Friday, March 21, 2008

Samak: the good, the bad and the ugly

So this is Songkarn and what have we done?

Well, if your name is Samak Sanderejev and you are Prime Minister of Thailand, you have done quite a lot. The PPP have been a busy bunch since they finally entered office in January (almost a month after they actually won the election) and to the surprise of many, they have actually done some things quite well. Here's my little review of the good, the bad and the ugly from Mr Samak.

The Good:

1) The idea of legalising casinos. It's been heavily opposed in some quarters but the reality is that legalisation of gambling is progressive and correct. In a country where people who want to gamble already do so and Jao Phoa already have their casinos up and running, it is only practical to make the business and maybe even take some tax money for good causes.

2) Expedition of mass transport projects. OK, so we all know that there is a direct link between high budget transport construction and financial kickbacks. Still, the City of Angels is desperately crying out for an extended transport network, and the new government seem serious about getting it speeded up, whatever the reasons for the eagerness may be.

3) Refusing to negotiate with terrorist leaders in the deep south.
It may well be a face saving measure to mask the fact that intelligence sources cannot trace these people anyway but that is irrelevant. Samak is absolutely correct when he says that the government should not negotiate with people who "kill their own" in the most brutal manner possible.

4) Tax breaks. With the plummeting dollar and rising costs of living adding to an economy that had already been stagnant since the coup the tax breaks should be the perfect catalyst to get people out spending again.

The Bad:

1) Transferring good officers.
I've heard people say "Well nobody protested when the junta bought in their own people" which may be true. But the key point here is that Seripisuth Temiyavej and Dr Siriwat Thiptaradon were good at their jobs. It may be normal for a new government to bring in new people, but is it right to let the public suffer when the 'new people' are bought in under false pretences and most likely are not as skilled as their predecessors?

2) Starving the AEC.
If anybody was in any doubt who has come out smiling form the struggle between the junta and the PPP, they only had to read today's story stating that the Assets Examination Committee are "requesting public donations". The PPP were never going to allow the AEC to continue their work, and they have achieved this by starving them of funds. As such, it is likely that politicians who did something wrong will not be prosecuted.

3) Disrespecting the victims of the 1976 massacre AND the victims of the Burmese Junta.
And this, sadly, nullifies any achievements of K. Sanmak. When he told a CNN reporter that "Only one person was killed" and compounded this by expressing sympathy for the Burmese Junta because "They are Buddhists" one can only wonder what was going through his mind. By reinventing history and showing such blatant disregard for the rights of his own people, Samak send us a reminder that for all the rhetoric and progressive manoeuvres, he is still the same person inside.

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