Godfather of Chonburi behind Bars!
The front page of Bangkok Post from January 31st, 2013, shows in the blue column the Godfather's rap list. Too long for one page...
Thailand's Crime Suppression Division arrested fugitive father of Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome!
On January 30th, 2013, Thailand's Crime Suppression Division (CSD) arrested the fugutive father of Pattaya's Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome. Thailand's Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) ordered a secret operation to capture Somchai Khunploem after receiving tip-offs. The arrest was the culmination of a top-secret police operation spanning more than two months. People believed the former Mayor of Saen Suk municipality had taken shelter in Cambodia, but rumours said that he had returned to Chonburi. The secret operation was launched after Chonburi Police showed no signs to arrest the gangster. Somchai Khunploem, better known as Kamnan Poh, was sentenced in absentia to 25 years in prison on March 12th, 2012, for hiring a gunman to murder Prayoon Sitthichoke, alias Kamnan Yoon, the head of tambon Samet in Muang district of Chonburi province, at a wedding in March 2003. On June 21, 2004, the Criminal Court sentenced him for the same offence. The Appeals Court on Oct 12, 2006, upheld the judgement.
Somchai was earlier found guilty by the Chonburi Court of graft over the purchase of a 140-rai block of land valued at 93 million Baht in Bang Lamung district, Chonburi, by Pattaya City between 1992 and 1993 for use as a rubbish landfill. Somchai Khunploem fled in 2006 shortly after the Appeals Court's verdict.
The Arrest of the Godfather
The arrested gangster was travelling in a Lexus RX270
The highly secret operation started during the early morning hours on January 30th, 2013.
The Police followed Somchai Khunploem's black Lexus RX270 SUV from his home in Chonburi to the Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital in Bangkok. At about 10:00 Somchai left the hospital in the same vehicle. When he was heading back to Chonburi, a 10-man Police team arrested him at Lat Krabang's toll gate. Somchai was accompanied by two persons (later updated to three persons). One was Ms Walai Kwanjit, identified as a female doctor, the second one was Winai Ponpaipal (or Vinai Phonphaipharn), the chief of tambon Samet and the successor of the murdered Kamnan Yoon. The third person was Mr. Prasong Charoenpol, allegedly the driver of the SUV.
Mr Winai confirmed he had taken Somchai to the hospital as the fugitive had health problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure. The Police found six rounds of bullets and a large amount of medicine, but no firearms. The medicine was prescribed to a Mr. Kim sae Tang. Somchai later admitted to the court that he and Kim were the same person. Mr Winai said that the bullets belonged to him. Therefore he was charged with possession of ammunition. Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital already said that neither Somchai Khunploem nor Kim sae Tang were registered as patients. The Police sent Somchai to the Bangkok Remand Prison, where he received a 30-minute health check-up. Later he will be sent to the Bang Kwang Prison. The Bangkok Remand Prison is used to detain inmates serving no more than 15 years. Somchai's relatives (!) informed the prison officials about the gangster's health conditions.
The Family of the Godfather
Somchai Khunploem has served as one of the leading figures in Thailand's political and criminal spheres. Somchai's strong power base in Chonburi province had earned him the nicknames Godfather of the East and Godfather of Chonburi. Somchai Khunploem has four sons and one daughter, all in influential positions. Itthiphol Kunplome is the Mayor of Pattaya. It is interesting that all information about Itthiphol Kunplome or Ittiphol Kunplome or Itthiphol Kunpluem or Ittiphol Kkunpluem disappeard from Wikipedia. Obviously the page published incorrect information about his education. Wittaya Khunplome manages the Chonburi Administration Organisation and is in charge for most of Pattaya's larger festivities. He controls an annual budget of US$5 billion. Narongchai Khunploem is the Mayor of Saensuk Municipality as well as the Managing Director of the Five Leader Group and the Executive Director of Bangsaen Beach Resort, Bangsaen Beach Villas, S.S. Bangsaen Beach and The Tide Resort. Sontaya Khunpleum is Thailand's Minister of Culture. During November 2012 he replaced Culture Minister Sukamol Kunplome, a former beauty queen and Sontaya's wife. He stated that he has the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by Mrs. Sukamol. She had to took the post until a political ban on her husband had been lifted. On March 19th, 2013, Sontaya Khunpleum has been elected new leader of the Phalang Chon Party. He is replacing Chao Maneewong, the former leader, who has resigned. The party's general assembly was celebrated by about 400 members at a hotel in Bang Saen (!) in Chonburi province. The party was founded during April 2011 by Sontaya Khunpleum's family. It's name, Phalang Chon (Force of Chonburi), reflects the Khunploem family's stronghold of Chonburi province. Jiraphorn Kunplome is the President of the Bangsaen Mahanakorn Property Company and Director of Bangsaen Mahanakorn Housing Development and Thalay 66 Co., Ltd. (also known as Sixty Six Condominium Pattaya). Sontaya told the court he did not known that his father was in the country...
In the night from January 30th to January 31st 75-year old Somchai Khunploem was admitted to the Corrections Department's hospital. His illness flared up, a report says. Police and the Medical Council have indicated that no action will be taken against officials and the hospital. Those who sheltered him had no ill intention because they showed gratitude to Somchai, Pol Maj Gen Supisarn Bhakdinarinath, chief of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), said. Pol Lt Gen Winai Thongson, chief of the Provincial Police Region 2, said police in his office's jurisdiction had no evidence that Somchai was in Chonburi and therefore he will not set up a panel to probe Chonburi police for possible dereliction of duty. Police have faced difficulties in doing their work in Chonburi as Somchai is an influential man in the region, Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) commissioner Pol Lt Gen Pongpat Chaiyaphan said. About 10 people living in a house named Ban Saen Suk in Chonburi's Muang district are believed to have sheltered Somchai. The suspects include Somchai's sons and daughters. The car which Somchai travelled in belongs to Winai Phonphaipharn, a Kamnan (subdistrict headman usually chosen or elected among the village elders) of tambon Samet in Chonburi's Muang district. National police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew said that those who provided shelter to Somchai and those who helped him escape arrest must be questioned. Kamnan Poh's family abetted his evasion, Police said. The Chief of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), Pol Maj Gen Supisarn Bhakdinarinath, said he has given the investigators from CSD 15 days to gather evidence before deciding whether police will take action on those who helped Somchai by illegally giving him shelter while a fugitive from the law. Somchai's family has applied for a transfer of the criminal to a prison in Chonburi. They are citing the inconvence of travelling from Chonburi to visit him in Bangkok. The province also was his hometown, they said. The combined assets of the Khunploem and Sancharoen families (the family of Somchai's wife) were estimated on four billion Baht in 2004. On March 31st, 2009, Thailand's Civil Court ordered the seizure of 11 million Baht worth of assets of Somchai Khunploem and his son Wittaya Khunplome. When Kamnan Poh was residing in Cambodia, he crossed the border each year on his birthday to celebrate on Thai soil with his family and friends, with business partners, government officials, members of parliament and other important figures. There was never an attempt to arrest the Godfather. The Khunploem family is the absolute power in Chonburi province. Therefore many local media simply ignored the arrest of the(ir) criminal Godfather. Pol Col Nirand Namsuwan, chief of CSD Sub-Division 2 and head of the investigation into how Somchai evaded arrest, said on February 3rd several people were believed to have illegally provided Somchai shelter at his Chonburi home. According to Sorasit Jongjaroen, chief of Bangkok Remand Prison, Somchai is still being treated at the Corrections Department hospital for clogged blood vessels in the brain and respiratory problems. On February 4th, 2013, an ambulance transfered criminal Somchai Khunploem to the provincial prison of his hometown. The transfer from Bangkok to Chonburi happened on a request by one of his sons, Culture Minister Sonthaya Khunploem, and was approved by the director-general of the Corrections Department. 10 minutes after arriving at the prison, Amnart Prachyaphan, director of Chonburi Central Prison, decided that the gangster was too weak for the prison. The prison's doctors found the gangster had difficulty breathing and was suffering from high blood pressure. The prison decided to refer him to a VIP room on the 8th floor of the hospital for urgent treatment, as the prison had a duty to save Somchai's life, Amnart Prachyaphan said. At about 12:45, only minutes after reaching his new accommodation, Witthaya and Narongchai Khunploem arrived at the hospital with a group of local politicians to welcome the gangster. The Corrections Department had the authority to approve the transfer of a prisoner, Criminal Court president Thawee Prachuablarb said. It seems he forget very fast what he said earlier to the press: Prisoners serving more than 20 years would usually not be eligible for a transfer and would be jailed in Bangkwang Central Prison, which has the highest security. On February 5th Culture Minister Sonthaya Khunploem said that the transfer of his father from Bangkok to Chonburi prison and his rapid admission to the provincial hospital for emergency treatment were within the rights of a prisoner as allowed by the law. His father is now under the care of doctors. He has the right to medical treatment when he is sick, the Minister said. He also said that nobody knew how his father had travelled in and out of the country. As a son, he felt duty bound to take care of his father. Apart from the right to medical treatment, his father also has the right to seek a royal pardon, Sonthaya Khunploem said. Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung denied Somchai Khunploem had been given privileges. Everything had been carried out according to Corrections Department regulations. The regulations include the right of an inmate to seek a transfer to a prison in his home province, Chalerm Yubamrung said. On February 6th the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) said it will question six people next week on whether they provided shelter and assistance to convicted murderer and former fugitive Somchai Khunploem. The director, the registrar and the security chief of Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital would be summoned because Police assume Somchai was registered at the hospital under the false name of Kim Sae Tang. Police also will question Vinai Ponpaiparn, 50, the Kamnan of tambon Samet of Chonburi's Muang district, Somchai's personal doctor, a woman, and the driver of the Lexus, the CSD director said. CSD commander Pol Maj-Gen Supisal Pakdinaruenart added that those listed on the domicile registration of house No 3 in tambon Saensuk of Chonburi's Muang district would also being checked to see if they were involved in the provided shelter. Update February 15th, 2013: Ms Walai Kwanjit, once entitled as the Godfather's female doctor, now downgraded to a nurse as well as Mr Vinai and Mr Prasong, they all told the investigating Police they were unaware Somchai was back in Thailand until they received a call that day to accompany the criminal to the Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital in Bangkok. Update February 19th, 2013: The investigation team says it needs another 15 days to wrap up the investigation. According to Crime Suppression Division (CSD) chief Pol Maj Gen Supisarn Phakdinaruenart they had not received information from Samitivej Srinakarind Hospital. Officers sought a search warrant from the Criminal Court for Somchai's medical records and the facts behind his fake name, Kim Sae Tang, but the court rejected the warrant request... Update March 7th, 2013: Thailand's Corrections Department says convicted murderer Somchai Khunploem can stay at Chon Buri Hospital indefinitely for health reasons. The gangster fainted in a toilet at the hospital a few days ago. Therefore doctors have sought to prolong his stay there indefinitely. According to Kobkiat Kasivivat, deputy director-general of the Corrections Department, Chon Buri Prison has deployed warders in front of the patient's room - and they are there around the clock! According to Amnart Prachyaphan, governor of Chon Buri prison, doctors at the hospital predict that returning Somchai to prison would compound his heart disease... Update March 31st, 2015: The convicted Godfather of Chon Buri is among 178'000 prisoners whose sentences have been reduced or ended under a royal pardon issued by His Majesty the King to mark Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's 60th birthday on April 2, 2015. Somchai Khunploem, aka Kamnan Poh, has five years and eight months deducted from his 30-year-plus sentence. He was sentenced to 25 years for masterminding the murder of his political rival Prayoon Sitthichoke, the village chief of tambon Samet in Chon Buri's Muang district, at a wedding reception in March 2003. He was also given a jail term of five years and four months for corruption involving the 1992 sale of a site in Khao Maikaew forest reserve for use as a garbage dump. Update October 13th, 2015: Somchai Khunploem, the Father of Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Khunplome and better known as Kamnan Poh and God Father of Chon Buri, has been moved from Chon Buri Hospital back to the Corrections Department's hospital in Bangkok, Bangkok Post reports.
Pol Lt Gen Pongpat Chayaphant, the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) commander, authorised Pol Col Athip Thaennil during December 2012 to lead a top secret operation to bring Kamnan Poh to justice. Pol Col Athip formed an undercover team of 30 officers and divided the team into 10 units. The units not only observed Chonburi, but most areas at the province, including crossing points on the Thai-Cambodian border. At the end of December the gathered information showed that the fugitive hadn't fled the country (as reported by his family) and was still living in his old home. The investigators learned that Somchai regularly travelled to Bangkok to receive medication for nose cancer and high blood pressure at the Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital in Bangkok. On January 30th, 2013, undercover officers followed Kamnan Poh's black Lexus and arrested the criminal as he left the hospital. First information, released by Thailand's Crime Suppression Division (CSD), said that the black Lexus belongs to Winai Phonphaipharn, the Kamnan of tambon Samet. Perhabs we never will know the true...
The Curriculum Vitae of the Godfather
Somchai Khunploem was born September 30th, 1937, in Chonburi as the son of a village headman, and was the second of eight siblings. At the time when Somchai Khunploem had to go to school, people did not give much importance to education. More often than not, Somchai decided not go. Chonburi's Godfather dropped out of school after Grade 4. Somchai's first job was as a bus boy on the Bang Saen-Chonburi route. He later managed to acquire a vehicle and got a bus service operator himself. His business only lasted a year. Before entering into the monkhood, Somchai spent two years as a helper on a fishing boat. A stint in the military soon followed. After completing his military service at an age of 21, he returned home and shortly afterwards married Satil, a beauty from his Bang Saen neighbourhood. Their first son, Sontaya, was born in 1963. Somchai returned to the fishing industry. His life changed forever when he bumped into a French tourist on holiday in Bang Saen. The well-connected Frenchman later invited Somchai to run a commercial fishing business in Cambodia. In 1966, at age of 29, Somchai was elected headman of tambon Saen Suk, a sub-district of Bang Saen. He used his influence to mobilise 14 boats for the venture with the Frenchman. Later he expanded to the building sector and established his company Bang Saen Maha Nakhon. He also opened a liquor distributor and broadened his economic empire to several other industries. The rapid rise of his business and influence later spilled over into other provincial districts. In that time Chonburi was known for its high number of gangsters and mafia members. Remembering that time Somchai said 'being a nak-leng [gangster] was not unusual. There used to be around 30 bridges in the province and each was controlled by three different nak-leng. Torture and killing were commonplace'. In 1976, Somchai moved up the village governance ladder when he was elected Kamnan of tambon Saen Suk. His fast-rising influence prompted the now-defunct Social Action party to enlist him as its key canvasser for a general election. Eventually, he helped former finance minister Boonchu Rojanasathien win a House seat in Chonburi. In 1995, he joined the Thai Nation Party and was often contracted with government procurements under the premiership of Thai Nation leader Banharn Silpa-archa. A few years ago Somchai reflected the good deeds he had done for Chonburi's voters over the past 30 years. Yes, he helped two of his children, Wittaya and Ittipol, to get elected Chonburi MPs...
Somchai Khumploem marked his 77th birthday with big Party
Jailed crime boss Somchai Khumploem marked his 77th birthday with a big party on September 30th, 2014. A crowed turned up at the residence of the Khunploem family and were welcomed by Somchai's wife, Mrs Satil, his sons Sonthaya Khunploem, Witthaya and Itthipol, as well as Mrs Sukumol, Sonthaya's wife. Please click here to read the full report as published by Bangkok Post.
The Killing of Pattaya Mayor's former Driver
Some people recommend that Thailand's Crime Suppression Division (CSD), the investigating police unit, should have a closer look into the killing of Pattaya Mayor's former driver too. The mysterious killing happened on Saturday, December 8th, 2012, between 03:30 and 04:00 in front of the Netureza North Pattaya project, near the bridge #1 on the side of the road Chaipornvithee (Soi Nong Preu) Moo 12 Tambon Nong Preu, Amphur Banglamung, Chonburi province. A gunman shot Itthiphol Kunplome's former diver three times. Kamol Supatsaksakul, 44, died later in the hospital. He lost his job when Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome began driving himself...
Itthiphol Kunplome, how will you deal with the increasing number of Chinese tourists? We have volunteers who can speak the Chinese language at police stations and some information centres, as well as at our call centre service. We hold meetings with tour agents to inform them to advise their Chinese customers about Thai culture, cleanliness and environmental issues. In the big picture, the situation is going well, as Chinese tourists most often travel in a group with a fixed schedule and guides. What are your plans to improve tourist safety? Tourist safety is a top priority. We have implemented closed-circuit cameras and more lights along major streets and beach areas. We work with police divisions in Chon Buri and Pattaya City, as well as the tourist police and immigration police, to launch the Mr Care Khun (Care For You) volunteer group. It consists of policemen, and Thai and foreign volunteers, whose duty is to patrol crowded tourist areas to offer assistance. They have informal and friendly uniforms — a bright orange polo shirt and yellowish-brown shorts. We have about 400 volunteers who work around the clock. Since the project was kicked off last December, we have received positive feedback from tourists. How have you attempted to solve the jet ski scam? We have introduced a database system to register the names of all jet ski service operators in Pattaya. It can help reduce the numbers of scams. We will have a new law to force operators to have insurance for each rental jet ski. We work with the Marine Department, which already revised its ministerial regulations to change the status of a jet ski from sports equipment to a vehicle, so it can be eligible for first-class insurance. The Marine Department already submitted the revised regulation to the Judicial Office. We believe that the jet ski scam will be solved within the next two months. How are you managing the mafia problem in Pattaya? There is no mafia these days. I have been Pattaya mayor for the past seven years, and I believe that mafia's presence has disappeared from the city. Problems now tend to be business conflicts in which foreign brokers or agents have cheated people who are buying or selling property, land or condominium units. There are many court cases related to these kind of tricksters, and we have enforced the law to manage the problem. Do you mean there is no mafia officially? I truly confirm that there is no mafia. Some people may be afraid that they might come across the mafia while spending time in Pattaya. I am certain the mafia no longer exists. We recently held meetings with security forces and they gave the definition of mafia as people who attempt to extort money from others or local gangsters. These kind of people no longer exist in Pattaya, but I know it has had a negative impact on our tourism industry. How are you managing coastal erosion? We have worked with the Marine Department, which set aside 430 million baht to refill sand on all beaches in Pattaya. Work on the project will start soon. We have also asked for a sand refill at Jomtien Beach in Bang Saen. Within this and next year, you will see a lot of changes on our beaches. What does Pattaya City do regarding the national beach clean-up campaign? We have launched campaigns to control prices of beach chairs, umbrellas and food offered along our beaches. We also announced a Big Cleaning Day in January. Every Wednesday, all beaches in Pattaya must be clear of beach chairs and umbrellas. Service providers have been cooperating well. They have helped us pick up litter the beach. The Big Cleaning Day is not a temporary project; it is a city's regulation that will enforced from now on. We have also receive positive feedback from tourists, who tell us that our beaches now look more beautiful. Can you give us an update on the progress of the Pattaya monorail project? The project's blueprint has been completed. But construction will not kick off until the government approves the high-speed train linking Suvarnabhumi Airport to Pattaya. The monorail project will be worth the investment when it can link with the high-speed train. The project is in the city's development plan to solve traffic congestion in Pattaya in the long-term, perhaps within the next six years. For the three-year short-term plan, Pattaya will have bypass tunnels on Sukhumvit Road at Pattaya Klang and Pattaya Tai intersections. When the project is finished, the road will look like Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok. Can you elaborate on the plan to promote Pattaya as a sports destination? The Ministry of Tourism and Sports wants to promote Pattaya as a sports destination. The Sports Authority of Thailand will support a budget for us to build a sports complex this year. The complex can be used for hosting extreme sports events such as BMX and skateboarding competitions. We already hosted annual international golf and tennis tournaments at the beginning of this year and will organise other events, including the King's Cup Jet Ski World Cup Grand Prix, near the end of each year. Sports is one of the magnets that attracts tourists to Pattaya. How much does the tourist industry generate in Pattaya? We expect to have 75 billion to 80 billion baht from tourists this year. The figure is estimated by the average spending of one visitor per trip, at about 10,000 baht. On average, people spend about three days in Pattaya. We want them to stay longer, at least four nights. We plan to have a new tourism campaign and events to promote more attractions so they can stay with us longer. We will also launch Pattaya tourism packages with special discounts and recommended routes by Pattaya City Hall that introduce places to visit and dine, which lets our visitors enjoy more of Pattaya. Can you recommend one place to visit in Pattaya? I recommend Koh Lan. Its nature is as beautiful as Koh Chang and Koh Kut in Trat, but the island is not yet widely known among international tourists. What is your favourite vacation destination? I like the beach. If I have to choose other places rather than Pattaya, I would go to Koh Chang or Koh Kut. I also like making merits and paying respect to Buddha images at temples in Ayutthaya and visiting famous temples in Chachoengsao and Rayong.
The Interview above is a reprint of an article published by Bangkok Post Lifestyle on March 22nd, 2015.
Outgoing Pattaya Mayor
Ittiphol Khunpleum praises his Governorship
Ittiphol Khunpleum praises his Governorship
On June 16th, 2016, the governorship of Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Khunplome ended. Therefore he took the opportunity on June 10th to speech to public officials and private-sector groups. He claimed that his economic goal was to make Pattaya a city of opportunity that attracts both foreign tourists and investors. During his term, Pattaya has become a benefit to society with 37 local volunteer groups coordinating with police and authorities to support issues on a 24-hour basis year-round, the former Mayor said and added that Pattaya has become a true green tourism destination with natural attractions such as the beach, mangrove forests and clean public areas.
The former Mayor claims that he managed Pattaya in accordance with HM the King's sufficiency economy principles. He concluded his speech saying that Pattaya will provide a bright future for all.
He forget to mention that most - if not all - of his projects failed and that both of his terms were a gigantic waste of taxpayers money:
Please click here for a list of some of the projects Itthiphol Khunplome initiated.
PS.: Former Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Khunplome has been re-elected president of the Windsurfing Association of Thailand.
Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Khunplome's council leave office before completing promised Makro U-turn
Please read the report published by Pattaya Mail.
Pattaya now in the Hands of Thailand's Military
To replace outgoing Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Khunplome Thailand's Military Junta appointed a committee of twelve members, with Mr. Chanatpong Sriviset taking over as acting Mayor. Let's wait and see if this committee does a better job...
The Legacy of Ittiphol Khunpleum
Please read The Legacy of Ittiphol Khunpleum.
Paying homage to HM the late King
Former Pattaya Mayor Ittiphol Khunpleum entered the monkhood
To pay homage to His Majesty the late King of Thailand, former Pattaya Mayor Ittiphol Khunpleum entered the monkhood in Bangsaen for one single month, Pattaya Mail reported on November 25th, 2016. In the meantime Pattaya's citiziens and tourists still has to live with the legacy of this man and his family.
Kamnan Poh, the Godfather of Chon Buri released from Jail.
On December 14th, 2017, Thailand's Justice Minister has approved parole for Somchai Khunploem. Narat Sawetanant, the Director-General of the department, said he proposed the special parole to Justice Minister Prajin Juntong who approved it on December 14th, 2017. According to Narat Sawetanant, Somchai Khunploem, now 80 years old, is qualified for special parole because he has stage-4 cancer and is older than 70 years. Local media reports claim that the Godfather had been treated at Police General Hospital in Bangkok for about a year. In 2012, the Supreme Court sentenced Somchai Khunploem in absentia to 25 years in jail for masterminding the murder of Prayoon Sitthichoke, also known as Kamnan Yoon, at a wedding in March 2003. Somchai Khunploem was arrested in the following year while travelling out of Bangkok to Chon Buri.
Thailand's Dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha appointed Sonthaya Kunploem as adviser to the Prime Minister and Itthiphol Kunploem as assistant to the Tourist and Sports Minister
On April 17th, 2018, Bangkok Post reports: Two brothers of the Kunploem clan have been appointed political officials, with the eldest son of Kamnan Poh to serve as adviser to the prime minister and a younger one becoming an assistant to a cabinet minister. The cabinet on Tuesday approved the appointments of Sonthaya Kunploem as adviser on poltical affairs to the prime minister, and Sonthaya's younger brother Itthiphol as an assistant to the tourist and sports minister. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha endorsed the appointments, proposed by the Secretariat of the Prime Minister, on Tuesday, Thai media reported. Mr Sonthaya, 55, leader of the Palang Chon Party and former tourism and sports minister, is the eldest son of Somchai Kunploem, alias Kamnan Poh, or the Godfather of Chon Buri, who wielded considerable influence in this eastern province. Mr Itthiphol, 45, a former Pattaya mayor, is the fourth child of Mr Somchai. Somchai, 80, was freed from jail on December 14th, 2017, after he was deemed to have met special criteria for early release. Earlier, Corrections Department director-general Pol Col Narat Sawettanan, said Somchai qualified for early release because of his age and ill health. He is suffering from stage 4 cancer. Somchai, one of the most powerful figures in Chon Buri, went on the run in 2006 for seven years before being arrested in January 2013 by a team of police commandos as he was travelling in a vehicle in eastern Bangkok. He was later sentenced by the Supreme Court to 25 years in prison for hiring a gunman to murder Prayoon Sitthichoke, known as Kamnan Yoon, at a wedding reception in March 2003. He was also sentenced to three years and four months in jail for abuse of power in connection with a land plot purchase. In March 2015 his sentence was cut by five years and eight months on the occasion of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's 60th birthday. He was originally scheduled for release in September 2035.
On April 18th, 2018, The Nation reports: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday downplayed the appointment of two politician brothers from the influential Kunplome family as government advisers. Prayut said he needed politicians to advise him on political affairs but denied the appointment was for his own benefit. The Cabinet yesterday appointed Phalang Chon Party leader Sontaya Kunplome as an adviser to the prime minister and his younger brother Ittipol an adviser to Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat. The appointments were effective immediately. The Kunplome family is influential in the eastern seaboard region, especially Chon Buri. In early 2000, Sontaya served as science and technology minister, and also tourism and sports minister. Ittipol is the former mayor of Pattaya City, a special administrative area in Chon Buri province. The father of the Kunplome brothers, Somchai, formerly one of the most influential figures in the eastern seaboard, is serving jail time for masterminding the murder of a local politician. Prayut yesterday said he needed some politicians around during the run-up to the election to help him better understand politics. I don't mean to bring [Sontaya] here for my personal interest. I need someone who knows about politics to give me advice because I don't know how politics works. But I do need to know something, Prayut said after the weekly Cabinet meeting. The move is seen to be politically significant. In the past month, Somkid Jatusripitak, the chief of the junta's economic team, has allegedly been consolidating power by wooing former members of the House of Representatives from different political parties to join a new pro-junta party. The party reportedly is to be led by Somkid's close aides, Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana and Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong. It is likely to be launched in June and is expected to back Prayut to return as a head of the government after the next election which is expected to be held next year. Phalang Chon adviser Charoon Ngampichet yesterday did not rule out the possibility of the party banding together with a pro-military party after the election. It's a matter for the future. If the opportunity is really offered, we'll have to consider whether it's appropriate, he said. Charoon welcomed the presence of key Phalang Chon members in the government.
On April 18th, 2018, Khaosod English: reports: A former Thaksin loyalist denies his appointment to advise Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha was a political deal to help the junta leader remain in power after elections. Several academics said Wednesday that Prayuth's recruitment of Sontaya Kunplome as an adviser is part of an effort to bring in seasoned politicians to support Prayuth's possible bid to retain his post post-election. Sontaya, 53, was a former minister of tourism and sports under Thaksin Shinawatra from 2002 to 2005 and an executive member of the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai party. He is currently the de facto leader of the Phalong Chon Party which dominates provincial politics southeast of Bangkok in Chonburi. The party secured seven MP seats in the province in the 2011 general election. Sontaya said Tuesday he accepted the appointment for the country and because he believes he can contribute to society, particularly on projects such as the Eastern Economic Corridor. He said he's familiar with the problems faced by the people in his area well. I insist this is not about politics or a condition for a political deal, Sontaya said. Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of Political Science Faculty at Ubon Ratchathani University, suggested that denial rang hollow. It shows an attempt to build a political base with influential political groups in the area in an attempt to maintain the power of the military post elections, Titipol said, adding that elections will likely take place when the junta is confident in having enough political support from some politicians. This is about paving the way for Prayuth to become prime minister, after a vote is held for the first time in years, possibly in February. Prayuth's deputy, Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, said Wednesday that it was up to Prayuth to answer whether the move was political horse-trading. Walailak University political scientist Uchane Chiangsaeng said the political calculus is transparent. This is a process of extending the pipeline of power for Prayuth and his men… It is quite clear now that Prayuth is seeking and extension of political power and has become more addicted to power, perhaps more than the politicians he once criticized. Uchane said that because elections are a must for the kingdom to be fully embraced by the international community, Prayuth, who staged the 2014 coup, needs to establish an electoral base. There will likely be more attempts to draw politicians into the [junta's] fold from now on, Uchane said.
Sontaya Khunpleum new Mayor of Pattaya
On September 25th, 2018, Thailand's Dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha, in his capacity as leader of the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), issued an order to replace the current Mayor, Anan Charoenchasri, with Sontaya Kunplome. On March 25th 2022, Sontaya Kunplome had to resign from his post as a mayoral election in Pattaya has been announced for May 22nd, 2022. For additional Information please read: Khaosod English The Nation Bangkok Post
Somchai Khunpluem, better known as Kamnan Poh, one of the most politically, economically and criminally influential men in Thailand’s east, passed away on Monday, June 17th, 2019. He succumbed to cancer at 03:00 at Samitivej Chonburi Hospital. He was 82. For additional information please read:
On July 16th, 2019, former Mayor of Pattaya, Ittipol Khunpluem, took over the Office of Minister of Culture in the new Thai Government, which is still headed by the Country's Dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha. You remember: On August 25th, 2017, Pattaya Mail reported that the Military Junta's very own Pattaya City Council called many of the projects initiated by Pattaya's former Mayor Itthiphol Khunplome (or Kunplome or Khunpleum) wasteful...