Friday, December 14, 2007

"Coup, Capital, Crown" . A report from the FCCT

My actual notes from last night's FCCT meeting. Everything is paraphrased and shorthanded for conciseness.

MC (Jonathon Head): "As a journalist, it's very frustrating not being able to discuss the monarchy, but we must respect the law and be restrained in what we say."

"His Majesty The King is now eighty , he will not be around forever. In private at least, Thai people are talking about the monarchy."

"Democracy, the military and the monarchy are deeply linked and we have four people who have contributed to two major works on this topic"

The panel are introduced:

- Professor Kevin Hewison, University of North Carolina;

- Professor Pasuk Phongpaichit of Chulalongkorn University;

- Dr Porphant Ouyyanont of Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University;

- Ukrist Pathmanand of Chulalongkorn University.

Each person speaks about one of the two books featured tonight. They are: "Thai Capital after the 1997 Crises" by Pasuk and Baker, and "Journal of Contemporary Asia Special: The Thailand Coup" edited by Kevin Hewison.

Kevin: The conservative agenda in Thailand is challenged and the heaviest challenge comes from the rural poor, hence Thaksin's immensely successful populist policies.

Porphan: CPB valuation in 2005 was twenty billion dollars in assets alone. This figure is likely to be higher now the dollar is weak. During the reign of Rama V, the CPB owned almost one third of land in Bangkok. Three quarters of the CPB wealth was lost in the crises but recovered for a variety of reasons (which he explains). The CPB was fully recovered by 2002 and stronger than ever.

Ukrit: Further confrontation between the "groups" involved on either side of the coup could be ahead due to the popularity of the PPP.

(My note: Porphant and Ukrist are like their boss Pasuk, down to earth, almost deprecatingly so. Nothing like most of the Thai high-so when they speak at the FCCT. I like these guys.)

Audience questions:

[My note: I have paraphrased all questions, some people love to ramble]

1) What is the difference between the King's personal wealth and the CPB?

Porphan: There is a separate office assigned to manage His Majesty's personal wealth. The CPB funds are funds for the whole institution of the monarchy.

2) a) Why have the AEC charges against Thaksin seemed to have little impact, why are there no new revelations of corruption? b) Some people say the NLA has been progressive, do the panel agree? (My note: I have not heard anyone say this)

a) Kevin: Probably because it was all so predictable, everybody got what they expected from the AEC.

b) Pasuk: The NLA is conservative with a few liberals thrown in as a bargaining tool to the people. Most powerful laws passed by the NLA have not been progressive or liberal

3) Is the CPB a Public limited company?

Poprphan: Its classification translates into English as "state unit" , however nobody on the panel- three scholars and an investigative journalist - knows what this means.

Pasuk: It has been established in court that CPB funds cannot be transferred by a court judgement.

4) Are some "old money" powerful families part of the think tank behind the coup?

Pasuk: One theory says that the military wanted to make a comeback and engaged the support if some business groups frozen out by Thaksin.

Ukrit: Certain figures like General Saprang were crucial to the legitimacy of the coup.

Kevin: Look at the financial data for Thailand. Pre - coup the biggest profit makes were in the telecom sector, such as the Thaksin owned Shin Corp. Post - coup, the biggest profiteers were those in the land and hosing sector. It is interesting to look at people such as Privy Council head General Prem and see where they have listed directorships.

5) What are your hopes and fears for the next eighteen months?

Pasuk: I hope PPP get a lot of seats simply to send a message to the military. However, I fear the coalition government will be weak and will collapse or be dissolved within one year. The possibility of violence cannot be ruled out.

6) Was Thaksin a threat to the monarchy?

Kevin: Yes. His economics - such as the use of SCB in the Shincorp sale - could be an issue. Also, Thaksin appealed to the same demographics in Thailand with a very different message: work your way into business and city life.(capitalism, compared to sufficiency economy)

7) Did the AEC fail?

Pasuk: Depends on what theory you believe. Theory one is that they want solid evidence to make a real case, so this takes time and they are working on it. Theory two, it was all just a show, a bargaining tool by the junta. To be fair, they have charged Thaksin's wife and children but has all gone remarkably quiet, which seems strange.

8) [I didn't understand the question. It concerned judges in Thailand]

Kevin: (Jokes about getting himself in trouble). It is strange that judges suddenly seem to have become eyed as saviours of the nation.

9) Is popular sovereignty on the rise?

Kevin: No. People in the north east are becoming purposely disenfranchised. Election campaigns are huge in Bangkok and nearby - where Abhisit is popular - and non existent in former TRT strongholds. The election will not progress democracy.

Pasuk: We do not want a regime that killed 2,500 people ("war on drugs" reference) but sadly more violence may be ahead.

MC: Based on personal interviews, rural people don't care about Samak but they think a PPP vote will bring Thaksin back.

Kevin: People should also consider the human rights record of Samak (it's poor).

MC: The VCD's of Thaksin are "very slick". Thaksin seems to be purposely copying the speaking style of the King and it is a powerful message that the rural folk are being exposed to in a campaign where the military have already attempted to disenfranchise rural voters.

Questions end, night is over but for the beers. Abhisit Vejajiva is here on Tuesday.


MB said...

Can you tell me where I can read The Journal of Contemporary Asia? It looks very interesting, however on the web-site to which you have linked, the price per article to download is GBP16.45, i.e. nearly 200 quid for the whole edition? There is a print edition which is GBP37 per annum, but they won't send it to Thailand!

Red and White said...

It was on sale on the night, which suggests that copies will be avilable in Thailand although Kevin had just flown in from the US the night before.

I would say keep an eye on the local bookstores as both books are not offcially released for another week or so. However, the critque of some Crown linked topics may mean its sale is restricted.....

Red and White said...

By the way, the book in question is just one special edition ("Thailand coup special") of JCA, so you can buy that book on its own.

Anonymous said...

The Sun newspaper already highlighted that Jonathan Head is corrupt and agreed to lobby misinformation in a conspiracy with Thaksin’s group - now we see very clear evidence as Watanasak has now linked Veera Musikapong at the FCCT and Jonathan in a lese majeste case story in where he accuses PAD of taking hostages and the control tower of the airport which is not the true - the BBC exposed!!