Corrupt Police Men Get Struck With the Full Force of Justice


The chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau and 18 senior officers are allegedly involved in illegal gambling dens in Bangkok. This in itself isn’t really very surprising. It’s also not very surprising the it was Chuwit who blew the whistle on this. What’s surprising is that there will be an investigation into their (alleged) involvement.

If found guilty, the senior officers will be punished with a 5% salary cut for 3 months. After that, they will receive their full salary again.

In case you’re wondering if there is a typo – no, it’s really just five percent. Considering how much money they (allegedly) might have made from their (alleged) involvement in illegal gambling in Bangkok, this is a joke.

 

Thailand Jewelry Exports 2011: $12 billion (expected)


Thailand is still selling more and more jewelry to customers from other countries, despite economic slowdown in the USA & Europe.

The overall jewellery export value is expected to surpass US$12 billion this year.

This includes sales that are made within the country to customers who bring the country out (mostly tourists, specially from Asian countries and Russia) and exports for resale in other countries.

The Thai government also plans to further promote jewelry sales.

Drug Busts in Bangkok (September)


The Bangkok police announced what its anti-narcotics operations achieved between August 30-September 12.

  • 277 drug addicts were admitted to the rehabilitation program.
  • Nearly 4,000 suspects were arrested on drug-related charges.
  • The number included 2 major narcotics producers and over 300 dealers.
  • Nearly 700 suspects were arrested for illegal possession of drugs and nearly 3,000 users were arrested.
  • Nearly 30,000 methamphetamine pills, 11 kilogram of powdered methamphetamine, nearly three kilograms of crystalized methamphetamine and 43 kilograms of cannabis were confiscated.

For a more complete showcase check out this TAN Network article.

Also, it’s worth to remember what drug rehab and drug detention centers in Thailand are like.

Bangkok Airport: Number of International Passengers 2010


The Bangkok airport handled 31.41 million international passengers in the year 2010.

Phuket is one of the fastest growing airports (in terms of number of passengers) of 2010 globally.

More info & international comparison here (PDF-download).

Gold Prices Up Up Up


There’s a run on gold these days. So much so that police even enforced stricter security in the “gold store” Yaowarat area. According to Thipa Navawattanasap, the president of YLG Bullion and Futures, local gold prices may even hit 26,000 baht in the short term. Read more about it here.

New BTS Line in Bangkok


The new “purple line” of the BTS system in Bangkok is scheduled to open 2014 and will serve north-eastern Bangkok. The estimate costs run into 50bn baht. For more details read: Bangkok Mass Rapid Transit-Purple Line, Bangkok, Thailand

Southern Thailand: One of the worlds most violent insurgencies


Patrick Winn has authored one of the best in-depth pieces looking at the situation in Southern Thailand. It’s very well worth to set 20 minutes, put the phone off the hook, switch of the TV and digest “Buddhists in Arms”.

Corruption in Thailand before, during and after Thaksin


Critics of Thaksin often blame him for corruption – and even among his supporters, there are very few that seriously believe he wasn’t corrupt. It’s nonetheless interesting to look at corruption ratings from Thailand before, during and after the Thaksin administration.

There’s no doubt Thaksin was corrupt and used his political power to pocket a lot of money. But more interesting is how much his wrongdoings have been publicized, compared with the relative lack of publication and exposure of the corruption that happened after the coup.

Possible Worst Case Scenarios for Thailand


Now that the election has gone quite well, it should be noted that there are still some ways things could get nasty in Thailand.

The Return of Thaksin

For example, the winning Pheua Thai party, could bring back Thaksin to Thailand, giving him amnesty, and maybe even try to return part of the money seized from his fortune. If this happens, there’s a high likelihood that something would put Phuea Thai out of power. Could be a series of yellow shirt street protests (and the many colors they have adapted since), followed by a military coup, or other a “judicial coup”.

It pretty much depends on what Thaksin wants – if he can contend himself with pulling the strings from abroad, things could go well. The thing is, with a man like him, you never know.

The Elite Toppling Election Results

It’s no secret that the elite, the Democrat party, certain elements of the palace and the army aren’t happy with the election results. And some of them might just pull some strings that put Phuea Thai out of power.

The Democrats are currently trying to abolish the Pheua Thai party on legal grounds. To be more precisely, one Democrat member says Yingluck was cooking rice noodles during her campaign, and handing it out to her supporters, which would have been illegal.

But the Democrat party also recommended the Election Commission to abolish Phuea Thai because banned politicians (particularly Thaksin and Chaturon Chaiseng) participated in the campaign.

There are also other “plans of attack” how Phuea Thai could be ousted – and one might feel as if those who want them out of power are assembling a collection of trump cards that they can play out to undo the election results.

One main difference though is that Yingluck and many of the lawmakers around her aren’t executives this time – thus, they could reform a new government under a different party name (seems like someone thought ahead). Yet, before we get involved in subtle nuances of the law too deeply, we should remember that in Thailand “where there’s a will there’s a way” when it comes to those kinds of matters.

If this would happen, it would revive red shirt protests and escalate the conflict, probably to levels of violence.

Two kinds of stupid

Now both things – Thaksin returning, or abolishing Phuea Thai – would require probably an equal amount of stupidity and recklessness that could throw Thailand into mayhem.

The next Defense Minister

A lot of it depends on who will be the next defense minister, and who will be in charge of the military power in Thailand. One of the main reasons why the 2006 coup happened was because Thaksin was trying to fill up high military ranks with people loyal to him.

There are rumors of a secret deal being made between Thaksin, the army and the other one, and hopefully that will be the way things go – they find a way to share the pie without tearing the country to pieces.

Chuwit


There’s an good Chuwit 101 primer from Associated Press. If you aren’t aware of one of Thailand’s most colorful politicians (the former prostitution tycoon) it’ll be a fun read.

North Korean Refugees in Thailand


Not something that is reported a lot on, but: North Korean refugees often try to escape to Thailand. One of the reasons is that South Korea provides financial support to then send them there, where they get supported from the government. However, until they get there, it’s a long and arduous trip.

You can watch a 2 minute Al Jazeera video about it here.

Drug Detention Centers in SEA


There’s an interesting 25 minute documentary on drug detention centers (army rehab bootcamps) in Thailand and neighbouring countries. It’s mainly criticizing the lack of effectiveness and lack of skilled staff. However, contrary to some other reports, this Al Jazeera documentary also points out that the inmates are treated good, no abuses, the centers are clean.

You can watch the documentary here: Asia’s speed trap

 

On the Thai Elections


Here some quotes from an expert brief you by Joshua Kurlantzick for the Council of Foreign Relations, but it’s worth reading  Thailand’s Elections: Resolution or Implosion? in full.

  • the election could simply accelerate Thailand’s political meltdown, underway since a coup in September 2006
  • any of the plausible poll scenarios […] is likely to inflame segments of Thailand, causing more unrest in what was once one of the most stable countries in Asia.
  • the putsch only triggered further instability. The military abrogated the 1997 constitution and replaced it with a more retrograde document, and the army continued to meddle in politics; it plays a major role behind the scenes of the current government.
  • the supposed reconciliation [after the 2010 clashes] has pleased no one
  • Working class Thais […] loath to go back to an earlier Thailand in which elites control all levers of power. The elites, fearful that any opposition government will mean further destruction of their economic and political power, are unwilling to hand over any control of government to the rural poor.
  • The government continues to harass and arrest opposition activists
  • The government also has blocked some one hundred thousand websites […] making Thailand today one of the worst abusers of Internet freedom in the world.
  • Looming over the election and Thailand’s political scene–though never openly discussed–is the issue of royal succession.
  • Many Thais fear instability will worsen when he passes the rule on to his successor
  • The military itself has initiated many of the recent lese majeste cases.
  • Most polls suggest that if the July election is free and fair, the opposition would win the most seats in parliament. But it is unlikely to get an overwhelming majority, leaving the door open for the Democrat Party, with the help of an arm-twisting military, to then try to assemble a coalition government along with several smaller parties.
  • but such a scenario would only make him [current prime minister Abhisit] more beholden to the armed forces, hardly a positive sign for a restoration of democratic institutions
  • Even if the opposition does win an overwhelming majority, the military is unlikely to let it take office. The armed forces have publicly declared they are not planning a coup. But Thai history suggests that claims by senior military officers that no coup is being planned actually means a coup is being planned–during nearly every previous coup it launched, the military publicly denied it was plotting a putsch.
  • Thailand is the United States’ twenty-third-largest trading partner [in 2009, trade in goods and services was more than $29 billion] and the two countries have close military relations
  • more repressive governments in the region, like Myanmar, have pointed to Thailand’s political crisis as a reason why they should not move too swiftly to allow real, open democracy
  • Washington could begin to treat Thailand more like other countries with serious human rights problems, criticizing abuses when they occur and taking appropriate measures, such as downgrading the military-military relationship after serious abuses, like a coup. So far, U.S. criticism has been muted, with many lawmakers still praising the Thai government, even as they criticize other countries in Southeast Asia, like Vietnam, for similar abuses

Thailand’s Elections: Resolution or Implosion?

Witnesses Who Will Testify Against Police in Rural Thailand Need Better Protection


The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) today issued an urgent appeal to the public in the case of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong. His body was found dead several days after his arrest in 2004.

Here’s a reprint of the appeal:

THAILAND: Call for observers in the case of torture and murder of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong; strengthening Witness Protection is needed

ISSUES: Extrajudicial killing; forced disappearance; impunity; rule of law; Human Rights Defender
———————————————————————

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding the case of Kiettisak Thitboonkrong that on 7 June 2011 at 9 am at the Criminal Court in Bangkok, the witness hearings of the defendant will continue in the case of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong, who was one of the 28 victims of the Kalasin Killings. This is the first case in which the DSI has charged police for the murders that characterised the notorious ‘war on drugs’ and its aftermath in Kalasin. Close observation would offer valuable support to the victims’ relatives and the case witnesses. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges all concerned persons to attend the court as observers, and calls on other interested persons to follow the case closely.

UPDATED INFORMATION:

On 16 July 2004, Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong, age 17, was arrested by the police in Kalasin province on charges of allegedly stealing a motorcycle. When his family heard this news, they went to the police station and attempted to talk to him. After returning multiple times, his grandmother was allowed to witness his interrogation on 22 July 2004 and told to wait for him to be bailed out (the guarantor was a municipal officer) later that day. But Mr. Kiettisak never came home. A few days later, his mangled body was found in a neighboring province.

At the urging of the relatives of Mr. Kiettisak, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) in the Ministry of Justice began investigating his death in 2005, spent three years investigating his death. On 18 May 2009, six police officers were charged with premeditated murder and with concealing Mr. Kiettisak’s corpse to hide the cause of death (an image of the body can be found here, but please be warned that it is graphic). Because this case was investigated under the Special Investigation Act it was sent to the Criminal Court in Bangkok. The public prosecutor is conducting the case.

In previous appeals and updates (see UAU-031-2009) we recounted the opening of the first court trial in October 2009. The court agreed to combine Black Case No. 3252/2552 and Black Case No. 3466/2552 into Black Case No. 3252/2552, 3466/2552. Mr. Kiettisak’s father was also allowed to become a joint-litigant and his lawyers were accepted. Since then the parties in the case have presented themselves before the court for the opening of the trial, among them Mr. Chainarong Sengthong-a-ram, prosecutor in charge of the case; Mr. Kittisapt Thitboonkrong, father of Mr. Kiettisak; lawyers from the Lawyer Council of Thailand who are supporting Mr. Kiettisak’s father; six defendants who are Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Angkarn Kammoonna, Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Sutthinant Noenthing, Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Phansilp Uppanant, Pol. Lt. Col. Samphao Indee, Pol. Col. Montree Sriboonloue, Pol. Lt. Col. Sumitr Nanthasathit; and the lawyers of these defendants.

At this time, all prosecution witnesses have testified and the first two defense witnesses have testified. At the hearing at the Criminal Court on Tuesday, 7 June 2011, the remaining defense witnesses will give testimony; if this testimony cannot be completed within one day, the Court will then set additional dates. The AHRC is requesting that all persons able to do come to observe the hearing for several reasons. The AHRC has learned that court observation plays an important role in any cases in which the authorities have been charged, both in terms of supporting the victim, relatives and witnesses, and for an understanding of how the rule of law is currently functioning in Thailand. This case shows the police not as protectors, but as perpetrators of violence in which human rights are negated, especially the right to life.

In this particular case, court observation by national and international observers will also help raise the signal the concern felt by the AHRC for witnesses in this case. In particular, the AHRC would like to highlight the ongoing concerns that we have for the safety of Mrs. Pikul Phromchan, the aunt of Mr. Kiettisak and a human rights defender (HRD) who has consistently worked to secure accountability in both the case of the murder of her nephew and also the other 27 cases of murder and disappear of citizens by the police in Kalasin. Mrs. Pikul is currently under the Witness Protection Program of the DSI, but the AHRC is concerned about the quality of the professional standards of the protection she is receiving, both in terms of personal protection and the support for Mrs. Pikul to live in a province other than her home province. First, given that the defendants in this case are police, the AHRC is concerned that the state officials who are engaged in the day-to-day protection of Mrs. Pikul are also police. Second, since March, Mrs. Pikul has not received the accommodation, food, and living allowance that she is meant to receive as a person in the DSI Witness Protection Program.

The AHRC calls on the DSI to ensure that Mrs. Pikul Phromchan and all other witnesses are given full and professional protection. Particularly in cases where state officials are the perpetrators, it is essential that witnesses and involved parties are protected, so that the cycle of impunity is broken, rather than further consolidated.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the authorities listed below, urging them to ensure the continued and professional protection of Mrs. Pikul Phromchan and to continue to work for accountability in the case of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong.

The AHRC has also written letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders for her intervention.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

THAILAND: Torture and Murder of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong

I am writing to express my concern over recent reports about the protection of Mrs. Pikul Phromchan, who is under the Witness Protection Program of the Department of Special Investigation. Mrs. Pikul is a human rights defender who has worked closely to secure justice and accountability in the cases of a series murders of citizens by police in Kalasin province. In particular, she has worked closely on the case of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong, her nephew, who was murders in July 2004.

The case of the murder of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong is the first one of the 28 killings in Kalasin in which the Department of Special Investigation has brought criminal charges against the six police officers allegedly responsible for his murder. The protection of Mrs. Pikul is particularly important at this time because the case will continue at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Tuesday, 7 June 2011.

I call on you to ensure that Mrs. Pikul Phromchan is given full and professional protection and to work for accountability in the case of the murder of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong. Particularly in cases where state officials are the perpetrators, it is essential that witnesses and involved parties are protected, so that the cycle of impunity is broken, rather than further consolidated.

I look forward to your prompt action.

Sincerely,

—————
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva
Prime Minister
c/o Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Bangkok 10300
THAILAND
Fax: +66 2 288 4000 ext. 4025
Tel: +66 2 288 4000
E-mail: spokesman@thaigov.go.th or abhisit@abhisit.org

2. Mr. Peeraphan Saleeratwipak
Minister of Justice
Office of the Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice Building
22nd Floor Software Park Building,
Chaeng Wattana Road
Pakkred, Nonthaburi 11120
THAILAND
Fax: +66 2 502 6734 / 6884
Tel: +66 2 502 6776/ 8223
E-mail: om@moj.go.th

3. Mr.Tharit Pengdith
Director-General of
Department of Special Investigation
Department of Special Investigation office
128 Chaeng Wattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi
Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Fax: +66 2 831 9888
Tel.: +66 2 831 9888
E-mail: tharit@dsi.go.th

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

So, just send out that letter.

Thailand’s education system. Status: F*cked up


There’s a stellar article on reuters titled Analysis: As Thais vote, a struggle with education.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva wants to pour 371.5 billion baht ($12 billion) into a six year education reform plan. Now, we’re not going to speculate how much of that would be siphoned into pockets of government employees. But instead we look at what Thitinan Pongsudhirak says:

“The mindset is from the nation-building and Cold War period to produce obedient and nationalistic citizens, which does not fit the 21st-century needs. It is hierarchical, top-down, with a systematic lack of critical thinking.”

Historian Charnvit Kasetsiri made a similar statement:

“If you look at history textbooks, it’s littered with myths about ancient warriors and old-time enmities with neighboring countries. It’s still driven by nationalism without a global perspective on how Thailand fits into the world.”

Apart of that, nearly half of these 371.5 billion baht would be channeled into “developing a new breed of teachers” – but it seems the ministry in charge of this task has no more concrete ideas other than calling it “new and improved”.

Other points that are made in the article:

  • if employers are looking for highly skilled English speaking workers, it’s easier to find them in other Southeast Asian countries.
  • manufacturing jobs will be moved to other countries with lower labor costs, see average labor costs:
    • China $303
    • Thailand $263
    • Philippines $212
    • Indonisia $182
    • Vietnam $107
    • Cambodia $101
  • there’s a large difference in teaching quality between Bangkok and rural schools
  • the national school curriculum conveys a Bangkok-centric image of the nation and fails to acknowledge the diversity of this country
  • common complaint about Thailand’s education system: how teachers are trained & what is taught.
  • Thailand is spending around 20% of it’s annual budget on education – that’s a lot compared with most other countries (and again makes the point: the problem isn’t that there’s not enough money, the problem is what’s done with the money). Compare money spent on education in 2009:
    • Thailand: 4% of GDP
    • Singapore: 3.1% of GDP
    • but: Singapore ranks 13th in education performance, Thailand 47th (Swiss-based Institute of Management Development rating)
  • just 18% of students finish college in Thailand
  • low quality universities: Chulalongkorn University (Thailand`s most prestigous) ranks 180 in 2010 world ranking of universities
  • weak English language skills. IMD ranking: second lowest in Asia.
  • analysists say major bottlenecks are: bureaucratic inertia, deficit of ideas on how to improve curriculum & poor teacher recruitment & training
  • incentives for teachers are set up wrong: encourage administrative duties rather than student performance.

Thaksin Gets Global Media Attention


Thaksin’s back in the media spotlight this week. Here just a couple of recent articles on him and interviews with him:

 

Durian Exports


In 2010, Thailand shipped about 138,000 tons of durians (60% of global exports) to mainland China (UN trade stats)

Bangkok Prison Klong Prem & Failed Drug Policy


There are quite a few movies and books about the infamous Klong Prem prison in Bangkok. Now, there’s an article on the prison and Thailand’s failed drug policy in the Bangkok Post too, and it’s worth reading:

No fresh starts at ‘New Life Camp’
Drug offenders held at a special section of Klong Prem prison say they suffered abuse and overcrowding under the pretence of rehabilitation

click to read the rest of this article…