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Reactive blogger (~and more~)

“I saw Bout,” said Sirichoke

Admittedly, “I saw Bout,” said Sirichoke. This was confirmed by Abhisit and the Correction Department’s chief.

Matichon reported today that Mr. Sirichoke Sopha, Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiwa’s personal secretary went to see Victor Bout at the prison. He admitted that he sought permission to see the Russian arms dealer wanted by the US authority.

Apparently he was not keeping the secret very well.

Mr. Abhisit said there was no negotiation involved. He did not  order MR. Sirichoke to visit and he gently brushed aside the question if the visit by Mr. Sirichoke to a important international suspect of crime.

Both Mr. Abhisit and Mr. Sirichoke denied that the negotiation were about Thaksin’s connection in the massive arms cache seized in Thailand earlier.

Mr. Sithichat Sutihklom, Permanent secretary of the Correction Department confirmed that Mr. Sirichoke called him  to ask verbally to meet Mr. Bout at  the Bangkok Prison before the judgement of the appeal court. He authorized the visit.
Mr. Sirichoke went to see MR. Bout one on one without Mr. Bout’s lawyer. The prison guard was present at the visit.

Now, the  same questions resurface, put the   rumour of arms to the red shirts aside. Is it appropriate for Mr. Sirichoke to verbally use his position to obtain a visit?

Is it appropriate for him to see Mr. Bout without informing his boss before hand?

Should he personally talk with an arms dealer in prison?

Filed under: Political Sciences, , ,

Gone (Defense) shopping

Here is Thailand defense shopping list

Most of the package is devoted to a $152.8 million Singapore Technologies-designed amphibious frigate. The Royal Thai Armed Forces will also buy thousands of Israeli assault rifles and Russian shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.

Thailand has also inked a contract to buy 15,037 Tavor TAR-21 assault rifles from Israel. This $30.1 million buy will boost the Thai military’s total stock of the bullpup-design rifles to more than 30,000 – replacing many of the Army’s aging rifles.

That purchase is coupled with a $4.4 million order for 531 Israeli Negev light machine guns, raising Thailand’s stock to more than 1,100. These will be partially paid for from a special budget tied to securing the violence-scarred Malaysian border, where separatist Muslim insurgents continue to target soldiers and civilians. Russia will also supply 36 Igla-S shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles to Thailand – with seven launching mechanisms – for nearly $4 million.

The original source, quoting Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political and security analyst with Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University (ISIS)as commented that “The contracts, which Thitinan described as “scattered,” suggest the Thai military lacks a “coherent long-term procurement strategy.”

Yet the plan to purchase the light machine guns has been approved since Surayud’s government (at the same time as the scandal of Ukraine armored vehicles, remember?)

Sometimes it is not about “strategy,” as the deals are often “confidential” for national security, no one can really investigate the explanation why such as such defenses products were selected. Perhaps they gauge it from see too many Cambodian soldiers carrying B40 rocket launchers.

Filed under: Political Sciences, , , , , , , ,

KP Who?

This post at Bangkok Pundit reminded my of “KP” in IHT and I was relieved that the news is still there.

Ok, meet KP and international funding to fuels non-state actors in armed conflict. Like Yuri Orlov (not the one in the Bangkok Hilton) said in the Movie Lord of War, arms smuggling make “them” more equal.

By the way, since I have to worry about my identity, Meawgyver should brought more stuffs in her iBook about this issue. But fisrt I must ponder whether I should vote in Bangkok, go back home or not to vote. An election is looming.

I will leave you to to KP . It is believe that he is the same guy that

AP IMPACT: An investigation into fundraising and weapons smuggling by Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: He’s known only as KP, and he runs a shadowy smuggling network that stretches from the skyscrapers of New York to the suicide bomber training camps of Sri Lanka.

With a medium build, a mustache, slight paunch and thinning hair, the 52-year-old man blends easily into the places where he buys weapons for Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels, such as Thailand, Indonesia, Bulgaria and South Africa. And he operates right under the nose of the West, which experts say is so preoccupied with al-Qaida that it largely ignores other terrorist groups — even one as accomplished as the Tamil Tigers.

In dozens of interviews with Sri Lankan officials, Western diplomats and former rebels, The Associated Press found that the Tigers raise US$200 million (€139 million) to US$300 million (€208 million) a year, mostly through extortion and fraud. They then use front companies or middlemen to buy arms from legitimate weapons makers in Europe and Asia. They move the weapons back to Sri Lanka on their own ships, all to continue their 24-year-long fight to create a homeland for the Tamil minority.

The Tigers’ success in arming a 10,000-strong force has come into sharp focus in the past year with the resumption of full-scale civil war in Sri Lanka and a broadening investigation into alleged Tiger operatives in New York.

The investigation offers a glimpse of the Tigers’ methods and reach. More than a dozen suspects have been arrested for allegedly plotting to loot ATM machines and bribe U.S. officials to drop the Tigers from Washington’s list of terror groups. One suspect once worked for Microsoft Corp. and allegedly helped the Tigers buy computers, according to court papers.

Another suspect arrested in Indonesia was caught with a laptop that had spreadsheets detailing more than US$13 million (€9 million) in payments in the summer of 2006 for military equipment, including anti-aircraft guns and 100 tons of high explosives, court papers say. His passport showed more than 100 trips in the past five years to countries such as China, Kenya and even Sri Lanka.

Authorities are also looking into the dealings of a Wall Street financier suspected of donating millions of dollars to the rebels, say officials who spoke anonymously because the investigation is ongoing. He is identified only as “Individual B” in court papers and has not been arrested.

International efforts were supposed to shut down such operations after the Sept. 11 attacks, but experts on terrorist financing say the Tigers’ network has thrived in the past six years.

“After 9/11, the know-your-client principle was supposed to be integrated into the financial markets and into pretty much every business,” said Shanaka Jayasekra, a terrorism expert at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. The Tigers are “showing what can be done to exploit the holes in this system.”

Sri Lanka has stepped up its efforts to cut off rebel supply lines in a war that has killed 70,000 people over the past 24 years. Its navy has sunk seven insurgent ships in the last year, and several Tiger operatives in the United States, Europe and Australia have been arrested. And on Friday, its air force bombed a rebel facility and killed five people, including a top rebel leader.

But Sri Lanka’s resources are limited, as is the interest of the West.

“If we find (Tiger operatives) breaking the law, of course we’ll go after them,” said one Western diplomat, who spoke anonymously to avoid upsetting Sri Lankan officials. “But we’re not running around hunting for these guys.”

Even some Islamic groups with ties to al-Qaida — such as Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, blamed for bombings that have killed more than 300 people in India over the past two years — fly largely below the radar of the major Western powers, said Peter Chalk of the Rand Corp., a U.S. think tank.

“No one is paying a bloody bit of attention to any other group” apart from al-Qaida, especially one like the Tigers, whose fight is in a single, relatively poor country with little international clout, he said. These often-ignored groups “pose real threats,” Chalk said.

The Tigers’ network mirrors the sophistication of the mini-state they’ve built in northern Sri Lanka. There, they levy sales taxes — 10 percent on building materials, 7.5 percent on car parts, 20 percent on cigarettes — to support their own courts, traffic police and military, a cult-like force whose fighters don’t drink or smoke, and who carry cyanide pills to swallow if they are captured.
Outside Sri Lanka, the Tigers’ network relies heavily on the Tamil diaspora, which has swelled to between 600,000 and 800,000. They run the socio-economic gamut from doctors and bankers in upscale New Jersey suburbs to construction workers and cab drivers in London’s gritty immigrant neighborhoods.

The diaspora has helped the Tigers set up front companies in more than a dozen countries, legitimately selling everything from dried fish in Thailand to mobile phones in Toronto. The Tigers provide seed money to start the businesses, which then return profits to the Tigers. They also use their small fleet of oceangoing ships and dozens of smaller vessels to haul lawful cargo for paying clients.

But the bulk of their money comes from large and lucrative communities of Tamils abroad — more than 200,000 in Canada, about 110,000 in Britain, others in Western Europe, Australia and the United States. Some donate willingly.

“Others have to be convinced,” said a former Tiger who worked in London as a fundraiser.

The preferred method of persuasion, he said, is threats aimed either directly at the unwilling donor or at relatives back in Sri Lanka, which is “always the easiest because they knew we were the law at home.”

If threats fail — “very rare” — then “maybe we would beat him. Or if he had a shop, we could smash it.”

The former Tiger, who would not discuss why he left the group, spoke anonymously because he feared retribution and because it is a crime in Britain to raise money for a terrorist group. Reports from activists such as Human Rights Watch detail dozens of cases of Tamils in London and Toronto being forced to donate.

The Tigers prefer fundraisers who have never actually fought in Sri Lanka and therefore aren’t on any watch lists. The former Tiger said the money was deposited in accounts under his own name at NatWest bank, and then transferred to an HSBC bank account, also in London. Where it went from there, he couldn’t say.

It’s a safe bet, though, that at least some of it ended up with KP and his team.

The Sri Lankan emerged as the chief weapons supplier of the Tigers in the late 1980s, after India withdrew its clandestine support. He has surfaced as far afield as Vietnam and South Africa and has had bank accounts in London, Singapore, Frankfurt and Bangkok.

He has dozens of passports — Indian, Egyptian, Malaysian, to name a few — and a steady hand for forging whatever paperwork he doesn’t have, say Sri Lankan officials. He is, said one Western diplomat, “like something out of a James Bond movie.”

KP is now believed to live in Thailand, where he owns at least one company and a boatyard and is married to a Thai woman, Sri Lankan officials say.

In the early days, he picked up weapons wherever he could — Afghanistan, the tribal areas of Pakistan, Cambodia, the weapons bazaars of the former Soviet Union.

As the network became more sophisticated, so did the purchases. In the mid-1990s, KP’s team arranged for 70,000 mortar shells bought by the Sri Lankan government from Zimbabwe Defense Industries to be diverted to the Tigers by allegedly bribing an Israeli subcontractor.

It was about this time that KP began using forged or illegally obtained documents to buy weapons from legitimate manufacturers — a strategy he still employs, as shown by purchases from China North Industries Corp. (Norinco), a state-run company.

According to former and current Sri Lankan intelligence officials, Norinco sold the Tigers two consignments of assault rifles, light artillery, rockets and ammunition, each large enough to fill a 230-foot (70-meter) cargo ship. The purchases were arranged through a middleman as part of a larger order certified with North Korean end-user certificates — the documents needed to legally buy weapons — presumably obtained through bribery, the officials said. The consignments were loaded onto rebel-owned ships in September 2003 and October 2004 in Tianjin, China.

The weapons are then believed to have gone to a supply point along the Indian Ocean coast of either Thailand or Indonesia. From there they were loaded onto smaller ships for the trip across the Indian Ocean, and then into fishing boats to escape Sri Lanka’s navy and reach rebel territory.

Senior Chinese officials were first warned of the purchases in July 2006, said a former Sri Lankan official who helped prepare a dossier laying out evidence for them. But a third order remained on track to be delivered in spring 2007 until Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa personally appealed to Chinese leaders in Beijing in February, the official said.

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