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, 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