Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Thai election looks likely to be delayed beyond Oct 15

The usual bureaucratic infighting and lack of attention to detail at the front end of a process may derail the Thai election scheduled for Oct 15.

from the Bangkok Post:

The Oct 15 general election will very likely be postponed, caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra conceded for the first time yesterday. And a candidate for the Election Commission has alleged there have been attempts to influence the selection process.

Mr Thaksin said the cabinet will have to discuss the election date with the incoming election commissioners.

But before any postponement of the date, the Senate must say exactly when it will be able to complete the selection of the five members of the Election Commission.

After that, the new commissioners must make it clear to the caretaker government what they plan to do about the election date, Mr Thaksin said after a meeting of his Thai Rak Thai party.

The Senate's EC vetting committee is currently listening to the explanations of eight of the 10 candidates who face allegations made against them in hundreds of letters of complaint.

Many of the letters questioned their impartiality.

EC staff accepted yesterday it would be almost impossible to have the polls on Oct 15 because of the complicated legal procedures involved in appointing the new commissioners which will probably take at least 18 days to complete.

For the elections to be on Oct 15, the law requires the EC to arrange for the registration of election candidates by Sept 12.

Supreme Court chief justice Wasant Soyphisuth, one of the candidates invited to clarify allegations against him, said yesterday that he had received a phone call during which the caller had tried to convince him to side with a certain party if he wanted to be confirmed as an election commissioner.

''I received the call just moments after I finished presenting my vision statement to the Senate's vetting committee,'' said Mr Wasant.

The caller offered him supporting votes in the Senate, but he turned down the offer.

Several other candidates had received similar phone calls, and they all knew which party the callers were working for, said Mr Wasant.

Mr Wasant believed his candidacy would be rejected by the Senate.

''A list was issued on Aug 11 showing that four candidates who would certainly not be made election commissioners would be Wasant, Kaewsan Atipho, Nam Yimyaem and Wicha Mahakhun.

So far, the list hasn't changed,'' Mr Wasant said.

However, he said it did not matter who eventually were appointed as the commissioners because all 10 had agreed that those who were not elected would still be asked to assist those appointed as election commissioners in the organisation of the general election.

Election commissioners had the right to appoint their own assistants, he said.

''It won't matter who the Senate votes for. They'll still get all 10 working at the EC,'' Mr Wasant said.

Another EC candidate noted that the issuance of the royal decree setting Oct 15 as the election date seemed to be incomplete. Udom Fuengfung, a senior judge of the South Bangkok Criminal Court, said the royal decree, which took effect on Aug 24, required that it be enforced by both the caretaker prime minister and the EC chairman.

Since the selection of new election commissioners was still not complete when it took effect, there was no Election Commission chairman.

That could render the issuing of the decree incomplete, he said.

If someone was to file a complaint on the matter, the Administrative Court might have to intervene and rule whether or not the issuance of the decree was indeed legally complete, said Mr Udom.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Thai court declines police request to issue arrest warrants for key opposition leaders 6 weeks before election

from The Nation:

PAD leaders targeted for arrest

Court declines to issue arrest warrants, seeks clarification of charges from police

Eight leading members of the People's Alliance for Democracy yesterday were targeted for arrest over their anti-government roles during months of mass rallies, but the Criminal Court declined to issue the warrants pending a hearing today.

Maj-General Chatchawal Suksomchit, deputy Metropolitan Police chief, was reported to have asked the court to issue arrest

warrants for the eight PAD members.

Police claimed that the suspects tried to incite political upheaval after they held a series of rallies across the country, attacking the government and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with their allegations.

The PAD members are Suriyasai Katasila, Karun Sai-ngam, Rosana Tositrakul, Pian Yongnu, Suwit Watnu, Chaiwat Sinsuwong, Ouaychai Watha and Sirichai Mai-ngam.

The court said it had considered the police's request and decided to seek clarification today from Chatchawal on the justification for the request and charges against the PAD members before concluding if the arrests were warranted.

Nitithorn Lamlua, an attorney for the eight PAD members, earlier reported to police seeking to have all charges against his clients dismissed. He claimed that the effort by police to charge the PAD members with endangering national security and practising sedition was illegal.

Police had earlier booked charges against two groups of leading PAD members, including Sondhi Limthongkul, Chamlong Srimuang and Chirmsak Pinthong.

Suriyasai said police were serving the government in an attempt to stop a new round of the PAD movement before the election.

He insisted that the PAD's activities were constitutional.
[ed. I fully agree, and wonder how the police can justify waiting 6 months after the protests to try to have the leaders arrested]

Rosana said she and the others would fight all the way through the legal process if the court issued the arrest warrants.

in wake of Shinawatra scandal, Thailand creates vague new rules to inhibit foreign investment

from the Bangkok Post:

Foreign firms uneasy about new venture funding rules

Foreign investors have expressed concern over new regulations requiring joint ventures to declare their source of funds.

Members of the Joint Chambers of Commerce, which represents foreign businesses, plan to seek clarification of the new corporate registration rules and of regulations regarding nominee shareholders.

The president, Peter Van Haren, said foreign businesses were concerned about how the new rules would be applied.

"We need the Commerce Ministry to explain it more," he said yesterday.

The Business Development Department last month announced that from Aug 15 Thai partners in all new companies with foreign shareholdings over 40% must declare their source of funds. Companies with at least one alien director must also make full disclosure of their funding.

The rule requires each partner or shareholder to identify bank documents or other evidence showing the source of funds.

The regulatory change comes amid an investigation by the Commerce Ministry into Kularb Kaew, an indirect holding vehicle in Shin Corp. Authorities are looking to determine whether Kularb Kaew is a nominee for Singapore's Temasek Holdings to bypass the 49% foreign shareholding limit under the Foreign Business Act and the Telecommunications Act.

Mr Van Haren said it remained uncertain how the new rules would be applied.

"For new foreign investors, the concern is that the new application process may create red tape as more documents are needed," he said. "Existing investors are concerned that if they need to restructure their financial or management structure, will they need to make new declarations. [ed. the red tape involved in setting up even a Board of Investment approved company in Thailand is already ridiculous by international standards-- the rules change from clerk to clerk and are often contradictory, there are long delays in processing and afternoons spent sitting on plastic chairs as officials eat noodles, lots of irrelevant questions etc. You have to really fight the 'cannot do' attitude of the government officials to get your company set up legally]

"The bottom line is, we absolutely support legislation, but would rather see an efficient system in place."

Foreign chamber representatives also discussed a new "nominee-monitoring" rule proposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission to force shareholders holding more than 5% in any listed company to disclose their identity.

Mr Van Haren said tighter regulations could affect foreign investment, but long-term investors were unlikely to be affected.

"Even among Asean countries, Thailand has many rivals. Foreign investors are increasingly talking about Vietnam. Investors are always looking for convenience, incentives, stability and good infrastructure," he said. "Tighter restrictions will cause many to think more carefully.

Monday, August 28, 2006

JonBenet suspect charges dropped; Thai gov. looking stupid after abetting sensationalist coverage

Not much of a surprise to anyone with at least half a brain following the case.

After Thai gov. officials were so happy to be quoted in the press regarding this case, Thailand is just left with the sour aftermath of all the negative global hype that resulted. FYI Thailand's status as 'child sex trade capital' and 'haven for pedophiles' has been hugely exagerrated. There is probably much less of that sort of thing in Thailand than there is in the US. It's one of the many myths about Thailand that are just too good at selling news for the global media to do any kind of serious re-think.

from the BBC:

JonBenet suspect charges dropped

Mr Karr had told reporters JonBenet's death was an accident
A man arrested in Thailand and accused of killing US child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey will not be charged with the murder, prosecutors say.

The case against John Mark Karr was dropped after forensic tests found that his DNA did not match that discovered at the scene of the crime.

Mr Karr, 41, was arrested in Thailand two weeks ago and had been due to appear in court on Monday.

He has said he was there when the girl died, but her death was an accident.

But outside court in Colorado on Monday public defender Seth Temin said in a statement: "The warrant on Mr Karr has been dropped by the district attorney. They're not proceeding with this case.

"We're deeply distressed by the fact that they took this man and dragged him here from Bangkok, Thailand with no forensic evidence confirming the allegations against him, and no independent factors leading to a presumption that he did anything wrong."

However, Mr Karr is still in police custody, following a request that he be taken to California to face child pornography charges dating back to 2001.

'No forensic evidence'

Mr Karr's arrest sparked hopes in the United States that one of the most infamous crimes of recent years might finally be solved.

The BBC's John Kay in California says there has been hysterical media coverage of developments since he was arrested in Bangkok.

He was held on a US warrant which sought his arrest for murder, kidnapping and sexual assault of a child.

JonBenet Ramsay
JonBenet was found strangled, her skull fractured

But Mr Karr's ex-wife Lara has insisted he was with her in Alabama for the entire Christmas period of 1996, when JonBenet died.

And Mr Karr's family insisted he was innocent, saying he was deluded, possibly as a result of taking drugs.

JonBenet's body was found in the cellar of her family home after her parents had reported her missing on 26 December 1996.

She had been garrotted with a cord and her skull had been fractured.

JonBenet's family, who later moved to Atlanta, Georgia, fought for years to clear their names of persistent accusations that they were involved in the death of their daughter.

Thai IM Kongsak Wantana miscites pre-election demonstration law; Thai gov. wrongly threatens protestors with police action

Caretaker Interior Minister Kongsak Wantana needs to read the law, which is quite clear and written so even a high school kid could understand it, before he makes pronouncements. The Election Law is quite clearly written and unambiguous.

This is very common here, with government officials citing laws that don't exist or giving mangled and farcical interpretations of the ones that do. But if you visit them at their offices, you will find them to be the most pompous self-assured cretins imaginable.

I think even countries like Haiti do better at this sort of thing, with a lot less arrogance and a lot more self-perspective.

Election law will be invoked: Kongsak

Minister says rally against PM would break law, but legal experts disagree

The government is preparing to invoke the election law to punish the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) if it holds an anti-Thaksin rally during the lead-up to the new election, caretaker Interior Minister Kongsak Wantana said yesterday.

"The electoral rules cover the period between August 24 and October 15 and the PAD must stop activities seen as opposing or crediting a candidate or a party," Kongsak said.

He reminded police to arrest anti-Thaksin campaigners found violating the election law.

But Thammasat University's law lecturer Prinya Thewana-ruemitkul said Kongsak might have misunderstood the legal provisions.

"The election law bans the framing of parties or candidates with the malicious intent to sway votes but it does not prohibit the voicing of critical views," he said.

Prinya said political activists were sanctioned by relevant provisions to raise constructive criticism of the government or to convince voters on how they should cast their ballots.

An Election Commission official said the ban against attempts to convince voters not to vote for a particular candidate would be enforced after the completion of candidacy registration process next month.

Anti-Thaksin campaigner Sangsit Piriyarangsan said he would organise a mass rally on September 9 to oppose conflicts of interest and corruption.

"If the Interior Ministry or police try to disrupt the rally, then I will file the administrative lawsuit for abuse of power to block free speech as guaranteed by the Constitution," he said.

He said the election law applied to political parties and electoral candidates but not non-partisan activities.

Meanwhile, It is unlikely the Senate will be able to choose the new election commissioners by the Thursday deadline, according to caretaker Senate Speaker Suchon Chaleekrua.

He said it was probable the Senate would have to approach the Cabinet for a Royal Decree convening another special session.

That could sit in the second or third week of next month, he said.

It appeared the full Senate would be unable to vote on the final five new commissioners by Thursday.

That was when the current special session expired.

A Senate special committee disclosed it could not complete vetting the 10 nominees for five vacant Election Commission (EC) seats in time for a vote on Wednesday.

Sunthorn Chindain, chairman of the special committee, said the task could not be completed in time because two sub-committees had yet to interview some nominees about allegations made against them.

Once the sub-panels were finished the special committee would consider their reports.

Its secretary, Senator Wallop Tangkhananurak, said the panel hoped to consider those reports on Friday.

Suspect in alleged Thai assassination plot admits culpability, refuses to implicate others

Suspect in alledged assassination plot makes partial confession, after 3 days of non-stop police interrogation.

Apparently there were others involved, to whom he 'gave his word' that he would not implicate them if caught. That, at least, is his own statement, which also mentions a 'power play'.

The jury is still out (for me) as to whether this whole thing was faked by the PM's office or whether the opposition was involved. Also, if we take the initial inventory of explosives as being correct, then it looks like this was not a serious attempt (the explosives were not assembled, just the parts, and fairly small scale at that) but rather a 'warning' of sorts.

This being Thailand, even the simplest facts may be unknowable. We may never know what this was all about.

from The Nation:

Paranoia as mystery grows

Video of interview session shows lone suspect talking of 'power play' and apologising to the public and premier

In a pre-recorded statement released yesterday by police, the lone suspect in the car-bomb case said yesterday he would take sole responsibility for what he did and vowed to not implicate anyone behind the scheme.

In a 13.09-minute VCD recorded of a police questioning session, Army Lieutenant Thawatchai Klinchana also cited "a game of power play" that led to what police described as an assassination attempt against the caretaker prime minister.

He also apologised to the public and Thaksin Shinawatra for what happened.

"I am sorry for [driving the car around] knowing that the car is loaded with explosives. The Siam Thewathirat Guardian Angel proves to exist [to me], making the bomb fail.

"If the bomb went off a lot of people would suffer and I would be sinned forever. Why do we Thais do this [to each other]? All this started from a game of power play.

"I want all sides to turn to each other and talk in order to end all conflicts. I want to apologise to the public and the prime minister for what happened.

"I make all statements at my own will. No one made me do it. I will take responsibility for driving the bomb-laden car. Will I implicate other people? I wouldn't. I am a soldier and a man of my word. I and I alone take the blame."

Crime Suppression Division chief Police Maj-General Winai Thongsong, who released the statement, said Thawatchai told him that he had driven the "bomb-laden" sedan three days in a row until the vehicle was intercepted by police last Thursday.

Winai said security officers at the Air Force terminal at Don Muang spotted the suspect driving the Daewoo on August 9 and 10, when the prime minister's motorcade visited there.

Police spokesman General Ajiravid Subarnbhesaj, who also watched the VCD, said ownership of the Daewoo had been transferred four times, and that all other people involved in the ownership would be identified within the next 10 days.

Winai said police were able to get Thawatchai to talk through morality conditioning ploys. These were recommended by human behavioural experts who noticed that the suspect said his prayers before bedtime every night during his four days in police custody.

The video started with Thawatchai having his handcuffs unlocked while he sat at a desk in a room in the CSD compound with many senior police and two military officers from the Judge Advocate Corps present. Winai was heard asking Thawatchai how his life was and making an offer to give him what he needs.

Thawatchai asked for a battery-powered mosquito bat. Winai said he could not comply with the request but promised to get police to spray Thawatchai's cell with pesticide instead.

Earlier, the suspect's lawyer released an open letter to the national police chief complaining about an unexplained increase in the items of evidence in various investigation reports.

Reading out the letter, Sirichai Phakdee said police indicated there were three items found in the Daewoo sedan driven by Thawatchai, shortly after the vehicle was intercepted.

In statements issued later by police, the lawyer said seven items were reported as found in the vehicle, without explanation as to why the number had increased.

"The inaccuracy concerning strategic information in official documents has confused the public over how police are handling the case, as well as panicking them about the explosives' actual radius of impact," he said.

Bangkok police chief Pol Lt General Wiroj Jantharangsee and the first police statement asking that the suspect be kept in custody - submitted to the Bangkok military court last Thursday - said there were only three items found in the car driven by the suspect.

But all police statements later said a total of seven items had been found.

CSD chief Winai said police were confident they had produced concrete evidence against the suspect. But he did not know whether there were civilians also involved in what police described as an assassination attempt against the caretaker prime minister.

More than 20 witnesses have been questioned and it would be decided soon, depending on evidence to be further compiled, whether more suspects would be arrested.

The office dismissed Thawatchai's reference to a man identified merely as Jui as an accomplice. "The person might not even exist," he added.

The Bangkok military court turned down a request late yesterday evening for temporary release of Thawatchai on bail of Bt3 million, submitted by his lawyer and wife Sangworn.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

make it up as you go human rights: Thailand's datastardly treatment of Burmese migrant labor

I don't believe for one moment that this raid was unplanned, due to the participation of immigration officers on a Saturday as well as the huge turn out of almost the entire district police force in what is essentially a small town.

The Nation newspaper should do more to draw a bright red line under facts like these instead of sleepily parroting the info supplied by government officials.

from The Nation:

Burmese workers find Thai police are not very good sports

When more than 10,000 itinerant Burmese labourers gathered at the sports ground of the Royal Police Cadet Academy in Sam Pran, Nakhon Pathom, yesterday, they were looking forward to enjoying their annual traditional celebration.

But within moments their hopes were dashed when some 200 officers of the Sam Pran District Police and the Immigration Police went to the field to round up the workers, who began to flee in panic. When calm was restored, 674 had been detained.

The workers thought they had been given permission to use the field.

Those who arrived for the event included Burmese and Karen labourers and Burmese students from several provinces in Thailand. They claimed that one of their community leaders had already sought permission to use the field for the event.

An officer at the academy reported to local police yesterday that a huge number of alien labourers were arriving by bus and taking over the football field.

Nirun Sukkrai, 30, a leader of the Burmese group, said he thought the academy had given permission for them to use the field for the traditional ceremony, so he invited 10,000 Burmese people in Thailand to attend and take part in football matches.

The event, subsidised by 70,000 Burmese migrants, had been held 14 times before at various other places in the province such as at college or school sports fields.

"But we were not allowed to use the old places this year, so my friend Thanasit Kheiwsaard asked for permission to use the field of the Royal Police Cadet Academy. We never thought we would be arrested," Nirun said.

Col Padsanong Boonyakiet, deputy commander of the academy, said he mistakenly gave permission because Thanasit told him he wanted to use the field for soccer games involving only 200 factory workers.

"I had no idea it would turn out to be 10,000 foreign labourers coming here," he said.

Sam Pran district police chief, Col Kritsakorn Plithanyawong, said some of those detained were illegal workers who would be sent back to Burma.

Another officer said the police were looking for Thanasit, the leader of the group, who had fled the scene yesterday.

The Nation

Nakhon Pathom

Saturday, August 26, 2006

US hopes to end GSP trade preferences for Thailand

Thailand is not for sale? Ok, idiots. Why should the US subsidize your rice and plastic rubbish by not collecting normal import duties when cheaper rice and plastic rubbish are available from China? So keep your junk, get some 'edu-ma-cation', and learn that trade is a two-way street.

Help end Thailand's preferential trade treatment by the US NOW.

Tuesday is the deadline set by the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) for accepting comments on the proposed GSP changes

Please email your comments in support of ending the preferential treatment Thailand has received at

Thailand has seen trade as a one-way street for far too long. Thailand demands special treatment from developed countries yet maintains a xenophobic and ultra-nationalistic stance when it comes to foreign investment. Thailand is often duplicitous, pledging reciprocity but delivering an onerous bureaucratic system designed to stall or outright prohibit any business venture in which Thais are not granted majority shares.

Other reasons to end Thailand's preferential treatment include: discriminatory and arbitrary tariff systems and a notoriously corrupt Customs Department which routinely misclassifies goods and demands 'bribe negotiations' to release shipments imported by foreign businesses. This puts American business at a disadvantage as they are forced to choose between losing their investment through improper seizure or complying with the US Foreign Anti-Corrupt Practices Act.

Thailand has also refused to renew the Treaty of Amity signed in 1961 or to roll over its terms by signing an FTA with the US. In fact, any mention of reciprocal protection of US interests via an FTA has led to wild anti-US rallies in Chiang Mai, Pattaya, and Bangkok.

Thailand and the Thai people remain adamantly opposed to any tightening of IP regulations in a country of 70 million known for its production and open sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, clothing, electronic goods, watches, movies and software. These counterfeit goods are exported around the world, damaging the interests of many American businesses.

Thailand, according to its government, has also enjoyed record trade growth over the past 5 years. Given these figures, it is now reasonable to expect Thailand to compete in the global market without the need for preferences or special treatment.

It is time to extend GSP to a more favorable and deserving country, where any system of preferences will be both reciprocated and effective.

'One million jobs could disappear' if benefits lost

FTI, Board of Trade to put findings to govt

The latest assessment indicates that at least one million local workers across all industries would lose their jobs and many small and medium-sized enterprises would be forced to shut down should the United States in November confirm its intention to end the tax holiday on Thai goods under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) and the Board of Trade of Thailand met last week to assess the effects of the US announcement of plans to cut duty-free benefits on Thai goods. Their findings will be submitted to the Commerce Ministry and then forwarded to the US Embassy in Bangkok this week.

The withdrawal of the privileges would cause major problems for Thai manufacturers, which in a worst-case scenario would see businesses forced to shut down their operations.

This could cause the loss of about one million domestic jobs, with the impact on one sector often spilling over into other industries.

The US government is reviewing GSP benefits to 13 countries: India, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia, Russia, the Philippines, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Romania, South Africa, Turkey, Venezuela and Thailand. It has opposed the renewal of the programme because it says the benefits are unfairly distributed to a small group of countries.

Manufactured products hardest hit by GSP removal include electronics and electrical appliances, rubber and plastic goods, jewellery and ceramics.

Kramol Trevibul, deputy secretary-general of the Electronic and Electrical Appliances Club of the FTI, said the end of the privilege programme would have a domino effect not only manufacturing but also the supply chain.

"Export growth will definitely drop in many sectors and it will lead to operational closure for manufacturers and suppliers," he said.

Kramol said more than 200 suppliers in the electrical appliances industry would be forced to close if the US cut off the GSP privileges. They would immediately lose their export competitiveness, to China in particular.

"The actual unemployment effect could be about 100,000 lost jobs in this sector alone," he added.

Somsak Borrisuttanakul, chairman of the FTI's Plastics Industry Club, said about 30,000 workers in this sector would lose their jobs because exports to the US would drop sharply. The US is Thailand's largest export market for plastic goods.

The industry has 200,000 workers, of which almost one-quarter are involved in producing goods for the export trade.

"Losing the privileges would have a double-edged effect. Thai manufacturers would face higher production and export costs, as a result of which American importers would face increasing prices," he said.

Somsak said plastic goods exported to the US were currently subject to an average import duty of 4.2 per cent. Loss of GSP benefits would lift the tariff to 7.2 per cent. This would be on top of Thai manufacturers having already shouldered higher production costs caused by the rise in oil prices.

He said Thai plastic products would be phased out of the US market and replaced with goods produced more cheaply in China.

Pornchai Chuenchomlada, president of the Thai Gems and Jewellery Traders Association, said at least 50,000 people in the industry would lose their jobs if the GSP benefits were removed. The US is the Kingdom's largest jewellery export market, with an average value of Bt40 billion per year.

"Unquestionably, jewellery export value and volume will drop because of lost competitiveness to China and other competitors such as Belgium and Italy," he said. He added that this would force some SME businesses to close down.

Pornchai said the industry's exports were forecast to drop by 10-20 per cent in the post-GSP era.

Last week's meeting decided that the US should be told that the removal of GSP benefits would not only harm Thai exports but also lead to losses on the part of the US.

A Commerce Ministry official who participated in the meeting said the US would lose out to other developed countries, and also to its major export competitor, China.

The source also said US consumers would have to pay higher prices for goods as a result of any import-tariff increases following the withdrawal of GSP.

"Cutting off the GSP benefits of these countries will pave the way for cheaper Chinese goods to flood the US market. Other exporting countries will lose their competitive advantage," the ministry source said, adding that US companies that have set up manufacturing plants in Thailand and ship their products to the US would also lose the tax benefits.

"US companies in Thailand may consider shutting down their operations and shifting their plants to China," the source said.

As an indication of Chinese competitiveness, exports of television sets from China to the US have increased despite a GSP cut on that country's products. China exports 14 million sets per year, double the number shipped by the Kingdom.

Petchanet Pratruangkrai

The Nation

Thai TV stations make correct choice and broadcast audio of anti-Thaksin demonstration

Yes, we do need to hear it.

By the way, Nikorn Chamnong is sounding like an even bigger ass than Thaksin when it comes to analyzing social policy and democratic theorizing. Is the Thai-Chinese shopkeeper class really incapable of producing better leaders?

from the Nation:

We don't need to hear it

Television channels should have killed the sound on footage of the exchanges between pro and anti-Thaksin demonstrators on Monday as it could lead to greater political confrontations and even killings, Chart Thai Party deputy leader Nikorn Chamnong said yesterday.

"Why did they have to air those words. People who heard them have become even more divisive. They should make an effort to consider the matter," he said, adding the issue was sensitive and should be treated like that of rape victim whose face is normally not shown by the media. [ed. if the 'rape victim' purposefully incited his/her attackers, this would indeed be worth knowing. Cheesy and inappropriate analogy, by the way.]

"The country is being divided into two and civil war could break out if we're not careful.

"I believe from now on, some people could die. Thai society always puts feeling before facts and the exchange of words is about feelings and should have been censored," Nikorn told a seminar on communication and politics at Krirk University. [ed. I agree with the bolded part of Nikonn's statement. The rest of it is nonsensical and sounds like he didn't have a fully formed thought when his mouth started moving]

Nikorn said in the end, nothing was worth the violence. He said politics was just a "sport" in which the winner gets the chance to serve the public and no one should think about killing one another in order to win. [ed. this is totally wrong. Politics is about who gets to make the life or death policy decisions that affect everyone in this struggling 3rd world country. The idea that politics and democracy are just 'play' is sick and wrong. I thought only the most uneducated Thais could be forgiven for parroting this simple-minded notion.]

"It's a family matter," he said of the current social rift, citing the familiar refrain that all Thais belong to one large family with the King and Queen as the father and the mother of the nation.

Foreign stewardess assaulted by cab driver on way home from Bangkok's Bed Supperclub

Cabs in Bangkok are for chancers, especially at night when many cab drivers have been drinking, doing drugs, and are generally wound up and resentful after spending 8 or more hours driving in circles in Bangkok's notorious traffic.

These are not guys who own their own cabs, or even belong to a routine service; most cabbies are just failed farmers who rent the cab for a day from the local mafia at usurious rates in a desperate bid to turn some profit before the rental period expires. These are guys with nowhere to go and nothing to lose.

Like most Thais, they are inherently cowardly and superficially appeasing, but if they spot weakness they will zero in on it and are indeed capable of classic 3rd world savagry.

The way they drive is also reckless in the extreme. You will quickly understand that they 'just don't care'. It is common to come upon the remains of spectacular wrecks in the middle of a downtown street. You can tell from the condition of the vehicles that they had been moving at a totally unreasonably rate of speed for surface streets in a crowded and chaotic city.

Bangkok is not safe for tourism, not is Thailand generally. Remember that, and don't be dissuaded by the delusional musings of drunken sexpats or the greedy self-interested phoniness of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

from the Nation:

A British Airways flight attendant alleged she was molested by a taxi driver while he was driving her to a hotel early yesterday.

Flight attendant Catherine Norman, 34, called police for help after fleeing the taxi on Phetchaburi Road in Huai Khwang district at 1.30am.

Police took her to Din Daeng station where she said she had hailed the taxi from a pub on Sukhumvit Soi 11 seeking to go to the Amari Watergate Hotel.

The driver attempted to touch and kiss her, she said.

Police were informed about a distressed woman by passers-by.

No charges have been filed and police are yet to arrest the driver.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Thai gov expert insists bomb was put together by professionals

from the Bangkok Post:

Expert insists bomb was put together by professionals

An expert who foiled what was said to be a bomb plot against caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has maintained the bomb was assembled by professionals. Pol Lt-Col Kamthorn Ouicharoen, a 38-year-old officer of the Metropolitan Police Bureau's bomb disposal unit, said the materials found in a Daewoo sedan were ready to explode.

He explained the operation before reporters in a bid to dispel suggestions that the discovery of explosive materials on Thursday was a set-up.

''On seeing the detonating circuit, I could tell immediately that it was a professional job made in a military fashion by an expert,'' said Pol Lt-Col Kamthorn, who is currently on holiday from a bomb disposal mission in the three southernmost provinces.

He served in the air force's Directorate of Armaments for almost 20 years before transferring to become a police officer.

''From the video recording, the detonating circuit was ready to set off a massive explosion,'' he said.

Pol Lt-Col Kamthorn said the explosives were second only in size to the huge bomb discovered by police in Soi Lang Suan in Bangkok in 1994 in a foiled terror attack against the Israeli embassy.

The officer said there were three possible reasons to explain why the bombs did not go off. The person who had the remote control device might have been too far away to send a signal to detonate them, or he might have been hidden in the area with something blocking the signal.

Lastly, he said, the detonating circuit might have become faulty or the person may not yet have tried to detonate the bombs. The explosives with labels showing numbers and technical details would enable police to trace their origin.

An intelligence officer based in the deep South said that the TNT explosives could have caused damage over a 50-metre radius.

That remark was at odds with an assertion by police that the explosion could have devastated everything in a one-kilometre radius.

Panithan Wattanayakorn, a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, said only international terrorist groups would typically plant a bomb with the potential to cause extensive damage over a one-kilometre radius. Such a bomb had never gone off in Thailand.

Mr Panithan cited the Bali bombing where hundreds of kilogrammes of explosives were used.

The explosives discovered on Thursday, weighing 67kg, were not capable of inflicting such extensive damage, he said.

No real specialists had come out to provide details of the explosives.

He said the police were particularly active in this case and seemed to have complete details and information, which was a far cry from their approach to the southern unrest.

Army specialist Maj-Gen Khatiya Sawasdipol, alias ''Seh Daeng'', said he believed the bomb plot was a set-up by police to deceive people.

He said electrical wires in the detonating circuit were not connected properly and the bombs could not have been set off.

Prem resists attempt by Thai PM supporters to link him to car bomb

from the Nation:

Thaksin supporters plead with Prem to save premier

Supporters' move seen as bid to link Prem to alleged murder attempt

Supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday gathered outside the Privy Council president's home to urge him to "help protect the prime minister of the poor", but Thaksin's critics viewed this as an orchestrated attempt to link General Prem Tinsulanonda to the alleged plot on the premier's life.

A group of about 150 people submitted a petition calling for Prem's intervention to ensure the safety of Thaksin, who disclosed on Thursday that he was the target of an alleged assassination plot.

A military officer attached to the International Security Operation Command, Lieutenant Thawatchai Klinchana, was arrested on Thursday morning near the prime minister's residence. Police found explosive devices in his car.

Prem, who turns 86 today, yesterday welcomed well-wishers, including caretaker Defence Minister Thamarak Isarangura, top commanders of the three armed forces, and national police chief General Kowit Watana.

The people who described themselves as a "grassroots group" gathered outside the Sisao Thewet residence at about 8.30am, shortly before Prem started to welcome his guests inside the compound.

Prem's aide, Vice Admiral Pajun Tamprateep, accepted the petition from the group on behalf of the Privy Council president.

The petitioners claimed to represent the grassroots people. They expressed shock at the uncovering of the explosive-laden car allegedly meant for an assassination attempt on Thaksin.

"When Prem was the prime minister, he faced verbal attacks, survived an assassination attempt and was punched in the face. Therefore he should understand the plight of Thaksin," the petition said. [ed. nice, Thai politics-- you can just feel the slime and insincerity dripping off this crudely spun petition]

It asked Prem to help restore social peace and prod the government's opponents to abide by democratic methods.

One representative of the group appealed to Prem to "help protect the life of the prime minister of the people and help restore peace to Thai society".

Some apparently drunk members of the group started singing the patriotic song "Rak Kan Wai Therd" (Let's Love One Another), prompting others to follow. Pajun urged them to stop singing and said that it was improper to drink before joining such an occasion.

The group members came to Prem's home in 16 vehicles, most of which carried licence plates of Uthai Thani province.

PM's secretary-general Prommin Lertsuridej yesterday made a comment similar to that by the grassroots group. Prommin said Prem had faced similar threats when serving as prime minister.

"He [Prem] was fired at with war weapons. What happened then was similar to what is happening now. The methods may or may not have been similar, but the culprit was arrested. The attempt to change the regime is not based on democratic means,'' he said.

Prasong Soonsiri, an intelligence expert who is critical of Thaksin, yesterday said the appeal for Prem's assistance was an attempt to link the Privy Council president to the alleged plot to kill the PM.

"It's aimed at making Thai society believe that the threat to Thaksin's life is so serious he needs to appeal to Prem. This is an awful set-up. It's intended to defame [Prem] and the military," said Prasong, a former chief of the National Security Council.

Maj-General Chamlong Srimuang said the gathering of Thaksin's supporters in front of Prem's residence was aimed at sending out a message that Prem would like to kill the prime minister.

"This is absolutely nonsensical. They would like to destroy General Prem. They have tried once to kill General Prem by throwing a bomb in front of his house. But nobody was arrested. Now it shows that Thaksin will stoop to any level," Chamlong said.

Assoc Prof Kriangkrai Liewchanpattana, a coordinator of an anti-Thaksin group in Songkhla, said yesterday that the appeal to Prem was "aimed at implying that the Privy Council president can influence those capable of threatening the PM's life".

Two other Songkhla residents shared his view, saying they suspected certain politicians in power were behind the move by the grassroots group.

Prasit Janlamphu, 54, said: "It's a set-up aimed at linking [Prem] to the attempt on the PM's life. ... It appears Thaksin wants to appeal for public sympathy."

Thawil Kammankanurak, 63, said: "I believe politicians are behind [the appeal for Prem's help]. This is a bid to link Prem to this matter."

Phairoj Suwanchave, a former Thai Rak Thai party-list member, tried to ridicule Prem. He said: "I have been observing General Prem for several years. Now foreigners are startled when they see a military officer aged 70-80 years old wear full combat uniform. This kind of picture would not be seen in other countries, particularly civilised countries. When they asked me about it, I simply said 'no comment'."

Wattana Sengpairoh, a former Thai Rak Thai MP for Bangkok, said the assassination plot against Thaksin showed that a "charismatic person beyond the Constitution" does really exist.

"There are some forces in the Thai society, trying to influence politics," he said.

Odd police reaction to Thai bomb raises 'hoax' question

I think it's great that the Thai press has the courage to ask whether the recent alleged assassination attempt on Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was faked to galvanize public support ahead of elections. Such a scenario would fit with Thaksin's very bizarre attempts to market himself to a sleepy and muddleheaded Thai electorate as 'the defender of democracy'.

Brickbats to the Nation, however, in not being able to nail down the actual composition of the explosives found in the car. Two sticks of dynamite and some loose bags of fertilizer tossed in the passenger seat or a carefully prepared package of C-4, primed and ready for detonation?

from the Nation:

Reaction to 'bomb' raises key questions

Failure by police to follow standard safety procedures discredits view that an 'assassination plot' was underway

National Intelligence Agency director Jumpol Manmai was very emotional on Thursday night when discussing the alleged plot to bomb Thaksin Shinawatra's motorcade with Channel 9 news talk-show host Sorrayuth Suthassanachinda. He said that when he saw the explosive materials in the seized car, he became speechless and tears welled up in his eyes. From what he and other senior police officers said, the bomb had been assembled and was ready to go off. And if it had, the explosion would have caused destruction on a tragic scale. Initial police accounts mentioned that the devastation from the explosion could have covered a one-kilometre radius. The Krung Thon Bridge, they said, would have borne the brunt of the blast.

This brings us to a very important question: why weren't efforts made to save people's lives? Crowd control was sloppy to say the least. Television footage as well as newspaper photos show that to be the case. Onlookers and news crews were allowed within 50 metres or so of the car. No warnings were given to residents in the vicinity of the vehicle that their lives were in grave danger. If the bomb posed as serious a threat as police contend, the non-existence of safety measures mocks their statements.

With doubts already widespread as to whether the bomb scare was genuine or rather a set-up intended to reverse the caretaker prime minister's political fortunes, police ignorance of standard safety procedures only fuel that perception. This raises more disturbing questions and increases suspicions concerning the course of events on Thursday. And if the police fail to provide a reasonable explanation as to why for all practical purposes they treated it like a simple grenade where crowd control was concerned, this issue will become the biggest loose end in the assassination theory.

First, it brings the issue of whether the explosives had actually been assembled and were ready to be detonated to the fore. According to reports, police initially said the materials had not been connected, meaning it was an incomplete bomb, thus undermining the assassination theory significantly. Police later changed their story, saying the bomb was ready to be triggered by remote control.

It's not clear exactly when it dawned on police that the bomb was "complete" and that someone could set it off at any minute by remote control. But the manner in which police approached the car and handled the crowds as well as endangered residents did not suggest a professional awareness of public safety. The possibility that the mastermind behind the bombing plot might decide to blow up the car to destroy all of the evidence apparently did not cross the minds of senior police officials in charge at the scene.

And responsible and prudent police officers would never have discounted the possibility of this being a terrorist act, targeted at the public in general. Of course, a carload of explosives found near the prime minister's residence would cause anyone to assume who the most likely target was. But what if there had been a Bali-style malicious intention behind the act? How were the police so sure that the bomb was intended to kill Thaksin?

In the event that it was a Bali-style terrorist act, there would always have been the possibility that the bomb would be detonated at any time by remote control. The police apparently did not take this into account, judging from the way they allowed onlookers to be within killing range of the bomb. Sheer ignorance or incompetence?

Surely, the anti-Thaksin movement may be thinking that there was something worse at work here than police inefficiency. They may presume that the police were not interested in crowd control or a possible evacuation because they knew the bomb's real secret - that it was never intended to go off to begin with.

Police have vowed to get to the bottom of the incident. They have asked the public, media, government politicians and the anti-Thaksin movement all to stay calm and stop speculating or accusing anyone. They have asked for time to complete their investigation and for suspects to be sent to court.

The request is fair enough, but what the police must do first is to make us fully trust them, which the virtual lack of safety awareness they displayed does not help accomplish.

Gen Pallop speaks out after being implicated in Thai assassination attempt

from the Bangkok Post:

Defence Minister Thamarak told me to resign as his adviser or be sacked, General Pallop says

General Pallop Pin-manee said yesterday that Defence Minister General Thamarak Isarangura had ordered him to resign as his adviser.

Pallop also said he would also cancel his membership of the Thai Rak Thai Party.

Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra sacked Pallop as deputy director of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) on Thursday after Isoc officer Lieutenant Thawatchai Klinchana was arrested while driving a car loaded with explosive devices near Thaksin's home.

It was said the incident was part of plot to assassinate Thaksin. Thawatchai was also a driver for Pallop several years ago.

"General Trairong Intaratat, the defence minister's chief of staff, called me this morning, saying that Thamarak wanted me to resign as his adviser. If I refused, he would sack me," said Pallop.

"How can I refuse the minister's order? With all my pride and dignity, I will submit my resignation.

"I will also cancel my membership of the Thai Rak Thai Party," he said.

The 70-year-old general said there were still many questions lingering over information given by the police about the alleged plot to assassinate Thaksin.

"Police said the vehicle left Isoc headquarters at 5.45am on Thursday. From there to where the car was found would take about 20 minutes or at about 6am. The premier said he escaped the plot as he left home earlier than usual or at about 8.30am.

"So anyone who wanted to assassinate the premier had almost two hours, from 6am to 8.30am, to prepare and detonate the explosives," Pallop said.

"So why didn't he complete the job, as he had more than enough time?"

Moreover, Pallop said that Thawatchai's wife said he drove a Nissan car from their house at about 6am, not 5.45am as earlier reported.

Pallop said he could not understand police statements which said the vehicle had circled the premier's residence several times.

"Why did a driver drive a car loaded with heavy explosives around Thaksin's residence? This is unusual as security officials would have noticed the car and the bombs," he said.

He said he believed the assassination plot was just a fabrication by a group of people who wanted to spin a story aimed at eliciting sympathy for a government whose popularity was declining.

"A few days ago, the government was heavily criticised and is on the downturn. It used the assassination plot to put a spin on the situation," he said.

Pallop said that about five days ago his source telephoned him saying somebody had said he would stage a coup d'etat.

"I laughed because how can I stage a coup d'etat. I am 70 years old and have no power to do so," he said.

"The problem of the country at the moment is the leader. The leader should recognise this for the sake of the country.

"If he waits until chaos ensues, there will be casualties. The leader should sacrifice himself," Pallop said.

More news about suspect arrested in alleged assassination attempt on Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

The common serio-comic joke about the Thai judicial system is as follows: "In Thailand, all suspects are presumed innocent until such time as a confession can be beaten out of them."

Wife told Thawatchai will simply 'die in prison' if he does not confess his crime

Lieutenant Thawatchai Klin-chana's wife was told by police to persuade her husband to confess to attempting to assassinate caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra or else her family would be in trouble, a relative disclosed yesterday.

Thawatchai was arrested on Thursday morning while getting into a car loaded with a huge amount of explosives that was parked near Thaksin's home.

Following the arrest, Thaksin claimed to have narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. His security officers later provided the media with photographs of Thawatchai and the explosive materials found in the vehicle.

Thawatchai's elder sister Thavorn Klinchana, 54, yesterday described him as a "scapegoat" that could be silenced.

"We are afraid that he will be killed so the case can be closed. We are worried he will die despite doing nothing wrong because he's a victim at the hands of the powers that be," she said.

Thavorn said relatives were not being allowed to visit Thawatchai because police claimed the investigation was not yet complete.

"But police called my sister-in-law and asked her to push my brother into confessing things. Police said my brother would just die in jail if he refused to confess," Thavorn said, quoting what Thawatchai's wife, Sangworn Tadjampa, had told her.

Thavorn said she did not believe Thawatchai would ever attempt to assassinate Thaksin. She said the family would try to find good lawyers to defend him.

Thavorn said she had kept the news of Thawatchai's arrest from their paralysed father.

"I am afraid it might be too much for him to bear. But I don't know how long I can keep it a secret from him," Thavorn said.

She said she was also worried about Thawatchai's health because he needed regular medication for hyperthyroidism.

"From what I saw on TV, my brother seemed so exhausted," Thavorn said.

Sangworn said her two children cried over Thawatchai's arrest. "He has never criticised Thaksin. I don't believe my husband would ever try to kill the premier," she said.

After his arrest, Thawatchai said he was paid Bt200 by an unnamed friend to drive the car from the spot where he was arrested to nearby Soi Suan Oy.

Thawatchai was formerly a driver for Pallop Pinmanee, who was sacked from the post of deputy director of the Internal Security Operation Command immediately after the arrest on Thursday.

Pallop has denied being behind an assassination plot. "You know me. If I was behind it, I would not have missed," he told reporters after his sacking.

US Ambassador Ralph Boyce lobbies for more free trade in American cigarettes to Thailand

This is really sad and disappointing. Up until now, Ralph Boyce was one of the more respected members of the foreign diplomatic establishment in Bangkok. An affable and charismatic guy who learned to speak near fluent Thai in advance of his posting, he was the darling of the Thai media and an excellent spokesperson for US interests in Thailand. How he could rationalize lobbying the Thai government to relax it's smoking cessation measures on behalf of US tobacco firms, is beyond me. Totally despicable and immoral.

This also comes at a time of political turmoil, as Prime Minister Thaksin is widely seen as selling out the country for foreign interests, in particular the US , vis a vis the recently proposed US-Thai Free Trade Agreement. This finally gives the anti-US and anti-FTA contingent a really excellent case in point to work with.

US envoy under fire after meeting Phinij

Ambassador 'supports alcohol, tobacco firms'

The National Health Foundation (NHF) yesterday denounced the US ambassador to Thailand and US alcohol and tobacco companies for calling for a revision of the Public Health Ministry's liquor and tobacco advertisement control act. The move came after Ambassador Ralph Boyce led representatives of the US-Asean Business Council, tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris, alcohol firms Diageo and Riche Monde, and pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly in a meeting with caretaker Public Health Minister Phinij Jarusombat and senior officials of the Disease Control Department and the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday.

Hatai Chitanondh, president of the Health Promotion Institute under the NHF, said in a statement that the move reflected Mr Boyce's strong support for the liquor and tobacco industries, despite the US government's policy instructing US embassies worldwide to refrain from supporting liquor and tobacco businesses. [ed. I hope this is the case. It is unconscionable for the ambassador of a civilized country to represent tobacco interests to the 3rd world.]

Dr Hatai said Public Health officials should not negotiate with the companies because their businesses will never benefit the public. He said he would coordinate with health advocates in the US to keep a close watch on Mr Boyce's actions involving the support of liquor and tobacco companies.

''The negotiation marks the first step for both the US and the Thai sides to work together. Hopefully we will have more opportunities in the future,'' Mr Boyce said after the meeting, which was held for the first time in 15 years.

Mr Phinij said the meeting mainly focused on bilateral cooperation in which the Americans called for help ''to strengthen alcohol and tobacco businesses in Thailand''.

A ban on alcohol and tobacco advertisements seemed to be the main trade barrier in the US' point of view.
It also asked the ministry to ensure fair treatment as cigar producers were not facing the same controls, according to Mr Phinij.

Unlike cigars, the ministry employs strict controls on cigarette producers by imposing high taxes and requiring the manufacturers to print health warning labels on cigarette packets.

The advertisement of liquor products is allowed on television only after 10pm.

Watchara Panchet, assistant to the public health minister, said it was necessary to take the US proposals into account for the benefit of Thai entrepreneurs in the US.

However, the ministry did not make any commitments during the closed-door meeting, he said.

Narong Sahamethapat, deputy director-general of the Disease Control Department, said the authority would continue to discourage alcohol and tobacco consumption in the country.

He said tobacco manufacturers would soon be required to label the hazardous chemical contents of cigarettes that could cause cancer.

A regulation to ban the use of the terms ''light'' and ''mild'' on cigarette packets, which have misled people into believing that some brands were less harmful to health than regular brands, will come into effect in October.

The new regulation would also cover cigars and tobacco leaves, he said.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Animal abuse in Thailand; Canadian grey wolf dies at Chiang Mai Night Safari after lengthy escape

Officials at the Chiang Mai Safari didn't notify the public for three weeks when this Canadian grey wolf first escaped, and they didn't see fit to notify anyone when it died either.

from the Bangkok Post:

Wolf dies after brief flirtation with freedom

Chiang Mai _ A grey wolf which recently made a brief break for freedom from Chiang Mai Night Safari Zoo died over a week ago, but its demise was kept under wraps until yesterday. Just as zoo officials did not try to alert the public when the three-year-old wolf escaped, they also chose to keep quiet about its death.

The wolf's escape came to light only when villagers living near the zoo complained that a strange animal had stolen and eaten about 200 fowls and puppies over the previous month.

Zoo officials then admitted that the wolf had disappeared from its enclosure a month earlier, explaining they had kept quiet because it was tame, bred in captivity, posed no threat and they expected to quickly recapture the animal.

The missing animal was given the nickname Lhong, a Thai word for lost.

A team from the zoo finally recaptured the wolf on Aug 5. It was kept under close watch for rabies and other diseases and then returned to the enclosure it shared with five other Canadian grey wolves, the zoo's director for management, Supot Metapiwat, said yesterday. [ed. it was immediately returned to the same enclosure as other animals after spending weeks in the wild?]

However, the wolf then became sick and was sent to the animal hospital at Chiang Mai University. The animal died over a week ago, Mr Supot said.

Veterinarians were examining the carcass to find out what killed it.

The other five wolves are still in good health.

Surakiart's Foreign Ministry embroiled in passport corruption scandal

This is Surakiart's Foreign Ministry, now embroiled in a typical government contract corruption scandal. How can anyone take Surakiart seriously as a candidate for UN Secretary General when human rights and bureaucratic reform are the top two "must-do-better" categories for the next Secretariat? After Surakiart's recent spearheading of a 1 billion US dollar loan to the pariah regime in Myanmar (Burma) plus the Thai Foreign Ministry passport scandal detailed below, there is reason enough why his bid should spectacularly fail.

from the Nation:

Auditors find irregularitiesin Bt7-bn bid

Foreign Ministry asked to explain awarding of big contract to a firm called 'incapable'

The Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) has found irregularities in the Foreign Ministry's tender for a Bt7-billion electronic passport project, a source said.

"There is a pattern of irregularities. It seems unfair to award the project to an incapable company [consortium] and leave others disqualified with unfair practices. This has caused the country a huge revenue loss," said an OAG source, who asked not to be named.

He said the OAG investigation was about to end and the result would be forwarded to the Attorney-General's Office. At the moment, the investigation had not gone far enough to implicate those who might be involved in irregularities, he added.

He noted that it seemed irregular for the ministry to adopt the project knowing it would lose almost Bt1,000 per passport to a private consortium.

In January last year, the ministry awarded the e-passport project to a consortium of Chan Wanich Co Ltd, Chan Wanich Security Printing Co Ltd and Singapore-based NEC Solutions Asia Pacific Pte Ltd.

The e-passports have technology offering improved security, including images and a person's biographical and biometric data, as required by International Civil Aviation Organisation standards.

Under the contract, the consortium is obliged to produce 7 million e-passport books over a 10-year period. In return, it will be paid Bt953.25 for each passport.

Four consortia submitted bids to the ministry. The unsuccessful ones were MFEC Consortium, 3S E-Passport Consortium (which included Sagem Defense Securite, Summit Computer Co Ltd and Setec Oy) and ACC Consortium.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Kitti Wasinondh said he knew nothing about an investigation into bidding for the project. He said an investigation by the OAG and Attorney-General's Office had centred on the winning consortium's ability to fulfil the contract, including its ability to produce 3,000 passports in a day and to check identities.

"It's not about the price or other things. These problems have been corrected, and we are prepared to quote the penalties that the consortium has to pay for any mishap," he said.

Kitti said the investigation was a routine practice, given the huge cost. He was also confident that no ministry official would have colluded to award the project to the Chan Wanich-led consortium.

"I have heard only complaints from the losing bidders. Some quoted a lower price, but their specifications were not up to standard and had less memory capacity. How can they say the winner is incapable? After the problems at the start of the project were fixed, right now the queues on immigration booths are shorter and everybody is commending the faster service," Kitti said.

The ministry's consular department director-general Theerakun Niyom also said the OAG investigation was a routine one to check whether administration was in line with the project's terms of reference. It had focused on the functioning of the "auto gate", which had problems and obstructed production of the e-passport.

The ministry's permanent secretary-general Krit Garnjana-goonchorn had instructed officials to cooperate fully with the OAG in the investigation, he added.

Chan Wanich Security Printing, part of the winning consortium, made news after the Election Commission was found to have spent Bt2 billion on organising the April election. It was among companies awarded projects by the commission without bidding. It was commissioned to print election ballots at a cost of Bt63.44 million.

With Marnchai and Thanapol Kongboonma as directors, the company has run a printing house for 83 years, supplying special items including bank books to financial institutions.

It also won the bidding for the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology's first smart-card project. After the bidding was recalled, it lost the deal to another company.

Thais imprison 175 North Korean refugees, hold out for immigration fine payment

How nice to see Thailand doing its humanitarian part, imprisoning political and economic refugess from North Korea over some bullshit immigration fine. No doubt the Thai Immigration Dept. is hoping that South Korean missionaries will pay these outrageous fines on behalf of the refugees so that they can be expatriated. Kudos also to the Thai neighbors who turned these refugees in. What charming, giving, karma-conscious people Thais are.

from the Bangkok Post:

Seoul takes N Koreans from Thailand

Seoul (dpa) - Among 175 North Koreans held in Thailand, 18 refugees were due to arrive in South Korea aboard Asiana Airlines late Thursday night, local news media reported.

They are 16 North Koreans who have papers giving them formal refugee status with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and two North Koreans who have been separately detained by Thai immigration police, according to the South Korean embassy in Thailand and NGO officals.

The 16 North Koreans are among 175 North Korean defectors who were rounded up by Thai police in a raid on a Bangkok suburb Tuesday while they were hiding in a two-storey house with the help of South Korean missionaries.

Since 23 children under the age of 17 and the 16 North Koreans who are listed as the Persons of Concern (PoC) on the UNHCR list are excluded from trials, 134 North Koreans appeared in Thai court Thursday morning and were sentenced to fines amounting to 157 dollars each, local media reported.

The media reports quoted Thai polices and UN officials in Bangkok as saying the North Koreans were likely to be deported to third countries, including South Korea, after being imprisoned in Bangkok for the 30-day equivalent of the 157-dollar fine.

"Most of these 134 North Koreans prefer South Korea as their next destination," said a diplomat who asked not to be named.

The Seoul government has been cautious about the arrival of North Korean defectors in large numbers since its airlift of 468 defectors from Vietnam in 2004 upset North Korea.

Food shortages and severe flooding in July have been blamed for pushing North Koreans out of their homeland. Thailand is often chosen as a haven for them, partly due to a regional office of the UNHCR in Bangkok.

Thaksin comments on missed assasination in Bangkok

from the Bangkok Post:

Thaksin says he missed assassination

Bangkok (dpa) - Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt Thursday because he left his house earlier than normal.

Thaksin said that two soldiers driving a car rigged with an improvised bomb were stopped when they were spotted circling his home in southern Bangkok in the morning.

"It's my lucky day. I have been varying my travel times after the intelligence services told me people were trying to kill me. If I hadn't left an hour earlier than usual, I might not be here now," he said on Thai television.

Thaksin added that several other attempts have been made to harm him in recent months when traveling on official duties. He alluded to "incidents" at military airports and a recent car crash that involved a car in one of his convoys.

The controversial deputy chief of the Internal Security Operations Command, Panlop Pinmanee, was promptly sacked on the prime minister's orders Thursday, after the two suspected assassins were found to belong to his military oversight office.

Panlop caused consternation earlier this year when he said a military coup could not be ruled out if political instability persists. There were unconfirmed reports that one of the suspects is Panlop's driver.

Tension has been climbing in the Thai capital ahead of an October 15 general election that Thaksin is expected to win, despite being widely disliked by the middle class and old Bangkok elites.

The driver and passenger in the suspect car, who attempted to flee, were later arrested and were being interrogated by the police. The two suspects, one a lieutenant, were identified as soldiers serving with the Thai army's Internal Security Operations Command.

The army's deputy spokesman, Colonel Akkara Thiprote, said two sticks of dynamite were found in the car and that the army would cooperate with police in the investigation.

Two bags of urea fertilizer, often used in making bombs, were also reportedly found in the car.

The discovery came on the first day of official campaigning for what is shaping up to be a bitterly fought general election on October 15. Fistfights have broken out between opponents and supporters of the premier at his recent public appearances.

The prime minister said that after this "assissination attempt" he would make only vital public appearances. "I must assign routine appearances to my deputies. We can't let these people succeed," he said in a television interview.

The opposition People's Alliance for Democracy has said this week that it would restart the mass demonstrations that rocked the government earlier this year if the authorities did not quickly identify the Thaksin supporters who kicked and punched protestors this week.

Thai newspapers reported Thursday that at least two people who beat protestors while police looked on Monday were known to have links to officials close to the prime minister.

A vehicle-free security zone has been temporarily declared around Thaksin's sprawling compound on Snitwongse Road, extending as much as a kilometre from the house.

Those opposed to Thaksin - many in Bangkok's middle class, Thai intellectuals, the older elite, advisers to the monarch and elements in the armed forces - have accused the prime minister of running a corrupt regime designed to enrich his family and a clique of rich businessmen while also undermining and eliminating checks and balances on his government.

The prime minister remains popular, however, with many rural voters and entrepreneurs and is likely to win the election. The prime minister has repeatedly claimed since taking power in early 2001 that threats have been made against his life, although his critics have accused him of paranoia and sympathy-seeking.

Interior Minister Kongsak Wanthana said Monday that there were credible but unconfirmed reports of an assassination conspiracy.

Earlier this year, several bombs exploded around the capital, primarily aimed at prominent opponents of the prime minister. The origins of these devices remain a mystery.

More violence predicted in run up to Thai elections

from the Nation:

More violence predicted

Opponents vow to keep on hounding PM; suporters warn of 'terrible' happenings

The national rift over Thaksin Shinawatra deepened yesterday following Saturday's Siam Paragon scuffle, with his supporters and opponents accusing each other of instigating the incident and planning to provoke further violence.

The caretaker prime minister's Thai Rak Thai Party claimed opponents had developed a "guerrilla strategy" that involved sending a few "hooligans" to hound Thaksin at every public function.

"They will employ a suicide-bomber strategy, one which requires just a few hooligans who will boo and jeer at him wherever he goes," said Thai Rak Thai executive Pairote Suwanchawee.

"This is meant to dispirit him and lure the broadcast and print media into highlighting such incidents and invariably create an impression [of a divisive phenomenon]."

The other side insisted at a press conference yesterday that the Siam Paragon fist-fight erupted because men who looked like Thaksin's bodyguards zoomed in on protesters after a five-year-old boy shouted "plunderer get out!"

The anti-Thaksin camp said they would keep protesting at public places where Thaksin appears until "he has no place to be". [ed. is stalking, physical confrontation and shouting insults a laudable opposition strategy?]

In Saturday's incident, a man was left with a swollen mouth when a shouting match between government supporters and opponents [ed. instigated by anti-Thaksin protestors who followed him to a non-political event] turned into a scuffle while Thaksin was opening an exhibition in honour of His Majesty the King. "We have heard that Thaksin will not set foot in Silom any more and it will also be the case with Siam Paragon," said Sangsit Piriyarang-san, leader of a group seeking social sanctions against the prime minister. [ed. this speaks more to the failings of mall security than any 'victory' by the protest mob- sad]

The so-called Civil Society Network to Stop the Thaksin System organised the press conference at Rajabhat University's Chankasem campus to decry what it claimed to be "uncivilised" ways of handling peaceful expression of political discontent. [ed. what is peaceful about screaming insults? many of the protestors were upset that the media carried video footage with sound-- it's great that media did so; it's important to get the full sense of the way the opposition conducted itself]

"We will keep eliminating the space where Thaksin can be in Thai society," caretaker Buri Ram Senator Karun Sai-ngarm told the press conference to a big applause.

"Witnesses" appeared at the press conference to claim that Saturday's incident started with "men in black jackets" assaulting those shouting anti-Thaksin slogans. The network's leaders insisted if the incident did not involve Thaksin's bodyguards, it was an alarming sign of things to come if Thaksin, the "root cause" of the present national divide, refused to leave politics quietly.

Former veteran envoy Asda Jayanama said he had never seen anything like the Siam Paragon incident in his life.

"I have been a diplomat for 35 years and been in seven countries," he told the press conference. "I have never seen bodyguards of any prime minister attack peaceful anti-government protesters before."

The network claimed the incident took place because more and more pro-Thaksin demonstrations were being stage-managed to create the false impression that the premier remained hugely popular.

"How can Thaksin continue to preside over a nation as divided as this?" said Prasarn Maruekkapitak, leader of an anti-Thaksin businessmen's group.

"The incident was not the first and surely it won't be the last," said Suriyasai Katasila, a leader of the anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

"We are not sure how much more violent things can get. Our objective remains ousting the prime minister through peaceful means, but his people are trying to inflame the situation by calling us names like suicide bombers."

According to Pairote, the "hooligans" or "suicide bombers" strategy is not aimed only at ousting Thaksin, but also at neutralising Thai Rak Thai as a whole.

"The undemocratic measures coincide with attempts to delay the October 15 election. Those people believe the longer the election is delayed, the more our party will be weakened or be even more likely to break up," he said.

Thai Rak Thai deputy spokesman Jatuporn Prompan accused the anti-Thaksin movement of instigating the Siam Paragon incident and strongly criticised its "lack of respect" for an event meant to honour His Majesty.

"What if we send Thai Rak Thai followers to disrupt every gathering of the PAD? This kind of confrontation could lead to something terrible. The other side should think about this with a really open mind," Jatuporn said.

"Their admission that they sent people to create a nuisance is no different from terrorists claiming responsibility for bomb explosions."

But caretaker Bangkok Senator Wallop Tangkananurak insisted that all the scary scenarios would disappear if the man at the centre of the confrontation would step down.

"I just want to ask him if he's happy to see Thailand go on like this. Our country has never been so divided. Every good leader has to think real hard if things like this happen in his country," said Wallop. [ed. typical Thai tactic of blaming the stronger when conflict arises; it's an argument based on (and sure to appeal to) feeling rather than logic]

Nation coverage of recent clashes a bit biased, as usual

The Nation news coverage of the recent protests is, as expected, a bit biased in favor of the anti-Thaksin camp. The headline of the following article is a good case in point -- saying that Thaksin's bodyguards 'targeted' protestors ignores the fact that protesters are precipitating these conflicts by following Thaksin around town, loudly and belligerently disrupting every public appearance he makes. If anyone is being 'targetted', it is Thaksin.

from The Nation:

Three hurt, three arrested after PM's minders target protesters on third day of violence

Three people were injured and three others arrested yesterday when fights erupted between supporters and opponents of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. It was the second such clash in three days.

Television broadcasts of the skirmishes showed police failed to intervene.

An elderly man could be seen being kicked and stomped by alleged supporters of the prime minister. Two men shouting "Thaksin, get out" were manhandled and dragged away by others.

According to a top policeman, it was suspected some attackers were policemen in civilian clothes.

"One of them is a man in a black shirt who can be seen on a video recording. Police will look into this," Colonel Manit Wongsomboon, deputy commander of the Metro-politan Police Division 6, said.

Yesterday's clashes occurred shortly after Thaksin departed the Central World Plaza shopping complex. His attendance at the opening of the Digital Thai Knowledge Park was accompanied by tight security. Metropolitan Police commissioner general Viroj Chantarangsi was also present at the function.

Thaksin supporters and opponents sparred verbally outside the building. A man shouting "Thaksin, get out" was punched by another in the crowd.

Police arrested three men during the skirmishes. Those arrested have been identified as Vichai Uasila-phan, 53, Ritthirong Likhitprasert-kul, 68, and Mongkol Boontem, 18.

Vichai and Ritthirong, who shouted anti-Thaksin messages, were charged with causing a public nuisance. Mongkol had been charged with assault, Manit said.

The injured were identified as Itthiphon Sorawitsakul, 70, Vasu-porn Boonmee, 41, and Khwanchai Juimanee, 30.

Itthiphon was knocked down and stomped by more than 10 men until he was unconscious. He required two stitches to the head. Most of his attackers wore new white shoes.

Khwanchai sustained a wound to his left eye and bruising to the head.

Wasuporn was punched in the face and knocked to the ground. She told reporters she was merely an observer. "I'm so scared, I don't want to file a police complaint," she said.

On Saturday, a small anti-Thaksin group was attacked when it shouted at the prime minister as he attended a Royal exhibition at the Siam Paragon shopping mall.

In a related development, government spokesman Surapong Suebwonglee said the government and the Thai Rak Thai Party denounced the verbal attacks that led to clashes. He accused the anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy of instigating the latest melee.

In response to a PAD call for Thaksin to step down, Surapong said there was no guarantee peace would be restored if the Thai Rak Thai leader quit politics.

Senior opposition figures yesterday expressed concern over the escalating violence.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit called on people to act with restraint, warning the situation could get out of control.

"Everyone has the right to free expression but they should also act within limits," he said.

Abhisit said government officials should not treat demonstrators as political puppets, adding that making disparaging comparisons would fuel anger.

Mahachon Party deputy leader Akapol Surasuchart expressed concern political tensions would escalate in the lead-up to the election.

"Thaksin should quickly make his decision whether to take a political break," he said.

The longer Thaksin defied his critics, the more clashes would occur.

He believed the party had fanned a climate of animosity by attacking opponents. He referred to Thai Rak Thai claims opponents were planning a suicide bombing against Thaksin.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra attacked by mob at King's exhibition

I'm going to side with Thaksin on this one.

The conduct of the Bangkok-ified spontaneous protest mob was totally outrageous. It may sound trivial but stamping on someone's foot repeatedly warrants a trip to the police station. That conduct may be de riguer on the pak soi or their rough little khanom shop in Din Daeng, but who the hell do these people think they are?

Thaksin was badly let down by his bodyguards and mall security, as well as the local police. The Prime Minister of Thailand was verbally and physically attacked for 20 minutes in the middle of a downtown shopping mall and nothing was done about it.

If this can happen to the PM while attending an exhibit in honor of the King, then anything can happen to anybody in this country. It looks like a country of savages who can't handle basic civic responsibility, nevermind full blown democracy. There is no honor in screaming insults at someone from a crowd, or trying to use the monarchy as a shield.

The protestors should have been thrown out immediately, by force if necessary. If they resisted, they should have been cuffed and charged with trespassing and resisting arrest.

Before any nimrods start blathering about freedom of speech, Siam Paragon is a private shopping mall, not the street or other public place. You have no inalienable right to be there. Again: You have no inalienable right to be there. If you harass other patrons or create any sort of disturbance you can and should be removed by mall security.

What's next, fist fights in Parliament a la the Taiwanese or Koreans?

from the Nation:

Thaksin ambushed with protest in Siam Paragon

Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ambushed verbal attacks in Siam Paragon by a group of protesters Saturday afternoon, leading a clash between the protesters and his supporters.

The angry prime minister cut short his visit of an exhibition to honour His Majesty the King after some 20 to 30 protesters kept on shouting abuses against him.

Before leaving in his car, Thaksin strongly criticized the protesters as "lacking developed mind" and asked officials to take legal action against them.

The clash and exchange of verbal attacks between the groups of supporters and protesters happened at about 2 pm and lasted about 20 minutes.

The fight came after Thaksin chaired a ceremony to launch books and CDs in memory of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King's Accession to the Throne in the shopping mall.

While Thaksin was visiting the exhibition, a woman stepped on his foot twice and he asked his bodyguard to watch out against the woman.

"Please check if she is insane or not. She stepped on my foot twice already," Thaksin told his bodyguards. [ed. why were people allowed to get so close to the head of state? I can't think of any country where such cosy proximity would be tolerated.]

While Thaksin was continuing seeing the exhibition, some 20 to 30 people, shouted "Thaksin is bad, Thaksin cheats, Thaksin get out."

The prime minister was seen apparently startled and turned to look at the protesters.

His bodyguards then tried to lead Thaksin to leave the shopping mall, but a group of his supporters charged toward the protesters.

The supporters and Thaksin's bodyguards tried to ask the protesters to stop shouting but they kept on shouting criticism against Thaksin.

At the moment, a university student shouted "You cheat the country" and some three to four supporters charged toward him and hit and kicked him until he fell down. [ed. I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for a guy who joined in heckling someone and got smacked upside the head]

The protesters then helped pulled the student away.

Another woman, who carried her young daughter, also shouted "Thaksin cheats" and she was pushed backed by Thaksin's bodyguard, causing her to nearly fall down. [ed. she's engaging in a protest while cradling her infant daughter? Who is truly the bad person here, this woman or the bodyguard who pushed her away from the prime minister?]

Some observers also shouted "We are Thais. Why did you do this in exhibition to honour His Majesty?" [ed. Let's see, they scream insults at the prime minister and then they blame him for causing a ruckus? I despise this type of cowardly aggression. Bullying and then pretending to be the one bullied.]

The protesters then started retreating and walked away and shouted abuses against from afar. [ed. like soi dogs]

They later walked down the escalator and kept on shouting criticism against Thaksin from a lower floor.

At the same time, Thaksin's supporters shouted back at them and asked the protesters to go home.

The protesters later left the shopping mall and the confusion ended.

While Thaksin was leaving, a group of supporters surrounded him and kept on shouting "Thaksin Fight On" until he reached his car.

The supporters waited there and kept on cheering Thaksin while he was giving interview to reporters.

Before leaving in his car, Thaksin told reporters that the tussle should not have happened during the important exhibition. [ed. he is absolutely right, and it shouldn't have happened at any other time either]

"These people do not have developed mind. They showed what was undemocratic behaviour," Thaksin said.

He said the protesters should have waited until October 15 to express their dislike against him by not voting for him.

The Nation

Saturday, August 19, 2006

foreigner bashing continues even as Thaksin notes that crime rate 'extremely low' among 12 million who visit Thailand each year

By the way, about half of the 12 million 'arrivals' each year are simply foreign residents who must exit and re-enter Thailand every 30 days to renew their 'tourist visas' due to the fact that residency permits are almost unobtainable.

It should also be noted that Karr was not accused of committing any crime while in Thailand.

Nevertheless, many of the Thai government officials quoted in the article below have taken the position that 'something must be done' about these 'evil evil' foreign language teachers, in the wake of the Ramsey suspect arrest.

I guess these so-called leaders have graduated from kicking the dog to kicking the foreigner in order to bolster self-confidence during the present political imbroglio.

What troubles me more is that whenever a foreigner makes the news here in a bad way, a round of foreigner bashing ensues and there is not a single Thai voice to countermand it. That's really disappointing (and cowardly) on the part of our Thai so-called friends.

And what about the foreign community? Not a peep. Probably nervously clutching their non-immigrant 'O' retirement visas in mortal fear that if they speak up the government might be separate them from their fat Issan wives.

I can't imagine any immigrant community in the world putting up with the kind of nonsense foreigners put up with in Thailand.

Imagine how the 300,000 Thais in Los Angeles would react if California government officials waxed xenophobic in the LA Times about the 'criminal background' of 'many' Thais residing in the US? But that would never happen. And that's part of the reason they choose to live where they do.

from The Nation:

Suspect was employed by prestigious schools

Education officials concede that process of checking qualifications has sometimes taken too long

Various authorities yesterday expressed concern that John Mark Karr - a suspect in the 1996 murder of an American child beauty queen - had managed to find teaching jobs in Bangkok.

At the time of his arrest on Wednesday, he had just been given employment by an international school in the Sathorn district.

Before that he was allowed a trial period at two of the country's most prestigious schools - the boys-only Bangkok Christian College and the girls-only St Joseph Convent School.

The Education Ministry's permanent secretary Khunying Kasama Varawarn na Ayutthaya yesterday said she would have a meeting with the International Schools Association of Thailand next week to tighten recruitment of foreign teachers.

She admitted that the ministry had allowed international schools to recruit teachers before an entire check of their qualifications had been completed.

"We relaxed the rules after many international schools complained that the whole process took too long," Kasama said. [ed. so why not speed up the clerks at the Education Ministry rather than relaxing standards?]

She said the Office of Private Education Promotion Commission did general checks on whether applicants have the educational credentials that match the requirements. "The office has contacted foreign universities to verify overseas degrees submitted by applicants." [ed. this takes 5 minutes and a phone call -not a letter, not an email, not a fax- a phone call. There is no need for documents to cross the Pacific like it's 1822.]

The office has also cooperated with special-branch police and the National Intelligence Agency to check the history of applicants.

"Normally we receive a response from the special-branch police within three weeks but the overseas institutions have taken longer to respond."

[ed. Sorry, but I think this is a total fabrication because it makes no sense at all. 'Special branch police'? Never heard of such an entity having any info on the 'history' of foreign teachers, unless it pertains solely to criminal history in Thailand. If that is the case, then it shouldn't take 3 weeks to check. As for 'overseas institutions', it's been noted above that 5 minutes and a phone call to the registrar's office of any Western uni will get you an answer as to someone's degree status.]

"...When international schools started complaining, we relaxed the rule. Recruitment can be completed first, and if there is any problem we can take action later," Kasama said.

So far, she said, there had never been any problems. [ed. so why change the system if you've had only one bad apple out of thousands in so many years?]

"Generally, persons with criminal records won't be able to pass through immigration checkpoints," she said, but in the wake of Karr's arrest, Kasama planned to ask international schools not to hire any foreign teachers before their qualifications check had been completed. [ed. this is just utter nonsense. Immigration has no ability to check foreign criminal records, and does not even check Thai ones, before stamping your passport. Only people specifically placed on blacklist are barred from entry, and this list is very short.]

Anusorn Thaidecha, who heads the Office of Private Education Promotion Commission, added that he would ask immigration police and the Foreign Affairs Ministry to be stricter about granting entries or visas to foreigners. [ed. how does this promote private education? I guess the PEPC is just like the IT Ministry, notorious for blocking websites and doing fuck all else, in that both seem only concerned with prohibiting rather than fostering activity in their respective sectors. A government of cops, but not one leader.]

PM's deputy secretary general Jakrapob Penkair, who is assigned to oversee education matters, said there had in the past been many sexual-abuse accusations against teachers at some international schools.

"They have sex with minors - girls and boys - and they have been arrested," Jakrapob said. [ed. who is 'they'? A couple of cases in the past five years out of maybe 500,000 foreign teachers who've passed through in that time? Should back that libelous shit up, Jakrapob. In the meantime, there have been numerous government officials, senior police, and even senior Thai clergy accused (and in some cases convicted) of the same thing. What's being done about them?]

He said all parties must join in preventing undesirable foreigners from getting close to students in Thailand. [ed. what about undesireable Thais?] He added that he was going to raise the issue with the Education Ministry, teacher organisations, parents and international schools.

In a related development, caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said there were relatively few cases of crimes committed by foreigners in Thailand, given the fact that up to 12 million foreign visitors flocked to the country each year. He added that Thai authorities had worked closely with other countries in watching out for people who had been blacklisted.

[ed. Thaksin, of all people, was the only one who spoke up for foreigners by stating the simple facts. Incredible.]