Wednesday, October 31, 2007

ASC seek to arrest Thaksin's daughter

The Bankok Post reports:

( - The Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC) handed documents to file criminal charges against Pinthongta Shinawatra, daughter of ousted premier Thaksin, with police at Bang Sue station for her refusal to testify about the Shin Corp share case after being allowed to postpone the process three times.

ASC official, Monthien Charoenpol, handed documents to related authorities which the committee hopes will allow police to issue an arrest warrant for her.

Ms Pinthonta recently attended a meeting with ASC's sub-panel investigating the Shin Corp share deal with Singapore's Temasek but refused to testify, claiming that she could inadvertently jeopardize her parents' defense case.

She had asked the ASC three times to postpone her testimony before she submitted a written letter refusing to give a statement to the ASC.

Police will deliberate the ASC's documents and are expected to decide next steps to be taken by the end of November.

Ms Pinthonta faces a 6-month jail sentence and/or a 10,000 baht fine if found guilty.

Now, the usual defences for Pinthongta will be trotted out: ASC are persecuting Thaksin's family, etc. The fact is, Pinthongta - like the rest of her family - has come up with an endless list of tenuous excuses for delaying her testimony before the ASC. If she had nothing to hide, the testimony would be a breeze.

Now she has run out of excuses and is simply refusing to be held accountable. One wonders, will she stay in Thailand now? Will she be allowed to leave? If Pinthongta is arrested, will it tempt dad back to Thailand?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The sort of people involved in Thai politics

A short while I go I mentioned the news that Chalerm Yoobamrung was threatening to leave the PPP if they did not allow his sons to run for election.

The significance of the names involved escaped me at the time, but Bangkokpundit has refreshed my memory. Chalerm's sons are well known and one of them is almost legendary (I want to use another word but it may get me in trouble) for being acquitted of shooting a policeman outside a night club.

For anyone who wants a straight forward, real look at the sort of people and mentality involved in Thai politics, read Pundit's article right now. There is no opinion involved, there is none needed. The facts speak for themselves.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Meet Real Life Thailand

Mars Hill (aka Paul Burgin) is a member of the Christian Socialist movement and a fellow political blogger. He runs a simple but fun "Twenty questions for a fellow blogger" section in his blog. I persuaded Paul to hit me with the questions. The original is on Paul's blog here.

What made you decide to start blogging?

I became very interested in the blog of a friend in Korea,and he inspired me to do my own. At first it was mostly about ex-pat life in Thailand, but politics just kept creeping in until eventually I stopped resisting!

What is your best blogging experience?

Having a blog published and plugged on the front page by a broadsheet newspaper out here.It was about Thaksin Shiniwat's purchase of Manchester City.

And your worst?

Being threatened with legal action over a certain piece. I had written something everybody knew was true but it was a faux pas to say it publicly.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?
I wrote an excoriating piece on the Thai junta's decision to ban youtube which got quite a bit of praise.

Favourite blogs?

On the Thai side, 'Bangkok Pundit' is very prolific, highly informative and very well researched. I don't always agree with his politics but he is a great blogger. On the home front, I like 'Pub Philosopher' and 'Letters from a Tory' as we have common political views. I'm also a fan of Neil Harding's blog and 'Mars Hill' because both of you welcome criticism and debate. To me that shows strength of character.

Which do you find more exciting. Thai or British politics?

Thai politics by far. The political system is far less mature out here, so politics is a nonstop soap opera of back stabbing, corruption, scandals and surprises. It's great entertainment but sadly it does not benefit society.

How do you see things developing in Burma, seeing as you have blogged several times on this issue?

Being so close to the action has reminded me how we should be grateful for the freedom we take for granted. The international media has dropped off but arrests and human rights abuses are still ongoing. Revolution will come, but the people are facing overwhelming odds. It will take time.

How did you end up living in Thailand?

I travelled SE Asia about five years ago and Thailand won me over for many reasons.

Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?

Yes, I'd like to visit Mexico and maybe somewhere in southern Africa.

Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?
Hong Kong. The place is so vibrant and built up yet so safe. I'd also like to go back to Vietnam again to see how it has changed in five years.

Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

I've got several I admire. Perhaps my favourite would be a man called Pridi Phanomyong . He led a left wing group that overthrew the absolute monarchy in Thailand and introduced several progressive state systems.

Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?
It may sound cheesy but it might just be Aung San Suu Kyi. She was bought up to place her moral values over everything else.

Favourite Bond movie?
I only ever saw "The Man with The Golden Gun"!

Favorite Doctor Who?
Sylvester McCoy is the only Doctor I watched more than once. The others were before my time and the later ones just rubbish.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

I'm a vanilla guy.

Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?

I've seen the modern incarnation of Guns N Roses but I'd like to see the original line up. I just missed out on Nirvana, too.

In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford , Cambridge , or Barsby, Leics..?

Oxford. Charming place.

Favourite national newspaper?

Telegraph. I'm all about the broadsheets these days.

What would you say your hobbies were?

I'm a big reader and I get through books quickly. Until recently I was into drumming and martial arts, now I spend more time writing and playing with my two year old son. I'm a Southampton FC fan too.

And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?

These change by the week but right now I'd say:Songs:"Bulls on Parade" by Rage Against The Machine"Laura Palmer's Theme" by Angelo Badalamenti"Pure Morning" by PlaceboBooks: "The Prince" by Machiavelli"Natural Cures 'They' Don't Want You to Know About" by Kevin Trudeau and maybe "The Art of Fighting Without Fighting" by Geoff Thompson

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What did those documents say????

Courtesy of BangkokPundit, here is a translation of the allegedly leaked documents from the Thai junta concerning the “plot to undermine the PPP (People Power Party) linked with Thai Rak Thai and Thaksin Shiniwat".

The original version is here. This translation comes from The Nation via some editing of the translation by Bangkok Pundit (because he can read Thai far better than me):

To create greater harmony in the nation, by the following:1. to create and
promote harmony amongst the public so they have the same objective2. make the
Thai people aware of punishment for those who are divisive

The plan for information dissemination has two major goals - foster national unity and discredit the opposition forces against the junta and the interim government.On the discredit of the opposition forces, the junta plans to achieve five targets:

1. Prevent the middle class from leaning toward the opposition.

2. Expose the flaws of populist policies to grassroots people.

3. Deter and discourage grassroots people from rallying in Bangkok.

4. Circumvent opposition activities.

5. Deter civil servants from supporting the opposition.

For information dissemination between September and the general election, the junta will strive for the following five objectives:

1. Inform the middle class about the facts relating to various political parties
and their activities.

2. Point out the similarities between policies of disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party and those of People Power Party.

3. Encourage grassroots people to see the harms if ousted politicians were to return to power.

4. Warn about the repeat of corruption and illegitimacy should the People Power
Party were to grab power.

5. Build up the public sentiment to oppose the return of the ousted leaders via the People Power Party.In discrediting the People Power Party, the junta has assigned all military units under its jurisdiction and military controlled media outlets, including Channel 5.

In reality of course, I am not so prescient. This scandal as predictable as England’s European Championship qualifying screw up in Russia.

The great question is: are the documents genuine? Unsurprisingly, in addition to Sonthi’s initial scourge, the junta played the “These documents could be faked by soldiers who wanted to fool [PPP leader] Samak for money” card. Unsurprisingly, the junta did not offer to investigate which soldiers committed fraud. Bangkok Pundit also points out one document was actually addressed to Sonthi, which amkes his denial claim even more bizzare.

However, with Surayud’s pledge to investigate, the old general must be reasonably sure they are genuine. So what action will be taken?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Five minutes later.....

Prescient old me. Almost the minute after I finished discussing my prediction, we learned that Samak Sundaravej claimed (link may expire and citebite is down!) to have documents leaked from the junta with "massive plans to undermine the party".

How would the junta do that? What would they do? What did the documents say? We don't know. This kind of mind game is common. The player with the documents does not want to reveal them because of course, everybody in politics has mud on everyone else and they don't want it to be revealed. But the document holder will tease the alleged offender, who then has to call his bluff. What usually results is a rather pathetic game of claim and counterclaim, innuendos about the alleged offenders such as nicknames or ultra vague descriptions.

Still, it was notable that the army's response was muted and defensive. Sonthi made an outright denial though.

That was yesterday, today PM Surayud admitted he had the documents and they were leaked from the junta, but did his best to water down the ferocity of the alleged plot as described by Samak. And Sonthi backtracked claiming "I didn't have the chance to see the documents".

Strange how Sonthi has time to organise the election and do the ECC's job for them but he does not have an hour free to visit his boss and the PM he hand picked to examine some serious allegations of plotting to control the election.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A prediction for the Thai election

I am making a prediction here and now. It may fail. It may fall flat on its face and bloggers aplenty can come back to mock me. But I believe there is a strong chance it can happen.

Let me give some brief preamble. The next general election in Thailand is set for December 23rd. It is of course, the date when we will supposedly see General Sonthi and his junta return power back to the people. Some pundits believe the army will be reluctant to truly do this for two main reasons. Firstly, they want to keep control to ensure they receive "benefits", secondly they fear clansmen of Thaksin Shiniwat could return to power (despite the best efforts to ban them) and render the coup futile.

And I notice that in the run up to the election, Sonthi has been making frequent references to vote buying. Vote buying is a crime all parties are linked with, but especially TRT and Thaksin since they are associated with the poorer demographic of Thailand. ( And also because, well, it's true! TRT engaged in large scale vote buying in various forms).

It seems strange Sonthi should so suddenly and vocally care about a clean election. It seems strange that the one form of fraud he should speak out against is the one most associated with Thaksin and his ilk. It seems strange that his quotes are timed this way, just like his quotes on Singapore spying just before the army requested a few extra billion for a satellite. It seems strange that he so suuddenly wants to set up a vote fraud panel with .....guess who? the head. (Yet again Sonthi is telling the ECC that he will do their job for them, does this mean the ECC panel's salaries will not be charged to the taxpayer?)

My prediction is this: If the PPP (People Power Party, the group closely associated with Thaksin and TRT) win "too many" seats at the election and give themselves a large stake in the inevitable coalition government, Sonthi will move to stop them.

He will do this by either a) Claming some regional seats as invalid due to vote buying b) Declaring the election invalid and ordering a re-election. (Drastic? Yes. More drastic than a coup? No) c) Ordering a Gore Vs Bush style re-count in certain provinces, under allegations of vote buying.

I believe the junta are desperate to ensure that Abhisit and the Democrats take control, as the junta see them as soft and easy to control. I believe the sudden unctuous cries to beware vote fraud are really a pretext for taking control of the electorate. This way, Sonthi can claim he is not shafting any party (as has already been predicted and denied) but is simply playing fair.

Don't get me wrong, everyone knows I hate vote fraud, but I doubt the sincerity our rulers are expressing here.

So there is my prediction, come back to mock me after December 23rd.

National security: be grateful and don't ask questions.

"Keep people scared and they will consume"
Marilyn Manson

Thailand is big on national security. It has been the foundation of pretty much every coup in its history, military raids within its own borders, and of course, humongous spending on the nation's military expansion.

After the coup, the junta cut public health spending by 23% and increased military spending by 30%. This was, of course, to increase "national security" . During a verbal handbag bashing contest with Singapore, General Sonthi suddenly announced that telephone calls in Thailand were being traced to Singapore, without adducing. Just days later, a multi million bhat satellite project was announced to "increase national security".

It seemed that national security and big spending by the military were synonymous. Yet strangely enough, Thailand has had no real military conflicts to speak of since its involvement in the Vietnam War, were they choose the losing side. The only other conflicts have been scuffles with the now defunct Communist Party of Thailand. The term "Communist" is still occasionally thrown around to create fear.

Of course, it's comforting to know we have the military around to take care of our health. You only have to look at how hard these guys work to see how great they are, after all, many of the top brass are self appointed directors of state companies!!!! They actually give themselves extra work? How noble is that?! I'm so impressed, I say they deserve those extra millions they get paid for moonlighting. I'm sure their rifle shooting skills are essential and well utilised in the taxpayer funded TV and telecommunications industries.

And they help fight crime too. Last week, the army - not the police - raided a drugs production factory. The army proudly disabled their capture of the ill gotten gains - 30 million bhat in total - to the public. The next day, an informant explained that actually the bounty should have been seventy million bhat, all stuffed in pipes. He should know, he was a paid informant after all. So what happened to the missing 40 mil?

"The informant made a mistake, he thought all the pipes were the same length but some were smaller, so there was only 30 million not 70 million" said an army spokesmen (perhaps as he drove away in a nice new sports car?). Well I'm convinced, and I bet the police who were told not to do their job because the army suddenly decided they wanted to do this one, were convinced, too.

Anyway, to show just how ungrateful some people are towards those who defend our nation and all the various security threats it faces, I give you Fonzi. Fonzi has pointed out that with the purchase of twelve Swish made Gripen jets. Fonzi works out the cost of one jet at 90 million US dollars for Thailand, whereas wikipedia makes the true cost about 45 million. Thailand's military are so generous they are paying double the cost of each plane!!! And people knock these guys!!!

It doesn't stop there either. The army planned to buy 96 APC from that well known pioneering nation of ultra modern warfare vehicles, the Ukraine when some annoying OAG official had to step in and point out the vehicles were sub standard and that the Ukraine company was not even in the original list of ten bidders for the contract. Some people are just so intrusive. Just think how bad they'll feel if all those Communists come out of the jungle tomorrow.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Drugs in Thailand

Note: This article is by far and away the most popular article on my blog. For everyone who came here by doing a google on "drugs in Thailand", please read carefully about the number of arrests, the penalties and the "war on drugs" in Thailand.

It must be easy to do drugs in Thailand. I mean, you've got all those full moon parties, backpackers and great night life. The police seem to be pretty easy going. I beat the weed is cheap too. It must be no problem, right?

Think again. No wait, go and read "The Damage Done" by Warren Fellows. Then think again.

Drug suppression and law enforcement
Thailand carries the death penalty for drug trafficking.
Many social structures in Thailand share some resemblance to their British counterparts. This not just coincidence. Thailand has a long history of scholarly links to England, in the past many members of Thai royalty have received their schooling within British shores.

One area of similarity is law, especially policy on drug suppression and jurisprudence. Yet the enforcement and penalties used by the two nations tell a different tale.

The most obvious difference in drug laws is the death penalty. In Thailand, possession of category one drugs "for the purpose of disposal" carries the death penalty, although this has not been used since 2004. The Narcotics Act is vague about category one drugs, simply stating "dangerous drugs such as Heroin".

Rehabilitation counselling is also mandatory in Thailand for all categories of drugs, so even a weed smoker would have to attend a course.

In the UK, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. This is usually reserved for those who carry "class A" drugs with intent to supply. The Home Office is clearer about what drugs are class A: Ecstasy, LSD, heroin, cocaine, crack, magic mushrooms, amphetamines (if prepared for injection). Amphetamines have just been upgraded from class B to class A . I'd be grateful to anyone who can tell me what this drug is graded as in Thailand?

Thailand uses its regular police to fight narcotics traffickers but it has a special office - The Office of Narcotics Control Board - to do so. It also has a money laundering agency (AMLO). To my knowledge the UK has no dedicated office with the exception of Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency. (The UK utilises the Home Office for most of its anti money laundering measures)

Thailand's Narcotics Act specifies that a "competent official" ( defined as "any official appointed by the minister for execution of the act", so therefore all police officers I guess) has the right to question, detain, search the premises , search the person, and seize any drugs or any "properties used to commit an offence" when dealing with a drugs suspect. The law also stipulates the officer must act in "good faith", give his reasons for suspicion and record the event.

The UK law is remarkably similar. The 2005 Drugs Act gives police power to question, search and detain suspected drug dealers, though the PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence) act is clearer about the duties and responsibilities of the officer and also the conditions of the detention area.

Enforcement in practice

On the surface the legal framework seems nearly identical, however in practice, things are different. Firstly, Thailand's police have faced long and frequent accusations of abuse of power. A foreign teacher was recently arrested and sent to prison for possession of cannabis. He was smoking in his own apartment and was set up by a former girlfriend in a sting operation. He was later told that the cannabis seized from him by police had a ninety five percent chance of being re-sold by the police. I stress this is what I was told, I am not suggesting it is true.

Secondly, due to its proximity to the Golden Triangle and to ethnic resistance groups that supply drugs for weapon funds, Thailand has a greater volume of drug trafficking around its shores. The availability of drugs may be greater, but the frequency of raids and swift punishments is also greater.

Accountability: Don't expect the Thai police to go easy on you
Thailand has no Police Complaints Commission or anything similar to the UK version. There have been frequent calls for more control or accountability of the police and attempts at reform have been frequent. However, these efforts have always been heavily resisted. Three scholars at Thailand's top university once published a popular analysis of Thailand's illegal economy and stated "The police are unlikely to suppress activities with which they are heavily involved" (Phongpaichit, Piriyarangsan, Treerat, 1998)

How many people get busted?

It's hard to make a statistical comparison of drugs related arrests in Thailand and the UK. The best I can tell you is that in Thailand, the number of drugs related arrests was 215,209 in 2002 , 102407 in 2003 and 58,853 in 2004.

The most up to date figures I can acquire for the UK put the figure at 134,101 for 1999 and 124,345 for 2000.

No doubt the figure for 2002 and the sudden drop in 2003 and 2004 in Thailand jumped out at you. There is a reason for this: War on Drugs.

Thailand's war on drugs

In 2003 then PM Thaksin Shiniwat instigated the war on drugs. Thaksin claimed to be doing this in response to a speech from His Majesty The King who called for a solution to the methamphetimine problem that had been plaguing Thailand.

Thaksin cut a fantastic speech announcing the campaign as he explained clearly and forcefully that whoever was dealing with drugs, wherever they were, they must be dealt with. He repeatedly explained that funds and resources would be available to eradicate drugs in all districts. The speech was inspiring.

Then the hell began. Over the next three months , two thousand people died. Concerns about the police force were already widespread, now that same force was told to produce results or face the consequences. Suddenly, hundreds of alleged small time drugs dealers were shot dead, each time with a small packet of amphetamine found on their person. The police almost unerringly announced it was "silence killings" meaning one dealer shooting another dealer to prevent grassing.

The scariest thing about the war on drugs was the strength and vitriol behind some of the public speeches concerning the war on drugs and its heavy death toll.

It's difficult for me to write too much about this. See here for more.

So the message is, if you think Thailand is an easy place to get high, think again. The drug laws are strict, the penalities stricter and the enforcement agencies do not make allowances for foreigners.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Who said UK politics is less fun than Thailand's?

It would have been better if they didn't use American accents though.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Who will be the next prime minister of Thailand?

(Left to right: Abhisit Vejajiva, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh , Samak Sundaravej)

For those who have only experienced elections in a western country, it's important to appreciate that Thai elections and political parties are not the same.

On the surface, Thai elections may seem similar to their British counterparts. Indeed the system was modelled on the UK version, the only differences are that Thailand's upper house is a senate and the kingdom uses a mix of 'first past the post' voting (about 80%) and proportional representation(the other 20%)

Since the absolute monarchy was overthrown by Pridi and his group in 1932, Thai government has been run by either a junta or a coalition government. Coalition governments may seem like a good idea but they are not. In Thailand at least, coalition governments equate to corporate businessmen looking to engage in power plays, favours and corruption. Party policies are thin on the ground and keep promises even rarer. Party campaigns are done by patronage and advertising, promotion by policy or party vision simply does not happen.

At this point I should mention the only exception to this is Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai party. TRT actually made some polices and went through with them. They were also the only party (to my knowledge) that gained a full majority in the house (248 seats from 500, but they bought out another party just to be absolutely sure). Too bad they used that for bad rather than good.

So when TRT were dissolved by the Constitutional Court and their executives banned from politics, it didn't take long for many of the veteran rats to crawl back on the political ship as they sensed the power vacuum. New parties sprang up everywhere, the most notable being Pracharaj Party lead by former Thaksin ally Sanoh Thienteng (who jumps ship whenever his party is not in power) and former PM Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who apparently thinks that running Thailand into the ground during the Asian Financial Crises makes him an attractive proposition for re-election.*

But the biggest concern for this writer is the re-emergence of Thaksin's former TRT allies. The execs who were banned from politics have thrown their academic and considerable financial support behind the non executive members who in turn - after several games of political musical chairs - have merged into the People Power Party. (Don't be fooled, Thai parties use the cool and modern sounding names to hide their utter incompetence and lack of vision).

The PPP purposely chose the man as closely linked with Thaksin as possible his, name is Samak Sundaravej This man is basically Thaksin without the economic prowess or desire for health care. Samak is a former Bangkok governor and like Chavalit, he sees his record of being utterly ineffective as a good resume. His very first speech as party leader was a perfect summary of his - and his party's - mentality:

[To corruption investigators] "You smack me and I'll smack you back" (Bangkok Post)

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Thai politics.

The PPP have stormed the north east of Thailand, shamelessly promoting themselves on their Thaksin connections. The PPP rally this week was attended by 3,00 or 25,000 depending on which newspaper you read, and saw supporters holding signs saying "Vote Samak, get Thaksin". Meanwhile the PPP speakers spent their time outlining not policies, not visions for Thailand, not assurances of clean behaviour but a litany of how great Thaksin was and how he was being bullied by the junta. That was it folks, that was all PPP had to offer.

Already internal splits have begun. Today, PP member Chalerm Yoobamrung threatened to take his ball and go home if PPP did not allow his sons to run for election :

"If People Power does not select me and my two sons - Wan and Duang - as Bangkok candidates, I'll be ready to leave the party,The bottom line is that it must accept me and my sons as a package," Chalerm said.

Chalerm said if he left People Power he might join Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who has suggested he may establish a party. He will talk with Chavalit today.

Source: The Nation

And you thought politicians behaved like adults who cared about their voters.

There is a thorn in the PPP side however. Fromer Junta leader, now self nominated deputy PM, Sonthi Boonyarakin is on a mission to stop PPP. Under the guise of "stopping vote buying" the current government and election agencies are giving PPP a hard time. Their new party advert (surprise! It is simply a promise to bring back Thaksin's policies) was rejected by the Election Commission without reason. PPP howled in disdain, forgetting the days when TRT dominated TV advertising and the Democrats received less than ten percent of their air time allowance.

The others side of this equation is Abhisit Vejajaiva of the Democrats. Abhisit has handled himself well throughout the coup and the dissolution trial. As I've said before, he is a genuinely intelligent, progressive politician. However, he has constantly failed to show the leadership or passion that is required. Abhisit failed to offer genuine policies to counter TRT's populism, he failed to project himself as the ideal replacement for Thaksin after the coup and he has failed to win hearts or minds in the North East during this election run up.

Some has voiced concerns that Abhisit may be too soft to resist military interference in his government, a further concern Abhisit has never addressed. Thais see youth as a disadvantage in leadership and Abhisit has not offered any response to criticisms that he is too young to lead the nation.

Yet undoubtedly, Abhsiit is the best choice for Thailand. He is the only genuine new breed of politician available (the guy is not even fat and ugly for gooness sake!) and he has taken genuine steps to reduce corruption inside and outside his party. If he does not take this opportunity to steer the Democrats to a clear majority in the house, he will have only himself to blame and Thailand will suffer from another era of weak, greedy, incompetent coalition governments.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

News round up and Anne Coulter Vs Rage Against The Machine

Amongst the continuing and tragic genocide in Burma comes two noteworthy political articles this month:

First from the Bangkok Post.

Deputy Prime Minister Sonthi Boonyaratkalin flexed his muscles yesterday by ordering the Interior Ministry to mobilise its grassroots mechanisms to prevent politicians loyal to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra returning to politics after the election scheduled for Dec 23.

Notice Sonthi's title has changed from CNS leader to deputy PM. You see , he resigned the former post stating "My job is done" and took up the latter post the next day. That guy must cut one amazing job interview.

His announcement was interpreted by observers as an attempt by the ministry, under Gen Sonthi's supervision, to play a greater role in overseeing the poll to prevent Thaksin allies from winning.

''The Interior Ministry has a duty to bring about national reconciliation to prevent national crisis. If there are mistakes in this election, the [vicious] cycle will return,'' he told officials during a briefing at the ministry. Gen Sonthi, when he was the army chief, engineered the military coup that ousted Mr Thaksin from power on Sept 19 last year.

Sonthi's quote could easily be interpreted as "If people don't vote in the people I like, I'll just have to come back and do this all over again".

He said diverse groups with differing opinions had emerged in society and the ministry's administrative mechanisms at the grassroots levels such as tambon and village heads must take a leading role in educating people about the importance of national interests that must come before self-interest.

There is a big difference between "diverse groups with differing interests" and "national reconciliation". The two are by no means mutually exclusive. Sonthi is basically giving us the same message as the previous paragraph I wonder if the irony of the last sentence in this paragraph was lost on Sonthi.

''This will bring the public to their senses and help them decide who they should or should not vote for,'' Gen Sonthi said, adding that provincial governors must be in charge of the campaign to educate people in their provinces about the downside of vote-buying and to persuade them to vote for good people.

"This will bring the public to their senses"? In other words: "This will stop the stupid people who don't agree with me". And this from a man who reminds us at every opportunity what a patriot he is. The dangers of vote buying are agreed and noble, but what is the difference between vote buying and an unelected junta leader launching a campaign with tax payer's money to tell them who NOT to vote for?

He said although the Election Commission (EC) was in charge of organising the poll, it still needed the ministry's support to ensure it was free and fair.

Perhaps he just decided that he was on a roll, and should just disrespect as many people as possible, hip hop gangster style.

Given that the EC's job description is constitutionally defined as "ensuring a free and fair election" why would they need the ministry's support? Are they incompetent? If so, surely Sonthi and Surayud should be seeking replacements?

He added that the people's decision at the ballot box would be final and must be respected, no matter who came into power after the election.

Providing "the people come to their senses" so the "vicious cycle" does not repeat, presumably.

Our second point of interest comes from The Nation:

AEC sees three ways to bring charges
Deposed and exiled prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra can be tried in civil cases even if criminal hearings have to be suspended, graft-busters believe.

"But in civil suits, the court can proceed in absentia," a source with the Assets Examination Committee said yesterday.

The AEC has three major avenues to press charges against Thaksin in the many cases against him.

First he will be charged for holding shares and concessions while serving in office.

Second, Thaksin will also be taken to task for abusing his authority to provide favours to companies owned by his family.

Undoubtedly this is true, but we would surely need some more specifics such as particular laws and offences. The British government will not accept slack investigations.

Finally he will be held accountable for being unusually rich.

I repeat: this is certainly true but it is not evidence. From a British viewpoint, the AEC are working for an unelected government to bring back an elected leader. To even stand a chance of getting extradition, they need to be painfully fastidious in their evidence and investigations.

The AEC plans to wrap up the cases next month and lodge both criminal and civil suits against him. AEC spokesman Sak Korsaengruang said that although the statute of limitations on criminal charges against Thaksin expires in 20 years, the AEC has frozen Bt65 billion of the Shinawatra family's wealth gained from selling Shin Corp stock.

"Even though the owners of the money are not present, their money is," Sak said.

Good move. Money is what Thaksin cares about most.

AEC members were answering questions forwarded by 20 supporters from Kamphaeng Phet who offered them encouragement.

This worries me. "20 supporters"? The AEC - great as they are - are a legal team, not a pop group. They don't need to be "meeting ssupporters".

This is what we expect from corrupt politicians and their aides, and the implication is always that the "supporters" were paid to be there. We saw this when the former Election Commissioners faced jail. Their supporters were groups of northerners who spontaneously decided to turn up at court to cheer on the blatant and remorseless criminals and subsequently storm the court house to shout obscenities and tell the judges "You don't love the country".

I am not saying the AEC are sinking that low but they need to be careful.

AEC secretary Kaewsan Atibodhi said four public prosecutors had left for the United Kingdom to find legal venues to extradite Thaksin and they were confident it was possible to bring him back if their counterparts there cooperate.

This also worries me. Fonzi made a point that I want to disagree with but I can't. He suggests that the AEC members will simply spend some time in England, meet nobody, do nothing and come back claiming that the Brits won't extradite Thaksin. It will all be Britain's fault, the Junta are happy because Thaksin is away, Thaksin will be happy because he gets off free (minus some cash) and the taxpayer's money is wasted.

The AEC should put minds at rest by giving us some kind of schedule or at least a name of whom they will meet.

Lawyer Noppadon Pattama appeared before the AEC as a witness in the Shin Corp tax-evasion case. The AEC asked him to present a document on the takeover of the Manchester City Football Club by Thaksin. He suggested that the AEC seek the document from the United Kingdom's stock exchange because the company owning the soccer club is listed there.

More stalling by Nappadon.


At least it's not only Thailand that has to deal with media nonsense.

One of my favourite bands, Rage Against The Machine (from now on I'll call them 'RATM') featured on Fox News lately. For those who don't know or care, RATM are a strongly left wing political rock and rap group. Most of the band served a stint with the highly popular Audioslave.

RATM recently gave a concert where front man Zack gave this speech.

A good friend of ours [Noam Chomsky] once said that if the same laws were applied to U.S. presidents as were applied to the Nazis after World War II [...] every single one of them, every last rich white one of them from Truman on, would have been hung to death and shot---and this current administration is no exception. They should be hung, and tried, and shot. As any war criminal should be.

Yes it was a daft and unfair thing to say but RATM have always gone over the top with their political sentiments. But the obnoxious and worthless FOX News choose to edit and present Zack's statement as...

"This current administration...... there is no exception they should be hung, tried and shot"

To make things worse, they had Ann "America would be better if women did not vote" Coulter up in the studio. By the the end of the ten minute discussion, Anne and the other speakers had discussed RATM as "threatening to kill the president" "wanting to assassinate the president" and "should be investigated by the secret service....even though I've never heard of them" (The last quote was Anne's)

Ann gave various pearls of wisdom such as "Nobody has heard of them, I had to look on the internet to even see who they are" [Every album they have done has gone platinum Anne, keep up with the youth old girl!] "

"They are losers, their fans are losers and there's a lot of violence coming from the left"

Yeh, tell that to all the families who have lost someone they love in Iraq, Anne.

Since Anne claimed "These people are animals", let me share some of Anne's own comments courtesy of wikiquote.

On the Jersey Girls (9/11 widows group)

These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis... These self-obsessed women seemed genuinely unaware that 9/11 was an attack on our nation and acted as if the terrorist attacks happened only to them... I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much.

On Canada:

[Canadians] better hope the United States does not roll over one night and crush them. They are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent.

On the New York Times:
* My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.
o New York Observer article; August 26, 2002

* Of course I regret it. I should have added 'after everyone had left the building except the editors and the reporters.'
o; June 26, 2003

On women having the vote:
It would be a much better country if women did not vote. That is simply a fact. In fact, in every presidential election since 1950 - except Goldwater in '64 - the Republican would have won, if only the men had voted.

On Richard Dawkins (Author of 'The God Delusion')
"I defy any of my coreligionists to tell me they do not laugh at the idea of Dawkins burning in hell."

For many more pearls of loving Christian Anne Coulter, check out the wikiquote link above.

Even the unedited version of the RATM was unfair and wrong. But at least RATM give us great music, some good politics and genuine activism. What has Anne Coulter given the world besides hate?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Newsflash: Reallifethailand is liberal!!!!

You wouldn't think so from reading the other Thai political blogs. Bangkok Pundit, Thailandjumpedtheshark and Jotman all champion Thaksin Shiniwat for supposedly helping the poor. All the above denounce the PAD (People's Alliance for Democracy, the mainly middle class protest groups who took to the streets to oppose Thaksin) while I strongly supported them. I'm often chastised for happening to have views contradictory to Thailand's poorest demographics.

I voted Labour in the last two UK elections but I'll be switching this time.

I'm a strong believer in universal healthcare, free education, regulation of large corporations, religious tolerance (not to be confused with acceptance of extremely violent religious ideologies) and gay rights. However, I am also strongly in favour of strict law enforcement and punishment, tight immigration controls, zero tolerance of vote buyers and sellers and privilege cuts for able non workers.

Does that sound like a Conservative set of values to you?

So where do I stand politically? And where do the other political bloggers stand?
To find out , I took the politics test at okcupid. The answers are in the "agree/disagree" format with four choices. The test does have some questions relevant only to Americans, but others such as "Only literate people should be able to vote" and "Most people are too stupid to know what's go for them" and "Protest groups only create disunity" are relevant for any nation.

The test results classed me as:

Social liberal (60% permissive) Economic Liberal (26% permissive)
Democrat (26e/60s).

Perhaps scariest of all, my closest famous person in political terms is Hilary "How two faced and fake can one person be?" Clinton!!!!

I was sceptical of these results. So I took another test. This time I went for the test. The questions are in the same format, but these ones were longer and had more frequent "stop and think carefully" questions. The results are presented on a four way axis with a careful explanation of the layout. My results were:

So it's official, I'm centre left. This feels strange, as I've always considered myself mildly Conservative.

Perhaps I've always believed far left liberals when they label anyone who opposes them as "Conservative" or "intolerant". Here's the evidence showing you are wrong.

I'd love to hear from anyone else - especially the other political bloggers - who took these tests. Let me know your score!

(If you're short on time the 'world's smallest political quiz' is here. I scored the same again).


I am keeping well abreast of the situation in Burma. It's constant front page news in Thailand due to the closeness of the countries in geographical, racial and cultural terms. Thailand has been slow to support the pro democracy groups and General Sonthi finally eroded any last remaining shreds of credibility that survived his "Mao" quote by suggesting that the Burmese junta were "defending themselves" from those evil, unarmed, peaceful protesters asking for democracy. What state of mind was Sonthi reflecting in his words? "We dictators all have to back each other up"?

The reason I have not blogged much on this issue is not because I am uninformed or uncaring, but simply that bloggers like Jotman and others have done such a prolific job. Jotman links to a Burmese blogger who suggests a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. I think it's a powerful and viable idea.

Thursday, October 04, 2007