Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pa Prem in full military uniform: What's the message?

Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, president of the Privy Council, was in full military dress on Monday when the country's top brass paid him a visit to wish him a happy new year.

Does that carry any special meaning? I didn't really get too excited about it. Perhaps, "Pa Prem" was in a good mood. Perhaps, he wanted his visitors to feel at home.

But some political observers promptly pointed out that it was "quite unusual" for Gen Prem to be dressed "for war" on such an occasion.

Manager Daily even ran a headline saying: "Pa Prem in full military uniform: Signalling that he is ready for the last battle."

What last battle? Well, if you count the political attacks launched consistently by Thaksin Shinawatr's lieutenants as a "war," then yes, Pa Prem appears ready to confront them head-on, albeit in his own soft-spoken and subtle retaliation.

But all that Pa Prem told the military leaders that day was: Do good, avoid the bad.

You can read anything into his usual exhortations.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Hun Sen: Coup paranoid or political ploy?

It all started with the "classified documents" made public by red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan. Now, Cambodian PM Hun Sen claims that part of that secret paper says the Abhisit government was plotting to overthrow him -- as today's front-page headline in this morning's Phnom Penh Post says.

I went through the papers with a fine-toothed comb and couldn't locate any suggestion of an attempted coup against Hun Sen from this side of the border. Perhaps, it was an interpretation given to him by his good Thai friend Thaksin Shinawatra. Or perhaps, the ghost from years gone by of the attempted coup orchestrated from some political elements in Thailand against him has made Hun Sen somewhat paranoic.

And some of those involved in that incident are Hun Sen's supposed "great friends" from Thailand today!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How Surayud got quoted out of context...

Poor Gen Surayud Chullanont. He was only trying to be nice and accommodating to reporters. But when some newspapers ran a headline saying he was ready to talk to Thaksin Shinawatr, things got badly exaggerated.

I did listen to the interview. The former premier and present privy councillor He was asked by a reporter: Would be answer the phone if Thaksin called? Surayud replied: "Yes. I would talk to him. I always did. In fact, when we met the last time he came back, we talked at the funeral of Army Chief Anupong's mother."

Would he initiate the call? "No, that would be inappropriate for a privy councillor..."

And that's it. Surayud gave no hint that he would serve as a "broker" for peace between Thaksin and the Abhisit government. In fact, he even mentioned that he wasn't sure what would be the topics if he and Thaksin should happen to talk on the phone.

Things went awry when critics started to ask what Surayud was up to. Thaksin tweeted to ask whether Surayud was speaking for himself or had he got "permission" to speak in that tone. Instead of positive response as a military "dove,"
Surayud got hammered from all sides.

One of his aides came out yesterday to say it had all been taken out of context by the reporters who had been invited by the former premier for a trek up the mountain in the North to inspect a development project.

But Surayud, ever the gentleman, won't come out to deny the story himself. Time will prove everything, his aide quoted him as saying.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

When the PM of one country calls for the ouster of his counterpart...

What does it mean when the leader of one country declares that his counterpart in another country must go before normal relations could be restored?

Cambodian PM Hun Sen had this to say in his speech at a scholarship ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh yesterday:

"I will wait to see the establishment of a new government in Thailand so that they will send back their ambassador...you accuse us of abusing the Thai justice system but you forget to mention you are invading Cambodian territory..."

When Hun Sen calls for the replacement of Abhisit, that's not the normal way of dealing with your neighbours. What if Abhisit says the same thing about Hun Sen? That would amount to interference with the domestic affairs of another country, wouldn't it?

The Thai people decide who run their country -- and whether Hun Sen likes the Thai peoples choice, he has no right to call for the toppling of his counterpart here.

Hun Sen doesn't respect the Thai judicial system by insisting that Thaksin had done nothing wrong. What if Thailand starts to question Cambodia's judical system?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Why is Thaksin interrogating Sivarak in the Khmer prison?

What's Thaksin Shinawtra doing in a Cambodian jail?

Questioning Sivarak Chotipong, the suspected "spy," to find out who was behind it all?

But interrogating a released "spy" wasn't supposed to be part of the deal. Besides, Sivarak had insisted all along that he had not stolen any confidential document that could have affected Thaksin's personal safety. In fact, he had said that news about Thaksin's plane's landing in Phnom Pennh had already been reported by Khmer media at least 20 minutes before the first secretary of the Thai Embassy there had called him.

So, the inevitable impression of Thaksin's appearance in the Cambodian prison yesterday was that he wanted to be physically there to confirm that Sivarak's release was due to his own "heroic" action -- and to squeeze any information at all from the alleged spy to feed his Pheau Thai Party to grill the Abhisit government in a no-confidence debate.

After all is said and done, it's all part of a well-scripted episode from the very beginning.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Abhisit-Hun Sen in Vientiane: So near yet so far

Take a close look: PM Abhisit Vejjajiva and Cambodian Premier Hun Sen are seen here at the opening ceremony of the 25th Sea Games in Vientiane last evening, separated only by six prominent personalities.

Reporters at the scene say the two weren't trying to talk to each other. In Vientiane this week, sports are supposed to unite the two. But in Phnom Penh today, tension promises to rise as the Thai government and opposition Pheau Thai compete to help Thai engineer Sivarak Chotipong get an amnesty from the Cambodian government.

Hun Sen will decide which Thai party gets the credit. Strange but true.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

They are only "look-alikes?"

He says the guy in the picture with Thaksin Shinawatra isn't him. It's only his

But the army says a disciplinary action committee will be set up to probe what Maj Gen Khattiya Sawatdiphol, an Army specialist, was doing in Cambodia when Thaksin was there recently -- and what his "look-alike" was doing in Dubai, also with Thaksin.

If push comes to shove, who knows, Khattiya, better known as "Sen Daeng," may even say the other guy in the picture wasn't Thaksin. It's only his "look-alike."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thaksin Beef Noodle...

"Where's the beef?" Pavin Chachavalpongpun asks in his column today in the Bangkok Post.

This is a new restaurant recently opened in Singapore, proof that "the Thaksin fever has not faded away," he says.

Pavin said he tried to locate the owner but to no avail.

"His name has not only been used as a rallying point for the red-shirt protestors, but as a marketing strategy for businesses overseas that seek to build themselves on beguiling names like Thaksin..."

Pavin added: "But the name Thaksin is also increasingly troublesome..."

Read his column here....http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/28711/where-the-beef-in-a-name-plenty

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Newin quitting politics? He must be kidding...

He is the de facto leader of Bhumjaithai Party, a crucial faction in the Abhisit coalition government. He pulls strings from behind. He makes most of the important decisions for his party. And now, he says it's time for him to quit politics.

Of course, you have to take it with a grain of salt -- and you have to read very carefully between the lines. Newin Chidchob said he would not accept a political post when his five-year ban from politics ends in 2012.

He was quoted as saying: "I will neither enter politics to contest the next general election nor accept any political executive or ministerial position."

But then Newin also added that he would back anyone who he thought was suitable to become premier.

Backing someone to become prime minister isn't playing politics, right?

But haven't we heard that it's always his ambition to become prime minister one day?

Newin told reporters he wasn't suitable for that post, at least for now.

"If you don't know yourself first, how can you know others?" he said.