Friday, January 30, 2009

Red Rally tomorrow: A test of Thaksin's diminishing clout

They aren't sure themselves how many people will turn up for the pro-Thaksin and anti-Abhsit Red Rally called for the evening of Jan 31 at the Government House. But the "Red" leadership is determined to press their demands against the Abhist Government in every way possible.

The rally will begin at Sanam Luang in the afternoon. At 9.00 pm, they are scheduled to march to the Government House. "We will show the government that we the Red shirted protestors can do what the yellow-shirted people did too," declared Vira Muksikapong, one of the core leaders.

But he vowed not to let the protestors gate-crash into the Government House.
"What we will do after we arrive at the Government House will depend on what happens there and then..." he said.

The two main demands are obvious: Sack Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya (because he was a key member of the People's Alliance for Democracy, PAD) and dissolve the House for a new election (because this government allegedly lacks legitimacy).

Why they organize a major protest at Government House while Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva is in Davois remains a mystery to me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pad Thai and French wine...way out this crisis?

Perhaps, our famous Pad Thai dish may pluck us out of this economic distress. Or is it just a pipe dream?

Pimon Srivikorn, an adviser to Commerce Minister Porntiwa Nakasai, has a new twist to the "Thai Kitchen as World Kitchen" campaign. He wants to promote Pad Thai with French wine in a new drive to relieve the economic slump facing Thailand and the world.

Thai food has become a popular fare around the world. It can even compete with Chinese and French and Italian cuisines. The number of Thai restaurants abroad has jumped from 4,000 in 2004 to 12,000-13,000 today.

Pimon says he has proposed to the minister to revive an earlier plan to match some French wine institutes with famous Thai dishes such as Pad Thai and Fish Choo Chi etc...

He suggests that the new campaign will send caravans of Thai food experts to train Thai chefs abroad with special emphasis on Europe, Russia, South Africa and the Middle East as well as Middle America.

Long Live Pad Thai. Spice up our Tlm Yam Koong!! And don't forget that glass of French wine.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thaksin's two main concerns today: His own mortality and Abhisit's populism

You could detect it. You could almost feel it. When Thaksin Shinawatra spoke in his "phone-in" television programme yesterday, he was nervous about two things: Death and populism.

He said he would pursue the return of his frozen assets, come hell or heaven. There was an obvious fear of death there. Then, he said even if he was assassinated abroad, other people would take up his cause.

Then, he warned PM Abhisit Vejjajiva against copying his populist policies to the point that the country might not be able to afford it. In other words, Thaksin was getting scared that Abhisit may become more populist than the original populist -- and that could wipe Thaksin out of the grass-roots' memory.

Abhisit did exactly that yesterday. In his weekly Sunday television programme (Thaksin's phone-in on DTV followed immediately after Abhisit's programme on Channel 11), the premier announced that state enterprise, private school and local adminsitration staff will make up the latest group to receive a Bt2,000 cash gift under the government's economic stimulus package.

Thaksin can't say Abhisit isn't a fast learner.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thakin's: My biggest mistakes: Sondhi, Sonthi and Anupong

Thaksin Shinnawatr just can't resist the temptation to talk to the foreign press. And the more he spits out, the more depressing it gets.

He told Asahi Shimbun in Dubai (in a US$500-per-night hotel) that he was getting poorer (by his own standards of course) and was struggling to locate new sources of income to meet his estimated personal expenses of about $4-5 million a year. That's why he said he wasn't in a position to finace the Pheau Thai party and other supporters anymore.

When the Japanese reporters asked him to name the main anti-Thaksin figures,Thaksin mentioned Sondhi Limthongkul and Army Chief Anupong Paochinda and coup leader Sonthi Bunyaratkalin.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Red shirts, protest rallies, money and where is Thaksin?

The "Red Shirts" have postponed their planned rally against Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya from Jan 22-24 to "sometime after Chinese New Year's celebrations."


According to Kwanchai Praipana, leader of "We Love Udon" group in the Northeast, the financial support has dried up. He came to the headquarters of Pheau Thai Party yesterday to meet Yaowapa Shinawatra (Thaksin's sister) and Boonsong Teriyapirom, another party's senior member. He wanted to know how his movement against the Abhisit government would be subsidized.

Yaowapa was too busy for him. His talk with Boonsong produced no apparent result.

"I am personally in financial straits. I am still paying my home mortgage. My car is attached to a finance firm. The community radio that I run is losing moeny. I have to borrow money to survive. My monthly expenses amount to over 90,000 baht...I want the party to help me out..." Kwanchai told reporters.

Support wasn't forthcoming. So, he said the red-shirted rally against the new foreign minister will be postponed.

Well, you don't hold a protest close to Chinese New Year's celebrations in the first place. "People are too busy with the celebrations anyway..." he confessed.

Where's Thaksin when his resources were so badly needed?

Monday, January 19, 2009

PM's first TV show: Where's the buzz?

You can't blame the audience if they thought PM Abhisit Vejjajiva's first weekly television show yesterday was somewhat dry. As one friend of mine put it: "I felt like watching Abhisit giving a classroom lecture. Come on, he could do much better than this."

The gist of the one-hour live talk on Channel 11 was substantial enough. And he kept his promise not to use the programme to hit out at his critics (remdining you of Samak Sundaravej's own Sunday show?). He said he will change the format from week to week (not as drab as Surayud Chullanont's weekly interview conducted by television anchors taking turns?). He also said he would only talk about the government's work, and will refrain from making political propaganda for his party or the government (is that a dig at Thaksin Shinawatr?).

One big drawback of Abhisit's maiden solo television appearance was the lack of interaction and lively graphics on the screen.

No wonder PM Office Minister Sathit Wongnonttuey, who is in charge of the government's public relations, was seen running around nervously as the show went on the air.

My advice: Replace the chief producer. Get a professional graphic designer. And, by the way, tell the Prime Minister to act "prime ministerial."

Would someone remind Abhisit that he wasn't delivering a statement as the opposition leader in Parliament. He is now THE guy on the other side of the fence!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

If Thaksin becomes adviser, Pheau Thai Party risks dissolution...a 'hat trick?'

Nobody in the know has any doubt that the Phuea Thai Party belongs to Thaksin Shinawatr. But he is officially banned from any involvement in politics for five years (three and half years left for all the 111 for Thai Rak Thai Party's executives). The court verdict to jail him for two years over the Rajda land case adds to that complication, of course.

So, when Pheau Thai's chief whip Vittaya Buranasiri floated a new balloon by suggesting that the party may invite Thaksin to become "adviser" to the party, the immediate reaction from one key executive of the Nation Election Commission, Sodsri Sattayatham, was prompt and clear:

"If that happens, Pheau Thai could face dissolution," she said.

I don't think Thaksin wants to walk down that road again. His Thai Rak Thai Party was disbanded because of election fraud by one of the party's executive. Then, People's Power Party met a similar fate a few years later. Does he really want do perform a "hat trick? by serving as an adviser to Pheau Thai?

I think he is more clever than that. But you can never be sure.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rising fortunes of the Democrats

With the election of M.R. Sukhumband Paribatra as Bangkok governor yesterday, following closely from the rise to the premiership of Abhisit Vejjajiva, the 60-year-old Democrat Party is riding the wave of unprecedented political ascent.

And the new-found prominence of the Democrats isn't confined to the domestic political scene. With Surin Pitsuwan and secretary general of Asean and Dr Supachai Panitchapakdi as secretary general of UNTAC, the Democrat Party can claim a unique position in the international arena as well.

Yesterday's by-election results, in which the party made a surprising gain of seven seats, will also give the Abhisit's coalition government a boost.

How long can they sustain the new political fortune is another question.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Chalit: Thaksin should just confess his wrongdoings...and seek mercy

Air Chief Marshal Chalit Pukpasuk, the ex-acting chairman of the coup group that toppled Thaksin Shinnawatr on Sept 19, 2006 now says the ex-premier should conduct some real soul-searching -- and he will discover that the only way out for him is to confess his wrongdoings and seek mercy from concerned authoriteis -- and the Thai people.

"Thai people are usually kind-hearted. If you have done something wrong and make a clean breast of it, then I am sure the Thai people would be willing to forgive you," the ex-air force chief said in an interview broadcast this morning on FM100.5 in one his rare frank statements on political issues.

Apparently disturbed by accusations by some pro-Thaksin elements that he had become suspicously wealthy by building three "large mansions" for his family, ACM Chalit invited military affairs reporter Wasana Nanuam to inspect his new house. The reporter said on her radio programme that the house was reasonably modest.

Chalit told her: "If Thaksin conducts a sobre soul-searching and avoids being surrounded by his yes-men, he would find out that the best way for him is to admit that he had done wrong and then ask for forgiveness...."

Will Thaksin take that piece of advice? Of course not. He has declared on several recent occasions that he is returning to politics in full force "because I have been cornered."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Eggs: Weapons of mass (political) destruction?

Believe it or not, "egg" is now considered a kind of "weapon" in Thai police's interpretation. You could be jailed for throwing an egg at somebody.

Deputy Police Chief Chongrak Chutamas said according to Thai law, if you hurl an egg at somebody else, you could be jailed for two years or fined 4,000 baht because "the egg shell could cause bruises that take a week to heal."

Well, you can't blame Thai police for not being unimaginative. Last time, when the yellow-shirted leaders were on the offensive, they hurled the "treason" charge against them. Now, with a new government im power, they have gone one step further. Eggs hve become weapons of massive destruction, politically anyway.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Chuan and the 'good' egg thrown at him by the "Reds"

The "good" egg hit the left side of his glasses. Chuan Leekpai, former prime minister and chief adviser to Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, was more amused than miffed yesterday when asked on Nation Channel just an hour or so ago.

Some red-shirted protestors were waiting for him in downtown Lampang province in the north where Chuan was campaigning on behalf of a candidate from his Democrat Party in the upcoming Jan 11 by-election.

Would that incident discourage him from going to "sensitive provinces" in the North or Northeast from now on? "No. On the contrary, I have told the prime minister and other Cabinet members to insist on visiting those provinces because we shouldn't be scared of law-breaking people," Chuan insisted.

The former veteran politician from the South said the egg-throwing protestors were only a handful of people in that region. "Most people welcomed us. I was walking and talking to the local people and they were delighted to see me...."

He was still looking at the positive side of the incident. It's a "good" egg, not the usual "bad egg" used on this sort of public gesture to embarrass a political leader.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Buddhist monk's 9 wishes for 2009

In case you were wondering what your New Year's wishes should be, here are the 9 wishes for 2009 of one of Thailand's most respected young Buddhist monks, Phra Maha Wuthichai Vajiramedhi or "Than Woh" as published in the Daily Xpress this morning. If it sounds rather political, bear in mind that even our monks have been dragged into the political whirlwind these days:

1. May the prime minister become a full-fledged leader and avoid serving as a nominee.
2. May Thai people lear to understand, to love and to unite because we can't slip lower than this.
3. May Thailand avoid a civil war.
4. May the red and yellow shirts fade into oblivion.
5. May politicians belonging to the family of "greed, lust, dishonour and tricks" become extinct.
6. May the Thai economy keep up with India and China.
7. May we not lose our freedom to use wisdom.
8. May corruption not return and become the mainstream culture.
9. May the fortune-tellers refrain from making their unwelcome remarks.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Is PM Abhisit's life under threat?

The opposition says it's only a political ploy to raise sympathy and support for the new prime minister. But people close to Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva claim there have been threats to the prime minister's life.

Abhisit yesterday ordered an investigation into telephone threats against him. Some calls, he said, had come from prepaid phone numbers. Others were from fixed numbers -- some of which could be traced to certain elements behind the ongoing politcal unrest.

Curiously enough, only a few days earlier, Chuan Leekpai, the Democrat Party's chief adviser, had publicly warned Abhisit of possible assassination threats.

The prime minister himself didn't deny that he had received threats to his life. "I am not afraid. I just have to be more careful," he said.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Thaksin: I regret nothing

It seems Thaksin Shinawatra is using the Middle East as one of his springboards
from which to do his political battle to regain political influence back in Thailand.

His latest public exposure comes in the cover of the new issue of "CEO Middle East" magazine under the headline: "Thaksin Shinawatra on People, Power and Poverty." The more telling headline is on Page 44 where, he declared, in French: "Je Ne Regrette Rien." or "I Regret Nothing."

The content of the interview, by the magazine's reporter Anil Bhoyrul, billed as "the first exclusive interview in 18 months," contained nothing dramatically new. Thaksin was quoted as repeating his innocence, his love and devotion for the poor, and his determination to return to power to help them.

Perhaps, the only relatively new disclosure was when Thaksin told the reporter that he was certain that he could restore Thailand's position in the world if he could return to power. "That's why I have decided to return to politics. And that's why my wife asked to divorce me."

For him charity doesn't necessarily begin at home, or so it seems.