Friday, March 31, 2006

angry mob shuts down The Nation, Thai police do not intervene

An angry mob has closed the The Nation newspaper office for several days, refusing to let anyone enter or exit.

The police, inexplicably, have not intervened to disperse the crowd.

An angry mob allowed to shut down a legitimate business in downtown Bangkok?

In a mature, non-barbaric, civilized society, this would not be allowed to happen.

Committed to telling the truth

Despite being forced from our office, we remain dedicated to those who have stuck with us through troubled times

Today's Nation may be thin, and the product may even look sloppy in some parts. Moreover, at this moment, we cannot be certain how long it will take before things can get back to normal. But even though many of our reporters could not enter our headquarters yesterday, and others had to climb over the walls to slip into our besieged workplace, we would like to assure you that the resolve, dedication and conviction that has made us the paper of your choice over the past 35 years remains as strong as ever.

We will continue our pursuit of the truth and the whole truth. And what you are reading today from The Nation, Krungthep Turakij and Kom Chad Luek is nothing but that.

You are still reading the truth about our troubled Kingdom, although many reporters were forced to write their stories in temporary exile, and those who managed to sneak into our head office were at one point not even sure when or how they would be able to leave the premises safely.

Our Kom Chad Luek brothers and sisters have expressed absolute remorse for the unfortunate mistake that resulted in publication of statements deemed highly improper.

They have expressed heartfelt regrets, apologised to the Royal Palace and sought a royal pardon.

As a preliminary show of responsibility, Kom Chad Luek's editorial department has closed itself down for a total of five days, starting yesterday.

The paper will fully cooperate with the authorities in their investigation into the incident.

We remain fully committed to our course, which is embodied by patriotism, loyalty and professionalism.

This means the whole Nation family; not just the reporters who beat all the odds, but also the foreign staff who love Thailand as much as we do, the technical crew who had to smuggle computers and other equipment out of the headquarters yesterday morning and set up an emergency operation centre and our printing workers who had to cope with a hectic rescheduling of work.

Last but not least, we thank you, our readers, who are holding this downsized Nation edition in your hands for your unwavering faith.


"You are still reading the truth about our troubled Kingdom, although many reporters were forced to write their stories in temporary exile, and those who managed to sneak into our head office were at one point not even sure when or how they would be able to leave the premises safely".

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

29 March protest times and locations -- Bangkok Post

The demonstrators will gather at the National Stadium at 3pm before marching on Rama I road to their stage at the intersection with Henry Dunant road.

[ed. this is a short distance]

The rally will close only the intersection and leave Pathumwan and Ratchaprasong intersections open. Crowds will occupy Rama I road from Pathumwan to Ratchaprasong intersections and perhaps Henry Dunant road too.

[ed. Siam Paragon, Siam Center, and Siam Discovery malls will all be closed by management today and, according to the plan right now, tomorrow as well]

huge protest today 'at' Siam Paragon in downtown Bangkok

An example of the dumbass reporting at The Nation.

In advance of today's rally somewhere near the obscene shopping development known as Siam Paragon in downtown Bangkok :

Traffic police warn protesters


Frisking would be randomly carried out at all six entries and three exits of the nearby elevated Tanayong Skytrain station and the four accesses into nearby Siam Square.

A great example of too much irrelevant detail and not enough of the kind you can use.

1) Tanayong is the name of the company that built the whole skytrain system, not the name of the station nearest the protest. Since there is only one skytrain, no need to mention the name of the company that built it. By the way, the name of the station nearest the protest is 'Siam'. I would recommend getting off one stop away at 'Chitlom' and walking along the underused skybridge to 'Siam', however.

2) Four accesses into Siam Square? Whatever that means. And the count on entry points and exits looks wrong to me. Anyway, was it necessary to list that nonsense? Seems professional and informative until you visualize the place mentioned. Then you realize it's BS.

3) What time will the protest start? Nowhere in the 5 articles published today has The Nation mentioned what time the protest will start. If I were driving a car anywhere in downtown Bangkok tomorrow, I would want to know that, wouldn't you?

I remember one year The Nation forgot to mention in advance the location, timing, or scope of the annual new year's festivities at World Trade Center. There was simply no mention of it. Think about that for a second.

Anyway, as to the start of the protest my guess is 2-4pm, since the crowd is not marching from anywhere. If they were on the move, it would start earlier, as the last one did.

Thai rioters to get government money in Taiwan prosecution

Well well. Looks like the current Thai administration is opening the public pocketbook very wide indeed in a misplaced show of compassion for the thugs who rioted in Taiwan. This kind of money doesn't grow on trees and I wonder how many of the space cadets in the Bangkok press understand that these are funds taken from elsewhere, like pre-natal care or computer literacy training.

Ministry to aid workers with Taiwan legal battle

Financial assistance, lawyers to be offered to Thais fighting damages claim

The Labour Ministry will provide full legal assistance to 14 Thai workers being sued by a Taiwanese labour management company for their alleged involvement in a riot in Taiwan last August.

Although the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corporation, which hired the workers, opted against suing them, Hua Pan Corp, a sub-contractor, has filed suit for damage to the company's properties during the August riot, said Employment Department director-general Juthawat Intha-rasuksri.

Four Thai workers face a criminal lawsuit in relation to the riot, he said, and the ministry was providing them with lawyers to fight the case in Taiwan.

Kaohsiung terminated its labour-management contract with Hua Pan after discovering the Thai workers had become violent because of unacceptable living and working conditions, Juthawat said.

In response, Hua Pan decided to sue the Thai workers for damage to the company's property, he said. [ed. as well they should. it was typical Thai behaviour on full display-- outburst of mob violence with no sense of proportionality or restraint. then pleading victimization to justify their barbarity. a muddle-headed thai press and a reactionary government stand by happy to oblige. well, time for a wake up call from the adult world]

Juthawat said legal action might yet be negated, with Thai and Taiwanese labour authorities entering negotiations with Hua Pan this week.

The ministry has set aside an initial budget of Bt10 million to help defend the workers said Kumchorn Nakcheun, the head of the Labour Ministry's office of international labour coordination.

Furious about what they considered "inhuman" living and working conditions, some 300 Thai workers in Kaohsiung set fire to the company's management centre, a work dormitory, cars and other facilities on August 21 last year.

[ed. inhuman? gee, worse than the detention center Thailand put foreign tourists in last December for overstaying their visas by one day, after being told by central immigration officials that a short overstay would be no problem? photos of the living areas of these Taiwan workers abound on the net-- in many cases they are better than what Thais live in at home, and certainly better than the living spaces of Burmese factory workers in Thailand.]

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kitti Wasinondh yesterday said the ministry had ordered officers at the Thailand Trade and Economic Office in Taipei to closely monitor the accused Thai workers and keep reports flowing back to the ministry.

The foreign ministry has helped the labour ministry organise lawyers for the workers still in Taiwan.

The Public Health Ministry will also send medical officials to Taiwan to offer them psychological counselling. [ed. enough already, ridiculous. spend the money back in Thailand on children's education or improved vocational training]

Damrongphan Chaihao

The Nation

Monday, March 27, 2006

Anti-Thaksin camps are wasting precious time pushing for PM's resignation

Exactly, and meanwhile the vote buying and policy corruption continue. Those are the real stories, with a real impact on the country's gradual transition to some rough pantomime of democracy, but on these there is no reportage. Why? Because Thais are busy 'playing' politics with silly marches downtown to no effect except to give 30 year old office girls something 'sanook' to do on their lunch break (as reported by a recent daily). The mentality of the leaders of the anti-Thaksin protests and their lunchtime followers are a good match-- both are possessed of a childlike idiocy and a false pride in a national fantasy that is always two short monkey steps from barbarism, like the Erawan 'shrine' incident last week.

Anti-Thaksin camps are wasting precious time pushing for PM's resignation

On Friday night the two major forces in Thai politics, which up to that time had not really been together for their own separate reasons, decided to join hands. It is rare for the Democrat Party to decide on such a course.

Back in Black May of 1992 it was nowhere to be seen as the so-called "mobile mob" took to the streets and toppled the government of General Suchinda Kraprayoon. And yet the Democrats were able to capitalise in the aftermath of the chaotic situation and won the plurality of seats in the elections that followed.

That the Democrat Party had wanted earlier to distance itself from the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) was understandable. Publicly it must show itself to be playing by the rules. Privately, however, it is an undeniable fact that with the Democrats' control of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, the PAD has been receiving logistical support it might not have had otherwise.

Be that as it may, with a few days to go before the election, and with hopes of getting the prime minister to resign evaporating into thin air, the necessity for a true and more potent alliance has begun to manifest itself. Now both the Democrat Party and the PAD have adopted the united front of requesting a "royally-bestowed prime minister". From the looks of the prevailing situation, however, this may be too little and too late.

Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra knows that he has the upper hand. He is not obliged to listen to the voices calling for his resignation. He does not consider them the voices of "the people". In fact he labelled the protesters gathered in front of Government House a "nightly liar mob" ("One Last Push", The Nation, March 25) and their stage the "liar pavilion". He has shrugged off all suggestions that he resign and request His Majesty the King to appoint a neutral person as interim prime minister to oversee Thailand's political reform. "I am already a royally-bestowed prime minister," he told the sympathetic crowd in Udon Thani on Friday evening.

It would appear at this stage that the strategies of both the Democrat Party and the PAD have not been effective from the beginning. The PAD had banked on the prime minister resigning under intense pressure, then the abolishment of the royal decree ordering the April 2 election, the bestowal of a prime minister by His Majesty the King, and the final "bill checking" on Thaksin and his cohorts, whatever that "bill checking" may be.

The PAD, however, is not going to get what it wants. The prime minister does not have his back to the wall, as many people may have thought. If he has been able to withstand the great pressure being applied on him for more than three weeks, then one week more will not matter that much to him.

Worse still, this so-called "bill checking" obviously has strengthened Thaksin's resolve to go to the wire. He certainly has the resources to do it. After all, he is still the darling of the majority of the people in the countryside. Lest it be forgotten, they are the ones who still constitute the country's backbone today.

On the other hand, the Democrat Party has been wasting too much of the little precious time it has had in telling its supporters why it is not contesting the elections. What it should have done is to tell the people to go to vote, which is the democratic thing to do and even a duty. And it should have told them that they should vote any which way but for Thai Rak Thai. The PAD should have done the same.

Instead of taking to the streets as it did on Saturday, or filing complaints against Thaksin and calling for his arrest as it plans to do today, both of which carry great risk of causing public outrage and confusion or even the kind of confrontation that this country can ill afford, the PAD must now consider educating the public about their political choices while there is still time left. Exposing Thaksin and his regime's misdeeds, even if they are true, has both its merits and limits. Too much of it or more of the same could definitely turn listeners off, signs of which are being to surface.

Thaksin has said that if he does not win 50 per cent of the votes cast in the election or 50 per cent of the eligible voters (which one is still not clear at the moment), he will not assume the premiership. Right there the public has a viable option of unseating him constitutionally. We already know that the new Parliament is unlikely to have a full house after the elections, with Thai Rak Thai and other candidates unlikely to make it in some 30 constituencies. This is not to mention the party-list seats, where one candidate has already opted out.

So where is the need for this "one last push"? Thaksin will not resign; and if he does not, it would be too much of an inappropriate - illegal and perhaps even unconstitutional - request for His Majesty the King to invoke Section 7 of the 1997 Constitution. Our beloved monarch, especially in this most auspicious year, should not have been approached in this way, when there are still other avenues for political differences and incompatibility to be resolved and bridged.

change the system, not just the symptom

This letter to The Nation reiterates a point I've been trying to make for several weeks now, namely that the system in Thailand is fundamentally corrupt and bears fixing more so than the prime minister. Unfortunately, due to the widespread lack of meaningful education in Thailand, the most regressive aspects of the current Thai political system are often defended by reference to flawed concepts of 'culture' and national identity.

Get rid of corruption along with the prime minister

As said previously, getting rid of Thaksin and his corrupt cronies is not enough this time around, it must be shown that we have had enough of corruption and fraud by proving the corruption and fraud.

Charges must be preferred and assets must be frozen, locally and offshore. Any financial institution that participated in hiding the assets offshore must be named, no matter how big. Without this, a change of leadership has no meaning, as the next lot will just continue to rip us off.

The fight against corruption must take a different direction this time. It is not that difficult if serious intent to weed out this evil from our society is widespread.

Asset testing is the tool to utilise, as Thaksin knows.

A senior police/customs/land officer or others on Bt50,000 per month cannot afford to drive a Mercedes-Benz and his wife a BMW, own property, have children in school, go gambling abroad twice a year and so on.

[ed. the fruits of corruption are on open display in Thailand, astonishing only in their commoness. There can be no democracy without accountability.]

If these parties cannot account for their assets, confiscate all their assets and utilise these funds to fight further corruption. Believe me, there would be billions of baht available. [ed. I would rather see the money go to education. I don't think we need to incentivize corruption fighting because a) the mechanics for wiping out 80% of the corruption in Thailand are so simple even a child could handle them, b) who will police the corruption busters if their budget is dependent on prosecutions?]

Establish a team of independent, above-reproach investigators to carry out this task and make sure no one is immune, no matter what their status. [ed. yes, this would be the hardest part. Then again, there are a lot of wannabe cops in Thai society- probably wouldn't be too hard to find someone with the 'Thai mall security guard' mentality -- autistically rule obsessed, derives total identity and self-worth from any minor position of responsibility -- able to carry out this task properly]

This is the way to rid us of the evil of corruption.

I am sure The Nation and other media entities would be glad to assist in fighting corrupt practices and cleaning up our nation once and for all for the benefit of the people of Thailand and our international reputation, which at present leaves a lot to be desired.

This is what Thaksin was supposed to have done; instead he participated in such practices to further enrich his family and friends.

We have a man in Thailand who could tackle this enormous task and is capable of doing so: Seripisut Temiyaves. I do not know if he would accept the job, but it is worth considering. [ed. google search returned zero hits with this spelling, no idea who this person is]

[ed. the rest of the letter devolves into some emotive BS, quite typical when Thais 'play politics', which is a direct translation of the actual Thai phrase for engaging in politics]

He is one man I have faith in as he told me once that he loved our nation.

I am a lonely voice but a true Thai who loves his nation and wants to hold his head up with pride.

[ed. LOL. Oh well, the letter had its high points]



Thursday, March 23, 2006

mai pen rai and the poverty corruption nexus in Thailand and Cambodia

If you ever wonder what happens when corruption sucks all the money in a country into the hands of the rich and few, check this link:

and then check this link

Instead of being spent on basic development or home grown enterprise, this blood money is squandered on obscene playgrounds where the ruling class can pump the capital into imported perishable goods. These fools are so infantile they think overpriced chav wear and 'ghetto rich' somehow confers 1st World status.

Put a tiara on a monkey and it's still a monkey.

Thai media groups claim government intimidation continuing

"The freedom to report pertinent views on public issues is deemed essential to foster understanding in society," the Thai Journalists' Association and the Thai Broadcasting Journalists' Association said in a joint statement.

A group of protesters also marched to The Nation's editorial office on Tuesday and accused it of publishing biased reports even though none of them could cite a specific news item deemed unacceptable.

Haha, well, a few obviously biased stories jump to mind:
-- the article stating that Thaksin had been removed as head of the organizing committee for the King's 60th anniversary celebration (this was later admitted to be incorrect, yet the original story remains prominently linked on the website with no update)
-- the article quoted in the previous post concerning political fallout re: the EGAT verdict. 7 paragraphs of opposition party statements and gloating over the verdict. A single line summing up the ruling party position, which was then dismissed as "lame" in print by the reporter (!)

I can't think of more than one or two editions of The Nation since the beginning of March that were not filled with pro-opposition headlines and cheerleading editorials like "No Choice: Thaksin Must Step Down."

So, having answered The Nations's little challenge, which was kind of schoolyardish and silly in an oh so Thai way (e.g., "nuh uh, we're not biased -- name one instance!" -- a classic attempt to obscure the forest with the trees), I would pose the following question: Has a single article or editorial been published in the past 2 weeks (14 editions) that has attempted to present the government side in the current dispute? Has there been a single article or editorial in the past month that has taken a positive or even neutral/objective tone about any government activity or initiative, no matter how small?

Furthermore, I noticed a lot of speeches being made at the pro-Thaksin rallies. Why were none of these speeches summarized or the rallies themselves reported on with the same level of excruciating minute-by-minute detail given to Sondhi's rallies?

For The Nation to claim it's not biased is a joke. It's also troubling that more editorial effort has been expended to deny the bias than to contain it.

Although I believe the Thai government has and does do quite a bit to illegally and unconstitutionally curtail press freedom, The Nation is doing their cause no justice by being so obviously politicized that it only lends credence to the government's position that Thai journalism is unprofessional and undeserving of what freedom it currently enjoys.

With freedom comes responsibility. This is a lesson Thai journalism desperately needs to learn if it wants to legitimately claim protected status under the current constitution.

Thai political fallout from wording of EGAT verdict

From The Nation:

Apart from dealing a major blow to one of the Thaksin government's major economic schemes, the much-anticipated ruling dwelled on what critics believe are serious flaws of the administration - such as conflicts of interest, the tendency to ignore public voices in key national matters and alleged cronyism.

It was the grounds for the verdict, not the verdict itself, that sent the ruling party reeling. Thai Rak Thai insiders admitted the timing of the setback was particularly bad for the embattled prime minister, who is facing massive protests for alleged "policy corruption". The mention of Olarn Chaipravat in the court statement hammered home what the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the organisers of the sit-in demonstration at Government House, has been trying to tell the public.

...While the pre-verdict attention was centred on the pros and cons of the Egat privatisation, the court has sharpened the focus of the issue on the intriguing triangle of Olarn, Shin Corp and Egat.

Reaction from Thaksin, who said the government would need to go through the points that made the court suspicious of the scheme, sounded lame given the severe punches from the court.[ed. and, incidentally, this kind of reporting in a major newspaper sounds childish and unprofessional]

Olarn's connection with Shin Corp and his involvement in the legal preparation for Egat's privatisation, enhanced the PAD's claims that cronyism is a big part of the Thaksin government...

"The government has been insisting it did everything the right way. This is a big slap in its face," she said.

"Policy corruption": the use of the government itself as a vehicle of corruption and cronyism by passing laws to benefit the politically connected at the expense of the national interest. A very difficult thing to explain, especially given the limited attention span and cognitive grasp of average Thais. The government counted on this, as well as a corrupt and compliant judicial system to back them up. It worked for 5 years. I guess the real upshot of the Sondhi carnival is that it went on long enough (and involved just enough people) to enable an awakening of real political consciousness in the land of the som tam slumber. The worm has turned.

Thai Supreme Adminsitrative Court cancels EGAT privatization

Caution: an overly long editorial from The Nation with my comments interspersed throughout:

Court ends privatisation of Egat

Consumer-rights groups hail ruling to keep state power utility in public hands; TRT key economic policy suffers a blow

The Supreme Admini-strative Court yesterday blew the privatisation of the state power utility out of the water by revoking two Royal Decrees that led to its corporatisation in 2005.

Civic and consumer rights activists who took the case to court, and hundreds of their jubilant supporters, including Chamlong Srimuang, who showed up at the court on Sathon Road, cheered "victory for the people".

They hailed the court's decision as "true justice" which served as evidence that there remains at least one independent organisation still functioning in the country.

The groups called on caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to take responsibility for issuing the decrees and resign.


Judge Jaran Hattakam, who led a committee of five judges, said the court looked at the complaint against the privatisation of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) very carefully because the case had "national assets and public interests" at stake.

The court said it was also aware that its verdict yesterday would serve as a guideline for future rulings on other privatisation programmes of the government.

"The Supreme Administrative Court spent about four months seeking truth . . . and has reached the conclusion that the process of transforming this state enterprise [Egat] into a corporation was unlawful," said Jaran, reading the verdict statement.

"The court rules that the two Royal Decrees [that supported the process] are now revoked and all the past preparations [for privatisation] are nullified."

Of the two decrees, one served as Egat Plc's charter and the other ordered the dissolution of the status of Egat as a state enterprise. Both decrees, approved by the Cabinet, came into force in June last year.

As a result of this verdict, Egat will remain a state enterprise and all the plans for its stock market listing will be cancelled.

However, experts on power production said the next step was to introduce reform programmes to get rid of Egat's monopoly in the power sector, as well as to increase its efficiency.
[ed. let's hope so-- electricity in Thailand is as expensive as in the US, with wages in Thailand 1/10 to 1/4 those of a 1st World country]

Jaran noted that the case had in fact expired because the plaintiffs had not filed their complaint within 90 days of the two decrees coming into force, as stipulated by law.

However, this legal technicality was overruled by the Constitution, which guarantees the plaintiffs' right to protect their interests and those of the public.

[ed. well, some sloppy and transparently results-oriented legal reasoning there, which doesn't bode well for the maturation of the Thai legal system-- one of the sloppiest and most haphazard in the world. What about all the other cases that have been thrown out because they were filed outside the legal timeframe? Is the Supreme Administrative Court saying that whenever a case is "uhm, a really big deal," then the statute of limitations will no longer apply? One of the hallmarks of a mature judicial system is systemic fairness -- all parties and cases handled the same way-- as well as predictability of results. This seems like a case of typical Thai-ness, not being able to take a deadline seriously and then expecting to get bailed out on an emotional appeal. Sadly, it worked. These asshole activists and editorial writers should have filed suit during the 'hearing phase' they claim was so corrupt, not 6 months after the actual (and costly) privatization.]

"The court accepted the case based on the group's intention to protect the country's interests and uphold the system of checks and balances," said Jaran.[ed. so-called good intentions and waving the flag are all it takes to trump legal precedent?]

The court spent almost two hours detailing why it reached the conclusion that the preparation of the two decrees - and hence the privatisation of Egat - were flawed.

The court cited three points: the conflicts of interest plaguing the formation of the committee that worked on the state agency's corporatisation process; the conflict of interest in the appointment of a chairman for the public hearing committee and the improper process of the hearings; and the fact that Egat Plc would still have held state power of land expropriation after being privatised.

The court pointed out that Olarn Chaipravat, who served as an expert on the committee that established the charter for Egat's corporatisation, was not qualified for the job because of a conflict of interest. Olarn was on executive boards at Shin Corp and PTT Plc, which both have related business with Egat.[ed. good point, though I wonder who outside of the energy sector would have been qualified to sit on the committee?]

The public hearing committee, a crucial process in the listing of Egat, was also plagued with conflicts of interest. The committee chairman, Parinya Nutalai, was vice minister for natural resources and the environment. He was appointed by and worked for the prime minister.[ed. well, public hearings are usually run by government officials-- don't really see the issue here]

With Parinya holding a political position, the court questioned whether he could remain neutral in chairing this crucial process.

In the ruling, Jaran said the selection of members of such a panel must be stringent in order to ensure that it consisted of well-qualified people.

Jaran also said the public hearing process did not involve a broad base of stakeholders. For example, there was only one public hearing for Egat employees.

Only 1,057 employees, or 3.87 per cent of the total, showed up because the hearing was held on a workday (a Tuesday), and in Bangkok, while the employees were based all over the country.[ed. another good point, but the more interesting constitutional question is why EGAT employees were not allowed to unionize (and thereby send representatives to the Bangkok meeting).]

The last major point was that the decree on Egat's charter would have given Egat Plc power that the Constitution reserves for the state, such as the power of land expropriation to build power plants or transmission lines.[ed. oops. The government deserved to get bitch-smacked for the lack of thought they put into this.]

Moreover, Egat Plc would have taken with it state assets such as land and power transmission systems.[ed. exactly, 'sunk costs' paid by the people. Unless there were going to issue shares to every taxpayer in Thailand over the past 20 years (an unworkable scheme) or somehow payback on these assets (a liability which would effectively reduce the share market value to zero), there doesn't seem to be a fair way to handle this]

Nakhon Chompuchart, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, praised the verdict as complete and full of integrity.

"The court even saw the crucial details that we overlooked or did not have information on. For example, the flaws in the public hearing process. The ruling will set a precedent for other privatisation cases. We may take on PTT Plc next," he said. [ed. LOL. And I guess now the candy store's open. But since when can a court rule on issues not brought up by either party? That's bizarre)

Plaintiff Rosana Tositrakul, a board member of the Consumers Confederation of Thailand, was pleased with the verdict and vowed to launch an investigation into other state enterprise corporatisation programmes, such as those of the Mass Communications Authority of Thailand, the Telephone Organisation of Thailand and the Communications Authority of Thailand.

"Our victory with Egat today should tell the government that people are not as stupid as Thaksin might have thought," said Rosana.

"We know what he and his cronies are up to. They want government power to sell off national assets to fatten their pockets. We will not allow that to happen. Today proves to us that justice and the people's interest will prevail."

The Administrative Court, which marked its fifth anniversary early this month, was The Nation's Person of the Year for 2005.

"Bad facts make bad law" seems to sum up this ruling, from a legal standpoint.

As to the larger question of whether privatization might in theory have helped make EGAT more efficient-- who knows? With this group of self-interested, pompous, and totally inept monkeys in government in charge of such a radical sale, it certainly would not have.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Muslim man destorys Hindu temple and is beaten to death by peaceful Buddhists

From The Nation:

Damage to Phra Prom at the Erawan shrine "could hit tourism", claim officials (March 22).

What about the murder of the alleged desecrator, beaten to death by an angry crowd, in the middle of the city?

Does this have no effect on tourists when they are considering a safe holiday destination?

Noah Shepherd

Chon Buri


And nobody comes to Thailand to visit the Erawan shrine, anyway - get real.

Shows the calibre of the gov officials we have here in Thailand. Most of what they say sounds like it came from someone who's been drinking too much cough medicine.

In case you missed the original story:

Insane Thai beaten to death for destroying sacred Hindu shrine
18:18:20 EST Mar 21, 2006

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - A 27-year-old mentally disturbed Thai man was beaten to death by enraged onlookers at a world-famous shrine in downtown Bangkok after he destroyed a popular statue of a Hindu deity with a hammer, police said.

Thanakorn Pakdeepol, who police said had a history of mental illness, was killed after he broke into the Erawan Shrine and used a hammer to shatter a four-headed statue of Brahma covered in gold. Thousands of Thais and tourists seek good fortune at the statue every day.

Police Col. Suphisal Pakdinarunaj said two men were arrested in connection with the killing early Tuesday morning.

The website of the newspaper the Nation identified them as Bangkok garbage collectors, held on charges of second-degree murder, and said police were investigating whether other people were also involved.

The newspaper said police found Thanakorn lying not far from the shrine with a head wound, a cut above his left eye and bruises on his back. He died before he could be taken to a hospital just across the street.

"I feel sorry that he destroyed the Brahma statue, which is highly respected by Thai people," Thanakorn's father, Sayant, was quoted saying.

Many devotees of the shrine rushed to the site after hearing the news. What little remained of the statue was covered by a cloth.

Astrology and fortunetelling still play a major role in Thai life, even as the country adopts western ways and modernizes.

Visitors to the shrine usually promised devotion in exchange for a change in their luck. They ranged from infertile couples seeking children, to entrepreneurs and people seeking an edge in the lottery.

Usually they would bring token offerings such as garlands, incense, candles and teak elephants.

The shrine was originally built in 1956 to ward off bad luck during the construction of an earlier hotel, which was later torn down.

Deputy prime minister Surakiart Sathirathai - who is also acting culture minister - visited the site after the attack and ordered the statue rebuilt within two months. He said the restored statue would incorporate as many fragments of the original as possible and be better protected.

The 'deranged' individuals in this sad tale are the street sweepers who beat the man to death for breaking a plaster statue, no one else. The statue will be easily replaced, the man will not. In fact, an improved version of the statue is already in the works -- let's hope it goes through and the depressing little 'shrine ghetto' around it is also given a much needed aesthetic and ergonomic revamp.

Again, Third World is not about infrastructure, it is about what is carried in the heads and hearts of the people. If we fixed this animalistic mentality of the average Thai, all other problems would be solved. If we don't, we can build as many bridges and skytrains to nowhere as we please and the standard of living will only decrease.

Today's generation of Thai politicians all carry this Third World mentality within them. They are useless to lead out of the current situation.

Thai workers wearing out welcome in Taiwan

another insular (and misguided) Taiwan-based 'human rights activist' gets a letter published in The Nation:

Again, thousands of Thai workers rallied in Taiwan [last week], demanding better treatment. In television interviews, some workers said they had been forced to purchase low-quality food at inflated prices, while better food was available from Korean companies in Taiwan.

It's easy to clean up these misdeeds, but some newspapers have published negative comments about the workers.

Taiwan's population is ageing, spurring the demand for foreign labour, but its relatively closed society tends to discriminate against outsiders.

Many jobless people in southern Taiwan never think about who's doing the hard, dangerous work for them.

Whenever an election comes along, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party promises to reduce the number of Thai workers, as if they are responsible for every problem in Taiwan!

This attitude is reinforced by negative media coverage. A strike last summer involving Thai workers was an embarrassment for the ruling party.

It has lost every election ever since. Chen Chu, the former chairwoman of the Council of Labour Affairs, is now seeking to be elected to the post of mayor of Kaoshiung city.

Neither she nor her party wants to hear anything about Thai workers.

When a matter of human rights turns into a political one, foreigners of lower economic status will not receive justice. I fear that Thai people do not know about Taiwan's love of realpolitik or the miserable condition of their brothers abroad.

Dr Weiming Wang


Boo hoo, cry me a river. Some of these Taiwan based activists should come to Bangkok and see how Thailand treats its foreign workers - like shit.

And frankly, one has to consider the class of Thais being exported. Generally, only the most desperate, uneducated and criminal Thais are willing to expatriate themselves to find work. Most of the construction sector in Thailand is facing a labor shortage, so it really says something that these folks who are rioting in Taiwan were unemployable back home.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Protest leader assaulted

from today's The Nation:

A vice president of Provincial Electricity Authority worker union was assaulted by three men early Saturday morning after joining the anti-Thaksin rally in front of Government House.

Kittichai Saisa-ard, 43, field complains with police that three men assaulted him while he was walking to the Royal Hotel at 4 am after speaking in criticism of Thaksin at the rally site.

He said the three men arrived on two motorcycles and used sticks and stones to beat him.

He said he tried to cover his head so he suffered severe injuries over his arms and hands.

dummy candidates paid to run; 20 percent rule

Fraud charges add to poll fears

The PM's desperate bid to re-legitimise his rule will only reinforce the divide in society

...Democrats have presented witnesses and are known to have acquired some key material evidence.

...A virtual "one-party" election is technically allowed under the Constitution, provided that the sole party contesting has enough support nationwide to prove its worth. This is not the case with Thai Rak Thai, which surely faces an impossible task in winning the required minimum of 20 per cent of support from eligible voters in certain constituencies. The 20 per cent rule will be invoked for every constituency where only one party is running, and it should prove to be an insurmountable barrier in major anti-Thaksin zones like southern Thailand.

To get around the 20 per cent rule, Thai Rak Thai needs competitors in all these areas. Not surprisingly, allegations have been flooding in about "hired candidates" running for small parties. Over the weekend, Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the Democrat Party, detailed how key figures of Thai Rak Thai were busying implementing a scheme to beat the rule. Some little-known figures were presented before the media and they "confessed" that they had been offered money to run in the snap election.

Shrugging off the ruling party's threat to launch civil and criminal suits, Suthep insisted he had evidence to prove the alleged election fraud and challenged Thai Rak Thai to bring the case to court. He claimed that two key Thai Rak Thai leaders had met at the party's headquarters with four others to devise ways to help a group of small political parties field candidates in constituencies in four central and 14 southern provinces. According to Suthep, the problem for Thai Rak Thai was that all the MP candidates to be fielded by these small parties had to be members of those parties for at least 90 days prior to the application. As a result, the plan was to replace the names of about 500 real members of political parties with new ones so that they would be eligible to run in the election. Suthep also alleged that a computer disc containing the Election Commission's database of political party members was provided to operators of the scheme so names could be changed electronically.

...what characterises this snap election are trademarks of Thaksin's rule - the alleged use of "nominees", the tendency to use money to solve all problems in complete disregard for the consequences and the mentality that legal barriers are there to be breached, not respected.

...Thaksin, in trying to prove to Thais why ... they can still trust him, is doing something that will bring the exact opposite results.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

takes longer to decipher a typically shitty Bangkok Post article than to read it

From today's Bangkok Post, front page.

Aside from the fact that local amateur league sports recruitment is probably not worthy of front page placement in a major daily covering a city of 5.6 million, I have an additional question: What sport?

Don't read this paper every day. It will dumb down your English as well as your thought process.

Registration for new season starts this week

Registration for the DHL Bangkok Lions RFC 2006 season commences this weekend with a registration session from 8:30am to 11:30am at this week's BSL at the Sports Complex opposite Bangkok Patana School on Soi LaSalle, Sukhumvit 105. Additional registration sessions are also planned at Lions training days on Sunday 19th and 26th March.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

silly talk of black magic exposing Thailand as a global joke

Aside from the stupid and irresponsible comments from the politicians quoted, what sort of weird reporting is The Nation doing? Check out the last line:

On his tour of the Northeast, caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra consulted a few apparent experts in Cambodian black magic but Newin Chidchob, the Prime Minister Office's minister, stood out.

In Surin, Thaksin rode an elephant and performed the old ritual carried out by warriors before a battle of walking under the beast's belly to boost his power and fortune.

In an unusual but deliberate act, carried out with precision, Thaksin toured Baan Taklang, also known as Elephant Village, which is Newin's hometown and where his father was a mahout.

To scare off his enemies, Thaksin was given a magical elephant prod. He happily responded: "I will use this prod, along with spells and talismans, to control the fierce opponents who are trying to oust me."

Newin also apparently instructed Thaksin to increase his strength by paying respect at the mahout's shrine, where he conducts rites for the elephants, and a Khmer temple.

Meanwhile in Bangkok, Buri Ram Senator Karun Saingam also called on murky powers when he asked female protesters to pass pictures of Thaksin between their legs to curse the embattled premier.

It is an open secret that during recent weeks Thaksin has followed strict routines and instructions from astrologers and black magic masters.
[ed. is this news, or 'would-be' news? The editorial supervision at The Nation has become noticeably lax during the recent season of protest.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

'traditional' Thai patronage system prevents corruption free elections

A good response to some of the 'school teacher' letters The Nation has been receiving from the usual pedantic sources (sexpats and foreign retirees), who naively laud elections as the be-all and end-all of a democratic system.

Comments from readers that you have published, especially from foreigners, do not show an adequate appreciation of the Thai political situation. It is indeed the democratic ideal to effect change through the ballot box.

However, in addition to the fact that Thai elections are usually marred by fraud, ballot-stuffing, vote-buying and other shenanigans, it is not an accurate barometer of popular sentiment when three-quarters of MPs are re-elected, no matter to which party they belong. Patron-client bonds still have deep roots in Thai society, especially in the Northeast. Putting together a sufficient number of these die-hard politicos and their relatives is sufficient to create an electoral "mandate".

An exhaustive explanation of the Thai patronage system would take more coffee than I have on hand at this hour, but suffice it to say that in the rural areas there exist paternalistic power heirarchies very similar to feudal times. The "pooyai" (big daddy) in a village or organization is supposed to protect and care for the ordinary peasants or workers who bestow in return their uncritical and unquestioning loyalty. 'Protect and care' is usually on the level of monetary handouts, as few leaders are good at global planning or the "vision thing." It's doubtful anyway that most peasants would have the education or attention span to base their fealty on true policy oriented leadership, at least at present. Vote buying, although illegal, is but a natural extension of this traditional and pre-existing patron client relationship.

"seige" of Thai government bldg enters surreal second day

12:04 am: Two senators - Karun Sai-ngarm and Pichet Phattanachote lead the protesters to curse Thaksin in response to a superstitious rite they says Thaksin is having a Cambodian witchdoctor perform in Buri Ram.

Karun asks the crowd to put Thaksin's photos or name under women's crotch and curse him three times.

Karun asks women to stand up for putting Thaksin's name and photos under their legs. Karun and Pichet lead the crowd to curse Thaksin three times.

They ask the crowd to curse Thaksin to leave office, and flee Thailand to Singapore.

Keep in mind these are Thai senators, the senior elected leadership of Thailand.

Thailand: Third World and Proud of It

another great one from The Nation Web

Author: Wake-up call
Date: 28 Feb 2549 08:17


In my neighbourhood, all the houses have septic tanks to collect effluence. When the tank gets full a truck comes along, collects it and dumps all that raw sewerage into the river. Well, the truck did not pay its kickback to the police and was no longer allowed to dump into the river. Our neighbourhood had full septic tanks for 6 MONTHS before the truck had found another place to dump into the river.

My household has been without water for three days now. We are unable to cook, wash or clean because the big mega project you talk about of fixing the water lines was UNABLE TO ADVISE houses in my area of a water shortage before they went ahead and started to 'fix' the problem. [ed. thankfully never had it this bad but announced utility work resulting in power and water outages of up to a full day have happened 2-3 times a year in every Bangkok neighborhood I've lived in]

Bangkok is full of raw sewerage being pumped straight into the klongs and stagnant water not moving regardless of these magnificent pumps. And to make matters worse you have all the food vendors just pouring hot oil straight into the drain at the end of the day (well, week). [ed. totally true, and one of the things that makes me shake my head in disbelief when Thais try to claim first or even second world status for Bangkok]

Bangkok could have all the infrastructure in the world but it will not improve until an attitude in Thai people changes. It's like watching a baby play with a calculator, he doesn't know what to do with the technology, but at least if he mashes the buttons and makes it look like he can use it he won't lose face and might have some sanook. [ed. oh I really like this one!]

Bangkok's low standard of living

sums it up nicely. Can't think of too many things I would add.

The myth of gentle Thai people, buddhists, land of smiles, good cuisine, etc. is totally ludicrous to anyone who's lived here for a length of time. Looking through old magazines, I can see how this myth has been built up since the 1960s by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, to the point where it is unforunately accepted as foundational fact by the majority of guidebooks.

Bangkok is a great place to live.
Author: Wake-up call
Date: 17 Feb 2549 08:36

Besides the suffocating pollution from diesel buses, two-stroke bikes and tuk-tuks and idle taxis, never-ending traffic jams, rampant corruption in the police and politicians, multitudes of prostitution parlors and street-walkers, ignorant beggars with innocent babies sitting under bridges, ineffective schooling and law systems, plastic bags littering the last few remaining square meters of green in the city, excessive noise pollution from loud speakers at malls and modified bikes, inconsiderate pedestrians unaware of anything going on around them or people wanting to pass them, lax safety standards or any standards for that matter, suicidal bus and taxi drivers, dilapidated housing, open sewerage rotting in the sun, the smell of excrement every few meters, noisy and insolent children, deep-fried food being part of a child’s staple diet, swindlers, pirates and scams, obtrusive hierarchical systems with incompetent managers, superficial outlooks on money and happiness, glorified focus on appearance, rude people standing in front of an exit of a train or bus trying to shove their way onboard, spoiled children, deserted Buddhist values, cruelty to animals (elephants, birds and fish for example), unabashed yet unwarranted elitism and egotism, and the apathy of people to resolve any of the above, Bangkok is a great place to live.

megaproject to develop the minds of the Thai people?

From The Nation's coverage of today's anti-government protest:

4:37 pm: Uaychai Watha, an activist from northeastern provinces, says he has learnt that Thaksin will perform a superstitious rite in Si Sa Ket with help from PM's Office Minister Newin Chidchob to try to prolong his power. But he says the rite will not work as the anti-Thaksin coalition has performed another rite to block Thaksin's rite.

Watha spouted this nonsense in front of a crowd of nearly 100,000 people, knowing his comments would be televised as well.

If these are the next leaders, Thaksin should stay put.

Maybe he can start a megaproject to develop the minds of the Thai people.

Friday, March 10, 2006

update police confirm two tourists injured in Bangkok bombing

Here is a cleaned up report from The Nation. Appears there two tourists injured:

...this type of explosion is similar to the recent bombing incidents that took place at the Interior Ministry and Santi Asoke Foundation, he said. The foundation is one of the key component[s] within the anti-government coalition that has been demanding for Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's unconditional resignation.

Police immediately cordoned off the area to collect the evidence. When the blast went off, there [were] no police in the booth. Initial investigation identified the injured as a Briton and a Canadian who were passing the house at the time of the incident.

A spokesman of Vajira Hospital identified the Briton as Jeffeny King, 28, and Merry Ruszell, a Canadian, 55. King was injured by shrapnels in his torso and both legs, while Ruszell at his arms.

Police said the bomb was placed under a marble bench next to the unmanned police booth. The blast destroyed the bench and shattered window glass of the booth. The explosion damaged three cars parked nearby and opposite side of the road.

Bombing incidents during anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movements

Interesting to see this sudden collation by The Nation of the various exploding bomb incidents during the recent season of protest in Bangkok.

Bombing incidents during anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movements

Following are bombing incidents happened after Sondhi Limthongkul, a media tycoon, has launched campaign to try to oust Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra:

November 4, 2005: A bomb was hurled into lawn yard of the Phujadkarn newspaper's office causing only minor damages.

December 8, 2005: A small bomb exploded in a telephone booth near Lumpini Park just one day before Thaksin's arch rival and media maverick Sondhi Limthongkul staged his weekly anti-government rally there.

December 17, 2005: An explosion blew a small hole in the ground, blasted the trunk of a tree and sent debris all over a guard post manned by police against the outer wall of the Interior Ministry.

February 22, 2006: A bomb exploded inside Santi Asoke religious centre. The blast shattered windows of broke roof tiles at shelter buildings. Marble chairs were also broken, and an open space used for leisure activities was damaged. The blast was powerful enough to damage glass windows and the ceilings of eight townhouses nearby.

March 9, 2006: A bomb exploded at a police booth in front of the residence of Privy Council's president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, injuring two foreign nationals.


Giant firecrackers hurled into Vachirawut College

Giant firecrackers were hurled inside the compound of Vachirawut College Thursday evening.

The firecrackers did not cause damage apart from making loud noise.

A security officer of the college, Somchai Chankham, told police that the explosion noises were heard from three spots inside the college's compound at about 9:10 pm.

Dr Chai-anan Samutvanij, who gathered signatures to submit a petition to His Majesty the King seeking a royally-appointed government, was staying inside the college at the time of explosions. He is the college's director.

The above brings to mind another thing left off this rather incomplete list: the firecracker throwing incident during the second Sondhi rally at Lumphini Park. A man was arrested at the scene and carted off by the police. No followup by the Thai media regarding the results of police questioning.

It might be interesting to interview this man again given the similarity to other events where firecrackers and relatively small explosive devices have been detontated around town. The restrained nature of these 'bombings' indicates that the objective is provocation, not attack. To add fuel to the fire of an already tense political situation.

British tourist injured in Bangkok bomb blast; device explodes outside home of Thai king's chief advisor

Had to go outside Thailand for this report. The papers here have been slow to report any details re: the tourist who was injured.

British tourist injured in Bangkok bomb blast
By Sebastien Berger in Bangkok
(Filed: 10/03/2006)

Thailand's political crisis turned violent yesterday when a bomb exploded in Bangkok, injuring a British tourist.

Jeffrey King, 28, was walking past the home of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, a former prime minister and the closest adviser to Thailand's revered king, when the bomb blew out the windows of a guardhouse.

Mr King, a lawyer, suffered cuts and was admitted to a nearby hospital for overnight observation.

The blast came amid mounting political tension in the Thai capital, where demonstrations are being held almost daily calling for the resignation of the prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, for "abuse of power".

Mr Thaksin, who was re-elected only a year ago, has called a general election to renew his mandate but the main opposition parties are boycotting the poll.

Thaksin and democracy

excerpt from a great satirical piece in The Nation:

Hello and goodbye from Democracy scorned

Dear Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra...

...I was tempted to write a long time ago, when you made that world-renowned statement about me in December 2003. "Democracy is not my goal," you said.

Leaders who shared your belief that I'm just a "tool", not an inspiration, have often used me as a stepping stone. Once they got what they want, they forgot all about me. They all have one thing in common though: whenever their backs were against the wall, they called for me.

...They order drug suspects or alleged militants shot in the morning, force news outlets to sack editors in the afternoon, buy off those employed in checks and balances in the evening and come to me with flowers when they have nowhere to go. They don't really know me or my essence. I'm only their springboard and last resort, nothing else.

...I had to fight back tears every time you invoked those "19 million votes" to defend your actions, knowing full well that deep in your heart, you never really appreciated my real merits and principles.

...Do you honestly think it's right for the government to help provinces that supported your political party first? And when members of the public criticise you, are they "stupid", or are they just performing their duty as Thai citizens?

...You said on Monday that you had done your best. Well, sorry, my friend, your best wasn't good enough.

Goodbye from someone you never really knew,


To be perfectly accurate, Thaksin's favorite phrase used to describe critics of his policies is "ngo badsop," which translates to "idiot scum" -- a term a fair bit stronger and unstatesmanlike than the mere word "stupid."

Washington slams Thai record

Extrajudicial killings, corruption and media intimidation mar Kingdom's image

Thailand's human-rights record has "significant problems" due to extrajudicial killings and restrictions on freedom of expression, says the US government.

In the annual human-rights report by the US State Department, which will be released today, Washington took the Thai government to task for violations, especially in the Malay-speaking South.

For the first time the report mentions the high-profile corruption allegations at the new Suvarnabhumi Airport.

This year's assessment is far more extensive and details cases of extrajudicial killings and lawsuits against the media by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The report is part of the global assessment of human rights in more than 120 countries, which have been carried out annually since 1979 and are reported to the US Congress.

Numerous human-rights violations last year in the South are recorded especially after the imposition of the controversial emergency law in July, which replaced martial law.

The report highlights the death of Satopa Yusof, an imam at a village mosque in Narathiwat, who apparently told relatives on his deathbed that security officials gunned him down.

Another high-profile case involved the disappearance of Phra Supot Suwanjano, an environmental activist in Chiang Mai. The government refused to comment on either incident.

The authorities were criticised for failing to follow up many disappearances, with 35 cases without a progress report documented.

As in the previous year's report, the US officials criticised the tendency of individuals and the government to target the media with lawsuits. It also mentioned the government's increased censorship in the broadcast media, citing the forced closure of 17 radio stations, including community radio 92.25, which was targeted because of its critical content, the report said.

Websites attacking the government were also regularly shut down by the authorities, the report added. The high-profile US$50 million (Bt1.96 billion) lawsuit against Sondhi Limthongkul, of the Manager Group, by Thaksin was cited as an attempt to tame the media and stifle freedom of expression. The lawsuit was withdrawn last December following intervention by His Majesty the King.

The report commented on the government's effort to eradicate corruption, which it said did "not appear to have been effective" because of the widely reported scandal involving the bomb scanners at the new Suvarnabhumi Airport. Other corruption cases relating to catering services and car park charges were recorded.

Thaksin reacted angrily to last year's State Department report but observers say this year's study is much more severe.

Kavi Chongkittavorn

The Nation

What Thaksin has done wrong, what all the fuss is about

Pretty good summary indictment of Thaksin's 'performance' over the past 5 years by a poster to The Nation's online forum today:

Author: Ruayrich Borthongtae
Date: 9 Mar 2549 22:45

Since coming to power he has appointed cronies and relatives to all supreme positions in the armed services; regardless of whether they were qualified or deserved the job.

He has removed all checks and balances to police and prosecute corruption. He has white-washed any attempt to get to the bottom of any dirty deals his lackeys have been involved in.

He has gagged the press and silenced any form of media scrutiny by either buying or intimidating newspapers, radio stations or TV.

He has overseen some of the dirtiest and corrupt deals ever done in Thailand. The CTX bomb scanner deal, the Shin Corp deal etc.

He has constantly lied to the Thai people. Monks have been murdered, a human rights lawyer has disappeared assumed killed by police. Anybody who has tried to stand up to the mafia or land thieving politicions has been murdered.

He has used his position as Prime Minister to mulitply his personal wealth many times over. Insider trading, share ramping and tax avoidance were seen in the Shin dealings.

He has made countless empty promises to end social problems like poverty, drugs and traffic congestion. He has offered simplistic nonsense as advice in his "reality show" on how to defeat poverty.
[ed. excellent point-- sadly, the Thai media has never been 'up to snuff' enough to call Thaksin on these inanities]

He has overseen extra judicial killing in the South and in the "war" on drug dealers. Many people have been executed without ever facing a Judge or jury.

He has lied over his personal dealings in the sale of Shin Corp, his overseas accounts and his reasons for travelling to Singapore. He has used his own children as fronts while covertly running his empire while elected to serve the country.

He had hidden assets in the names of his driver and maid and claimed it was all a misunderstanding.

His family has abused Government aircraft and used them like they are personal possessions.

He has sold off important national communication assets to foreigners by changing the law for his own financial benefit.

He has dissolved the parliament in a cunning move to gain time to buy another election.

He has stubbornly refused to resign while the country stagnates and falls into anarchy.

He has filed countless huge lawsuits against reporters who have been brave enough to question his conflict of interest in Shin Corp.

He has staged fake rallies of support with people trucked in and paid to pretend they love him.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

thoughtless bureaucrats, noise, and lack of recourse -- hallmark of a third world status

Sala Daeng is one of the richer parts of town. Although Thai residents are just as deeply troubled by noise as western residents, they never complain due to the regressive Thai 'cultural' concept of 'kreng jai'. This 'living without complaining' is a feudal concept from a 100 years ago meant to keep peasants in line. This anachronism is still taught in Thai schools, sadly, though writing and basic math skills are not.

Night-time roadwork makes for some rude awakenings

I live on a high floor of a serviced apartment in Sala Daeng Soi 1. At 2.30am on February 26, I was awoken by a pounding noise that vibrated through my apartment. Actually, I had a dream about being shelled in war and then awoke to find that the city construction authorities had decided this was a great time to employ a huge tractor-mounted jackhammer to dig up a section of the roadway below the apartment building.

When I asked the operator of the machine why he was doing this in the middle of the night, he replied that his superiors had decided 10pm to 6am was the best time to wreak havoc on the neighbourhood, because during the daytime, cars might be parked along the road obstructing the machine! I gave up trying to discuss why some no-parking signs and tow trucks could solve that problem, particularly in a residential soi that has very, very little traffic or parking problems on a Sunday during the day.

So a hearty thank you (and a couple other salutations, too) to the relevant authorities, be they the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority, the public-works folks or whoever.

Oh, and it is now 11.30pm on February 26, and evidently they didn't finish, because they are at it again, since about an hour ago. The fellow driving the jackhammer is only doing his job and actually seemed to feel a little bad about the disturbance. But what kind of inept bureaucrat comes up with these idiotic ideas? And can we get his phone number so we can share with him the joy of being kept up all night?

Sleepless in Sala Daeng


Keystone Kops -- western "police volunteers" in Chiang Mai Thailand

Keystone Kops may be a more accurate description

Re: Chiang Mai's farang cops", Sunday Style, March 5.

There are some inaccuracies in your report on Chiang Mai's farang tourist police. They are not required to have residency status or work permits, only to live here long term, which is not quite the same thing. Police visited condominiums on their recruitment drive and obviously were not too choosy in the selection process.

The result is a kind of "Dad's Army" reminiscent of the BBC television comedy series that portrayed a motley crew of mainly geriatric army reservists. Certainly, some of Chiang Mai's farang tourist policemen can hardly walk, and some could not run. Few can speak any Thai apart from ordering a beer.

The result of this is that the expat community doesn't trust or respect them. A country only gets a quality police service if it is willing to pay for it.

Thailand's police force is grossly underpaid, a situation that requires urgent rectification. Forget volunteers - the country deserves professionals.


Chiang Mai

It's one thing to voice your dissatisfaction of Thaksin's behaviour, but it is outrageous to question his legitimacy...

...let the voters, including those of whom The Nation always downgrades as easily bribed villagers, decide. I believe that no matter how "imbecilic" those villagers may be, they are capable of grasping the basic issue of morality. And by April 2, we shall see if Thaksin has the right to rule or not.

Their vote should not count if they have been bribed, end of story. Any election that turns on the votes of bribed villagers should be annulled, and the last election is a good case in point. Unfortunately, the watchdogs (both media and governmental) were too lazy stupid and corrupt to amass evidence that would have proved the illegitimacy of the last election.

Lack of progress in the South alone should be reason for Thaksin to be ousted.

Wasn't it just a few months ago that Thaksin was quoted as saying his legacy would depend on whether the southern problems were resolved?

The southern violence is being completely ignored by Thaksin, as he fights for his personal political survival.

Of course, since this is a Democrat Party stronghold, it receives the least attention. Per his own words and actions since the last campaign, the provinces that voted for him get first and last dibs when it comes to state resources. Those that did not, get whatever is 'left over' (yeah, right) from a paltry 3rd world state budget.

rent-a-mob at Thai political rallies

If people are paid to vote for the ruling party, is it still a democracy?

Thaksin's rally had to coerce 'supporters', but attendance at opposition rally was voluntary

Last weekend's rallies tell the story for those willing to open their eyes and ears. On the one hand, we have a well-disciplined group of people all outfitted similarly, all behaving similarly and responding as if on cue. Many of those people were dragooned or paid to come.

Bt500 is a substantial incentive. Better than slaving over a hot wok of cooking oil all day for perhaps Bt200 or Bt300 profit and more than double the Bangkok minimum wage.

The other rallies contained many different groups of people, as well as many in singles and pairs. Some went to support one or another of the organising committee. No suggestion of being paid or forced to come. In fact, most had to fund their trip to Bangkok entirely from their own pockets. But in these rallies, they all come with the same bottom-line demand: remove the immoral prime minister.

One cannot help wondering how many people would have been at the Friday rally in support of Thaksin if attendance had been voluntary and people had to pay their own way. And isn't it a breach of neutrality by public servants to make them act as press gangs for the prime minister? Presumably, we will see a lot more of the rent-a-mob crowds leading up to Thaksin's sham election on April 2. At what point do these press gangs constitute a breach of electoral law?

Gareth Clayton


Monday, March 06, 2006

a look at the leaders of the anti-Thaksin opposition

Arun's column fills in some holes in the reportage about the movement to oust Thaksin. Selected excerpts:


Here are some ironically humorous "catches" from the ongoing anti-Thaksin demonstrations:


3. The new administration

In case you missed it, Thailand already has a new administration, even before the April 2 snap election - composed of five leaders, to be exact. They meet in closed-door secrecy and decide what the anti-Thaksin demonstrators ought to do on each particular day or night. If they decide the people should march, so the people shall march. If they say squat, so they will squat.

A little over a week ago, media firebrand Sondhi Limthongkul, one of the five, responded to The Nation's question about whether they would march that evening or not by answering, "When we march, you will know."

Another member, Piphop Thongchai, accused this writer of writing news he labelled "divisive" when all this writer tried to do was inform the public that the PAD was in fact a hotchpotch of people with widely disparate ideologies, often conflicting. Some are pro-monarchist and seek royal intervention in politics, others are not and still a few others are not quite sure how they want Thaksin ousted.

Piphop said he would no longer entertain any such "divisive" questions. Hail the five supreme leaders! At least they must be better than Thaksin.

Former Thai Rak Thai Party senior honcho Snoh Thienthong recently lashed out at Thaksin, saying the regime was not a one-party government, but rather a "one-man regime". Now we have five! That must be considered positive evolution in Thai politics.

4. The truth

Thaksin has been criticised for lying, because he told the public only days before he dissolved the House that he would neither dissolve it nor resign. Now, the PAD promised that this past Sunday's protest at Sanam Luang would be "the last day of protest", Phujatkan daily reported on Saturday. Phujatkan was founded by Sondhi and is now owned by his son. (Sound familiar?) Sondhi is one of the PAD's five fantastic supremos, which makes the paper the de facto official newspaper of the PAD.

5. Exaggeration and omission

Many liberal anti-Thaksin newspapers are reminding readers how the entire nation is sick of the CEO prime minister and up in arms. Hoping for Thaksin's meteoric demise, some of these papers have forgotten or omitted the fact that a good chunk of Thailand's rural poor - two-thirds of the Kingdom's population - remain very happy with the man and his populist freebies and cheap healthcare. Indeed, there are two Thailands at odds with each other at the moment, and any solution for the country cannot omit either one.

By the way, don't you think Thaksin would make a hugely popular leader in a purely Fourth World country? Should we try to send him to one, or to Singapore - before he turns Bangkok, and the rest of Thailand, into Singapore?

6. The senior social thinker

Reading and listening to Prawase Wasi's recent criticisms of Thaksin, one may have totally forgotten that once upon a time, some five years ago, Prawase was one of the key supporters of Thaksin's rise to power. Now Prawase says Thaksin is so corrupt that he should resign or the whole family should even be executed. No repentance or explanation to the public for his change of heart has been given. Prawase went straight from being a firm supporter to a fierce critic of Thaksin. How then can we trust that he's talking straight now?

Or was it part of this famous social thinker's grand design for Thailand for all along? Last week, Prawase put a positive spin on the current political crisis by writing the same commentary in at least two local papers on the same day, saying that through crisis and chaos a better Thailand would emerge, so fear not.

7. The book

"Why We Supported Thaksin (for So Many Years): An Anthology of Famous but Disillusioned Former Thaksin Supporters and Cheerleaders". Have Sondhi, Thaksin's former mentor and current PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang, Prawase and others, such as social critic Sulak Sivaraksa and former political scientist Chai-anant Samudvanija, write the entries in a bare-all tell-all style. It would surely be a best seller not just at Sanam Luang, but at Government House, as well.

8. The future

In the final analysis, since Thaksin's rule has so deeply polarised Thai society, he must go, say the current anti-Thaksin diatribes.

Nevertheless, Thaksin's rule has also had a unifying effect. Die-hard royalists, self-styled "pro-democracy" activists, anti-free-trade-agreement lobbyists, not-too-leftists and pragmatists of all shades (some of whom would normally never speak to one another) now find themselves united in a lowest-common-denominator struggle to dump Thaksin. Along the way, transparency, the participatory process and accountability may suffer (a little), as the PAD's five supremos continue their crusade.

But this is no cause for alarm. A senior adviser to the alliance told me on the phone last week that this is no time to worry about such trivial matters.

"Lets get rid of Thaksin first and we'll discuss the rest later".

A toast to a brave new Thailand!

Pravit Rojanaphruk

The Nation

As we're several months into the protest, it might be good to hear from the opposition what exactly they are for instead of merely who they are against.

both sides hiring protestors

Want to hear a sad, pathetic, funny, disgusting story that unfortunately also happens to be true?

As I'm writing this on Sunday evening, quite a few Thais here in Chiang Mai are out celebrating some extra cash they received from exercising their commitment to democracy and their country. Seems many found that they could don a yellow T-shirt and show up at a university, sign their name and collect Bt50. Then they could don a red T-shirt and head over to a stadium, sign their name and get paid Bt300. Then they could go out and buy some liquor or beer and talk about anything other than politics or the state of their country.

"The people get the government they deserve." - Alexis de Tocqueville.

For those here in Thailand who really do want to make a difference and who care about their country, don't forget what you are fighting against.

"It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere." - Voltaire.

Good luck, Thailand, in your exercise in democracy.


Chiang Mai

Villagers paid to attend pro-Thaksin rally in Chiang Mai?

This actually tracks an interview The Nation did with a protestor at the pro-Thaksin rally in Bkk. IN the case, the protestor said he had been paid 200 baht to attend, plus lodging and transportation.

The press really dropped the ball by not looking into rumours that protestors paid to attend. Proving or disproving those rumours would have certainly been newsworthy as so much is riding on the precise nature and depth of Thaksin's claimed support.

Take the money, but mark your ballot for someone else

Our maid lives just outside of San Pa Tong town here in Chiang Mai province. She told us today that everyone in her village was paid Bt200 to attend last night's rally for Thaksin in Chiang Mai. She added that Bt300 was given to those who would provide transportation for the villagers.

She said many took the money and attended. When they returned, no one was sure of exactly what the PM had been saying to the crowd. However, they did remark that it would be good if he would hold a rally every day, because soon they would be rich, even though no one had any intention of voting for him.

William Reynolds

Chiang Mai

PM as police station chief

...Setting up Ample Rich in the British Virgin Islands as a vehicle to exercise control of Shin shares through the children definitely is a circumvention of Article 209 of the Constitution. Changing the law on Friday to accommodate the sale on the following Monday is beyond uncultural. It means that Thaksin actually believed he could get away with murder.

Forget about the tax-free transfer. He increased Shin profitability and share value by duty exemption, loan guaranty to Burma to benefit Shin Satellite and all kinds of investment privileges for Shin affiliates. Shin has grown on the backs of Thai taxpayers. The tax-free transfer is only a climax in the labyrinth of gimmicks, schemes and just plain cheats.

At one time, Thaksin may have projected the image of "tough guy" or "godfather". Actually, he does not understand that role, either. Deep down, he is still a police-station chief who always ends up with the prime cut of the lion's share. As the final curtain comes down, not many of his friends and subordinates will shed a tear.

I really liked the 'long view' of Thai politics in this letter. We could do with a book length collection of such snippets but the libel laws in this country and the Culture Ministry would probably not allow it.

Naive opposition should mobilise for snap election instead of boycotting it

Re: "Poll boycott corners PM", News, February 28.

I must be a dinosaur, since I am well into my 60s, but I really cannot support the opposition's decision to boycott the snap elections.

I am equally as dissatisfied as the rest of the anti-Thaksin protesters with the decision to dissolve Parliament and have even cried foul play. But let's face it: the power, constitutionally and democratically, is in the guy's hands. It is his best - and constitutional - way out of deep trouble. Do they really think the guy would just hang his head in shame and hand his power - and livelihood - back to them? That is pure naivety.

The opposition surely realises this. Is it not the duty of an opposition party in any democratic and constitutional country to be ready always for this kind of political turn of events? Should they not welcome new elections that would give them a chance to try again? Do they not realise that it needs patience and endless work in taking the democratic long road? Maybe they would prefer the quicker, decisive military coup, which has toppled them time and time again since 1932.

As usual, the opposition - or more specifically, the Democrat Party - is never ready when it comes to doing. Before - and during - Sondhi Limthongkul's rallies, how have they helped? I do not mean by joining the gatherings, but by supplying lucid and legitimate information. They prefer to wait until they are sure of high public sentiment before coming in, hoping to ride the crest of public support. I would call that opportunistic.

The Democrat Party has also chosen to ignore - to their own end - that the appearance of Chamlong Srimuang once again brings on the spectre of anarchy. Nor do I mean just the May 1992 incident - for that could have been interpreted as "an accident", albeit a wilful one. He may have denied it once, but it is time to come up with tangible evidence that Chamlong was one of the chilling voices on Army radio, crying "Lese majeste!" in a perfectly innocent rally inside Thammasat University that incited the October 6, 1976, incident, more bloody even than May 1992. It was an incident in which leading members of the Democrat Party - along with a few members of the present Thai Rak Thai Cabinet - should well remember, for they were part of the then-persecuted student activists themselves, although power and wealth have since gone to many a head.

I am disappointed that Abhisit Vejjajiva, supposedly informed, educated and from a supposedly sophisticated social environment, should have chosen to follow the Democrat Party's old line of bickering and dithering about. Good looks do not a good leader make. And we can all sense the nanny brigade of old party members lurking behind. Thais do not want that kind of leader. We have indicated so, twice, in the past five years. We do not want a namby-pamby, run-to-mammy type of person, for he cannot hope to lead.

Sunida Kitiyakara


opposition needs to offer more than just anti-Thaksin rhetoric

from the letters section of The Nation:

If I understand Abhisit Vejjajiva's position correctly, it can be summarised as follows: the Thaksin opposition, though in the minority, is better educated and more moral and politically aware than the majority who support Thaksin and, therefore, their wishes should hold sway.

There are many comments one could make about this argument, but one comment is beyond dispute: that position is anti-democratic.

Whatever his faults, Thaksin understands that the democratic process is about having policies that will win a mandate from the people and, if there is doubt about that mandate, to consult the people once more.

What can be said of Abhisit? He leads a party with no known policies, populist or otherwise. He has suddenly become an enthusiast for constitutional reform, without ever specifying what he would reform or how he would do it. His only message to voters seems to be: "Vote for me, I'm not Thaksin." It's hardly surprising that he is reluctant to face the electorate.

What he and the rest of the opposition seem unable to grasp is that getting rid of Thaksin will not solve Thailand's constitutional problems. Thaksin is not Thailand's first PM of dubious integrity, and it would be a miracle if he were the last. The opposition needs to develop a set of proposals for constitutional change, to explain them in such a way that people can grasp their importance and then challenge Thaksin to explain why they should not be enacted.

Until they can do this, Thaksin will remain the people's choice, and they have no cause for complaint.

1) Debates (unheard of in Thailand)

2) Party platforms (rational and clearly articulated policy goals, not irresponsible accusations and wild-ass promises)

If progress is made toward either of these two hallamrks of a mature democratic process, the coming election may actually be worthwhile, regardless of who wins.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

naive of talk of democracy in Thailand ignores reality of corrupt practices

Here is a rather naive letter to The Nation, probably written by a newly arrived foreign English teacher judging from the signature and overall tone. Only foreigners sign their letters to The Nation "taxpayer"; and only a recently arrived one would write such a high-handed lecture about "democracy" while simulataneously displaying such pitiful ignorance of the local situation.

Allow due process to run its course if PM has done wrong

Re: "Poll boycott corners PM", News, February 28.

Why is the opposition party boycotting the April 2 elections? Are they afraid they will lose? And if they do, what does that say about who should be prime minister?

I am appalled at the double standards set by opponents of Thaksin. If they want to remove him, due process calls for another fair, general election. How fair is throwing him out on his butt? If he gets caught doing something illegal, then charge the man and put him on trial. If he tries to bribe people, catch him. But to force him out without tangible evidence is undemocratic, isn't it?

Moreover, we paint a scenario where the opposition are the good guys, and Thaksin is the evil Darth Vader. Yet how many good guys have tried to avoid paying taxes?

I'll bet anyone who has the opportunity to avoid paying taxes by trading equities on the stock market would do so in a heartbeat. Accountants make a living conjuring up clever ways for decent citizens to avoid paying taxes, so why can't Thaksin?

Yes, he is prime minister, and yes, he should set an example. It is reprehensible that he moons the very government that he is running.

But give the guy due process and let him pay the penalty. If our form of justice is rising up against the system, than the system is wrong. How right is it simply to throw a man out because he is playing by the system's rules?

I don't like Thaksin's arrogant style, nor the way he uses his power to further his own welfare, but let's get it done the right way. Impending violence is stooping to his Neanderthal level. As the opposition, let's press the issues by bringing him to justice and try him accordingly, not throw rocks at him because we don't like what he is doing.

Outraged Taxpayer


1) Vote buying is too pervasive for a free and fair election to take place in Thailand at this time.

2) Thaksin *has* been brought up on vote fraud and asset concealment charges in both of the last elections. The problem is, nothing ever happens. The courts and commissions entrusted with prosecuting him are filled with friends and cronies who find the most convoluted reasons to acquit in every instance. During the asset concealment scandal 5 years ago that almost led to Thaksin's ouster, one of the judges voted for acquital on the ground that since the people had voted for Thaksin, Thaksin should be acquited. Judges serve to rule within the narrow confines of the law, not to impose on society their own arbitrary and abstract notion of fairness, especially when doing so directly conflicts with the Constitution. With such childlike reasoning and obvious bias in every single case involving the ruling party over the past 5 years, these watchdogs have completely destroyed any credibility they might have had.