Monday, December 29, 2008

Red Rally and the Democrats...war of attrition

What's wrong? The protestors think "hijacking" MPs from the pro-Thaksin camp was wrong. This morning, the red-shirted protestors were surrounding the Parliament House to make their dissatisfaction known.

Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva was holding out at the Democrat Party headquarters, saying he could wait until the protestors could ensure the safety of MPs to enter the Parliament building to attend the session that will hear him deliver the new government's policy statement.

"I won't walk over blood-soaked bodies to deliver my statement," he declared, apparently referring to the Oct 7 incident in which many yellow-shirted protestors were injured at the same site when they tried to prevent the Somchai Wongsawat government from delivering the policy statement.

The protest leaders, however, said they won't block the entrance to the Parliament House. "We will let the MPs in but they have to enter on foot," one of the protest leaders said.

Will Abhisit make that walk through the protestors this morning?

Not very likely. Suthep Thuaksuban, the deputy premier, told reporters this morning: "No, we won't take the risk. On Dec 15, when the House met to vote on the prime minister, some MPs' cars were smashed. How can we be sure?"

Keep waiting. Democracy means freedom to express your views. It also means you have to be very patient indeed.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Biggest challenge in his political life

Abhisit Vejjajiva is due to deliver his policy statement to Parliament for the first time as prime minister tomorrow, amidst a rally being organized by the "red-shirted" protestors who are on the side of Thaksin Shinawatra.

No violence is expected. Abhisit has announced that police won't use tear-gas or any kind of weapons to confront the protestors. The Oct 7 incident, in which many yellow-shirted protestors were injured by police action, won't be repeated, he said.

The protest leaders have vowed not to surround the Parliament building. They simply want to show the world that the Abhisit government had been formed illegitimately, by "hijacking" MPs from the previous pro-Thaksin alliance.

The opposition has threatened to grill Abhisit on his alleged "draft dodging." Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya will be questioned about his role in support of the People's Alliance for Democracy and Defence Minister Hen Pravit Pongsuwan will be asked about his role in helping to cobble together the Abhisit government.

It's not his rhetoric or even his policy that resembles Thaksin's "populism" that's the problem. It's how he can keep his fragile coalition government together in the wake of constant political horse-traing that is the main threat to his survival.

Abhisit knows how vulnerable his position is. He said the other day that if he can't deliver on his promise, "I will let somebody else take over."

And that "somebody else" is ready to cut him down every minute of the day.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Foreign Minister Kasit's first faux pas

Kasit Piromya was quoted yesterday in the Daily Telegraph as saying that the protests by the People's Alliance for Democracy, including the occupation of the Suvarnbhumi and Don Muang airports were "a lot of fun."

The new Thai foreign minister, I assume, didn't want to sound so flippant about the incidents that had received some very bad press abroad. He was talking to a group of foreign diplomats and journalists soon after he took office.

"The food was excellent, the music was excellent," he was quoted as saying.

The British paper said the audience was "astonished" to hear that. Kasit of course did make some serious comments about the PAD protests, which he attended regularly while they lasted. He was also quoted as saying:

"Look at (the PAD protests) as pushing the process of democratisation forward..."

He also said: "You should be happy that for the first time ordinary people came out in full force to oppose corruption. If society has to be changed, it has a price."

But what caught the Telegraph's reporter's real attention was when Kasit said:

"People said we were armed. My wife used to go every evening. What was she armed with? only food and medicine."


Morals of the story: Never get light-hearted at the wrong time, about a wrong subject.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Come on, Abhisit, you certainly could produce a better team than this.....

One would have thought Abhisit Vejjajiva could have done better in cobbling together a more "presentable" Cabinet line-up.

But as it turned out, it was quite a disappointment, especially for those who had expected him to come up with a more impressive group of ministers in charge of economic affairs.

The commerce minister (Ms Porntiva Nakasai) and industry minister (Chanchai Chairungruang)'s only qualifications were that they represent the interests of two coalition partners -- former Machima and Pueau Paendin. No experience. No record. No professional acceptance by the public.

Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij may have had some experience in the private financial sector. But this is also his first major assignment at the national level. Tourism Minister Chumpol Silpa-archa was put in this post only because the core leadership of Chat Thai Party has been banned from politics for five years by the Constitutional Court.

The only reason that Premier Abhisit's first Cabinet setup is such a poor show is political. Abhisit admits that he has to "strike a proper balance" to maintain political stability. In other words, he has to turn a blind eye to inefficiency and political expediency in order to be able to stay in power.

But didn't he say that although numbers may count in politics but it's the quality of work and popular acceptance that is the ultimate proof?

Well, he had better start proving that he means what he says before he gets into more turbulence that lies ahead.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Abhisit tells CNN: I am not happy with the way things are

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thailand's new prime minister isn't mincing his words on the state of the economy.

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA, PRIME MINISTER OF THAILAND: I'm telling the people now it's going to be tough, but it's not impossible to overcome.

RIVERS (on camera): So, when you say tough, what do you mean?

VEJJAJIVA: I mean that, you cannot expect, for instance, the rates of growth to hold up to the rates that we've experienced maybe in the last couple of two, three years. There's going to have to be a slowdown. There will inevitably be problems in terms on employment. And that it's not going to be easy to completely stabilise the political situation in the short space of time.

RIVERS (voice-over): And he acknowledges the political horse trading with former allies of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, wasn't an idea way to come to power.

VEJJAJIVA: I'm not happy with the way things are. If I could choose my own path, I would love to get into power after elections. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case. But, I do come through a democratic, constitutional system, according to parliamentary rules. And I intend to use that majority now to work for the Thai people and to do my best for the country. And when things stabilise, then it's time for the people to have another position.

RIVERS (on camera): Thaskin Shinawatra and his allies would say, look, we're the most popular show in town. Any way you cut it, irrespective of any electoral fraud, we would still win a landslide --

VEJJAJIVA: Let me ask you again. Why have opinion polls put us ahead of them?

RIVERS: Well, why won't call an election if you think you're going to win?

VEJJAJIVA: Because at this time, people expect a fast recovery of the economy and to stabilise the political situation.

RIVERS: I mean, they would say you're running scared because you know if you hold an election tomorrow, you'll lose.

VEJJAJIVA: I don't think I would.

RIVERS: How did you persuade Newin Chidchob's faction -- a politician who was loyal -- not just loyal to Thaskin, he was one of his right hand men, for goodness sakes. How did you persuade his group of MPs to come over to your side?

VEJJAJIVA: Basically, they felt that Thaskin had raised the various political contracts to levels that were no longer acceptable to them.

RIVERS: And so they were honestly doing this for the good of the nation?

VEJJAJIVA: If people were to speculate about the various deals, let me tell you outright that there are no deals made concerning the interests of groups of people. Rather, what we talked about was that this was a real chance for the country to achieve stability and to move the country out of the crisis. Let's do it together.

RIVERS: Why then did senior democrats and other politicians go and visit the army commander General Anupong? What has he got to do with this political situation?

VEJJAJIVA: I'm not aware of that kind of meeting. But, the army chief has said, that he has expressed views on how the country should move forward. And he wasn't partisan.

RIVERS: But, did you consult with General Anupong?

VEJJAJIVA: I have never consulted.

RIVERS: Never? You've never consulted with him in the last few weeks about the situation?


RIVERS (voice-over): He also acknowledged that Thailand's strict les majeste laws stopping criticism of Thailand's revered king were being used as a political weapon by rival politicians to attack one another.

VEJJAJIVA: There are cases in the past where this law has been abused for political purposes. And I agree that that has to stop.

RIVERS: And he denied he tacitly supported yellow-shirted anti-taxing protestors who'd occupied government buildings and Bangkok's airports.

VEJJAJIVA: We had a common cause, in terms of fighting injustices. We don't always have common objectives. For instance, when they suggested that a new political system should be put in place with some appointed offices, we disagreed. And certainly, our methods are different and I express opposition to the way they decided to occupy
both Government House and also the airports.

RIVERS: The big question is, how long will he last? The fifth prime minister is just over two years. His main battle now may simply be clinging onto power.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lydia: What has 'Dad' Thaksin got to do with this?

Singer "Lydia" Saranrat has sued celebrity astrolger "Mor Krit Confirm" for making public predictons that she was pregnant. A tearful Lydia was asked by Channel 3 anchor Sorayuth Suthassanachinda last evening whether the timing of the incident was politically motivated. The soothsayer made that prediction just after former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra had divorced his wife, Khunying Potjaman, Sorayuth asked.

Lydia has called Thaksin "Dad" all along. She told the television anchor: "I have not been in touch with the former prime minister for quite a while now. But he knows what has happened to me. He has also asked one of his men to clarify that he did not divorce Khunying to marry me..."

So, put a stop to all the rumours, won't you?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Abhisit: The 27th PM at 44...Will he be Thailand's "Obama(rk)?"

He was never sure until the real votes were counted this morning in the House of Representatives. The 235 votes he got (against 198 for Police Gen Pracha Promnok, nominated by Thaksin Shinawatra's side) weren't overwhelming. But the margin of 37 votes was comforting enough.

It will be a daunting task indeed for Abhisit Vejjajiva (nicknamed "Mark"), Thailand's youngest prime minister ever. But he will be taking over the country at a critical and confusing time. The fact that he owes his rise to a tainted faction led by Newin Chidchob, once the Democrat Party's arch-rival, will remain a big question mark. Speculation that the army chief, Police Gen Anupong Paochinda, had a hand in manipulating this outcome will prove a negative mark that's difficult to delete.

But the test will be how Abhisit can unite a highly divisive country -- and whether he can implement a massive stimulus economic package that will prove that when it comes to economics, he is no novice, compared to Thaksin who left his mark in the rural areas as the man who injected money and life into the villages.

Abhisit has vowed to lead the Cabinet's economic team himself. He has also said he will move the date of the Asean summit earlier from March to February to restore the region's confidence in Thailand, the Asean's current chairman.

Will he be able to create, like Barack Obama, a "team of rivals" to show that he is an "inclusive" leader? Can he show the "red shirted people" that he is also their leader?

If Abhisit can't show some concrete results in the first 100 days, he is doomed.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A cornered dog being buried alive?

Thaksin Shinawatra had promised to give "the best-ever statement" at tonight's "Red Rally" at the National Stadium. But his pre-recorded speech was far from impressive. It was nothing more than a repeat of his old complaints -- that he was being politically persecuted.

Yes, he did use a few phrases aimed at dramatising his plight. Thaksin likened himself to a "cornered dog" with no way to go. In a thinly-veiled reference to Newin Chidchob, his former right-hand man, Thaksin said "some politicians are now betraying the public by voting for the other side while they try to bury me alive..."

He cancelled his much-hyped live phone-in apparently because Snoh Tiantong, leader of Pracharaj Party and Pracha Promnok, head of the Peau Paendin Party, had asked him to hold that one off so that Snoh could nominate Pracha as a candidate for the premiership in the House on Monday. Pracha will become his third "nominee" to be premier after Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat. But this time the opposition Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva may defeat Thaksin's man.

All in all, tonight's event, despite the frantic attempt to promote it as a "make-or-break" move for Thaksin's Peau Thai Party to turn the political turn in its favour, did not produce the kind of impact the organizers had anticipated.

Thaksin did not deliver a knock-out blow.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thaksin promises to give his best-ever statement on the phone

The organizers of tomorrow evening's red-shirted rally started "hyping" Thaksin Shinawatra's scheduled "phone-in" today with a blaze of publicity.

"The Democrats are already shaken by what the former prime minister is going to say in his phone-in. He told me that he was well-prepared for the presentation and it would be his best ever speech," said Nattawut Saigua, the government's spokesman and a core leader of the "red-shirted movement."

Is he going to "expose" Newin Chidchob, one of his former right-hand men, who has broken away to help the Democrats form the new government?

Nattawut would not deny that. After all, that's what promises to be the crowd-pleaser. Stay tuned on this blog!

Anupong: Did he advise or did he meddle?

He has kept his promise not to stage a coup -- so far. But did he stage a "quiet coup" by pressuring several groups of politicians to back the Democrat Party to form the next government?

"I offered my advice but I did not meddle in the formation of the new government," declared Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Anupong Paochinda yesterday.

Why did he offer his political advice then?

"Because the public has put high hopes on the military to improve the situation facing the country. I also would like the country to move on."

Did he negotiate for the post of defence minister?

"No. I have never aspired to any political post."

You will have to come to your own conclusion if you have any doubt on whether the army is behind the current showdown between Thaksin Shinawatra's Peau Thai and the Democrat Party to become the core of the new government.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What if you gave a party and nobody came?

Snoh Tiangtong thought he was being groomed as the new "kingmaker" for Thaksin Shinawatra. He threw a party at his house last evening, trying to present the perception that he can still call the shots. But the guests he wanted most refused to show up. Only members of Thaksin's Peau Thai Party were there.

Snoh wanted Gen Chetta Thanacharo, leader of Ruamjai Thai Chatpattana, to be the main guest. He also called up Police Gen Pracha Promnok, newly-elected leader of Peau Paendin, to be there. The two have been proposed as possible candidates for the premiership if Thaksin could pull off the "switch" back from the Democrats through Snoh's good offices.

But Snoh must have found to his chagrin that his charisma had evaporated. Pracha said he was taken ill. Chetta said he was seeing a dentist. And Ruamjai Thai's Secretary General Pradit Patraprasit called reporters at Snoh's residence to declare that if Chetta showed up at the party, he was only representing himself -- and would have nothing to do with the party's position which was to back the Democrats to form the next government.

If there was such thing as a free dinner, very few politicians were ready to go for it. The price may be too high.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Newin, the king-maker: I still respect Thaksin but...

Newin Chidchob, once former Premier Thaksin Shinnawatra's right-man operative, has emerged as the new "king-maker" to give his former boss' a real nightmare: Making the opposition Democrat Party the core of the new government thereby blocking Thaksin's effort to get his Peau Thai Party back to power.

Newin's faction of about 30 MPs from the Northeast has defected from Thaksin's party to the other side. The unthinkable has happened. Today, Newin was seen embracing Abhisit Vejjajiva publicly, forming a new alliance that one a week ago was considered impossible.

"I still respect Thaksin. He is still my boss. But sometimes, we have to make decisions that benefit the country rather than satisfying personal aspirations," Newin said. Yesterday, one of his aides quoted Newin as having told Thaksin on the phone:

"It's all over, boss. We will have to go separate ways..."

No permanent friends or enemies in politics. You don't need any more blatant example in real life.

The 3 'Ps' in green ...and their 'political advice'

Is the military behind the ongoing frantic effort to form a Democrat-led new coalition government?

Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Anupong Paochinda says he has only been given his personal advice to the politicians. He denies playing an active role as alleged by the Peau Thai Party members, who stand on the other side of the Democrats.

But there is no secret that Gen Anupong (nicknamed "Big Pok") has been holding close consultation with two other generals -- Gen Pravitr Wongsuwan, a former army chief, and Gen Prayudh Chan-ohcha, the current army's chief-of-staff.

Gen Anupong has insisted that he won't stage a coup. He has also gone on television to make his political stance clear. After the Oct 7 police attacks against the PAD demonstrators in front of Parliament House, he said in a television appearance that: "If I were Prime Minister Somchai (Wongsawat), I would quit."

He later led the task force of advisers to the premier to tell the public that the Somchat government should dissolve the House to call a new election.

No doubt, the "Three Musketeers" are being closely watched by political observers.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Desperate Thaksin keeps calling...

Lots of people, especially those in the medium-sized and small parties, were getting personal calls from Thaksin Shinnawatr yesterday -- and today. That's rare. It used to be quite difficult to get a direct line with the former prime minister. You had to go through a few "personal contacts" before you could say "Hello" to him.

But since the Democrat Party managed to recruit quite a number of MPs from Thaksin's former coalition partners and held a surprise press conference on Saturday, Thaksin suddenly became a very humble man. He was supposed to have offered the premiership to Maj Gen Sanan Kachornprasart, deputy leaders of the disbanded Chat Thai Party, although it's a small party with about 15 MPs left.

Sanan ignored the generous offer and went ahead to join Democrat Secretary General Suthep Thuaksuban in the press conference.

Then, Thaksin floated another offer: Any party joining his new Peau Thai Party will be given a Cabinet seat for every five MPs. That's incredible because if that's the formula, the Cabinet will be many times the size of the legal 35.

In other words, Thaksin is ready to do anything just to make sure that his party remains in power.

The once unquestionably most powerful politician in the country is now begging every possible MP to "Please don't leave me....I need your help."

For many an MP, the ability to say: "Sorry, sir, but I have to follow my conscience" to Thaksin is massively satisfying indeed.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The road ahead is bumpy for Abhisit

The Democrats pulled off a surprise today when they managed to get representatives from five smaller parties -- previously partners of the just dissolved People's Power Party (PPP) -- to join hands in forming the next government, with Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva as the new prime minister.

Democrat Secretary General Suthep Thuaksuban claimed at the press conference that he had garnered 260 MPs to back his boss as the next premier. But the Peau Thai Party -- successor to PPP -- also held an urgent meeting yesterday to declare that they will press on with their attempt to form the next government too.

That means a new battle will erupt in the House of Representatives to fight for the right to lead the next government. Peau Thai's ultimate weapon, if it loses out in the parliamentary war, is the constitutional prerogatives of the acting premier, Chaovarat Chanvirakul, to dissolve the House to call a new election.

Even if Abhisit's chances of becoming prime minister have brightened for the first time in the past week since Somchai Wongsawat was ousted as premier when his PPP party was ordered disbanded by the Constitutional Court, the road ahead is still full of roadblocks. The small parties remain divided and last-minute lobbying by Peau Thai Party may still turn the tide against him.

Peau Thai's main weakness is that it could not produce any credible and respectable candidates for the premiership. The names of Chalerm Yoobamrung and Mingkwan Saengsuwan have been greeted with deep skepticism. Peau Thai Party, facing a severe challenge from the Democrats today, took a step backwards for the first time today by suggesting that the smaller parties could nominate their own candidates to lead the new government.

In fact, the Peau Thai's leadership even offered Sanan Kachornprasart, deputy leader of the Chat Thai Party (also disbanded together with PPP), the premiership if his party was to remain with the previous line-up.

Sanan appeared side by side with the Democrat Party's Suthep in the press conference to snub the Peau Thai's overture.

The political see-saw continues unabated.

She is back but is she really divorced from politics?

Khunying Pojaman Shinawatr (is she still using Thaksin's family name?) flew back to Bangkok last night. And nobody believes she isn't on some important political mission.

It's strange but true. All page one headlines in the local press this morning were unanimous that she is back here to clear up the mess after the People's Power Party (PPP) was ordered disbanded together with two others. All PPP MPs were supposed to walk straight into Peau Thai Party, the brand new home set up a few weeks ago to carry on Thaksin's political venture. But with Newin Chidchob's faction of about 37 MPs showing signs of a defection and the emergence of other uncertainties, the stage is set for a new round of turmoil. And she apparently is here to make sure that the "right" man becomes the next prime minister.

Pojaman, according to some insiders, is here to sort out her financial arrangements after she and Thaksin signed divorce papers some two weeks ago presumably in Hong Kong. But the timing of her return (Peau Thai Party is scheduled to hold its first major meeting tomorrow) has inevitably pointed all political analysts to one direction.

That raises the question again of whether her "divorce" from Thaksin is for real. Or was it another political ploy?

Pojaman is appealing the court's ruling that handed down a three-year jail term for her evasion of some 546 million baht in tax when she transferred a major chunk of stocks of Shinnawatr Computers and Communications to her relatives. She has been acquitted in another case -- the Rajada land deal -- in which Thaksin was given a two-year jail term without probation.

The Thaksin-Pojaman "split-up-and-fight" saga has just begun.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Chuan says "No;" Snoh: Why not me?

Chuan Leekpai, former premier and chief adviser of the opposition Democrat Party, wasted no time in turning down any offer to make him the next prime minister. "It's our party's principle to let the party leader assume the premiership if we form the core of any government," the senior politician said this moring. (Click on the video to listen to his interview).

Chances of the Democrats leading the new government are slim. But under the current fluid situation, anything is possible. The ruling People's Power Party (PPP) which has been disbanded by order of the Constitutional Court may be split. One major faction led by Thaksin Shinawatr's erstwhile right-hand man Newin Chidchob has made it known that they would reject Thaksin's nominees on grounds that such a choice would plunge the country back to turmoil again.

A spokesman of Newin's group (claiming control over 37 MPs) even suggested Chuan should take over the premiership to put the country back on the healing process. The statement suggests that Newin's faction may consider breaking away from Thaksin's new party, Peau Thai.

The five small parties that were part of the PPP-led coalition met last night and, according to one of the leaders, Snoh Tianthong, leader of Pracharaj, an agreement was also reached to the effect that they would not support any nominee from the Peau Thai Party, in effect snubbing any choice imposed by Thaksin.

Snoh said the five coalition partners, while opposing any move to join hands with the opposition Democrat Party to set up the next administration, concluded that the next premier should come from the smaller parties.

Snoh and Gen Chettha Thanajaro, leader of Ruamjaithai Chartpattana, have been mentioned as possible nominations.

Thaksin, giving instructions to his party from abroad, won't budge. But his clout is dwindling in the wake of the growing uncertainty hovering over his own future and the obvious polarisation of the domestic political line-up.

The next few days will witness intense behind-the-scenes negotiations. Nothing -- including back-stabbing, betrayals, line-up switchover -- is to be ruled out.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thaksin breaks Thai leaders' code of conduct

Someone sent me this very interesting political observation:

Lesson of Thai leaders' code of conduct

The problem now with Thailand is that Thaksin Shinawatra does not concede. This is not Thai-like as judged by the political history.

In the past, all Thai leaders who lost power or the game of power play agreed to live in exile or stayed in Thailand in seclusion for the sake of the whole country rather than fighting till their supporters and their opponents died.
Modern Thai political history is spared the bloodshed compared with other nations.

King Rama VII faced a military coup in 1932 that brought down Absolute Monarchy, which had been around in Thailand for more than 700 years. The King conceded his power because he did not want Thais to kill each other.

When the King realised that he could not be part of managing the country in transition for the interest of the majority Thais, he abdicated in 1935. Then, the coup-makers were more interested in power struggle for their own benefits. The King left for England and died there. This was the King's sacrifice.

Field Marshal Pibul Songkram lost power in the political fight against Gen Sarit Thanarat. He fled to Japan and died in exile there. He conceded the defeat and never plotted to destroy Thailand, although he had a capacity to do so. Given his power, he could easily have marshalled a military faction in support of him for a political comeback.
This was Field Marshal Pibul's sacrifice.

Pridi Panomyong, the statesman, also lived in exile in China and later France after losing the political power. He conceded defeat without blaming any one, at least openly. The stake of the country was higher than his own benefits.
This was Pridi's sacrifice.

Field Marshal Thanom Kittikajorn, after the 1973 bloody incident, stepped down from power. He was the dictator with the most powerful. But he agreed to resign after the bloody incident for the sake of the country. He was even more powerful than Thaksin or any leaders because Thailand in the early 1970s was still very underdeveloped without any institutions. He could easily have eliminated all of his political opponents easily with his guns and tanks.

But Field Marshal Thanom lived in seclusion without trying to reclaim the political power or plan any plot against his country.
This was Field Marshal Thanom's sacrifice.

Gen Suchinda staged a coup and afterward he ran into the political crisis with the May 1992 tragedy. The military then under his regime was most powerful, unchallenged. But he agreed to step down for the sake of the country. He never plotted any ill plan against Thailand.
This was Gen Suchinda's sacrifice.

Thaksin Shinawatra is the first to have violated the Thai leadership's code of conduct. He would not concede defeat even when it was over. He has been plotting ill plans against Thailand all along with his international and local PR machines.
He does not know how to make a sacrifice.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

PAD ends all rallies 10.00 am Dec 3

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), after holding a marathon 192-day protest, declared an end to all rallies as of 10.000 am tomorrow (Dec 3), a few hours after the Constitutional Court handed down verdicts to disband three political parties in the current coalition government. The country's biggest, ruling party, People's Power Party, is the hardest hit. All its 37 executive members, including Premier Somchai Wongsawat, will be banned from politics for five years.

Sondhi Limthongkul, reading PAD's statement, at around 6.00 pm, said the protestors will return to the streets if the new governerment attempts to amend the constitution to benefit the Thaksin regime -- or if any effort is made to curtail royal powers.

"After 192 days of protest and about 10 of us killed and hundreds injured by war weapons used by our opponents, we have decided to call off the rallies because we have achieved our victory. But we will be ready to come back if things go wrong again," he said.

The question now is: Who's going to be the next prime minister? Will Thaksin make a return in one form or another. Who will be his "third generation of nominees" after Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat?

Watch out for my next posting here.

Urgent! Premier Somchai is OUT! PPP is disbanded...

The nine-member Constitutional Court ruled unanimously to disband the ruling People's Power Party at around 12.30 today, prompting Premier Somchai Wongsawat, one
of the party's 37 executive members, to lose his post immediately.

The court said the 37 executive members will be banned from politics for five years, according to Article 237 of the Constitution aimed at punishing parties whose executive(s) were involved in electoral fraud. The party's deputy leader Yongyuth Tiyapairat had earlier been handed a guilty verdict by the Supreme Court.

The ruling means Somchai loses his premiership immediately. The two other parties in the coalition government -- Chat Thai and Machima -- were also disbanded in two parallel verdicts today.

The verdicts mean that Thai politics will undergo another major change although most of PPP's MPs are expected to join a newly-formed party, Peau Thai, to continue to hold the majority in the House.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sulak: Premier should seek royal advice

Sulak Sivaraksa, one of Thailand's best-known senior social critics, has suggested that Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat should seek a private audience with His Majesty the King to ask for a solution to the current political crisis.

Sulak, speaking on Thai PBS television on Saturday night, said he was confident that the King would be neutral and would offer the most appropriate way out of the ongoing political chaos.

Privately, Sulak said he would like the premier to step down, paving the way for the formation of a national, nonpartisan government under the leadership of a "respected outsider." That would require an amendment to the constitution which requires the premier to be an elected MP.

Sulak said every player involved in the political drama should "look at the long-term picture" rather than their short-term interests.