Thursday, August 4, 2011

King’s failing health, and his $30B fortune, puts Thailand in jeopardy

BANGKOK—Towering high in the heavens overlooking the courtyard of Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital stands an illuminated portrait of Thailand’s King Bhumibol, with a garland of dazzling neon lights proclaiming, “Long Live The King.”

But how long does the king have to live?

On his own private floor in this hospital on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, the 83-year-old king has battled Parkinson’s, depression and a series of strokes since being admitted here in September 2009.

Now his days appear numbered, a fact that has many in this nation of 68 million worried.


Someone who has always spoken openly is the country’s most famous social thinker and well-known Buddhist, Sulak Sivaraksa.

Despite his gentle demeanour, Sulak, even at 78, is accustomed to speaking truth to power, and he has been charged for it under the lèse majesté law.

Once close to the king, in fact part of “the inner circle,” he says, he had a falling out when he rejected the palace’s old official line that the king’s older brother had been assassinated.

“The truth is the present king killed his brother — accidentally. I’ve not only said it openly, I’ve published it,” he says. He was charged and last year let off, apparently on instructions from the king.

Looking to the future Sulak sees the end of an era.

“To put it negatively, I think the monarchy will end with the demise of the present King.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thai Government causes Crown Prince to lose face over unpaid foreign debts and confiscated plane in Germany

BERLIN — A plane being used by Thailand’s Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has been impounded in Germany as part of a long-running battle with the Thai government over payments for a building project in Thailand, officials said Wednesday.

The Boeing 737 “Royal Flight” was seized on a court order, and is now being kept at Munich airport, said Robert Wilhelm, a spokesman for the airport.

The Thai government owes the now-bankrupt builder the money under a contract agreed to more than 20 years ago to build and operate a toll highway to Bangkok’s Don Muang airport, Alexander Goerbing said.

The “drastic measure” of seizing the Royal Thai Air Force’s plane amounts to “the last resort” to secure the payment, a claim that courts and a ruling by an international arbitration panel in 2009 have declared legitimate, he added.

The Crown Prince regularly uses the state-owned plane, and the German bankruptcy administrator apparently had been working for some time to get it impounded.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Democrat Party: When you can't win elections at the polling booth

The Democrat Party's legal expert yesterday filed a petition with the Election Commission (EC) asking it to recommend that the Constitution Court dissolve the Pheu Thai Party for allowing banned politicians to take part in its election campaign.

The outgoing ruling party asked the Election Commission to recommend that the rival Puea Thai Party, which won the July 3 general election, be disbanded on the grounds that banned politicians were involved in its election campaign.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Andrew MacGregor Marshall's Wikileaks articles

Yes, I am still in retirement, but I have been trying to follow the Wikileaks revelations coming from Thailand.

There is some good stuff in Mr. Marshall's articles.

I have read what has so far been published.

Quite honestly, from what I read, there isn't really anything new if one has followed Thai politics and history for some time.

Marshall actually says this is his pieces.

Basically, the Wikileaks just verify what was once speculation.

There are a few things that I have discovered that I wasn't really aware of.

For example, I would have never guessed that Prem was completely out of the loop after HMTK was hospitalized.

Another thing I have been thinking about is the importance Luang Ta Maha Bua role played in all this. In retrospect, I think his attacks on Thaksin played a more important role in getting rid of Thaksin than most people realize.

The State department kind of blows him off as a crazy old monk in the Wikileaks.

Luang Ta Maha Bua wasn't a crazy old monk. He was the most powerful monk in Thailand.

You can't really write off somebody who is considered an arahant, which basically is an enlightened Buddha.

When Luang Ta Maha Bua attacked Thaksin, it was the equivalent of Lord Buddha descending from the sky and declaring Thaksin the most evil man in Thailand.

Anyway, here are the links, copied from

Part one of his four-part story on Thailand can be viewed here, here and here.

Part two is here, here and here.

The one aspect I find entertaining in this whole sordid affair is watching Thanong's head explode on Twitter and his back and forth with Mr. Marshall.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Creating a border crisis to distract from internal incompetence

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodian and Thai soldiers engaged in a brief gunbattle in a disputed border area Saturday, with Cambodia accusing its neighbor of instigating their latest clash.

No injuries were immediately reported.Troops fired rifles, machine guns and rockets in the 15-minute gunbattle near the Ou Smach checkpoint in northern Cambodia, said Pech Sokhin, governor of Oddar Meanchey province where the border is located.

The countries accuse each of encroaching on the other's territory.Pech Sokhin said the Thai soldiers fired shots after Cambodian troops ignored a demand to shift their location deeper into Cambodia.

"Once the Thais got back to their side, Thai forces opened fighting and Cambodia had to respond," Pech Sokhin said, adding that no Cambodian soldiers were wounded.

Thai authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.

Can't control the South. Can't control the cities. Can't control the border.

What good is the army for except coups and stealing from the tax payers?

I think the army will try to manufacture a nationalist crisis to turn attention away from other troubles and try to unite the country around a phony war with Cambodia.

Why not? The army has failed at everything else it has tried so far to contain the problems it started in the first place.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Thai Navy, Submarines, and more dodgy math

Navy could sink B1bn on submarine

Bangkok Post

The navy is looking into the feasibility of buying submarines for military and economic security reasons, navy chief Kamthorn Pumhirun says.

A feasibility committee has been set up to study submarine technology.

The navy will push for the purchase of the submarines, priced at 20 billion baht each, when there is enough money available.

In the meantime, Adm Kamthorn said, the navy might buy a second-hand submarine for training purposes.

The idea is to buy a used submarine costing less than a billion baht and recondition it.

"The reason for acquiring submarines is to fulfil our military strategy. It's not something we want to pursue on a whim," Adm Kamthorn said.

The navy chief said neighbouring Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam all had ordered submarines from Russia.

The submarines, he insisted, could serve many purposes and were a necessity.

The committee's task is to keep pace with developments in submarine technology.

"We want to make sure that once we are able to afford submarines, we'll be ready for them," Adm Kamthorn said.

He stressed that buying submarines would not lead to an arms race. Countries with the submarines would command strong bargaining power in international negotiations.

He said the country needed at least three or four submarines but initially there might only be enough money for one.

Ah, the joys of the Thai media and never holding the military accountable for anything they say or do.

First, Malaysia and Singapore don't have Russian submarines. The very fact that the Admiral of the Thai Navy doesn't know what submarines Malaysia and Singapore have is frightening.

Second, the 20 billion baht price tag per submarine is an interesting figure.

Vietnam bought 6 Russian subs for 1.8 billion dollars plus all kinds of goodies thrown in for good measure.

That is 300 million dollars per sub.

20 billion baht is roughly 600 million dollars per sub.

I guess the admirals plan on taking a 100% commission per submarine when the deals go through.

I like how the Admiral says that a submarine could be used as leverage in international negotiations.

What? Just like the mothballed "aircraft carrier?"

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thaksin’s Blood Gold

I think most everybody has heard of “Blood Diamonds” especially after the Leonardo DiCaprio movie of the same name. But what about “Blood Gold?”

The US TV news magazine 60 Minutes just had a segment called "How Gold pays for the Congo’s Deadly War."

You can watch the story here:

Five million people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a war fueled primarily from gold mined in the country by warlords and smuggled out to be sold on the open market. Scott Pelley reports.

According to a Times (UK) interview with Thaksin banned in Thailand, Thaksin has 10 gold mines in Uganda:

I don't know. Now I'm working, I'm doing business. I cannot just sit here and spend money. I'm doing business. Now I invest. I have ten gold mines in Uganda. I have lottery licences in Uganda, in Fiji, in Angola. We are about to start in January. Then the gold mining licence, which has very good potential. Then I'm signing the contract in Papua New Guinea on the gold concession, on land. I do the rough diamonds, too, we do the polishing. I decided not to do the mining because it's too risky. We will turn a profit quickly.

Interestingly enough, Uganda doesn’t really have much of a gold industry. According to 60 Minutes:

Uganda is right next door to Congo, but it has almost no gold production of its own. In fact, in 2007, Uganda produced about $500 worth. But in the same year, it exported $75 million in gold. Almost all of that is coming from the war zone.

We took a hidden camera into a trader called "Jit." We offered gold for sale and we were clear it came from Congo.

He bought our gold. And we got hold of internal Ugandan records that list 228 international shipments by Jit and many others.

U.N. investigators say most of it is gold from Congo, relabeled as a product of Uganda. After Kampala, it heads to refiners in Dubai and then out to the world.

Thaksin reportedly has a Ugandan passport. He says he owns Ugandan gold mines, but all the Ugandan gold comes from the Congo. Thaksin is living in Dubai. The gold is processed in Dubai and exported elsewhere.

Other sources:, ,

If you want to read a comprehensive analysis on “Blood Gold”, Human Rights Watch has this report:


According to the U.N. panel of experts on the illegal exploitation of Congolese resources, companies who buy gold from Uganda may also be contributing indirectly to human rights abuses in the Congo. After mapping the interconnections between Congolese parties to the conflict, foreign governments, and companies, the panel maintained that some business activities, directly or indirectly, deliberately or through negligence, contributed to the prolongation of the conflict and related human rights abuses.[399] Gold industry experts and companies who trade in gold must, or should be, aware that most of the gold traded from Uganda comes from a conflict zone in the Congo and that it was likely to have been exported illegally.

Thaksin is in enough trouble as it is. Has he foolishly decided to break international law by funding a civil war in the Congo through his dodgy "Ugandan mine” operations?