Sunday, November 29, 2009

Prasong: Thaksin won't stop at overthrowing Abhisit...

Prasong Soonsiri, an arch-rival of Thaksin Shinawatra, minces no words when it comes to unravelling what he thinks what the ex-premier is up to.

He says Thaksin currently employs a "three-level" strategy to not only overthrow the Abhisit government "but he has a higher objective than that."

Prasong, former foreign minister,among other titles, says the lowest level of Thaksin's operation is the red-shirts working at the local areas, both in Bangkok and the provinces. The second level includes MPs in the House and the highest level is Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and his former class-mates, who have recently retired from active duties in the armed forces.

Prasong says Thaksin plans to create choas in various areas so that he can return as a victor.

Thaksin, of course, has been saying that he only wants peace and reconciliation.

Time will tell. And it won't be too long.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Chavalit and his 10-point condition to Thaksin

Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has declared that his only mission left in life would be to bring back Thaksin Shinawatra.

"I will try to bring Thaksin back to Thailand...let him get the punishment...and then perhaps a pardon or whatever...I intend to resolve all the problems within one year...and that's it. Then, I will leave," he told Matichon in the latest interview.

He was asked whether he would like to be prime minister again.

(Laughter) "Enough...No more...This time I return to work for the nation. Once it's done, I would be gone...Before I joined Pheau Thai Party, I wrote a letter to Thaksin with 10 conditions...and one of them is that I will not accept any position..."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Samak says "farewell" to senators?

This picture appeared on a screen during a meeting of the Senate yesterday afternoon, only a few hours after Samak Sundaravej passed away at Bumrungras Hospital.

A few senators said the ex-premier probably "made his appearance" to bid farewell to Members of Parliament. Power went off briefly after this picture was seen. Other senators said it was probably just a coincidence.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A rare picture of a sweet moment for PM and wife

This picture was posted on Twitter this morning, supposedly by PM Abhisit Vejjajiva himself. But he was probably too shy to do that himself. So, it was almost certain that the premier's official photographer made sure this set of exclusive pictures of the PM seen intimate with his wife were released to the public, as if unintentionally.

The pictures were taken during their flight back from the Apec meeting in Singapore, Nov 15.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The unlikely alleged "spy" named "Tao"

Sivarak "Tao" Chotipong, the Thai engineer being detained by Cambodian authorities on espionage charge, is known among his Thai friends in Cambodia as a jovial person with no particular political affiliation.

A blogger at Oknation who knows Tao well said he was "shocked" to get a phone call from a friend after reading the front page of Rasmi Kampuchea which played up the story as the main story Thursday morning, complete with Tao's picture, and the allegations that he had "stolen" documents pertaining to flight schedules of Thaksin Shinawatra and Hun Sen.

The blogger said he didn't believe Tao had done as alleged. "He would be the last person to get himself involved in any political activity like that," another friend told a Nation reporter.

Cambodian authorities were trying to link Tao to the First Secretary of the Thai Embassy, Kamrob Palwiwatchai, who was earlier this week expelled from Cambodia for being "persona non grata."

Tao is an employee of Cambodia Aviation Transport Services (CATS), a subsidiary of Thailand's Samart Group, that has a 35-year concession with the Cambodian government. He has been in Cambodia for about 7 years.

Nobody knows where Tao is being detained since he "disappeared" from home at around 3am Wednesday. The Thai Embassy says it is trying to locate him so that officials can visit him to provide help.

The incident reminds me of the Cold War era when rival countries would detain "spies" from the other side to boost their bargaining power in any confrontation.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Is Suu Kyi's release imminent?

Speculation is rife that Aung San Suu Kyi may be released soon as part of the "package deal" between the Burmese military leaders and the United States.

Saw Yan Naing of The wrote that Nyan Win, the spokesman for the Rangoon-based National League for Democracy (NLD) commenting on the news report, said: “This is what many people wanted to hear.”

“It is going strengthen the NLD party if she is released. She will organize the election campaign effectively for the party and can perform well on the political stage,” he said.

Min Lwin, a senior Burmese diplomat, told AP in Manila earlier this week: “There is a plan to release her [Suu Kyi] soon ... so she can organize her party.”

Suu Kyi has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years. Her latest detention began in May 2003 after convoy of vehicles in which she was traveling was attacked by junta thugs during a canvassing trip at Depayin. Suu Kyi has been unable to speak publicly since.

Charged with violating the terms of her house arrest in May a few weeks before the end of her detention, Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for a further 18 months in August.

Suu Kyi said she was satisfied with the recent meeting with the US delegation led by Kurt Campbell and she thanked the Burmese regime for allowing it to happen.

Observers say the release of Suu Kyi should not come as a surprise because junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe said in August Suu Kyi would be granted amnesty before her suspended sentence expired if she behaved "well" at her Inya Lake home under the restrictions imposed on her.

Burmese officials regularly make conciliatory promises before regional meetings but fail to follow them up with action, noted one observer, who pointed out that Thein Sein said the election law would be announced soon during the Asean summit in Cha-am in Thailand in October.

On Sunday, Thein Sein and Min Lwin will attend the US-Asean leaders meeting in Singapore, the first between President Obama and Asean leaders.

Rumors circulating among diplomats in Rangoon suggest Min Lwin will be promoted as Burmese ambassador to the US.

Observers also said a meeting between Suu Kyi and Than Shwe is necessary before the election law is announced because this would help the NLD decide whether to insist on constitutional review before taking part in the election.

Christina Fink, author of a new edition of her book: Living Silence: Burma under Military Rule, also doubts Min Lwin, saying he may have made the comment to ease pressure on the Burmese regime prior to the Singapore summit.

According to Jeffrey Bader, the US senior director for Asian affairs, Obama will make a personal plea for Suu Kyi’s release at the summit.

If they plan to release Suu Kyi, the junta needs to do it very soon to give her and the NLD enough time to decide on whether to participate in the election and prepare an election campaign, Fink said.

She said Suu Kyi should be released before the election and political parties contesting the election are announced.

Burma watcher Jeff Kingston, the director of Asian Studies at Temple University’s Japan campus, said the junta’s Constitution excludes Suu Kyi from holding office, so the big questions are whether and how the regime will facilitate her participation in the election.

He said that the other 2,000 political prisoners must also be released.

“The regime should not be negotiating the timing of her release...having raised the possibility of her release they should do so immediately without conditions,” Kingston said.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The house that Hun Sen built....for Thaksin

This is where Thaksin Shinawatra is expected to spend the first night in Phnom Penh today. It's a residential complex right in the Cambodian capital that will house the most prominent fugitive from Thailand.

Thaksin flew into Phnom Penh this morning,prompting the Thai government to file a request for his extradition which is expected to be ignored by Hun Sen who had made it clear earlier that he won't deliver the former Thai premier "because he is my friend and he has been treated unfairly in Thailand."

The Thai government plans to ask the Interpol to help arrest him.

The questions being asked now include: Will Thaksin take up residence in Cambodia? H has said he won't. How long will be stay this time? Perhaps, a day or two. Some of his advisers in Bangkok have suggested he turn down the advisory job in Cambodia for fear of further backlash which has so far seen his popularity ratings plunge.

Meanwhile, the relations between Thailand and Phnom Penh continue to head downhill.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Abhisit puts blame squarely on Big Jiew....

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva this morning put the blame squarely on Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh for triggering the new Thai-Cambodian spat that has resulted in both countries summoning their respective ambassadors for home consutations.

He said before Chavalit's visit to Cambodia two weeks ago, Cambodian PM Hun Sen was still insisting that he would put the two nations' interests above his personal relations with Thaksin Shinawatra.

"But things began to change after the visit of a former PM to Cambodia. The Cambodian PM had probably been fed wrong information that resulted in the appointment of Thaksin as PM Hun Sen's adviser..." Abhisit said in his weekly television programme.

He said the Thai-Khmer MoU over continental shelf straddling both countries had to be cancelled because it was signed when Thaksin was premier -- and now that the ex-premier is serving the Khmer PM, certain classified information might be leaked to the Cambodian side.

Gen Chavalit, however, remains unperturbed. He insisted that he will proceed with his plan to visit other neighbouring stop Burma.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What if Abhisit appoints Cambodia's Sam Rangsi his adviser?

Hun Sen naming Thaksin Shinawatra his personal economic adviser? Deputy PM Suthep Thuangsuban said this morning: "It's Cambodia's internal affair."

He then added cryptically: "What would happen if the Thai government appoints Sam Rangsi (Cambodia's opposition leader) our adviser?"

Is that also Thailad's "internal affair?"

Do two "internal matters" make one international incident? I frankly don't know.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

FM tells Economist: You painted too dark and pessimistic picture of Thailand

The Thai Foreign Ministry has written to "The Economist" after the British news magazine has published several articles about Thai politics. This is what was published in the latest issue:

SIR –The Economist painted too dark and pessimistic a picture of Thailand’s political situation (“Exile and the kingdom”, October 17th). Since 1932, and despite many ups and downs along the democratic path, Thais have persevered towards a true parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy. Irrespective of their political colours, Thais share an unwavering respect for the monarchy. The current political impasse reflects different perspectives about what Thai democracy entails, and efforts are being made to bridge such differences peacefully through parliamentary means.

Meanwhile, the Thai people enjoy their constitutional rights, not least the right to peaceful assembly, which has been continuously exercised and respected.

Vimon Kidchob
Department of Information
Ministry of Foreign Affairs