Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Censorship: alive and well in 'democratic Thailand'

John Unpakorn (brother of "Coup For the Rich" author Giles) and Supinya Klangnarong have been charged along with others for leading the protest against the NLA. The aim of the protest was to disrupt the legislative process that would enact the latest incarnation of the ISO commands: a set of laws that give considerable undemocratic powers to the military.

Take look here to see just how dangerous the protest leaders look.

And on the subject of the "Coup for the Rich" book, the book has been "requested" withdrawn by the new government and "investigated" for possible lese majeste. Too bad the book is available for free download here. Read it and decide for yourself.

I'm cheering both Unpakorns all the way.

Monday, January 28, 2008

And it goes on....

Over a month after the election and after much power brooking, bargaining and sedition, Samak was finally confirmed as PM today. His name will be submitted for royal approval.

One question remains: how will the new parliament form legislation without the senate? As the senate is not due to be confirmed for some time, are the new MP's unable to do anything before then?

A month late parliament. A lower house without an upper house, it all seems a mess.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why Zhang Xizhen is so wrong

A report in the printed edition of The Nation today quotes an "expert in Thai politics" from an international school in China as saying

".....Thailand should not aim to become a fully fledged democracy but rather an "authoritarian democracy" like Singapore, Malaysia and China...."

Zhang Xizhen also goes on to say....

"There should be no full democracy for Thailand, because after 1992 some said that Thailand could be called a democracy, but it didn't work well,"

"Unfortunately, the people, either common people or politicians, have no conscience. That's why there are many kinds of electoral fraud, assassinations and vote buying."

TN states: "The Singaporean or Malaysian model offers stability while being free of political abuse, Zhang claimed."

Let's put aside both the fact that Zhang may have been misquoted and the cons of representative democracy. I still find myself in full disagreement with Zhang. In fact I find his comments preposterous.

Firstly, I don't believe in "authoritarian democracy" anymore than I believe in a "cold sun" or a "shallow ocean". "Authoritarianism" - in the sense that Zhang uses the term - and "democracy" are mutually exclusive (as opposed to right wing democracy, which is viable and different). Neither Singapore or China are democratic in the popular understanding of the term.

His quote on 1992 I find equally absurd. Zhang seems to imply that one tragic setback implies democracy is not viable. In fact, every country that struggles towards a mature democracy has suffered setbacks. The first British working class who demanded the vote suffered everything from kangaroo courts to broken windows and violent murder in their struggle to win suffrage. The Philippines had to go through decades of uprisings, civil unrest and martial law to get to where they are now and of course the struggle of Nigeria is being broadcast to the world.

All these countries are at different stages of democratic development, but the path seems to be the same for all of them.

In greatly simplified terms we have:

1) Elitist rule, followed by .......

2) Some division of power to the upper class bourgeois.

3) Some power passed to the middle classes.

4) Universal suffrage marked by an unstable corrupt government.

5) A semi stabilised but often inefficient and corrupt government.

6) Slow steps to transparency, sparked by greater awareness amongst the electorate leading to greater power sharing and independent checking bodies.

Each of these stages are punctured or often initiated by struggle and set backs. They may be peaceful, violent or extremely violent. The struggle may be en masse, individual or seditious (such as the Thai military's popular tactic of visiting the wives and children of suspected communists in their homes). We all have suffered or will suffer our own versions of Thailand's Black May, even England. It just happened a long time ago for us because we our democracy is older.

I don't think there is any example of a democratic country that has not seen a pattern of behaviour similar to the above before becoming mature.

So why then, does professor Zhang cite one example of such an event - not to overlook the truly tragic nature of the event and the terrible loss of life that occurred - as evidence that democracy will not work in Thailand?

I also find it remarkable that Zang states: "either common people or politicians, have no conscience". Whilst sentiment towards the later may be universal, I think that declaring Thailand's common people as "having no conscience" is not only untrue, it's remarkably insulting. Thailand's common people may not be fully aware of the behaviour of politicians however this is not due to a lack of conscience. It is due to manipulation, media controls, certain parts of Thai culture and in some cases lack of education. That last point is nothing to do with stupidity of lack of conscience.

Let's look at his last claim again:

"The Singaporean or Malaysian model offers stability while being free of political abuse, Zhang claimed."

Free of political abuse? Not according to the Asia Sentinel or anyone else with rudimentary knowledge of Malaysian politics. Singapore is often cited as an example of a happy, undemocratic society, but in my opinion this is because it is the exception to the rule. Whilst there may be some degree of truth in this, human rights such as media freedoms and civil rights are curbed in the nation state.

Quite how Zhang arrives at the conclusion that less democracy equals less abuses is beyond me. Perhaps his line of reason is that if people don't have to vote, politicians don' have to waste their precious money trying to buy votes.

Perhaps the biggest shocker for me was the penultimate detail supplied by reporter Pravit:

"He said legislation like the Internal Security Act, passed by the junta-appointed parliament late last year, would play a "very important role" maintaining "stability"."

Yes, I'm sure it will. This is after all, one of the reasons why there were protests outside NLA offices when teh bill was being approved. The ISOC passes massive powers to the military and restricts a lot of freedoms for everyone else.

And finally:

Human rights, he said, should be controlled by the government.

Perhaps Zhang is not aware of Samak's human rights record.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The fallout

Potjamon Shinwat pleads not guilty and tells the court:

"The defence requests 90 days to gather evidence and await the readiness of the codefendant to jointly fight the charges, expected some time in May"

You could be forgiven for wondering why Potjamon didn't do that during her stalling of months and months when due to testify to the AEC, when these charges were first raised.

Potjamon also confirmed Thaksin will return in May and The Nation suggests Thaksin wants to become a monk.

This wouldn' t be the first time a controversial Thai PM/dictator returned as a monk. It also isn't the first time that politicians have suddenly become remarkably relaxed about corruption charges following requested "reconciliation" meetings with Prem. In the case in question, the former CNS chief also assures us that there were no meetings between himself and Potjamon. The press just made it up.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

National unity: it's what they all care about

"We can talk........for the purpose of social reconciliation."
CNS Chief Anupong Paochinda after Potjamon Shinwatra suddenly decided to return to Thailand to clear charges against her.

"If he were a convict, he would surely face a life sentence or worse, because everything he has done has been premeditated,"
Snoh Thienthong during the anti-Thaksin protests

"I want the country to move ahead following a turbulent period."
Pracharaj leader Snoh Thienthong after weeks of negotiating for the right to some of the most lucrative cabinet posts in the new government headed by a confessed Thaksin nominee.

"My party's utmost concern is forging national reconciliation in order to restore normalcy as soon as possible"
Puea Pandin leader Suwit Khunkitti, after weeks of negotiating for the right to some of the most lucrative cabinet posts in the new government.

"Conflicts in the past should not be kept forever but they should be set aside so that everything can be done for the sake of the country"
Chart Thai leader (and one of Thailand's worst PM's ever) Banharn Silipa-archa after weeks of negotiating for the right to some of the most lucrative cabinet posts in the new government.

Aren't we lucky that so many powerful people have nothing but greed and lies national unity at heart?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Siam Park tragedies

Last year there was an accident at Siam Park resulting in a death. A "full investigation" was held. The park continued in business as usual.

This week, another accident resulted in twenty nine injuries.

The owner Chaiwat Luangamornlert told the press: 'Two accidents since late last year, and both were unforgivable''.

''In the first accident, one person died and this time a lot were injured. The accidents point to poor management. "

Sadly, nobody from the press asked the owner:

"What was the result of the previous fatal accident investigation?"

"Who does your maintenance? Did they not warn you of the 'Super Spiral' danger?"

"If the answer to the previous question is 'no' , what action will you take against them?"

"Who is responsible for the hiring and selection of maintenance staff?"

"As a theme park owner, you must surely be aware of your legal responsibilities, do they include safety?"

"Are there laws covering criminal negligence in Thailand? How rigorously are they enforced?"

"The police and other local authorities have made several investigations into park rides and accidents in the past. Each time they seem to find no blame or fault. Why do you think this is? Are you going to request they perform more thorough investigations and delegate responsibility for the accidents?"

"Will you continue to pay for the medical and funeral expenses of the victims?"

"You have stated you want to sell the park because of your sadness, will you be expecting or requesting a profit?"

"What advice or steps will you take to ensure the new owners inherit a park that is not liable to create another tragedy?"

"Visitors to Siam Park tend to be lower income families, is this why less money was spent on maintenance in the park?"

"Why has there been no formal apology to the victims?"

"Governor Apirak said he was instructed to make sure all rides were safe. Did you converse with him about this?"

Am I being too harsh? Would it be cold of me to note that the decision to sell would probably also be the best financial decision for Mr Chaiwat Luangamornlert? Perhaps I just feel sad for the victims. They came to have fun and due to negligence, they found horror. I hope they receive justice.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Thaksin's wife to return? // Headline translations

Thaksin's wife Porjamon Shiniwatra is - according to a source - due to arrive in Thailand tomorrow. This could provide a very interesting indication as to how the power struggle is going.

PS has a warrant out for her arrest , yet some believe that a deal has been made with Privy council head General Prem. Why would PS return to Thailand if she thought she would be arrested? But how will people react if she is allowed to walk free? How will the rural masses react if she is taken to jail?

If the source is correct, it could get interesting.

Rather than just re-iterate news pieces, I thought I'd translate a few political headlines for my readers.

"PPP offer Democrats cabinet seats to aid reconciliation"

PPP plead for a power share rather than dissolution

"Samak says a powerful man is working against PPP".

Samak says Prem is working against PPP

"Thaksin: I want to patch things up with Prem"

Thaksin: please don't arrest me when I come back.

"Military laughs off stealth coup claims"

Military laughs at opposition's lack of artillery.

"Election winners report for duty"

The buffet is open

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Everyone is entitled to democracy (but some are more entitled than others)

I've always been aware that political blogging is not without risk. For some reason though, I always thought I ran the greatest risk for my comments on Thailand. After all, Matt once got a warning call, bloggers and forum posters in the past have been arrested, detained, questioned and censored without any public explanation being offered. And just this week, Fah Diew Kan - a political and sociological website - was shut down by MICT without warning (more on this in a moment). So much for Sittichai's promise.

But perhaps I forgot just how pathetic my beloved England has become. Blogger Lionheart has been told he will be arrested for charges of inciting racial hatred through writing when he returns to the UK.

Visit Lionheart's blog and see for yourself if he deserves to go to jail. It's important to understand that you don't have to like him, rate his blog or agree with what he says. You simply have to decide if he deserves to be banged up for writing his blog. And if so, what about this guy or these people? Why not them?

Please support Lionheart and FDK. Visit here to support facthai and oppose all censorship.

I say we stick with these people. If not, it could be us next.


Sticking with the topic of free speech or lack thereof, it appears another legal coup is in the making. True to my prediction, it appears the Election Commission have become ultra efficient and mature overnight and decided to yellow card or delay approval for 83 politicians who were elected last week. Guess what? sixty five are from PPP! It doesn't stop there either, the Supreme Court are set to hear a case against the PPP bought by Democrat MP Chaiwat Sinsuwong under charges that Samak is a nominee of Thaksin. If found guilty, the entire PPP will be dissolved.

So as an anti-Thaksin, anti-Samak, anti-PPP man I'm happy right? Actually I'm disgusted. The EC is not doing its job, its carrying out a pre-determined, crooked mission on orders from above. The incompetent, boot dragging bunch of pathetic cretins have never been good at their job. If they were, every politician outside the Democrats would have been red carded from day one, so why the blatant bias against the PPP candidates? The same goes for the Supreme Court. We knew from day one Samak was a nominee, hell that was the PPP's one and only policy platform. Why have the powers that be waited until NOW to bring the charges?

As my staunchly Democrat wife said: "If we people are dumb enough to choose PPP, we deserve them".

A lot of people seem to be seeking complex or legal reasons for what is happening. Personally, I just apply Occam's razor and plug for the simple explanation: this is plan B for the elite. They wanted to hold elections in the hope that the Dems would win so they could claim they had returned democracy to the people (although that would still be a lie). But the elite had underestimated the will for Thaksin to return and now they are resorting to plan B: stage a coup through legal channels.

Thai people have chosen PPP. They should have the PPP. They deserve PPP. Until Samak and his sickening cronies are given a chance to show how incompetent and corrupt they are, the people will never learn. By changing the rules every time they lose, the elite (you know who I mean) are dragging Thailand back to the dark ages. I fear Pasuk Pongpaichit's prediction is coming true: violence is looking likely.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

2008 in Hong Kong and Macau

Hong Kong has a smell. It's a smell that is hard to describe to anyone who has never been there but uniquely familiar to those who have. I can best delineate it as a mixture of Chinese herbs and medicines mixed with pollution and cooking odours. It is strangely endearing after some time. Will Smith one said "It's funny how smells can spark off nostalgia" and it's true. When that smell hit me again, I knew I was back in HK.

And I love Hong Kong. Perhaps it's partly due to the fact that HK was my first experience of Asia, and naturally a bit of that buzz and those special memories come back to me whenever I go back. But I think there's more to it. HK has a unique energy, a sort of intense rush that sweeps up all those who are in it. It gives a real sense of energy and excitement. Such vigour comes not only from the overcrowding, but also the ubiquitous signs, the mix of languages and chatter, the super tall buildings, the technology and the cultural behaviour that goes along with it.

There's also so much to do in such a small place. While the Star Ferry and the Peak Tram are well known, a lot of people are surprised or unaware of HK's very pleasant beach known as Repulse Bay. There are also a whole load of parks, museums and temples that add plenty of appeal.

Macau is also great in a different way. It has a very European charm about it, with trilingual signs and little pathways leading to bakeries or Christian sites. The Venetian hotel where we stayed one night is a true spectacle,and I'd recommend it to anyone.

The Chinese may not have a reputation as being the most polite people in the world (Did I say that softly enough for our new wave of political correctness? My half Chinese wife gave me permission and also agreed with me.) but children seem to be popular targets of affection and in their own way the Hong Kongers are very hospitable people. It's also a very safe place.

I don't think I could ever get bored of HK. I hope it never changes.

At HK Harbour.

Half way up the peak, near Thaksin's Hong Kong residence, apparently......

The Venetian. Notice the sky and "canal". This is all indoors!

The PS Box war

Notice the guy in the centre is whispering to the storeman ("He's taking a picture")

Update on my Xbox360 saga. Part one here, part two here.

So after some time, I decided to collect my X360, get it repaired independently and then begin my publicity campaign. However, yesterday I went to the shop to collect it and was told "It's not finished". "What do you mean? Where is it? You said you wouldn't fix it" I said (in very bad Thai, with customers noticing my agitation).

The storeman said something nervously that I didn't understand. I waited around for a while as I rang Mr Manager who was not in the store as usual. There was no answer. I stood and took a picture of the shop, which seemed to unsettle the storeman. Lo and behold, my wife got call less than minute later from the manager saying my x360 had been sent to Sapham Lek ......."to check. They are closed today but the x360 will be back in the store tomorrow".

I think it's likely they have trashed my x360 as revenge. I'm not sure I'll ever get it back.

The store have my system, my money and seem remarkably unconcerned about the threat of any other authorities being notified. Could there be a link between this and their blatant sale of copied games? (Yes that was a rhetorical question).

All I can do now is go ahead and notify as many places and people as I can. I have written a note which I will get translated hand out to customers in The Mall. It's risky and I don't like doing it, but it's either that or allow these people to effectively rob us then spit on us.

Do not buy from this store: PS Box in The Mall Bang Khae

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and my sincere best wishes for the New Year.

The year ahead is absolutely certain to be full OF twists, turns and shocks as Thailand struggles to reach democracy. The blog scene is probably more crucial than ever.

This blog has been around for a while now. The readership is small but I do seem to have a group of regular readers. Thanks to all of you.

I have a variety of New Year's resolutions for my separate roles as a father, teacher, UK politician and Thai political blogger. As far as this site goes, my main goal is to keep it focused and updated as often as I can. On a more personal note, I need to increase my income. I've always been financially comfortable and greed has never been me, but with a growing son and a pleasant lifestyle, I could do with some extra salary to save for the future.

What are your New Year's resolutions?