Monday, February 4, 2013

Local political crimes

Probably the biggest news last week was the arrest of Somchai Khunpluem (สมชาย คุณปลื้ม), better known as Kamnan Poh, who was on the run for eight years. As his nickname suggest, he was subdistrict headmen from 1968 till 1989 in Saen Suk subdistrict, Mueang Chonburi district. 1989 he became the first mayor of Saen Suk subdistrict municipality, which was upgraded from a sanitary district in that year. He stayed in office till 2005, when he fled the country facing arrest for the 2003 murder of another subdistricht headman.

However the legal problems of Kamnan Poh haven't affected the political influence of the Khunpluem family - one of his sons is chairman of the Chonburi PAO, another the mayor of the city of Pattaya. And also Saen Suk municipality is still led by a Khunpluem family member. Thus it is no wonder that some analysists claim that his arrest now was the result of loosing protection from influential figures - Bangkok Pundit has a summary of the most likely theories.

Coincidentally, just one week before this arrest, another political murder led to the arrest of an important local politician. Last November, the mayor of Songkhla municipality, Peera Tantiserani (พีระ ตันติเศรณี), was fatally shot. A political reason for this murder was suspected right away, and now Uthit Chuchuay (อุทิศ ชูช่วย), the chairman of the Provincial Administrative Organization (PAO) Songkhla was arrested as being one of the masterminds behind the murder. Another local politician is apparently also involved, the mayor of TAO Tabon in Ranot district. As usual, the case is around an infrastructure project which probably would have gained the suspected plotters some additional income - a cable car crossing the mouth of Songkhla lake. Peera was a strong opponent of this project due to its ecological impact on the remaining forest in the municipal area.

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