Saturday, April 23, 2011

A colourful weekend indeed!

This is going to be a very "colourful" weekend. Today, Pheau Thai Party holds its party's meeting. Thaksin Shinawatra is due to phone in. What he says will be of significance. If he plays the part of the party's owner by announcing his promised election platform, he could be courting trouble. Even some of his party members have expressed concern that if he says what he said he would say, the party could risk being dissolved. As someone banned from politics, Thaksin isn't supposed to be involved in any political activities.

The New Politics Party, meanwhile, will be holding its crucial meeting tomorrow for their members to vote whether to follow PAD's instruction to Vote No or to comply with the party's leader Somsak Kosaiyakuk's determination to field candidates in the upcoming election.

No matter how the vote turns out, the NPP-PAD ties would be strained even more. Sondhi Limthongkul, PAD's leader, and Somsak, NPP's chief, have placed themselves in the make-or-break position.

Thai politics doesn't seem to be able to go beyond Thaksin and Sondhi, after all!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nobody can beat me when it comes to quitting!

This political cartoon in today's Manager Daily: Somebody who looks like Gen Chavalit congratulates himself on the number of times he has quit, from one political post or another!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Two old men and Thaksin

Two senior citizens -- Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Snoh Thienthong -- have joined hands to "stay away" from Pheau Thai Party. In other words, they want to distance themselves from Thaksin Shinawatra.

That's an interesting turn of events. Only last week, Snoh was openly supporting Pheau Thai -- so much so that he indicated that he might make his Pracharaj Party an alliance with Pheau Thai.

But suddenly, the senior politician, who had beeen switching between criticizing Thaksin and jumping onto his side, said yesterday that he had decided to stay put after having called Gen Chavalit for a chat about their relationship with Thaksin, Pheau Thai and the red shirts.

Chavalit's close aids told reporters that he had been disturbed by some red-shirt leaders' public statements about the monarchy and despite his private attempts to tone them down, he has seen no signs of letting up.

Latest reports today say Thaksin is desperately trying to talk to the two senior citizens to clear the air.

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's nothing if not bluffing

The bluffing game has started. Pheau Thai says it could win up to 270 seats in the upcoming election to form a one-party government. PT Spokesman Prompong Nopparit says the Democrat Party will come a distant second.

Today, Democrat Spokesman Thepthai Senpong hit back, saying that Pheau Thai was only bluffing. "They expect to create a sort of a buzz by citing the 270 number," he told reporters on a "dry-news" but wet Songkran Day news briefing.

Naturally, Thepthai couldn't get away with just a counter-bluff. He was pressed by reporters to come up with an estimate of his own party's seats to be won in the election.

The Democrat spokesman said: "200 plus or minus 10." And, that, he claimed, also goes for the Pheau Thai as well.

It's all guess work, of course. The campaigns have hardly begun. The House has yet to be dissolved. The people have yet to hear what both major parties have to offer. But they are already edging the other side off the table.

Don't believe any of those claims. Lots of voters have yet to make up their minds.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The 'trump card' may stay behind the scenes

Thaksin Shinawatra isn't saying publicly whether he will put forward his sister Yingluck as the No 1 on the party list for the upcoming election, thereby placing her in a position of becoming Thailand's first femal PM if his Pheau Thai Party wins big in the election.

Yingluck is seen as Thaksin's "trump card." And that may eventually mean that Thaksin could keep her away from any direct confrontation with the rough and tumble of real politics.

Several groups of Pheau Thai MPs who have met Thaksin in the past few weeks in Dubai report the ex-premier's different moods. Some say he had decided on Yingluck. Others suggest that Thaksin remains ambivalent.

Banpod Damapong, Thaksin's brother-in-law (his ex-wife Pojamarn's brother), is the "other choice" for this purpose in case Yingluck is determined to stay behind the scenes rather than exposing herself in the open political arena.

But then, Thaksin is also considering "outsiders" such as Olarn Chaiprawat and M.R. Pridiyathorn Devakul and even Dr Virabongsa Ramangkura as possible choices as well.

In other words,no one within his Pheau Thai Party is considered qualified for the premier's job now that Mingkwan Saengsuwan has been sidelined.

But those who know Thaksin say: Don't rule out anybody. His dilemma is growing. Nobody within the party is "marketable" but picking someone from within the family is politically risky. And "outsiders" have come up with too many pre-conditions.

Friday, April 8, 2011

When is the House going to be dissolved? It isn't that difficult to guess

When does PM Abhisit Vejjajiva plan to dissolve the House to call a new election?

When a newspaper ran a headline quoting some politicians as claiming that they believed the premier would dissolve the House on May 9 or May 19, the PM was inevitably asked to comment.

He was quite clear as to when that will happen. "I have said it's going to be the first week of May. And my week has only seven days..."

Do you still need any further hints?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Top brass speak out: Trust us, no coup

After days of rumours about "a quiet coup," the military top brass launched an unprecedented move yesterday by calling a meeting of all the commanders of the army, navy and air force as well as the national police force and declared: There will definitely be no coup.

This statement followed repeated accusations by red-shirt leaders that some military elements were plotting a coup. Then came an interview given by Sodsri Sattayatham, a member of the Election Commission, saying she had heard that a "quiet coup" was being planned by a group of army leaders, so much so that they were discussing nominees as the new premier and Cabinet members.

Today's "action" by the military leaders won't put an end to the rumours. It has only added new ingredients to the rumour-mills, that's all.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Thaksin kicks off election campaign in new phone-in

Thaksin Shinawatra, in his lengthy phone-in to the red-shirts in Udon Thani last night effectively kicked off his election campaign with his series of populist planks.

He said "all polls" say Pheau Thai Party will win more than half of the seats. He declared that he will make his election platform public on April 24.

"I will revive Thailand within six months. After the first three months, the headache will be gone. The following three months, people will have money to spend, lots of money in everybody's pocket..." he said.

He proposed that farmers should be issued "cash cards" to be used in buying production tools. "Farmers don't have to be in debt anymore. They can their own creditors..." he said, without elaborating.

He specifically told Udon candidates: "Any district that can win an election will see me spending the night there as a gesture to pay back poliltical debt. Make sure, Udon, that you don't miss even one seat. Next time, make a clean sweep," he instructed.

Thaksin said he was frustrated at some Pheau Thai MPs trying to put pressure on him to come up with the name of the party's candidate to be the next prime minister.

"I am sick and tired of these people. We are in the opposition. What's the hurry about naming our candidate as prime minister? Wait until the House is dissolved...and I will let you know the name," he said.

There is no doubt things are heating up and Thaksin wants to make sure he is up front. But first, he has to put his own house in order. Second, he has to be able to answer the questions posed by his party members over issues he finds "quite frustrating..."

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sanoh heading Pheua Thai? Not an April's Fool joke?

Sanoh Tientong, the new Pheau Thai leader?

It isn't an April's Fool joke. But then, not many political observers here take it too seriously either.

Nobody has confirmed that story so far. Sanoh Tienthong himself warns us to watch out for a big "surprise" this evening.

He has admitted that Pheau Thai's leaders have asked him to join the party. And he says he is inclined towards accepting the offer.

Has Thaksin Shinawatra called him to ask him to lead the party in the next election? Nobody knows for sure. But the rumour-mills have been abuzz with speculation that Thaksin now wants Sanoh to help him head the party.

So, it's not Mingkwan Saengsuwan. Not his sister Yingluck? No doubt, you can detect a deepening sense of desperation there. Sanoh, by the way, is the head of Pracharaj Party with about 8 MPs under his command.