they are indeed working there, with the PDRC. An unnamed source says: “People think the PDRC and the Democrat Party are no different. It doesn’t matter who leads the flood relief efforts…”.

“Election” preparations and electioneering are permitted in the south. Indeed, the military and junta facilitate them.

Double standards? You bet.

These double standards are reinforced in another story, in the same column, about the problems facing Puea Thai.

The party has few resources left and former party MPs are complaining that they are being left to their own devices and resources, with little help from the party or the “party’s heavyweights.”

Party leaders are tied up in a myriad of legal actions – hundreds of them – brought by the junta.

The longer the junta delays an “election” – some now suggest 2020, only partly tongue-in-cheek – the worse it gets for Puea Thai. And don’t think the junta doesn’t know this. All the talk of cremations delaying the “election” or the king making changes will be used as excuses for no “election.” However, one thing the junta wants is for Yingluck Shinawatra’s case and related cases against Puea Thai to be concluded this year.

The junta believes these cases will cause the collapse of Puea Thai. Once that happens, the junta can better control the “election” outcome.

Further updated: Suthep re-enters politics

28 07 2015

Much of the media commentary about Suthep Thaugsuban leaving the monkhood has been about his declaration that he will no longer be involved in politics.


A Bangkok Post photo

Suthep entered the monkhood not that long after the coup, as a kind of political exile, and after a couple of slaps from the military dictatorship on commentary he made about the coup and his People’s Democratic Reform Committee links to the military’s planning of the coup.

Like others with a penchant for mobilizing people, be it Thaksin Shinawatra, Sondhi Limthongkul or even Chamlong Srimuang, the military is suspicious of them.

Hence, Suthep’s declaration that he is not re-entering politics is something of a ruse.

For one thing, saying he is done with party politics is not saying much when the military dictatorship has sent parties to the wilderness. Parties are more or less defunct and those drafting the new constitution have tried to make them less significant into the future.

Second, during the PDRC campaign against Yingluck Shinawatra’s government, much of the rhetoric was driven by royalist notions that are anti-party and a anti-politician, so an immediate return to party politics would be a denial of that anti-democratic ideology.

Third, it is noticeable that Suthep remains politically engaged. Photographed in his PDRC livery emphasizing monarchy and nation, Suthep stated that he “plans to join a foundation that other former protest leaders have established,” allegedly “to promote vocational education and other grassroots projects.” When he states that “I will work with the Foundation of the Great Mass of the People for Reform of Thailand. I will never go back to run in an election ever again. But I will be working in civil politics alongside the Great Mass of the People for the benefit of our country.”

In a sense, this is an acknowledgement of the post-politician/post-party politics that will be acceptable to the royalist elite and the military dictatorship. Suthep has re-entered politics in a space delimited by the military.

Update 1: As if on cue, Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr has warned Suthep to steer clear of political organizing.

Update 2: The military dictatorship’s concerns regarding Suthep’s re-entry into politics has been shown in a statement by The Dictator. General Prayuth Chan-ocha “admitted yesterday he was concerned that politician Suthep Thaugsuban … has become politically active once again.” Prayuth was expressing concern about a press conference scheduled for Thursday that “will be the first time since the coup in May 22, 2014, that 12 PDRC leaders will officially get together to continue their push for reform.” Prayuth and Suthep

As Chairman of the so-called Foundation of the Great Mass of the People for Reform of Thailand, Suthep will attend the event. So will all of the other anti-democrat leaders: Sathit Wongnongtoey, Thaworn Senniam, Issara Somchai, Witthaya Kaewparadai, Akanat Promphan, Chumpol Chulasai, Chaiwut Bannawat, Puttipong Punnakan, Sakoltee Phattiyakul, Natthapol Theepsuwan and Chitpas Bhirombhakdi-Kridakorn.

The “foundation” will consider its “strategy to support ‘reforms’ according to the six-point proposal initiated by Suthep himself…”.


Closing Bangkok and coup talk

2 01 2014

Anti-democracy protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has decided that 13 January is the day his people will close down central Bangkok with protests and gridlock. Suthep has issued a series of demands that sound like threats:

When operation “seize Bangkok” is successful, television stations should carry live coverage of the announcement by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said….

In a speech delivered to protesters at Democracy Monument in Ratchadamnoen Avenue on Wednesday night, Mr Suthep said all television stations would be able to work normally but when the PDRC has any announcement it should be broadcast live. If some TV stations such as Channel 9 or Channel 11 could not do that, they must show a “black screen”.

From 9 a.m. on the 13th, “protesters planned for a mass rally to shut down the whole of [inner] Bangkok … for up to 20 days.” The gridlock was to be accomplished through “20 stages … at intersections in inner Bangkok…”. Suthep said only “one traffic lane would be opened for ambulances and entrances to hospitals would remain open.” No state vehicles could travel in Bangkok. Nor could taxi drivers enter the inner city.

In addition, Suthep “threatened to cut electricity and tap water to homes of caretaker ministers and at all government office buildings.”

With barricades going up, more apparently intimidatory shots being fired, and an emergency decree being considered, temperatures are rising.Nuamthong, taxi and tank

Meanwhile, at The Nation, red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan has said red shirts would “keep Bangkok open on January 13 to counter the campaign by the anti-government protesters to shut down the capital.” He stated:

… the time had come for people, red shirt protesters among them, to stand up and fight against what he called the elite’s network, which planned to mobilise southerners to oust the elected government.

“We are ready. If we lose democracy, we don’t know what will happen. This month is the month of ‘make or break’. Please wait for a signal from us. We will fight under peaceful principles,” he said.

He also asked other provinces to stage overture rallies starting from January 5, the same date as anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has called for an overture before laying siege to Bangkok on January 13.

A coup looks ever closer as the military gets fidgety. Former Democrat Party Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai, ironically at the center of a corruption scandal when at that ministry, has spoken about a coup and goads the military:

I honestly don’t think the PDRC needs a coup. We just want to see that the military can oust this evil government. The military should show its stance by taking the people’s side. This is no time to say it must remain neutral.

Thais are now the rebels, while soldiers are still proud to just survive.

With Prime Minister Yingluck having called on the “military to help police enforce law and order” in the event of a “Bangkok shutdown,” rumors of a coup are becoming ever stronger. as the Army decides which side to fall on. PPT would be pretty sure they will go with their “natural” allies on the right for the post-Sarit military has never supported a troubled civilian government. (The claim in this article that, “In times of trouble, people still pin their hopes on the military, calling for men in uniform to intervene,” is a fabrication. Only particular people call for a coup, and in recent years, these have all been yellow shirts, royalists and fascists.)

Democrat Party MP: Parliamentary control worse than a coup

3 07 2012

PPT was going to post on a revealing statement by Democrat Party MP Witthaya Kaewparadai. However, Bangkok Pundit has an excellent post making most of our commentary superfluous.

Witthaya has “accused the ruling Pheu Thai Party of attempting to overthrow the court system. ” To PPT, the reverse seems more the case: the judiciary is again trying to overthrow an elected government.

Witthaya added:

As for the other courts that cannot be dissolved, they are aiming to grant parliament the power to appoint the chief of the Courts of Justice. This would be even worse than a military coup.

Of course, it is well known that Democrat Party stalwarts hate elections, not least because they can’t win them, and they treat parliament with contempt. The contempt has been demonstrated in several ways, most recently in attacks on the Speaker (see here and here). It is also well-known that the royalist Democrat Party has been in cahoots with the military in its 2006 coup and then when Abhisit Vejjajiva rode on the shoulders of military and judiciary to become prime minister in late 2008. Finally, we know that the judiciary remains critical to the royalists, including the Democrat Party, in seeking to overturn election results. That has been seen several times.

So why wouldn’t Witthaya think that an elected parliament is worse than rolling out the tanks! Not a democrat in sight at the Democrat Party.

We should add that Witthaya is no ordinary MP. He was Democrat Party Public Health Minister in 2009 when a corruption scandal erupted there that saw each and every one of the eight advisers resign. The scandal involved an 86 billion baht project, and it took Witthaya several weeks to respond.

When he did, the investigating committee quickly found corruption and claimed that politicians and senior officials had been involved in unusual procurement of medical equipment under the Thai Khemkhaeng stimulus package. This included budget allocations for hospital construction skewed in favor of some politicians’ constituencies and unnecessary procurement plans.

There was also evidence of direct intervention by Deputy Minister Manit Nop-amornbodiand who was also involved in a scheme to purchase overpriced ambulances. The latter case also involved the minister’s secretary. Witthaya resigned.

The Abhisit Vejjajiva government was meant to send the case to the National Anti-Corruption Commission. That’s the last PPT heard of it. We wonder where that case went. Readers can let us know by email.

Corruption admitted

29 12 2009

PPT has to give credit where it is due. The Minister of Health has announced that he will resign over a report on corruption in the Thai khemkaeng projects associated with his ministry (The Nation, 29 December, 2009, Public health minister resigns”). Less than 2 weeks ago PPT expressed concerns that these investigations were going nowhere, despite our first post on the topic that concluded: “It seems unlikely that this case – with complaints from groups that should be Democrat Party allies – will be able to be kept quiet and out of the headlines, unlike the earlier case of corruption and nepotism in the Office for Sufficiency Economy Community Projects. That case seems to have all but disappeared now that it is run by palace cronies.

Witthaya Kaewparadai “ announced his intention to quit as a show of responsibility for lapse of duty in supervising the … project.” The report that prompted his resignation statement is also reported in The Nation (29 December 2009: “‘Guilty’ of negligence”).

The investigation panel recommended “disciplinary action over purchase orders for overpriced medical equipment and supplies” in the ministry. In addition, several other political appointees and officials were named, accused of negligence.

The panel’s report made it clear that evidence and testimony showed a high probability that politicians and senior officials had been involved in unusual procurement of medical equipment under the Bt86-billion Thai Khemkhaeng stimulus package.” This included “budget allocations for hospital construction [that] were skewed in favour of some politicians’ selected constituencies…” and “procurement plans [that] were unnecessary...”.

There was evidence of direct intervention by Deputy Minister Manit Nop-amornbodiand who was also “incriminated in an agreement to purchase overpriced ambulances.” The latter case also involved the minister’s secretary.

The government must now send the case on to the National Anti-Corruption Commission. At the same time, the Democrat Party-led government needs to ensure that the other allegations of corruption in the Ministry of Education and Office for Sufficiency Economy Community Projects get proper attention. PPT expects that these cases will be used by the Peua Thai Party in their censuring of the government.

Updating ISA and medical scam

15 10 2009

There has been a spate of interesting reports today on a range of subjects. In this post PPT updates two stories we have been following, the repeated use of the Internal Security Act and the corruption allegations involving the government’s stimulus package.

Internal Security Act overkill: In a recent post PPT asked why it was that the Internal Security Act was being used in Bangkok for a red shirt rally. We pointed out some inconsistencies. Now we are told that the Democrat Party-led government is deploying 18,000 security force personnel in Bangkok and a similar number in Hua Hin, where the ASEAN summit is located ( Bangkok Post, 15 October 2009: “Massive summit force gets nod”).

An earlier report in the Bangkok Post states that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban,” who is in charge of security affairs, was assigned to be director of the Bangkok peace-keeping command.” He said” 6,000 police, 10,000 soldiers and 2,000 civilian volunteers will be deployed … from Oct 15 to Oct 25 in the wake of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)’s plan to rally on Oct 17 and hold a no-confidence debate against the government outside parliament.”

“Civilian volunteers”? PPT wonders who this might be? Right-wing vigilantes  or something less threatening?

Suthep stated that “Attention will be given specially to Government House, parliament and Chitrlada Palace.”

That’s a total of 36,000 security personnel mobilized. Even leaving aside the questions of human rights and intimidation, this is clearly way, way more than would be reasonable for controlling a rally that the government estimates will be “about 10,000 people.”

The Post says this is to “ensure peace and order.” The government is not expecting the planned rally to be violent. So why this huge number of police and military? Is the government wasting money or does it have “intelligence reports”? Why are 2 security personnel required for each expected demonstrator?

PPT has no answers that we haven’t given before.However, this kind of mobilization is suspiciously large. If we were being really cynical and conspiratorial, we’d be tempted to link to an earlier post.

Corruption in MOPH procurement: The Nation (15 October 2009: “Witthaya’s new committee to study medical equipment scam”) reports that Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai has “decided to set up a new independent committee with members from outside the ministry, to probe irregularities in the procurement of medical equipment under the Bt86-billion Thai Khemkhaeng package.”

Witthaya said he “decided to set up the new independent committee after being criticised over an announcement yesterday – by the ministry’s fact finding committee led by Dr Seri Hongyok – that some senior health officials had been involved in the scandal.”

PPT wonders why an independent committee has taken so long to be established? We also observe that new committee will be led by former Bangkok senator and one-time but short-term police chief, Police General Pratin Santiprabhob. He was a leading anti-Thaksin critic prior to the coup and was a PAD supporter.  Stacking the committee, perhaps?

The Rural Doctors Society’s has expressed some reservations on this appointment and “questioned whether his relationship with the Democrat Party would influence his approach to the investigation.” It also criticized “the ministry’s announcement on October 13, revealing that a retired senior health official and senior health official were involved in the scandal, was not fair as politicians were also involved in the purchase irregularities.”

Pratin of course dismisses any allegation against him and potential favoritism. Yes, he “accepted he knew people among the Democrats as well as in other political parties.” He said: “Don’t question me about my work before you see the results of the investigation…”.

Sounds like a cover-up is planned.

Is Abhisit serious?

11 10 2009

When PPT posted this story, we were giving attention to corruption allegations. The headline was “Is Abhisit serious about graft?” In this updated post, we extend this story to include the premier’s comments on constitutional amendment and have changed the headline to the simpler “Is Abhisit serious?”

Corruption allegations: Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva always knew that the graft allegations about the the Ministry of Public Health’s procurements as part of the “Strengthening Thailand” (“Thai Khemkaeng”) stimulus spending was going to be tougher to deal with than those regarding the Office for Sufficiency Economy Community projects. As PPT has pointed out, the MOPH allegations came from the Rural Doctors Society, a group that has considerable respect. It might even be seen as a Democrat Party ally.

He has also realized, more than 3 weeks after the allegations were made, that the fallout from these allegations of corruption in the 86 billion baht project in a ministry headed by a Democratic Party minister is potentially very damaging. This probably explains why the premier has come out to explain that his government is serious about the graft claims (Bangkok Post, 12 October 2009: “Graft inquiry shows we’re serious – PM”)

Attempting to turn a negative into a positive, Abhisit lamely says that the government’s investigations of “alleged irregularities under the economic stimulus package at the Public Health Ministry would show how determined the government is in fighting corruption…”. He added: “I want to prove to the people that my government is determined to make state projects corruption-free…”.

Meanwhile, MOPH minister Witthaya Kaewparadai has vowed to “push ahead with the scheme.”

PPT would find Abhisit’s claims more convincing if he’d adopted a similar attitude to the corruption and nepotism in the Office for Sufficiency Economy Community projects. He seems to have buried that investigation. We wonder, too, if the allegations regarding similar issues in the Ministry of Education will be investigated? If he is to be taken seriously, Abhisit needs to show that he is prepared to deal with all difficult allegations.

Constitutional amendment: Prime Minister Abhisit has been conducting an odd campaign on constitutional amendment, appearing to be for it but engaging in considerable foot-dragging. The Bangkok Post (12 October 2009: “PM goes cool on charter change”) follows up on earlier reports that the PM was backing away from amendment. Now Abhisit is reported to have said that amendment may be unnecessary.

This is no surprise. PPT does not consider Abhsit to have ever been serious about meaningful change to the military’s 2007 constitution. There are several reasons for skepticism.

First, in the Bangkok Post of 16 August 2007, before it went to a referendum, Abhisit stated that his party accepted the new constitution. He is reported to have said that the draft was acceptable: “because it wanted the country to move ahead. Accepting the draft constitution would given some sense of political stability with a timeframe set out for issuing organic laws, he said. The party could not predict which constitution would be picked if the draft was rejected. Mr Abhisit said the draft and the 1997 constitution did not differ much from each other as both emphasised people’s rights and freedoms, and checks and balance mechanisms. They did differ regarding the origins of cabinet members and MPs. However, the draft was not as flawed as some people feared.”

Second, Abhisit has been lukewarm on the proposed amendments all along, seeking ways to delay an election for as long as possible. Even if the opposition agreed and amendments were accepted, the process of change was likely to take 9 months.

When opposition emerged, he immediately returned to his 2007 position, stating that the 2007 constitution is satisfactory. His reason: if enough parties disagree with the changes, leave it alone. He said: “If the PAD (People’s Alliance for Democracy) and the opposition disagree with it, why should it continue?” He’s known that PAD were opposed from the beginning.

He also said that ” the 1997 charter was problematic, leading to the enactment of the 2007 charter.” Yes, forget all that military coup stuff and the fact that the military and its friends in the palace wrote a new version.

Abhisit is not serious about constitutional change.

Corruption in public health and education

6 10 2009

PPT has recently posted on what we called “a case to watch.” The case we wrote of was headloined in the The Nation (28 September 2009: “Public health ministry to set up factfinding committee”). There is was reported that the government’s much-heralded “Thai Khemkaeng” (Strengthening Thailand) project was in trouble over corruption. This is the government’s headline stimulus program with almost 1.6 trillion baht to deliver, and with its own website.

The Nation (6 October 2009: “Minister’s advisers quit in wake of buying scandal”) now reports that each and every one of the eight advisers to Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai have resigned. This should be a huge story.

While they said that this was to allow the minister “a free rein to counter a scandal over the alleged rigging of purchases in a Bt86-billion project,” it is clear evidence of corruption.

Dr. Thawat Suntrajarn, one of the advisers stated: “We are uncomfortable with the scandal. We want to show we are by no means involved in the alleged irregularities.” This was in response to rumors that “close aides of Witthaya were colluding to profit from purchases planned under … Thai Khemkhaeng…”.

Meanwhile, “six officials from the Auditor General’s Office met yesterday with Dr Kamron Chaisiri, who oversees the project, to seek more information.”

Witthaya said he had no great knowledge about medical devices so that he had “to rely on senior public health officials and inspector generals….”.

Clearly Witthaya has been duped or is somehow involved. This is a potentially disastrous scandal for the Democrat Party and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is noticeably quiet.

In another report in the Nation (6 October 2009: “OBEC dismisses education corruption charges”) it is reported that the opposition sees and opening to weaken and tarnish the government. They have targeted the Thai KhemKaeng project in the Education Ministry.

Puea Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit “claimed OBEC officials based in Nakhon Ratchasima had expressed suspicion about certain procurement deals. Examples included promises of high priced auditoriums for schools requesting new buildings, while others were promised equipment – also highly priced – they did not want.”

The Ministry has blamed “school managements’ confusion over the process,” a claim also made in the sufficiency economy office scandal.

These remain stories to watch with interest.

OBEC dismisses education corruption charges

Published on October 6, 2009

The government’s Thai KhemKhaeng project has drawn another Opposition allegation of corruption in the procurement process, this time targeting the Education Ministry.
A statement by Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit yesterday was dismissed by Kasama Worrawan na Ayutthaya, secretary-general of the Office of Basic Education Commission (OBEC), saying the procurement process would not be finished until next week.

Prompong claimed OBEC officials based in Nakhon Ratchasima had expressed suspicion about certain procurement deals. Examples included promises of high priced auditoriums for schools requesting new buildings, while others were promised equipment – also highly priced – they did not want.

“This entire matter could have been prompted by school managements’ confusion over the process, or based on their own speculation about alleged corruption,” Kasama said.

The government is already subject to Opposition scrutiny into a number of procurement deals made by the Public Health Ministry, also through the Thai KhemKhaeng project. Allegations are being directed against the Democrat-led government and Minister Jurin Laksanawisit, a party executive, that items being offered are overpriced and don’t match hospital needs.

As for OBEC’s policy, government schools will be provided with only three major installations: a centre for career development of teachers, a technology-based information centre, and other installations including toilets, Kasama said.

For equipment, all schools are to be provided with items listed in individual menus for their selection. Median prices and specifications of those items are based on experts’ recommendations, minimising the chance of bid-rigging, she said.

Jurin said all of his policies were transparent and he would welcome tip-offs over irregularities.

Corruption in government

27 09 2009

Here’s a case to watch. The Nation (28 September 2009: “Public health ministry to set up factfinding committee”) reports that the government’s much-heralded “Thai Khemkaeng” (Strengthening Thailand) project is in trouble. This is the government’s headline recovery and stimulus program with almost 1.6 trillion baht to deliver, and with its very own website.

The Nation’s report states that Democrat Party Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai is about to launch an investigation into allegations of massive corruption said to be set to “siphon funds” from the] Bt9.3 bn scheme. As this comes several days after an earlier report of “possible” corruption, it seems that there must be sufficient evidence to warrant further investigation.

The allegations come from the Rural Doctors Foundation who are well-known and have considerable respect.

Witthaya reacted to the Foundation’s claim by promising an investigation: “The panel will be set up as soon as possible. I will invite Kriangsak Wacharanukulkiart, head of the Rural Doctors Society to join the panel because he is impartial and has a wide network of doctors in rural areas. He can help us find the truth from his network…”.

The Rural Doctors Society have been around for a while, having roots in the student movement of the 1970s and the post-CPT rural public health advocacy of the 1980s. It has been a politically-engaged NGO from the beginning, and was high-profile during the 1992 events, discussions about the 1997 Constitution and, while some members initially supported the Thai Rak Thai Party, it took to opposing Thaksin Shinawatra and some of its members took to the PAD stage.

Secretary-general of the Rural Doctors Foundation, Dr. Pongthep Wongwatcharapaibul “alleged that certain politicians had made preparations to buy unneeded equipment for public hospitals around the country at inflated prices.” He added, “This project lacked transparency from the beginning because hospitals were not asked what should or should not be procured and how much the items should be bought for.”

Pongthep called for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to appoint Dr. Banlu Siripanich, a former senior Public Health Ministry official, to investigate the alleged irregularities. Banlu “once headed a panel, which investigated alleged massive corruption of the procurements of the Public Health Ministry, resulting in the conviction of then public health minister Rakkiart Sukthana, who is now serving his jail term” (for some details, see here).

And, Pongthep seemed to point a finger at the Democrat Party when he said the “current case would be similar to the Rakkiart case except the public health minister is now a Democrat Party member. Rakkiart was then a minister in the Social Action Party.”

It seems unlikely that this case – with complaints from groups that should be Democrat Party allies – will be able to be kept quiet and out of the headlines, unlike the earlier case of corruption and nepotism in the Office for Sufficiency Economy Community Projects. That case seems to have all but disappeared now that it is run by palace cronies.

%d bloggers like this: