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Thai PM orders investigation into dropping of “Boss” charges

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Thai PM orders investigation into dropping of “Boss” charges | Thaiger

Responding to a massive outpouring of outrage, Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is ordering an official inquiry into the Attorney General’s prosecution team and their decision to drop a reckless driving charge against Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, an heir to the Red Bull fortune and grandson of the company’s founder.

A spokesperson claims that the PM is “following the issue closely” and is instructing departments to gather facts about the prosecution’s investigation and to explain reasons why “Boss” should not be pursued and arrested, in accordance with the law. The Office of the Attorney General says they had found new evidence which formed the basis of their dropping of charges.

The PM has also hit out at the media saying that they shouldn’t “seize on the controversy” and asked critics not to “distort facts or cause misunderstanding”. The PM has insisted he has not interfered in the cases and the “prosecution works under no political pressure”.

An MP for the Palang Pracharat Party, the ruling coalition party in the government, Sira Jenjaka, as chairman of a House committee on justice and human rights, has scheduled a meeting on Wednesday, July 29 when police and prosecutors will be “invited in for questioning” about the case.

“As far as I’m concerned, there has been only been attempts to seek justice for the suspect (Boss), while not a single person at the Royal Thai Police Office has ever tried to seek justice for the dead police officer or at the very least tried to protect the integrity of the police as a whole.”

At a news conference on Friday, police spokesman Colonel Krissana Pattanacharoen says that the dropping of charges was done “according to standard procedure” and did not involve favouritism. He claimed police had made known to the prosecutors the evidence they had collected and the results of their investigation and the prosecutors made the decision to drop the charge.

The prosecution’s decision to drop the charge against Boss Yoovidhya has stirred outrage among the public who see it as another example of a “culture of impunity enjoyed by the rich”. Social media is demanding that the Attorney-General specify the reasons behind the decision. Netizens are also noting that the Yoovidhya family donated 300 million baht to the government to handle Covid-19 back in April, just 2 months before the AG and prosecutors dropped the charges.

Mr Vorayuth was accused of being behind the wheel when his Ferrari hit and killed 47 year old Pol Sgt Maj Wichian Klanprasert, a motorcycle policeman, on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok, on September 3, 2012.

35 year old Boss Voovidhya was accused for the hit-and-run death of a police officer in 2012 and fled the country 5 years later after failing to appear in court after 8 legal summonses, each time claiming he had to attend to business affairs. In 2017 he eventually travelled in the family’s private jet to Singapore and then, eventually, to London. The media were able to track him down a number of times, something the Thai police or Interpol were unable to do. The Yoovidhya family was ranked Asia’s 6th richest, with a fortune of $24.5 billion (778 billion baht), according to a Bloomberg report in August last year.

Charges of speeding and failing to stop and help a crash victim were dropped earlier as a result of time lapsing in the statute of limitations. But the charges of reckless driving still had another 7 years to prosecute, But it emerged last week that the prosecution team had dropped the charges of reckless driving causing death last month. Somehow that information was not forthcoming until CNN.com, a US-based news cable and online media, wrote the story and published it last Thursday.

Documents from the prosecution cited “new information” claiming that the crash took place when the victim’s motorcycle abruptly changed lane and cut in front of Boss’ Ferrari, who was driving under the legal speed limit in the far right lane. 2 witnesses are quoted in new documents claiming that the policeman abruptly changed lanes on his motorcycle causing the fatal hit-and-run incident. Forensic police had concluded, after an investigation of the 2012 incident, that Boss had been driving at 177 kilometres per hour.

Boss initially claimed that Suwet Hom-ubol, a family chauffeur, had been behind the wheel of the Ferrari during the incident, but later admitted to driving the car himself. Suwet would later be charged with making false statements to investigating police. An investigating police officer, Pol Lt Colonel Pannaphol Nammueng, allegedly urged Suwet to pretend to be the Ferrari driver in the fatal crash.

The Thai Office of the Attorney General, which was under intense pressure to make some comments about the matter, yesterday issued a statement announcing that Attorney-General Wongsakul Kittipromwong has appointed a 7 member working team to “look into the handling of the case” by the Department of Southern Bangkok Criminal Litigation (the original incident happened in Thong Lor).

A trending hashtag #saynotoredbull yesterday prompted the company now running the Red Bull empire, TCP Thailand (T.C. Pharmaceutical aka. T.C.Pharma), to distance itself from Boss, issuing a short statement saying the case “is a personal affair of Mr Vorayuth Yoovidhya”. The company’s 7 Board members are all members of the Yoovidhya family.

The statement claimed that Boss “has never assumed any role in the management and daily operations of TCP Group, was never a shareholder, nor has he held any executive position within TCP Group”.

Apart from Red Bull, TCP Thailand owns the brands Ready and Warrior energy drinks, Mansome drinks and sodas, Puriku tea, Hi Vitamin C drinks, and Sunsnack sunflower seeds.

Student protests around the country are now adding the controversy over Boss Yoovidhya to their list of “evidence” that the Thai Government should be dissolved and new elections called. PM Prayut would be aware of the intense fallout from the “Boss” case and will be looking to find ways of saving face on the matter without providing the rising tide of protest any additional fuel.

SOURCE” Bloomberg | Bangkok Post

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Monday, July 27, 2020 at 9:20 am

    A damage limitation exercise.
    The investigation will take months with the police and the PM stating during this time, the matter is being investigated and they cannot comment, then the investigators will quietly announce, when the public’s attention is on another matter: nobody is to blame and the matter is closed.

  2. Avatar

    Robert

    Monday, July 27, 2020 at 7:10 pm

    Red Bullsh*t

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Chiang Mai

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half

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Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half | Thaiger

The TAT, ever the optimists regarding anything tourism related, even domestic tourism, predict that the Bangkok clusters that have emerged in the week before the Songkran break could reduce traffic and spending by up to half.

Today the CCSA is reporting 789 new infections and one additional death. 522 were local infections, mostly walk-ins to Bangkok hospitals, 259 were discovered through track and tracing. The remaining 8 were found in quarantine from overseas arrivals. In Phuket, another 17 cases have been reported today, taking the island’s week total to 43.

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half | News by ThaigerGRAPH: Worldometer figures for Thailand, up to April 9

A 68 year old man from Nakhon Pathom province died on April 4 but wasn’t reported until today. The CCSA report that he died from Covid and “complications”. 33 other former patients have recovered and been discharged.

Last week the TAT estimated 3.2 million domestic trips would circulate 12 billion baht for the Thai economy. But the Tourism Authority has now slashed their estimates by half after hotels, airlines and bus companies reported mass cancellations in the last few days. Other provinces are reporting less than 20% cancellations. Although this weekend will see a lot of travel, Songkran doesn’t formally start until next Tuesday and the TAT expect there could be additional fallout as travellers decide to have a staycation for Songkran instead heading home.

Bangkok Post reports that 70% of travellers to Prachuap Khiri Khan and Hua Hin have already cancelled hotel bookings. Similar cancellations have been reported in Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai. Many other provinces, particularly in the north east and north, are also enforcing quarantine on arrivals or additional paperwork to try and protect their provinces from any of the Bangkok clusters.

8 north eastern provinces rare now requiring 10 or 14 day quarantine periods for anyone arriving from areas where new clusters have been reported. Chiang Mai provincial officials say that tourists from Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom, Bangkok, Pathum Thani and Nonthaburi – basically Bangkok and surrounding provinces – must complete a 14 day mandatory quarantine or conduct a test for Covid when they arrive.

The reality is that the travel and quarantine changes are outstripping the ability to communicate them all. Anyone crossing into other provinces in the next few day, especially if you’re travelling from Bangkok and surrounding provincial ‘red zones’ can expect some additional paperwork or a Covid test. Or even quarantine.

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Protests

Attendance on the wane for Thai democracy protests

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Attendance on the wane for Thai democracy protests | Thaiger
PHOTO: Demonstration attendance has been falling in the face of Covid-19, coups and crackdowns.

While protesters against the Thai government are continuing as they have for endless months, attendance is lessening in the face of crackdowns, coups and Covid-19. The throngs of 10,000 plus protesters, mostly energetic youth, that waved The Hunger Games 3 finger salute and demanded change in Thailand last summer have thinned to a few thousand or less these days.

The government isn’t in the clear yet though, as the protester’s calls to replace the current government, lessen the power of the Thai monarchy, and draw up a new constitution are still popular ideas. But a number of factors are causing protester size and vigour to wane.

The second wave of Covid in December quickly curbed the daily demonstrations for fear of spreading the virus. After that, the coup in Myanmar on February 1 has brought massive protests with international attention shifting to the growing humanitarian crisis just across the border. On top of the pandemic and the Burmese coup, the Thai government has taken a much more hardline approach to protesters in recent months.

Police began fighting back against mass demonstrations, dispersing crowds with water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets. And after 2 years of leniency, the government has begun prosecuting people under the strict lèse-majesté laws, where offending the monarchy can carry harsh punishment including a jail sentence of up to 15 years.

Anon Nampa, a human-rights lawyer, and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, a student activist, have already been arrested under this law and held without bail. Arrests like these have been demoralising for the pro-democracy movement, and have scared away a lot of Thai protesters. Many have shifted focus to more immediate efforts to demand the release of the detained protest leaders.

Even with the crowds shrinking, the protests have already brought about change, bringing once unspeakable conversations into the national conversation, and keeping pressure on Thailand’s leaders. Opposition is growing, with efforts to push no-confidence votes and amendments to the constitution being constantly proposed and advocated.

SOURCE: The Economist

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

VIP clubs may be spreading Covid-19 from rich to poor

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VIP clubs may be spreading Covid-19 from rich to poor | Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook - Krystal Bar in Thong Lor was the site of a Covid-19 Outbreak

A third Covid-19 wave surging through Thailand is spreading through entertainment centres, including high-end VIP clubs rumoured to be popular with elite government officials. 559 Covid-19 infections and 1 death were reported today and the outbreak, which began in bars and clubs in the Thong Lor area of Bangkok among other nightlife hotspots, is surging, reaching 20 provinces throughout Thailand. Outbreaks in Chon Buri, Pattaya, and Phuket have also been linked directly to evening entertainment venues, such as the dance music festival in Phuket last weekend that resulted in 10 infections. Now, evidence is emerging that the wave is spreading through Bangkok’s wealthy elite and government officials.

In Phuket, where 70% vaccination of residents has been a primary focus in order to re-open to desperately needed tourism, the new outbreak has brought bar closures and new restrictions. And it looks like Songkran celebrations across the country will be muted, if not cancelled.

With nightlife and hospitality workers being disproportionately affected by the third wave of Covid-19, many are airing their frustrations with the VIP elite class contributing to the outbreak, including a trending hashtag #CovidThonglor. Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob was one of the first cabinet members to test positive for Covid-19, amid rumours that he had recently attended or been in proximity with someone who attended Krystal Club, an upscale entertainment business. Though he denies being there, the club is allegedly so popular among politicians and officials that it is often referred to by the nickname “Government House 2”. Nearly a third of cabinet ministers are now self-isolating for fear of Covid-19 exposure.

With 200,000 baht minimum spending limits, it’s a high-society hotspot that may be spreading Covid-19 from the rich VIP customers to the poor staff and everyone they come in contact with. Calls for government officials and other elites who attended VIP clubs like this to disclose their potentially embarrassing timelines have so far been mostly unheeded.

In Bangkok, hospitals and private medical facilities have been warning of a shortage of testing kits and Covid-ready hospital beds. Field hospitals have been erected to prepare as the outbreak expands with surging cases. Experts think the new outbreak may be contained in a month or two, but fear in Bangkok it may take much longer to recover.

SOURCE: SCMP

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