Thursday, July 30, 2009

How's the Abhisit-Thaksin race on Twitter faring?

The last time I checked (at 9.20 am today), Abhisit Vejjajiva and Thaksin Shinnawatr were still fighting for new followers on their Twitter accounts. Thaksin was ahead with 6,511 with Abhisit trailing with 4,923. Interestingly enough, Abhisit seems to be following other people much more than Thaksin. Abhisit was following 1,801 other people while Thaksin had only 3 he was interested in following.

In the Mr Twitter "contest" though, Abhisit was enjoying a far greater lead than Thaksin.

Bear in mind, of course, that neither Abhisit nor Thaksin is sitting in front of the computer or holding a mobile phone to update their Tweets. They each have their respective staff handling their Twitter accounts.

So what you read is all that "nominee" stuff again!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Abhisit-Thaksin "Twitter war" still a long way off...

A Twitter war between Thaksin and Abhisit?

If you are waiting for that big Twitter-Facebook battle between the two, be prepared
for some disappointment.

For one thing, the two don't post their own messages. They have their respective staff to handle the social media sites. Thaksin revealed that he read only printouts from Twitter. Abhisit wasn't even sure who had posted the message about his wish that Thaksin would "see Dharma" on his birthday anniversary.

So far, to be frank, their Twitter messages have been rather boring.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why do birthday anniversaries turn political?

Thaksin Shinawatra's birthday anniversary is this sunday, July 26. Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva's falls on Aug 3. Their respective supporters won't allow them to celebrate quietly with their families. Political activities have become part of the game now.

Thaksin plans a host of activities for tomorrow -- religous bordering on the superstitious bordering on new technology.

Abhisit will use his birthday anniversary to announce the results of his six months in power and plans for the future. In fact, his aides are planning to kick off the celebrations as early as tomorrow to try to blunt Thaksin's birthday's hue and cry.

Abhisit's slogan to be unveiled tomorrow in two book volumes is: "6 Months, 100 Measures, 10 Million Happiness."

Brace yourself for the onslaught.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Turning the begging bowl upside down

I am not sure whether Thaksin Shinawatr himself has got anything to do with it but a "coordinator" of his 60th birthday anniversary celebration on July 26 has said a special religious ceremony will be held to counter all the blck magic initiated against him earlier.

One of the ceremonies will be to reverse the monk's begging bowl from the "bottom up" position (indicating a boycott) to an upright stance to rid of all the "black magic" conducted many years ago by Luangta Maha Bua and Sondhi Limthongkul against Thaksin.

The "big surprise" on that birthday remains a mystery. But a source close to the ceremony says: "It will be a major surprise. The whole world will be asking: How can this happen?"

I can't wait.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chakkrapob emerges to state his concern that Thaksin may "drown"

Nobody knows for sure where Chakkrapob Penkae is at the moment. But he did "surface" in an article written for the inaugural issue of "Voice of Taksin" that will hit the newsstands on July 26, Thaksin Shinnawatr's 60th birthday anniversary.

Chakkrapob, who is on the run after being hit with a number of severe charges at home, seems concerned that his boss may give up the fight too easily.

"I hope, sir, that as you are trying to swim in the sea, you won't just give up and drown. Who knows, even the sea could dry up one day," he wrote.

He tried to urge Thaksin to fight on, to fulfil the mission left unfinished by Pridi Panomyong who engineered the 1932 revolution that turned Thailand from absolute monarch to constitutional monarchy. What he really meant was unclear. All I know is that Chakkrpob has tried, so far in vain, to raise Thaksin's standards to those of the country's statesman Pridi.

That there is a world of differences between the two doesn't seem to bother Chakkrapob at all.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sondhi, Chetta and a bowl of noodle

Gen Chetta Thanajaro, former army chief and now a senior member of Thaksin Shinawatr's Pheau Thai Party, says he was once quite close to Sondhi Limthongkul, the target of an assassination attempt. A soldier close to him, Sgt Panya, has been issued an arrest warrant for being a suspected gunman.

Chetta was on FM 100.5 this morning to say that he had a good relations with Sondhi even before he became army chief. "I used to go to his office at Baan Phra Arthit to chat. The noodle dish there was also quite tasty," he said.

He was, of course, indicating that there was no reason at all to suspect his involvement in the failed attempt to get Sondhi killed although he admitted Sgt Panya, one of the suspected gunmen, was working close to him.

"Sgt Panya, as far as I know him, is a quiet and wel-behaved man," Chetta said.

So, he knows both parties concerned but he gave no indications as to whether he knew who was behind the assassination attempt against Sondhi.

But is he ready to head Thaksin's Pheau Thai Party as had been rumoured?

Chetta said: "No. I have my personal obligations. I am not ready to do that."

Thaksin of course is Sondhi's main rival.

If you can't work out the puzzle so far, don't panic. Most people are quite confused too.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sondhi says he knows the man who wanted to have him killed

Who ordered the assassination of Sondhi Limthongkul?

Sondhi knows who he is. That's according to one of his closest aides, Panthep Puapongpan, who also serves as the spokesman of the People's Alliance for Democracy.

Panthep told Nation Channel this morning that if Sondhi knew the main culprit (not only the alleged hired gunmen (for whom arrest warrants were issued yesterday), then Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva should know too.

That's because the chief investigation officer of this case, Deputy National Police Chief Police Gen Thani Somboonsap, reports directly to he PM, not to his direct boss in the Police Department.

If the premier knew the identity of the main culprit, would he have the guts to remove him immediately? Panthep posed the question and said: "This particular person is a senior man who has a wide network of the military and police officers. Anybody following the news should know what I mean...."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Abhisit and Kasit need to have a long talk now...

"We need to have a talk."

That's the message from Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva to his foreign minister, Kasit Biromya, who fired a salvo all the way from New Zealand over the weekend that stirred up enough heat to make Army Chief Gen Anupong Paochinda so frustrated that he wouldn't talk to reporters on the issue.

Kasit accused "some military top brass" of ganging up against him. In simple terms, the foreign minister was saying that a few high-ranking military officers were suggesting to the prime minister to sack him over the "terrorism" charge.

In response to a reporter's question, Abhisit denied that.

In response to another reporter's question on the same issue, Gen Anupong became apparently miffed.

The PM insists, however, that Kasit can stay on despite the police's terrorism charge. Kasit says he will fight anybody who wants him out of his post.

"Come on, be brave," he challenged the so-called "top military brass" whom he suspected of stabbing him in the back.

"Let's have a debate on TV on this," the foreign minister said.

Of course, Kasit knows nobody in his right mind would take him up on that.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thaksin: Fleeing a Thai coup leader to shake hands with a Fijian coup plotter

What a paradox. Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted by a coup in Thailand in 2006, flew into Fiji's capital, Suva, yesterday to meet another coup leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who staged a coup in the same year -- only to be ruled illegal by the court there.

In some ways, when Thaksin shook hands with Bainimarama to talk about his plan to nvest $300 million in that South Pacific island, he must have been reminded of Gen Sonthi Bunyaratakalin, whose coup sent him out of the country almost three years ago. Both the Thai and Fijian military officers weren't supposed to be politically ambitious. Both had been living low-profile lives before they decided to push out the elected, civilian governments. Suddenly, they declared themselves defenders of their respectie countries' political stability and to fight rampant corruption.

Thaksin has spoken vehemently against military coups in Thailand. He has called for the return of electoral democracy, even ready to stake his life on his determination to put an end to future coups.

Now, he has gone to Fiji to cozy up to one of the most controversial coup leaders in the region.

What does that mean? To quote Thaksin himself: The end justifies the means.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lame-duck Kasit fights to stay on until after Asean's forum in Phuket

It's only a matter of time before Kasit Biromya steps down as foreign minister, despite his strong statement on Channel 11 last night that he would stay on "because the terrorism charge filed by police is absolutely unreasonable."

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva has said Kasit doesn't have to quit for now -- and that he will decide the minister's fate without having to wait for the legal proceedings. In other words, the premier was saying that he will be exercising his political judgement, rather than legal consideration.

That, obviously, was what Kasit meant too when he went to Aljazeera's headquarters in Qatar for an interview on Sunday when he said he would have to resign "at some point." That, of course, wasn't a legal consideration. It's all political.

With Kasit being hurled the severe charge together with 35 others, mostly core members of People's Alliance for Democracy, he has inevitably become a "lame-duck minister." He knows it. The PM knows it. It's only a matter of letting anger settle and a sense of political propriety to take over.

The question is timing: Will a new foreign minister take up his post before or after the July 16-17 Asean Regional Forum (ARF) conference in Phuket? Kasit, clearly, is negotiating for the latter to happen.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Abhisit and his strange bedfellow called Newin

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva was apparently miffed today when a reporter asked him whether he was falling under the wing of Newin Chidchob by making Buriram the first province to visit in the Northeast for the first time in many months.

Buriram, as you know, is Newin's stronghold. And, yes, Newin happens to be Abhisit's government's main pillar of stability.

Brushing aside the critical tone of the question, the PM said: "Nobody owns any particular province. All Thais own all provinces," Abhisit said.

He didn't really answer the question, of course. But it is clear that Abhisit now wants to appease Newin to prevent a split within the coalition government. In other words, no matter how much Abhisit wants to keep a proper distance from Newin, he can't afford to clash head-on with this influential coalition partner.

Abhisit asked Newin to have lunch with him yesterday. That raised some eyebrows. Was the PM trying to pacify Newin after the latter's party lost in the Sakhon Nakon by-election two weeks ago to Thaksin Shinawatr's Pheau Thai Party? Or was the premier trying to prevent a break-up of the coalition because Newin's bloc has been angered by the Democrats' tactics to block several mega-projects proposed by Newins' ministers?

Abhisit tried desperately today to portray his relations with Newin as a normal kind of bond between coalition partners. But political pundits are beginning to suspect that the more they show their close ties, the more likely the tie-up is under threat.