Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pa Prem in full military uniform: What's the message?

Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, president of the Privy Council, was in full military dress on Monday when the country's top brass paid him a visit to wish him a happy new year.

Does that carry any special meaning? I didn't really get too excited about it. Perhaps, "Pa Prem" was in a good mood. Perhaps, he wanted his visitors to feel at home.

But some political observers promptly pointed out that it was "quite unusual" for Gen Prem to be dressed "for war" on such an occasion.

Manager Daily even ran a headline saying: "Pa Prem in full military uniform: Signalling that he is ready for the last battle."

What last battle? Well, if you count the political attacks launched consistently by Thaksin Shinawatr's lieutenants as a "war," then yes, Pa Prem appears ready to confront them head-on, albeit in his own soft-spoken and subtle retaliation.

But all that Pa Prem told the military leaders that day was: Do good, avoid the bad.

You can read anything into his usual exhortations.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Hun Sen: Coup paranoid or political ploy?

It all started with the "classified documents" made public by red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan. Now, Cambodian PM Hun Sen claims that part of that secret paper says the Abhisit government was plotting to overthrow him -- as today's front-page headline in this morning's Phnom Penh Post says.

I went through the papers with a fine-toothed comb and couldn't locate any suggestion of an attempted coup against Hun Sen from this side of the border. Perhaps, it was an interpretation given to him by his good Thai friend Thaksin Shinawatra. Or perhaps, the ghost from years gone by of the attempted coup orchestrated from some political elements in Thailand against him has made Hun Sen somewhat paranoic.

And some of those involved in that incident are Hun Sen's supposed "great friends" from Thailand today!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How Surayud got quoted out of context...

Poor Gen Surayud Chullanont. He was only trying to be nice and accommodating to reporters. But when some newspapers ran a headline saying he was ready to talk to Thaksin Shinawatr, things got badly exaggerated.

I did listen to the interview. The former premier and present privy councillor He was asked by a reporter: Would be answer the phone if Thaksin called? Surayud replied: "Yes. I would talk to him. I always did. In fact, when we met the last time he came back, we talked at the funeral of Army Chief Anupong's mother."

Would he initiate the call? "No, that would be inappropriate for a privy councillor..."

And that's it. Surayud gave no hint that he would serve as a "broker" for peace between Thaksin and the Abhisit government. In fact, he even mentioned that he wasn't sure what would be the topics if he and Thaksin should happen to talk on the phone.

Things went awry when critics started to ask what Surayud was up to. Thaksin tweeted to ask whether Surayud was speaking for himself or had he got "permission" to speak in that tone. Instead of positive response as a military "dove,"
Surayud got hammered from all sides.

One of his aides came out yesterday to say it had all been taken out of context by the reporters who had been invited by the former premier for a trek up the mountain in the North to inspect a development project.

But Surayud, ever the gentleman, won't come out to deny the story himself. Time will prove everything, his aide quoted him as saying.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

When the PM of one country calls for the ouster of his counterpart...

What does it mean when the leader of one country declares that his counterpart in another country must go before normal relations could be restored?

Cambodian PM Hun Sen had this to say in his speech at a scholarship ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh yesterday:

"I will wait to see the establishment of a new government in Thailand so that they will send back their ambassador...you accuse us of abusing the Thai justice system but you forget to mention you are invading Cambodian territory..."

When Hun Sen calls for the replacement of Abhisit, that's not the normal way of dealing with your neighbours. What if Abhisit says the same thing about Hun Sen? That would amount to interference with the domestic affairs of another country, wouldn't it?

The Thai people decide who run their country -- and whether Hun Sen likes the Thai peoples choice, he has no right to call for the toppling of his counterpart here.

Hun Sen doesn't respect the Thai judicial system by insisting that Thaksin had done nothing wrong. What if Thailand starts to question Cambodia's judical system?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Why is Thaksin interrogating Sivarak in the Khmer prison?

What's Thaksin Shinawtra doing in a Cambodian jail?

Questioning Sivarak Chotipong, the suspected "spy," to find out who was behind it all?

But interrogating a released "spy" wasn't supposed to be part of the deal. Besides, Sivarak had insisted all along that he had not stolen any confidential document that could have affected Thaksin's personal safety. In fact, he had said that news about Thaksin's plane's landing in Phnom Pennh had already been reported by Khmer media at least 20 minutes before the first secretary of the Thai Embassy there had called him.

So, the inevitable impression of Thaksin's appearance in the Cambodian prison yesterday was that he wanted to be physically there to confirm that Sivarak's release was due to his own "heroic" action -- and to squeeze any information at all from the alleged spy to feed his Pheau Thai Party to grill the Abhisit government in a no-confidence debate.

After all is said and done, it's all part of a well-scripted episode from the very beginning.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Abhisit-Hun Sen in Vientiane: So near yet so far

Take a close look: PM Abhisit Vejjajiva and Cambodian Premier Hun Sen are seen here at the opening ceremony of the 25th Sea Games in Vientiane last evening, separated only by six prominent personalities.

Reporters at the scene say the two weren't trying to talk to each other. In Vientiane this week, sports are supposed to unite the two. But in Phnom Penh today, tension promises to rise as the Thai government and opposition Pheau Thai compete to help Thai engineer Sivarak Chotipong get an amnesty from the Cambodian government.

Hun Sen will decide which Thai party gets the credit. Strange but true.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

They are only "look-alikes?"

He says the guy in the picture with Thaksin Shinawatra isn't him. It's only his

But the army says a disciplinary action committee will be set up to probe what Maj Gen Khattiya Sawatdiphol, an Army specialist, was doing in Cambodia when Thaksin was there recently -- and what his "look-alike" was doing in Dubai, also with Thaksin.

If push comes to shove, who knows, Khattiya, better known as "Sen Daeng," may even say the other guy in the picture wasn't Thaksin. It's only his "look-alike."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thaksin Beef Noodle...

"Where's the beef?" Pavin Chachavalpongpun asks in his column today in the Bangkok Post.

This is a new restaurant recently opened in Singapore, proof that "the Thaksin fever has not faded away," he says.

Pavin said he tried to locate the owner but to no avail.

"His name has not only been used as a rallying point for the red-shirt protestors, but as a marketing strategy for businesses overseas that seek to build themselves on beguiling names like Thaksin..."

Pavin added: "But the name Thaksin is also increasingly troublesome..."

Read his column here....http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/28711/where-the-beef-in-a-name-plenty

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Newin quitting politics? He must be kidding...

He is the de facto leader of Bhumjaithai Party, a crucial faction in the Abhisit coalition government. He pulls strings from behind. He makes most of the important decisions for his party. And now, he says it's time for him to quit politics.

Of course, you have to take it with a grain of salt -- and you have to read very carefully between the lines. Newin Chidchob said he would not accept a political post when his five-year ban from politics ends in 2012.

He was quoted as saying: "I will neither enter politics to contest the next general election nor accept any political executive or ministerial position."

But then Newin also added that he would back anyone who he thought was suitable to become premier.

Backing someone to become prime minister isn't playing politics, right?

But haven't we heard that it's always his ambition to become prime minister one day?

Newin told reporters he wasn't suitable for that post, at least for now.

"If you don't know yourself first, how can you know others?" he said.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Prasong: Thaksin won't stop at overthrowing Abhisit...

Prasong Soonsiri, an arch-rival of Thaksin Shinawatra, minces no words when it comes to unravelling what he thinks what the ex-premier is up to.

He says Thaksin currently employs a "three-level" strategy to not only overthrow the Abhisit government "but he has a higher objective than that."

Prasong, former foreign minister,among other titles, says the lowest level of Thaksin's operation is the red-shirts working at the local areas, both in Bangkok and the provinces. The second level includes MPs in the House and the highest level is Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and his former class-mates, who have recently retired from active duties in the armed forces.

Prasong says Thaksin plans to create choas in various areas so that he can return as a victor.

Thaksin, of course, has been saying that he only wants peace and reconciliation.

Time will tell. And it won't be too long.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Chavalit and his 10-point condition to Thaksin

Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has declared that his only mission left in life would be to bring back Thaksin Shinawatra.

"I will try to bring Thaksin back to Thailand...let him get the punishment...and then perhaps a pardon or whatever...I intend to resolve all the problems within one year...and that's it. Then, I will leave," he told Matichon in the latest interview.

He was asked whether he would like to be prime minister again.

(Laughter) "Enough...No more...This time I return to work for the nation. Once it's done, I would be gone...Before I joined Pheau Thai Party, I wrote a letter to Thaksin with 10 conditions...and one of them is that I will not accept any position..."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Samak says "farewell" to senators?

This picture appeared on a screen during a meeting of the Senate yesterday afternoon, only a few hours after Samak Sundaravej passed away at Bumrungras Hospital.

A few senators said the ex-premier probably "made his appearance" to bid farewell to Members of Parliament. Power went off briefly after this picture was seen. Other senators said it was probably just a coincidence.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A rare picture of a sweet moment for PM and wife

This picture was posted on Twitter this morning, supposedly by PM Abhisit Vejjajiva himself. But he was probably too shy to do that himself. So, it was almost certain that the premier's official photographer made sure this set of exclusive pictures of the PM seen intimate with his wife were released to the public, as if unintentionally.

The pictures were taken during their flight back from the Apec meeting in Singapore, Nov 15.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The unlikely alleged "spy" named "Tao"

Sivarak "Tao" Chotipong, the Thai engineer being detained by Cambodian authorities on espionage charge, is known among his Thai friends in Cambodia as a jovial person with no particular political affiliation.

A blogger at Oknation who knows Tao well said he was "shocked" to get a phone call from a friend after reading the front page of Rasmi Kampuchea which played up the story as the main story Thursday morning, complete with Tao's picture, and the allegations that he had "stolen" documents pertaining to flight schedules of Thaksin Shinawatra and Hun Sen.

The blogger said he didn't believe Tao had done as alleged. "He would be the last person to get himself involved in any political activity like that," another friend told a Nation reporter.

Cambodian authorities were trying to link Tao to the First Secretary of the Thai Embassy, Kamrob Palwiwatchai, who was earlier this week expelled from Cambodia for being "persona non grata."

Tao is an employee of Cambodia Aviation Transport Services (CATS), a subsidiary of Thailand's Samart Group, that has a 35-year concession with the Cambodian government. He has been in Cambodia for about 7 years.

Nobody knows where Tao is being detained since he "disappeared" from home at around 3am Wednesday. The Thai Embassy says it is trying to locate him so that officials can visit him to provide help.

The incident reminds me of the Cold War era when rival countries would detain "spies" from the other side to boost their bargaining power in any confrontation.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Is Suu Kyi's release imminent?

Speculation is rife that Aung San Suu Kyi may be released soon as part of the "package deal" between the Burmese military leaders and the United States.

Saw Yan Naing of The Irrawaddy.org wrote that Nyan Win, the spokesman for the Rangoon-based National League for Democracy (NLD) commenting on the news report, said: “This is what many people wanted to hear.”

“It is going strengthen the NLD party if she is released. She will organize the election campaign effectively for the party and can perform well on the political stage,” he said.

Min Lwin, a senior Burmese diplomat, told AP in Manila earlier this week: “There is a plan to release her [Suu Kyi] soon ... so she can organize her party.”

Suu Kyi has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years. Her latest detention began in May 2003 after convoy of vehicles in which she was traveling was attacked by junta thugs during a canvassing trip at Depayin. Suu Kyi has been unable to speak publicly since.

Charged with violating the terms of her house arrest in May a few weeks before the end of her detention, Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for a further 18 months in August.

Suu Kyi said she was satisfied with the recent meeting with the US delegation led by Kurt Campbell and she thanked the Burmese regime for allowing it to happen.

Observers say the release of Suu Kyi should not come as a surprise because junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe said in August Suu Kyi would be granted amnesty before her suspended sentence expired if she behaved "well" at her Inya Lake home under the restrictions imposed on her.

Burmese officials regularly make conciliatory promises before regional meetings but fail to follow them up with action, noted one observer, who pointed out that Thein Sein said the election law would be announced soon during the Asean summit in Cha-am in Thailand in October.

On Sunday, Thein Sein and Min Lwin will attend the US-Asean leaders meeting in Singapore, the first between President Obama and Asean leaders.

Rumors circulating among diplomats in Rangoon suggest Min Lwin will be promoted as Burmese ambassador to the US.

Observers also said a meeting between Suu Kyi and Than Shwe is necessary before the election law is announced because this would help the NLD decide whether to insist on constitutional review before taking part in the election.

Christina Fink, author of a new edition of her book: Living Silence: Burma under Military Rule, also doubts Min Lwin, saying he may have made the comment to ease pressure on the Burmese regime prior to the Singapore summit.

According to Jeffrey Bader, the US senior director for Asian affairs, Obama will make a personal plea for Suu Kyi’s release at the summit.

If they plan to release Suu Kyi, the junta needs to do it very soon to give her and the NLD enough time to decide on whether to participate in the election and prepare an election campaign, Fink said.

She said Suu Kyi should be released before the election and political parties contesting the election are announced.

Burma watcher Jeff Kingston, the director of Asian Studies at Temple University’s Japan campus, said the junta’s Constitution excludes Suu Kyi from holding office, so the big questions are whether and how the regime will facilitate her participation in the election.

He said that the other 2,000 political prisoners must also be released.

“The regime should not be negotiating the timing of her release...having raised the possibility of her release they should do so immediately without conditions,” Kingston said.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The house that Hun Sen built....for Thaksin

This is where Thaksin Shinawatra is expected to spend the first night in Phnom Penh today. It's a residential complex right in the Cambodian capital that will house the most prominent fugitive from Thailand.

Thaksin flew into Phnom Penh this morning,prompting the Thai government to file a request for his extradition which is expected to be ignored by Hun Sen who had made it clear earlier that he won't deliver the former Thai premier "because he is my friend and he has been treated unfairly in Thailand."

The Thai government plans to ask the Interpol to help arrest him.

The questions being asked now include: Will Thaksin take up residence in Cambodia? H has said he won't. How long will be stay this time? Perhaps, a day or two. Some of his advisers in Bangkok have suggested he turn down the advisory job in Cambodia for fear of further backlash which has so far seen his popularity ratings plunge.

Meanwhile, the relations between Thailand and Phnom Penh continue to head downhill.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Abhisit puts blame squarely on Big Jiew....

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva this morning put the blame squarely on Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh for triggering the new Thai-Cambodian spat that has resulted in both countries summoning their respective ambassadors for home consutations.

He said before Chavalit's visit to Cambodia two weeks ago, Cambodian PM Hun Sen was still insisting that he would put the two nations' interests above his personal relations with Thaksin Shinawatra.

"But things began to change after the visit of a former PM to Cambodia. The Cambodian PM had probably been fed wrong information that resulted in the appointment of Thaksin as PM Hun Sen's adviser..." Abhisit said in his weekly television programme.

He said the Thai-Khmer MoU over continental shelf straddling both countries had to be cancelled because it was signed when Thaksin was premier -- and now that the ex-premier is serving the Khmer PM, certain classified information might be leaked to the Cambodian side.

Gen Chavalit, however, remains unperturbed. He insisted that he will proceed with his plan to visit other neighbouring countries...next stop Burma.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What if Abhisit appoints Cambodia's Sam Rangsi his adviser?

Hun Sen naming Thaksin Shinawatra his personal economic adviser? Deputy PM Suthep Thuangsuban said this morning: "It's Cambodia's internal affair."

He then added cryptically: "What would happen if the Thai government appoints Sam Rangsi (Cambodia's opposition leader) our adviser?"

Is that also Thailad's "internal affair?"

Do two "internal matters" make one international incident? I frankly don't know.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

FM tells Economist: You painted too dark and pessimistic picture of Thailand

The Thai Foreign Ministry has written to "The Economist" after the British news magazine has published several articles about Thai politics. This is what was published in the latest issue:

SIR –The Economist painted too dark and pessimistic a picture of Thailand’s political situation (“Exile and the kingdom”, October 17th). Since 1932, and despite many ups and downs along the democratic path, Thais have persevered towards a true parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy. Irrespective of their political colours, Thais share an unwavering respect for the monarchy. The current political impasse reflects different perspectives about what Thai democracy entails, and efforts are being made to bridge such differences peacefully through parliamentary means.

Meanwhile, the Thai people enjoy their constitutional rights, not least the right to peaceful assembly, which has been continuously exercised and respected.

Vimon Kidchob
Department of Information
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Friday, October 30, 2009

Thaksin: Loy Krathong in Phnom Penh is out

One day after some of his Pheau Thai Party's MPs said Thaksin Shinawatra was coming to Phnom Penh to celebrate Loy Krathong with Cambodian PM Hun Sen, the ex-premier wrote in his Twitter account: "Loy Kratong in Cambodia? No.I am not going. I will stay on here (in Dubai). Besides, people can start getting my sms messages for free as of Nov 1."

Of course, Thaksin knows what a storm he could create if he decides to fly into Phnom Penh because PM Abhisit has made it clear that he will pursue legal proceedings for his extradition, no matter what Hun Sen has said earlier.

It wouldn't be wise for Thaksin to get caught in a web of an international incident even if he reckons he could snub the Abhisit government.

But he has apparently decided it's politically not worth it after all.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's going to be a hot Loy Krathong...Thaksin is due in Cambodia Nov 2

Pheau Thai MP Pracha Prasobdi says Thaksin Shinawatr will fly his private jet to Cambodia on Nov 2 to celebrate Loy Krathong festival with Khmer PM Hun Sen.

"He also wants to personally thank Hun Sen for expressing his readiness to provide a house for him," the Thai MP says, adding: "If Prime Minister Abhisit wants to visit Khun Thaksin in Cambodia, he may do so. But there is no way he can get Thaksin arrested because the Cambodian government has made it clear it won't hand Thaksin over to the Thai government because it's a political case. And if the government puts additional pressure, he might seek political asylum."

A group of Pheau Thai MPs may join Thaksin in Cambodia for the occasion.

What does PM Abhisit say about that? "We will pursue legal proceedings. There is no doubt about that."

PM Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoei stressed in his statement to Parliament today that Thaksin had committed a criminal offence -- therefore it's under the jurisdiction of the extradition agreement between Thailand and Cambodia.

It's going to be a hot Loy Krathong!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

It all started with copying a friend's homework...

Recently-retired Air Chief Marshal Sumet Pohmani has led a team of about 30 former pre-cadet classmates of Thaksin Shinawatr to join Pheau Thai Party.

He was commanding the Air Force Operations Centre when the Sept 19, 2006 coup took place. Sumet said he was ready to put up a fight against the coup leaders. In fact, when he decided to surrender, it was 10.00 pm. He was the last general to lay down his weapons against the coup "because when I checked around, everybody else had fled the scene..."

Why is he so loyal to Thaksin? ACM Sumet admitted frankly to a reporter last week: "Because I am Thaksin's close friend. When we were studying together, I used to copy homework from him for almost two years. He was such a bright student..."

Now, you know why. One good deed deserves another.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Chavalit wants to confuse everybody, himself included

You can never be too sure what he is up to. Sometimes, you are led to think he is a super strategist. Other times, you are tempted to believe that he is nothing but a confused old man.

Whatever your conclusion, Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh is no ordinary retired general.

He shook hands with Cambodian Premier Hun Sen in Phnom Penh on the same day that he disclosed that he was meeting the key leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD). The former is Thaksin Shinawatr's close friend, the latter an arch-enemy.

Chavalit said Hun Sen has set aside a beautiful home for Thakin in Cambodia because he is sympathetic with "mistreated friend." In other words, Chavalit is suggesting that Hun Sen was granted asylum to Thaksin.

Then, he said he was meeting PAD's key leaders including Chamlong Srimuang to talk about natioal reconciliation. Didn't he realize that one bombshell could neutralize the next one. How would Chamlong react to Chavalit's peace overture when the latter was seen helping Thaksin to return to power?

And then, a little bird at PAD told me that it is possible that Chavalit may meet Sondhi Limthongkul, leader of the New Politics Party as well. How public that meeting will be remains unclear.

But never underestimate Big Jiew. He has tried impossible missions before. He has failed so far. But who knows, luck may be on the side this time...and he needs lots of that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Arisman, the 'persona non grata' at Hua Hin this week...

With 18,000 policemen and soldiers mobilized at the cost of nearly Bt300m, Hua Hin and Cha-am beach fronts will look like a war zone during this week's Asean Summit.

Security will be tight. Everyone entering the hotels where the meetings and related functions take place will be given a different colour of badge. An "Asean Lane" will be set aside for traffic leading to the conference site.

With Arisman Pongruangrong declaring that he plans to lead a delegation of red-shirted protestors to hand a letter to the Asean leaders against PM Abhisit Vejjajiva comes the new announcenment just today that red-shirts won't be allowed into Hua Hin or Cha-am during the conference to prevent any untowards incident.

Arisman, who staged the "Pattaya fiasco" in April, this year, when he led red-shirted protestors to charge into the Asean summit in Pattaya, has been singled out as the Persona Non Grata of this event.

"He can hand over his protest note to Asean anywhere except in Hua Hin and Cha-am..." Deput PM Suthep Thuaksuban said.

Even Arisman's look-alikes should try to avoid that area, if they don't want to be politely told to leave...just to be on the safe side.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Abhisit in one of his happy moods...

You don't often see Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva in such a jovial mood. But then, that's because he sneaked into a friend's house yesterday for a quick lunch. Patee Sarasin, Nok Air's chief executive, didn't say what prompted the PM to drop in at his house but Patee, so of Arsa Sarasin, His Majesty the King's Seretary-General, did post a few pictures of the prime minister enjoying himself at his house on his Twitter account for all his "followers" to see.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sondhi: Lots of people hate me...I don't care

Sondhi Limthongkul has given several "exclusive interviews" to newspapers since he took over as leader of the New Politics Party. Being a former journalist himself, there was no way he could avoid some of the tough questions he himself had thrown at others.

At one point during an interview with a Thai Post reporter, Sondhi was asked point-blank:

"Do you realize you have lots of weak points?"

Sondhi, almost without hesitation, responded:

"Yes, a lot...My weak points include being aggressive...I don't give in to others. I say what I think. Mass media people hate my guts.I can't help it. But the day that I die, when they look back, they will regret that Thai society wouldn't have anyone like me anymore..."

Question: People have extreme feelings towards you: They either love you or hate you.

Answer: Lots of people hate me. I don't care. I am not a man in the middle because I make my position clear....

He apparently liked the long and comprehensive interview, which was labelled: "Sondhi's first interview with Thai Post!

Manager Online reprinted the full text today.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Touching base with grass-roots...on a helicopter

This picture was taken by someone seated next to PM Abhisit Vejjajiva -- his PM Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoei -- on a helicopter ride from one stop in Ubon to Yasothorn on Saturday.

The caption that accompanied this picture, posted by Sathit on his Twitter, says: "PM in a relaxing mood."

But one Twitterer commented: "I think the PM looks tired."

It was like a "war zone" when about 4,000 policemen were mobilized to provide security for the PM who was hopping from one location to another on a helicopter.

His peformance on the ground in the three Northeastern provinces -- as shown on this morning's programme on Channel 11 -- was lively and impressive though. Whether the villagers had been gathered by by local officials and politicians or not, Abhisit managed to look and sound like a guy who had finally touched base with the "grass-roots" people.

Despite the inherent risk of facing "red-shirted protests" in the Northeast rural areas, the PM will have to prove that he can go anywhere he wants to communicate directly with the villagers who have grown disillusioned with the "Bangkok Establishment" obsessed with infighting only for their own benefits.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

For Sondhi, where is the line drawn among PAD, NPP and ASTV?

If you ask him, Sondhi Limthongkul, the leader of the newly-formed New Politics Party (NPP), there is no conflict between his role as a political party leader, icon of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and operator of ASTV.

He went on ASTV just now to make his stand clear: The party is a part of PAD which has many other tools.

Asked whether as party leader closely associated with the ownership of a television channel, there wouldn't be questions of conflic of interests, Sondhi said: "No. When Thaksin (Shinawatra) was prime minister, he also owned ITV. One of his ministers, Pracha Malinond, owns Channel 3. Channel 9 was also under his control...so, as long as ASTV and NPP continue to play their professional roles, I see no conflict."

His critics, though, would find that kind of arguments rather feeble. "I know that once I am in politics, I will come under scrutiny. I am ready for that."

Ready or not, the scrutiny will begin in earnest soon enough.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Abhisit, Nibhon: Today's the day!

It would really take a miracle for Nibhon Promphand to change his mind about quitting...and PM Abhisit Vejjajiva seems resigned to the fact that he will have to effect a mini-Cabinet shake-up to shake off the political fall-off from this rather bizarre episode.

What's the big fuss about a PM's secretary (even if "general" is attached to the title) quitting? Under normal circumstances, it might have made news for a day or two and a new secretary would be named in his place.

What's the big fuss about a replacement for the national police chief? It might have made headlines for a few days but after the PM decides who the new guy should be, things would be back to normal.

But in this case, one small thing led to another small thing and a big bang materialized.

Those who claim to know the "inside story" say Nibhon is no ordinary PM's secretary. He is supposed to have special connections that the PM can't afford to ignore. And when he joined up with Deputy PM Suthep Thuagsuban (who happens to be his brother-in-law)to support Police Gen Jumpon Manmai instead of going along with the PM to name Police Gen Pateep Tanprasert, it was obviously not an ordinary case of "I-beg-to- differ, sir" sort of argument.

It has also been pointed out to me that the PM did raise some eyebrows when he went to Nibhon's house instead of the other way round one day last week to try to thrash things out.

"Things will be cleared up on Monday (today)," Abhisit repeatedly told reporters.

Last night, speculation began to fly to the effect that Nibhon wouldn't change his mind and Abhisit was pondering a mini-Cabinet reshuffle -- naming Deputy PM Korbsak Sabhavasu to replace Nibhon and putting senior Democrat Trairong Suwannakhiri to replace Korbsak.

Morals of this story: Never put two small things together. They could explode into a big big bang.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bt300m state sponsorship? Sarocha hits back at Jatuporn

Sarocha Pornudomsak has issued a strongly-worded denial of red-shirted leader Jatuporn Phrompan's allegation that TAN Network had received some Bt300 million from the Abhisit government.

Here is her statement of disappointment over Jatuporn in particular and the press in general:

On September 28, 2009, the Matichon Online agency printed a comment made by a prominent leader of the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship, Jatuporn Phrompan, which cited false information about how the Office of the Prime Minister had allocated funds of around 300 million baht (Three hundred million baht) to the TAN Network.

After being informed of the report, Sarosha Pornudomsak, TAN’s Network Director immediately came out to deny the allegations, both on-air on TAN Network and on ASTV. However, Jatuporn chose to ignore those rebuttals and continued to defame the network further the next day with continued media reports suggesting that the government had given the TAN Network sponsorship of 300 million baht.

Jatuporn also attempted to link the TAN Network with the Democrat Party by citing the appearance of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and other members of his Cabinet at the official launch of the Thai-ASEAN News Network on August 26, 2009. On this issue, we would like to say that the Prime Minister indeed appeared as our guest of honor for the event. Many ministers from his administration did attend the event as well. However, this does not in any way suggest “irregular relations” between the network and the government. All our guests attended for one reason, and one reason only, and that is that they all had a mutual belief that Thailand, as an emerging market in the global economy, must have a viable alternative for the foreign community when it comes to English broadcast news. It did not, under any circumstance, imply that the government was ready to “sponsor” the network in financial terms.

What Jatuporn has suggested is completely inaccurate and is malicious in its intention to discredit this government and the TAN Network.

This press release is to, once again reiterate, that the Thai-ASEAN News (TAN) Network has never received any amount of sponsorship from this government or any other government in the past. We are a privately owned, independent news station that offers accurate and unbiased news to our viewers, both foreign and Thai. Our news reports are factual and are presented in a straightforward manner. Our commentaries are clearly distinguished apart from our news segments and reflect the views and opinions of guest speakers and senior journalists who appear on our shows.

We are disappointed that Jatuporn, as a Member of Parliament under the Phue Thai banner, chose to target our news organization to further his political gains. Surprisingly, under the current political climate, news agencies throughout Thailand chose to run the story without having even checked with the TAN Network as to whether the allegations had any truth. This is yet another disappointing factor.

The Thai-ASEAN News Network, once again, insists that it has never received any sponsorship, financial or otherwise, from the Thai government. We continue to report the news with integrity and accountability and because of that, our legal teams are preparing to press charges of defamation against Jatuporn Phrompan and all media organizations which chose to report the story without any attempts to ask involved parties.

The Thai-ASEAN News (TAN) Network
Bangkok, Thailand
October 1, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

If Abhisit had his way...the next election should be held ....

If you put two and two together, the logical conclusion is that PM Abhisit Vejjajiva's grand plan is for a House dissolution to call a new election around the middle of next year.

How do I know? I don't think anyone knows, not even the PM himself, because there are so many variables to be taken into consideration, not the least being his own Democrat Party's relations with the largest coalition partner, Bhumjaithai Party.

And I am not sure that Abhisit's personal ties with his right-hand man, Deputy PM Suthep Thuaksuban, will ever be the same again.

Suthep admitted for the first time publicly this morning: "The Democrat Party is not ready for an election now. We still have many problems to resolve."

As if on cue, PM Abhisit told reporters at a different function at about the same time that he thought if all parties concerned were to work together, the constitutional amendments could be completed in six months -- or nine months at the latest.

At the risk of miscalculating an Abhisit-Suthep close coordination on this issue, I think we can presume that the PM believes he can survive the next six months after which an election would be inevitable, whether his party is ready or not.

And if he had his way, a referendum will be held on the proposed charter changes before the House is dissolved (the PM is the only person empowered to do that) and a new election called.

All this is based on the presumption, of course, that Abhisit is in a position to call most of the political shots from now until early next year.

And nobody can guarantee that either.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Who's behind this 'little red book?'

Nobody is quite sure who produced this booklet, entitled: "Bankrupt All Over" as a sort of parody of the red shirts' slogan: "Red All Over."

What is clear is that the author tries very hard to link the red shirts to the "left" movement and you can see the red star all over the hats being worn on the prominent figures on the frontline.

Thaksin Shinawatr has been equally vehement that he is no communist. But he has made no public attempt to rein in Jakrapob Penkhair in his apparently left-leaning pronouncements. Neither has he made any official comment on the obvious split between Jakrapob and the "Red Trio" -- Jatuporn, Veera and Natthawut.

You can say Thaksin, having burned all his bridges with the government, wouldn't want to break any plank crossing the raging river on this side of the divide.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

3 years later, Thailand is stuck in the mud

Another show-down, another tense day. After all, it's the third anniversary of the Sept 19 coup -- and Thaksin Shinawatr has been writing frantically in his Twitter account about democracy, coups and dictatorship.

The red-shirts are gathering today for a big rally as a show of force. Thaksin has said it would be a peaceful gathering but the large contingents of police and troops at various crucial points -- Govt House, PM's residence, Royal Plaza and Gem Prem's residence in Bangkok and Korat -- underline the anxiety on the part of the Abhisit government.

The army chief -- Gen Anupong Paochinda -- has again emphasized that no matter how today's rally ends, there would absolutely be no coup.

But that doesn't answer the more important question: Where do we go from here?

The parliamentary debate on constitutional amendments ended its two-day session, with the government and opposition as divided as before. The PM says he is ready to dissolve parliament to call a new election once the charter changes are completed..but there aren't any clear signs of when that will materialize.

Thaksin continues to back the red-shirts and opposition Pheau Thai Party to disrupt the government's work. The anti-Thaksin elements in society remain robust and active.
The country is stuck in a dilemma. It can't move backward with another coup. It can't move forward with national reconciliation.

Thailand, three years after the coup, remains stuck in the mud.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What's this "new state" all about?

Nobody is quite sure what Veera Mugsikapong, one of the three core leaders of the Red Shirted Movement, meant when he said a "new state" would be created and all we have to do is to follow his instructions.

He has yet to explain how the "new state" differs from the "present state" and whether it has anything to do with what Jakrapob Penkahri had described as a "revolution."

It gets more confusing when Thaksin Shinawatra, the real leader of the Red Shirts, has kept mum of such declarations. He has not made his position clear as to whether he is on Jakrapob's side or whether he still fully supports the "Red Trio."

If the Red Shirts want us to believe that a "new state" will be a much better place than the current state of affairs, then they should enlighten us with a clearer explanation where they are taking us.

They get us all excited about a new destination. But where is it? How do we get there? And where do we buy the ticket to get on board?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Gen Pravit is without a doubt his brother's keeper

He is definitely his brother's keeper although Defence Minister Gen Pravit Wongsuwan says Police Chief Gen Patcharawat's resignation won't affect his own relations with PM Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Pravit denied today that he was quitting his defence portfolio despite rumours to the contrary. But all his earlier statements, official or otherwise, pointed to his uneasiness with the way the PM was treating his younger brother.

Deputy Premier Suthep Thuagsuban also denied that there had been a "gentlemen's agreement" with Pravit to let his brother stay on in the police post until his retirement on Sept 30.

The stronger the denials,however, the more suspicion they touch off.

Things aren't too pleasant for PM Abhisit,naturally, if the defence minister appears disturbed by what he considers "unfair treatment" for his brother. After all, Suthep was said to have approached Pravit to join the government as a "pillar of military support" when this coalition government was formed.

Abhisit has apparently been handling Patcharawat's case gingerly all along -- until he couldn't drag his feet any longer when the National Counter Corruption Commision ruled that the police chief was one of the key people charged with criminal negligence and disciplinary violation over the Oct 7 incident when police dispersed the "yellow-shirted" protestors in front of Parliament Building, resulting in deaths and injuries.

The ruling compelled the PM to either remove him or fire him from the post. Patcharawat reacted by handing in his resignation. The PM refused to sign approval for it, arguing that he had to refer it to the National Police Commission for an opinion.
Patcharawat then submitted a request for an extended leave until his last day in
his job, Sept 30.

The drama is still unfolding. The end is near, but the finale could still be riddled with surprises.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Do they really want to talk to each other? Not now.

During the "Twitter interview" last night, I asked PM Abhisit whether he was willing to join a chat with Thaksin.

The first response was: "But I thought he didn't want to talk to me."

I told him that the ex-premier, in one of his recent statemennts, suggested that he was willing to talk to "anyone."

Abhisit then said: "But you and I are her. He is abroad."

I then suggested that we could chat through Twitter then -- to which the PM countered: "But the 140-character limit could be quite inhibiting."

When I asked whether that meant he wouldn't talk to Thaksin until he came home to serve his jail term, the PM said: "I want everyone to follow the law."

I told him he wasn't answering my question -- to which he said: "The answer was there."

The plain answer was, obviously, "No."

Thaksin emerged just now in his Twitter account to ask: "I have read the PM's Twitter interview. Why wouldn't I want to meet him? But I also understand that he has many problems on his hands. I can wait."

Time passes. Positions shift.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Red station banning Red leader's stories?

The Reds are on the verge of real break-up -- now that Thai Rath has reported that D-Station has banned any report on Jakrapob Penkair's opinions and movements.

Jakrapob has made it known through his articles in the Red publications that he considers the tactics employed by the "Trio Reds" -- Chatuporn, Veera and Nathawut --wrong and ineffective. Chatuporn has hit back with equally vehement statements, accusing Jakrapob of "fleeing the scene" and lacking in the political courage to lead the masses.

Jakrapob has suggested that the three core leaders are probably seeking self-interests rather than fighting for real democracy.

Thaksin Shinawatr has yet to make his position clear on which side he is on.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The sound clip that boomerangs

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva admits that he was "angry" over the doctored clip that portrayed him as having told the military and police officers back in April that he wanted to crack down with force against the protestors.

His supporters point an accusing finger at "people close to the Pheau Thai Party." In fact, police raided the office of SC Assets Co whose manging director is none other than Yingluck Shinawatr, Thaksin's sister, who has been poised to take a leading role in the party.

The company issued a statement saying that the two employees arrested had not been involved in the doctoring of the sound clip. They admitted to police that they had downloaded the clip and forwarded it to other people. That act along, Abhisit has said, is punishable under the new cyber law.

Chalerm Yoobamrung, Pheau Thai's chief MP, hurled a countere-charge yesterday. He said the doctoring might have been carried out by people close the PM himself, either as an act of betrayal or as a political ploy with some ulterior motives.

Some of the PM's men say they are determined to prove that Pheau Thai was behind this move to discredit the prime minister. They want to collect sufficient evidence to submit to the National Election Commission. If it is proved that a political party is involved in such an illegal act, it could face dissolution.

Thaksin Shinawatr is due to speak in his net radio programme this evening. If he makes any mention of that, he will surely deny any involvement. Some overzealous aides had simply gone for an "overkill" that boomeranged.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thaksin: I am making more money out here while you hold the protest for me back home...

Thaksin Shinawatr just posted this picture on his Twitter account, showing off "pieces of diamond" from somewhere in Africa.

He is off to "two or three African countries" to offer them his advice on economic development. Thaksin denies he has been banished by UAE. He is simply on his "internatinal consultancy trip" but he did manage to phone in to a radio programme in Udon Thani yesterday to urge the local Reds not to join the Aug 30 red-shirted rally in Bangkok "because I am afraid it's not safe for them."

Did he tell the Red Shirts' core leaders to call off the rally? Not really. But this time around, Thaksin seems particularly cautious. He obviously wants to be able to say he has nothing to do with the Red Shirts' new public show of force if things should turn sour.

He is keen to tell his supporters that he is onto something big in the diamond mine in Africa.

The message seems to be: Hold the rally at his own risk. Meanahile, let me try to make more money from the diamond mines out of Africa!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Channel 11: Political snags versus technical hitches

A very pertinent question as to why the live broadcast of PM Abhisit's Sunday show on Channel 11 was pulled "due to technical problems"?

Not too long ago, when some yellow shirts invaded Channel 11 premises during a prolonged protest, the technical and news staff managed to employ "guerrilla tactics" to continue broadcasting from a mobile unit despite the political upheaval. NBT, as the station was then called under Premier Samak Sundaravej, managed to fight an "airwave war" with ASTV then. There was absolutely no technical hitch at all.

The station's director then was Suriyong Hutasarn, the same person who was in charge of PM Abhisit's aborted live broadcast on Sunday. The director general, Pachern Kampoh, was the boss of Public Relations Dept then. He was there on Sunday as well.

How do you explain that?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Abhisit, Suthep: Are they still partners in crisis?

Are PM Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thuagsuban at loggerheads?

If you ask them point-blank, the answers would be No, no, no.

But if you consider what has happened in the past few days, especially with the PM's aborted attempt to name his new police chief, you begin to doubt that their working relations are as smooth as before.

Suthep was said to have ganged up with Newin Chidchod, the two "kingmakers" of this coalition, to oppose Police Gen Pateep Tanprasert, the PM's choice, and to back the other candidate, Police Gen Jumpon Manmai, resulting in the 5-4 vote in the National Police Policy Commission on Thursday, to reject the premier's nomination.

That's a huge snub for the PM who rushed to the house of his secretary general, Nibhon Prompand, yesterday afternoon for a talk that lasted over an hour. Nibhon was also said to have been on Suthep's side in this case.

If there is a severe crack between the Abhisit and Suthep, they haven't made it public. Suthep has tried to cover up the rift by telling reporters that the rejection wasn't such a big deal. The PM can still continue to run the country and the choosing of a new police chief will continue.

Newin, on his part, told reporters when asked about this hot issue: "You will have to ask Khun Suthep about that." Note that he didn't even try to deny rumours of a break-up between the two.

Abhisit and Suthep have been placed in two opposing political situations: The PM wants to demonstrate how independent he is from the military and police forces. So, his public stance on issues related to those in uniform has been seen to be "too blunt" for Suthep who has to calm any anxiety from the military officers with whom he had approached for assistance in forming the current coalition.

That's why even the best of friends and partners in the Democrat Party could face the challenge of keeping the government afloat while portraying the image of acting independently of undesirabe pressure groups.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Amnesty Bill and its hidden agenda

Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva says he hasn't read the draft of the amnesty bill proposed by his coalition partner, Bhumjaithai Party, to offer clemency to both the red and yellow shirts involved in cases under various stages of prosecution.

Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat, Newin Chidchob's right-hand man, has spearheaded the move, contending that a general pardon for all concerned should reduce the country's divisiveness.

But the yellow shirts have come out to oppose the bill, arguing that the "hidden agenda" for the move is to absolve retiring police chief Police Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwan from any guilt related to the Oct 7 violence. The PAD has also come out to throw doubts on whether the real motive of the bill is to free all officials, police, military and civil servants from legal responsibilities in their "illegal" actions.

The haste with which the bill was submitted yesterday to the House Speaker and slated to be debated almost immediately in the House has raised questions from critics.

Abhisit's Democrat Party will be placed in a dilemma once again, caught between its coalition partners and the yellow shirts.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thaksin's petition speech: It's all about me and my pardon...

Thaksin Shinawatr had promised one day earlier in his Tweet to "speak my mind" yesterday before the red-shirted crowd before the submission of a petition for a royal pardon for him.

As it turned out, he did try to fight back tears when he started talking about how loyal he is to the monarchy and how he had told His Majesty that he would live until he is 120. But upon closer scrutiny, you could hear him talking about himself most of the time. It's "me," "mine" and "myself" -- how he had been mistreated, how he had devoted himself to the betterment of the country, how he had fought hard from poverty to wealth -- and how he was in a way like Bill Gates.

There was not a hint of regret. No apologies for having caused the country such rift. No proposal of a reconciliation process. Just me and my pardon.

Most critical was perhaps his insistence in his speech that the judicial system was not acceptable to him. That would put Thaksin in a very delicate position. You can't pardon someone who doesn't accept guilt in the first place.

It's clear that the petition will not get anywhere now that the Royal Household Secretariat has issued a statement -- only hours after the petition was submitted today -- that all petitions to the King must first be reviewed by the government.

Perhaps, it was never Thaksin's intention to get a pardon in the first place. Perhaps, the real agenda is something else.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Than Shwe frees American -- Asean must press for Suu Kyi's release

If Gen Than Shwe of Burma conceded to Washington by releasing John Yettaw, would he show some respect for Asean by pardoning Aung San Suu Kyi?

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Biromya said Friday that the nine other members of Asean are holding consultations on asking Burma to declare clemency for Suu Kyi as a means to help save Asean from coming under further pressure from the international community.

US Senator Jim Webb of Virginia -- chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's East Asia and Pacific Subcommittee -- flew to Burma over the weekend and successfully obtained the release of John Yettaw, who had been sentenced together with Suu Kyi for breaking the terms of her house arrest. He was flown into Bangkok with the senator in a military plan.

The senator is due to give a press conference in Bangkok tomorrow afternoon.

Yettaw and Suu Kyi were both convicted last week of breaking the terms of her house arrest. Suu Kyi, who had been detained for 14 of the last 20 years,was given 18 months additional house arrest. Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Missouri, was sentened to seven years in jail.

During Webb's visit to Burma -- the first by a member of the US Congress in more than a decade -- the senator met with Than Shwe and a rare visit with Suu Kyi. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was barred from meeting her when he was there last month.

Than Shwe may let her free on the condition that she leave the country -- something Suu Kyi has rejected all along.

But now that the junta leader has shown he could accommodate an American Congressman's wish to release an American citizen, Asean leaders will have to convince Than Shwe that he has to "save Asean's face" by letting Suu Kyi -- and an estimated 2,000 political prisoners -- free.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Anand has a piece of advice for Thaksin: Come home....

Anand Panyarachun, a former prime minister, has told another ex-premier, Thaksin Shinawatr, to come home and fight his case through the judicial system "the same way that I did when I was accused of being a communist."

Anand gave a special interview that was aired as part of a special programme on Channel 11 entitled: "Stop the Petition!" broadcast just now. He said the petition being planned by the red-shirts to be presented to the King to seek a pardon for Thaksin was against rules, regulations and tradition.

"Khun Thaksin and some of his followers have said the judicial system has double standards. But from my own observation, they seem to accept the part that benefits them and criticizes the part that doesn't," Anand said.

Will Thaksin come back? He would, but only after he has been pardoned!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A few time-bombs just around the corner...

Several political time-bombs are ready to explode in the next week or so -- some of which could be defused by PM Abhisit, but there are others that could spin out of control.

1. The red-shirts have threatened to file the petition to seek royal pardon for Thaksin on Aug 17. The mass rally at Sanam Luang on that day promises to be huge.

2. On that same day,the court is due to hand down the verdict on the controversial case related to alleged corruption in the distribution of rubber saplings to planters. Newin Chidchob, a vital link in the current coaliton government, is one of the key accused.

3.The unfinished affair related to National Police Chief Police Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwan. Will he stay on until his retirement in about 45 days? Will the prime minister take some firm action?

And I don't include other possible accidental bombs that could blow up the political scene if things get rough.

Stay tuned and ready!

Monday, August 10, 2009


Has any of his personal advisers told PM Abhisit Vejjajiva that modelling with movie stars and singers doesn't necessarily boost his popularity especially when people are calling for some "real actions" to overcome the economic crisis?

This picture shows the PM posing with Pod Modern Dog, Ad Carabao and Dan Voravej during the weekend's shooting for the cover of "Praew Weekly."

Friday, August 7, 2009

Priewpan should be thankful to the PM for not making him acting police chief

The headline says he is in tears for not being made acting police chief while his boss is on leave.

But Police Gen Priewpan Damapong, who happens to be Thaksin Shinawatr's (former?) wife's brother, should in fact thank Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva for naming Police Gen Vichien Poteposri to that position instead.

Just imagine Thaksin's brother-in-law being the national police chief. He will be asked every day how he is going to coordinate with the Interpol to get Thaksin back in Thailand to serve his two-year jail term. It isn't an easy task but it's even trickier if Priewpan is put in a position where he can't avoid being seen to be "too soft" on someone who is No 1 on the wanted list at the moment.

The inevitable question of "conflict of interest" will surface once again.

In fact, if the premier puts him in that sensitive position, Priewpan should be screaming foul. That would be like putting him on the line of fire.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Is the police chief going on leave? If so, who's in charge?

If National Police Chief Patcharawas Wongsuwan hasn't submitted a "leave of absence" letter, how can Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva appoint an "acting police chief" in his place?

And if the premier couldn't put someone there instead of Patcharawas, wouldn't all his talk about "clearing up the blockades" to move ahead with the probe into the Sondhi's attempted assassination case go down the drain?

What if Patcharawas returns from China (started Aug 5) after a ten-day trip and returns to "business as usual?"

Nobody, it seems, has the answers to those embarrassing questions just yet.

Monday, August 3, 2009

What about a "Beer Summit" here to thrash out the baht controversy?

I am proposing that "Obamark" convene a "Beer Summit" at Govt House so that the opponents over the "baht issue" could talk it out in an open manner.

Like last week's White House's "Beer Summit," the participants could "agree to disagree" but at least the issue could be discussed in a civilized and constructive way instead of the current exchange that sheds no new light on the public.

Dr Virabongsa Ramangura has attacked the central bank for allowing the baht to strengten to the dismay of exporters. Dr Olarn Chaiprawat followed up the assault in an interview published in Matichon today.

Central Bank Governor Tarisa Watanagase has insited that the baht has not appreciated unduly. It moved from 35 to 33-34 baht a dollar from the beginning of this year, "in line with the regional currencies." The baht, she said, has not caused Thai exporters to lose competitiveness.

This isn't the first time -- nor would it be the last -- that the issue of where the baht-dollar exchange should be is being raised again. But the public should get to hear all sides of the arguments in one clear, open session, moderated by the prime minister himself.

Obamark could even beat Obama in his game by having the "Govt House Beer Summit" (of course, tea and coffee could be served as well) broadcast live instead of just allowing a 30-second "photo op" at the White House.