Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The flag

From The Nation:

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said Tuesday he would contact Manchester City Football Club to investigate how a Thai national flag bearing the name "Thaksin" was displayed at the club's stadium.

I'm no fan of Thaksin (maybe you heard?) but this should not be made into something it is not. It's a long standing football tradition for fans to put up flags as banners. Often that will be an English flag (the cross of Saint George) or a Union Jack or the national flag of the player or hero in question.

Fans like to express their allegiances. At England games, the fan flags will often have the name of the fan's local team written across the middle. This is particularly popular with supporters of smaller teams.

Otherwise the name of the team's star player will be written across the flag. Sometime fans go further with their merchandise. For example, during the nineties when Uwe Rosler was a star striker at Manchester City, City fans had T-shirts bearing the slogan "Uwe's grandparents bombed Old Trafford".

The three banded Thai flag (nation, religion, King) would certainly not be disrespected by City fans and surely expatriate Thais would be well aware of the consequences of such an action. It pains me to say it, but I think Noppadon is correct in saying this is the actions of westerners who simply did not realise there was a big cultural issue at stake.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rape and responsibility

It's nearly midnight and I was preparing to go to bed and contemplate life in League One for Southampton FC, when The Nation's article about three boys aged "between" (from?) eight to twelve years old raping an eight year old girl jumped out at me.

It goes without saying that this news is utterly tragic. After reading it, I couldn't help but recall recent discussions about responsibility that have taken place on TN's blog site. Certainly, this article raises huge, huge questions of responsibility.

What do the parents of the three boys have to say for themselves? Did they know where their boys were? Did they know the company they were keeping?

Did the owners of the Internet cafe see the older boys watching pornography? Did they see the younger boys watching too? If - as I suspect they will tell the police - they didn't see it , then are they the worst business owners in the world?

Were the boys doing this when they should have been at school? Did the school make any effort to trace them?

At such a difficult and tragic time it would be totally unfair to ask prejudiced parents of the parents. Still, I think it will be important for the police to ascertain how it came to be that three boys had the opportunity to lure this girl away without anyone noticing.

Where did the boys learn to behave like this? They may have seen a video, and I am far from naive, but still I find it hard to believe that an eight year old boy who has been well parented would think it was OK to do this, or even to fail to realise it was downright wrong.

Let's not be lazy and simply say that people don't take responsibility. Let's look a bit deeper and ask ourselves: where does responsibility start? Who should take responsibility in this case and how much? What can we do to prevent things like this happening again? Is it more likely to happen in Thailand than other countries? If so, why? What can we do to change that?

A young girl has been mentally scarred for life. I hope that the authorities won't treat this as just another case.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I'm at a loss for words for this one, so I will simply let the reports speak for themselves.

Bangkok Post:

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said on Tuesday he has signed permission for Duang Yubamrung to return to the army, less than seven years after he was cashiered over accusations he was involved in the night club murder of a policeman.

"I do not know which office he will return to, but I already signed the approval," Mr Samak told reporters Tuesday. "It is effective now."

Duang, formerly known as Duangchalerm, is the son of Interior Minister Chalerm Yubamrung. He was dismissed from the army in October, 2001, after the murder of a policeman inside a Ratchadaphisek night club.

He was removed from his post and stripped of his rank after he failed to report for work within 15 days.

He fled to Malaysia to avoid murder charges. After almost a year on the run, he surrendered for trial. He was acquitted of the murder charge by the Criminal Court.

After his acquital, police did not seek another suspect, and there have been no other arrests. Several witnesses who testified said they had received threatening telephone calls to warn them not to tell what they had seen, and no direct testimony ever was admitted.

"He was a soldier. Now his (criminal) case is over so there is no problem for him to return to the army," Mr Samak said.

Duang's brother Wan, previously known as Wanchalerm, also got permission from Mr Samak to take a posotion in the new government, where his father is a minister. Public Health Minister Chaiya Saosomsab promoted him to be Mr Happy Toilet, to teach Bangkokians how to use the loo.

Together, during the 1990s, the Yubamrung brothers were well known to, and openly reviled by Bangkok society for a series of violent confrontations in night clubs. Cases brought to trial always wound up with lack of witnesses.

And from The Nation:

Supatra Rodwimut, wife of murdered Sergeant Suwichai Rodwimut, said she was shocked. "I have no words to describe how I feel. I'm just an ordinary woman. I have no power to fight. I hope one day the sin he committed will catch up with him."

Supreme Commander General Boonsrang Niampradit declined to comment, saying he has yet to be informed.

There is more about the history of the saga here (H/T Bangkok Pundit).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lese majeste

Before any movie in any Thai cinema, the national anthem is played and people stand up.

I remember reading about a case last year when a Thai man and his friend did not stand up for the national anthem. In the past they had had popcorn thrown at them and received abuse. While this time he man was actually physically attacked. He quite rightly threatened legal action.

Can you guess what his assailant threatened to do? You guessed it, lese majeste. And that's exactly what happened.

Chotisak Oonsoong received formal charges today. Please read more about the case here and - if you wish - sign the petition here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Constitutional amendments

The Nation has given details of the constitutional amendments that the PPP party are working on changing.
(A text of the 1997 version is here (HTML) and the 2007 version here (PDF) ).
  • - Provisions relating to state policies will be overhauled to allow leeway for an elected government to set policies in accordance with campaign platforms.

A little more detail would be nice here, since constitutions by nature are full of "provisions". It is probably referring to section 70, parts 1 - 10 of the new version.

  • -The electoral system for MP's and senators will be changed completely back to the 1997 model.

Does this mean the number of MP's will increase? More snouts back in the trough? For what purpose? Or is it simply referring to articles 100 - 110 that (in the older model) used a simpler "one person one vote" FPTP system? The newer constitution has (effectively) more of a PR voting system, which gave smaller parties more representation.

  • The mandate for electoral supervision will also follow the 1997 model.
Referring to the EC, presumably section 231 of the new version, which gives the EC some teeth compared to section 145 of the old version. The current EC are junta appointed and therefore anathema to the PPP.

  • MP's will be allowed to hold political office.

No surprise there then, except I always predicted that old TRT members might take cabinet positions. Then again, once this whitewash is done, they can do so anyway.

  • The mandate for the judiciary, including the Courts of Justice, the Constitution Court and the Supreme Administrative Court, will revert to the 1997 model.

More power plays. The new constitution (act 202) declares a judges selection committee for Constitutional Court judges and it's this area the PPP are worried about. The Supreme Court also has a selection process that has been altered slightly. The retirement age for judges has been increased which PPP/TRT have always seemed unhappy about.
Jakrapob Penair once said while speaking on Al Jeezera that the judges were appointed by the junta, which was/is not true.

  • The selection process for officeholders in the judiciary and the independent organisations will adopt the 1997 model.

As above.

  • Punishment by party dissolution will be restricted only to three offences: overthrowing the system of constitutional monarchy, opposing democracy and threatening national security. The penalty would not apply to electoral fraud.

It's that word again! This clause is what it's all about. The whole purpose of PPP amending the constitution now, when Samak initially said it would not be done for a long while yet ( link1 , link 2 ) is to save their own skin. PPP and two other parties are facing charges of dissolution, as their executives are charged with vote buying. Under the current constitution, this is a offence for which the whole party can be dissolved. Still, no need to worry about breaking laws when you can change them.

  • The new independent organisations sanctioned by the 2007 Constitution, such as the Office of the Attorney-General, are slated to lose their status and become a part of the bureaucracy under the government.
This actually sickens me more than the previous clause, since the dissolution law seems harsh at best, whereas the OAG (section 245 new version) is a valid and crucial role. For the PPP to abuse their power to dissolve this position (for that is what it amounts to) I find disgraceful.

  • Article 309, which confirms the amnesty granted to the Council for National Security and its decrees, will be revoked since the clause is deemed redundant to Article 149 of the 2006 interim constitution.

Tit for tat. This article is irrelevant anyway, since any new coup would simply rip up the constitution. This is just a point scoring exercise.

Finally let me leave you with my quote of the week from Vatana "cry me a river" Asavahame. Vatana has been called to testify in a land scandal case several times, but , tragically, suffered from "amnesia" and forgot to appear the last four times (no I'm not making this up). This time though he did appear, and gave us a classic example of the bi-polar , narcissistic, switch from super arrogance to major self pity that we see from those who are intoxicated by power then bought to justice:

"I've been a politician for 30 or 40 years. My family's reputation has been ruined ... If I'm really guilty, don't jail me for life - execute me!"

Anyone got a guillotine?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More "national reconciliation"


"Personally, I want this issue to be settled soon. There are many other problems involving the country, particularly to prevent a return of evil,"
Vice Admiral Pajun Tamprateep, a close aide to Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda speaks in Oct 2007. (What is the root of all "evil" again?)


Potjaman Shinwatra visits Prem earlier this year.


Prem Tinsulanond on Thursday urged top military leaders to set example by upholding the royal advice on three principles - honesty, unity and foregiveness.........Prem's remarks on forgiveness coincided with the political tussle relating to constitutional changes.
The Nation reports today.

"No reconciliation, no honey"
Thai saying

"Show me the reconciliation"

Tom Cruise , in Jerry Maguire

"Reconciliation reconciliation reconciliation, it tastes like honey"

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Lese Majeste

Following on from the news that Jakrapob Penkair would be investigated for Lese Majeste for comments made at the FCCT in mid 2007 is the news that BBC's Jonathon Head would be investigated for possible Lese Majese for comments made during the "Coup, Capital, Crown" presentation, also at the FCCT last year.

It must be stressed that this is only at the complaint stage, not a formal charge.

The BBC are not a minor play on the global stage and it would be interesting to see how they respond if the complaint is taken further.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Quote of the week

"He should have looked in the mirror to see how much he has degraded, how time has changed his facial look. What he did hasn't done much benefit to the country. It's just a show of ego,"

Samak "armored car" Sundaravej , in today's Nation, blissfully unaware of his own irony as he talks about fortune tellers and superstition, something he knows a bit about himself.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

How times change........

In today's Nation:

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra Saturday urged Thais not to believe a fortune-teller who predicted bloodshed next month.

Before boarding a plane to Cambodia, Thaksin said the people should not be serious about predictions by fortune tellers.

And from the Bangkok Post last year:
Potjaman Shinawatra, wife of deposed premier Thaksin, went to see a renowned foretune-teller during her visit to Chiang Mai on Friday, according to local reports. Khunying Potjaman met with Warin Buawiratlert at around 1.30 p.m. and spent about 1.30 hours with him.

NY Times (and many others) in 2005:

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra declined to answer reporters' questions until next year, saying that astrological signs, especially Mercury, are not in his favor.

So I guess whether we should believe fortune tellers or not depends on how much we want to believe what they say.