Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Thai Coup Leaders Promise Corruption Investigation

Thai Coup Leaders Promise Corruption Investigation

by Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The military coup leaders promised to investigate alleged corruption committed during ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's reign, including his family's 1.9 billion U.S. dollar telecommunications sale, Thailand's purchase of American bomb-detection scanners, and other big ticket items.

Many Thais hailed the Sept. 19 coup as a bloodless way to decapitate Mr. Thaksin's re-elected monopolistic government.

"What happened was a coup de grace, and not a coup d'etat," retired Gen. Surayud Chulanont told reporters, apparently trying to invoke an altruistic image of shooting or stabbing someone to death, to end their suffering, instead of the widespread impression that the military destroyed Thailand's democracy.

Mr. Thaksin however, alive and well and living in London, has become Thailand's Frankenstein.

Created by winning three elections, he is now so scary to the junta's martial law regime that his face is censored on TV with a lame "solar outage" screen, even when he appeared on CNN on Thursday (Sept. 28) during a story about Bangkok's new Suvarnabhumi International Airport, which opened on Thursday (Sept. 28).

The brief "solar outage" ended when video of Mr. Thaksin finished.

After governing for five and a half years, billionaire Mr. Thaksin holds considerable assets in Thailand, Britain, and elsewhere.

His enemies demand the coup leaders freeze his assets, to stop cash being transferred out of this Southeast Asian nation.

But in 1991, the military also staged a bloodless coup, claiming corruption as the major reason for toppling an elected government.

Those coup leaders immediately froze and seized assets of politicians, and others, perceived as "unusually rich."

Years later, after meandering through the courts, those cases fell apart because the coup was illegal.

The current self-appointed six-man junta, hoping to avoid that trap, cancelled the 1997 constitution, and started drafting a new one to legalize their coup.

The sexiest corruption allegations involve Mr. Thaksin's family, which sold its stake in their self-made Shin Corp. telecommunications empire to the Singapore government's Temasek Holdings, for 1.9 billion U.S. dollars in January, without paying capital gains tax.

Mr. Thaksin was never arrested or charged for any crime.

The junta has not demanded his extradition from England.

He defended the telecom deal by saying it was offshore in the Virgin Islands, and included complicated documentation consistent with deals done by other Thai tycoons.

Another murky deal involved InVision Technologies, incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Newark, California.

General Electric Co. bought InVision Technologies in December 2005, and named the unit GE InVision, Inc.

In 2005, Thailand asked the U.S. to reveal if any Thai officials, or private middlemen, received payoffs when Bangkok signed a deal to buy 26 of InVision's CTX-9000 DSi scanners to detect explosives in luggage for the new international airport.

Mr. Thaksin denied his officials took bribes in the X-ray scanner purchase.

But Thais discovered InVision's deals in Thailand, China and the Philippines included "criminal liability associated with potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)" during 2003 and 2004, and InVision was fined 800,000 U.S. dollars, according to a Dec. 6, 2005 announcement by the U.S. Justice Department's Fraud Section.

The Securities and Exchange Commission fined InVision an additional 1.1 million U.S. dollars "for violations" of the FCPA in February.

"The [Thai] distributor indicated that it had offered to make gifts, or payments, to officials with influence over the airport corporation" in Bangkok, the S.E.C. said on Feb. 14 in an Accounting and Auditing Enforcement document.

"Despite this awareness, InVision authorized the distributor to continue to pursue the transaction," the S.E.C. said.

That deal was later halted, but "by proceeding with the transactions, InVision made, or authorized the making of, illegal payments to foreign officials," the S.E.C. said without publicly naming recipients.

Patriot Business Consultants Co. Ltd., the Thai distributor at the center of the sale, denied to reporters any involvement in bribery.

But the S.E.C. said, "InVision improperly accounted for certain payments to its agents and distributors in its books and records, in violation of the FCPA."

After restructuring the deal, CTX scanners were installed in Bangkok's new airport.

The coup leaders have empowered a well-respected, no-nonsense auditor-general, Jaruvan Mainthaka, to investigate the Shin Corp. sale, the CTX scanners, and other alleged corruption.

Mrs. Jaruvan was to be helped by a new National Counter-Corruption Commission (NCCC), also set up by the military junta, which has already started investigating a 620 million U.S. dollar, wastewater treatment project.

"We would like to wrap up the long-delayed [wastewater] case as soon as possible, because it is close to expiry," said NCCC secretary-general, Saravut Maenasavate, referring to a statute of limitations.

The case includes an allegedly inflated government budget to appropriate land zoned to build the Klong Dan wastewater treatment project on Bangkok's outskirts, and allegedly forged real estate documents.

Three politicians and 20 government officials were reportedly implicated, along with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and also the Pollution Control Department.

The coup's leader, Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, also set up an eight-member special investigative committee, plus a new Anti-Money Laundering office.

"It cannot be emphasized enough that any move to restore democracy in this country without first thoroughly cleaning up its corruption-prone political culture will be doomed to fail," said an editorial in the Nation newspaper.

According to Thai media, the top government projects approved by Mr. Thaksin's administration, and already being probed by the auditor-general for alleged corruption, include:

-- The Agriculture Ministry's 400,000 U.S. dollar project to buy rubber seedlings, bidding among Thai companies for the contract, payments for the young trees, and money pocketed by the companies and farmers.

-- The catering of 180,000 meals per month for airlines in a 270,000 U.S. dollar project linking a Bangkok company and Xian airport in central China.

-- Suspicious warehouse projects, ground services and maintenance facilities at Bangkok's new international airport.

-- The fairness of bids for the government's 810,000 U.S. dollar satellite uplink equipment.

-- Refinanced loans by the Finance Ministry.

-- The allegedly cheap sales price of land used as collateral for non-performing loans, linked to Mr. Thaksin's political party members.

-- A 6.75 million U.S. dollar, government food laboratory, for meat and food businesses, involving the Finance Ministry and others.

The twisted list -- of just the biggest cases -- goes on and on.

More than 10,000 lesser cases of alleged corruption also await.


Copyright by Richard S. Ehrlich, who has reported news from Asia for the past 28 years, and is co-author of the non-fiction book of investigative journalism, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!" Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His web page is

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news