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.