Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An evening with the man who banned youtube

To summarise my friend Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom in one word is a truly impossible task, but if forced to do so I would have to go with "bi-polar".

The man responsible for blocking one of the Internet's most popular web sites cuts a sober, almost sombre figure as he takes the stage at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand and begins to introduce himself.

The decorated professor cracks a series of self-effacing jokes that win favour with the farang dominated audience. Sitthichai waxes lightheartedly over his educational background, achievements in engineering and family life whilst jesting over his sex life, lack of hair, and most notably, Thai politicians and his own lack of ability at his current role.

Like most visitors I was caught off guard and somewhat disarmed by his seemingly genuinely amicable, almost innocent manner. Was this truly the man who had incurred so much criticism for banning web sites, describing the Internet as "not an exciting tool" and demanding that "Thailand should build its own computers to be truly proud"? Indeed it was.

As the night started in a friendly manner, Sitthichai dropped plenty of compliments to his hosts and reminded us that "I was warned it would be a tough night, I hope you will live up to it". So did I.

The questions began gently, as Sitticahi breezed over a question about the recent resignation of a TOT official and his allegation that military officials had demanded TOT fund a military project "It could have saved many lives" was Sitthichai's easy 'get out' clause on that one.

But before long, along came a reporter from my favourite paper, The Nation. "I'm sorry I address you only as 'Khun' and not 'Minister' but I can't acknowledge an illegitimate regime" began the reporter as he went on to question the anomaly between the number of web sites blocked as claimed by MICT, and the far higher figure quoted by the web site of my buddies

Sittichai claimed the facthai figures were old and inaccurate and pledged to allow the reporter to check for himself. The mood remained serene, but not for long.

Step forward Kitty from BK magazine. Kitty posed the question many had been waiting for: "There's so much more to youtube than a few offensive videos and there's more to the Internet than golf scores, what gives you the right to block it?".

Buoyed by his crowd pleasing jokes, Sitthichai made a misjudgement as quipped to young Kitty "When you grow up, you'll understand". Unfazed, Kitty replied: "Why do you have to make deemening jokes about me , or women or people's looks all the time?" to a round of applause from sections of the audience including me.

It had a notable effect on Sitthichai as - to his credit - he made a sincere apology. The crowd now seemed not quite so warm to him and he began to answer questions with more depth and seriousness. He explained "If I didn't block youtube, I'd be dead. I'd be lynched by the people" , before going on to pledge that "hopefully" youtube would be accessible within two weeks as Google had agreed to block individual offensive videos. When pinned for a promise by Kitty, who asked him four times over "What does 'hopefully' mean?", he said he would propose it to his cabinet next week.

Still the hostile questions were not done. A member of faccthai bravely presented Sitthichai with a list of blocked web sites taken from MICT apparently without their knowledge. The minister repeated his earlier claim that the list was old and outmoded.

The night went on with more lively and provocative questions. Sitthichai confessed that although his group claim to be more democratic than Thaksin's, they had not actually unblocked any of the fourteen thousand sites blocked by their predecessors. However, he went on record as saying he had proposed a bill that would forbid any government group to block web sites, in future it would have to be blocked by a court order.

Sitthichai also confirmed he owned no less than three hundred and twenty two rifles, and he "didn't care" which government came in after him. He was "not aware" of any online gambling sites but he did hope to see a fairer playing field for Internet and communications providers in Thailand. Throughout the night, Sitthichai confessed he didn't believe he was a good politician and he didn't feel it was his calling in life. He was an engineer and as such he believed in critical thinking and the pursuit of truth.

By the end of the night Sitthichai had indeed been met with a lot of questions and, to his credit, he ducked very few of them. As he repeated his apology to anyone that had been offended by his quips, the MICT minister took his exit and received a round of applause for his appearance.

Still, despite the provocative and lively questions fired throughout the evening, I felt few minds had been changed. From a personal point of view there was only one question that remained unasked: If Sitthichai so disliked politics, felt so strongly that it wasn't what he was good at and blocked web sites often against his own principles, why did the maverick scientist join hands with the junta in the first place?

Perhaps we'll never know.

Open letter to my MP regarding Thaksin

Dear Mr Denham,

I am a native of Southampton SO19 and now a long term resident of Thailand, where I have been working as a Social Studies teacher in a well known school for one year. I have voted Labour in the past two elections and, in fact, I plan to run for local election myself on my return.

Mr Denham, as a member of your constituency and also a member of a Thai family I would like to register my serious concern on the arrival and business transactions of Thaksin Shinwatra in England.

As you are no doubt aware, Thaksin was ousted in a bloodless coup last year. I am aware that Mr Shinwatra has referred to this undemocratic manoeuvre several times in the English press in an effort to assert his innocence. This is simply not the case.

Thaksin Shinwatra is currently under investigation by a non military, non partisan panel of investigators for numerous alleged acts of corruption involving himself and his family. Nearly all of these alleged offences were reported well before the coup took place. Prosecutors are currently assembling documentary, circumstantial and eyewitness evidence in preparation for a court hearing on several cases.

Mr Thaksin was also subject to a great number of complaints concerning human rights during his "War on drugs" campaign. During this time, a great number of deaths occurred in the country, many of them in highly suspicious circumstances. None of the deaths were investigated during Mr Thaksin's regime.

Finally, Mr Thaksin imposed great pressure on the free press during his tenure as PM. The country's only independent TV station was bought out by a Thaksin business with several critical reporters sacked. English language press came under threats and proxy take over bids, and many radio stations were closed down.

It is true that the prosecutions for corruption are coming indirectly from a non elected junta. However, many charges would have been made already if it were not for the fact that sections of the press, the senate, the judiciary and nearly every independent checking body had come under the influence of Mr Thaksin and his now defunct Thai Rak Thai party during his regime.

TheThai DSI has already confirmed that an extradition order will be made against Mr Thaksin if he does not arrive to hear charges within one month.

I would be happy to provide references to any of the above cited facts at your request.

As I type this, I am informed that AMLO has discovered several sizeable bank accounts in the name of Mr Thaksin in England. He has already been accused of - and denied - illegally channeling money out of Thailand.

Mr Denham, I understand that your right honourable friend David Taylor has already raised this issue in Parliament. As a Southampton Itchen constituent, I would humbly request that the issue of Mr Thaksin and his presence in England is raised again, with the question being : a) Is this truly the kind of guest we welcome in England? and b) Can we pledge to the authorities in Thailand that Mr Thaksin will be extradited if a formal request is made?

I thank you for your kind attention to this matter. Thank you for your work on behalf of the people of Southampton.

Yours sincerely ,


(UK address supplied)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The class from Heaven and the class(es) from Hell

I really thought that after nearly four years of teaching in the Land Of Smiles (LOS) I'd dealt with it all. I thought that'd I faced up to the roughest, survived the dullest and more or less quenched the rowdiest of classes.

The last two months have proved me wrong. I normally don't worry about hostile classes (which are nearly always teenage classes by definition) in fact I take it very lightheartedly and enjoy the challenge of winning them round. But for once, it's gotten me a little annoyed. For this term, I've found the best and the worst classes I've ever known.

The worst isn't actually a class, it's an entire grade. My weekday job is in a well known bilingual school. The school is effectively private and charges parents a hefty fee by Thai standards. As such, most of the kids are from upper middle class families and a fair sized portion of them are spoilt. That wasn't such a problem last year when I was teaching grade five. Most of the kids there were still, well, just kids. You get your good ones and your difficult ones. This year though it's grade nine - that means fourteen and fifteen year olds.

Now I'm not so old that I've forgotten what it's like to be a teenager at school and I can still relate to the kids pretty well - that has helped me in my career - but there comes a time when you have to stop making excuses for teenagers and get them squared up.

This year I'm teaching social studies. I was delighted to do this because it's a subject I love and I really thought I could bring it to life. By inducing the power plays of politics and the twists of the legal system I really thought I'd spice it up for the kids who thought learning jurisprudence in a foreign language would suck.

It turns out I was overoptimistic, at least for now. Five weeks into term, I've won over one of the classes but the other three are hopeless. Never before in my career have I come across students that will continue to do homework right in front of me after four requests to stop, who will refuse across the board - all thirty five of them - to answer questions to something they learned and wrote about the previous day, who curse teachers simply for asking if they are OK, shout and scream at me and each other out of the blue and generally have a totally negative and unco-operative attitude.

The fact that they speak English very well just exacerbates the aggitation on both sides, since they can't pretend they don't understand. They are not all like this of course - every difficult class always has some good kids and vice versa - but it's a huge majority in some cases.

Like I said, I've dealt with teenagers in bigger size classes before and more often than not, I've won them round. I once wrote about a class of forty five girls I taught every day for three years. On my last day of teaching them, every single student gave me a signed picture and a gift. Many of them cried and I nearly did myself. (I still carry their photos with me in my work bag, it gives me a boost to look through them during times like this). But that was government school students, now I'm dealing with spoilt, moody teenagers from rich families and it's an even bigger challenge.

I have a general system of tactics for difficult teenage classes. Plan A is simply to tolerate a lot and go easy with them for a few days. Plan B is to strike a good rapport and reward good work with games and 'fun' lessons. If that still fails, plan C is to firm up, give them a few speeches reminding them who's boss and who they shouldn't agitate if they want to enjoy the rest of the year and 'final resort' Plan D is simply to put the smack down. That means deducting points from exams, escorting offenders to the principal, shouting them down if they talk too much and so on. Basically, rule by force.

I'm now well down the line in plan C and entering plan D. I don't like doing it, in fact I hate it. It's not me and although I'm thick skinned, I don't really like to have thirty five hostile faces looking at me when I walk through the door to teach a subject I love. But at least two of my current classes have given me no choice. After trying to make the classes fun with games and mock silly elections and such, there was no improvement from them. I've dropped a few "Look , we can work together and have fun and get on or you can keep on with your big sulk and I'll still be here, and you'll just get lower tests scores and fewer activities" type speeches to them. These talks worked with nearly every other class I've taught and can often turn the tables, simply because what I say is true and fair. Not this time though.

I made my final decision to toughen up after I asked a class to close their notebooks at the end of a lesson. Most kids did , a few didn't. I asked them again three more times and still one girl - who was glaring at me - didn't. I asked her personally, and got the same glare. I walked to her desk and asked her up close. Never stopping her glare, she lifted up her book to my face, turned it over and dropped it on the desk in front of her. Basically an unspoken "fuck you" to the teacher who dared to ask her to close her book.

So it's time for rule by force. Every kid in the class now has full exam marks, but loses some of them every time they refuse to work or didn't make the effort. There's no end of lesson games, homework for other lessons is removed from kids who try to do it in my class and talkative students sit alone every lesson (they really hate that one). I don't like being a bastard but if it comes down to that or being a doormat in an out of control class, I'll take the former. When the kids realise why I'm doing what I do (I frequently remind them, it's only fair) and make the effort to change, I'll go back to being myself again.

I don't give up easy. Like I said, I've turned classes completely around before and I'm determined to do it again. If I can manage it with this lot, I'll be forever sure that I'm a good teacher.

But every "down day" in teaching usually has an opposite,and that opposite is my Saturday afternoon class. The class from heaven. (If you're reading this Carla, or Joe, it's the same class you both used to teach) Seven girls and one boy, all about twelve years old. They work, they listen, they try and they love to play games. It's so rare to get kids that like to play and learn, and even when they do, they usually want to spend more time playing, that's all part and parcel of being a kid! Not this class though, they love to play games but as soon as it's over, they'll open their text books and get cracking once again.

I make a point of telling them how great they are, and the feeling seems mutual. Today , when I returned to the room after coffee break, the kids had drawn a caricature of me on the board and written underneath: "Mr.Greg is the best teacher in the world".

I'm not sure if that statement is true, but it was a damn sight nicer than the reception I get from my teenage friends at the moment.

Still, that's teaching for you!


My good friend Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom is hosting a meeting at the Bangkok Foreign Correspondants club on Tuesday evening. Guess who is attending the press conference?????

I might just have an interesting blog to write next week.

Why Abhisit must stand alone

Abhisit Vejjajiva should be feeling on top of the world these days. The Democrat leader has seen his party survive a transparent and efficiently handled dissolution trial in the Constitutional Court and - in the same fall of the axe - the opposition Thai Rak Thai party was dissolved. It created an ideal political void, seemingly tailor made for the Oxford educated leader.

Just when it seemed things couldn't get any better, the military junta announced the date of the national election could be bought forward, stealing time away from any rival party or disassociated politicians looking to clamour back to power.

So why, then, does the young party leader seem to continue festering a deep streak of insecurity?

Abhisit appeared recently at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Bangkok to state his cause to foreign journalists. I was unable to attend but a colleague informed me that Abhisit presented himself well but seemed more concerned with drawing criticism of Thaksin and the current political situation than he was with propagating his own ideas. "Lack of vision" was the abridged summary of the Democrat's front man.

It seems the foreign journalists aren't the only ones having their doubts. Reports from The Nation state that since the conclusion of the dissolution trial, Abhisit has been in regular contact with political heavyweights like Banharn Silapa-archa and Chavalit Yongchaiyud. One doesn't need embellished imagination to guess at what was being discussed.

Clearly, Abhisit lacks faith his own group's ability to take a clear majority in the elections. In such circumstances, he has decided to follow the laws of realpolitik and co -operate with the old brass to ensure he gets a controlling stake in the house.

But for Abhisit to collaborate with 'old school' leaders like Barnharm and Chavalit carries huge risk.

Everything about Abhisit Vejjajiva represents a "new generation" of Thai politician. Young, fresh faced and western educated, Abhisit has always presented himself as a detachment from the past that is unaffiliated with military politics and perceived as cleaner and less contentious than Thaksin. His promises of asset declarations for all MPs and pledges of transparent checks and balances have always been delivered with the gentle but firm tone of voice and the handsome smile that endears him to the Bangkok middle classes.

Abhisit also speaks with boldness of a progressive breed. He openly criticsed Sondhi and Thaksin's dual use of astrologers in the process of politics and has pledged compulsory asset declaration for his own party MPs.

Such actions at well with the core bases, but as Abhisit well knows, it hasn't gained any ground with the traditional non Democrat areas such as the North East. In such areas the ghost of Thaksin the politician looms large, and voters are less concerned with emulating western style politics than with receiving tangible benefits for voting one particular way. So far Abhisit has failed to convince them, and it appears his concern has forced him to look to the experience of old leaders.

But Abhisit must be sure that in associating himself with the likes of Banharn Silapa-archa for the sole purpose of reaching a new audience, he doesn't destroy his own base. Neither Barharn nor Chavilit achieved a lot of good for Thailand during their reign, and time has done little to boost the public's faith in the old brass. If Abhisit is sincere about reducing the "old boys" network of corruption in government, he cannot possibly expect people to accept his collaboration with a man who gained the nickname "Mr ATM" during his tenure as PM.

Likewise, Chavalit Yongchaiyud has done little to restore himself credibility in recent months. As the junta and the people struggled to return to normal after the coup of 2006, Chavilit was more concerned with making sure that everyone heard his cries of discontent at the ousting of Thaksin and publicly demanded "a deep, deep wai" from the CNS. For many voters, the old general represents the antithisis of a modern progressive government.

None of the candidates for a coalition with The Democrats have shown any interest in party policies, all of them have shown a willingness to switch parties and jump ship at any given time.

Abhisit can see the opportunity of his career looming ahead of him and he's straining to ensure it doesn't pass him by. But in doing so, he must ensure that he doesn't wreck everything he stands for by associating with the type of politician who is everything Abhisit professes not to be. The only true victory for The Democrats in the next election would be a clear majority. If Abhisit can't do it achieve that now, he never will.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


The Nation Thailand is one of the two main English language broadsheet newspapers in Thailand. Today, they featured my blog on Thaksin Shiniwat's bid for Manchester City with a picture of my ugly mug and a 'must read' tag on their main web page and even printed a link address to my blog on the front page of the printed edition!!!!

1580 hits so far. In twenty four hours it's garnered more hits than my whole
one year's worth of blogs combined!

This proves one of two things.

Either a) I'm a budding journalist or b) I'm the only foreigner with such a non social life that I actually write about Thai politics.

Still, I'm chuffed!

Permalink :

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Realpolitik in action

April 2007 - Ousted PM Thaksin states his intention to Manchester City football club. Meanwhile the build up to the party dissolution trail gains anticipation.

May: Friends and students ask me about Thaksin buying Man City. I tell them I think it won't happen because the junta do no need Thaksin building a fan base in the UK, especially with the anti-coup protests gaining momentum over here. It would be a political and face loss for the junta and I predict they will make steps to make the cash purchase impossible.

June: Thai Rak Thai are disbanded (midnight, May 30th). Sondhi (Junta leader but not PM) forgets that he is even meant to pretend he is not pulling strings and instantly suggests amnesty for some TRT players. He later backs down when people point out how ludicrous the idea is. Anti coup protests gain in numbers and attention.

Saturday 9th June: Anti coup protests, with suspected help from ousted politicians - attract about ten thousand. This number is enough to raise concern.

Sunday 10th June: PM Surayud makes a TV speech lambasting Thaksin directly for the first time ever and talking about rule of law.

Monday 11th June: AEC freeze Thaksin's assets . Thaksin is ncensed enough to suggest returning to Thailand and entering politics (which he is banned from doing like al other TRT members).. It's his last desperate roll of the dice as he senses the end game coming. Junta call his bluff and say "He's welcome to come home but we can't guarantee his safety". Thaksin later changes his mind.

The games continue as the end draws near............

Monday, June 11, 2007

Open letter to my hero of censorship

Dear Sitthichai, head of Thailand's Ministry of Information Technology

I write to you today to offer my most sincere thanks to you and your esteemed team at the MICT and my huge gratitude for your services to my family and the entire nation.

I saw in yesterday's Nation newspaper that some sad, misguided young people actually held a demonstration at your office concerning the nature of your work. These people are clearly uneducated and ungrateful of your selfless deeds for Thailand.

After all, when you took over the post of MICT chief a couple of years ago, you did so for the good of all people. OK , so you weren't actually chosen by the people, you were chosen by the men who took power with tanks and guns, but hey, you knew that you could do the job right? Popular democracy is over rated anyway.

See, that's the problem with people nowadays, they aren't very good at making decisions for themselves, they are just so damn busy trying to get by on minimum wages (Thank goodness you earn at least a thousand times more than that, you need to eat to keep up your good work!) and they sometimes really don't know what's for the best. People like that need a little guidance in their thoughts and moral decisiveness.

And that's where you come in. As soon as your were appointed you followed in the work of your predecessor and very clearly laid out your policy: you would censor sites that were either not suitable for the family, insulting to Thailand or "a threat to national security".

Now as a family man myself, your first target means a lot to me. I'm truly grateful that you have taken the burden from me - a responsible father - and decided on my behalf what it is that my son (and therefore his father too) is allowed to see on the internet.

That's something these ungrateful protesters can't comprehend - can't they see that you and your team of five unelected colleagues are that selfless that you have taken away the pressure and pain of personal choice from every parent in Thailand and placed it onto your own shoulders?

And are they truly that short sighted that they don't fathom all the time they would have spent communicating with their siblings, they can now spend watching soap operas on any of the five TV channels? (Each and every one owned by your buddies in the army and therefore also the government)

You replace inconveniences like freedom of speech and thought with the blessing of censorship and your chosen form of (non) reality and how do we thank you? With protests!!! You bestow upon us this gift of wholesome moral purity from above and how do we respond? With complaints!!!! I feel so ashamed.

Those others just don't follow your master plan. Only the strongest minds can encompass your ideals to wash the minds of Thai people by letting them know that there are NO true criticisms of Thailand or the junta! There are NO Thai people who take pictures of themselves naked! These things only exist in foreign countries! That's why all foreign criticisms are hypocritical! You said so yourself. Your verisimilitude is humbling to lesser mortals such as me.

Those common people clearly don't appreciate your work rate either. Web statistics say you gentlemen now block over seventeen thousand web sites and that number increases by ninety a month. Now that's at least three new sites a day. You sure must spend a lot of time examining these sites and deciding if they should be banned. I wager you donate countless hours of your time meticulously examining graphical images. After all, you said yourself that pornography accounts for many of the sites you expurgate from view.

It must be so strenuous for your nearly all male team to spend so much perusing sickening sites with naked women, all in the name of national interest. I bet you have to take a lot of bathroom breaks just to muster the will to carry on. I'm certain none of those anti - MICT parasites stopped to mull over your ordeal before they proceeded on their silly protest motion.

But my admiration doesn't stop there. Not only am I in awe of your actions, I am subjugated by your words. Each time you speak, my mind is filled by bewilderment at your thoughts and difference. Just two months ago you explained that your ministry was now only blocking about "sixteen sites" and you were "more democratic than the previous administration even though we are unelected".

Sir, I sat down and I thought, and thought and thought. Yet try as I might, my tiny cerebellum could not muster an answer to such a simple question: If you are blocking more websites than the last MICT - which you are - then how could you be more democratic? I strained to apprehend your deeper meaning, but I couldn't. Just as I was beginning to forgive my own insolence, another question hit me : If you are blocking only ninety sites a month, why has the number of blocked sites increased by about ten thousand since May 2006?

I simply can't answer these questions, but that's why I'm not in your place. I am a fool, a fool who is fortunate to have you here to police my thoughts. After all, who am I to question the MICT? I'm so stupid, I still enjoy web surfing.

You meanwhile, have better things to do. You told The Nation that you feel the internet "Is not an exciting tool" and you only "check e-mails" and nothing more. It's only right that someone with such high ideals that they have no interest in the web should be responsible for monitoring and making decision for fifty million plus people who love to use it.

But those fifty million people need safety. We all need to feel safe and no respectable group working for the country would think any other way. That's why your heroic squad have taken the time to block any sites which "threaten national security". I must confess I wasn't exactly sure what this phrase meant, but luckily the papers were generous enough to report on MICT activities so I managed to learn a little. The MICT defines a "threat to national security" as a university web forum, a blog , a web site for parties that try to take power via free elections , people's groups , authors and of course Google Youtube!

It's yet another example of the difference in our greatness. There I was, with my public school education, thinking that 'threats to national security' meant agenda such as North Korea, nuclear armaments and global warming. And yet all this time the real danger to the mighty military government was a bunch of bespectacled university geeks, a writer with a pen and a few computer nerd bloggers! In other words, anyone so damn petty they had the nerve to complain that you guys took power by force and not through elections! (Honestly, some people just look for things to complain about don't they?)

Forgive my mistake and please be assured it will never happen again, I now understand that a full list of "threats to national security" should be declared at your discretion only. Wretches such as I will only waste it.

Speaking of waste, I saw your comments at a computer exhibition recently where you stated that "Foreign technology simply takes money away from Thais. To be truly proud, we should build computers ourselves".

I was shocked to hear this. So shocked in fact I threw out every foreign object in my house. My TV (Taiwanese) , my PS2 (Japanese) , my fridge (Korean) , my car (bloody Japs again!) , all the fruit in my fridge (except the pineapples, they grow here right?) , my cell phone (Where the hell are Nokia from anyway?) and pretty much everything else in the house except the noodles! Hell, once I'm done typing this I'll throw my laptop away! If it ain't built in Thailand we should be ashamed to use it! Thank god your logic is here to help your countrymen progress.

I know you are a busy man Mr Sittichai - there's always some evil web site showing naked Thai women that you need to carefully examine to save your country - but I want to ask you one humble favour.

You see, I'm English and my wife is Thai Chinese (you know, that mixed race bunch that control most of the rich business sector) and we have a child.

Henceforth, my son is half English. Have you been to England? That's a big Thai community out there, maybe you remember a sizeable group of them protesting outside the Thai embassy about you guys after the coup?

I know we're good friends and all. We gave you David Beckham and Harry Potter and you gave us some of the greatest food and holiday spots in the world. We live and play together in good and positive spirit. But still some things are just different.

England has some crazy ideas. For one, there's little censorship because the government actually believes people should think for themselves. They cite some nonsense statistics showing that critical thinking is mutual to academic development and progress and, consequently, a nation's well being. Governments are so weak that they actually get punished for corruption and the people are so stubborn and cynical, they don't accept blatant lies from those in power. The army is so backwards it believes all the same nonsense about national security as I did (You remember, right? terrorists, bombs and missiles and stuff) and stays out of politics.

In short, English people don't like being told what the fuck they can and can't do or think. They are so primitive, I'm absolutely certain if you guys tried to do in England what you did here, every English citizen would go outside, find a soldier and shove his gun so far up his backside he'd be spitting bullets for a year. That's just the way we are.

And that's my fear. My son is both English and Thai. He has both passports, both citizenships, both languages and both mindsets. He's not alone of course. So many inter marriages these days means we have a whole little platoon of these hybrids!

Now think about that fact for a minute, isn't that scary? These kids are all Thai, they love Thailand and its people, but they also have that cynical western streak that says "Who are you to tell me what to think?!".

And that brings me to my dream, or should I say my nightmare? See, I have this vision that my son will grow up to love Thailand but will learn something from me about politicians , oppressors, liars, crooks and cheats. I harbour this deep fear that he'll become educated in a free thinking, critical culture and then return to Thailand to begin his twisted ideas of democracy, progress, freedom of speech and liberty. And what then would become of our saviours? Our mental mentors and our thought control specialists like you?

What if they held you all responsible for what you've done? What if my son was one of those who stood up and marched against you guys - regardless of how hard you oppressed their right to vote and how much blood you shed like you did in 1992 ?

What if he was one of those who told you to stick your bullshit,pusillanimous, hypocritical, dishonest , pedantic , oppressive, cowardly, undemocratic , patronising , fake , duplicitous, self important , discriminatory , outmoded , medieval , dictatorial, totalitarian , arrogant , smug , deceitful , insulting , libellous censorship up your fat, ugly, middle aged arses?

What would become of the nation's personal saviours then? We'd be lost in a sea of young, modern - thinking Thais and half Thais working in a progressive political environment. And if I do my job as badly as I fear, my son would be so dumb he would even resist awarding himself all the dubious perks and directorships that you guys did! He'd be content to put that money towards those working class peasants who caused you all these headaches in the first place!!!!!

So I feel I must ask you - please keep up the censorship. I fear what might happen otherwise, or heaven forbid............ maybe it will happen regardless?

So for one last time Mr Sittichair of MICT, ignore those whining ungrateful morons on the streets. You have done a great job by selflessly taking the burden of logic, decision and critical thinking away from over fifty million people.

From one Buddhist to another - may you get everything you deserve for your actions.

Yours sincerely,

A lesser mind

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Top brass and low logic

An article citing a previous topic from my blog - top brass and their reliance on ancient forms of nonsense.
Credit to Bangkok Post 9/6/07 for this one:

Democrat party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday warned key members of the Council for National Security (CNS) not to base any of their political decisions on superstitious beliefs. Mr Abhisit said people could not be expected to accept key decisions made by the ruling military council if they were based on such irrationality.

This is the best plus for Abhisit I've ever seen. Even billionaire Thaksin was known to make use of fortune tellers and Shaman.

His comments were in response to reports that CNS chairman Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin and other members of the military were heading to Chiang Mai today to consult renowned fortune teller Varin Buaviratlert. They reportedly want the fortune teller to perform magical rites to change the country's destiny following rising political tensions.

However Gen Sonthi denied the rumour, saying he was only meeting with the fortune teller for a meal.

Yes well Sondhi seems very inclined to have "meals" with people who profess to see the future. He did the same thing just a couple of times before and after the coup. Yes my friends, who needs policies, political knowledge and military know how when you can see it all from the pseudo science of astrology!?

The reports coincided with rumours that Khunying Potjaman Shinawatra, wife of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, also plans to visit the same fortune teller today at his house in the Sukhito housing estate.

And indeed she did. The most powerful people in politics are basing their futures on a quack science that doesn't work, has never ever provided any useful or accurate information and has failed numerous scientific tests because it is not real.

A reliable source close to Mr Varin said today was a special Saturday with certain stars gaining strength, making it appropriate for a rite to avert bad luck.

Mr Abhisit said he did not know if the reports were true or not, but stressed that the coup makers should base their decisions on logic, not superstition.

It is normal for people in a confused state to turn to something or someone they can rely on, Mr Abhisit said. But to solve problems that affect the majority, all sides should use their brains and consciousness to find solutions, the Democrat leader added.

Such simple comments separate relatively young Abhisit from the old ginger, and this is to his immense credit.

Commenting on reports of a possible change of prime minister, Mr Abhisit said there must be sound reasons for such a move. Decisions made by those in power must be explainable, he said. If any were driven by superstitious beliefs, no one would accept them, he warned.

Unfortunately I disagree. A lot of uneducated people are superstitious and would accept this move, this is part of my adopted home's problems.

A source said Khunying Potjaman, one of Mr Varin's regular clients, arrived at Chiang Mai airport at 11.30am yesterday. She briefly visited her Green Valley residence before heading for Doi Suthep to pay homage to Buddha relics at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. She is reportedly scheduled to visit him at his house today.

I assume this is not the same fortunate teller who failed to foresee the coup that overthrew her husband?

However, a close aide to Mr Varin denied that the military men of the CNS wanted him to perform a sueb duang chata (life prolonging) ceremony for them. The CNS leaders simply wanted to visit the fortune teller, the aide said.

Could it be the CNS are feeling guilty? Whatever for?

Mr Varin gained Gen Sonthi's trust and became his personal seer after he correctly foretold Gen Sonthi's appointment as army chief. The fortune teller also previously correctly foretold that Gen Chaisit Shinawatra and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Gen Sonthi's predecessors, would clinch the top army job.

The oldest trick of the frauds. Make a thousand predictions, trumpet the one that comes true and people will forget the 999 failures.
So does this mean those who correctly foretold that Thaksin would be overthrown are also "gifted"? That's a lot of gifted people!

Before the Sept 19 coup, he also predicted that Gen Sonthi would lead a coup, citing that the army chief, in a previous life, had been a close aide of the late King Taksin the Great. He also predicted that Gen Sonthi would become prime minister. No comment.

Mr Varin formerly served as a rural teacher in government service, a source said. After leaving his teaching job, he reportedly met a hermit while travelling through the jungles in Chiang Mai's Chiang Dao district.

The hermit told him he possessed a 3,000-year old hermit's spirit, which gave him the powers of prediction.

Did it also include one ring to rule them all?

He then took up fortune-telling, his clients being mainly businessmen and military officers.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

They think it's all over, is it now?

“Thai Rak Thai have damaged society. They acted not for the people but for power
Court judge.

Politics, like football, is all about opinions. No opinions = no politics, the equation is simple. The pitfall of this of course is that strong opinions drag us into the quicksand of human nature in denying and ignoring facts and arguments that simply don’t fit our belief system. It’s a well observed fact that far right wing politics and politicians often have an underlying element of fear in many of their policies. Such fear - whether well founded or not - frequently leads to rejection and denial of truths.

So we all know it’s rare to find a balanced judgment on hot political issues of the moment, and when discussing the finale to the dissolution trial of Thai Rak Thai and The Democrats, it’s even harder. The Nation will undoubtedly trumpet TRT’s downfall and its subsequent hammer blow to Thaksin. Bangkok Pundit will diligently document the facts and frequently look to the hypocrisy of the junta, and rightly so. Thailand Jumped the Shark will scan the faults in The Nation's reporting and numerous Thai political groups (not parties) will simply cry foul over TRT being punished.

How you see justice and truth depends on where you are standing. Touching it requires one to walk through a minefield of hearsay, polemicism, and outright falsification. For that alone, the Constitutional Court should be commended. The verdicts were due at 3am, the final decision was announced shortly before midnight. The nine hours in between involved a marathon outline and verdict read in installments by the judges. It’s to the immense credit of the judges that for all objections and foul cries after the verdict, few have pointed to discrepancies or choice interpretations of the law. The judges took each point and accusation and discussed it in detail. It was far too technical for a farang like me to follow the language (BangkokPundit played a good role here), but I’ve yet to meet or read from a Thai who had a problem with the verdict.

The Democrats have been exonerated. The courts examined the complaints - including suggestions that they “framed” Thaksin or damaged democracy by encouraging a “no vote” campaign - and dismissed them as well within the boundaries of free speech. Accusations suggesting Democrats hired small parties to defame TRT were also dismissed.

Around the same time as this verdict, it was also announced that three minor parties would be dissolved for having forged documents (in the case of the Progressive Democrat Party) or engaging in other dishonest practices, such as in the case of Pattana Chart Thai (not to be confused with Chart Thai).

The TRT verdict then began. It seemed like the verdict would never end. I watched Channel Three - with its English summaries running at the bottom of the screen, but I couldn’t stay awake. I awoke the next day to the news that TRT had been dissolved.The party that seemed like an unstoppable political juggernaut just a few years ago had met its fate.

And what’s more, the court enforced a rule that party executives are banned from politics for five years. Whilst many expected trouble at this verdict, the response was relatively well maintained. Few incidents occurred.

Now allow me to put my neck out and say something really unfashionable: justice has been served - legally and poetically. Firstly, the evidence against TRT was damming. The evidence against The Democrats was cooked up in a pathetic response to balance the charges and allow both parties to be let off. Judges spent weeks sifting through files, documents , witness reports and argumentation to actually detect and deliberate raw facts. When this happened, TRT was doomed.

Poetically, the response from each party in the fiasco speaks volumes. Three days before the trial verdict, Chaturon Chaisang - caretaker leader of TRT - announced there would be a protest on Thursday , with his close allies at PTV using “students as security guards”. The day before the verdict he announcedIf the party is dissolved, we will register again under the same party name”. No hint of remorse, not a whisper of care or concern for the country and its problems. The closest to the latter was a remark “We will continue to propagate the populist policies made by Mr. Thaksin” in a desperate attempt to continue selling under the name of the banned Mr. Thaksin. After the verdict? Chaturon saidThis ruling came from those who took power, even though that power came from the barrel of a gun”. Err….sorry Chaturon, the ruling actually came from judges, not the junta. Sure they might have been lobbied but they actually obeyed the law, unlike the same court when they cleared your founder Thaksin of asset concealment charges where one judge later admitted he regretted ignoring the law and clearing Thaksin.

Whether such arrogance and lack of remorse goes over the head of the rural masses that follow TRT or if they don’t hear it, I have no idea. Likewise, the fact that the courts abided by the rule of law and gave a legal, clear and concise verdict has not been mentioned by anyone at TRT. Their response has been akin to a spoilt child who refuses to accept his punishment, more on that in a moment.

For The Democrats, the story was different. Abhisit promised before the veridct to “continue working for the Democrats as long as I can still breathe, even if they cease to exist as a political party”. And “I believe we will be cleared because we are innocent” After the verdict, Abhisit declared simply “Let’s turn our victory into Thailand’s victory”.

Nobody is foolish enough to think of Abhisit or The Democrats as angelic, and indeed they made many mistakes during their own reign, but the sheer fact they are at least trying to show they care went a long way with me.

But this is politics, and there’s always fallout. So after the verdict , what do you think happened? A show of repentance? A plan amongst politicians to take note of the law in future? Nope, no fairy tales here people. The ban on TRT politicians created a huge scramble for the power (and money) void left behind with immediate announcements for a “TRT group” with suggested leaders including the well known incompetent, allegedly corrupt, undoubtedly hidiously fat and sickeningly arrogant Chavalit Yongchaiyudh (Wikipedia have spared you the horror of a photo) amongst other equally desirable names.

The fact that such people belonged to different parties - with supposedly different ideals - and displayed impotence and highly questionable behavior even in their better years matters not. The policy of money is all that matters for such ‘old ginger’ politicians.

For that reason alone, I hope The Democrats win the next election. The jury is still out (no pun intended) on Abhisit, but he is at least a new breed of politician. Western educated, young, no military connections and actually fluent in things such as policies that extend beyond “directorships for me” (To be fair, Thaksin also had most of these qualities) and a clean record and lack of arrogance.

The alternative is that this brave step for the better taken by the constitutional court, simply opens the door for Dark Age rulers to return once again.