All in the Family
The revelation that PM Abhisit Vejjajiva’s father, Dr Atthasit Vejjajiva, has been contributing around 300,000 baht a month to bolster his son’s security has raised a few eyebrows. (More recent reports have suggested that this is not entirely true.)
Most media speculation has focussed on three questions. Who has the wherewithal to drop a quiet 3.6 mil a year on anything? Does this expression of parental concern constitute an improper gift to a political office-holder? And what’s wrong with the government-provided security in the first place?
Perhaps predictably, this column asked a completely different question. What other politicians and other influential persons are the beneficiaries of similar largesse from their family members?
Prachatai quickly discovered dozens of cases where political parents have lavished favours on their offspring, but this is just run-of-the-millionaire nepotism and no surprise to anyone. More interesting were cases where children support their parents.
Newin Chidchob, for example, is technically a non-political person since he’s still under a 5-year ban from politics. This, however, has not stopped him from underwriting an extension to the health coverage that his father, Chai, gets as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
‘Certain treatments are not covered by the parliamentary health scheme’, explained a spokesperson from the family’s political headquarters, ‘especially the injections that Khun Chai finds so rejuvenating. His son also orders some blue pills from the internet that provide a pick-me-up, when necessary.’
Asked if these pharmaceutical gifts did not constitute illicit favours to an elected politician, the spokesperson didn’t think so. ‘I mean, at his age, you can’t expect him to perform without assistance, so to speak.’
The political children of Banharn Silpa-archa, daughter Kanjana and son Warawut, have long been known to provide coaching to their father on what to wear and how to behave, especially in interactions with foreigners, like Queen Elizabeth Taylor. It is not clear what financial value to put on these ‘gifts in kind’ but it is believed that without this training, Banharn’s gaffes would have been truly priceless.
Army C-in-C Anupong Paojinda has an auntie, we can reveal, who has been trying for years to take charge of his personal laundry. ‘But he will keep forgetting and send his dirty smalls to the army laundry,’ she told Prachatai. ‘Those clowns put starch in everything and he ends up wearing rock-hard undies that chafe his sensitive parts. Next thing you know some poor reporter’s had her head bitten off or he’s ordering APCs into the streets. But it’s not his fault really.’
Gen Anupong’s aunt firmly believes that her donations of a good fabric softener could dramatically ease political tensions in the country and perhaps even avert a coup.
Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban has a petrol-head cousin who has been tinkering with his official limousine for some months now. ‘I just added a pre-carb de-coker to give him more growl in the lower revs and tweaked his TN-51G to a finer calibration. But the vacuum-assisted side-draw differentiator that comes standard with these models pretty much sucks, so I’ll work on that just as soon as I can get hold of the car for a few hours.’
Asked if he was paid for services that should already be provided by the government car pool, the cousin laughed off the suggestion. ‘Just seeing him in the Government House car park go from nought to 60 in 5.9 is reward enough.’
Perhaps the most disturbing case that Prachatai has discovered concerns Minister of Information and Communication Technology Ranongruk Suwanchawee. Claiming severe shortages of appropriately qualified staff, she has recruited numerous members of her extended family to work in her Internet Security Operations Centre, or ‘War Room’. There they form part of the Ministry’s campaign to search out and block websites that offend the monarch and to counter internet pornography.
It appears that these young people (members of the Minister’s family with the necessary computer expertise are all teenagers) have put in thousands of unpaid hours in the hunt for cyber-criminals. The Minister’s office brushed aside allegations of impropriety and illegal use of child labour, pointing to the success achieved.
Although only a handful of pro-republican sites have been identified in the past few months, the other focus of the campaign has enjoyed huge success. ‘These kids seem to be able to check out porno sites all day long,’ enthused the Minister.
About author: Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).