Who is in charge of the cookie jar?

24 08 2014

It is quite clear that the answer to this is that Thailand is now controlled by bunch of crooks.

A reader has pointed out an Asia Sentinel article from a couple of days ago, where its necessarily anonymous correspondent brings together some of the factual reports of the past few years that confirm the criminality of the military brass.

The report states that the military is a “bloated force with 1,400 generals now will seek to run the country…”. The report says that “is 400 more generals than the US Army has for a force three times as big.”

In 2010, it paid some $30 million for more than 1500 “bomb detection devices … sold by a discredited British company … [d]espite a warning from the US Embassy that the devices were ‘like a toy’…”.  It continued to use them for years after they were shown to be fake. They were used to convict the innocent of alleged crimes and were “apparently bought by a Thai general who is said to have profited enormously on the deal.” Naturally.

The report states that the “fact is that the Thai army …  is one of the most deeply corrupt militaries in Asia,” matters little, with the Anti-Corruption Commission ruling that:

the incoming junta members do not have to declare the assets they amassed before and after holding office.  That is in contradiction to the policy for elected officials before the coup. It is also going to be convenient for new executive boards for state-owned enterprises, whose new members are largely drawn from the military.

Having just “approved a US$75 billion master plan to upgrade the country’s transport infrastructure over the next eight years,” there’s little doubt that the “military’s historic role in procurement scandals,” the “chances for generals or lesser officers to take backhanders is inevitably going to grow,” for no one can oversee a military dictatorship.

Corruption in the military is “business as usual.” Enriched and bloated generals operate with impunity. The report explains:

It is just one of a long string of depressing procurement scandals that the Thai military has endured for decades, going clear back to the time in the 1980s and before when the army bought hundreds of armored personnel carriers from the Chinese that were so substandard that light showed through the welds holding the armor plate on, exposing the soldiers inside to the potential of death in the event they were hit by rocket fire. The wife of one of the army’s then-top generals was the agent for Chinese weapons dealers.  At one point the Thai air force bought Chinese jets with engines so substandard that the planes had to be towed to the flight line for takeoff and towed back on landing, because the engine life was so short, measured in hours.

One of the powers behind The Dictator is General Anupong Paojinda. He and Prayuth “signed off on a Bt350 million purchase of an advanced zeppelin which … has long been obsolete” and never flew operationally.

“This is the military that is going to be in charge of Thailand’s economy.” Corrupt and incompetent, the military is only “useful” for murdering its own citizens and protecting the interests of the palace-military ruling elite.

It is hard to keep a good blimp down

19 07 2013

Well, not in the case of the inaptly named Sky Dragon, which seems to be a reptilian monster that can only look at the sky while consuming its only natural food, the taxpayers’ baht.

Purchased in 2009 from a company that had no other business to speak of, then army chief General Anupong Paojinda seemed to think that a blimp was a good deal. Since then, the zeppelin has almost never flown and has never been operational. It also has high maintenance costs of about 30 million baht a year and requires 80 soldiers to look after it.money_down_toilet 2

In other words, the purchase has been a complete waste of taxpayer money.

And yet, according to the Bangkok Post, the Army has still has no plans to sell its grounded and non-operational airship. How could they? Who’d want to buy an unserviceable and expensive wreck? The Army is apparently still “looking for a firm to fix its problems…”. That is estimated to cost a further 50 million baht.

Blimps deflated everywhere

20 02 2013
An earlier photo when the Sky Dragon was inflated and operated

An earlier photo when Sky Dragon was inflated and operated

A reader who follows the military use of airships and has noted the repeated deflation of the Thai Army’s zeppelin known as Sky Dragon, sent us a story regarding the U.S. military’s mothballing of its airship operations. The U.S. “mega- reconnaissance blimps” were more costly and much larger than the Thai balloon, but also faced “performance challenges.” The Thai “performance challenges” were essentially lack of performance in that Sky Dragon was unable to fly or stay inflated.

Our last post on Sky Dragon mentioned its crash in Patani, during its first active operation. For a bit of a round-up of our previous posts on the blimp, its shady purchase and more, see this post.

Army and Ukraine purchases

5 01 2013

What is it that sees the Royal Thai Army buying a considerable amount of its kit from the Ukraine?

Thai generals shopping in the Ukraine

Thai generals shopping in the Ukraine

In earlier posts, PPT has discussed the purchase of armored personnel carriers from the Ukraine. Back then, we first posted about the lack of transparency on military spending that saw the account of the army “seeking approval to buy an additional 121 armoured personnel carriers from the Ukraine even though it has yet to receive any of the vehicles it ordered three years ago.” Apparently, according to a Bangkok Post story, “[then] army chief Anupong Paojinda has decided to spend his forces’ leftover funds for this year on 121 APCs from the Ukraine, which has yet to deliver the 96 vehicles ordered in 2007.” The story on the APCs became a long one. As might be expected, there were questions regarding cost and possible corruption and commissions and the billions shoveled to the military by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. Naturally, there were also problems with the APCs suggesting issues like those surrounding the Army’s infamous deflating, crashing, and senseless purchase of a zeppelin from a non-company in the U.S.

At the Bangkok Post there is a report that Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha says the Ukraine will deliver its first batch of T-84 Oplot battle tanks in May. The first post PPT had on this was back in May 2011, when the Abhisit government rushed to spend money and to buy more support from the military in a 18-hour marathon cabinet meeting that, amongst other spending, included  “a budget of 7 billion baht for the army to buy 54 T-84 OPLOT 54A tanks from the Ukraine…”.

Nuamthong, taxi and tank

A Wikipedia Commons photo

Tanks in Thailand are synonymous with the military coup. They are most often used in Thailand when the Army is thinking about or engaged in a coup.

One of the most significant moments in the development of opposition to the 2006 coup was when on 30 September 2006, Nuamthong Praiwan drove his taxi, spray painted with the words “[CDR is] destroying the country,” and “Sacrificing life”, into an M41  tank at the Royal Plaza. Nuamthong, who later committed suicide in another political statement against the coup, said: “I did it intentionally to protest the junta that has destroyed our country, and I painted all the words myself…”.

It seems that five tanks will arrive in May, with another 50 tanks due by the end of 2015. The army has ordered a grand total of 200 of these tanks. Like the zeppelin, it seems that the Thai military is the only buyer for this tank, at least at present. To us, that solitary fact should sound alarm bells that ring out with sounds like “corruption” and “commissions.”


In coup livery?

Add that to the fact that Prayuth has “had requested a speedier delivery of the battle tanks.” Recall that the delivery of the APCs was repeatedly delayed while the Army ordered more even when not a single APC had been delivered and there were problems with the engines. Another tell-tale sign  of “issues” is Prayuth’s need to affirm that “he had inspected an Oplot tank during a recent trip to Ukraine and believed the army was getting good value for money in terms of firepower and combat capabilities.” As the Post reports, the “procurement drew criticism from soldiers when the deal was announced in 2011.”

Some in the timid Yingluck Shinawatra government must be thinking that they may see the tanks clattering on Bangkok’s streets against an elected government some time in the future or whether they may be used to threaten Cambodia in a PAD-inspired, xenophobic border clash.

The Army is never wrong

14 12 2012

Yesterday we posted regarding the Army’s failed use of what is becoming an ever costlier air ship. Today the Army reveals that the blimp known as Sky Dragon did not “crash,” but was required to “perform an emergency landing because of turbulence,” after it was just 20 meters into the air. The hard “emergency landing” smashed much of the air ship – 50% of it was damaged said one source in the Bangkok Post.money_down_toilet 2

So what do the Colonel Blimps at the Army do? Decide to spend even more taxpayer money on what is becoming a useless sink hole to rival the magic wand known as the GT200 and other stupid (but lucrative for potential kickbacks) Army purchases from dodgy companies.

The Army reckons repairs will cost 30 million baht. Add that to the original cost and the money poured down the sink repairing leaks and keeping the useless zeppelin full of gas, and the taxpayer is looking like the Army’s milch cow.

But, we hear you ask, what about insurance? The Post reports: “The blimp’s insurance was said to have expired…”.

Who is responsible for all of this less than dazzling decision-making? “Army Chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha … ordered the repair and said the army had no plan to ground the aircraft.” There is an attitude that that the Army can never do wrong or can’t admit that it has done something wrong, which is intimately asociated with broader notions of impunity.

Sky Dragon is a monster that can only look at the sky but consumes vast amounts of its natural food, baht.

Army zeppelin crashes

13 12 2012

Readers who have been with PPT for some time will know that we have taken an interest in the Army’s shady deal that involved purchasing a 350-million baht military blimp from a penny company that no longer exists in the United States. The deal reeked of kickbacks and/or lack of any good sense.

An earlier photo when the Sky Dragon was inflated and operated

An earlier photo when the Sky Dragon was inflated

Today, the Colonel Blimps in the Army have seen their zeppelin crash in Patani, “during its first active operation.” The crash saw two pilots and two technicians escape with minor injuries.

This crash follows a series of earlier failures associated with this silly waste of taxpayer funds. For a bit of a round-up of our previous posts on the so-called Sky Dragon, see our post that began: PPT sometimes finds it difficult to post on the shenanigans at the Army. Difficult because the silly duffers we call Colonel Blimps, who run the Army seem so dense that they repeatedly make themselves look like hopeless fools. The Army has been paying about 300,000 baht a month to keep the blimp in a hanger and gassed up, and now it has crashed.

Further updated: Colonel Blimps still want their blimp

27 09 2012

PPT sometimes finds it difficult to post on the shenanigans at the Army. Difficult because the silly duffers we call Colonel Blimps, who run the Army seem so dense that they repeatedly make themselves look like hopeless fools.

Perhaps the best case for this is on the continuing efforts to make their failed zeppelin fly. Even if they get it to fly it is still a standing joke.

The latest report, at the Bangkok Post, explains that the “army has agreed to pay 50 million baht more to an American airship producer to make its 350-million-baht airship fly for the first time since its procurement.” They refer to a Sky Dragon that sags near the ground in an Army hangar.

The report states: “An army source said the army signed a contract with Aria International Inc on Sept 20 to make the surveillance airship stay up in the air. The company was originally hired to provide the airship, which has not flown since its arrival in the country.” The contractor is confident it can make the airship fly by November.

An earlier photo when the Sky Dragon was inflated and operated

Apparently, “Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered the contract because he does not want the airship to rest in its hangar in Pattani province any longer.”

The airship has been unable to fly since its delivery about two years ago. The army  accepted the airship in July 2011 and is said to have cost the Army “about 25 million baht” to keep the zeppelin puffed up. Essentially, the airship, ordered during the tenure of former army chief Anupong Paojinda, doesn’t do anything but soak up taxpayer funds.

PPT has posted plenty on this sorry story – see here and here. The revealing part of this story is that the Army has gone back to Aria International. Long ago we linked to information on this company where we said:

Correspondent “Reg” [at Bangkok Pundit] then turns to the company involved and its website. He says: “Note its last stock trade was 1 cent. Have a look through the site and see if you have doubts about the company founded in mid-2008 and with 12 employees. How on earth did the RTA [Royal Thai Army] even know about them? It seems that one of the principals had previous experience with the RTA. According to their press releases, the RTA is their only client. It also seems that they are agents for the real manufacturers.”

We checked on them again today. As far as we can tell, the company no longer maintains a website, it has filed Form15 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, “voluntarily suspending its reporting obligations.”

As a result of filing the Form 15, the Company will no longer be required to file annual and quarterly reports with the SEC. The Company took this action in order to focus its resources on further developing and marketing its unique services. The Company’s common stock will continue to be eligible for public trading only now it will occur through the Pink Sheets (www.pinksheets.com) quotations system instead of the OTC Bulletin Board.

The last time we can see that the company’s shares were traded, it was for a fraction of a cent. It is no longer even a penny company! To be accurate, the last quoted close for the company was for one five-thousandth of a cent! There’s no recent news for the company.

So who is the Army paying?

Update 1: It seems the Army is reading PPT and is responding to our post above. A report at The Nation even continues the “blimp” terminology. The report states the the repairs are going to cost 50 million baht “for two foreign companies to repair and further equip its grounded airship in the South [stating it] was permitted because a maintenance agreement with the seller had expired.” It promises its zeppelin will fly by November…. Then, new, yes, new “optical surveillance and signal relaying equipment will be installed…”.

The Army says that the manufactured by Worldwide Aeros Corp (more here), is “one of the companies awarded the new contract.” Is the other the seemingly defunct Aria International?

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports an “army source” as stating that the “airship supplier, Aria International Incorporated (AII), had lost contact with the army and had probably been dissolved.” We guess the company had much business other than that with the Thai military brass.

Army’s zeppelin crashes

11 08 2011

We can’t resist another short post on the Army’s ill-fated airship. It has crashed.

Okay, it was a controlled emergency landing, with damage to the craft, but to most observers, that’s a crash. The Bangkok Post has the story. This story of failure and hopelessnesshas gone on for a considerable time. Money down a rat hole as the so-called Sky Dragon seems to be more or less unusable.

When the Sky Dragon was inflated and operated

Following the three helicopter crashes, it is really time to ask why the Army gets sniper training when it needs more training in how to operate and maintain its equipment for “normal” military operations. This Army has never been about normal military activities. It’s role, and the one it revels in, is repressing its citizenry and maintaining a corrupt social order.

Give then subs!

28 03 2011

The army has its regularly deflated zeppelin, so why shouldn’t the navy have U-boats? Maybe because the used diesel submarines cost 1.28 billion baht each and 7.7 billion baht for the wolf pack.

This total cost is about what PPT reported some time ago,although the total number of vessels is up from two to six.

That earlier post suggested that the Thai navy was keen to get under water as part of a regional naval arms race. It was also clear that the navy reckoned they deserved more from the royalist government.

Having taken just a couple of months to complete its feasibility study, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva jumped at the chance to spend even more money on the military.

Interestingly, even the Bangkok Post is critical. It says:

It took a lot of silent running before Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva agreed to add another 7.7 billion baht to the country’s deficit budget, just to buy submarines for the Royal Thai Navy. The prime minister may have kept negotiations secret because he feared the public would be outraged at such a deal. If so, he was undoubtedly correct. The decision to pay out 1.28 billion baht each for six used German submarines is excessive. The purchase came under strong criticism as soon as it was announced, and it is likely to attract additional negative comment in coming days, as it should.

Why is the Post critical? One reason is the cost, with the argument being that the money could be well-used elsewhere. Another reason is simply that “Germany stopped using the U-206 submarines last year because they are outdated and too expensive to maintain.”

The Post editorial goes on to observe:

It is difficult but necessary to consider criticism such as that by Surachart Bamrungsuk of Chulalongkorn University. The political science lecturer told this newspaper that the hugely expensive submarine purchase is a way for the Democrats to win the military’s political support.

Of course! Is this election, when it is finally held, goingto be the most expensive election ever? If all the buying of support is included, the answer has to be yes. What happens if the royalist party loses?!

Korn on military spending but not electoral buying power

7 03 2011

For those who enjoyed the first part of Asia Provocateur’s interview with Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij, the second installment is now available.It is a long interview, so PPT just highlights bits and pieces from Andrew Spooner’s blog.

On food security and prices and the challenge for the Democrat Party: “From my perspective the high cost of living is a big issue…. Actually, the people who are hurting more are the urban dwellers and consumers, who don’t have the benefits derived from higher food prices. That is problematic as it is also the Democrat Party’s support base. So it is a challenge for us.”

Korn adds that the government has “scaled back on our spending programmes, which is consistent with our plan to achieve budget balance in five years.” PPT wonder what impact the huge pre-election spending is having on the budget bottom line. Korn speaks about the “oil fund” saying that, when the interview was conducted it had a surplus of 27 billion baht. Estimates are now that it will be drained by April.

Korn goes on to mention the government’s Pracha Wiwat program, saying “… all of it is address the quality of life issues that have been raised as a reason for social division and to strengthen the grassroots economy…”. He also comments on social spending spurring demand. The unmentionable is influencing the election outcome.

Like Abhisit, Korn likes to claim: “We did something that wasn’t done before.” IOn this case he is referring to flood relief, where he says: “We wanted to ensure that everything was received by the individual recipients with no leakage along the way.” Maybe Korn has forgotten this. And what could be done about corruption when the Minister doesn’t know the figure for this huge program?

Referring to the reported level of investment in the Pracha Wiwat programme of 2 billion baht (US$65.6m) a year…

That’s totally wrong. It’s more. Well, that’s right for the first year anyway.

Well the Bangkok Post state that it is 2 billion baht.

Okay, okay. Roughly.

Spooner then asks this really neat question:

And I am referring to the level of Pracha Wiwat investment in this next question as it seems quite a surprising state of affairs to an outsider such as myself when set against payments in other areas. For example, when we consider the amount of money put aside to spend on Privy Council president General Prem Tinsulanonda’s new cavalry unit in Khon Kaen, which costs 70 billion baht (US$3.3bn), equivalent to 35 years of the Pracha Wiwat welfare programme, and a military project that some commentators consider to be something of an unnecessary vanity project, I must wonder, and speaking very much as an outsider on this issue, but also having observed other grandiose spending, is military spending out of control in Thailand? And, given all the reforms and changes you are talking about, when are Thais going to be able to ensure they get the best value for money from their military? Setting 2 billion baht against the military spending seems very small.

Korn gets back to his comment above:

Pracha Wiwat is just a sliver of what we do in terms of welfare. Income guarantee for farmers is over 40 billion baht. Free education is another 30 to 40 billion baht. We pay 500 baht to elderly people who don’t have a pension that, again, is tens of billions of baht.

So that’s annually up to 150 billion baht plus tens of billions to the elderly. Korn gives these figures as a defense of the claim that welfare amounts to a sliver of what the military has been paid.

Korn then turns to the military part of the question. The Finance Minister states: “I have no idea about the Khon Kaen thing.” This would seem to imply that the military gets its piles of money and uses it with no oversight from the government.

He adds:

The less money we need to spend on the military the better…. But … of course we need to have a military, then they need to be properly equipped. And on that basis we need to be willing to spend money to ensure that we’re getting the best value from our military.

Yes, Minister, but how can you get “best value for money” if you have “no idea” what they are doing with their budget? And what of failed zeppelins, “lost” arms, GT 200s and so on?

Finally Spooner  asks about Map Ta Phut, environment and development. Korn essentially says on Map Ta Phut: “We solved it in a timely manner and in a very democratic manner…”. PPT isn’t at all sure the issue is “solved.”

Strikingly, Korn adds:: “The reason the country is spending quite a lot of money in helping Myanmar (Burma) develop, for example at the new port city of Tavoy, is because that is where our industrial growth is likely to be in the future and not within Thai borders.” While it is understood that this is Thai policy, it hasn’t been so clearly expressed. Move polluting and dangerous industries to other, neighboring countries. Charming idea.

It is a very useful interview and Korn seems pretty relaxed. We wish he’d been asked about elections and government spending.

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