Beautiful Country, Ugly Politics

Andrew Marshall has published an article titled “The curse of the blue diamond” on Reuters. The main story is of course the jewelry that has been stolen from Saudi Arabia and ended up somewhere in Thailand more than two decades ago. But even if you’re not interested in that story anymore, it’s an excellent analysis of how messed up and corrupted Thailand’s power networks are.

Secondly, the bumbling efforts of senior government officials and even Abhisit himself to talk their way out of the mounting crisis followed a familiar pattern. Abhisit and his senior ministers repeated the same mantra usually employed by Thai officials in such situations – everything was fine, there was nothing to worry about, it was all a misunderstanding because those who criticised the government were not fully informed about the situation, due partly to the unique complexities of Thailand and its laws, and once things were explained to them the whole problem would be resolved. The promised explanation rarely materialises.

Wait for the next time the Thai government is accused of wrongdoing and in danger of looking bad to the outside world – that’s exactly the strategy they employ pretty much every time.

Thirdly, and most worrying for those who hope Abhisit can lead Thailand towards reform and reconciliation, the latest chapter of the blue diamond saga demonstrates the degree to which he remains in thrall to corrupt but powerful vested interests. Whatever one thinks of Abhisit’s policies, he is no fool and he has a reputation for personal probity. But he holds on to power thanks to the support of highly questionable elements in the armed forces and police, as well as notorious politicians like Newin Chidchob whose party has been put in charge of three very lucrative ministries. For those wondering why Somkid was offered such a controversial promotion – even if it was in accordance with Thai regulations, which is open to question, it was clearly a move that the Saudis would see as hugely provocative – the fact that his his brother Somjate was a key member of the military and police faction that plotted the 2006 coup provides the likeliest answer.

Boys in Brown Strike Like Lightning

From the Bangkok Post:

“The Department of Investigation will ask Interpol to help track down a key suspect in the murder of a Saudi Arabian diplomat 20 years ago.

DSI deputy chief Narat Sawettanat yesterday said he would visit the Interpol office in France later this month to make a request for the capture of Abu Ali, an Arab businessman.

Pol Col Narat said the DSI would ask Interpol to put Mr Ali on its wanted list and track him down before Feb 1, when the statute of limitations on the case expires.”

You really couldn’t make it up.

He’s Not Missing, He’s Pining for the Desert …

He has not been seen since 1990 but he is not missing* Mr Mohammad Al-Ruwaili was last seen in 1990, having come to Thailand in 1985 to run a business. He has not been seen anywhere else, in fact. Persuasive evidence to declare him a missing person, the 19 years during which no one has seen him? Not, apparently, according to the South Bangkok Criminal Court. Here is the report of the thinking of the relevant august judge (or judges, how many would be involved? Just one, surely): “The court denied the request on the grounds the prosecution had only one witness, Pol Lt-Col Benjapol Chanthawan, a DSI expert on special cases, who testified that Mohammad al-Ruwaili came to live in Thailand to run a business in 1985 and had disappeared on Feb 12, 1990. The witness said al-Ruwaili’s car was found in the Christian Hospital parking lot. Police tried to find him, but failed. The case was later transferred to the DSI, which failed to make any further progress. The petitioner also did not produce any important witnesses, such as the missing man’s wife or relatives, to confirm to the court that al-Ruwaili had disappeared. As a consequence, Pol Lt-Col Benjapol’s statement carried little weight, the court said. Also, there were no documents to confirm that al-Ruwaili had not left the country. The only document submitted to the court was a copy of the police complaint that the businessman was missing. To conclude, there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the belief that al-Ruwaili had disappeared without trace, he court said.” This reminds me of an old rhyme which goes something like this: “Last night when I was walking on the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there, he wasn’t there again today, I wish I wish he’d stay away.” In this vein, if the court would care to call me, I would be prepared to state that I have not seen Khun al-Ruwaili since, well, ever, in fact. On a wholly unrelated note, the report concludes: “The disappearance of al-Ruwaili and the murders of four Saudi diplomats in 1989 and 1990 worsened the relations between Thailand and Saudi Arabia. It is believed he had knowledge about the embezzlement of the Saudi jewellery stolen by Kriangkrai Techamong, a Thai worker, from the palace of King Faisal in 1989.” Don’t mention the jewellery. Seriously, don’t talk about it or you might …. Well, you might be declared ‘definitely not missing, no way, deny it entirely, nothing to see here,’ in another twenty years. He’s just a very naughty boy – one for the teenagers there.