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.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Looming face-off between the PM and the Wongsuwan Brothers

It's not a joke when the "Wongsuwan Family" declared that they could take it no more.

The elder brother, Gen Pravit, is the defence minister. The younger one, Police Gen Patcharwas, happens to be the national police chief.

"We would retaliate through legal, and if necessary illegal, means to protect our integrity," was the shocking statement from the minister's secretary earlier this week.

Illegal means too? Wow, that's more than just an ordinary threat.

You can, of course, trace the conflict to Sondhi Limthongkul, who had indicated quite clerly that he thought the national police chief was the "obstacle" to the investigations into his attempted assassination.

"What has my brother done wrong?" asked the elder one.

The national police chief then filed a defamation charge against ASTV Manager newspaper,Sondhi's media arm.

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva had to do something about the confrontation. He didn't want to appear to be under Sondhi's pressure. But then, he couldn't afford to be seen to be under the influence of the military and police officers either.

So, he tried to strike a compromise. He was seen meeting Patcharawas at Baan Pitsanuloke Friday morning.

A few hours later, the premier told reporters: Patcharawas will take a leave of absence lasting about one month. He wouldn't be removed or transferred. During his absence, an acting police chief would take charge "so that the probe into Sondhi's assassinatin attempt could proceed without obstacles."

Did he mean Patcharawas was the "obstacle?" The premier said: "No, there is no evidence to suggest that."

The mystery deepened when, late last evening, Patcharawas emerged to tell reporters that he wasn't applying for a leave of absence. Yes, he is going to China for ten days but that's part of a routine annual exchange.

"I still don't know when I am going though. And I will be working as usual on Monday, Aug 3..."

A slap in the face for the premier? A mutual misunderstanding of some sort? A sign of a looming confrontation between the defence minister-police chief and the prime minister?

All of the above?