Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In Newin's dream....

You may say Newin Chidchob, de factor owner of Bhumjaithai Party, is dreaming. But Thai Post cited a source in his party as quoting Newin as having told his party executives recently that Bhumjaithai will be in the next government with the Democrats.

The paper said Newin estimated that Bhumjaithai would win about 78 seats in the July 3 election. Most independent estimates have put this party's performance at 40-45 seats.

Newin was also quoted as predicting that the Democrats will win about 180 seats while Pheu Thai would get about 210 seats.

Newin, according to this report, concluded that the next government will comprise the Democrats and Bhumjaithai, plus Banharn's Chat Thai Pattana and other small parties. Pheu Thai, Newin was quoted as saying, will then become the sole opposition party.

You can't believe anything until you see the election returns on the evening of July 3, of course.

Tune into Asean TV on True99 from now on. The Election Day coverage will be timely and comprehensive.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Thaksin Shinawatra - Talk to Al Jazeera - Al Jazeera English

Thaksin Shinawatra - Talk to Al Jazeera - Al Jazeera English

Yingluck says no amnesty; Chalerm says of course there will be amnesty

Who do you believe? Yingluck Shinawatra, Pheau Thai prime ministerial candidate, says there won't be a proposed amnesty for her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, even if she becomes the next prime minister.

Chalerm Yoobamrung, one of the key leaders of Pheu Thai, told a local newspaper that the draft law to offer amnesty to Thaksin had been drawn up and it would be submitted for House approval as soon as Pheu Thai assumes power after the election.

Pheu Thai nominal leader Yongyudh Vichaidit has said that any suggestion about an amnesty from Pheu Thai's party members was "strictly a personal view."

What do we make of these contradictions? Only time will tell who was speaking the truth.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Don't blink. It's a full-blown war of words until July 3

The gloves are off and both Abhisit Vejjajiva and Yingluck Shinawatra are set to exchange blows during the last week before Judgment Day on July 3.

Abhisit has challenged Yingluck to make it public that Pheu Thai Party's main policy is to offer amnesty to Thaksin so that he could return home.

"Let the people decide on Election Day on whether they want Thaksin to be granted amnesty or not," the Democrat party declared.

Yingluck retorts that that's not the case. The party doesn't intend to pursue the amnesty-for-Thaksin policy at all. All it wants if it's the next government is to solve the country's economic ills.

Yingluck says PT will use the "Nelson Mandela" formula to implement national reconciliation. Abhisit insists that PT is using reconciliation as a smokescreen to cover up its real intention: Absolve Thaksin from all guilty verdicts.

July 1 will see both major parties releasing their last series of salvos before the people cast their ballots on Sunday.

Neither side can afford to blink.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Why hasn't anybody called Banharn?

Banharn Silpa-archa, the de facto owner of Chat Thai Pattana Party, is waiting anxiously for phone calls from Suthep Thuagsuban, the Democrat Party's secretary general -- and probably from Thaksin Shinawatra from Dubai.

But so far, the two have kept strangely quiet.

Banharn's party could prove to be crucial in the formation of the next government after next Sunday' election.

Even if Pheu Thai wins about 250 seats, slightly over the simple majority, it will still have to embrace one of the middle-sized parties, to form the coalition.

As Banharn said on television last evening: "The next government needs about 300 seats in the House to be stable. Cabinet members can't vote in the House. So, 250 seats won't be enough," he said.

Of course, Banharn is hoping his party could join either Pheu Thai or the Democrat party to form the next government. There is little doubt that he adheres strictly to the dictum that you don't have permanent friends or enemies in politics.

Asked whether Thaksin has called him, Banharn said: "No, in fact we haven't talked for two years or so now..."

What about Suthep? "No, he hasn't called either. If he doesn't, I will call him in the next few days."

Banharn said his party would get "at least 30 seats" in the election.

With Pheu Thai having declared that it won't consider Newin Chidchob's Bhumjaithai Party as a coalition partner no matter what, Banharn emerges as the most important "third party" to enable either Pheu Thai or the Democrats to win the battle to set up the next government.

But he is feeling lonely. I have no doubt that after he sent out that message in his television show last evening, Banharn's phone would be buzzing over the weekend.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Yingluck's husband: We are ready for public scrutiny

Yingluck Shinawatra's husband, Anusorn Amornchatr, says it's normal for a public figure to come under scrutiny.

"But everybody has a family. Anyone making accusations against our family would have to think how they would feel if they were subjected to such thing," the low-profile businessman told reporters yesterday when he made a rare appearance to celebrate his wife's 44th birthday anniversary with their son, Supasek ("Pipe").

Anusorn said Yingluck is a "super-active" woman and she would have to learn how to be more patient now that she has entered politics.

"As a politician, she will have to come under scrutiny. There is no problem with that," he said.

The public, no doubt, will expect to know more about Anusorn's life from now on. He says he is ready for it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Abhisit admits the margin of defeat is widening

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said last month that the difference between the number of seats to be won by his party and Pheu Thai woul be "around 4 to 5."

Yesterday, he told Post Today that the margin could be 20.

That suggests that, less than two weeks before Election Day,is conceding that his party's slide in popularity is worsening, if all the polls so far are to be believed.

That perhaps explains why the Democrats are pulling out all the stops to launch their last-minute tactics, including the big rally at Ratchaprasong Intersection this Thursday, to narrow the margin of defeat.

Pheau Thai's Yingluck Shinawatra isn't responding to his challenge. She has despatched Pheu Thai's nominal head, Yongyudh Vichaidith, to the debate organized by PNet this Thursday, to face Abhisit.

There won't be a Yingluck-Abhisit public face-off after all.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Red-shirts go 'planking" at Ratchaprasong, where Democrats will hold rally

Red-shirt protestors went "planking" at Ratchaprasong Intersection earlier today to mark their monthly event to seek culprits for the killing of 91 people last year in this area.

This intersection will be the site of a major rally by the Democrat party on June 23 -- a move that has raised criticism from the Pheu Thai Party, raising suspicion that Abhisit Vejjajiva may be trying to make "destructive political points" just two weeks before Election Day.

Abhisit insisted today that this intersection is public space and no party could monopolize it. "Of course, we will make constructive comments to seek ways to go beyond old conflicts."

The Democrat leader said: "I don't understand why the Pheu Thai leaders are getting scared."

Pheu Thai core leader Yingluck Shinawatra, asked about the Democrat plan, would only say that she hoped the Democrats won't make any negative reference to her party.

Abhisit retorted that Yingluck should try to rein in the red-shirts some of whom have been trying to disrupt his campaigns.

Yingluck responded by saying that it was the red-shirts' right to express their opionion and that she was in no position to tell them to stop doing what they could legally do.

What constitutes a 'landslide' victory?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

If he had his way, Thaksin wants to be home in November

If Thaksin Shinawatra had his way, he would be returning to Thailand in November under a coalition government headed by a prime minister named Yingluck Shinawatra, his youngest sister.

That's the latest from Thaksin who gave another interview to another foreign media outlet, this time it's Kyodo News, who quoted him as saying in Dubai that his sister plans to form a coalition government and embark on a reconciliation process that should include a dialogue with all political players such as military leaders.

Speaking from his luxury villa, Thaksin also told the Japanese news agency that all polls pointed to an "outright majority" victory for his Pheu Thai Party.

Who are the likely coalition partners? "It's too early to talk about that," he said.

Thaksin said an administration with one single party is not favourable in Thailand. He tried that in 2005 and it was unsuccessful, he said.

Thaksin expressed a wish that he could return to Thailand in November as he has two important schedules in mind -- to attend the King's Dec 5 Birthday Anniversary and to attend his daugher's wedding scheduled for mid-December.

He said the military has to be involved in the dialogue as part of the reconciliation process.

But he declined to comment on whether amnesty should cover the acts of security officials that ended last year's red-shirt protests.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Army chief: Go out and vote for the 'Institution'

It's difficult to judge what the army chief had in mind when he exhorted "as many voters as possible" to come out and vote on July 3 for "good people."

Gen Prayuth Chan-ohcha was however quite upbeat when he appeared on Channel 5 (the army's station) last evening for a special interview. He was careful not to name names. But he did say that the Thai people must come out in full force to vote for those who "uphold the Institution"

He also said that some people in the country are linked to some others outside the country to undermine the "institution."

"I would like to urge everybody to vote with reason, to think how to vote to make sure that the institution is safe," he declared.

Of course, he had said earlier that no matter how the election results turn out, the armed forces would accept the outcome. But then he always added that stability and the institution must be above all else.

In a way, it's crystal clear what he meant. In another, it's highly ambiguious. It all depends on where you stand, I guess.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

So, what are really their policy differences?

So, what are the policy differences between the two major parties vying for the right to govern the country after July 3?

Reuters has filed this report that is worth repeating here. It says: The two main parties contesting Thailand's July 3 parliamentary election have proposed strikingly similar policies that focus heavily on winning over the rural poor, building up infrastructure and other populist measures.

Below are their election promises:


Its "Moving Thailand Forward" pledges include:

- Raise daily minimum wages by 25 percent in two years from current levels of 159-221 baht ($5-7) and improve labor skills

- Free universal quality medical treatment

- Build high-speed rail links to north, south and eastern seaboard

- Extend subsidies on diesel and cooking gas prices, and provide some free electricity for low-income households

- Raise farm incomes by 25 percent through subsidies for fertilizer, and financial guarantees for farm production

- Two-year interest-free mortgages for first-home buyers

- Free education up to 18 years, soft education loans for 250,000 university students, $12 billion approved for education reform

- Ease financial burden of small borrowers by extending state refinancing of personal debts owed to non-conventional creditors outside the banking system.

- Double production of alternative energy, especially solar, turbine and bio-gas

- Expand national 3G broadband networks to link all districts in Thailand

- Anti-drug campaign

- The Democrats and opposition Puea Thai Party both agree on indefinitely suspending plans for nuclear power in Thailand. Under a power development plan for 2010-2030, Thailand's first nuclear power plant was scheduled to begin operation in 2020. Thailand had planned to build five nuclear power plants with capacity of 1,000 megawatts per plant.


Policy pledges include:

- Guarantee a uniform daily minimum wage of 300 baht ($10) throughout the country

- Universal medical care; patients pay 30 baht per visit

- Credit cards for farmers, rice intervention scheme and a guaranteed 15,000-20,000 baht/tonne for unmilled rice

- Three-year household debt moratorium for up to 500,000 baht focusing on debt of teachers, farmers and civil servants

- Starting monthly salary of 15,000 baht ($500) for new university graduates, free tablet computers for school students

- Corporate tax cut from 30 percent to 23 percent in first year, 20 percent in second year

- Tax cuts for buyers of first homes and first cars

- A flat 20 baht fare for all 10 mass transit rail lines in Bangkok

- High-speed rail lines linking key cities in the north, northeast, east and upper south regions

- Annual rural village development funds of between 300,000 and one million baht

- Monthly welfare allowance of 600 baht for elderly citizens of over 60, rising to 700 baht at 70, 800 baht at 80, and 1,000 baht at 90

- Free Wi-Fi and Internet connections in public places, and "One Tablet PC per Child" project

- Build 30-km anti-flooding levees to protect Bangkok and satellite towns from tide surges from the Gulf of Thailand

- Special administrative status for southern Muslim provinces

- Campaign to wipe out illicit drugs

- Amnesty for political offences since 2006 coup

(Reporting by Martin Petty and Vithoon Amorn; Editing by Alan Raybould)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Latest poll shows PT pulling away from Dems...bad news for Abhisit

The latest Bangkok Poll shows Pheu Thai Party pulling away from the Democrats in Bangkok -- 33.6% against Dem's 17.1%. If it's any consolation to the Democrats, 44% say they remain undecided three weeks from Election Day.

The poll says 42.6% of Bangkokians want Yingluck as the next premier compared to 23.6%for Abhisit.

If this poll holds until election day, it's going to be bad news for the Democrats indeed. The same poll shows PT leading in 21 Bangkok constituencies against Dems' 6. The other six show them neck and neck so far.

Abhisit was asked about the latest not-so-positive public opinion poll. Again, he shrugged it off.

Time for Plan B, if there is a Plan B?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Insiders' estimates: Pheu Thai: 250+; Democrats 170+

If you go off the record with some core members of the Democrat Party, they would admit that their expected performance in the July 3 election would be around 170 seats. Anything above that would be a bonus. But the strategists there say they still plan to form the next government by joining hands with the No 3,4 and 5 which they assume could win a combination of about 100 seats. That would make it possible for a Democrat-led coalition of 270 seats in the 500-member House.

But the Pheu Thai Party insists that they would win at least 270 seats alone, and during the last two weeks before election day, a strong last-minute boost could prople them up to 300 seats. That would mean that the Democrats would have no legitimate excuse not to let Pheu Thai form its own government, with or without coalition partners.

All polls suggest that Pheau Thai will emerge No 1 while the Democrats would be trailing behind by about 30-50 seats. In the end the No 3-5 parties, depending on however many seats they could jointly win, will decide who's to form the next government.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

They are talking 'Landslide' at Pheu Thai

They are talking about a "landslide victory" at Pheu Thai Party these days.
Deputy Leader Kanawat Wasinsungworn said an American diplomat asked him yesterday about the chances of a PT's "landslide win" and he said the most challenging area for his party would be Bangkok constituencies.

"If we get 15-22 seats in Bangkok, chances of a nationwide landslide victory for us would be much heightened," he said.

The overall target for Pheau Thai is 260-270 seats out of the total of 500. Bangkok's estimate for the party is between 18 to 22, and 52-57 in Lower North; 50 plus for Central Plains and about 5 in the three southernmost provinces. Kanawat expects 60-65 seats from the party lists.

Tag this post. Check it out late July 3. I will offer you all forecasts from all parties concerned from today until the Big Day.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Banharn wants Abhisit, Yingluck in a movie called 'Reconciliation'

Banharn Silpa-archa, de facto leader of Chat Thai Pattana Party,plays the role of a "mediator" when he holds up pictures of the two main rivals in this election -- Abhisit Vejjajiva and Yingluck Shinawatra.

He said today that after the election, he will have a movie made called "Prong Dong" -- or "Reconciliation" -- with the two main protagonists starring in the film.

Of course, he was only joking. Yingluck has refused even to sit side by side with Abhisit for a televised debate. So, Banharn's proposed reconciliation project would get nowhere. Of course, he simply wants to make the two part of his election campaign.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Abhisit: Who gets most seats gets first chance to form govt

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has made a public stand on the issue of who has the right to form the next government: The party that gets the highest number of seats in the House gets the first chance to form the government.

He went on Channel 3 just now to make the prediction that his Democrat Party and Pheu Thai will be running neck-and-neck, with combined seats of about 400. Pheu Thai's insiders have predicted a wider margin of their victory, with some estimating a 270-190 victory against the Democrats.

But Abhisit said the contest will be close between the two parties. He predicted that the difference between the numbers of seats of the two parties' will be small.

With 30 days to Election Day, the guessing game is now focussed on how many seats Pheu Thai will win over the Democrats -- and whether it is going to be a landslide or a close call.

Since anything can happen from now until July 3, nobody can be sure whether a major shift will change the whole picture.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Yingluck says she is not controlled by her brother

The Chamni-Nattawut TV face-off: The significance of Number 251

It was a good match when Chamni Sakdiset of the Democrat Party sparred with Nattawut Saikua of Pheu Thai Party on Channel 3 last evening.

The televised face-off boiled down to a very simple confrontation: Nattawut challenged Chamni to declare that if the Democrats can't beat Pheu Thai in the election, they wouldn't try to form a caolition in competition with Pheu Thai.

Chamni hit back by asking Nattawut whether Pheu Thai can win 251 seats, the simple majority in the House. "If you get 251, the Democrats will be the opposition. If not, we have the right to try to be the core of the next government. That's what the constitution says," the Democrat veteran said.

Nattawut then complained that all the speculation about Pheu Thai not being able to form the next government even if it win the most seats in the election simply means that there are certain undemocratic behind-the-scenes forces that are still trying to undermine his party.

The debate continues today on "reconciliation" -- a topic that has so far eluded any real conclusion. But then talking on TV certainly is far better than fight on the streets.