Sunday, May 31, 2009

The "Lone Rebel" among the Democrats...

He is the "lone rebel" in the Democrat Party. He is the only government MP who joined the anti-government "Red" rally. He railed against Foreign Minister Kasit Biromya. He asked for time to speak against the government during the opposition's censure debate in the House. He is still very much there in the eye of the storm.

Kiatikorn Pakpiensilp, Democrat MP from Prachinburi, has been dubbed: "That bizzare guy" by his fellow MPs. But he is determined to show that he is an "independent" representative of his constituency.

"I have not done what I have to make news. I simply want the country to return to peace and that there will be no more yellow or red factions. I want all factions to be able to co-exist peacefully," Kiatikorn said.

Very few people in his party believe his words, though. Will he jump ship in the next election? Well, he may not have to. His party will take care of that.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Anand wants to become a bored monkey?

Former Premier Anand Panyarachun says he is so fed up with local politics that he is not following political news on television. He is watching animals series or sports instead.

"In fact, I am now a monkey," he said, gesturing with his hands how the "three monkeys" famously close the mouth, eyes and ears to keep ignorant about everything that goes on around them.

If even a former prime minister is jaded with politics, what should we -- mere mortals -- do now?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

When the economy goes down, fortune-telling goes up

When the economy goes down, the business of fortune-tellers goes up.

The SMEs Promotion Department's chief said yesterday that the volume of business among Small and Medium-sized companies offering training courses on astrology and other kinds of fortune-telling has risen despite -- or perhaps because of --the economic slump.

In fact, K Bank's Research Center has found that last year alone, about Bt2.5 billion was in circulation in the astrology business. "New fortune-tellers are entering the market, causing fiercer competition. That's why some of them have resorted to new strategies, such as making forecasts for famous people to draw attention," the research says.

When in doubt, or in trouble, consult your stars, not your brains.

Monday, May 25, 2009

PAD's huge turnout today votes for a party

It was a big turnout for members of People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD)at Thammasat University's Rangsit campus today to officially vote for the formation of a political party "as a tool to promote New Politics."

The vote wasn't a surprise. What lies ahead is how the five core leaders will run both the original PAD as a pressure group and also a political party.

The challenge is huge and daunting. But the mood today was one of enthusiasm and hope. The real work has yet to begin.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Kobsak: Me? Defecting to Pheau Thai?

Deputy Premier Kobsak Sabhavasu must have been quite amused to hear rumours that he was considering defecting from the Democrat Party to lead Thaksin Shinawatra's Pheau Thai Party.

"Have they forgotten that I was the author of a series of books exposing Thaksin's attempt to conceal his stocks and assets?" Kobsak asked reporters who had told him that some Pheau Thai executives were hinting that he was close to jumping ship because he was being ignored by his own party.

"They are talking about something really impossible. They have spread the rumours just to confuse people," Kobsak said.

Does he have any problems with some of his colleagues? You bet. But that doesn't mean he is sleeping with the enemy.

Just a reminder. Here is the picture of Kobsak,at the time in the opposition, launching his third book in a series entitled: "Who Says Rich Men Aren't Corrupt?"

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What will Sondhi have to give up if he gives in to politics?

Sondhi Limthongkul hasn't said he will take over as leader of the new political party, set up by People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD). He says he will let the majority of PAD members who are meeting tomorrow to vote on the future of this social movement.

But if for some reasons, the PAD members should decide to make him the new party's leader, Sondhi will have to give up many things. Here are some of the questions being raised:

1. The constitution prohibits a politician from owning any media outlets. What's Sondhi's role in the ASTV media empire if he becomes a political star?
2. If he becomes a member of the party's executives, he won't be able to lead the PAD's extra-parliamentary activities as effectively as before.
3. Can he still host television programme if he takes up a post in the new Cabinet?
4. What's the PAD's relations with the Democrats if a new party is set up?

Obviously, there are more questionss than answers until a decision is made on PAD's future path which has become interwined with Sondhi's.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cabinet reshuffle for whom?

Click to watch my clip on the ongoing political moves putting pressure on PM Abhisit Vejjajiva to reshuffle the Cabinet, especially among Cabinet members that belong to the biggest partner, the Bhumjaithai Party. It is nothing but a "revolving door" kind of politics. You don't get the best and the brightest in public service. You only get the guys with the money that can turn politics on its head.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Burma VJ: Monks, secret police and hidden cameras

"Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country" is the title of a documentary that opens tomorow in New York and Friday in Seattle -- chronicling the work of the Burmese journalist and his team of guerrilla cameramen during the "saffron revolution" of 2007.

Directed by Andres Ostergaard, the film shows the work of "video journalists" connected through cellphones and emails, shooting with hand-held phones and mini-cams. The footage was smuggled out of the country by courier, the Internet and even satellite hookups by correspondents for the Democratic Voice of Burma which is a television station in exile based in Oslo.

Here is the trailer for the film.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Abhisit and his coalition partners: You are OK, I am OK

Are they still united under Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva's leadership?

The most direct answer is: It depends on whether they are satisfied with the share of cake they get.

So far, despite some hiccups, the coalition partners don't see a better formula. That's why, despite the strage-bedfellowship, the Chatthaipattana under Banharn Silpa-archa and Bhumjaithai under Newin Chidchob, remain reasonably well-behaved.

Yes, there was a hot debate in the Cabinet over the corn stockpile issue between the premier and Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai (under Bhumjaithai). But it was quickly resolved before it was allowed to deteriorate into a major conflict.

There may also be difference in opinion over whether to issue a general amnesty for the banned politicians (several leading figures in the coalition partners would stand to gain if the clemency is granted).

Therefore, despite rumours of a new election in three months, there doesn't seem to be any real clash that would lead to a break-up of the coalition just yet.

But one can never tell. As they say in politics: Never say never.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Red News...all the news that fits your views

The Red News, a tabloid newspaper that will report all the "red" news and views, will hit the streets on May 29.

Promoters of the new paper, mostly core leaders of the red-shirted movement, say they don't have any "financiers" behind the new daily publication. In fact, they will be holding a fund-raising dinner to kick-start the launch.

Don't be surprised, then, if the first "exclusive interview" of the new paper will be with Thaksin Shinawatr. And there are no "ifs" and "buts" about where they stand politically on all the major issues of the day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

If PAD becomes a party, who's going to be the leader?

Is it time to party for the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD)?

The core leaders seem to think so. That's why it has registered PAD as the name of the new political party with the National Election Commission although that doesn't necessarily mean that there is no turning back.

Officially, PAD leaders say they will reach a final decision on the next step only after they have sought the opinion of the majority of PAD members. That's why May 24-25 have been set as the dates for the national convention to decide on the issue.

Who's lead the party? Nation Weekender, in its latest edition (cover above), quoted an active member, Prapan Koonmee, as saying: "It's obvious that Sondhi Limthongkul should be the party leader once the party is set up. Of course, I also think that there should be collective leadership to back him up."

It's also Prapan who has also said that PAD, if it becomes a party, should draw on the best qualities of the Democrat and Palang Dharma Parties.

In that case, will a PAD party then compete with the Democrats for power and influence?

That, surely,is the inevitable next question that will dominate any discussion on the future of Thai politics.

Monday, May 11, 2009

No politics please, we are cab-drivers

Taxi drivers say they have been hit by the political divisiveness that has affected the whole country too.

Passengers have recently complained that they couldn't discuss politics with cab-drivers without getting into an argument. Some Bangkokians have decided to avoid taxis altogether because of the potential political conflicts. Some taxi-drivers said they have been given a bad name after some cab-drivers were said to have used their cars to block traffic at several intersections that sparked the "Bloody Songkran" incidents.

That's why a group of taxi-drivers has produced about 10,000 leaflets pasted on their cars to declare: "We are just making a living. We have no political affiliations..."

So, if you want to have a "neutral" ride, catch one of those with this sticker.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Was Abhisit in this car?

The "red-shirts" say they will "expose the lie" that Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva was actually in the Mercedes Benz that was crushed by the reds in front of the Inteior Ministry on that almost-fatal day last month.

In fact, a core member of the Red Shirts, Jatuporn Prompan, has charged that some of the so-called "red-shirted protestors" at the scene were in fact "soldiers dressed in red" to pass the blame on the protestors.

Premier Abhisit has insisted all along, of course, that he was in that car. He has even told CNN and BBC that "they were after my life" when he witnessed the angry red-shirted demonstrators attacking his car.

Well, it shouldn't be too difficult to establish the fact and to prove who's actually lying. No matter how hard they try, nobody could really manage to twist things around to THAT extent.

Let the real expose begin.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What did Abhisit tell the commanders after the Pattaya disaster?

Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva hasn't told local reporters about that particular scene when he called together military commanders and challenged them to stand by him after protestors broke into Royal Cliff Hotel in Pattaya, causing him to call off the Asean Plus Three and Plus Six meeting last month.

But he told two reporters from International Herald Tribune that after the incident he called a meeting of all the military commanders and asked them:

"Do you want to perform your duties of making sure ther is law and order? Do you want the country to fall into chaos? Do you want us to be a failed state? If not, action has to be taken."

The two IHT reporters -- Thomas Fuller and Seth Mydans -- had an exclusive interview with Ahisit and published this version of the incident on Wednesday, May 6.

IF that's true, it would have been a different Abhisit most Thais had known all along -- soften-spoken, polite and non-confrontational. But then, he would have been a "failed prime minister" had he not taken a no-nonsense stand under the circumstances.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

When I got thermo-scanned for Mexican Flu at Suvarnabhumi Airport

When I got back from Ho Chi Minh City last night, I walked through the thermo scan set up at the exit for all passengers. Curious to know how this gadget works, I stopped by for a photo-op and a chat with the officials on duty.

I was registered with 34.7 degree celcius. Anything over 38 degree comes in for further investigation.