The personal and the political

5 05 2018

A report at the Bangkok Post on Vorakorn Chatikavanij’s son and Korn Chatikavanij’s stepson states that he was charged with possession of cocaine.

Korn is a former Democrat Party minister and Vorakorn has been a yellow-shirted warrior. Korn is spectacularly wealthy. When great wealth meets the judiciary the result is usually in favor of the affluent.

Vorakorn and Korn

Cocaine is a Category 2 drug under Thai law. Changes to laws in 2016 means that Category 2 substances can mean the the offender faces six months to 10 years imprisonment and fines of 10,000 to 5 million baht. The changes also provided judges with more discretion.

The Bangkok South Criminal Court on Friday seemed to use truckloads of “discretion” when it released Panthit Mahapaurya “on bail of 10,000 baht in his cocaine possession case, and ordered him to report to a drug rehabilitation facility on June 21.”

The court “did not set any special conditions.” It ordered Panthit “to report at the end of the fourth detention period at 8.30am on June 21 to a psychosocial service centre of the courts to begin a drug rehabilitation programme.”

Sure, rehab might be sensible and this is bail and not sentencing, but we expect that this case will simply go away as the courts yet again make decisions on the “great and the good” using “principles” other than those in the law.

Cocaine is a rich person’s drug in Thailand and the rich enjoy it with relative impunity – think of the Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya who was rumored to have been doing a bit of sniffing prior to his murderous drive home.

As in everything legal in Thailand, the rich get special treatment and the poor get arrested, jailed, beaten and shot. Double standards are the only standards for the judiciary.





The impunity trail

19 03 2018

The efforts of activists have seen some charges brought against fabulously wealthy Sino-Thai tycoon and Black Leopard soup-loving Premchai Karnasuta. Of course, this is only a small step in the legal process, and we can expect to see delays, charge shedding and more as the police do deals that may still result in impunity.

That other scion of the fabulously wealthy – this time the Red Bull/Yoovidhya family – seems to have literally gotten away with murder.

It is reported that Interpol’s so-called Red Notice – a worldwide request to find and arrest an individual pending an extradition – for Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya”has disappeared from the Interpol website.”

It was unclear when the notice went missing “… [b]ut there was immediate speculation that powerful interests had intervened on Mr Vorayuth’s behalf.” The notice was on the Interpol website until recently, although a recent search produced no listing for Thailand in either red or yellow notices. We wondered if Thailand had changed its policy, but the report states: “Pol Col Kritsana [Pattanachareon ] confirmed that Thai police had not sought a change from ‘public’ to ‘restricted’ status for the notice.”

Interpol stated that:

… a published notice would be removed from its website if “the suspect has been arrested and extradited or died, the country which requested it has withdrawn its request, the judicial authorities in the country behind the notice have withdrawn the national arrest warrant against a suspect, the notice is the subject of an appeal, or the notice has been cancelled or the status of the notice has changed from public to restricted”.

As usual, Thai police dissembled: “Thai police spokesman Kritsana Pattanachareon said on Thursday Thai police had no idea why the notice was no longer there.” Kritsana continued (do compare with what Interpol says): “It’s entirely up to Interpol. We can’t intervene because each country has different laws…”. Buffalo manure piled high. Rich person free. Impunity rules.





The Yingluck extradition charade

13 01 2018

Before we forget, a couple of questions for the military dictators: how’s that extradition of Thaksin Shinawatra coming along? And what about Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya coming along? Readers will recall that Vorayuth is on the lam following a brutal hit-and-run case in which a police officer was killed. Since then he’s been able to postpone court appearances, hide in plain sight and skip the country. All of that requires that officials and political bosses are complicit. His last “escape” was on 25 April 2017 and since then the authorities have been pretty much silent.

We ask about these two cases as mere examples to suggest that the sudden flap over Yingluck Shinawatra’s recent appearance in London after months of invisibility and all the high profile statements by the junta about extraditing her are simply a charade.

Officials who state that “Thailand cannot seek the extradition of fugitive former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra despite confirmation that at least one of two photos taken of her in London recently appear to be authentic…” are correct.

There are all kinds of reasons for this: there’s insufficient evidence of a criminal act by Yingluck that would also be a crime in Britain and plenty of evidence that her trial was a political act by the military regime; if she’s applied for asylum in the UK, then that case must be concluded before the Thai regime can seek extradition; there’s no Interpol arrest warrant; the Office of the Attorney-General has not requested she be extradited; and the regime doesn’t actually know exactly where she is. Then there’s the question of whether any real democracy would send Yingluck back to the military’s Thailand.

But this is a charade. Our instinct tells us the last thing The Dictator wants as he maneuvers for his ongoing premiership is a jailed Yingluck.

Even General Prayuth Chan-ocha has basically said forget about it: “He pointed to the case of Thaksin … ‘Has anyone sent him back? Please don’t make this an issue’…”.

But this approach seems politically unacceptable and the need for the charade was emphasized by none other than that model of probity – trips to Hawaii, Corruption Park, a score of luxury watches notwithstanding – General Prawit Wongsuwan. He has decried the lack of action on Yingluck’s extradition. We guess some yellow shirts still matter politically.

The Bangkok Post reports that the dumpy Deputy Dictator, weighed down by luxury watches, has declared that “[o]fficials risk facing malfeasance charges if they make no attempt to hunt down former prime minister Yingluck…”.

The political charade will continue.





Money offshore

3 11 2017

$7.5 million is, we know, only 248 million baht. Hardly anything really. But we have to admit being interested when we saw this headline:

Red Bull Heir Buys Chicago’s Priciest Home of the Year
Jiravat Yoovidhya bought the 130-year-old mansion for $7.5 million

The report states:

An heir to the Red Bull fortune was the deep-pocketed buyer behind Chicago’s most expensive home sale of the year.

Jiravat Yoovidhya, one of late Red Bull creator Chaleo Yoovidhya’s 11 heirs, and his wife, Supatra, bought the 130-year-old Georgian rowhouse in the posh Gold Coast neighborhood for $7.5 million, property records show. The closing in mid-October marked Chicago’s most expensive on-market transaction for over a year, according to the multiple listing service.

Jiravat’s personal wealth is estimated as $4.08 billion. We can only guess whether the apartment might be a place for that other fugitive Yoovidhya, Vorayuth to hang out while avoiding jail time. Having completed the purchase in mid-October, it can be assumed that Jiravat made it back to Bangkok for the big funeral and looked appropriately austere.





Red Bull in reverse

16 09 2017

We have to admit some surprise that the Red Bull-affiliated Khon Kaen land grab has been wound back so quickly. (While locals have opposed the land grant since 2012, it was only last week that the deal became big news.)

The Bangkok Post reports that “KTD Property Development Co had terminated the contract to use the plot at Huay Mek in tambon Ban Dong in Ubonrat district … [on] Friday…”.

Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda and local and provincial authorities came under heavy pressure on what was clearly a contract issued to the privileged in contravention of laws.

Anupong has also come under pressure on his blimp deal from several years ago.

Despite claims within the local, provincial and central administration that the deal was all legal and followed the correct processes, including local consultation, local residents “stood firm on their contention that they had not signed any letter to show their support for the lease of 31 rai of public land.”

General Anupong had earlier said there would be an inquiry “into the role of ministry officials involved in granting the permit to KTD Property Development.”

Let’s see if that “investigation” goes anywhere. No investigation of junta misdeeds have ever found errors or crimes.

We get the feeling that the junta and Anupong feel the need to avoid multiple accusations against him and links being made to the Red Bull fugitive. The other consideration is that junta’s campaigning.





Red Bull and the privilege of great wealth

12 09 2017

Both the Bangkok Post and Prachatai have stories on demands for Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda to be “investigated” after he signed an order that allowed a private company to make use of a 31-rai community forest in Khon Kaen’s Ubonrat district.

General Anupong issued a land use permit to KTD Property Development, allowing it to construct a water storage facility for an adjacent beverage production plant it owns.

KTD Property Development is said to have connections to the giant Red Bull corporation. Red Bull’s Yoovidhya family are reported to be shareholders of KTD.

We wonder if one of those shareholders is Vorayuth Yoovidhya. He’s the Yoovidhya who is a “suspect” in a brutal hit-and-run case in which a police officer was killed, and who has been allowed to miss court appearances time and again as the various charges he faces time out.

His case is an example of the double standards where the rich get benefits from the support they provide to officials and to the royalist ruling class.

Protecting one Yoovidhya is just another aspect of the work of tycoons and the best “justice” and officials that money can buy. These are the tycoons who treat justice as a business tool to keep the profits flowing. The benefits they enjoy through their wealth and extensive corporate control are counted in baht and dollars.

That seems to be what’s happening in Khon Kaen.

KTD has been buying land in the area for five years and requested that it be allowed to use Huay Mek community forest land in 2015. It is reported that the “local community had repeatedly rejected the request.”

The local level officials reckon that KTD will pay. How much? It is stated that the local administration will “collect an annual fee of 1,000 baht per rai, or about 31,000 baht per year.”

What a deal! For KTD and its Red Bull investors.

That said, we assume the company has invested heavily in local, provincial and national officials.

The ever activist Srisuwan Janya has “filed a petition with the National Anti-Corruption Commission to initiate an investigation against Gen Anupong and other high-rank officials of the Interior Ministry.”

Srisuwan and many others reckon General Anupong and his underlings have abused power in favor of a private company.

That support for big business has been a part of the military dictatorship’s “reform” agenda.





Journalists do the state’s work

18 08 2017

The Associated Press’s report on Red Bull family is worth reading in full. It is getting considerable international attention for issues of tax avoidance and the unaccountable power that comes from great wealth in Thailand (and elsewhere).

We won’t repeat it all here. We do recall that, back in May,

“Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya, the suspect in a brutal hit-and-run case in which a police officer was killed, gave authorities the slip once again by leaving Thailand for an unknown destination on April 25, just two days before he was due to answer charges over the 2012 incident.”

Five years after the allegedly coked-up and drunk rich kid ran over a cop and drove off, dragging the body along, to hide from the law in his gated and guarded family home. Lawyers and fixers got to work.

Five years have produced no justice. How can that be? Vorayuth lived the high life around the world as he avoided justice. Some police and others with power in Thailand were obviously complicit.

PPT said that this case demonstrated how Thailand’s (in)justice system doesn’t work, except for the junta when it wanted to lock up the poor and political opponents.

Vorayuth’s flight and high life around the world was revealed by AP (not the Thai authorities) back in March. It was AP researchers and reporters who tracked him down in London.

Why is it that journalists do this investigations while Thailand’s leaders and state agencies remain silent.

AP’s pursuit of the Red Bull killer and the continuing (manufactured) failure of the Thai authorities to track down a scion of one of Thailand’s richest ($12.5 billion) and most influential families has led to the latest AP story.

Thai authorities will probably now issue statements about how they have been “investigating,” but then go back to their legal slumber, induced by the influential.

AP has trawled the Panama Papers for this story and investigated the Yoovidhya family’s secret money trail, its tax avoidance minimization and its extraordinary efforts to conceal all of this. Their concealing of ownership even baffled Mossack Fonseca, the company that managed its international transfers and concealing.

On Thailand’s failures, the AP story makes that wider than just the Red Bull family:

While other governments were swift and aggressive in responding to Panama Papers revelations, that has not been the case in Thailand. More than 1,400 Thai individuals were identified in the documents, but the government calls the reports rumors with no evidence.

Last year, Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office said it was investigating more than a dozen of those individuals — unnamed current and former politicians and business people. To date, that office has not reported any crimes, however, and it would not answer AP’s questions.

The rich and powerful in Thailand can get away with murder. Readers will soon realize just how scary these plutocrats can be when the AP story interviews Viraphong Boonyobhas, the director of Chulalongkorn University’s business crime and money-laundering databank. It is added:

Viraphong would not speak directly about the Yoovidhyas or any other Thai person or company, saying he feared for his legal and physical safety, but added that his expectations for accountability in the military-run government are low.

Thai authorities have vowed to fight corruption, but “wealthy people in Thailand are influential people,” Viraphong said. “Maybe the government can’t untangle such a complicated network.”

That’s a story about how Thailand is actually run. The whole system is not just built on double standards, but is structured to funnel wealth to the top Sino-Thai tycoons through corrupt military and bureaucratic machinery that, for a fee and reflected “barami,” covers money trails. Ideological devices associated with the obscenely rich monarchy are in place to make the greedy appear among the “good” people who slosh about in troughs of money.