Tuesday, September 28, 2010
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
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
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
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 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
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
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 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
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'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
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
"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
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.