Thai Insider. Part 5.

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.

Internal Consumption

The still murky lese majeste case, which has so far seen three arrested, one dead and perhaps a dozen others mentioned as possibly implicated, has just gotten much bigger.

The first indications of deepening internal rivalry and regime consuming action was the removal of national police spokesman Prawuth Thawornsiri, who was on the Bike for Dad and Bike for Mum organizing committees. There was also the revelation that persons close to Sino-Thai royalist tycoon and CP boss Dhanin Chearavanont.

In a Bangkok Post report it seems that the network of disputation has been expanded significantly. Police have announced that “between 40 and 50 military major generals and colonels could be involved in the current high-profile lese majeste case…”.

Pol Lt Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, acting deputy national police chief in charge of the investigation, is the one who has made this claim.

There is, as yet, no “solid evidence to seek arrest warrants for any of them” and the “armed forces have also not lodged a complaint with police about the suspects…” yet lack of evidence seems off the mark for lese majeste cases.

The police boss stated: “I can say that more arrest warrants will be issued for sure…”.

Leaks say that Suriyan Sujaritpalawong has “admitted to making false claims involving the monarchy to solicit money from business operators.” It is also said that “Suriyan named one army major general and one army colonel as members of his criminal network.”

The junta mouthpiece Col Winthai Suvaree has said the “army does not have any clear information linking the army major general and the colonel to the allegations made by Mr. Suriyan.”

The case is likely to get murkier still and raises questions about the stability of the junta, which trumpets its support for the monarchy and accuses only “politicians” of corruption. A finger is now gingerly pointing at police and the military, and these accusations of criminality are reaching ever higher into the ranks of self-proclaimed monarchy supporters.

Increasingly, it seems the royalist regime is consuming itself.

Of course, the exact reasons for this, related to succession, will likely remain opaque.

Junta populism and promoting business

The junta has spent a considerable amount of effort indoctrinating its children (of all ages). One of its several themes has been damning politicians as corrupt for implementing populist policies and programs.

Indeed, since 2001, the royalist elite has spent a lot of time, supported by tame “academics,” denigrating popular and even mild redistributive programs that were associated with the Thaksin Shinawatra-aligned political parties. These “populist” innovations were denounced as “corrupt” because they were electorally popular, leading to the ideological linking of “populism” and “evil, corrupt and self-serving” civilian politicians.

“Populism” has been made a dirty and denigrating word, with “policy corruption” was added to constitutional drafting considerations of something to be controlled or banned.

Fortunately for the military junta, it doesn’t have to play by any rules, and it claims to operate with a curious anti-politics agenda, so by its own definitions and rulings, it can’t possibly engage in either populism or policy corruption.

As reasonable observers know, this is smoke and mirrors. I have posted on the junta’s populist-inspired policies for some time. Back in October 2014, we posted on a considerable sum earmarked for programs labeled “not populism.” This included measures to increase consumption and employment: 40 billion baht in aid for farmers and 129 billion baht to create jobs through investment projects. The “populist” attention to its anti-democrat support base in the south has also been noted.
With the military junta already having engaged in politically-inspired handouts and having appointed former Thaksin economic czar Somkid Jatusripitak to try to throttle some life into the junta-deadened economy, it is not surprising to to read in Khaosod that the military junta “has approved USD$1.3 billion (46.1 billion baht) in rural subsidies, akin to the populist policies of the government it ousted, to appease disgruntled and politically powerful farmers who are struggling with record low commodity prices and weak exports.” The political motive is clear:
The rural heartland of Thailand’s deposed leader Yingluck Shinawatra and her exiled billionaire brother Thaksin is hurting as a result of the military government’s economic policies, stirring discontent and the threat of protests.

But the military dictatorship had also “pledged to wean farmers off expensive subsidies used by the previous government…”. It is now doling out “around $1 billion (35.5 billion baht) to help rice farmers and … $365 million (12.9 billion baht) to help rubber farmers who had threatened to rally in defiance of a ban on political gatherings.” This comes on top of the earlier funding and soft loans to villages, a la Thaksin in 2001, where another 60 billion baht is allocated.

Yingluck’s government is alleged to have spent some $14-15 billion in such schemes. It seems the military junta, if it could be added up, is spending amounts that would match Yingluck’s on an annual basis. This is likely to increase.

There’s also a king of “populism for the rich” at work for the junta. Following several reports of villagers being dispossessed and jailed in acts of “primitive accumulation,” by the regime for various “projects.” Such work is conducted for the military junta’s business allies. This support is now reported at Prachatai to be extended to include legal manipulation in the interests of business.

The junta “has given a green light to the proposal to shorten the EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment] process by half to speed up mega construction projects.” The projects are the “PPP (Public and Private Partnership) mega projects.” The reduction means that the EIA can be reduced “from about 22 months currently to only nine months.”

Minister Somkid is reported as lauding the proposal as it will “will increase the speed and efficiency of the process to give out public concessions to private companies.” We can hear the Sino-Thai tycoons and favored investors – the junta likes the Chinese state companies and Somkid is close to Japanese corporates – smacking their lips now.

The current seven PPP Fast-Track projects are: the Bangkok Transit System (BTS) railway line extension, highway projects in the west and northeast, and “Garbage factories” in the central and northeastern regions.

The shortened EIA process will replace but more likely work in concert with the junta’s use of the draconian Article 44 of the Interim Charter that allows the junta to clear obstacles and people to make way for business.

As mentioned before Pol Lt Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, acting deputy national police chief had stated that “between 40 and 50 military major generals and colonels could be involved in the current high-profile lese majeste case…”. Indeed, the headline on the story we quoted from the Bangkok Post was: “50 army officers tied to case, Srivara says.” There was even a photo of the policeman.

For some unexplained reason, the Bangkok Post now reports that it was “Pol Maj Gen Piyapan Pingmuang, deputy police spokesman, [who] said an inquiry was under way into the alleged involvement of 40-50 military officers in the lese majeste case.” More than this, the “police later insisted the report had been misquoted.”
We suspect that the military brass went ballistic and wanted the big story hosed down. Who knows? Thailand is so opaque that there is hardly a light or truth to be seen or known.

The new report claims that the “army has launched a probe into reports a major general and a colonel,” seemingly following intervention by The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha. He seemed to head for cover, saying “further questions should be directed to army commander Gen Theerachai Nakvanich.”
The two being investigated also seem to have headed for the hills, in one case, literally.

One of the military suspects is said to be “a senior officer attached to the Army Secretary Office.” The army colonel … has fled over the border to Myanmar’s Myawaddy township, opposite Tak’s Mae Sot district,” apparently taking “20 million baht from a bank…”.

Reportedly implicated by Suriyan Sujaritpalawong, these officers are “accused of making false claims involving the monarchy to solicit money from business operators.”

Suriyan now faces 13 charges with “20 more charges being prepared after police complete witness questioning.”

Meanwhile, Pol Gen Prawuth Thawornsiri, the former police spokesman is said to have “disappeared last week during a ‘holiday’ in Europe…”. No one has seen him and some rumors are black. He is said to have resigned from the police, although the police chief seemed to have forgotten signing the file.

This is all astounding stuff and, it has to be said, barely believable. It does seem the royalist regime is consuming itself.

Prince’s Purge?

As readers will know, the most recent palace-associated lese majeste purge has been murky and baffling for many, I included. Because there is so much censorship on the one hand and social media speculation on the other, it has been a guessing game.

Trying to make sense of this, a story at Asia Sentinel – Thailand’s Crown Prince Starts another Purge – is likely to be big news for several claims it makes. Because of the powerful interests involved, the deaths of several caught up in the events and the lese majeste law, the article is written anonymously, simply tagged “Our Correspondent.”

Because Asia Sentinel is often blocked in Thailand, the story will circulate clandestinely and the military junta will try to prevent it getting out.

Some of the claims and points made deserve consideration. First, a bit like Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s widely read A Kingdom in Crisis, succession is cast in terms of ancient battles, with this opener:
As Thailand’s royal interregnum approaches, the country’s ruling class has been seized by what amounts almost to a reign of terror, with Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn apparently clearing out his enemies in a fashion that goes back to the installation of a long line of Rama kings.

This is scenario one. The article is undoubtedly correct in assessing that The Dictator, “Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha … appears to have accepted Vajiralongkorn as the next king and is seeking to manage the situation the best way he can.” Yet another scenario, not mentioned in the article, is that the military junta and perhaps even some Privy Council members are conducting the purge, cutting the prince off from his networks of support and loot, thus making him dependent on the junta, military and Privy Council (scenario two).

The article does lend some credence to second scenario when it observes that “Vajiralongkorn is so thoroughly detested in royal circles that efforts have been vainly made to sideline him for his associations with Chinese gangsters, his womanizing and his refusal to adhere to royal rules.” However as an unnamed source declares in the Asia Sentinel story, “There is no longer any doubt that the prince will become the king.” If that is so, then controlling his funds and advisers might make sense.
The widespread fear that surrounds the most recent purge is also noted. With the king not having been seen for some time, and rumors that he may have already passed, no one dares speculate for fear of jail or worse.

Describing the “four-times-married” 63 year-old prince as a “wastrel,” he “spends most of his time in Germany although he has made recent periodic trips back to Thailand to seek to rehabilitate his image, most principally through a series of bicycle rides in honor of his ailing parents.”

It is these bike rides that seem to be at the center of the current purge, with “a source in Bangkok” revealing that “the prince has become enraged over allegations that people in his entourage have apparently been profiting from the sale of ‘Bike for Mom’ and ‘Bike for Dad’ souvenir and promotional items.”

While other reports have mentioned CP tycoon Dhanin Chearavanont, this article claims that the purge follows complaints about “Suriyan Sucharitpolwong, better known as Mor Yong, the prince’s soothsayer, allegedly because he went to spirits [and Chang beer] tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, Thailand’s second-richest man, to ask for funds for the Bike for Dad event.” Such “asks” have been common and accepted in the past, so it isn’t clear what has gone on in this case, but “Charoen is said to have complained to Princess Sirindhorn, who told her brother in Germany. That has blown up into a major incident with the arrest of the fortune teller and others. Dozens of army and police officials are believed to be under fire.”

There’s a couple of things here. First, the link between the prince and his sister has sometimes been seen as distant and competitive, and this claim would not support that. Second, the scenario one claim made in the article seems difficult to fit with the terror and vengeance of the arrests and investigations. Sure, the “Prince is said to be trying to whitewash his image ahead of the succession,” but skimming is the norm for those close to the palace. Why get flustered about it now? The story says: “He [the prince] is also said to be outraged that most of the people who have helped run his networks over recent decades have been skimming money from them too.” A source is quoted: “I have no idea why the prince would be so angry about this, because it’s standard for everybody to take their cut. But anyway, the prince is sending a message to everybody — don’t fuck with me ahead of the succession.”

Unless it is scenario two.

The story also directly refers to another social media event that has terrified local media:
In the latest purge, two top police officials have died mysteriously and a third has disappeared. Major General Phisitsak Seniwong Na Ayutthaya, the prince’s main bodyguard, died in mid-October. Local media have been so terrified by the situation that they have hesitated to name Phisitsak in print. His family was told he had committed suicide by hanging himself with his shirt.

As is well-known, Police Major Prakrom Warunprapha, caught up in this latest purge also died while in military custody, with the military junta claiming he committed suicide by hanging himself. In the purge late last year, another police officer died when he fell, committed suicide or was pushed from a hospital window. Another senior police officer associated with the organizing of the biking events has “disappeared” and an army officer has gone into hiding across the border.

These deaths have been the subject of considerable conjecture, with some saying that the two most recent “suicides” are suspicious, not least because:
Sources in Bangkok say both were beaten and tortured. Instead of releasing the bodies to their families, as is the case for most Buddhist deaths to give time for making merit and preparing the bodies for the afterlife, the two were rushed to crematoriums and immediately burned. The gossip in Bangkok is that officials wanted to hide the evidence of torture.

In a final nod to the rumors and speculation, the article states:
“What is interesting [and worrying] is that it’s not just the major players who are being caught up in the purge, even peripheral figures, such as former police spokesman Prawuth [Thawornsiri], are being targeted,” a source said. “The prince is being egged on by his latest wife, who is encouraging this behavior. Presumably, this was a way of saving face and pretending he was not involved in the corruption. In fact, he was fully involved in it, just as he was with Srirasmi’s family’s shenanigans.”

Scenario one or two? Whatever is going on, it is murky, dirty, dangerous and, ultimately, threatening to the regime.

Getting the Story Straightened Out

The military regime is having a devil of a time getting its lese majeste purge story straight.

Pol Lt Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, acting deputy national police chief in charge of the investigation, was reported in a Bangkok Post story (Nov. 4) as announcing that “between 40 and 50 military major generals and colonels could be involved in the current high-profile lese majeste case…”.

Within 24 hours, that story was wound back with shouts about “no solid evidence” and mumbles that the police boss “had been misquoted.” Even so, it was reported that the “army has launched a probe into reports a major general and a colonel…”. Of these two, it was reported that one was “a senior officer attached to the Army Secretary Office,” and the other had fled over the border to Myanmar.

Asia Sentinel tried to help out, but that story is not what the regime wants heard.

After 48 hours, it is reported that “[n]o military officers were involved in the latest lese majeste case, according to a police investigation to date, which is 90% complete.”

The very same Pol Lt Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, acting deputy police chief in charge of the investigation, “said although Suriyan Sucharitpolwong, the key suspect in custody, had implicated some army officers, his testimony was not accepted.”

Not accepted? Well, certainly not accepted by “Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his deputy, Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, [who] denied the reports, saying they had no knowledge of their involvement in the case.”

In a land under the military boot, where the junta is engaged in all manner of manipulation and censorship, perhaps this “no knowledge” is sufficient to bring the police into line and to get the public story straight.

But maybe not. The Bangkok Post seems less than convinced, adding this detail to its story:
But it was reported on Friday Col Yutthapong Klantakasuwan, head of the Thai-Myanmar local border committee, sent an urgent letter to Myanmar authorities, seeking the deportation of Col Kachachart Boondee of the 3rd Army Region, who had illegally crossed the Mae Hong Son border to Myanmar on Nov 1.
Col Kachachart was promoted to deputy commander of the 11th Circle Army by former army chief Gen Udomdej Sitabutr shortly before Gen Udomdej retired on Sept 30.

However, when Gen Theerachai Nakvanich took over as army chief, he transferred Col Kachachart back to the 3rd Army Region as chief of staff on Oct 5.
Pol Gen Srivara said on Friday if the colonel is deported, police might invite him for questioning as Mr Suriyan had been photographed in the company of several officers on various occasions. [Suriyan was a celebrity astrologer to many in the Army and other services, so if photos are evidence, then there are hundreds involved.]

“If the investigation leads to anyone, we’ll definitely take legal action even if he is a military officer. But to date, there are only three suspects in this case,” Pol Gen Srivara said.

“As for the persons implicated by the suspects, we have yet to charge them,” he said.

The police general added the investigation is almost complete, pending some forensic tests.

We doubt many people will believe any of this tale. The truth is not permitted or allowed when the monarchy, palace and royal family is involved.

The Military Junta and its Deadly Toys

Coconuts Bangkok has a link to an AFP report (Nov. 5) that raises some disturbing issues.

Of course, observers may expect that the military’s budget will increase when it has political power. Between 2006 and 2016, the Thai military’s budget will have tripled, from 78.1 billion baht to 207 billion baht. The story concludes that “[t]he kingdom’s well-oiled military has been handsomely rewarded in the last decade…”.
At the recent Defense & Security 2015 fair at Bangkok’s Impact Arena, “French anti-tank missiles, Swedish jets and American assault rifles” were on display despite the fact that “Western governments have criticised Thailand’s junta for toppling democracy…”. The report states that “more than 400 companies from 50 countries are showing their wares — including Britain’s BAE Systems, France’s Thales, Italy’s Finmeccanica and Lockheed Martin, from the United States.” The U.S. has recently approved missile sales to Thailand. Indeed, it is business as usual.

The report says that “Russian arms manufacturer Bazalt was even advertising a cluster bomb — the PBK-500U SPBE-K.” Another report from another arms bazaar describes this as:
The PBK-500U glide cluster bomb dispenser (the Russian acronym translates to glide bomb cassette, 500-kg caliber) is a single-use weapon that houses either a single warhead or multiple cassette elements. Unlike the previous generation, the PBK-500U can deploy at longer distances to enable standoff attack capability for tactical aircraft acting against targets with pinpoint anti-aircraft defenses.

The Thai military was accused of using cluster bombs on the Cambodian border under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

Appealing to the Thai military might have been an armored 4×4 from an Emirati company said to be designed for “dispersing potentially violent crowd gatherings.”
Defense budgets are growing across the region. In Thailand, the report states that the “generous approach to its armed forces has not been without controversy, especially given the stuttering post-coup economy…. Critics say the military — which boasts one of the highest proportion of generals in the world — has a penchant for big ticket purchases it doesn’t need, including an aircraft carrier which currently has no aircraft.”

They do this for commissions that make them wealthy. Think submarines, GT200 magic wands, Russian planes for the monarchy (or maybe not), multiple suppliers of jet engines for THAI planes, and so on.

p.s. Ukraine Today reports that “Ukraine and Thailand on November 3 signed a cooperation agreement on co-manufacturing armoured personnel carriers BTR-3 in Thailand…”. Deals between the two countries have been questioned in the past.

Commissions, Bribes, Military and Monarchy

On 26 September 2015, it was reported that Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn had officially opened the Army’s Rajabhakti Park near Hua Hin, “built to honour past Thai monarchs.” Well, some of them, including the current one.

Variously said to have cost between 700 million and one billion baht, the show of loyalty by the military, it has been seen as marking the gradual transition to the prince’s reign.

In a footnote to our post at the time, I wondered what the superstitious military leadership made of the damage done to one of the statues as it was transported to the park. We said that it must be viewed as a dark omen. It seems there was something in that poking of fun at the feudal attitudes of the current military junta. We are sure that several of them, having incarcerated a “powerful” soothsayer and seen shooting stars over Bangkok are shaking in their Gucci boots and shoes, fearing divine retribution.

It may be coming. Stories related to the current lese majeste debacle have military men linked to corruption over the park’s construction. Everyone knows that corruption via commissions in construction projects is simply the norm in Thailand, with demands of 30% to 75% of construction costs not being unusual. There’s little doubt that military construction and procurement projects engage in these activities, with bribes considered commissions.

Yesterday, the media was reporting connections between the lese majeste debacle and the park’s construction, saying the case is under investigation by the Central Investigation Bureau. It is reported that “CIB commissioner Pol Lt Gen Thitirat Nonghanpitak has instructed police investigators assigned to the lese majeste case to look for evidence of irregularities and corruption in the Ratchapakdi Park project.”

This saw police investigators sent off to “several provinces where the casting factories that built statues of Thailand’s kings for the park are located…”.
The park story is also linked to media speculation regarding a rift between Army boss General Theerachai Nakawanich and his predecessor General Udomdej Sitabutr, a deputy minister in the junta. Udomdej launched the project.

With reports of commissions being requested for the royal park surfacing in some media,the Army sought to stifle the speculation. It declared that nothing was amiss and “ruled out possible corruption in the construction of Rajabhakti Park…”. Getting its story straight has been a problem for the military dictatorship.
The military officers named in the skimming were said to have been those mentioned in reports about a major general and colonel, linked to the lese majeste-cum-extortion cases involving Suriyan Sujaritpalawong and others.

Junta spokesman Col Winthai Suwaree was resolute and emphatic, saying “the reports … were entirely false.” He added, equally emphatically: “According to the latest information from the police, there were no corruption allegations, especially in the construction. It fully followed the bureaucratic model with full transparency in every step. So it’s extremely difficult that anyone could have done so…”.

The media repeatedly reports on the officers involved:
Col Winthai apparently was referring to Col Kachachart Boondee of the 3rd Army Region, who is said to have illegally crossed into Myanmar from Mae Hong Song on Nov 1. Thai authorities have already asked Myanmar to deport him.

Col Kachachart, a former aide to ex-army chief Udomdej Sitabutr, was promoted to deputy commander of the 11th Circle Army by Gen Udomdej shortly before Gen Udomdej retired on Sept 30.

However, when Gen Theerachai Nakvanich took over as army chief, he transferred Col Kachachart back to the 3rd Army Region as chief of staff on Oct 5.
The police have now hit back at the Army and the junta, stating that “operators of two casting factories contracted to build statues for the army’s Ratchapakdi Park project have told police they were asked to pay commission fees…”.

A source in the investigation team said the owner of a Bangkok factory:
… was approached … by a businessman in league with an army colonel, [and] agreed to cast the statues for 42 million baht…. But the factory received only 30 million baht for the job, while the remaining 12 million baht would allegedly go to the businessman, who offered to be responsible for the four million baht in value added tax and keep the rest as commission….

The other factory owner told police he was approached by the same businessman in October last year and they agreed on 44 million baht with an army officer acting as a coordinator. He told police the businessman demanded a 10% commission fee and he agreed to pay, police said.
We can hardly wait for the next Army and junta denial.

Military Lese Majeste

After days of denial, it is reported at the Bangkok Post that “Col Khachachart Boondee, commander of the 1st Artillery Regiment, has been charged with lese majeste and abusing his authority for personal gain in two criminal cases…”.

Despite insistent claims of Army non-involvement, it was the military’s Internal Security Operations Command that lodged the charges, apparently on Saturday, exactly when the denials were being voiced. Strange that, the military is usually bellicose when dealing with lese majeste.

The report is that the charges against the colonel are the same charges “pressed against fortune-teller Suriyan ‘Mor Yong’ Sucharitpolwong and Mr Suriyan’s close aide, Jirawong Watthanathewasilp…”. The charges are described as related to “a past important event”, which the Post says are the “Bike for Mom” last August and “a forthcoming event”, the “Bike for Dad” on 11 December. Interestingly, the Army’s Rajabhakti Park project is not mentioned in Khachachart’s case (but see below).
The report has some details:
It was mentioned in the first complaint filed that the misconduct in the past event occurred at the 11th Infantry Regiment in Bang Khen district, and at the company CP All Plc in Bang Rak district of Bangkok between May and Aug 6.

The misconduct linked to the future event, meanwhile, occurred at King Power Co in Ratchathewi district of Bangkok on Sept 20, according to the second complaint filed Sunday by Maj Gen Wijan.

King Power has usually been associated with Newin Chidchob and is a big time sponsor – like CP – of royal events and royalism.

The colonel has reportedly fled to Myanmar.

Meanwhile, “a panel probing alleged irregularities in the construction of the army’s one-billion-baht Rajabhakti Park in Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Hua Hin district found that aside from irregularities surrounding the making of the king statues, the purchase of palm trees at 100,000 baht each was also unusual.” Implicated are numerous persons including an Army major general.

This is going to get bigger and bigger and the debris is going to further weaken the junta.

As expected, Mor Yong or Suriyan Sujaritpalawong has died while in military custody. We say “expected” because his death was anticipated from the time that Police Major Prakrom Warunprapha, caught up in this latest lese majeste purge, died while in military custody, with the military junta claiming he committed suicide by hanging himself.

ated from the time that Police Major Prakrom Warunprapha, caught up in this latest lese majeste purge, died while in military custody, with the military junta claiming he committed suicide by hanging himself.

Update 1: The Nation reports that “Justice” Minister General Paiboon Koomchaya waited until Monday to announce Suriyan’s death, apparently late on Friday 6 November. He is said to have died at the prison hospital of “septicemia.” As with the death of Prakrom, a hasty autopsy has already been conducted. We suspect murder.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that Vittaya Suriyawong, the director-general of the Corrections Department, issued a statement on the circumstances of Suriyan’s death.

The statement said at 9pm on Saturday guards on duty at the temporary prison at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok where Suriyan was detained found him lying in his cell with laboured breathing….

By the time they took him to the Corrections Department hospital in Chatuchak district at 10.20pm, he did not respond and his pulse could not be detected. His pupils dilated by 4mm and did not respond to light.

Readers will recall that the same director dismissed earlier reports that Suriyan was ill. He said he was faking it.

The statement declares that:
The Institute of Forensic Medicine under the Police General Hospital, having performed an autopsy on him, established on Sunday the cause of death was “respiratory and blood circulation failures due to bloodstream infection…”.

The director states that Suriyan was already sick for two days: “he had high fever, coughed and was agitated on Thursday and Friday. The military medical unit gave him some pills and told him to rest before the guards found him unconscious.”

“Some pills”? Perhaps he was poisoned? Perhaps tortured? We will probably never know. What we do know is that his claims of military involvement in his case was exceptionally embarrassing and threatening for the junta. Who wanted him dead?

The rest of the report seems full of claims that seem unlikely to ever be verified:
“Doctors said some air-borne viruses could cause an acute respiratory failure and high-risk patients are the elderly, diabetic people and persons on steroid.
“In Suriyan’s case, it’s possible his immune system was weak as indicated by the Oct 22 x-ray results, which showed he had a fatty liver,” Mr Vittaya explained….
“Our assumption is he was infected by a germ that caused bloodstream infection and this led to the respiratory failure and quick death,” Mr Vittaya said.

Suriyan’s death has been expected, but now that it has happened suggests that the damage he was doing or might have done outweighed the risk of getting rid of him. We are guessing, but so is every other commentator. The military dictatorship will try to prevent speculation and cover up.

Update 3: An updated story at The Nation adds a little more to the story of the death in custody and on Suriyan. The Minister for “Justice” advises that a death certificate “has been issued.” The idea seems to be to get the cover up going as soon as possible. The Minister says they are “waiting for his relatives to reclaim the body.”

Suriyan’s Facebook page claims that “he was born Suriyan Ariyawongsopon in Trang province but changed his name in 2008 after the family name was bestowed by His Royal Highness the Crown Prince [Vajiralongkorn].”

As a famous astrologer, he “became a committee member of several social agencies, including the National Council on Social Welfare of Thailand and the Thai Buddhist Association of Thailand under Royal Patronage as well as in government agencies such as the Justice Ministry.”

The report states that “Mor Yong’s last public appearance, before his arrest on October 14, was when he co-chaired a meeting with PM’s Office Minister Panadda Disakul at the Public Relations Department on the ‘Bike for Dad’ event that will be held on December 11.”

Update 4: Social media reports are that Suriyan’s was quickly cremated on Monday, just hours after the announcement of his death. The cremation of those who die in custody means that no proper investigation can be conducted into the circumstances of the death.

Update 5: Khaosod has a story on Suriyan’s death. It states that its “story has been updated to reflect statements from officials regarding the timing of Suriyan’s death. He is said to have died on Saturday night.” The military regime is having trouble getting its story straight.

Update 6: The Bangkok Post has an updated report on the amazing revelations of 9 November, that backgrounds Suriyan and includes a table of the events in the lese majeste case and the two deaths of suspects in military custody. Gen Paiboon Kumchaya is quoted as “explaining” that Suriyan “was suffering from health problems and stress after his arrest. The suspect was taken to hospital once during his detention and medics were assigned to the prison.” As if to justify two deaths, the general states: “Several suspects had health conditions when they were detained. We don’t know which illnesses they suffered from. In this case he had a lot of stress…”. We will never know what caused the “stress.” Torture? Poison? Threats and intimidation?

Interestingly, the Post story includes a note on the last surviving suspect arrested in mid-October, Jirawong Wattanathewasilp. It says that “Jirawong will reportedly be taken to court on Thursday so authorities can apply for a third detention period.” Will he appear? Or is he “unwell” or worse?

Palace Lese Majeste

The lese majeste purge is again reaching into the palace. Khaosod has an important report that it states: “Due to Thailand’s strict lese majeste laws, this story has been self-censored by Khaosod English.”

While the king has not been seen for weeks and has been ill to the extent of barely being compus mentis, he is said to have issued an order that “has revoked all royal decorations from the deputy commander of the royal household’s bodyguard unit.” This refers to Maj Gen Pisitsak Seniwong na Ayutthaya.

Apparently, this is to remove the royal decorations of a dead man. As reported at Asia Sentinel:
In the latest purge, two top police officials have died mysteriously and a third has disappeared. Major General Phisitsak Seniwong Na Ayutthaya, the prince’s main bodyguard, died in mid-October. Local media have been so terrified by the situation that they have hesitated to name Phisitsak in print. His family was told he had committed suicide by hanging himself with his shirt.

The Khaosod report states that “Pisitsak was fired from the military on Oct. 16, the statement said, the same day police announced a crackdown on individuals accused of exploiting ties to the monarchy.”

The order signed by the king (so they say) and The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, claims that Pisitsak engaged in “gravely evil behavior.” This, according to the government order, amounts to “disobedience to King Bhumibol and his commanding officers and exploiting ties to the Royal Family for his own gain.”
We understand that he had a falling out with the prince. He’s now believed dead. And its seems he is also to be disgraced: “Pisitsak was stripped by royal proclamation of seven decorations awarded to him by the King for his service.”

The report goes on:
“He disobeyed Royal Instructions and refuses to comply with orders from commanding officers,” read a notice in today’s Royal Gazette, which publishes formal government orders. “He falsely claimed to act upon Royal Orders and abused his power in an unlawful way, seeking gains for himself and his clique. He posed a threat to the security of the Institution [the monarchy].”

We understand the “commanding officer” to be Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. He previously ousted members of his body guard. The body guards close to the prince appear to be in a risky profession.

How many more will be purged?