Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thaksin buys time by telling Mingkwan to prove his prowess

Mingkwan Saengsuwan won't get to become the leader of Pheau Thai Party just yet. But then, Ex-Premier Thaksin Shinawatra hasn't categorically turned down his supporters' plea for Mingkwan to be given a chance to prove his leadership.

"Let him prove that he can lead the party. Tell him to show he can perform well in the upcoming no-confidence debate against the Abhisit government," Thaksin told a group of nine Pheau Thai MPs who went to see him in Dubai to try to convince Thaksin to give Mingkwan the party's leadership.

Thaksin is biding his time of course. But he did offer some hope: Mingkwan's enthusiasm is appreciated. But let him show that he can lead the party by putting a dent in the government's credibility.

Mingkwan has a tough nut to crack. But interestingly enough, Chalerm Yoobamrung, who has openly opposed him, has changed tack and was saying today that he was willing to give Mingkwan a chance.

That could only mean that Chalerm has been talking to Thaksin, or someone close to the "big boss."

But that doesn't mean in any concrete terms that Mingkwan will get the job though.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

If Thaksin names his sister as Pheau Thai leader, where's the surprise?

The person to be named leader of Pheau Thai Party may, after all, be some one from the Shinawatra family. And the most likely choice, according to some insiders who have met Thaksin Shinawatr, is none other than Yingluck Shinawatra, his very own sister.

Yingluck has effectively been Thaksin's political shadow all along. She has kept a low profile, choosing instead to let the other politicians claiming to be closer to her brother get the limelight.

But with Pheau Thai bordering on a "leadership crisis" because none of the potential leaders has proved very effective, Thaksin appears to be set to officially name Yingluck to the top post in order to put a stop to the brewing battle within the party among a few faction leaders to vie for the top post.

An MP who met Thaksin in Dubai recently said Thaksin will make a "surprise, New Year's announcement" to name the new party leader. If that name is Yingluck, that won't be too much of a surprise. But it will irk those within the party who have been calling for a "proper distance" between Thaksin, his family and the party.

Pheau Thai will have to overcome its infighting before it can set itself ready for the upcoming election. Thaksin's remote control method doesn't seem to have been able to put an end to the confusion.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Now, Mingkwan says he is ready to the PM

Mingkwan Saengsuwan has always been a PR expert. It doesn't matter what role he plays, the "image-maker" can always make his presence felt.

Now, the former commerce minister says he is ready to head the opposition Pheau Thai Party -- and that means he is also ready to assume the premiership if the party gets a chance to form the next government.

And that's no empty talk. A faction within Pheau Thai says they are ready to nominate Mingkwan to be the party's leader. That, of course, means that Mingkwan will have to face some fierce competition, at least from Chalerm Yubamrung, the party's MPs' chief, who has made it his personal crusade to bring back Thaksin Shinawatra. And what about Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, the party's chief adviser, who recently declared hat he was ready to become PM again.

The road to the top for Mingkwan is clearly full of challenges. It's going to be a tough fight all the way.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Seh Daeng's daughter determined to carry father's flag

It was done without much fanfare but it's still an interesting development in the local political landscape.

Ms Kattiya Swasdiphon was yesterday voted to be the leader of the Kattiya Party founded by his late father, Maj Gen Kattiya alias "Seh Daeng" who was assassinated during the recent political confrontation.

The daughter had previously been with the Yellow Shirts while her father was decidedly on the side of the Red Shirts. They were obviously on opposite sides of the political spectrum. But once her father was gunned down, she devoted all her energy to continue with his mission.

It's unclear how she will handle her relationship with the Pheau Thai Party but for now, Ms Kattiya seems determined to carry her father's flag -- and let the public decide how her role will evolve from now on.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thaksin: I am ready to foot the bills

Thaksin Shinawatra has officially moved into the "election mode" and is ready to foot the bills.

That's what he told Pheau Thai Party members in a "phone-in" statement earlier this week. Thaksin said the party's "defeat" in the Sunday by-elections was due to the fact that "we were borrowing other's nose to breathe."

Then, he declared that his party members should now concentrate on campaigning for the next general election.

"We will certainly win big," he declared. He then told his Pheau Thai Party members to go out and visit red-shirt members. "Help pay for their expenses. Then, you can get reimbursements from me. I will pay for everything....except for noodle dishes that MPs eat themselves..."

Is there still any doubt as to who's the real owner of the Pheau Thai Party and at least part of the red-shirt movement?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Thida: We want to win the hearts of non-red-shirts

Thida Tavornseth, the "acting" new red-shirt leader has given several interviews to the press in the past week. Her theme is consistently non-violence -- and that she doesn't work for Thaksin Shinawatra.

She told Thai Post yesterday: "Our fight isn't a revolution. We won't have an armed force. We won't use weapons in our struggle. This is our agreement. If you believe in the same thing, you are our friends. We want a great and sustainable victory. We want to see lots of people who agree with our principle. Our main point is to win the hearts of the people -- to win the hearts of those who aren't red shirts. That, then, is real victory. Therefore, we have to pull us in the right direction, not to be dragged to a wrong direction..."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thaksin may find Washington too cold for his testimony

Is Thaksin Shinawatra going to Washington after all?

Noppadon Pattana, his adviser, was highly confident earlier this week that the ex-premier was "definitely" going to testify to the Commission on Security Cooperationf or Europe in Washington as per the invitation letter signed by the CSCE's chairman, Senator Benjamin Cardin.

Yesterday, he sounded a bit more cautious. Thaksin, he said, was applying for a visa to get into the US. He is holding a Montenegran passport. "He will decide whether to make the trip just a day or two before the scheduled event on Dec 16," Noppadon said.

Noppadon blames Foreign Minister Kasit Biromya for lobbying very hard to block Thaksin's trip to the US. Kasit said yesterday that he was confident that Thaksin wouldn't be issued a visa.

"How does he know? Has been been lobbying hard to that effect? Or does he know something we don't?" Noppadon asked.

Thaksin himself has so far made no official comment on this "invitation."

His Montenegran passport reportely carries a different name. If, as reported earllier, his Montenegran carries a different name and not Thaksin, would the CSCE considers the person to claims to be Thaksin from Montenegro the real Thaksin?

What if Thaksin finally decides to send a video of his presentation to the CSCE?

He can, after all, tells the hosts that it's just too cold for comfort in Washington next week.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mr Thaksin goes to Washington...or so it seems

He might yet change his mind. If Thaksin Shinawatra reconsiders his position, the former premier would see how he could be "trapped" if he goes to Washington on Dec 16, as reported by Noppadon Pattana yesterday.

An invitation from the Commission on Security Cooperation in Europe (CSCE)for Thaksin to testify on alleged human rights violations may sound tempting. But it could also be a trap. Questions will be raised all the way back to the violations of human rights in the three southern provinces, especially the "Takbai" incident, when Thaksin was premier.

He might be eager to discuss the killings of at least 91 protestors during April-May, 2010 rallies but Thaksin wasn't in Bangkok when the shootings took place. He, at best, could be considered an observer from afar. In fact, from pictures on the net at the time, he was shopping with one of his daughters in Paris during that critical time.

Of course, the Thai Foreign Ministry and Attorney-General will be reminding the American authorities that Thaksin is a wanted man back in Thailand and the two countries' extradition pact remains in effect.

Why would Thaksin take that risk when the real political gain from his presence in Washington isn't all that obvious.

Expensive advisers with their own agenda don't always provide valuable advice. Some free advice from well-wishers could very well be much, much more practical. This perhaps is one of the cases in point.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

US Envoy on Wikileaks: Diplomats will continue to have honest dialogue

How would the Wikileaks disclosure of secret cables from the US Embassy affect Thai-US relations? Here is what outoging American Ambassador Eric John has to say:

WikiLeaks: The U.S-Thai Relationship

By U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Eric G. John

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have made it a priority to reinvigorate America’s relationships around the world. They have been working hard to strengthen our existing partnerships and build new ones to meet shared challenges, from climate change to ending the threat of nuclear weapons to fighting disease and poverty. As the United States Ambassador to Thailand I’m proud to be part of this effort.

Of course, even a solid relationship will have its ups and downs. We have seen that in the past few days, when documents purportedly downloaded from U.S. Defense Department computers became the subject of reports in the media. They appear to contain our diplomats’ assessments of policies, negotiations, and leaders from countries around the world as well as reports on private conversations with people inside and outside other governments.

I cannot vouch for the authenticity of any one of these documents. But I can say that the United States deeply regrets the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential. And we condemn it. Diplomats must engage in frank discussions with their colleagues, and they must be assured that these discussions will remain private. Honest dialogue—within governments and between them—is part of the basic bargain of international relations; we couldn’t maintain peace, security, and international stability without it. I’m sure that Thailand’s diplomats in the United States would say the same thing. They too depend on being able to exchange honest opinions with their counterparts in Washington and send home their assessments of America’s leaders, policies, and actions.

I do believe that people of good faith recognize that diplomats’ internal reports do not represent a government’s official foreign policy. In the United States, they are one element out of many that shape our policies, which are ultimately set by the President and the Secretary of State. And those policies are a matter of public record, the subject of thousands of pages of speeches, statements, white papers, and other documents that the State Department makes freely available online and elsewhere.

But relations between governments aren’t the only concern. U.S. diplomats meet with local human rights workers, journalists, religious leaders, and others outside the government who offer their own candid insights. These conversations depend on trust and confidence as well. If an anti-corruption activist shares information about official misconduct, or a social worker passes along documentation of sexual violence, revealing that person’s identity could have serious repercussions: imprisonment, torture, even death.

The owners of the WikiLeaks website claim to possess some 250,000 classified documents, many of which have been released to the media. Whatever their motives are in publishing these documents, it is clear that releasing them poses real risks to real people, and often to particular people who have dedicated their lives to protecting others. An act intended to provoke the powerful may instead imperil the powerless. We support and are willing to have genuine debates about pressing questions of public policy. But releasing documents carelessly and without regard for the consequences is not the way to start such a debate.

For our part, the U.S. government is committed to maintaining the security of our diplomatic communications and is taking steps to make sure they are kept in confidence. We are moving aggressively to make sure this kind of breach does not happen again. And we will continue to work to strengthen our partnership with Thailand and make progress on the issues that are important for our two countries. We can’t afford anything less. I am in close contact with the Thai government to make sure we continue to focus on the issues and tasks at hand. President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and I remain committed to being trusted partners as we seek to build a better, more prosperous world for everyone.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Abhisit warns Suthep not to help Sondhi with his outburst

It was supposed to be an internal affair but nothing that is discussed in Cabinet meetings, it seems, could be kept confidential for long.

That's why soon after the Tuesday's Cabinet's weekly meeting, reporters were told that PM Abhisit Vejjajiva had given his deputy, Suthep Thuagsuban, a piece of his mind about the latter's public outburst against Sondhi Limthongkul, leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

Suthep had a day earlier declared that "Thaksin (Shinawatra) and Sondhi (Limthongkul) are equally bad."

Abhisit warned Suthep in the Cabinet meeting that he shouldn't have made that public outburst "because you would only be helping Sondhi to rally more people to his next demonstration on Dec 11..."

Suthep explained that he had made that statement to counter Sondhi's frequent attacks on him.

The PM, it seems, was simply telling Suthep to avoid falling prey to his own emotion, and thereby risk being trapped.

We have yet to hear what Suthep has to say. We, of course, know what Sondhi's reaction would be.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Will the verdict come on Monday? Stay tuned!

If you believe Deputy PM Suthep Thuagsuban,secretary general of the Democrat Party, the Constitutional Tribunal may hand down a verdict on whether to dissolve his party or not on Monday, Nov 29, soon after the Election Commission and the defendant deliver their final verbal statements.

But don't bet on it.

Another school of thought argues that that may not come to pass, especially considering the fact that one of the seven judges on the panel, Charoon Intachan, has just resigned from that post to pursue his case against those who had posted video clips that prompted him to go for litigation.

Now that there are only six judges left, the other side says, it's unlikely that the panel of judges will come up with a ruling -- risking a 3:3 draw that could create a controversial precedent.

In order to restore the odd-number tradition for such panels, a new judge will have to be named to replace the one who quit. And that will take some time to process.

Suspense is hanging in the air. The verdict could come on Monday. Or it may be postponed indefinitely. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Small polls, big impact

By-elections to be held on Dec 12 in five constituencies, three of them in the Northeast (one in Bangkok and the other in Ayudhya), will pit the government against the red shirts in another test of the people's political sentiments.

The Northeast by-elections (in Khon Kaen, Korat and Surin) will test whether Thaksin Shinawatra's Pheau Thai Party can thrash Newin Chidchob's Bhumjaithai Party, which is the key coalition partner of the current government.

Both sides are caught in a "must-win" position to convince the whole country that they are more popular than the other. It's the upcoming general election that's at stake, not necessarily the outcomes of the by-elections themselves.

In a way, the by-elections will also put to test the Abhisit government's performance in the past two years -- in the areas of the government's populist policies for grass-roots voters as well as how the people there view the government's relief measures against flood victims.

Therefore, the upcoming polls are the "small ballot-casting exercises with big impact."

In this ever unpredictable political scenario, nothing can be taken for granted.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Red Shirts Rally by Tweeple

This is a nice way to collect tweets of people I follow to report on a particular story.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

SET Index and politics

What has the stock market's SET Index got to do with politics?

At least one political columnist, T. Sak of Thai Post, insists that if the SET Index crosses the 1,000 point, that means House dissolution and a new election is just around the corner.

"I made that prediction sometime ago. Today, I still stand by that assessment," he confirmed this morning.

Why? The columnist says when the stock market gets a sudden jolt and the prices rise dramatically, that means some politicians are actively involved in pushing the prices up...."in order to make financial preparations for the election campaigns."

You will have to read between the lines there. I think I know what he means. But then,
he doesn't necessarily have to say it in so many words.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What does Sanan want Thais to forget?

Manager Weekly ran this "Mad" caricature of Maj Gen Sanan Kachornprasart, deputy premier, on its cover this morning. The conclusion of the analysis: Sanan is trying to ask the whole country to "forget the past" about Thaksin Shinawatra.

Sanan, after his casual 15-minute meeting with Thaksin in Norway last week, publicly said that he had asked all parties concerned to forget what had been done to them. "If we don't forget the past, anger would still be there."

The Manager's piece said what Sanan meant was obviously to clear the ex-premier of his wrongdoings.

"Does Maj Gen Sanan want the Thai peple not to remember the wrongdoings and the court's verdicts to drag this convict into prison in accordance with the law of the land?"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New army chief: Coup? What coup?

A lot of people would like to personally ask the new army chief, Gen Prayuth Em-ocha, whether he would ever consider staging a coup.

He sort of offered an answer the other day when reporters asked him about the allegation from red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan that the yellow shirts had staged a rally over the Thai-Khmer MoU on border demarcation to stir up enough trouble to let the army stage another coup:

"Let me pose a question. Who wants to stage a coup right now? Thailand has a democratic system under the Monarchy. This is the best system in the world. We are different from other countries. They only have a democratic system. Why do we want to go in search of another system then? That won't solve our problems...." he said.

What about the last coup then? Gen Prayuth responded:

"I don't really want to go back in time. But they had to do it then to prevent a problem that was emerging. After that, they went back to the normal mechanism. So, why do we want to go back? The situation today is different from that of the old time. We must somehow try to solve the current problems..."

Reading between the lines, it's still hard to say whether the new army boss has ruled out the possibility of a coup, isn't it?

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Thaksin-Sanan Norway peace meet: Expect no bombshells

I can't honestly say I am waiting with great anticipation of what Maj Gen Sanan Kachornprasart is going to tell us about what was discussed when he met former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra in Norway a few days ago, supposedly at a Thai temple there.

Sanan, who is a deputy premier in this government, was back in Bangkok today but he refused to divulge any detail to reporters, pleading with to be patient and wait for his official press conference tomorrow.

You can expect the usual kind of talk about Thaksin's intention to create a harmonious atmosphere and that he only wants good things to happen to the country. Sanan, who has been playing the role of a peace broker, will naturally sound positive about their meeting.

No such bombshells as Thaksin vowing to stop his political role or to come home to serve the prison term can be expected.

But then who knows? There might be some exciting statements about peace from Thaksin. But then, this won't be the first time, nor the last time.

Let's hear them out. Things can't be worse anyway.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

If Newin ever becomes PM, I'll divorce him

She is the wife of one of the most influential politicians in Thailand. But Karuna "Tai" Chidchob, in her first frank and comprehensive interview as chairman of "Buriram FC" soccer team, declared: "If Khun Newin ever becomes prime minister of this country, I will divorce him."

She wasn't joking. In the interview published in the latest issue of Nation weekender, Karuna said politics was a cruel affair.

"Politics shouldn't affect the family. I say this because I have personally been affected myself. So anyone who loves his or her children shouldn't encourage them to go into politics," she said.

She is serious about soccer. But she claims she wants to have nothing to do with politics, despite the fact that her husband is known to be the real "owner" of Bhumjaithai Party which is a partner in the current coalition government.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Latest rumour says Mingkwan was talking to Thaksin about the premiership!

I am waiting for a public statement from Mingkwan Saengsuwan on the latest rumours spread by insiders of Pheau Thai Party that he was in Dubai to talk to Thaksin Shinawatr about earlier rumours that he had offered his service to be the next prime minister.

Mingkwan, former commerce minister and before that a PR expert, was said to be one of the six possible candidates eyed by Thaksin to be the premier should Pheau Thai Party wins big in the upcoming election.

But the latest speculation has a new twist: Another candidate has been proposed: Former PoLice Chief Gen Seripisut Tameeyaej.

I am not sure how his name has cropped up. He has not been known to be close to Pheau Thai or Thaksin for that matter. In fact, in the past, Seripisut had clashed with Thaksin on several issues before.

How and why his name has been raised in this context is puzzling indeed.

Yes, I am also awaiting Seripisut's statement in this regard as well.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The new army chief versus the old boss

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, the new army commander-in-chief, doesn't waste anytime to speak out on his concern over groups that he says are detrimental to the monarchy.He took over the position on Oct 1 and has since made no secret of his "mission" to "protect the country's highest institution" in an open, no-nonsense way.

His outspokenness is a far cry from his predecessor, Gen Anupong Paochinda, who preferred to stick to his "no comments" position on any political controversy.

No doubt, critics will soon question his "democratic credentials" as a professional soldier. His tendency to mince no words in public will undoubtedly draw him into new controversies.

Is he more prone to thinking about coups than Anupong? Only time will tell. Is the difference only in style? Or is there a vast departure on terms of substance over the military's role in national politics as well?

Whatever transpires, one thing is sure: There won't be a dull moment in military and political stories in the new year.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Abhisit: What if he left politics?

What would Abhisit Vejjajiva be doing if he wasn't in politics?

The question has been posed several times to the premier before. And his answers have centered around being a teacher.

He told the Bangkok Post's "the magazine" that came out this morning:

"Well, I have to think about that pretty soon anyway. But I used to be a lecturer. I have always enjoyed that. And that's probably the easiest thing to think of if I were to leave politics today, but who knows? If I had more time to think and relax, I might find new interests. I think I am young enough to do that."

He was then asked what he would do if his schedule magically cleared and he were free to do as he pleased?

"When does that happen?" was his response.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A radio programme asked its listeners to vote: Do you want us to follow news on the ongoing floods or politics?

The vote: 90:10: Give us the flood stories anytime!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chalerm vs Mingkwan as next PM? Not by a long shot

Two major factions have emerged within Pheau Thai Party, vying for the premiership: Chalerm Yoobamrung and Mingkwan Saengsuwan.

Chalerm spearheads a group that focuses on campaigning for the return of Thaksin Shinawatra as the main theme in the upcoming election.

Mingkwan's supporters want to distance themselves from Thaksin. Instead, the pitch for Mingkwan is to concentrate on pushing for someone with sufficient economic acumen to head the next government.

But then, of course, both camps eventually fall under Thaksin's influence.

Those in the know say neither Chalerm nor Mingkwan is in a position to pick and choose though. The last word will have to come from Thaksin who has made it publicly known that there are six candidates for the premiership if Pheau Thai wins the next election.

None of the six, however, can produce the "wow" effect so far. Thaksin has told his Pheau Thai members: "Don't be afraid to be labelled as my nominee."

In other words, it is no longer possible or credible for anyone in the party to claim to be himself -- or herself -- for that matter.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The politics of husband and wife, father and son

This coalition face-off isn't only about "husband" and "wife." It has expanded into a question of "father" and "son."

Bhumjaithai Party leader Chaovarat Charnveerakul has been on the record as saying that he isn't "uncomfortable" with the Democrats in this marriage of convenience. But his son, Anutin, who is close to Newin Chidchob, the de facto owner of the party, has admitted to reporters that he is quite "uncomfortable" with the current state of affairs within the coalition.

When a reporter told Chaovara about Anutin's comment that wasn't exactly in syn with father's public statement, he said: "I will check out my son's feeling about this."

Father and son have yet to come up with a "joint statement" so far on this issue.

Monday, October 18, 2010

PM talks tough: If you are frustrated, get out

Is this a threat or a request or a kite-flying effort?

Nobody is quite sure. But when PM Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters to tell his Bhumjaithai coalition partners to tell him in his face about their "frustration" of sharing the bed with the Democrats, he was as blunt as he could be.

"I am asking you to tell me directly about your frustrations instead of identifying yourselves as informed sources while talking to the Press," the PM said, to no one in particular.

"If we can't get along, we will split," Abhisit declared.

Of course, no coalition partners would want to leave unless there is a new coalition to which they could flee -- which isn't anywhere in sight at the moment.

Abhisit knows it. Newin Chidchob, the de factor leader of Bhumjaithai knows it. They simply can't keep some of their MPs silent for too long.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What would Sanan tell Thaksin?

What would Sanan Kachornprasart, deputy PM and deputy leader of Chat Thai Pattana Party,tell Thaksin Shinawatr if they get to talk to each other?

Sanan, who has been on a "peace mission" trying to convince all parties concerned to come to a political compromise, told an interviewer last night: "I will tell him to forget the past. I have gone through worse fate than he has. Why have I accepted that? Part of his assets may have been confiscated but then we won't touch the rest. Let's put a stop to the conflict. Let him come back to Thailand as an ordinary Thai. He will be much happier than staying abroad. I will talk to him in a frank manner. But first, the Thai people must agree to that approach."

Sanan reiterated that he had embarked on this mission as a personal sacrifice."Mark my word. I don't want to be prime minister, whatever happens."

Will Thaksin talk to Sanan? Nobody knows. Lots of people claim to be the "conduit" for Thaksin wth the powers-that-be but nobody has so far extracted anything meaningful from him, or PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, for that matter.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Is Korn doing things behind the PM's back?

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva says he doesn't know whether his finance minister, Korn Chatikavanij, has been doing things without his knowledge such as contacting
the "3 Ps" to join in an overhauled coalition government in the event that Bhumjaithai Party is kicked out of the current line-up.

"He hasn't told me about it, if he in fact has done that sort of thing," Abhisit told reporters in response to rumours to that effect.

Korn himself hasn't commented on the speculation that he has been trying to persuade the factions led by Preecha Laohapongchana, Pinit Charusombat and Pairoj Suwannachavi, to join a new coalition. In that scenario, Newin Chidchob's Bhumjaithai Party would be dropped.

Abhsit told reporters that no Cabinet reshuffle is imminent. And Korn hasn't reported to him about the rumoured negotiations with new coalition partners. No, he isn't going to appoint a new "government's manager" to replace Suthep Thuagsuban who has quit as deputy premier to run in the Surat Thani by-election.

In other words, he has confirmed nothing, and denied nothing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Who wants to kill Newin?

Who wants to kill Newin Chidchob, the current political "kingmaker?"

The answer came this morning from Newin himself: "My former boss."

He didn't have to name names, of course and reporters didn't press on after he said on his 52nd birthday anniversary today: "I will say it out loud. The only person who can try to hire someone to kill me is my former boss. Others being targetted are the premier, the deputy premier (Suthep Thuangsuban), the defence minister (Gen Prawit Wongsuwan)..."

One newspaper quoted "intelligence sources" as saying that Newin's head carries a prize of Bt20 million. When asked today about that figure, Newin didn't try to correct the number.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A new "peace offensive" from Pheau Thai

Plodprasob Suraswadi, Pheau Thai Party's acting deputy leader, having failed to kick off his previous "reconciliation" campaign, has launched a new "peace offensive" by issuing a five-point "national reconciliation" statement.

There is no new element in the proposal, except that this time he threatens a physical approach. The Pheau Thai deputy leader says he will lead a delegation to meet Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva to discuss his new "peace plan."

It's clear that he hadn't made a prior appointment with the prime minister before he made that public revelation.

PM Abhisit was surprised himself when reporters asked him about Plodprasob's pledge to come and visit him.

"There isn't an appointment yet. But, of course, I am ready to meet and talk if they come. They have their ideas. We will tell them ours," the PM told reporters before he boarded a flight for Brussels today for the ASEM summit.

But isn't he bored with the repeated proposals for peace but none has so far produced any concrete results?

"We have to continue to explore all avenues. We can't afford to be bored," he said.

In fact, talking about reconcilation has become a national pastime. Everybody seems to have pitched in, one way or the other. So, have fun!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Korn: to be or not to be?

Is Korn Chatikavanij, the finance minister and one of PM Abhisit's close friends, gunning to take over the premiership?

Despite what you have heard from the political grapevine, if you pose that question to him, the expected answer is: No, No and No. Of course, you don't think he would ever tell you publicly: "Of course, I'm the most qualified."

His close aides would tell you: Korn is a humble man. He knows his limits. He is, like Abhisit, also a trained British gentleman.

That explains why Korn was at pains to say: "Whatever happens, Mr Abhisit is still the most suitable man as prime minister. And if an election takes place, there is no need to look for an alternative. Besides, I am not hoping to be PM myself."

What Korn didn't address was what would happen if the Democrat Party was to be dissolved and Abhisit is banned from politics for five years.

But then reporters didn't get to pose that question. Next time perhaps.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Suthep as PM? Chuan says: Over lots of Democrats' dead bodies

The "real insider" has spoken. Chuan Leekpai, chairman of the Democrat Party's advisory board, was asked by reporters about speculation that Deputy PM Suthep Thuagsuban, also the party's secretary-general, plans to run in Surat Thani's by-election so that he can become a candidate for the premiership.

Chuan's razor tongue was immediately put to work:

"Suthep becoming prime minister? You will have to wait until the 2009 'Flu kills all members of the Democrat Party before you see that happening..."

How did Suthep react to that? He understandably showed great restraint. "Perhaps, Mr Chuan doesn't have too much faith in my ability. But then, I have no intention to vie for the premier's post anyway."

Within the inner circle of the Democrat Party, it's well-known that when the elderly Chuan speaks, everybody else just listens, and keeps any loud response to the minimum.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Amsterdam, Jiles Ungphakorn in 'Ratchaprasong' protest in London

Somebody sent me a few pictures of Robert Amsterdam, Thaksin Shinawatra's personal legal adviser, and Jiles Ungphakorn, a well-known red-shirt activist in self-imposed exile abroad, joining a group of Thais in London to hold a rally to mark the 4th anniversary of the Sept 19 2006 coup.

The venue was "Ratchaprasong" in London. The anti-coup message is clear. The tie-up between Amsterdam and Jiles needs a bit more explanation, perhaps. Or was it just an accidental meet-up?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Gen Anupong's two-pronged hard-to-keep pledge

It's a very firm pledge and if he can achieve that, he will be the happiest retired general of Thailand.

Gen Anupong Paochinda, who is due to retire on Sept 30, has told reporters that once he retires, he will stick to two very important principles:

1. I will stay away from the press.
2. I will stay away from politics as much as possible.

Do you think he can keep the two promises? I don't think he should bet on that. The first one is easy to keep. The second pledge is a tall order indeed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sanan gunning for premiership? He says "No"; Some may "Maybe"

Is Deputy PM Sanan Kachornprasart paving the way for the premiership?

His own instant answer: "No."

But some political observers seem to think otherwise.If the Democrat Party is dissolved by a ruling of the Constitutional Court, the political landscape could undergo a major shakeup.

Simple mathematics may explain the speculation about Sanan's plan. Pheau Thai Party could form the next government if backed by a number of small parties. As this chart shows, if Pheau Thai joins hands with Puea Pandin, Chat Thai Pattana,Ruam Chat Pattana, Pracharaj, Social Action and Matubhum, they could easily gain 271 seats in the House, a comfortable majority.

The Democrats and Bhumjaithai, in this scenario, could be forced to become the Opposition with a combined strength of 204 seats in the House.

But things of course aren't that simple. The behind-the-scenes fight would be fierce and if Sanan thought he could be premier in that scenario, a number of other candidates will immediately pop up. The names of M.R. Pridiyathorn Devakul, Mingkwan Saengsuwan,Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, Chalerm Yoobamroong have all been tossed around for a while now.

But you never know. What sounds unlikely today may turn out to be "the only way out in a crisis." So, stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Newin's 24-page manifesto on amnesty

Newin Chidchob, Bhumjaithai Party's "owner" and Chavarat Charnveerakul, the party's leader, seem deep in discussion amidst reports of head-on collision between the party and the Democrats over a number of hot issues.

Newin has written what I would call a "manifesto" on why he has proposed an amnesty bill for the "innocent" demonstrators on all sides as a move towards national reconciliation.

Newin claims it's all done for the "common people" who joined the rallies not knowing whether they were violating the law. He says in his 24-page paper issued yesterday that none of the politicians involved would get clemency under his bill.

But critics were quick to point out that Newin is eyeing the upcoming election and he needs all the votes he can get from the red-shirts in his home base in the Northeast. Without a dramatic campaign gimmick, his party would find the upcoming election a real up-hill task.

Of course, he will deny it. But that doesn't mean it's less true.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Coup 4th anniversary: From Lebanon to Ratchaprasong: Message of 'peace' and 'sounds good'

The re-shirts are back at Ratchaprasong this afternoon. The rally has so far been peaceful and police were trying to keep everybody reasonably happy.

Shouts of "People died here!" were heard several times. The fourth anniversary of the Sept 19 coup is being marked in Bangkok and Chiang Mai with some fanfare. The government says holding such rallies is fine as long as no law is broken. Loudspeakers aren't being used and the new police chief, Police Gen Vichien Potchposri, has told his officers to report to him every half an hour. A red-shirt leader has said the rally will disperse in the evening. Police have given them until 8 pm to go home.

Things seem well under control. The "symbolism" of this gathering seems well noted. Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted as prime ministere four years ago today, tweeted from Lebanon last night pleading for peace and reconciliation.

Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva's terse response when asked by reporters for his comment on Thaksin's tweets was:

"That sounds good."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Will you be at Ratchaprasong Sunday evening?

If you plan to be near Ratchaprasong Intersection Sunday evening, be prepared for some traffic problems. But don't panic. It's going to be just a peaceful gathering of people to mark the Oct 19 coup's fourth anniversary in that area.

I understand that businesses in the area are beefing up security in preparation for the event -- four years after the coup and four months after the red-shirt riots.

Red-shirt leader Sombat Boonngam-anong says the rally at Ratchaprasong Sunday evening will be peaceful. Perhaps, some red balloons will be released. Photographs of past demonstratons may be dispalyed on footpaths. Red cloths may be tied around the area. All these are for "symbolic" reasons.

But there won't be any political speeches. "We will return home immediately after we finish carrying out activities at Ratchaprasong," he was quoted as saying.

So, it's fine to be at Ratchaprasong on Sunday. Your presence will also be "symbolic" to the extent that whether you are for or against this government,you are still entitled to make your presence felt, one way or another.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mingkwan for Premier campaign?

Mingkwan Saengsuwan has emerged as a challenger for the premiership within Pheau Thai Party. He has confided to his close friends that he is ready for the job and even if he isn't the party leader, he would be ready to take on the challenge.

But is Thaksin Shinawatra, the real party's owner, supportive of Mingkwan's bid?

Nobody is quite sure although if you ask Mingkwan's supporters, they would give you enough hints to believe that here is a good choice.

And if you listened to a statement from Suchart Lainam-ngern, a Pheau Thai MP, who said he had met Thaksin in Russia last week, you might be inclined to think it's not all that far-fetched.

MP Suchart quoted Thaksin as having told his delegation: "Khun Thaksin says the new PM from Pheau Thai would be someone versatile in economic affairs and also enjoys public support. If that's the case, we all know who that person is..."

I am not sure I know what he meant. When I checked around, apart from Mingkwan, another possible candidate who fits that bill is probably Thanong Pitya, former finance minister, and Thaksin's long-time aide.

But then, Mingkwan's faction seems highly confident that he is high up on the list of possible candidates for the premiership.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Yongyuth is back as confusion reigns

Thaksin Shinawatra's original plan was scuttled and Police Gen Kovit Watana withdrew. So, the Pheau Thai MPs voted Yongyuth Vichaidit back as the party leader.

Why did he resign in the first place?

Well, various factions within the party were jockeying for the top position. Thaksin was said to have been persuaded by one of the deputy party leaders to put Kovit at the head of the party because he could play his "reconciliation" card more effectively than others.

Thaksin at first went along and Kovit was ready to step in when some factions, particularly those from the Northeast, opposed Kovit's move. Frantic calls were made to Thaksin who was in Russia over the weekend. A big feud was brewing within the party. Thaksin had to back off. And he is back to Square One.

Thaksin obviously is running out of "cards." If he doesn't trust Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh or Chalerm Yoobamrung to head the party -- and has to toy with the idea of putting Mingkwan Saengsuwan to fill that post -- and none of his brothers and sisters can effectively manage the party for him, then Thaksin is running out of options.

Without a real leader, Pheau Thai is being left to the Grade B, second-tier leaders who can't agree amont themselves what to do next.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What does Thaksin want to do with Pheau Thai now?

What's Thaksin Shinawatra's up to?

He admitted to a Matichon reporter on the phone yesterday that Pheau Thai Party was to undergo a restructure to pave way for "reconciliation."

Political pundits say the imminent naming of former national police chief Kovit Watana as the new party leader won't solve Thaksin's problems. In fact, Newin Chidchob, once his close aide, said today: "I am afraid Kovit may end up like Samak (Sundaravej."

What does that mean? Newin was probably suggesting that Thaksin may think he could order his party leader around. But he couldn't do that with Samak. And Newin thinks he might face the same problem with Kovit.

The Matichon reporter asked for Thaksin's comment on suggestions that Pheau Thai Party is in decline. He simply said: "The election results will determine whether we are on our down or up..."

Where is he? Thaksin wouldn't say. He is after all still a man on the run..

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A new head for Pheau Thai? But who's the current head anyway?

We can't really blame you if you aren't too sure who is the "leader" of Pheau Thai Party.

What's General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh's position there? He is "chairman" of some sorts.

What about Chalerm Yoobamrung? He is said to be "Head of the MPs" or something along that line.

Yongyudh Vichaidit? Well, as far as we could ascertain, he is, at least officially, the party leader.

Now, a new name has popped up. Police Gen Kovit Watana, the former National Police chief.

The latest rumour is that Yongyudh may be stepping down from that post. And Police Gen Kovit may be assuming the post as party leader instead.

Who calls the shots at Pheau Thai then? Rumours say it's Thaksin Shinawatra. But then,he has never admitted that he actually "owns" the party.

As I was saying, I won't blame you if you aren't quite sure who's really running the country's biggest opposition party.

Most of the time, I don't know that either.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Where did you get those 3D glasses, Mr Prime Minister?

"Don't you think I look groovy?" PM Abhisit Vejjajiva looks like asking people around him as he wears this 3D glasses at the Thai Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo today.

Thailand will bid to host the 2020 World Expo. To commemorte the Thailand's day at Exp, the PM visited the Thai Pavilion which has so far attracted more than four million visitors.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The fatal result of 'Vote Yellow and Red will win'

Nobody is quite clear who started to spread the slogan but it apparently worked.

Samran Rodpetch, spokesman of New Politics Party, says one of the reasons for the party's heavy defeat in Sunday's local city assembly and district assemblies' elections was the idea floated against the party:

"If you vote for Yellows, Reds will win."

It was meant to suggest that the "yellow votes" would undercut the Democrats. So, if you voted for a NPP candidate, you would only take away the vote from the Democrat candidate, thereby enabling a Pheau Thai candidate (red) to win.

Samran said his party had tried desperately to tell Bangkok voters that that slogan wasn't true. "We tried to tell voters that if you vote yellow, you will get yellow. If you vote for New Politics, you would get New Politics. If you vote for Pheau Thai, you would get a Pheau Thai member..."

But he admitted that the negative message against NPP seemed to have stuck. "It's an old trick played against us...just like many years ago when some people started to spread the words that Chamlong led people to death..."

Other factors contributing to the loss (the party failed to get even one candidate elected),he wrote in his column in Manager Daily yesterday, included: The party wasn't 100% ready; work teams and candidates were relatively new; most candidates had not had any real records of work locally; voter turnout was only 41% and vote buying and fraudulent practices were rampant.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Same song, different keys

You don't get to see Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva in his singing mood too often. But he did pair up with well-known artist Pongsith "Pu" Khampi yesterday to sing his famous song: "Talod Waela" ("All the Time"), with Minister of PM's Office Ong-art Klampaiboon trying to chime in.

Perhaps, Abhisit wasn't too happy with his own performance. His explanation? "Pu and me were singing on different keys."

That happens quite often between him and some of his Cabinet members, especially with his coalition partners in Bhumjaithai Party, doens't it?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

His intense silence has fired rumours about 'intensive care'

Is he in ICU (Intensive Care Unit)? Or is it just some wild rumour promoted by some of his foes?

Manager Weekly today put Thaksin Shinawatra on the cover again with a simple headline: "ICU"? The story inside repeats the speculation about Thaksin's health. But some Pheau Thai MPs who claim to have met Thaksin recently insisted that the ex-premier remains in good health.

One of the reasons that has fanned this rumour is Thaksin's recent low-profile. He has stopped tweeting. He doesn't make any "phone-in" or video links to his supporters here. Very few people have seen him. PM Abhisit Vejjajiva suggested to reporters earlier this week that Thaksin might have been in Brunei. But nobody has confirmed his presence anywhere.

Most conspicuous has been Thaksin's silence after the Cambodian government announced that he had resigned as adviser to Premier Hun Sen and his critics immediately said he had in fact been fired.

His silence has been deafening. Hence the rumours.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Prem wears orange, suggesting a reconciliation message?

Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, the president of the Privy Council, turned 90 on Aug 26. He tried to make it a low-profile affair. The top brass and senior officials who wanted to pay their annual homage had to get into his house through the side and back doors. No grand, open ceremonies like previous years. The official reason given was that the ex-premier didn't want to draw undue attention to his personal life.

But then he did send a message through the colour of his shirt. It was plainly orange. Reporters were quick to offer their interpretation.

It's not yellow. It's not red. It's a combination of both. Was Prem suggesting a compromise, a national reconciliation of sorts?

I am sure he won't comment on the interpretation. But then, I am sure he won't deny such a harmless -- even constructive -- suggestion, whether he wore that nice, colourful shirt deliberately or not.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thai and Khmer ambassadors are back. But why so sudden?

Ambassador Prasart Prasartvinichai left this evening for Phnom Penh to resume his ambassadorial post in Phnom Penh. His counterpart will arrive in Bangkok tomorrow.
The question remains: What's behind this dramatic, abrupt resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries?

Did Thaksin Shinawatr "resign?" or was he politely asked to quit?

And even he had actually been requested to resign by Premier Hun Sen as had been rumoured here, it was still a "lightning" move, considerating the fact that Hun Sen and Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva were exchanging heated words, both submitting their angry letters of protest against each other to the UN.

Ambassador Prasart was said to have been told last Friday to make preparations for his return to Phnom Penh. That means behind-the-scenes moves had been on a few days before the official "resignation" of Thaksin was made public Monday.

Were the military officers on both sides of the border instrumental in convincing their respective political leaders to call a "political truce"? Was there intervention by a super-power or two to persuade Hun Sen to reach out to Thailand?

These questions and others remain unanswered as of now. Stay tuned. We will find out soon enough.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pa Prem turns 90 this week with little fanfare

Privy Council President and Ex-Pemier Gen Prem Tinsulanonda celebrates his 90th birthday anniversary this Thursday (Aug 26) but he won't be celebrating with style -- for fear of drawing unnecessary attention.

In previous years, Prem threw open his residence's doors for senior military officers, bureaucrats, businessmen and the press on his birthday for well-wishing ceremonies. Not this year, though.

Yes, he made a public appearance for representatives of 3,221 students who had been granted scholarships by his Prem Tinsulanonda Foundation.

Gen Prem told them that he believes that Phra Siam Thevathiraj, the sacred spirit that protects Thailand, will ensure that good people are rewarded and bad guys are punished.

There is no doubt that Gen Prem, who has kept a low profile in the past few months since the eruption of street violence, has emerged in public again for one very crucial reason: to debunk rumours that he has been seriously ill.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Why Seksan agrees to leave his world of solitude

Seksan Prasertkul, former student activist, more recently university lecturer and writer, has been plucked out of his "solitude" by former Premier Anand Panyarachun to join the "Reform Thailand Commission."

In his first comprehensive interview published in Nation Weekender, Seksan said he had reluctantly left his self-imposed solitary existence because he was obliged when Anand asked him to do so.

"Besides, I have been writing about social injustices. The reform commission's role would complement what I have been doing and commenting upon all along. Also, the April-May events saddened me tremendously. That was what convinced me that I should contribute in whatever way I can to help society," he said.

Seksan insists he isn't interested in getting involved in politics, believe it or not.

"Since I left the jungle (with Communist Party of Thailand), I have been teaching, writing and doing arts. In the past ten years, I have spent time studying Dharma. All of these have nothing to do with politics. I don't why put the public seems to have expectations about my political role. In fact, if I had wanted to get involved in politics or sought political power, I wouldn't have waited until I am over 60," he said.

There is a personal sense of built involved too. "Today, the country's situation has deteriorated to a great extent. It's very worrying. That makes me feel reasonably guilty if I didn't offer help in whatever way I could..." Seksan added.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The worst-case scenario: What if the Democrat Party is dissolved?

Some Democrat Party's strategists are already working on the "worst-case scenario" if the party was to be dissolved by the Constitutional Court over one of the two cases of election law violations.

In that case, all the party's executive members could be banned for five years from politics. That leaves Chuan Leekpai, currently chairman of the party's advisory board, the most likely choice of becoming the prime minister to replace Abhisit Vejjajiva. Suthep Thuagsuban, the party's secretary general, would also be still active since he won't be on the list of the banned executives. Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij would also be one of the handful party's senior members to remain active in politics.

That scenario, however, is possible on the assumption that the opposition Pheau Thai Party can't convince the current coalition partners such as Bhumjaithai and Pheau Paendin and Chat Thai Pattana Parties to abandon the Democrats to form a new coalition government.

Things remain fluid, of course. But nothing is impossibl in Thai politics.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chief Govt Whip issues his thinly-veiled threat

If Chief Government Whip Vittaya Kaewparada sounds rather tough these days, it's because Aug 18-19 will be crucial for the House to pass the second and third readings of the 2011 Budget.

Rumours of possible defections by coalition partners have been rife. But political pundits would tell you that it's nothing but bluffing. No government MPs would want to scuttle the Budget because they all stand to get a piece of the cake after all. Some of them who have hinted at possible abstention or voting against the government have done so only to gain attention and possibly boosting their bargaining power. When all is said and done,the Budget will be passed.

Vittaya's most effective weapon is his threat: "If the House plays games, then the prime minister will have to make his decision."

That could mean only one thing: House dissolution for a new election.

But even if Abhisit Vejjajiva has that power, he wouldn't want to exercise it. After all, the PM also wants the Budget to pass so that he could spend effectively enough to enable him and his party to gain the most from the upcoming election that will most probably come early next year -- if the PM can call all the shots, that is.